QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that the Household Labour Force Survey is “the most rigorous form of measuring employment in the economy”; if so, what were the Survey’s results for unemployment for the last four quarters?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. The household labour force survey applies a very rigorous test for whether someone is unemployed. They are counted as unemployed if they are actively looking for as little as 1 hour’s work a week. In the last quarter, for example, that included 33,000 students who were looking for a job, most probably for a part-time job, alongside their study. To the second part of the member’s question, over the last four quarters the number of people unemployed has gone from 151,000 to 171,000, back to 156,000, and up to 170,000. So, as you can see, the numbers bounce around quite a bit. Over the same period the number of people receiving the unemployment benefit has actually dropped, from 56,000 to 50,000.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he now concede that his Government’s economic policies have failed to lower unemployment in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, in the way that it is couched by the member. Obviously, unemployment has risen, but that has to be seen in the context of the overall environment that we have been operating in. We cannot wish away a global financial crisis, but I would just say this. If we were theoretically to follow these policies—an emissions trading scheme that had a major impact on every New Zealand consumer and business, reversing the company tax cut that this Government brought in, putting a levy on every single New Zealand consumer to pay for Christchurch, and a capital gains tax on a quarter of the housing market but on every single business in New Zealand, and we came up with that novel idea of following Zimbabwe and Argentina in printing money—then that would really add to unemployment. By the way, they are the Green Party policies.
Dr Russel Norman: Why is unemployment growing at more than 1½ times faster in New Zealand than across the average of the OECD over the last 4 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: At one level, unemployment is coming from a lower base in New Zealand than in a lot of those countries. If you actually go and look at the OECD, most of those countries are above New Zealand in terms of an unemployment rate, and some of them, like Spain, are at very high levels—25 percent unemployment overall and 50 percent for young people. So that is one issue that is there. Countries have different ways of measuring things. But all I would say is, if you go back to the unemployment benefit numbers and ask the obvious question—what were they in 1999, when the household labour force survey was at 7.3 percent, and what are they today—the answer is that they were 150,000 back then, they are under 50,000 here, and they dropped by about
400 last week, half of which were in Auckland. I might also add that if you were to go and look at the Jobs Online monthly report, you would notice that they increased by 5.6 percent in October alone.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it not the fact that unemployment in New Zealand has grown at 1½ times the average in the OECD over the last 4 years, using the statistics in the household labour force survey, which the Prime Minister told us we should read; and is that not a sign that his economic policies have failed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To the last part of the question, no.
Hon David Parker: Is the Prime Minister insisting now on using benefit figures rather than the household labour force survey, which he previously described as the most rigorous form of measurement, because, just like Karl Rove on Fox News, he likes to misuse math to make himself feel better?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, for one thing, thank goodness David Parker is watching Fox News, because he might learn something, as opposed to that lefty stuff he seems to be embroiled in normally. Secondly, no, I am simply pointing out that the unemployment benefit is another way of looking at the economy, and I think that makes sense. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Dr Russel Norman.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister aware that according to the standardised statistics produced by the OECD, when he came to office New Zealand had the eighth-lowest unemployment in the OECD and it now has the fifteenth-lowest unemployment in the OECD, and that that is a record of failure for his economic policies, even in comparison with all those other countries that he tells us are doing so badly?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is still in the bottom half of those. I would point out that if one was to go and look at the issues that New Zealand faces vis-à-vis other OECD countries, I would challenge the member to find other countries that would not take New Zealand’s position over theirs. If you look at our country we have had a global financial crisis and the worst earthquake in a number of generations, and this Government will be back in surplus within a few years’ time. This is a—
Hon David Cunliffe: A few years—how many?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I still think we are on track for 2014-15, actually. So there are a—
Hon David Cunliffe: Oh, still? Make up your mind.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is not changing my mind, David. You are changing your mind about whether you are challenging the leader or not, but I am certainly not changing my mind. Do not worry, Grant Robertson is supporting you, because he was in the paper yesterday saying he supports David.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that is—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. [Interruption] Order! The Speaker is not involved in any of that, so we will not have any of that.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the failure of the Government’s economic plan to lower unemployment, will he give renewed consideration to the green growth, green jobs proposals coming from the Pure Advantage group, which includes successful New Zealand business people such as Sir Stephen Tindall, Joan Withers, Jeremy Moon, and Justine Smyth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One thing I will not be doing is ordering up a carbon-neutral printer like that member wants for his printing of money. No, if you go and look at the policies that that member is advocating, it is an emissions trading scheme that goes on every single business, it is reversing the company—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members are entitled to raise a point of order.
Dr Russel Norman: The question was not about the policies of the Green Party, even if the Minister failed to actually put them across properly.
Mr SPEAKER: Because of the time that has elapsed, I will let the member repeat his question so that members can hear it.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the failure of the Government’s economic plan to lower unemployment, will he give renewed consideration to the green growth, green jobs proposals from the Pure Advantage group, which includes successful New Zealand business people such as Sir Stephen Tindall, Joan Withers, Jeremy Moon, and Justine Smyth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In terms of the first report, no, but my understanding is that another report is coming that might have some recommendations of interest in it. The Government will look at those. But I go back to the first point: a failure of economic policy in this country would be to reverse the company tax cut that this Government put in, it would be to ban mining and all of the things that this Government is doing to ensure that there is job creation, it would be to put a levy on every single consumer to pay for Christchurch, it would be a capital gains tax on every business in New Zealand, it would be an emissions trading scheme that puts every consumer in a worse situation, and it would be printing money so that every New Zealander—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think there has been a sufficient answer there.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the Government’s failure to reduce unemployment, will he seriously consider the business case for New Zealand to embrace green growth and green jobs as advocated by the Pure Advantage group, which includes successful New Zealand business people such as Rob Fyfe, Phillip Mills, Geoff Ross, and Sir George Fistonich?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said in the answer to the last question, there is a second report coming out, as I understand it, from Pure Advantage, and there may be a number of aspects of that report that the Government is interested in looking at. The member will also be aware that the Government commissioned some work in this area, of which some of those recommendations we are following. I simply go back and say that the member lives in a world where he is advocating policies that would be very negative for the economy but comes into this House and pretends they would have no impact at all. If that is the case, then he needs to go back and read his economics books.
Dr Russel Norman: Has he seen statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that show that the greener the industry the higher the job growth over the last decade, and will he now reconsider his opposition to green growth strategies, which are jobs-rich and good for the environment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, in answer to the first part of the question. In answer to the second part of the question, there has been quite a number of things that this Government has done in relation to, effectively, green growth, and that would be including the very extensive insulation scheme that the Government had. It has also got an emissions trading scheme, which encourages people to plant trees. There has been a number of other things, but not the ones that that member is proposing.
Dr Russel Norman: Is Pure Advantage group not correct when it agues that mining the environmentally valuable Denniston Plateau for coal, as proposed by Bathhurst Resources, will have a detrimental effect on New Zealand’s economically valuable green brand; if so, why on earth is the Prime Minister championing a special cause, a special interest, like Bathhurst Resources?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not think the member is right. If I remember correctly, a few weeks ago that member was on television telling New Zealanders that it was a shocking thing that those who worked at the Solid Energy mine on the West Coast were losing their jobs at Spring Creek, and yet on the other side of the coin he is now telling those very same miners that he does not wan them to get a job down the road at Bathhurst Resources. Is he seriously saying that because we have a small amount of mining activity relative to the size of New Zealand, it somehow undermines our whole overall proposition as a good country to do business in and a good country to visit? I find that very hard to believe. If you look at Australia, where the mining activity is very substantial, it does not stop it from actually going out there and advertising extensively that Australia is a good place to do business, a good place to live, and a good place to holiday.
Economic Programme—Prime Minister’s Statements
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he still think his Government is “on the right track”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: Is he satisfied that there are only five countries with a worse record in the rate of the increase in unemployed numbers, and that they include Greece, Spain, and Ireland; if not, does he not think it is time to change track?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As the member will have heard in answer to the first question, no, I do not think it is time to change tack. Secondly, that is coming from a completely different base. But let us just understand whether the following would do anything in terms of economic growth, and that would be to ban sea-mining for minerals, oil, and gas; ban fracking; put a tax on aquaculture; ban all coalmining; and have a mineral export tax. That is a remit at the Labour Party conference this weekend.
David Shearer: Is he satisfied that under his Government there has been an 80 percent increase in the numbers of unemployed, more than twice the rate of Australia; if so, does he think it is time to change track?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. Of course we are not satisfied when someone loses their job, but let us understand what is happening in Australia. In Western Australia, the last time I looked—it may have changed in the last few weeks—the growth rate was 14.5 percent. The growth rate in Northern Queensland, where mining is substantially active, was 9.5 percent. The fact is that there has been a recession on the East Coast of Australia for quite some time. So let us ask the following question: can you run a mining operation if you have a minerals export tax going through the roof, where you have a ban—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister’s job, and a Minister’s job, is to answer the question, not to start asking them in the middle of question time. I thought you would have stopped him when he said that. “Let’s ask ourselves a question”—well, that is our job at the moment, and his job is to get up there and, precisely and tersely, answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point is reasonably made, except in so far as the question did ask whether the Prime Minister believed that, given certain events, it was time to change track. The Prime Minister was identifying possibilities of changing track that he did not believe would work. But the member is correct. It should not be posed as a question, because Ministers are meant to answer questions. But I think the Prime Minister had finished, had he not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The parts of the Australian economy that are booming are the parts of the economy that are related to mining, and at the Labour Party conference they want to ban mining, and they want to join forces with the Green Party, which wants to ban mining. I will bet you Damien O’Connor does not go down there on the West Coast—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister has no responsibility for Damien O’Connor.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement “While unemployment remains high, it is absolutely critical that we provide young people with adequate development opportunities. If we don’t we risk diminishing the potential of an entire generation of New Zealanders, and I won’t accept that.”; if so, why have the number of Modern Apprenticeships dropped by 2,500 since he made that statement?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I cannot accept the member’s number, because I do not know whether it is correct or not in the way it was measured. And the history of this House indicates that numbers that come from that side are not always accurate. But there are just under 7,500 fees-free Youth Guarantee places at tertiary institutions at the moment. There are 2,800 fees-free places in 43 trades services. There are over 10,000 fees-free places for 16 and 17-year-olds. A great deal of work has been done when it comes to young people—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question directly asked about Modern Apprenticeships. If he has all the information about everything else except Modern Apprenticeships, that is a bit strange. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member should know that actually he does not interject during a point of order, especially a point of order by his leader. The Leader of the Opposition is correct. His question asked specifically about Modern Apprenticeships. If the Prime Minister had that figure, it would be helpful, but I think he has indicated that he does not have it. Therefore that should be the end of the answer.
David Shearer: Is not Fran O’Sullivan right on the unemployment statistics when she says “For Key to simply shrug his shoulders on this score doesn’t cut it. … We owe it to the young people who are yet to even get on the employment ladder to be less ostrich-like as a nation.”; when will he change track to grow jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Three things. Firstly, when it comes to young people, the Government is engaged in a number of activities to support young people, and that includes things like the 90-day probation period and the youth minimum wage, which certainly help make them more attractive in the workforce. Secondly, making sure their educational skills are better is critically important, and we know that that was something that the Labour Government did not care about. Making sure that we have a number of programmes for them is critically important. We have been doing that, whether it is through the Youth Guarantee or whatever it might be. Thirdly, we know the Labour Party is not to be believed when it comes to youth unemployment, because in the weekend Megan Woods was out there telling people that a quarter of all young people were unemployed. That is factually incorrect. And the fourth thing I would say is that I do not know whether the member saw—because he wants to quote Fran O’Sullivan—The Standard yesterday afternoon, but on The Standard yesterday afternoon it said that if Fran O’Sullivan comes out and endorses David Shearer, it will be the kiss of death. Well, guess what was in the New Zealand Herald this morning!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption] Order! I have called the Leader of the Opposition.
David Shearer: Is the Prime Minister aware that Modern Apprenticeships have gone down on his watch, and why is he not aware of that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because they have gone into a variety of other, different courses.
Government Financial Position—Return to Surplus and Reduction in Borrowing
3. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making in getting back to surplus and reducing future borrowing?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2012 showed an operating deficit, before gains and losses, of $9.2 billion. This compares with a deficit of $18.4 billion in the previous year, about half of which was due to Canterbury earthquakes. Excluding earthquake costs, the operating deficit for 2012 was $7.3 billion, compared with $9.3 billion the year before. It has been important to support New Zealanders in difficult times through borrowing money and spending it through income transfers and public services, but, of course, that cannot continue for ever. The Government has laid out a track to surplus in order to get on top of debt.
Maggie Barry: What are the benefits of returning to surplus and minimising debt?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think one of the benefits assumed is that if we got back to surplus we could then have a spend-up in the fashion that the previous Labour Government did. But that is not actually correct. When we get back to surplus in 2014-15 it will allow the Government to start repaying debt, resume contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, and target more investment at priority public services. There is also another benefit to households, and that is when the Government does have a credible track back to surplus and good management of Government expenditure, all New Zealanders benefit from lower interest rates than would otherwise be the case.
Maggie Barry: Since 2008 how has the outlook for future Government debt and expenditure improved?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It has improved quite significantly, despite the fact that we have had a recession and a slow recovery. Treasury forecasts showed in 2008 that New Zealand was on a track for never-ending deficits, and Government net debt would reach 50 percent of GDP by 2020. In this year’s Budget, Treasury forecast net debt in 2020 to be under 20 percent. So instead of being 50 percent of GDP, decisions the Government has made will reduce that to 20 percent. Also Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP is forecast to fall from 35 percent of GDP in 2011 to 30 percent of GDP by 2016, allowing New Zealand households and businesses to make their own decisions with more of their own money.
Maggie Barry: What is the global outlook for growth, and how does this affect New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a very good question. The consensus for global growth forecasts for 2013 has been revised downwards in the last 8 months for virtually all of our trading partners, including Australia. For instance, the IMF revised its growth expectations for the world economy from 3.9 percent to 3.6 percent for next year, and in the euro area growth fell from 1.6 percent to 0.2 percent—a very significant reduction in the outlook for Europe. These kinds of reductions are likely to have some impact on the New Zealand economy.
Hon David Parker: In light of the highest level of unemployment in 13 years, will Treasury be revising its unemployment forecasts for the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update; if so, will it also have to update its growth forecasts and tax revenue forecasts downwards?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would expect that Treasury will take into account the current circumstances and how they might affect the future outlook. The world economic outlook is a bit weaker, as I have pointed out, and the New Zealand economic outlook has been a bit weaker in this second half of the year, but the member will have to wait and see, like I will, as to how that is reflected in the forecasts.
Welfare Reforms—Availability of Jobs
4. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her answers to oral question No. 9 yesterday?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, I stand by my statements, but upon reflecting on them, I should have said more about how quickly the job market is moving, as some of those 300 jobs I mentioned yesterday at The Warehouse have already been filled. In fact, I have just heard that The Warehouse has filled around 1,200 jobs recently to get ahead of the coming busy Christmas period.
Jacinda Ardern: When she said that The Warehouse had jobs available between October and January, suggesting short-term Christmas contracts, was she also aware that the last time it advertised, there were 1,200 applications for 111 jobs; if so, does she still believe that people are unemployed because they are not looking hard enough?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I think I put it in my primary answer, we have also heard that there are 1,200 people whom it has recently taken on, but that is casual work as well as part-time and as well as full-time. It is quite recently, so I am certainly saying that some of that work is casual to take them over the Christmas period. But as you say, I think there are higher numbers of applications for some jobs than others. For example, I got an email this morning from a guy who said that in Taupō recently he advertised two positions and received six applications, three of which did not think they would pass the drug test, two of which did not think that they could start work at 7.30, and one of which did not bother coming back with the paperwork. To receive so few applications with so many out of work or unable to get work just does not ring true. The persons he required were unskilled labourers.
Jacinda Ardern: When she listed—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to be able to hear the member, please. I want to be able to hear. [Interruption] Order! I want to be able to hear Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern: When she listed Bunnings and New World as proof that there are jobs available, was she aware that neither of the stores in question are open yet and one has not even been built, and that the last time Bunnings advertised there were 800 applications for 70 positions, and for New World there were 2,700 applicants for 150 openings; if so, does she still believe there are people unemployed because they are not looking hard enough?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is a bit of a bouncy job market out there—a bit like me. You know, it is a bit like the economy is grumpy like him; the job market is bouncy like me. Look, the reality is that we have people getting jobs and we have people who then go off tomorrow.
Grant Robertson: He’s grumpy, you’re bouncy!
Hon PAULA BENNETT: He is grumpy, I am bouncy—that is about the load of it. Let me give you an example. Just today we have had 26 new jobs come into Work and Income. We have probably had about the same number that have come off because they have been filled. The member can make assertions that I have said there is a job for everyone. There is not. It is tough out there. But I do say that you need to be looking so you can get some of those jobs that are there.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the honourable member, I have just been accused of being bouncy and dopey in that last set of interjections. They could both be true, but, please, when members interject “you”, they are referring to the Speaker.
Jacinda Ardern: When she listed that Brightwater was looking for 40 engineers, was she aware that the same firm cut up to 40 jobs earlier in the year, and that Taylor Preston, which she also listed, is a seasonal meatworks operating in the same industry where there have been up to 300 job losses since September alone; if so, is the economy bouncy, grumpy, or just suffering from a lack of a plan from that Government?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member can get all uptight and angry, but the reality is that jobs come on and jobs come off. That is the point I was making yesterday. The member can pretend that there are no jobs whatsoever out there; in fact, we have had 1,000 new jobs come into Work and Income just about every week for the last 12 months. That is the reality. No one is pretending it is perfect, no one is saying it is ideal, but I also do not think that the member getting uptight and angry about what jobs might or might not be there is kind of helping anyone, either.
Mr SPEAKER: I call Jacinda Ardern. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern: Which of her contradictory statements yesterday does she stand by— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the question.
Jacinda Ardern: Which of her contradictory statements yesterday does she stand by: that benefit numbers have doubled on her watch because of “some of the toughest times worldwide”, or that her punitive welfare reforms are still justified because “there are jobs and people will get one only if they are looking.”?
Hon Member: Someone might get one in the weekend.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I do think there may be a new job going this weekend, and I wish the member luck with that. But look, at the end of the day there are jobs coming on, there are jobs coming off. It is tough. No one is saying that things are easy, at all. I know that the member struggles to understand that, but that is the reality. We have people coming on benefit, we have people coming off benefit. No one pretends that everyone who wants a job will get one today, but the member may be lucky and get one this weekend if she holds out long enough.
Immigration New Zealand—Visitor Visa Processing
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is he satisfied that Immigration New Zealand’s visitor visa processing system is robust and effective; if so, why?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, but there is always room for improvement. One hundred and seventy thousand visitor visas are processed annually by Immigration New Zealand, and it has made substantial improvements from the mess that National inherited from the previous Government. To improve the system, the Government is implementing by 2015 the state of the art Immigration Global Management System, which will, amongst other things, improve visa processing and increase the use of biometric identity checks.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has he compromised the integrity of New Zealand’s overseas visa system by doing secret deals with China Southern Airlines in a secret meeting he held with China Southern Airlines’ representatives on 20 April 2012?
Hon NATHAN GUY: There was no secret meeting with China Southern Airlines. I did have a meeting with China Southern Airlines. The representatives expressed to me some interest in increasing visitor flows into New Zealand, which is a tremendous thing, and, yes, there has been a deal struck with Immigration New Zealand and China Southern Airlines. That is going to allow high net-worth individuals to come into New Zealand to ensure that we continue to grow our tourism benefits. In fact, there will be some checks, and, of course, that will mean that they still will need to get a visa, and they still will need to meet health and good character checks. There will be, in conclusion, considerations to be met in terms of deeming the evidence of funds and bona fides.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he read a memo to him from Immigration New Zealand dated 11 June 2012 concerning visa processing facilitation that states “[China Southern Airlines] has also advised that the most important feature for their clients was avoiding the necessity to answer questions relating to financial backing and employment history and to provide evidence of these.”; how can he make any statements that this is more robust, given that advice from that official?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As I mentioned in the answer to the previous question, we are indeed going to roll out this agreement with China Southern Airlines, and it is important that we are going to review—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking this Minister about questions and issues that have happened this year, not about what is being rolled out in the future, but what is happening right now, in respect of the 11 June memo that he got, and the meeting on 20 April. He is talking about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to repeat his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he read a memo to him from Immigration New Zealand dated 11 June 2012 concerning visa processing facilitation that states “[China Southern Airlines] has also advised that the most important feature for their clients was avoiding the necessity to answer questions relating to financial backing and employment history and to provide evidence of these.”?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Yes, I am aware of that, and that, indeed, is their opinion.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware of concerns raised by an Immigration New Zealand official in an email dated 7 September 2012 that the risk of “imported criminality” from China is being “ignored in visa decision-making” in respect of a special arrangement being brokered with China Southern Airlines?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I am not aware of that, because the deal has not rolled out yet. I am looking forward to that deal rolling out and, as I said before, this will be reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure that it is robust and it is working as intended.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister concede that what is being alleged in these questions is happening right now, and is he aware that an Immigration New Zealand official has described the proposed special arrangement with China Southern Airlines as setting a “very dangerous precedent” and “defers risk assessment to uninformed expedience”?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I do not agree with those assertions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the public of this country have any confidence in the Minister responsible for Immigration New Zealand when such scandals—and this is one—are so numerous—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member must proceed with his question. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Big Ears is off again.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the public have any confidence in the Minister responsible for Immigration New Zealand when such scandals are so numerous, even to the extent of Immigration New Zealand’s intelligence, risk, and integrity division now raising concerns about what is happening about visa-checking processes or lack of them?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As a result of the recent Chinese student fraud, I have asked immigration officials to look at their systems. Indeed, they got PricewaterhouseCoopers in to look at their systems. That report concluded that their systems are pretty good but that there is room for improvement. They are working through those recommendations as we speak. My final comment is that this Government is focused on growing the economic returns for this country, and that means not putting at stake the $9 billion that we get in from tourists every year.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a memo sent from the Department of Labour to the Minister of Immigration dated 11 June 2012 titled “China Southern Airline Travel Facilitation”, which contains a reference to a meeting between the Minister and the airline on 20 April and details of the proposed special visa processing arrangement, and a second document dated Friday, 7 September 2012, subject line “[China Southern Airlines] initiative”, which outlines the serious concerns of an Immigration New Zealand official.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Child Poverty, Abuse, and Neglect—Children’s Teams
6. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister for Social Development: What further announcements has she made on the Children’s Teams, part of the Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Today we have announced that the second children’s team will be rolled out in Whangarei. We have chosen Whangarei for the second team because, like Rotorua, the community both needs it and is ready for it. Work will start straight away with the community of Whangarei to bring the children’s team together.
Mike Sabin: How will these children’s teams bring together those professionals working closely with vulnerable children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The children who are at risk of abuse or neglect need professionals who bring their expertise to the table and work in a coordinated manner, putting the child at the centre of all decision making. I have just had a public meeting at lunchtime today on the white paper and there was someone there from Strengthening Families. She said that collaboration is one of the hardest things you can do, but actually is one of the most effective for working with vulnerable children.
Mike Sabin: How will the children’s teams work to better protect children in each community?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I said before, these teams take this to the next level of child protection. They are working closely with Child, Youth and Family, but most important, I think, they are also working with those children who are at most serious risk of maltreatment, and getting in early so that we do not see them getting hurt or being put in danger.
Question No. 7 to Minister
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 7, the Hon David Cunliffe. Question No. 7, the Hon David Cunliffe.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): Thank you, Mr Speaker. To the— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: —Minister for Economic Development: is he satisfied that the policy—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the honourable member. I say to National Party members the noise is not reasonable. I cannot hear the question. Let that person who has not missed a call at some stage cast the first stone. We have all done it. I call the Hon David Cunliffe. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear this question.
Unemployment—Ministry of Economic Development Policy Initiatives
7. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic
Development: Is he satisfied that the policy initiatives undertaken by his Ministry are adequately tackling the problem of unemployment; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I think actually Mr Cunliffe was doing a bit of last-minute lobbying for the weekend. The Government—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think Ministers when answering primary questions should avoid that kind of unnecessary gratuitous comment.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I was just trying to—
Mr SPEAKER: No, order!
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: OK. Yes. The Government is undertaking a comprehensive Business Growth Agenda to help New Zealand businesses become more internationally competitive and have access to the six key ingredients they need to grow, create jobs, and be successful. To this end we are ensuring we are building better access to export markets, we are investing to encourage innovation, we are improving skills and safety within the workforce, we are building the infrastructure that businesses need to thrive, we are encouraging sustainable use of our national resources—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister should have noticed that the question asked “if not, why not?”, not “if so, why?”. The Minister had answered the question—[Interruption] Order! It was a primary question and it asked whether the Minister was satisfied. The Minister indicated that he was. Therefore, there is no further answer required, because the question goes on to say “if not, why not?”.
Hon David Cunliffe: Which of the following does he consider to be the greater concern for the New Zealand economy: inflation at 0.8 percent, below the 1 to 3 percent target range, or unemployment at 7.3 percent, the highest in 13 years—in fact, since the last time Bill English was Minister of Finance?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Actually, I think the bigger challenge for the New Zealand economy is the lack of understanding from some people as to the importance of giving businesses the opportunity to invest and grow their businesses in New Zealand, not adding costs to those businesses, and actually giving opportunities in areas such as oil and gas, sich as convention centres—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Casinos.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —absolutely, Mr Peters, absolutely—a range of things that we need to have to encourage businesses to grow. I think that is the biggest limitation, and it dominates the other side of the House.
Hon David Cunliffe: Which does the Minister consider is the more significant reason for the decline in New Zealand manufacturing from 26 percent of GDP in the 1970s to 14 percent in 2009 and 12 percent in 2011: could it be the high New Zealand dollar, or policy settings that deliberately reinforce the interests of agriculture and finance at the expense of manufacturing, innovation, and export-led growth?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member is simply wrong in his analysis of what is happening in the New Zealand economy. In actual fact, since this Government has been in office we have seen the long-term decline in manufacturing that he refers to halt, and, actually, we have seen growth in the amount of exports from manufacturing—[Interruption]—it is true; members should go and read their numbers—and growth in manufacturing over time. The simple fact of the matter is that the member’s—I have to say—adolescent picking of industries that should be promoted ahead of other industries is actually one of the causes of problems in New Zealand. We spend way too much time focusing on which single industry will save us. We actually need to encourage positive investment opportunities across the country, and that is what we are doing.
Hon Bill English: Has the Minister seen any reports of any special meetings to discuss jobs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have received the report of a special meeting last night to discuss one particular leadership job. Reports are that there was a meeting of about a dozen people to discuss jobs, it followed on from discussions with an expensive, New York – based consultant, and it was convened by one David Cunliffe MP.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, the Hon David Cunliffe. [Interruption] Order! Order! Order! The National benches will show a little discipline, please. I want to hear the Hon David Cunliffe.
Hon David Cunliffe: If the Minister’s mathematical abilities—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Come on now, the member is going to have further interjections if he carries on like that.
Hon David Cunliffe: What policies are in place to help New Zealanders aged between 18 and 34, whose real incomes have decreased by 8 percent since this Government has been in power, or who currently make up close to half of the unemployed and around 40 percent of those leaving for Australia; and if he really believes that the manufacturing decline has been reversed, why does he not say that to the people of Southland, or to the Minister of Finance or any Government MP who has stood up the debate on the future of the Tīwai Point smelter to be held in early December?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I think there were about six legs to that question, but I will focus on the youth question, because it is a fair question to ask. Actually, the Government is very, very focused on creating opportunities for young people, and I just beg the House’s—
Hon Member: Not actually doing it.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it is doing a huge amount, actually. We have created a thing called the Youth Guarantee scheme, which supplies fees-free training for young people aged 16 and 17, and, in fact, there are now 7,500 places from nothing a couple of years ago. We have also created 2,800 fees-free places in 44 trades and service academies, and next year we are rolling out 5,500 fees-free levels 1 and 2 places for foundation learners of all ages. The good news is that if you look at 15 to 19 year olds, fully 78 percent of all of them are now in education, 12 percent of them are in employment, and 4 percent are unemployed and not in any form of education, with another 5 percent right outside the workforce. Those figures are actually a very significant improvement through the global financial crisis.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Minister’s Statements
8. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and
Employment: Was he referring to the SkyCity Convention Centre, which is the subject of an inquiry by the Auditor-General, when he told the House, “in relation to the International Convention Centre, they have sought to stop, which is the reason right now for 1,000 less jobs in this country”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Absolutely. I was referring to the estimated 1,000 jobs involved in the construction of the proposed Auckland convention centre. That member knows as well as anybody else that her party has sought to stop the development of the convention centre at the cost of those jobs to the country. So the
Greens have worked to block this initiative at exactly the same time they are calling for more jobs in New Zealand, and the reality is you cannot constantly say you cannot do things. The reality is that that is lost on the Greens, but it is actually not lost on everybody else.
Denise Roche: Is he aware that the additional pokies that form part of that convention centre deal are likely to lead to a net loss of jobs, as Australian research shows that because electronic gambling is capital-intensive and jobs-light, it sucks spending and jobs out of other more jobintensive retail and tourism businesses?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, if the member is suggesting that there should be more gaming tables and fewer electronic machines, I am sure she could send me a note to that effect, and we will pass it on to the negotiators.
Denise Roche: I seek leave to table a study, Electronic Gaming Machines in Bendigo 2008— assessing their economic impact, prepared for the city of Bendigo, which concludes: “Any shift in spending towards [electronic gaming machines] will clearly lead to a fall in employment.”
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.
Denise Roche: Do any of the 1,000 jobs he says the convention centre would generate include additional police required to manage problem-gambling – related crime and the prostitutes planned for a 10-storey brothel across the road, or additional mental health workers needed to mop up the consequences of additional pokies; and when did crime and misery become the cornerstone of the National Government’s job plan?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, a couple of points there. Firstly, they are the construction jobs for the convention centre—that is the 1,000 jobs that I was referring to. The second point is, I have to say, that is a bit rich coming from a party that supported the previous Government to do exactly the same arrangement to establish the first Skycity convention centre in Auckland in 2004, which the New York consultant whom we were talking about before proudly opened and proudly endorsed.
Denise Roche: Is he concerned that the expansion of the casino is likely to encourage more gambling from people like drug tycoon Tac Kin Voong, who gambled $11 million in 6 months at Skycity, making the casino $1.5 million in profits; if so, would he consider supporting Metiria Turei’s Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill, which would force the casino to return profits from the proceeds of crime?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In relation to the bill the member refers to, I should draw the member’s attention to two laws that were passed in 2009, the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Act and the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, which already contain much of what that particular bill is, I understand, seeking to achieve. More broadly, the opportunity of having a major convention centre in Auckland and the tourism benefits and the convention benefits it brings to New Zealand are very, very significant. I appreciate that every time the Greens see an opportunity they want to stop it, but the rest of us actually have to be focused on all the opportunities we can have to grow investment and jobs in this country.
Teachers and Support Staff—Problems with Novopay Payment System
9. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he stand by his statement “Yes I do have confidence in Novopay”?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Associate Minister of Education): As a payroll system, I do, yes. But I fully acknowledge the frustrations that staff, payroll administrators, principals, and many in the sector have had to put up with as the system has rolled out.
Chris Hipkins: Did he receive or review an implementation plan for Novopay before the new system was implemented; if so, when?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: No, there was not one single implementation plan with regard to Novopay.
Chris Hipkins: Who signed off on the implementation of the Novopay payroll system?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The recommendations to go live with Novopay came from the Novopay board. It made recommendations to me. Included in those recommendations were assurances that there were no major difficulties, no tier 1 senior issues. I signed off and recommended that. It was implemented on the basis of that advice.
Chris Hipkins: Will employees who have incurred late-payment penalties or defaulted on any automatic payments—for example, mortgage repayments—as a result of payroll errors receive any compensation either from the payroll provider or from the Government as their employer; if not, why not?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The Ministry of Education has already made it clear that individual staff in the education sector who have suffered some economic issue because of their pay being not paid, underpaid, or something like that are able to contact the ministry and/or their school officer, and they will be investigated and addressed.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer the question. He said they would be investigated. I asked specifically whether the staff would be compensated.
Mr SPEAKER: No, his final words were “and addressed”. His final words were “they will be investigated and addressed”. “Addressed”, one presumes, means something. The member can dig further on what “addressed” means, I imagine.
Chris Hipkins: All right. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will have another go.
Hon Paula Bennett: He thinks he’s so smart.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Order! You can see—can I call on the Attorney- General—
Hon Christopher Finlayson: No, you can’t call on me for anything.
Mr SPEAKER: OK. You can see the disorder the House gets into sometimes with unhelpful interjections.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. While you were dealing with that I had an opportunity to review the question that I asked previously. I did not use the word “address”, at all; I asked whether there would be any compensation.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member asked whether they would be compensated, and the Minister’s answer was that the problems for an individual would be investigated and addressed. “Addressed” usually means doing something about it, but that can be explored further, I think.
Chris Hipkins: Will addressing the problem that has been identified by those employees who may have incurred late-payment penalties or fines, etc. as a result of defaulting on payments include paying them financial compensation?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: No decisions about compensation have yet been made.
Chris Hipkins: Can he give employees reliant on Novopay an assurance that they will receive their correct holiday pay prior to Christmas; if not, what action is he taking to ensure that this happens?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I have an assurance, and the Ministry of Education has issued a press release that assures that all those in the education sector will be paid as part of the normal end-ofyear, start-of-year holiday pay, etc. It gives that assurance in the name of the Secretary for Education and the Minister of Education.
Offenders, High-risk—Government Measures
10. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Corrections: What steps has the Government taken to protect communities from high-risk offenders?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): In August global positioning system (GPS) monitoring was introduced for high-risk child sex offenders on extended supervision orders and for offenders on parole with special conditions relating to their whereabouts. There are currently 25 high-risk offenders being monitored by GPS, and, dependent on judicial outcomes, nearly 50
offenders could be monitored by GPS by the end of the year. This technology provides real-time monitoring of these high-risk offenders, allowing the department to know immediately if one strays into an exclusion zone such as a park, a playground, or a school so that quick action can be taken. The offenders are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This technology is significantly improving the safety of the public and ensuring that offenders comply with the conditions of their sentence.
Jacqui Dean: How could GPS be used in the future to improve prisoner rehabilitation?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: From next month the Department of Corrections plans to start trialling the use of GPS to monitor prisoners on the Release to Work programme. To reduce reoffending by 25 percent we do need to have more prisoners engaged in that Release to Work programme, and GPS will allow the Department of Corrections to do this by providing a greater ability to monitor the prisoners whilst they are outside the prison.
Minimum Wage—2013-14 Review
11. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Acting Minister of Labour: When will he begin the process of consulting on the minimum wage for 2013?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Labour): Next week.
Mr SPEAKER: I had not even called the Minister, but his answer is very prompt. Such efficiency.
Darien Fenton: Does the Government plan to change the consultation process and the criteria that are used for determining the minimum wage; if so, how?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The Government is looking at ways of streamlining consultation. Consultation is not a quantitative thing; it is a qualitative thing. The essence is to do the job properly, and I am, as an enthusiastic Acting Minister of Labour, looking at all options.
Darien Fenton: Will the principles of fairness, income distribution, worker protection, and work incentives be removed as criteria for determining the minimum wage for New Zealand’s lowestpaid workers?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I said, I am looking at improving the qualitative assessment, and at this stage, where there are matters going to Cabinet, I am not prepared to get into that level of detail.
Darien Fenton: If these criteria are cut back and submission processes also curtailed, will there not be fewer and lower minimum wage increases in the future?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, as I said, the member is dwelling in the realms of the hypothetical. I am looking at improving consultation—
Grant Robertson: Where does that member dwell?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I dwell in the land of high emotional intelligence. I am most grateful, too, to the New Zealand Herald for those kind comments. I am looking at all those issues. The aim is to do the job right.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, there you have it.
Passports—Online Applications for Renewal
12. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: How many New Zealanders have applied for a passport online since the launch of the Online Passport Renewal Service?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): The Department of Internal Affairs has received 2,182 online renewals in the first 10 days of the service. Online renewals in the last week have made up around 16 percent of total adult renewals. Twenty-six thousand people have checked their eligibility to apply online, indicating that many people plan to apply in the near future. This is very encouraging at this early stage, and I am confident that the numbers will continue to grow.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What are the benefits to New Zealanders of applying online rather than with a paper-based form?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Passport fees have been lowered, and are lowest for an online renewal, to encourage people to use this online service. The costs have been reduced by almost 20 percent for an online application. The turn-round with online services is also faster, and, although it can take up to 10 days, it has averaged just 3 working days to date.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What reports has he received on New Zealanders’ satisfaction with the service?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: I have received several reports, including a number of comments saying the online service was very easy to use and made ordering a passport cheaper and a lot more convenient. One customer wrote saying he applied on a Saturday evening and got an email at 10 a.m. the following Tuesday saying the passport had been sent. This is great feedback, and I am confident that New Zealanders are getting better public services from the Passports Office.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Applications to Casinos) Amendment Bill—Purpose
1. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Member in charge of the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery)
Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill: What is the purpose of her Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill?
METIRIA TUREI (Member in charge of the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009
(Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill): The purpose of the bill is to apply the civil forfeiture regime to casinos. Steven Joyce was wrong today to suggest that the legislation already applies. It does not. My bill will amend the definition of “unlawfully benefiting from significant criminal activity” to include casinos that knowingly and having regard to best international practice in detecting problem gambling and criminal activity derive a benefit from significant criminal activity.
Denise Roche: Why did she write the amendment bill?
METIRIA TUREI: Casinos are widely known to profit from money-laundering and theft caused by gambling addiction. Private individuals are not entitled to retain profits from criminal activity, and neither should casinos. This bill will encourage casinos to implement the best possible practices to protect against problem gambling and money-laundering, and better protect small businesses and individuals from gambling-driven crime.
Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill—Benefits
2. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Member in charge of the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery)
Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill: How will her Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill benefit the victims of crime?
METIRIA TUREI (Member in charge of the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009
(Application to Casinos) Amendment Bill): I have read many reports over a number of years of community organisations and small businesses, in particular, being driven to the wall by the theft of huge amounts of money by problem gamblers who lose it at a casino. By including casinos in the Act and imposing on them the same obligation that others have to return the proceeds of crime, these community groups and small businesses could look forward to having some of that stolen money returned to them.
Denise Roche: What groups are particularly vulnerable to gambling-related crime?
METIRIA TUREI: In 2008 the BDO Kendalls Not-for-profit Fraud Survey found that 53 percent of all the money stolen from charities was stolen to fund gambling activity—some $180,000 per person, and that is just for those cases that were known. The real rate of theft from charities is much higher, and many of those caught gambling with stolen—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has answered sufficiently. Really, the supplementary question was barely within the Standing Orders. The member has responsibility for only her bill,
not for other matters. I could have ruled the question out. I have given the member a chance to answer it, but, really, it is not within the Standing Orders.
METIRIA TUREI: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question is in relation to the bill and its relationship to the issues for victims—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Standing Orders provide for the member to be asked only details about her bill, not her opinion on other matters to do with crime or the proceeds of crime. It must relate to only the detail of her bill.