QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Job Creation—Minister’s Statements
1. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his answer on Tuesday regarding jobs “I think that the number of 170,000 may come from the initial Budget forecast for 2009, perhaps. I cannot remember the year exactly.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, the Minister stands by that number of forecast jobs. I can confirm for the member that, in fact, in both Budgets 2010 and 2011 Treasury forecast around 170,000 additional jobs over the respective following 4 years.
Hon David Parker: Does he now remember that National’s 2011 election promise to New Zealanders, advertised repeatedly on television, was that under National there would be 170,000 more jobs by 2015?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I thank the member for assisting us with our advertising and recognising it so well. That is indeed correct, and to help the member—
Hon Member: How’s it going?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I will tell you how it is going. So far we have gained around 40,000 jobs since that date. The Budget predicted 59,000, so we are a bit behind at this point, but of course, there are another 2½ years to run. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just before I call the member I remind members that visual aids can be used by the member speaking, not by others.
Hon David Parker: Given that only 13,000 more people have been employed over the last year, does he understand why so many disappointed New Zealanders say his Government’s policies are not working?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure exactly how Mr Parker has obtained that number but I can confirm for him that according to household labour force survey there has been a gain of 40,000 jobs between 2010 and June 2012 and 57,000 jobs between June 2010 and June 2012.
Hon David Parker: Why does he pretend to forget his own promise of 170,000 more jobs and then pretend his Government is on track when the majority of New Zealanders in last night’s TV3poll say that his Government has failed on jobs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member will find that is incorrect. The survey question was in regard to full employment and nobody would predict or claim that any country in the OECD has full employment post the global financial crisis. But I think the public of New Zealand understand that, because I understand that the same poll rated the National Party at 48.8 or 48.9 percent and the Labour Party at around 33 percent. So I suspect that says the same group of people understand the challenges that the Government faces.
Hon David Parker: Who does he think is right on jobs: him or the majority of New Zealanders, who say his Government has failed on jobs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think that the assertion the member makes is simply incorrect. What I would point out is that I think every New Zealander knows that we are in very challenging economic times. Every New Zealander knows that New Zealand is actually performing better than most countries in the OECD. Every New Zealander knows that the unemployment benefit uptake has dropped significantly over the last 2 years—
Kris Faafoi: Is it working?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —and every New Zealander knows that most countries in the OECD have a far worse unemployment rate than New Zealand’s. We are all working hard to get it better. I can tell the member what would not work—reverting to Fortress New Zealand and printing money flat out.
Darien Fenton: Given that he and his Government deny any responsibility for the job losses at Spring Creek Mine, will he at least admit that the 220 job losses confirmed today are part of a wider pattern?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Obviously, it is a very difficult day for those people who have lost their jobs in Spring Creek, and nobody is pretending that it is not. But I would say that if the Opposition did care about the possibility of jobs for those miners, it would join the Government in calling for the objectors to the mine just up the road to drop their objections—
Eugenie Sage: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —to the development of the Bathurst mine—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is very important, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called.
Eugenie Sage: I understood that it was the practice in this House not to refer to judicial proceedings, because they are sub judice. There is a proceeding in the High Court on the Bathurst mine. The Minister has previously alluded to that. I did not understand that this was the practice of the House, to be able to do that.
Mr SPEAKER: I may have to concede to the member’s superior knowledge to mine. But I will check. I will take a little advice on that, because, obviously, such matters are quite important matters. Because I consider this matter to be an important matter—the relationship between this House and the courts—I have taken advice on the matter. The advice is that the Minister was really making a political statement and was not referring in any way in any detail to any matter before the court, and therefore it should not be ruled out on that basis. However, I think the Minister—is the member seeking to raise a further point of order?
Eugenie Sage: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was going on to say that members of this House should join with the Government in encouraging objectors to desist. So that is actually giving a strong message to parties to those proceedings.
Mr SPEAKER: I think it is simply a political statement and has got nothing to do with the detail of any case in front of the court whatsoever. The Minister has not argued the merits or otherwise. I think he is just arguing politically that he believes—I do not want to repeat what he said. I do not think I should be ruling that out.
Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Other Matters Amendment Bill—Collaboration
with Other Parties
2. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Given the recent loss of Māori Party support for his Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, will he consider working with opposition parties on amendments to improve it?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues) on behalf of the
Minister for Climate Change Issues: No, because this Government has no intention of imposing an artificially high price of carbon on New Zealand households and businesses, as is being proposed by Opposition parties.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why is it that the only people still favouring the amendments now to further gut the emissions trading scheme are: one, major greenhouse gas polluters; two, Government MPs; and, three, the sole ACT MP acting under the coalition agreement, which says that “ACT has agreed to support legislation to reduce the impact of the Emissions Trading Scheme …”, and it “continues to believe that the ETS should be repealed, however it believes some progress will be made through the Government’s initiative.”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: What the member said is absolute nonsense. There will be many struggling households that that member says he cares about in this country that do not want increased petrol costs and energy costs and that will be disproportionately affected by the kind of loopy changes that the Green Party wants.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why is the Government so determined to push through changes that will render the emissions trading scheme utterly useless now, rather than working constructively with other parties to get a scheme that will actually reduce gross emissions?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: That is not what we are doing. What we are doing, in fragile economic conditions around the globe, is steering a steady course and not costing the jobs that the Labour Party says it cares about by ramping up a scheme and putting the cost on struggling households and businesses.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Speaking of jobs, why is he undermining 4,500 forestry jobs while subsidising big polluters?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: That is not what we are doing. What the Green Party wants is to rob Peter to pay Paul. It wants to see the cost of petrol and energy go up and disproportionately affect the poor in this country, who it says it cares about, and disproportionately affect businesses, which are struggling and which it also says it cares about.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is he concerned the crash in the carbon price to €1 means there is little incentive to plant forests and those who own permanent sinks may well sell, as we heard on Morning Report today, making it harder to achieve a reduction in gross emissions?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: As the member well knows, we already have under current law— section 30G—the ability to restrict the quantity and the quality of overseas units. We keep a watching brief on that, because we take these issues seriously.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why did the Government not take seriously the recommendations of the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Panel and phase up the price cap, phase in agriculture, and phase out the one-for-two surrender obligation?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Because we care about struggling households and the poor, who that member says he cares about but does not seem to, and because we want to keep people in jobs, unlike the Labour Party.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why is he undermining our clean, green image with a bill that will harm tourism and agriculture and will cost jobs?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: That is arrant and disgraceful nonsense.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is he not ashamed of his own arrant and disgraceful nonsense to push through such an important bill on climate change, with such a blatantly divided House, with a razorthin majority of just one vote?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: As I have already said, we are doing the right things in very difficult times globally when, frankly, basically no one in the world is doing as much as we are. As I have said before, we are providing some global leadership in this area, and I think the way we are calibrating this right now is precisely the right thing to do for the times.
Moana Mackey: What evidence does he have that the benefit of the low carbon price and the Government’s transitional provisions are being passed on to struggling households and businesses?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is very clear that a higher carbon price per unit leads to higher energy and petrol costs. That is clear beyond any doubt, and that is precisely what we do not want to do for struggling households and for businesses in this country.
Moana Mackey: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked what evidence he had that it was being passed on.
Mr SPEAKER: Well—
Moana Mackey: It was a very straight question, deliberately.
Mr SPEAKER: In fairness, the Minister gave what he believed was a reasoned answer as evidence. The member did not ask what external evidence or what outside evidence; it was just what evidence. The Minister in answering has used his own logic as evidence, and I cannot secondguess that.
Moana Mackey: What external evidence does he have that the benefit of the low carbon price and the Government’s transitional provisions are being passed on to struggling households and businesses?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: The people I talk to every day—my constituents—unlike that member, who does not have any.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 3, Louise Upston. [Interruption] Order! I have called Louise Upston for question No. 3.
Infrastructure Investment Programme—Effect on Economy
3. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s infrastructure programme contributing to building a more competitive economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Infrastructure is one of the six key areas of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. This is aimed at ensuring the Government remains focused on what matters to businesses, so that they have the confidence to invest, grow, and create jobs. The Government’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure programme is providing the transport, telecommunications, energy, and water platforms required by a modern economy. It includes massive investments over several years across all infrastructure sectors, including the roads of national significance and ultra-fast broadband. This will help businesses and the economy to grow, as well as supporting thousands of additional jobs in the New Zealand economy.
Louise Upston: What are some examples of jobs being supported by the Government’s infrastructure programme?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government’s infrastructure programme is supporting many thousands of jobs across New Zealand—for example, nearly 2,000 jobs in the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband, an estimated 1,000 jobs over the next 4 years on the Waterview motorway, nearly 1,600 jobs in 2011-12 alone on the Transpower grid upgrade, 1,000 jobs at the peak of the Wiri Prison construction, and an expected 1,300 jobs at the peak of the horizontal infrastructure rebuild in Christchurch. Those are just some examples of the jobs being supported by the Government’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure programme.
Louise Upston: What reports has he seen on progress being made in creating a competitive business environment in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am pleased to report that the work we are doing on the Business Growth Agenda, including in such areas as exports, skills, infrastructure, and innovation, is helping New Zealand to perform very well by international comparisons. The latest Doing Business report, published by the World Bank this week, measures regulations and the ease of doing business for small and medium sized enterprises across 185 countries. It shows that New Zealand has again retained third place in 2012, ahead of the US at fourth, the UK at seventh, and Australia at 10th. The
reality is that we do not get real growth until one more business has the confidence to invest, to grow, and to employ one more person. So I am pleased to see this report come out this week.
Louise Upston: What alternative economic approaches would put this progress in building a more competitive business environment at risk, at the cost of thousands of jobs across New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are a number of approaches that would do that—for example, opposing and stopping the roads of national significance, opposing the ultra-fast broadband project, opposing responsible mining for oil and gas and other resources, and opposing the Wiri prison. On the other hand, when you are proposing to print money and build fortress New Zealand, I suppose you could jettison all the infrastructure jobs because—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Economic Growth and Unemployment—Forecasts
4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic
Development: Does he agree with the NZIER shadow board that “the growth outlook for the second half of 2012 looks weak and unemployment remains stubbornly high.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Their view is one view. The jury is, in fact, out on what growth will be in the second half of this year. It was pretty strong in the first half of this year by world standards currently. It was 2.6 percent for the year to June, which is higher than predicted given current global financial conditions, so it would not be any surprise if growth in the second half of the year was not as strong, but it is still likely to be stronger than in many other advanced economies. I would agree that unemployment is higher than we would like. I would point out that it is again, though, lower than in other developed countries—for example, the US and the UK. I would also note that in countries like Croatia and Kyrgyzstan, which were two of the examples championed in this House yesterday, unemployment is 18 percent and 8.6 percent respectively. Of course, I have also seen a statistic from 2004 for Kyrgyzstan, and it was 18 percent. And in Zimbabwe, of course, where they follow the Norman plan it is over 80 percent unemployment.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that is probably the sixth time this week when that Minister in response has broken the Standing Orders by accusing the Green Party of something that it is not proposing. The Zimbabwe comparison that is being used in respect of the Greens—the Minister was warned earlier in question time that—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Parker: That’s right—I am asking for order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Both members will cease. I have listened for a moment to try to pick up the point of order. I realise that the member does not like the Minister’s answer. I do not believe that the Minister was transgressing too far this time. I think that where I do owe the House an apology, personally, is that earlier on I let another Minister get away with a jab that was unfair. I apologise to the member for that happening. It beat me in timing. That was unfair and I apologise to the member where I let that happen. However, on this occasion I think this sort of stuff is contestable information. I think he had gone on long enough, though.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given the Minister’s admission that growth forecasts are lower in the second half of the year, with one at 0.8 percent per annum, does he now agree with shadow board members Cameron Bagrie, Shamubeel Eaqub, Dominick Stephens, Phil O’Reilly, Viv Hall, and Stephen Toplis among others that: “Inflation is below the bottom of the band, … The exchange rate continues to be overvalued … placing greater weight on lower rates as the economy fails to ignite”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I certainly think that the exchange rate is challenging for some exporters. I do not have any disagreement with that, although there are other exporters that are doing very well. I would also note, though, for the member that I read a report from economists this morning, I think, that said that even if, for example, the Governor of the Reserve Bank had taken
the view of dropping interest rates today, it was unlikely to have a significant impact on the exchange rate. That is because what is going on with the New Zealand exchange rate is that much larger forces are at work and, ultimately, it is about what the world thinks of the respective opportunities for different economies around the world.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It’s not! It’s about high interest rates that they can’t get in Europe. Everybody knows that.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If you think that is a high interest rate, Mr Peters, then I think you are on another planet.
Hon David Cunliffe: In light of the Minister’s extensive reading list, does he now agree with the Bank for International Settlements, which says of the New Zealand currency trading environment that the rate of inflows and outflows in the New Zealand dollar is 400 times that justified by its trade flows?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I have not seen that particular statistic, although I sense a tension developing between Mr Cunliffe and Mr Parker. Mr Cunliffe wants—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The question was an absolutely straight question. Ministers get plenty of opportunity to give that kind of answer, but not to that question.
Hon David Cunliffe: What is the Government doing to reverse the results of the most recent performance of the manufacturing index, which shows the manufacturing sector contracting for the fourth consecutive month, and at its lowest September level in 4 years; and of the New Zealand performance of services index, which shows that the service sector is also going backwards for the first time in more than 2 years, and does that demonstrate the Minister’s words that he thinks the economy is “heading in the right direction”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the absolute sense that the economy is heading in the right direction is the actual physical activity that has occurred over the last 2 years. We have had 57,000 more jobs in the economy; the economy is 2.6 percent larger than it was a year ago; the New Zealand stock market is at record highs at this point in time; and we are seeing a significant amount of jobs being added in a whole range of manufacturing and information and communications technology industries. I will give the member a few examples to help him with his confidence in that regard: 300 new jobs at the Tegel plant in Henderson; 350 jobs about to start at Marsden Point for the expansion there; 400 jobs for IBM and Unitec in Auckland; about 1,500 jobs at Fonterra’s new Darfield plant; and new jobs at organisations such as Orion and Douglas Pharmaceuticals, and at a range of information and communications technology companies and manufacturing companies around New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that is a sufficient answer.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given the ability of members on both sides of this House to quote companies that have either hired or fired—and we do not need to go back through Solid Energy, Tiwai Point, Kawerau, and others—would an economy “heading in the right direction” have contracting employment in the manufacturing sector, contracting employment in the services sector, and fewer total hours worked than the year before?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member should recognise contraction in the manufacturing sector because it actually occurred primarily between 2005 and 2009. The member does not like to hear it, and Mr Parker does not like to hear it, but in the last 2 years the number of jobs in manufacturing has actually stabilised and slightly grown. I think that is very encouraging for the New Zealand economy, as it is the first time since around 2005.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research shadow board’s statement of 24 October indicating that it believes the exchange rate was overvalued and the economy had failed to—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Child, Youth and Family—Review of Complaints Process
5. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements has she made to review Child Youth and Family’s complaints process?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): As part of the White Paper for Vulnerable Children we have committed to undertaking an independent review of the Child, Youth and Family complaints process. This is an issue that came up at the green paper meetings and in a number of public submissions. We felt it was important that we get an independent reviewer to look at whether there needs to be an independent complaints authority for Child, Youth and Family.
Ian McKelvie: Who will undertake the review of Child, Youth and Family’s complaints processes, and what will they look at?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have appointed former Police Commissioner Howard Broad to undertake this review. The terms of reference include the current arrangements for members of the public to have a complaint about Child, Youth and Family heard, providing a view on how the current arrangements are or are not working, and considering options for independence and reporting on the financial, legislative, and accountability implications of these options.
Ian McKelvie: When is the review of the Child, Youth and Family complaints process expected to be reported back?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: All the changes that arise as a result of the white paper and the Children’s Action Plan that we have in place will have clear time frames over the next few years. The review is due to be completed, certainly, by next year, but I think that he will be getting back earlier next year, which would be a good thing.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she plan to put in place a complaints process or an independent review for Work and Income in light of ongoing breaches, such as the man who had his sickness benefit cancelled after Work and Income lost his medical certificate, only to have it anonymously returned to him in the mail by another client, who had accidentally been sent it—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I believe this question is asking the Minister a question in respect of a totally different ministerial role, and to try to link it that way, I think, is a bit of a stretch. Does the member wish to actually ask the Minister responsible for social development a question more related to the primary question? That is all right.
Mental Health Services, Youth—Progress on Prime Minister’s Project
6. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made in the delivery of the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project announced in April of this year with an extra $11.3 million provided to support it?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I need to advise the member, actually, that her figure is wrong. She has looked at only one part of one agency’s investment in what is a multi-agency project. The actual total investment package in the Prime Minister’s youth mental health initiative is $62 million over 4 years. Vote Health is funding $33 million of that, including the $11.3 million the member has mentioned. There is another $10 million for the expansion of nurses in schools, and $2.7 million for an online e-therapy tool. Vote Social Development is funding $12.2 million, and Vote Education $16 million. Against that backdrop, excellent progress is being made. Examples of that progress include the 12 youth onestop shops receiving interim funding of $50,000 each, and up to 30 decile 3 schools having nursingled services established during next year. This is a comprehensive programme, there are a range of initiatives being developed as part of it, and good progress is being made with all of them.
Hon Maryan Street: Why did New Plymouth’s youth one-stop shop, Waves—one of 12 such youth facilities nationwide that was meant to benefit from the $11.3 million referred to in the
primary question—close last week, and is he anticipating the closure of any more youth one-stop shops?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Let me take the second part of the question first: absolutely no. The reasons relating to the cessation of activity by Waves are particular to the relationship between that organisation and the Taranaki District Health Board. It would be inappropriate for me to start to talk in more detail about that at this stage. But what I can say to the House is that it is not a fundingrelated issue, and that there are discussions under way between the district health board, other providers, and Waves to resolve the situation.
Hon Maryan Street: Is he aware that 50,000 young people are registered with the 12 youth onestop shops across New Zealand, which provided approximately 150,000 interventions over the last year; if he is, how does the closure of the youth service 198 Youth Health Centre in Christchurch a while ago and now Waves in New Plymouth square with the Prime Minister’s commitment to better, faster, and more youth friendly primary health care?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I am not sure where the member gets her information about Christchurch from. I have actually been to the opening of the 298 Youth Health service just a few weeks ago. In fact, that service is flourishing. In respect of the Taranaki situation, let me make the point again that it has nothing to do with funding. There are particular issues involved there that it would be inappropriate for me to canvass further at this stage, but they are being worked through, and the services that that agency provides are expected to be picked up. Can I make one other point. We have given an instruction to the district health boards that as they approach their next funding round they need to take into consideration the best ways of continuing to fund youth one-stop shops on an ongoing basis.
Dr Megan Woods: Given the fact that the New Plymouth service provided assistance for over 3,000 young people with mental or sexual health problems, unplanned pregnancies, or drug and alcohol abuse issues, was any of the $11.3 million announced by the Prime Minister in April provided to enable nationally consistent funding for these youth one-stop shops, as recommended by his ministry in a report in 2009?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I said in the primary answer that there were funds of around $50,000 for each of 12 youth one-stops set aside in that original announcement. So the answer to the member’s pressed question is absolutely yes. But I make the point again—and I am sorry that it seems to be taking a long time to sink in over on the other side of the House—that the issues relating to Waves have nothing to do with funding. They relate to the particular circumstances of that organisation. It would be inappropriate to discuss those further at this stage while other discussions regarding the future of a youth one-stop shop type of facility in New Plymouth are under way.
Dr Megan Woods: Given that, can he confirm that similar youth service centres in Kāpiti, Christchurch, and Invercargill are under threat of closure because of funding issues; if so, what does he intend to have to replace their essential and effective service in a youth-friendly way?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I am afraid the member was not listening to my earlier answer, either, when I made the point that we have directed the district health boards as part of their ongoing funding arrangement, in addition to the funds that are already available, to make funding provision for the continuation of youth one-stop shop services.
Resource Management Act—Processing of Notified Consents
7. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for the Environment: What reports has she received on the time taken for decisions on notified consents issued under the Resource Management Act 1991?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): I have seen a report from the Ministry for the Environment that indicates that the average time-frame for a decision on a notified consent is nearly 9 months. In the study period, three decisions took over 1,000 working days, with the longest taking 3,528 days, or nearly a decade. It is simply unacceptable that some of these projects take
longer to consent than they do to build. Medium-sized consents involve projects that can collectively contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy and create a significant number of jobs. It is the Government’s intention to continue to reduce unnecessary costs and delays from these consents.
Jacqui Dean: What is the impact of delays in receiving decisions on applicants and submitters?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Delays create uncertainties both for the applicants but also, importantly, for the submitters and local communities. No one benefits from a drawn-out process, waiting for a decision under a cloud of uncertainty and with mounting legal fees. In terms of the economics of delay, one estimate has put the cost per day of delay of a hypothetical $10 million project at $2,200, which for a 3-month delay could mean $140,000 of extra costs, to say nothing of the additional cost in stress on the submitters. That is why the Government is committed to finding ways to ensure that notified consents are dealt with in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Ross Sea Protected Area, Proposal—New Zealand Involvement
8. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Why did New Zealand pull out of a joint proposal with the United States to create a marine reserve in Antarctica’s Ross Sea?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs: The underlying premise of the question is wrong. New Zealand did not pull out of a joint proposal with the United States to create a marine reserve in the Ross Sea.
Gareth Hughes: Did the Minister take a recommendation to Cabinet to support either a joint New Zealand proposal or to table just a New Zealand proposal at the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources meeting this week?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The matter was discussed at Cabinet. There are two proposals, as the member recognises: there is the United States proposal and our proposal. They have a lot in common. There are some differences. For example, there is one area where the United States wants to engage in krill fishing—we do not. As it turned out, we did not pull out of any proposal. We said there are two proposals on the table and they can be taken to Hobart for discussion, which is carrying on as we speak.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a good answer with lots of detail. The question was what was the recommendation that the Minister took to Cabinet. It would be good to get some information on the recommendation.
Mr SPEAKER: It seemed to me the Minister did answer. He said it seems that the decision was that both papers would go forward to the conference in Tasmania, and that is, I think, what the Minister’s answer was.
Gareth Hughes: Given that New Zealand sent the first boats to fish in the Ross Sea and takes half the current toothfish catch, does the Minister acknowledge that New Zealand might be seen by some countries to be acting in our vested fishing interests at the expense of this pristine last ocean?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No.
Gareth Hughes: Does he accept that New Zealand will shoulder the blame if no agreement to protect the Ross Sea is reached at the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, given our refusal—which has been quoted in the media by Ministers Brownlee, Carter, and Joyce—to stop working on a joint US proposal?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No. New Zealand is a sovereign country. It has put forward a proposal. I do not necessarily think we should be slavishly pro-American in all respects. The member is disclosing some pro-Americanism, and I imagine Russel Norman will be counselling him after question time.
Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister want New Zealand’s legacy to be the protection of Sanford’s fishing interests in the Ross Sea, or the preservation for current and future generations of this amazing, pristine environment?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I think the member’s position is as off-the-wall as Holly Walker’s lobbying legislation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Some attempt to answer the question prior to any such comment would have been helpful.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, New Zealand’s position is that it is anxious to establish in the southern oceans a reserve that will be nine times the size of New Zealand’s waters, and that will be a tremendous legacy, which our great Minister of Foreign Affairs will achieve.
Gareth Hughes: I seek leave to table a media document. It is from the Australian newspaper, which is not often available in New Zealand, where the chairman of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources said that the failure of New Zealand and the US to have a joint proposal has made it more difficult to reach an agreement.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by the answers he gave yesterday to supplementary question 5 on Oral Question No 7 and supplementary question 3 on Oral Question No 12?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the House infer from his words “that has always been the test” that as a matter of principle if any Minister were found to have knowingly misled him as Prime Minister, he would sack him or her?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is the Prime Minister’s position.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Hon John Banks told the Prime Minister’s chief of staff that the reason why his witness statement is not public is that the police decided not to release it, when in fact Mr Banks himself told the police not to release it, does that not mean that he, Mr Banks, knowingly misled both the Prime Minister’s chief of staff and him as Prime Minister?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It simply means that that is a view held by the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: OK! Is it correct that he as Prime Minister on at least three occasions gave false information to the House in relation to the Dotcom case; if so, how can he expect the New Zealand public to believe that he as Prime Minister is telling the truth?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: On each occasion every attempt has been made to factually give a position to the New Zealand public. Mr Dotcom does not consume all of the Government’s time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not the case, given the previous answers in respect of the Hon John Banks, that if he as Prime Minister is proven to have misled the House, then he will resign as Prime Minister; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is in fact not the case.
Grant Robertson: Can he confirm his answer that the first he heard of Kim Dotcom was 19 January 2012, despite the fact that a US arrest warrant on Mr Dotcom was put out on March 2011; his Ministers Williamson, Power, and Coleman all dealt with aspects of his move to New Zealand prior to 19 January; the US Department of Justice said that it had substantial and critical assistance from the New Zealand Police, the office of the Solicitor-General, and Crown Law in the lead up to the raids; and that Dotcom had funded the biggest New Year’s fireworks in New Zealand’s history in 2011?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes.
Canterbury, Recovery—Repair of Housing and Infrastructure
10. NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for Canterbury
Earthquake Recovery: What progress has the Government made to support repairing damaged houses and infrastructure following the Canterbury earthquakes?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): To date 24,884 houses have been repaired in the Fletcher Construction – led programme to repair Canterbury homes, at a cost of $967 million. Over the past month the programme has been completing around 450 homes a week, and the weekly spend of around $15.5 million has been reached. The Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team is also making good progress in the $2.2 billion project to repair road and water infrastructure. To date it has laid 19 kilometres of freshwater pipes, 70 kilometres of waste-water pipes, 108,000 square metres of pavement, and 4.6 kilometres of stormwater pipes. Over $40 million a month is being spent on horizontal infrastructure projects, which will leave Christchurch with a highly resilient and high-quality infrastructure.
Nicky Wagner: What impact has this had on employment in Canterbury?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Very significant. Across the Fletcher EQR and Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team programmes alone there are some 7,000 people working every day to improve the lives of Cantabrians. Around 6,200 of these are employed by the Fletcher Construction – led house repair programme. Up to 580 Fletcher staff work in 20 local hubs, supported by 90 Earthquake Commission estimators. There are 125 accredited building firms, with an average of 5 employees each working on the project. And another 865 contractors are working on the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team’s horizontal infrastructure repair, with that number expected to rise by around 1,300 in coming months. In addition to that, there is considerable activity in the individual insurer project management offices. There is a lot of employment.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why has the Government spent only $7 million of the $42 million of funding for training apprentices that was announced back in May last year as part of his reconstruction programme, given that there are 84,000 young people not in educational training who could be productively participating in the rebuilding today if they were being engaged in training?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The first point is that there are a lot of jobs available for young people in Canterbury. Of the money that was set aside, the $43 million, for training—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: They need training to get them, just like you trained as a woodwork teacher.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is right—that is right. What the member will find is that a lot of people will enter training, post going into work, and that is a good thing. What we can say is that although there has been $7 million spent out of the $43 million, there is a further $24 million that has been reprioritised inside existing programmes. What the member needs to do is actually read some of the very positive messages coming out of Canterbury about employment and training for young people, so that he does not go around with such a gloomy outlook on life.
Paid Parental Leave—Prime Minister’s Statements
11. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on 3News last night, on the subject of Business New Zealand’s assertion that women need retraining when returning to employment after extended parental leave that “no. It wouldn’t be my view”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister was asked whether he thought women lose their skills after 3 months, and need to be retrained. His answer was: “No. That would not be my view.” The Prime Minister stands by that answer.
Sue Moroney: Does he agree with the statement on extending paid parental leave that Business New Zealand attributed to UK member of the European Parliament, Godfrey Bloom, that “It will single-handedly turn back the clock to the 1920s by forcing employers to avoid exposure to the penalties by not hiring young women.”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister does not stand by anybody else’s statements on this particular issue.
Sue Moroney: Does he agree, then, with National MP Tim Macindoe, who told the Waikato Times on 11 April this year that any rise in costs would have business owners looking to cut spending, and that one way of doing that would be to employ men rather than women?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are big costs that need to be met. It costs the Government $163 million a year to meet this programme. The Prime Minister is not responsible for Mr Macindoe’s comments on these matters.
Sue Moroney: Given that Paul Mackay was reported by Radio New Zealand as stating that Business New Zealand’s paid parental leave submission was based on political discussions, did those discussions involve the National Party?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We do not speak for Business New Zealand, and Business New Zealand does not speak for us.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very carefully crafted. It was about whether there were discussions between the National Party and Business New Zealand on the issue of its paid parental leave submission.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member still has a further supplementary question. Given the Minister’s answer, there is a pretty obvious further supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether there were discussions, not whether someone spoke with someone, and somebody else spoke with somebody else. The question was very narrow—were there discussions—and that goes to the core of it.
Mr SPEAKER: I am very interested in the right honourable gentleman wanting questions to be answered. I am very gratified by that, because it certainly did not used to happen in this place. I invite the member to repeat her question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What on earth did that mean? That you are criticising every previous Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That you are a paragon of virtue?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I meant what I said. I have called the member to repeat her question— Sue Moroney.
Sue Moroney: Given that Paul Mackay was reported by Radio New Zealand as stating that Business New Zealand’s paid parental leave submission was based on political discussions, did those discussions involve the National Party?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not able to answer that, but what I can say is that Business New Zealand talks to many, many groups, including the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, and, I would hope, the Labour Party.
Canterbury, Recovery—Prioritisation of Employment Opportunities
12. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Immigration: What is the Government doing to ensure that New Zealanders have first priority for jobs in the Canterbury rebuild?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Immigration): On 9 October, nearly 3 weeks ago, Minister Bennett and I announced the new Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub, a one-stop shop for employers to list vacancies and recruit from Work and Income, various trades training centres, or, where needed, labour from overseas. Soon employers will be required to engage with the hub to
ensure that no Kiwis are available or are in training before being able to recruit workers from overseas. This balanced approach will ensure that Kiwis will have first priority for jobs in the rebuild, but the reality is that the scale of the Canterbury rebuild will require some migrant workers.
Jami-Lee Ross: What reports has he seen on approaches to ensuring New Zealanders have priority for jobs in the Canterbury rebuild?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Interestingly I have seen a report about 2 weeks ago, after our announcement, of a vague proposal to limit foreign workers available for the rebuild. Such an approach would significantly impact on the rebuild. It would affect families and businesses in Canterbury and slow the overall economic growth. Such a move would deter migrants coming to Canterbury and the rest of New Zealand and that would overall impact on the $1.9 billion per year that migrants contribute to the wider economy. This, of course, was a stupid proposal—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is enough.
Denis O’Rourke: If the Minister’s claims that New Zealanders will be favoured for jobs in Christchurch are true, why are there so many advertisements circulating in Ireland, the UK, and Asia for workers in Christchurch?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As I have said, and I alluded to it in the answer to those two previous questions, the rebuild is on such a significant scale that we will require some migrant workers.
Mr SPEAKER: Darien Fenton. [Interruption] Order!
Darien Fenton: If the Government is doing everything possible to ensure New Zealanders have the first priority for jobs in the Christchurch rebuild, why is it estimated that half of the 30,000 workers needed for the rebuild will be brought in from overseas?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Well, we are doing everything possible so that Kiwis are first for our jobs in New Zealand, and, as I have said, the scale of this rebuild—some $20 billion over the next few years—will require some migrant workers. I have just made the point that if Labour wants to close down migrants from coming in to New Zealand, that is a detriment to our $1.9 billion a year. It is a shameful policy.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Given that the impact of the recession has been disproportionately higher for Māori, and, in some cases, unemployment figures have been triple the national average, what has the Minister done to ensure that priority is given to Māori in the Christchurch rebuild?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I am aware that Ngāi Tahu are playing a significant role in the overall rebuild of Canterbury, and the Government has invested $43 million into extra trades training places in Canterbury. Of course, the Canterbury Employment and Skills Hub, which we are going to introduce in the next few weeks, will help every New Zealander, including Māori.
Jami-Lee Ross: What reports has he seen on the need for foreign labour for the rebuild of Canterbury?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I have seen a number of reports on the need for foreign labour in the rebuild. One shows that as many as 30,000 extra workers in total will be needed, and, even with Kiwis fully engaged, a significant number will be needed from overseas. Another report describes a dismal, desperate, and half-cocked plan to limit the number of foreign workers involved in the rebuild and the wider economy. This plan is described as “blithely ignoring the economic realities to pick up a few redneck votes.”, and of course that came from—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Ministers should not be attributing to other parties policies that are not remotely the responsibility of Ministers. It is a pattern that is getting—[Interruption] I know members use the report as a means of doing this, but the problem with it is that rarely is the description of the policy very accurate. That is the difficulty and it leads to disorder. And where— [Interruption] The member should not be interjecting when I am on my feet, but where members ask questions that are provocative, Ministers get plenty of opportunity. For questions from their own colleagues to then describe policies in a way that may not be accurate and attribute them to other parties is not fair. That is not fair.