Questions and Answers – July 31

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 — 5:34 PM


Prime Minister—Statements

1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement: “I’m not going to go and relitigate every comment I’ve made prior to this point because I don’t think that would actually be helpful”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

David Shearer: What details of the report of the police investigation into John Banks led him to comment “I think he did exactly what he’d always said, which was comply with the law.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is my reading of the police report.

David Shearer: Why did he say John Banks “complied with the law”, when the police investigation found Mr Banks received a sealed envelope containing a $15,000 cheque for his campaign at a meeting with Skycity’s chief executive, a donation which was subsequently recorded as anonymous?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The fact that the police have decided not to press charges shows you that they do not believe there is a case.

David Shearer: Is his conclusion from the police report that where they said they did not have enough evidence to prosecute, that is the same as complying with the law?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, if there was a case to be answered, a prosecution would be taken. I know the Labour Party members would know about that, because they face lots of potential prosecutions.

David Shearer: Is he satisfied that John Banks was upfront and honest at all times with the media and the public in what he knew about the donations he received?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have responsibility for that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister clearly has responsibility for his Minister and that Minister’s interactions with the media in this building. For him to say that he does not, must be misleading the House—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member was on reasonable grounds until that point, and then he became totally out of order. The Prime Minister has responsibility only for whether or not he has confidence in his Ministers, and the question did not ask him whether he had confidence in the Minister. The Prime Minister does not have responsibility for the matters that the question asked about.

David Shearer: Did he know before the police investigation that John Banks personally solicited and received a donation from Skycity as part of his mayoralty campaign that he subsequently recorded as anonymous?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

David Shearer: Has John Banks’ behaviour during his mayoralty campaign met the standard of ethical behaviour that he expects from his Ministers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As the member should know, the Cabinet Manual makes it quite clear that when it comes to ethics it is at the time the person holds their warrant.

David Shearer: Given that the Cabinet Manual says that “Ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.”, does he believe Mr Banks is seen by the public as holding the highest ethical standards?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The test is whether he enjoys my confidence, and he does.

Economy—Fiscal Management and Support for New Zealand Families

2. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: How has the Government balanced the need for responsible fiscal management with its continued support for New Zealand families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Despite difficult economic times in the last 3½ years, the Government has been committed to taking the rough edges off the effects of recession for New Zealanders. We have done that by maintaining large programmes such as Working for Families, interest-free student loans, New Zealand superannuation, and early childhood education subsidies. At the same time, we have worked hard with the Public Service to improve public services, because Government spending increases through the early 2000s were unsustainable. We have been able to do this at the same time as setting a path back to surplus in 2014-15.

Todd McClay: What progress has the Government made since 2008 in getting on top of debt and putting its finances in order?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have made steady and consistent progress rather than dramatic progress. However, the first forecast the Government received in December 2008 showed sharp, rising public debt and never-ending Government deficits leading to net Government debt hitting around 60 percent of GDP by 2026. The steps we have taken since then mean that by 2026 net debt is now forecast to reach zero, and the Government remains on track for a small Budget surplus in 2014-15.

Hon David Parker: Is it responsible fiscal management to spend $120 million on consultancy advice and marketing for his sale of State-owned assets programme; if so, how are those asset sales going at the moment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The asset sales programme remains on track. Some issues— [Interruption] There is nothing new or unexpected in the reports from the Waitangi Tribunal.

Todd McClay: Despite tight fiscal constraints, how much does the Government currently invest in programmes supporting New Zealanders?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We believe it has been important to provide New Zealand households and families with security about their income through difficult times. We are spending $2.6 billion a year on Working for Families payments, which have recently increased by 5 percent on 1 April. We will spend $1.4 billion this year on early childhood education subsidies—60 percent more than in 2008. We have spent $156.6 million on paid parental leave. This has increased from $135 million in 2008. In fact, paid parental leave has increased by $67 per week since 2008. The annual cost is forecast to rise to almost $200 million a year by 2016.

Todd McClay: What reports has he seen that would require the Government to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars more over 4 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen an officials’ report that a proposal to, roughly, double the paid parental leave scheme would cost taxpayers an extra $439 million over its first 4 years. As I have said, the Government is currently spending about $150 million a year, and this will rise to $200 million a year by 2016. The Government simply does not have a spare $439 million. It would have to borrow that from overseas lenders. We believe the current extensive support for families has been supportive of their family incomes through the last 3 or 4 years.

Living Standards, Inequality—Prime Minister’s Statements

3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka whakatau a ia i te kōrero i whakaputaina māna, arā, “I do not accept the view that we are a deeply unequal country. I do not think the evidence suggests that, and people drawing that conclusion are wrong”? [Does he stand by the statement made on his behalf, “I do not accept the view that we are a deeply unequal country. I do not think the evidence suggests that, and people drawing that conclusion are wrong”?]

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei: Is it the Prime Minister’s view that the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services is wrong to say inequality is worsening, when its Vulnerability Report has found that Māori and Pacific Island unemployment rates are now three times that of Pākehā and rising?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, it could be wrong. The most comprehensive study of inequality in New Zealand is Household incomes in New Zealand: Trends in indicators of inequality and hardship 1982 to 2010—that is the most recent data—which actually shows that the gap is narrowing. The reason for that—and one of the problems with the Council of Christian Social Services report—is that if somebody wants to do a proper analysis, you have to look at household incomes, not only individual incomes; you have to adjust for household income and family size; and you have to look at all sorts of transfer payments made by the Government, like Working for Families, New Zealand superannuation, and other benefits. From the best of my knowledge, that particular scheme did not do that.

Metiria Turei: Given that the authors of that report attributed the slight reduction to a blip in investment income for the very richest New Zealanders, why is New Zealand not deeply unequal, when the wealth of those on the rich list grew by 18 percent, but the median income for Māori and Pacific people and sole parents with children actually dropped over that same period?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I think I would take the numbers on the rich list with a grain of salt, with the greatest respect. Secondly, the reason why I take the particular report as being the most comprehensive is because it is. It is the only report that actually looks at household size and household income, and adjusts for all of the payments made by the Government. I think if one looks at the overall situation in New Zealand, we are pretty equal compared with many other countries. We are on a par with Australia and Canada, and we are lot more equal than countries like the United States and Mexico. Three-quarters of all New Zealanders pay no more than 17.5 percent in tax. If you earn under $50,000 a year and have two children, in New Zealand you pay zero tax. That strikes me as being pretty fair.

Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister expect that workers at our leading listed companies will agree that New Zealand is not deeply unequal, when their chief executive officers earned, on average, 22.5 times more than those workers’ salaries, and granted themselves pay rises of $50,000 last year while their employees received an average rise of just $500?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot speak for those particular workers. I mean, I am just not in a position to do that. But what I can say is that the Government delivers a tax system and a redistribution system that on the surface of things, at least to me, looks pretty fair. That is why we go out there and support Working for Families when it has a cost in the order of about $2.8 billion. That is why we provide benefit support to over 300,000 New Zealanders. That is why we put in billions of dollars when it comes to the accommodation supplement. That is why we do a number of things in this country to try to support those who are not in a position to support themselves as well, or need an extra helping hand. On balance, I reckon that looks reasonably fair.

Metiria Turei: What conclusion does the Prime Minister draw about inequality, when according to the KidsCan foundation one in 11 children in the lowest four deciles is hungry at school, 208 schools are currently using the KidsCan food programme, and there are nearly 200 schools waiting for KidsCan to be able to feed their kids, too?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, let me say that KidsCan is a good programme. Secondly, it is a good example of where the private sector can play a role, because you have got a number of companies that have been stepping up and assisting that programme. Thirdly, if you go and have a look at the children in New Zealand who are in the lowest-income households, a lot of those are in welfare-based households—not exclusively, but a lot of them are in welfare-based households. That is why the Government has a programme for investing in people, to try to assist them off welfare and into work. We know that in New Zealand if you work 20 hours a week or more, then you will be substantially better off than you would be even if you were on the DPB. That is how strong the incentive payments are when it comes to Working for Families, with the likes of the in-work tax credit. So, in my view, if we really want to help people in New Zealand, we will actually help them into work.

Jacinda Ardern: Does he consider an increase in food-based hardship grants from 280,000 to roughly more than half a million to be an indicator of an increase in hardship?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot verify the numbers from the member. She could be right; she could be wrong. I do not know. Secondly—

Grant Robertson: Just answer.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: OK, we will get there. There is no rush. I have got plenty of time. I know we are all off to Samoa, but, you know, we have plenty of time to get our way through this. Secondly, the issue around people who are getting hardship payments probably indicates an increase in unemployment. That is the reality of a recession, but it is also—again—why the Government puts so much support into trying to help people, whether it is a 9-day fortnight or a variety of other mechanisms that the Labour Party opposed.

Metiria Turei: How can his plan for job growth, which he referred to earlier, be the answer, when the Department of Labour warned him in December last year that almost all the job growth that he is talking about will benefit professional men, and the unemployed, low-skilled workers, and women will miss out almost completely?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I reject that analysis from the member. If one goes and has a look at the number of people who were on the unemployment benefit 18 months ago, it was 69,000; today it is around about 50,000. If one goes and has a look at the number of young people who were on an unemployment benefit 18 months ago, it was 23,500; today it is 13,500. If one wants to really create employment for New Zealanders, the way to do that is to have an environment that supports the creation of jobs. Everything that happens on this side of the House does that, and everything that happens on this side of the House is opposed by Labour and the Greens. That is because Labour and the Greens are against anything that would create jobs for New Zealanders.

Metiria Turei: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Metiria Turei.

Metiria Turei: Given that two out of every five children—two out of every five children—who live in poverty are in working families, would he agree, as a first step, to support Dr David Clark’s bill to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for New Zealand’s poorest working families?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and the reason for that is that we run the risk that people will lose their jobs. Sure, some people might get paid $15 an hour, but many other people, on the advice we have, would end up on the dole queue. I simply say this: in the last 4 years we have heard from Labour and the Greens that the minimum wage should be $15 an hour, but when they were in Government they were not saying that, were they?

Metiria Turei: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Metiria Turei.

Metiria Turei: Why does the Prime Minister continually refuse to address the growing gap between rich and poor, when even the World Economic Forum has said in its global risk report this year that although reducing debt is important, severe income inequality is a greater global threat?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All I can tell the member is that if she wants to go and look at the Household incomes in New Zealand: trends in indicators of inequality and hardship, this is the most comprehensive report. I know that the member does not like it, because it actually does the job properly and looks by household, by members, and by redistribution. The Greens want to look in isolation, which is what the Greens always do. When they go and look at the tax package, they leave out the bits where people pay it, and count the bits where they get something. But that is the voodoo economics that comes out of the Green Party. It is no different from when the member put out a press release a few weeks ago criticising the Government for the OECD report on income inequality—Divided We Stand—then forgot to mention that, by the way, the report was commenting on what happened in 2008, when the Green Party was propping up those losers over there.

Christchurch, Recovery—Central Business District Recovery Plan

4. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake

Recovery: What recent announcements has the Government made around the rebuild of the Christchurch city centre?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Associate Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Last night the Prime Minister and the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery launched the central city recovery plan. This new and innovative central city design is the exciting next step in the rebuild and recovery of New Zealand’s second-largest city. The plan details the locations of 17 anchor projects, and provides a clear and vibrant vision for the future of central Christchurch.

Jacqui Dean: What will be some of the first priorities amongst the anchor projects?

Hon AMY ADAMS: This morning the Prime Minister and the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery attended a tree planting at the future site of Papa o Ōtākaro, the Avon River precinct, which is to be one of the key anchor projects as it runs through the new central city, and will also be one of our first priorities. Other key projects include the novel urban frame that will surround the central city, and the convention centre, which will act as a catalyst to commercial regeneration.

Jacqui Dean: How is the Government encouraging investment in the Christchurch city centre?

Hon AMY ADAMS: A new facilitation service has been launched called Invest Christchurch, which is to encourage investment in the new Christchurch central business district. This new service will be part of the Christchurch Central Development Unit, and will work with local, national, and international investors, businesses, and developers to facilitate private sector – led initiatives throughout the new central business district. The private sector is key to the redevelopment of a vibrant central city, so we want to do what we can to make it easier for them to play a part in the rebuild of our city.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: What is the difference between the council’s budget for the rebuild of the city’s civic assets and the projects announced by the Government yesterday, and how much of that shortfall has the Government committed to fund?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Yesterday’s announcement was about providing the location of the anchor projects. Each of those projects will now have to go through specific design projects and business case assessment so that we can come to the final figures for them. That work is ahead of us, and we are both committed to doing it in conjunction with the council.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very clear and deliberate question. The Minister’s answer would suggest that they had not done any costings, which I am sure is not true.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Speaker can only assess whether or not the Minister has answered the question. When she answered the question, she said that the costings had not been done, and the design had not yet been done. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. I cannot second guess a Minister’s answer in that regard.

Māori Affairs—Statements

5. Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Labour—Ikaroa-Rāwhiti) to the Minister of Māori

Affairs: Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs): Yes.

Hon Parekura Horomia: When the Minister said that if privatisation of State assets occurs, it must be managed in a manner that is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, was that position consistent with the interim recommendation of the Waitangi Tribunal?


Hon Parekura Horomia: What advice did he give to the Minister of Finance in so far as the transfer of 49 percent shareholding interests in State assets is not a contravention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: As Minister I did not give any advice to the Minister of Finance on that particular point.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: What assurance did he seek from the Minister of Finance and the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations that the transfer of 49 percent shareholding interests in State assets is not a contravention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Simply that we had been working with iwi leaders and iwi groups on this whole issue. At the end of the day, it is their viewpoint that we put forward.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific, and asked what assurance did he seek from the Minister of Finance and the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.

Mr SPEAKER: The member may repeat her question in full.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: What assurance did he seek from the Minister of Finance and the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations that the transfer of 49 percent shareholding interests in State assets is not a contravention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: As I implied in my earlier answer, I arranged the meetings, and the iwi leaders made that submission themselves to the Prime Minister.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to say that that still does not answer the very direct question about what assurances the Minister had sought from two other Ministers.

Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty we face is that the Minister in his answer is talking about arranging meetings, whereas the questioners have asked what assurances he sought from the relevant Ministers, the Minister of Finance and the Minister responsible for Treaty settlements, as to whether or not the partial sale of State assets—these particular ones involved—would be a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Minister has not really made any attempt to answer that, at all. I mean, he either sought some assurances in this area, or he did not. I am not saying how the Minister should answer, but to say something about the question would be helpful.

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I attended one of those meetings—there have been several. My understanding is that assurances were given to the iwi leaders, after I had arranged for them to meet with the Prime Minister, rather than my seeking the particular assurance.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister clarify what assurances were given to iwi leaders with regard to the transfer of 49 percent shareholding interests in State assets to assure him that it was not a contravention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: My understanding is that discussions are ongoing, and have been going on for some time. I guess that is probably a question you should direct to the Minister responsible for those issues.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of point of order, Mr Speaker. If you need one.

Mr SPEAKER: Does one of those members wish to raise a point of order or not, because I am about to go on to the next—[Interruption] Well, actually, I will the Hon Trevor Mallard.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker, I think the fact that it took me a second to jump up was an indication that I thought you were going to intervene to indicate to the Minister that he should answer the question as opposed to making passing reference to meetings and not being specific as to the assurances that he had taken on board as he was asked by Nanaia Mahuta to do.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The reason why I paused myself was I was actually thinking about the Minister’s answer, because what the Minister said, if I recollect correctly, was that certain assurances had been given to iwi leaders. He implied that he was not actually responsible for any assurances given by those other Ministers to those iwi leaders. As I thought about his answer, I believed that actually he had answered the question in so far as he was indicating that he was simply not responsible for what the Ministers had actually said to those iwi leaders. The wording of the question I think enabled the Minister to answer in the way he did.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The supplementary question from Nanaia Mahuta related to the previous answer that the Minister had given, where he said that he had been in a meeting where assurances had been given. So I think it was a legitimate supplementary question to follow on from that and ask about what assurances—

Mr SPEAKER: The member is quite right. It was a legitimate supplementary question. What I am saying is that I think the Minister’s answer was also legitimate in that he sidestepped the assurances given because he is not responsible for them. I think I cannot ask the Minister to answer for something he is not responsible for. But the question was certainly legitimate.

Hon Parekura Horomia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister in his reply said that he had referred it to the Minister responsible. The Minister of Māori Affairs has a responsibility of duty of care to Māori people in this nation. He is responsible for that.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister of Māori Affairs cannot be responsible for everything to do with Māori people. I mean, when other Ministers are involved—obviously, the Minister has answered in terms of what he did in respect of certain meetings and certain assurances being sought, but the Minister has not answered in terms of what actual assurances were given, on the basis, I am assuming, that he believes he is not responsible for those. I think I am correct in that assumption. That is why I cannot take the matter any further.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The full extent of the question, however, relates to his assurance: what assurances did those Ministers give to give him assurance that the transfer of 49 percent of State-owned assets would not contravene Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which is his responsibility?

Mr SPEAKER: Was that a further supplementary question?

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: That was the supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: That was not, as I heard it, the previous supplementary question, and that is why I have ruled on the matter in the way I have. If assurances were given by another Minister to any iwi leaders, the Minister of Māori Affairs is not responsible for those assurances, and that is why, I believe, he has answered in the way he has. I am not in a position to require him to answer in any way differently from that. I mean, the member could reword the question, perhaps, in a way that—because the member still has further supplementary questions.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your memory is normally really good. This might be the exception that proves the rule. I think you received an assurance from Nanaia Mahuta as to what was in her question, and you said you had a different recollection. Mr Speaker, I think her recollection, as she was reading from the same piece of paper, could well be accurate.

Mr SPEAKER: I think I will hear from Michael Woodhouse.

Michael Woodhouse: In defence of your memory, I have a very clear recollection that the Minister of Māori Affairs answered in respect of the initial question about what assurances had been sought that he had facilitated a number of meetings, and, in fact, mentioned the Prime Minister. He did not say he was at all of them, and, therefore, he could not speak to the specific

assurances given by the Treaty Minister and the Minister of Finance to a third party, to iwi, which was the subsequent question. Therefore, his answer was perfectly in order.

Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on the matter now. The member does have further supplementary questions to pursue the matter if she should wish to.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister assure the House that, based on the assurances given by the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Treaty settlements, the transfer of 49 percent of shareholding in State-owned assets is not a contravention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?


Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that he was at a meeting where he heard iwi being given certain assurances to the extent that, his having heard those assurances, he advised the Prime Minister that the process should be put on hold until the Waitangi Tribunal reports at the end of September?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Other iwi did not ask that, and the meetings I talked about were well before the tribunal came into the picture.

Primary Health Care—Zero Fees for Under-sixes

6. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Health: Has any progress been made on the Zero Fees for Under Sixes scheme taking coverage over and above the 70 percent of children covered in 2008 achieved by the previous Government?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Yes, great progress. This Government, despite very tight financial times and other countries cutting their health budgets, has put an additional $17 million into the free under-sixes daytime general practitioner services. Now the percentage of children aged under 6 who are enrolled at a practice offering free general practitioner visits during the day is 93 percent. What is more, if you look at the poorest families, we have lifted the proportion of high-needs children aged less than 6 years old who are receiving free general practitioner visits during the day to 98 percent. This is all about lifting everybody, especially those most in need.

Maggie Barry: What progress is the Government making with free after-hours visits for under- 6-year-olds?

Hon TONY RYALL: Over 90 percent of children under 6 have access to free after-hours doctors’ visits. One of the benefits of this new programme from the Government is that it has encouraged more general practitioners to join the zero fees scheme and offer free doctors’ visits during the day. For example, in Wellington, Capital and Coast District Health Board now has 100 percent of its practices offering free visits during the day, and all children in the region have access to free after-hours general practitioner visits. The West Coast District Health Board has also achieved this fantastic result. This is yet another preventive health investment the Government is making at the top of the cliff as part of its increase of around $2 billion of extra funding in public health services—a very, very significant increase internationally.

Hon Maryan Street: What progress has been made to roll out free after-hours care for undersixes in the southern region, given that even as late as 2 weeks ago there were only three practices listed to provide those services in the whole region, and one of Dunedin’s main after-hours providers had not signed up because it was not satisfied it could cope with the demand?

Hon TONY RYALL: There are free after-hours general practitioner services available in Dunedin. There are negotiations under way, particularly for the more rural areas.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is this policy of “lifting everybody, especially those in need” free general practitioner visits the very same policy that New Zealand First introduced, having been opposed by the National Party, which described it as improvident, squanderous, and wasteful?

Hon TONY RYALL: That is so long ago. What I would say is that, yes, that policy was introduced under the National – New Zealand First coalition Government, a Government that I

remember, and I certainly enjoyed working with that member when we sold a minority stake, I recall, in Auckland International Airport.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Did you notice that add-on, which usually—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I can hear immediately that this is not a point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: You must be clairvoyant then.

Mr SPEAKER: I am. The member need only reflect back on the question he asked. He invited the Minister to comment in his question. He invited the Minister to comment on New Zealand First’s previous policies. If members invite Ministers to comment, they will.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Which part of my question to the Minister is inaccurate and not true, or was something that invited that response?

Mr SPEAKER: The part of the member’s—I invite him to go back and read his question again. He asked the Minister whether a certain policy that had come in had been introduced by the New Zealand First Party when it was in Government. He invited, therefore, the Minister to comment on matters to do with the New Zealand First Party. When members do that, if they wish to—I had better be careful of the language I use, but if they invite Ministers to comment on matters to do with their own parties, they should not seek the Speaker’s help if the Ministers comment in a manner that the members did not expect.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What happened to the Standing Order where Ministers are required in their answers to be terse and to the point?

Mr SPEAKER: It is very simple. The member runs risks. Let me, therefore, put it more bluntly if the member is not seeing it. If members, during question time, wish to grandstand, they are inviting Ministers to comment on the issues they are raising. Question time is about asking Ministers for matters they are responsible for. I do not believe this Minister was responsible for the matter the member raised; therefore, the member was a little surprised at the answer he got. But it is a lesson in asking questions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He is the Minister in charge of the extension of the free general practitioner visits policy. This is a simple matter of a reminder of the Minister of some historical fact, which is relevant to the issue. It is not grandstanding—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat immediately, if he wishes to stay in the House. The House does not carry on in this way. Such points of order are totally unnecessary, and the member should reflect on it next time he asks questions.

Schools, Charter—Progress

7. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Associate Minister of

Education: What progress has been made on the charter schools policy?

Hon JOHN BANKS (Associate Minister of Education): Since its announcement last December as part of the ACT-National confidence and supply agreement, this policy has made excellent progress. We have established a first-class working group of dedicated and knowledgeable New Zealanders. Its members have travelled the country, consulting with members of the community. They have found overwhelming support for the policy. The charter schools policy promises to be a major advance for the one in five New Zealand students leaving school out of work, out of hope, and out of luck. Indeed, more progress has been made on this policy in the last 8 months than was made in the entire education portfolio from, say, 1999 to 2005.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following on from the points you made in respect of the Rt Hon Winston Peters, how was that response in order, given the primary question? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Given the primary question asked, the Minister answered in some detail, and then compared progress that has been made, which I accept was unnecessary but, believe me, if

I start ruling that sort of thing out, I will be ruling an awful lot of questions out, too. [Interruption] Order! The members will get control of themselves. I did not rule the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ question out of order. I left it for the Minister to handle, as the Minister saw fit, and the members know I tend to do that. I do not rule questions out of order, even though I could rule many out of order, but I do not. The Minister answered the primary question asked, in some detail, and then, I accept, put a bit of unnecessary stuff at the end, but the bit that he put at the end was not actually that terrible.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the curriculum in charter schools include a unit on reading and comprehension, so that individuals who sign documents and declare them to be true and accurate understand their obligation for that to be the case?

Hon JOHN BANKS: The curriculum could include teaching kids to be very wary of Labour MPs who sell tickets to kids—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The House will come to order, or some people will be leaving it. I accept these issues are tense, but the question did ask, on the face of it, an issue about the curriculum to do with English. There should be some attempt to answer in respect of the English curriculum, before anything is added about any other part of the curriculum.

Hon JOHN BANKS: Let me answer the English curriculum question. The curriculum could include teaching kids how to spell words like “vexatious” and “exonerated”. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the honourable—[Interruption] Order! The House will settle down.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the curriculum in charter schools include a unit on improving memory; if so, will that unit use, as an example, the individual who personally solicited a donation from a casino, personally received that donation, and claimed to forget it when declaring donations?

Hon JOHN BANKS: Well, in respect of memory and declaring donations and costs, they might be taught that when they see a Labour Party election pledge card worth $446,000 it was probably paid for by the taxpayers—by ripping off the taxpayers. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now if it takes someone to go, to bring some order to the House, someone will go.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the curriculum in charter schools include a unit on ethics; if so, will it make it clear—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the question.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the curriculum in charter schools include a unit on ethics; if so, will it make it clear that it is unethical to lie to the media and, through them, to the people of New Zealand?

Hon JOHN BANKS: It could include a provision for the teaching of ethics, and the charter school kids might be taught that one should not sign a painting if one did not paint it, because that is forgery—that is forgery.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Alfred Ngaro to ask question No. 8. [Interruption] Order! I ask both front benches please to come to order.

Child Poverty, Abuse, and Neglect—White Paper for Vulnerable Children

8. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements has she made on the release of the White Paper for Vulnerable Children?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): We have announced that we will soon be releasing a summary document of the nearly 10,000 green paper submissions on 14 August. The white paper itself is on track and will lay out a way forward for better protecting our vulnerable children, and will now be released on the 12 October.

Alfred Ngaro: What will be released as part of the green paper submissions?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The public submissions are an incredibly rich resource and have had a team of people that have read, analysed, and collated every submission. The summary document

is over 180 pages in length. In addition to this, there will be a full summary released from around 600 Government and non-government agencies.

Alfred Ngaro: [Cook Island Maori text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] What issues are being considered as part of the white paper’s development?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We are currently considering a range of issues as part of the white paper’s development. We are looking at the research and use of predictive analytics, particularly for the protection of our most vulnerable children in our most vulnerable families. The white paper will reflect the issues raised and commented on in the green paper submissions.

KiwiRail—Minister’s Statements

9. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by his statement in his press release of 24 May 2012 that “KiwiRail has successfully undertaken a significant investment programme over the previous two years, including: New locomotives and wagons, and refurbishment of the current locomotive fleet”?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister of Transport) on behalf of the Minister of

Transport: Yes.

Clare Curran: Did KiwiRail’s decision to procure the DL locomotives and the 500 wagons from China North Rail meet his standard of “successful”, given the extraordinary list of systemic design and manufacturing failures revealed in internal KiwiRail documents yesterday; if not, what is he going to do about it?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Yes, it did. Can I say that KiwiRail carried out market evaluations before committing to the Chinese manufacturer. This included looking very carefully at the building in New Zealand as an option.

Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was quite specific. It said: “Did his decision meet his standard of ‘successful’?”.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought I heard the Minister say “yes” in answering it.

Clare Curran: Given that the 20 locomotives purchased by Malaysian railways in 2005 from the same Chinese factory were mothballed and unable to be used by 2008 due to severe technical problems, is continuing to order locomotives from this company not simply throwing good money after bad, and what will he do to ensure that his turn-round plan does not continue to be compromised?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No. I share, of course, the member’s frustration with the situation that is here. The reality is that the manufacturer from China has taken full responsibility for the issues that are present. There is minimal disruption to the operations of KiwiRail, and all cost is borne by the manufacturer; none by KiwiRail.

Clare Curran: What does he have to say to the Kiwi workers at Hillside and other New Zealand firms who no longer have jobs or who face losing their jobs in order for KiwiRail to have this supply of faulty locomotives and wagons, given his predecessor said on a Close Up TV programme in 2010 that both workshops would be extremely busy with a wagon replacement programme— should they head for Australia?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Of course I sympathise when anyone loses their job, but the fact of the matter is that this Government over the last 3 years has invested $750 million into KiwiRail. We are letting the board and some 4,000 workers at KiwiRail get on with the KiwiRail Turnaround Plan to ensure that there are many more jobs at KiwiRail in coming years.

Brendan Horan: Is he aware that significant sections of the rail network are rotting and that the staff who would otherwise be tasked with repairing them are being made redundant?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: That is why we were spending 750 million additional dollars over the last 3 years. But if the member has specific issues that he wishes to bring to KiwiRail’s and the ministry’s attention, I suggest he do that in writing and we will take him seriously.

Clare Curran: I seek leave to table an internal KiwiRail document dated July 2012 titled DL Gen 1 Update listing the litany of failures of the locomotives.

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.

Brendan Horan: I seek leave to table a photograph of a section of railway track clearly depicting a row of rotting rail sleepers with external grass growth.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would it be possibly just to indicate the source of the photograph?

Brendan Horan: Yes—KiwiRail staff.

Hon Members: Where is it?

Mr SPEAKER: Members are wanting to know whereabouts the photograph was taken.

Brendan Horan: In a very busy section of rail-track—

Hon Members: Where?

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Brendan Horan:—the member’s own area of Tauranga.

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

Brendan Horan: I also seek leave to table a photograph of a clearly rotting rail sleeper breaking on the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before members describe what is in a document they should say the source of the document.

Brendan Horan: Again, from KiwiRail staff.

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

Brendan Horan: From KiwiRail staff, I seek to table a photograph of a railway sleeper clearly rotten at the core.

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

State-owned Assets, Sales—KiwiRail

10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the statement made on his behalf that there are no plans to sell KiwiRail?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes. In fact, the Government is investing heavily in KiwiRail to help the business become sustainable. Overall the Government and KiwiRail are investing around $4.5 billion over the next 9 years to put the business on a sound footing.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister of Finance aware that KiwiRail is considering offers to purchase Tranz Scenic; if so, is the privatisation of long-term passenger services part of the Government’s turn-round plan for KiwiRail?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have not seen any particular proposal there, but KiwiRail and its predecessors in the past have looked for other parties who can help them, particularly with their passenger business. For instance, they have done significant transactions with local government, to the extent that metro rail is now owned by regional councils. It used to be owned by whoever the predecessor of KiwiRail was.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister of Finance aware of the outsourcing of jobs, including to Australian company John Holland, that is also part of the Government’s plan to prepare KiwiRail for sale?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not aware of the detail of any outsourcing of jobs that KiwiRail might have done. What I can say is that between the Government and KiwiRail we are putting $4.5 billion behind this company to try to do what has proven to be very difficult over the years, and that is create a sustainable rail system in New Zealand. Of course, KiwiRail has to play its part in the bargain. If it is going to use $4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money, it needs to clean up its own act and be the world’s most efficient small rail company. We expect them to be decisive and aggressive about that.

Ethnic Affairs, Office—Work with Red Cross

11. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs: What reports has she received about the Office of Ethnic Affairs working with the Red Cross?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for Ethnic Affairs): I am pleased to advise the House that the Office of Ethnic Affairs’ Language Line service is now available through the Red Cross. Language Line offers interpreters in more than 40 languages to more than 80 agencies, including Government departments, hospitals, and city councils. The Office of Ethnic Affairs has been working with the Red Cross in Christchurch since the earthquake in February last year, and recently trained a number of workers and volunteers so that they can access Language Line when they talk to or visit people who do not speak English. This is a positive, practical contribution to helping people access services and information.

Melissa Lee: What other agencies is the Office of Ethnic Affairs working with to improve access to information and services for non – English speaking people?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The office is working with the New Zealand Home Health Association to promote Language Line to its members, which are home help providers. Forward Care Home Health has signed up to use Language Line, as a result of this work. Clear, accurate information is essential when assessing people’s needs. I am very pleased that the Office of Ethnic Affairs is helping agencies to improve the services they provide for non – English-speaking people.

Roading, Auckland—Alternatives to Pūhoi to Wellsford Route

12. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: What alternatives did the Government investigate before committing itself to the Road of National Significance between Puhoi and Wellsford, which is now projected to cost $1.76 billion up from $1.69 billion two years ago?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister of Transport): on behalf of the Minister of

Transport: Prior to 2008, 14 studies had been undertaken looking at improvements between Auckland and Wellsford, including providing a completely new route or upgrading along the existing route. The Pūhoi to Wellsford option, which involves a new route running parallel to the existing State Highway 1 was confirmed as the preferred option by assessing the strategic options against criteria such as economic development, safety, regional integration, access and mobility, network resilience, sustainability, and cost efficiency.

Julie Anne Genter: Given that up to 50 people could die on the Pūhoi to Wellsford route before the new motorway is completed, why is the Government not prioritising saving lives, with urgent safety upgrades to the existing highway?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think the short answer is that we are getting on with this just as soon as we can. In fact, progress is being made on this highway. The Pūhoi to Warkworth section of the project is about to progress with a planning alliance preparing the necessary documentation to obtain designation and consents. This is envisaged to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Authority mid-2013. And the Warkworth to Wellsford section of the project is undergoing further investigation due to the challenging terrain and geotechnical conditions.

Julie Anne Genter: Why has the Government not adopted the Operation Lifesaver proposal endorsed by the Auckland Regional Council in favour of the new motorway, which would save dozens of lives and could be quickly implemented at a quarter of the cost of the new motorway?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I am not personally aware of Operation Lifesaver, but if the member would write to me, I am sure we would look at it.

Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table the Operation Lifesaver report that was presented to the Auckland Regional Council and identifies that up to 50 lives could be lost in the 10 years that we wait for the new motorway to be built.

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

Julie Anne Genter: Given that the New Zealand Transport Agency has already been able to scale back the Ōtaki to Levin expressway and deliver safety benefits at one quarter of the cost, will he now consider saving dozens of lives this decade by improving State Highway 1 north of Pūhoi now, rather than pushing ahead with the uneconomic new motorway?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I have already intimated we are progressing, I think, reasonably well on this road of national significance, and the member, I think, mentions the benefits. Of course, there are economic benefits, but there are also much wider benefits in terms of connecting communities to communities, and with education, health, and so on. I think the people of the north deserve and want this road of national significance.

Julie Anne Genter: I also seek leave to table the State Highway 1 to 16 Auckland to Wellsford strategic study that was undertaken in 2008 and delivered to Transit New Zealand. It was released under the Official Information Act, and it shows that the new motorways’ costs outweigh the benefits.

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


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