Questions and Answers – June 26

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 — 4:52 PM


Better Public Services—Targets

1. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to get better results and value for money from the public service?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government is determined to continue to provide a high-level, if not better, Public Service with less resource, so we have set ambitious targets across 10 results, which were announced yesterday. The targets focus on difficult issues like reducing crime, reducing long-term welfare dependency, and reducing educational underachievement. Progress will be reported regularly as data becomes available, so New Zealanders can see how we are tracking.

John Hayes: Why is getting better results important?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As we have worked through, in tougher times, Government spending, it has become clear that the previous Government liked to demonstrate that it cared by getting more money. We are going to show that we care—and we are showing that we care—by getting actual results. We have been shifting the Public Service culture in this direction. Keeping one more teenager on the rails is actually the lowest-cost result that we can get, so it is a better Public Service, and we save money.

Hon David Parker: Does his target for benefit numbers mean that the number of people on working-age benefits in 2017, if he achieves his target, will be 20,000 higher than when he took office 9 years earlier, if New Zealand is unlucky enough to still have him in power?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: And it is only the residents of “Planet Labour” who overlook the fact that there was a global recession along the way.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not address my question as to whether my figure was correct.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member wanted his question answered he should not have put the last bit on the question. I am afraid that he gave the Minister a let off the hook that way.

John Hayes: How will the Government and the Public Service go about achieving better results?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, by focusing on making a difference, rather than just getting more money, which has been the culture up to 2009. Secondly, by working more closely together among departments. But, thirdly, by looking around the wider community to see who can help us with getting higher levels of educational achievement or less offending in prison. Under the National-led Government the Public Service is not so arrogant that it believes everything has to be run by the Public Service.

Rt Hon John Key: Has he seen any reports that the Government’s attempt to quantify 14 different outcomes is “pretty meaningless stuff”, and does he think it is pretty meaningless stuff to

be tackling rheumatic fever, abuse of children, and better education for New Zealanders—is that pretty meaningless stuff?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I saw a report—well, I heard a report that I did not initially believe, actually, because it was a quote from some chap called Chris Hipkins from the Labour Party, who said of these result areas—better educational achievement, less crime, and fewer vulnerable children—“It’s actually pretty meaningless stuff.” And on “Planet Labour”, I think it is.

Prime Minister—Statements

2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

David Shearer: In light of his statements concerning litigation around the plan to sell off shares in Mighty River Power*, is it the Government’s intention to hold back some of the 49 percent of the Mighty River Power shares it is privatising to cover the risk to the Government of a successful challenge from Tūwharetoa*; if so, what is that percentage ?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

David Shearer: Was the risk to the taxpayer of any litigation identified by the time of the Budget; if so, was it included as a specific financial risk, quantified or unquantified?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is always litigation risk. That has always been known. The likely effect of that is not cost; the likely effect of that would be delay.

David Shearer: Is it the Government’s intention that the taxpayer may need to, therefore, bear the risk of the Tūwharetoa or Māori Council* challenge in court; if so, is this a deliberate protection of companies and individuals contemplating buying shares?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We live in a democracy where people have the right to test their legal rights in court if they choose to do so. Whether someone would be successful in getting such an application heard in the courts, or successfully judged in the courts, is a completely different issue.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was an interesting answer, but not one to the question that was asked. The question that was asked went to who was bearing the risk: whether it was the taxpayer or the purchasers. That was not addressed.

Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the Leader of the Opposition* to repeat his question for avoidance of any doubt.

David Shearer: Is it the Government’s intention that the taxpayer bear any risk of Tūwharetoa’s or the Māori Council’s challenge; if so, is this a deliberate protection of companies and private individuals contemplating buying shares in Mighty River Power?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There would not be a financial risk; there could be a time risk.

David Shearer: Did his Government encourage the board of Mighty River Power to increase salaries before partial privatisation in order to avoid the embarrassment of salaries *skyrocketing after the sale?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I would note that in the 9 years that Labour was in office, the chief executive’s salary at Mighty River Power trebled.

David Shearer: In light of his answer, did he think that was good justification for the increase in salaries this time around with Mighty River Power?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Contrary to what the member might think, I have never been asked about salaries today; I was asked about directors’ fees.

David Shearer: Has he seen the analysis by Ernst and Young* that Mighty River Power, *Genesis, and *Meridian Energy are well run by international standards, and is he, therefore, aware that any effort to extract further profits from these companies will be at the risk of either asset stripping* or increasing power prices?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If they want to increase power prices all they need to do is go and ask Labour, because Labour got them up by 72 percent.

Dr Russel Norman: In his answer to the earlier question, is the Prime Minister now admitting that the legal action, or potential legal action, from Tūwharetoa and the Māori Council could delay the asset sale programme?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is always that risk from litigation; that has been known for a very long period of time. I do not think it is necessarily likely. I am just saying that that is always a possibility.

Dr Russel Norman: Given his reported statement that he is unconcerned and unsurprised that directors’ fees would double if his asset sale policy goes ahead, why did he not tell New Zealanders earlier that privatisation would mean that power company directors would see their pay double, paid for out of power bills?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not sure I have ever been asked that question either. I was asked about an increase in the fees for the directors of Mighty River Power, not in the context of what percentage they were moving. It is worth remembering that Mighty River Power is a company of revenue in the order of about $1.5 billion, so changes of the magnitude that has been outlined by the member are not likely to have any impact on power prices.

Dr Russel Norman: Has the Prime Minister seen the document from Treasury that indicates that director fees are likely to double, and where does he think these companies are going to get the money from, if not from consumers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I have not seen that report. Secondly, I think it is very unlikely. History tells us that companies that are run privately, where they are listed on the stock exchange, have continuous disclosure, and are open to all of the analysis by *stockbrokers and by analysts in the market, tend to be better run.

Welfare Reforms—Addressing Long-term Welfare Dependency

3. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What commitments has the Government made to reduce long-term welfare dependency?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): As part of this Government’s *Better Public Services programme we have committed to reducing the number of long-term beneficiaries. After legislation changes next year, this will combine those currently on the unemployment-related benefit, sickness benefit, *DPB with children over 14 years, *widows benefit, and *women alone benefit. Jobseeker support* is projected to have 130,000 people on it, 78,000 of whom will have been on a benefit for more than 12 months. We will reduce that by 30 percent.

Melissa Lee: How does this target to reduce long-term welfare dependency fit with the Government’s current welfare reforms?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: This is part of our investment approach. Under the welfare reform programme, when you look at how we are going to work with people who are on benefit, the reality is that for those who are particularly on long term and for longer than 12 months I think they can expect to see more support going into them, more help for the training that they need to get them into work, and the upskilling to help them get those jobs that they desperately want and need.

Jacinda Ardern: Does she consider her target to reduce the number of long-term beneficiaries by 30 percent by 2017 ambitious enough, when it means the number will still be 20,000 higher than when she took office?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is not actually factually correct, and I will take the member through on why.

Jacinda Ardern: Show me.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I can take the member through, actually, and I am quite happy to table this, if that would help. So for an example, in March 2007, considering those who are on the unemployment benefit, those who are on the sickness benefit, those who are on the domestic purposes benefit with children aged 14-plus, we had 61,551; in March 2008—if that helps the

member—we had 52,288. Look at the policy. If the member looks at the target, how we are making it up, and the reductions, 20,000 is factually incorrect.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would take the Minister up on her offer to table that document.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the Minister was quoting from an official document—[Interruption] It is not an official document, so the member cannot—

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said during her answer to the question that she was willing to table the document.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is absolutely up to the Minister. Members cannot raise points of order about that matter.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Next time the Minister makes that statement, should I take a point of order that her statements are—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House does not need to waste time like this. The member knows that if Ministers are quoting from official documents, the member can most certainly require to have them tabled. We checked, and the Minister has advised that it is not an official departmental document. It is presumably information prepared for her answer, and it is up to her whether she seeks leave to table it, and we will see what happens shortly.

Melissa Lee: How many people currently on benefit who have been on for longer than 12 months will be included as part of this target?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think this might help with the previous question, as well. As at April 2012, 135,416 people were receiving benefits that will make up the job seeker support. Of this number, 78,074 had been receiving a benefit for more than 12 months. This is made up of 38,927 who are receiving the sickness benefit, 23,031 who are receiving the unemployment benefit or unemployment training, 12,212 who are receiving the domestic purposes benefit—sole parent, and 3,904 who are receiving the widows benefit. That is how that benefit is made up. Those are the ones who have been on benefits for longer than 12 months. Those are the ones that we will be reducing.

Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave, as I think we should do at the end of our question, not the middle of it—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Minister will just seek leave.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I seek leave to table a document that was made up by my office, but which does give the numbers of those who have been on long-term benefits from March 1997 to March 2012.

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.

Finance, Minister—Statements

4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “We are a government that thinks getting results is what’s really important”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, particularly when you look at the progress we have made. We inherited an economy that had been in recession for a year, forecasts of *neverending deficits, ever-rising* Government debt, record net international liabilities approaching 85 percent, and a near-record current account deficit of 8 percent of *GDP. Despite many difficulties since, all of these have improved.

Hon David Parker: As part of the *Better Public Services targets he announced yesterday, did he give Treasury targets and milestones for wage growth, overseas debt reduction, or export growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Measures of those are made every day. The accountability for economic management is crystal clear and occurs every time new data becomes available. The member knows that, because he comments on it regularly.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether he had given Treasury targets, not what the historical figures are.

Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point is absolutely correct. He asked a dead straight question. He asked whether or not Treasury had been given targets for those matters.


Hon David Parker: As part of the Better Public Services targets he announced yesterday, did he give Treasury targets for making New Zealand superannuation sustainable?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the member actually read the results that were published yesterday, he would see that they do not include those targets.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The question was not a loaded question. It was a reasonable question, and therefore the questioner should not be abused. The questioner asked whether Treasury had been given targets for sustainability of superannuation. I call the Hon Bill English.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: We’re now on to yes or no answers.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Bill English is to answer the question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government published the results for the Public Service yesterday, and the suggestions that the member is making are not on that list. If he read it, he would know that.

Hon David Parker: In the 4 years, approximately, that he has been in Government, what targets has he set pursuant to his promises to close the wage gap with Australia, and have those targets, if any, been met?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member will know, the Government set a target by means of the *2025 Taskforce on closing the gap with Australia. Along the way, as we have discussed in here a number of times, the net after-tax wage gap with Australia has closed slightly.

Young Offenders—Vetting of Child, Youth and Family Placements

5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Have Police, CYFS, medical and referee checks been carried out for all current placements by CYFS under referral by the Youth Court; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): To clarify with reference to this question, which is quite detailed and quite complicated, the *Youth Court’s role is not to refer young people into placements. The Youth Court is a specialised criminal court. Aside from the most serious offences, where the Youth Court might place a young person into *Child, Youth and Family custody—generally a placement in a residence—the custody of the young person remains with their parents or caregivers. As a result of offending, a family group conference may come up with a plan for the young person. This may include whom they live with. This is not a Child, Youth and Family placement. However, under a recent policy change, criminal checks are now done after a *youth justice family group conference.

Metiria Turei: Can the Minister assure the public that the full suite of checks are now mandatory for all referrals that come from family group conferences through the Youth Court, given that her deputy chief executive said on Sunday that staff were expected to do police checks only if there were concerns with the placement?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am told that because of the policy change that went through earlier this year, mandatory checks are now being done on all family group conference placements for youth justice, and not just police checks but also Child, Youth and Family checks and follow-ups. It is part of our strengthening that process and taking a higher level of responsibility, I think, for the outcomes of those family group conferences.

Metiria Turei: Will the Minister commit to undertaking full police checks for all current placements via family group conferences where those police checks have not been done?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would have to seek advice on that as to what kind of resource that would need and how that would look going backwards. As I say, it has been happening since the policy changed this year, but I would have to take advice on what the capability and the capacity are to do that.

Metiria Turei: What is the Minister doing to identify young people who have experienced abuse as a result of this gap in the policy?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: What we have done is greatly increase our monitoring. I would say that, particularly with the youth justice side, it has not perhaps been as tight as we would like it to be or as consistent, so we have now gone back and we are making sure that that monitoring into homes is a lot tighter. What we have also done is really increase our resource, both financially and in people resource, into historical claims. For example, since 2008 this Government has actually settled 272 claims. Prior to that, only 54 had been done. So I do say to anyone who thinks they might have historical cases of abuse against them to bring them to the State. We want to hear their story. We want to do everything we can to settle those cases to help them move on in their lives.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister confirming that compensation is available to young people to help mitigate the long-term effects of abuse that they may have suffered while in State care?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, and we put more money aside for historical claims of abuse in the previous Budget as well. I cannot remember what that number is, but it was a significant amount of money put in for historical claims.

Metiria Turei: Will the Minister now ask Child, Youth and Family to fully evaluate the effectiveness of its mandatory checking processes both for the custody cases and for Youth Court family group conference referrals?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Constantly. I must admit that I asked the officials before I came down whether I could give an assured guarantee that everybody is. They have told me that the policy is being changed. It is the expectation, and there are checks that are done through the system to make sure that it is being done at 3-monthly intervals, as it is done anyway.

Metiria Turei: What guarantee can the Minister give to New Zealanders to assure them that children in Child, Youth and Family placements, or those processed through Child, Youth and Family, will not suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of those whom Child, Youth and Family place them with?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: On the case that has been brought up in the last couple of days I do have to make a clarification that the young person was not placed by Child, Youth and Family. It was very much a family group conference. That young person was not under the care of Child, Youth and Family. However—rightly so, I think—Child, Youth and Family has stood up and said that the abuse of this young person by their uncle was absolutely horrific and that systems could be changed, and it has done that. But actually there were nine people in that family group conference. She herself said on TV that there were family members who knew the man was a convicted rapist and did not speak up, and, as such, kept those kinds of checks and balances from being done. So I would say that, yes, Child, Youth and Family most certainly has a role to play, but so do extended whānau and the community themselves.

Better Public Services—Education Targets

6. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and

Employment: How is the Government working to encourage economic growth with a more highly skilled workforce?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Demand for highly skilled or degree-qualified people is expected to continue to grow, and, on current trends, to exceed supply by 2018. We therefore are working to ensure we have the right people with the right skills to fill these gaps. That is why the Government has set a target of having 55 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds with a level 4 or above qualification by 2017. That would mean a further 11,250

people with a level 4 or higher qualification over and above the growth we will achieve with current policy settings. People earning a level 4 or above qualification obtain a significant income premium and a greater likelihood of sustained employment.

Colin King: How will the Government achieve this level 4 and above qualification target?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: To increase the growth in the number of people with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas, and degrees, we need to further increase enrolments within the tertiary sector, continue to improve tuition quality and completion rates, put a greater focus on achievement at foundation levels, and continue to increase institutional performance. We have already taken a number of steps to improve performance, but this target will be a big challenge for providers and Government agencies alike to achieve.

Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm the State Services Commission statement that “The proportion of the 25 to 34-year-old population with qualifications at level 4 or higher was growing steadily up until around 2009.”, and can he think of an event that occurred in November 2008 that might have caused that growth to flatten off?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government has achieved many things, but reporting on the tail of what had been happening at tertiary institutions minutes after we achieved office is not actually one of those things. There certainly was a decline. Actually, my figures say that it flattened out in 2007. If we look at *Bachelor’s degree achievement in New Zealand, it is quite revealing. In 2006 we had a peak of around 29,000. It dropped back to 26,000, then was 28,000. In 2011, the provisional numbers say nearly 31,000 people achieved degrees in New Zealand, and it is predicted to be above 31,000 and then above 32,000 for all of the next 5 or 6 years. That is real progress, but we do need to achieve more.

Grant Robertson: In light of the Minister’s comments, I seek leave to table the **Better Public Services: Boosting skills and employment document, which says that—

Mr SPEAKER: The source of the document?

Grant Robertson: The State Services Commission. It says that qualifications at *level 4 or higher were growing steadily up until around 2009 and since then have flattened off.

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.

Prime Minister—Statements

7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he stand by his statement at the Monday, 18 June, press conference on the impact of immigration on entitlement to New Zealand superannuation where he said: “Yes there are some people who come to New Zealand and either are in the workforce for a short period of time or not [in the workforce] at all, but for the most part they’re a very small group.”

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes; and I advise that those who get New Zealand superannuation are 592,470 and those who have qualified at over 55 years of age, and therefore got New Zealand superannuation but would not have worked for very long, are 14,135.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did he mislead the public by selectively using a number of 14,135 immigrants, aged 56 and over, who are already receiving New Zealand superannuation, rather than reveal the full, real extent of entitlement to New Zealand superannuation, when Immigration Service statistics show that 15,499 people, just in the 60 and over bracket, not 55 and over—60 and over bracket—have been granted residence from non-reciprocal pension agreement countries and will be entitled to New Zealand superannuation after only 10 years?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and anybody who is here for 10 years or longer is entitled to New Zealand superannuation. The advice I have had is that those aged over 55 are 14,135, of which the estimated Chinese number is 3,444—not 22,000 as per the Dominion Road Chinese restaurant.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: So is he saying that this Department of Labour source document showing that non-reciprocal arrangement countries for 60 and over—just that small category, not 55-plus but 60 and over—is 15,499 precisely; and does he not acknowledge that the changes introduced to immigration policy in May of this year, in the parental category, are a belated response to the huge influx of migrants who will, after only 10 years residency, be entitled to full New Zealand superannuation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What is true, that the member says, is that the Government has tightened up the provision in the way that it allows people in. The Ministry of Social Development numbers we have are 14,135 and, of that, 3,444 are likely to be people who have come and not been in the workforce either at all or very little, who are Chinese and getting New Zealand superannuation, not 22,000 as the member has made out.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister not seem to understand that the figure of 15,499 is the entitlement figure, which was the subject of the debate he spoke to the press conference about, and does he not understand that this superannuation policy is highly accessible and generous to those admitted through parental reunion, from non-reciprocal pension agreement countries, who may make no contribution at all before qualifying after 10 years?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Unless I am missing something, 15,000, or whatever number he has got from the *Department of Labour, or 14,135, which is the number I have got from the Ministry of Social Development—both those numbers are a hell of a lot less than 22,000 Chinese people, on which the best advice I have had is 3,444.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Who said that the figure was 22,000 Chinese people—

Hon Members: You did.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh no, no—no, no.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat for the moment. [Interruption]— Order! I am on my feet. The member is entitled to ask his question without an answer in unison like that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the point that I thought you were going to get on your feet for was the suggestion that you had in fact made that figure up. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I was more keen to enable the *right honourable gentleman to ask his question than be worried about myself, but members should be aware of that. They should not interject in that way either, because if they say “you”, it does mean the *Speaker.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Where in the speech, or the press conference following that speech, by the leader of *New Zealand First is there any reference to the 22,000 being only Chinese; second, does he not understand in the *50-plus category, which is the third measurement, the figure was beyond 26,000—so in short he is just blatantly misleading the public with selective micro figures?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am prepared to accept that when the member was talking in hushed tones about some Chinese dude he had once met who hung out somewhere, who could not back up his numbers but liked chicken chow mein from a **Dominion Road Chinese restaurant, then I may have got it slightly confused.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister can ramble on as much he likes.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! No wonder I am on my feet. I invite the right honourable member to go back and read the *Hansard of his question. Given the question asked, the Prime Minister had a lot of licence in how he answered. I see very little grounds for any point of order over the Prime Minister’s answer, but I am prepared to listen.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I do not think I need the Hansard; I have got the question right in front of me. None of that enables the Prime Minister, surely within the Standing Orders—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot raise points of order in that way. If, in fact, as he claims, he asked exactly a question that he had written in front of him, I would be very surprised.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fact of the matter is the Prime Minister was asked to verify where he got his statement from—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is not going to debate with the Speaker. The only reason why the member’s question was possibly within the bounds of supplementary questions was the Prime Minister had mentioned the member’s speech in his answer. The member could not possibly have predicted the Prime Minister was going to mention the member’s speech in his answer, so he could not possibly have prepared a supplementary question that he wrote out on the basis of that answer. That is why I made the point that I just did, as Speaker. As I say, given the question the member asked, the Prime Minister had wide licence in how he answered it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question—

Mr SPEAKER: The member has already had five supplementary questions, I am afraid.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, that’s because you squashed the last one—

Mr SPEAKER: That has used the entitlement for New Zealand First. Fortunately, I did not hear that final interjection.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In accordance with *Speaker’s ruling *148/4(1), I seek to table a document setting out the 15,499 figure for the 60-plus group alone.

Mr SPEAKER: The source of the document?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The *Department of Labour collation.

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

State-owned Enterprises, Sales—Minister’s Statements About Chief Executives’ Salaries

8. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement regarding SOE chief executive salaries that “There’s a couple of bigger pay increases, I think three with the energy companies, which will be probably related to the share float that’s coming”; if so, does he support the $451,873 pay increase for the Chief Executive of Mighty River Power whose pay is increasing from $1,317,469 to $1,769,342?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): As the member will know from his time as Minister of State Owned Enterprises, Ministers are not involved in setting the pay. There are a number of considerations that the board of Mighty River Power* would be taking into account, but we would urge the energy companies to show restraint, because that is the current mood of the country.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Is he aware that since *Contact Energy was privatised remuneration for the board increased from $385,000 to $1,008,000; if so, what guarantees can he give New Zealanders that the same thing will not occur on the boards of *Mighty River Power, *Genesis Power, and *Meridian Energy after they are sold off?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I was not aware of that.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What guarantees can he give New Zealanders that these substantial costs, like big pay increases to board members and chief executives and $120 million spent on merchant bankers to do the deal, will not be clawed back through higher power prices on the back of consumers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As has been discussed in this House over recent weeks, the improved competitiveness of the electricity market means that no company can afford to indulge in unnecessary spending and automatically get that back off customers. They used to be able to do that

when Labour was running these companies, when chief executives’ salaries trebled and power prices went up 72 percent in 8 years.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Given that he has stated that the sale of State-owned assets is all about “reducing debt”, why is his Government doing everything it can to reduce the amount it will receive from the sales through the issuing of free loyalty bonus shares and the setting aside of additional shares for the settlement of Treaty claims, not to mention big pay rises for chief executives and boards *et al.?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the Government is striking a reasonable balance between getting good value for taxpayers and achieving our objectives of 51 percent Crown ownership and widespread Kiwi ownership of these companies. I notice the member is increasingly agreeing with the policy, because now his party has promised not to buy these companies back.

Road Safety—Changes to Give-way Rules

9. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Associate Minister of Transport: What reports has he received on the public’s understanding of the new give way rules?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister of Transport): I am informed that Kiwis are giving way like never before. We are a little over 3 months into the change, and I want to give credit to Kiwi drivers for the smooth switch-over* to the new give-way* rules. In April the *New Zealand Transport Agency commissioned a survey of a thousand drivers. It shows high levels of awareness and understanding of the rule changes: 90 percent of respondents chose the correct option when asked which vehicles give way at an uncontrolled *T-intersection, compared with just 61 percent surveyed in February. For the right-hand turn rule, 89 percent answered correctly, compared with 74 percent in the earlier survey.

Jami-Lee Ross: Are there any other indicators that show that drivers are adjusting well to the changes?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: More good news for the House. To date there have been no serious incidents attributable to the changes. *AA Insurance has reported only a handful of claims for minor crashes. There were a few very vocal critics who predicted widespread chaos and argued Kiwis would not be able to cope with the changes. These naysayers have been proved wrong.

District Health Boards—2012 Community Pharmacy Services Agreement

10. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all the answers given on his behalf to Oral Question No. 6 on Thursday, 21 June?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Substantially yes, though I understand that where Mrs Goodhew referred to a document being sent out on 1 June, it was, in fact, put on the *internet and made available to everybody, with notification. The district health boards have been in negotiation with pharmacy businesses for some time, and we are now moving to a new contract, which recognises the considerable clinical expertise that pharmacists have, instead of just paying them for filling bottles and containers. There are around 950 pharmacy businesses. Two-thirds are represented by the *Pharmacy Guild. I have spoken to the guild today, and although there are some individual businesses with issues, signed contracts are pouring in, and the guild is happy the district health boards are doing everything possible to meet its pharmacy members’ needs.

Hon Maryan Street: In the light of that answer, do I take it that the reason that some pharmacists were seeing a copy of their 163-page contract for the first time as late as midday last Friday was that they were meant to go to the website to discover it on 1 June?

Hon TONY RYALL: People were made aware that a copy of the contract was available online on 1 June. Individual *PDFs were sent out from 6 and 7 June, with some occurring slightly later than this. I am aware of one situation down south where, because their contract was not varying from that appearing on the website, they did not receive a physical copy until a bit later on. But the only variation from what was on the website was that their name was filled in.

Hon Maryan Street: Will the fees that apply from 1 February 2013 be included in the contract that pharmacists are being asked to sign by 5 p.m. today or, if one listens to the *Pharmacy Guild, by 13 July, or by 23 July; if not, can he guarantee that pharmacists will not be worse off after 1 February 2013?

Hon TONY RYALL: As the pharmacy businesses will know, the latest advice I have received is that over 60 percent of pharmacy businesses in New Zealand have already returned signed contracts or indicated that they do intend to sign the contracts. The fees payable from 1 February are the subject of some continuing negotiations between various working parties. But what the *district health boards have indicated is that the quantum of annual funding will remain the same. There is no reduction on what we are spending this year that I am aware of.

Hon Maryan Street: Can he guarantee that the new contract will meet the requirements of highneeds communities and will not threaten patients’ safety, as one pharmacist in a high-needs area has put it?

Hon TONY RYALL: I think if we are moving from a system where we pay pharmacists money for every bottle and container of medicine they pour some pills or some liquid into, to one that rewards them for the care and the use of their clinical skills, I think that is a *win-win not only for pharmacy but also for high-needs patients.

Hon Maryan Street: Will he address the current chaos in this sector and simply instruct the district health boards to roll over the existing contract until such time as all the concerns around the professional and financial matters that pharmacists are raising are allayed; if not, why not?

Hon TONY RYALL: No. Already, well over 60 percent of the pharmacy businesses in New Zealand either have returned their contract or have indicated that they are going to sign them. We have been negotiating for quite some time, and I have got to say that, actually, there is a lot of goodwill in pharmacy businesses to make this change. When you have been to university for so long and you have got such great clinical skills, I actually think you should be paid for your clinical skills, not for pouring pills into a bottle.

Freshwater Management—Farming Practices and Protection of Water Quality

11. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister for the

Environment: Does she agree with Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Manager, Nick Zaman, that “courts, council and the wider community will not tolerate the pollution of our environment” and if so, what action will she take to encourage farmers and farm owners to comply with their legal responsibilities to protect waterways?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): I certainly agree that all New Zealand is rightly concerned to ensure that water quality is maintained and, where possible, enhanced. That is why this Government is taking clear action against water degradation from all sources, not just farming, including implementing the *Fresh Start for Fresh Water programme; establishing the *Land and Water Forum; assisting in the refreshing and expanding of the *Dairying and Clean Streams Accord, including nutrient budgeting and stream fencing; preparing and implementing the *National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management; doubling penalties for *Resource Management Act offences; and working with local authorities to ensure they are properly monitoring and enforcing standards. I note that Mr Zaman went on to say that, actually, most farms are doing a really good job.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What mechanisms does Government have to ensure that proper checks and monitoring are in place to prevent the unlawful discharge of effluent, and what responsibility can Government expect the industry to take for the way in which it responds to the effluent spill in Maketū* by **Armer Farms?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Central government’s role in this is to set the framework, including the legislation under which it operates and the penalties, which, as I noted, we have doubled. It is the responsibility of local government to be concerned with the monitoring and enforcing of resource

consent conditions. For our part, what we do is we work very closely with local councils to ensure that they are adequately carrying out those monitoring and enforcement obligations, and I would say that we expect industry, regardless of its sector, to be properly managing the environmental impacts of its activities.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What influence will the *Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Bill have in assisting farmers and farm owners to comply with the *Dairying and Clean Streams Accord?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I just suggest that the member is probably better to set down any questions he has around that bill to the Minister in charge of it, the *Minister for Primary Industries.

Television, Public Service Channels—Closure of TVNZ 7

12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Broadcasting: In the light of the latest monthly audience figures by Nielson, which show almost 1.6 million New Zealanders watched TVNZ7 in May, an increase of nearly 120,000 viewers in just one month, is he now prepared to recommend that the Government review its decision not to provide further funding so that TVNZ7, the only nationwide public broadcast television station, can continue operation beyond 30 June?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Broadcasting): No. Last year the Government reaffirmed the decision of the previous Labour Government that *TVNZ 7 funding was to end on 30 June 2012. I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the member and the Labour Party do not recognise that Māori Television*—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is not responsible for what the Labour Party might think.

Clare Curran: Why does he persist in stating that the Government has not made a conscious decision to close down TVNZ 7 when his predecessor, Jonathan Coleman, received a paper dated 23 February 2011 that states: “It is proposed that Cabinet agree that no further funding be made available for the continuation of TVNZ 7 when the current appropriation ends in 2012.”, clearly indicating that it was an option that was available to the Government?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: As I said in the primary question, the Government reaffirmed the decision of the end date of funding for TVNZ 7 last year—TVNZ 7, which sits beside Māori Television as a nationwide public broadcast television station.

Clare Curran: Was any Television New Zealand (TVNZ)* business plan on the table for continuing the operation of TVNZ 7 at the time the Government confirmed that no special purpose* funding would be available to sustain the channel—the decision that was made on 6 April 2011? Did that plan go to Cabinet, and why was it turned down?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: I note that I was not in Cabinet at that time. I understand there were proposals from various entities, including TVNZ, and such things as levies to fund TVNZ 7.

Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the Minister of Broadcasting, who is responsible for broadcasting. He would know what reports went to Cabinet.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Ministers remain responsible; it is why reports are allowed that enable Ministers to comment on what has happened historically. So just because a Minister may not have been present at the time does not relieve a Minister of being answerable for what took place. That supplementary question asked whether a business plan was on the table and whether it went to Cabinet. The Minister may not have the information to answer the question, but he should at least attempt to answer the question.

Hon CRAIG FOSS: As I said, I was not in Cabinet at that time, but I do understand that various proposals were put by various entities, including TVNZ, for various options for TVNZ 7.

Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific. It asked: “Was there a proposal on the table, did it go to Cabinet, and was it turned down?”.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! A point of order has been raised. The answer did say that, yes, there were proposals on the table and that the Minister’s understanding was that they

did go to Cabinet—a range of proposals did. So it would appear that he has answered that question. The member can dig further into that answer, obviously.

Clare Curran: Following the axing of public broadcasting television channel TVNZ 7 on 30 June, will he commit to reserve spectrum for a public service or non-profit public interest television channel for the future; if not, why not?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: *Māori Television is doing very well across that spectrum. Those are decisions for TVNZ itself, which has made announcements about that. Again, the closing of TVNZ 7 was as scheduled by the previous administration.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that we are not meant to argue the accuracy of answers, but the Minister may not have heard the question. The question was about the allocation of spectrum. That is not TVNZ’s responsibility—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member must resume his seat. The member knows that the Minister’s answer—I mean, the Minister has answered the question. The Speaker cannot in any way be accountable for the accuracy or otherwise of the answer. The Minister must stand by his answer, and it cannot be litigated by way of point of order. It certainly can be tested by way of a further supplementary question.

Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was nothing to do with Māori Television. It was to do with public television spectrum.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I think you invited us to continue by way of supplementary question. There is a slight problem, and that is that we have not got any. Every now and again—

Hon Steven Joyce: See you tomorrow.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, we cannot ask a supplementary question tomorrow without asking another primary question. Silly old Steven Joyce interjected—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. He was doing reasonably well until that point. [Interruption] Order! The House will come back to order. I apologise. It is my fault. I thought that the Labour Party had one more question, and it appears that I may not be right on that. Under the circumstances, rather than have an argument—[Interruption] Order! Rather than have an argument over whether or not the Minister has answered the question adequately, I would rather have the member ask a further question. I believe that that way we can deal with this problem, rather than have an ongoing argument through points of order as to whether the Minister answered the question. I invite the member to ask a further supplementary question.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So that we do not have an argument over the question, it is worth pointing out that the Minister responsible for spectrum is the *Minister for Communications and Information Technology, not the Minister of Broadcasting.

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the member’s point of order, but the Speaker has total control over the allocation of questions. He has allocated a further supplementary question.

Clare Curran: In the light of the Government’s **Regional and community broadcasting framework of 22 July 2011, which states its objective as that “spectrum is allocated and reserved for future developments in population demographics, audience demand, and technology, particularly digital developments;”, and following the axing of TVNZ 7 on 30 June, will he commit to reserve spectrum for a public service or non-profit public interest television channel for the future; if not, why not?


Clare Curran: I seek leave to table the following documents: the latest 4-week cumulative audience figures by Nielsen Media Research*.

Mr SPEAKER: These are available to all members, are they not—these audience figures? They are available in the media readily. I do not think—

Clare Curran: They have not been released.

Mr SPEAKER: We are not going to seek leave to table stuff that is available in the media already. [Interruption] If there is any doubt, leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is objection. I believe the Speaker was not wrong.

Clare Curran: I seek leave to table the *Ministry for Culture and Heritage report dated 23 February 2011 providing broadcasting Minister Coleman with a revised Cabinet paper on options for the future of TVNZ 7.

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

Clare Curran: I seek leave to table the Government’s Regional and community broadcasting framework, dated 22 July 2011, which states as an objective that “spectrum is allocated and reserved for future developments”—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that document. We have heard all of that previously. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.


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