1. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance : What reports has he received on the Government’s financial position?
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Government Financial Position—Reports
1. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the Government’s financial position?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: I have received Treasury’s financial statements for the 6 months to the end of December. They show a $3.19 billion operating deficit before gains and losses for the first 6 months of the financial year. That deficit is $158 million lower than forecast by Treasury in its half-year update, primarily reflecting lower expenditure than was forecast. The Crown’s operating balance recorded a surplus of $1.7 billion, which is $2.3 billion higher than forecast. The result confirms that the Government is maintaining a track to surplus through careful fiscal management.
Todd McClay: What were the main factors behind the Government’s latest financial results?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The statements show core Crown expenses at 0.8 percent below forecast. Core Crown revenue is 0.1 percent below forecast. Lower expenditure reflects moderate underspends across most departments, which total around $87 million, with delay in two complex Treaty settlements until later in the year making up the difference. Core Crown tax revenue was $31 million less than forecast, or 0.1 percent, reflecting various overs and unders, including a higher than expected individual tax take and higher source deductions associated with labour earnings growth. The operating balance was boosted by investment gains from the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and the ACC fund. The figures show that the Government is in control of new spending and is getting better results from existing programmes.
Todd McClay: What steps has the Government taken to manage its finances and get back to surplus?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government has put spending and revenue initiatives in place to balance the books. On the spending side, we have delivered two consecutive Budgets showing zero net new expenditure, while maintaining increases in health and education spending. We have launched the Better Public Services programme and reprioritised $4.4 billion over 4 years to ensure New Zealanders will see better results without new resources. On the revenue side, the Government has increased income while improving the fairness of the tax system by shutting down loopholes. These things include tightening the tax treatment of property, increasing GST, making it harder for people to avoid paying tax through trusts, and making resources available for the Inland Revenue Department to target tax avoidance.
Todd McClay: What alternative proposals has he seen for managing the Government’s finances?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen any number of alternative proposals. These measures include putting a capital gains tax on every productive business and farm, encouraging tax
avoidance by increasing the gap between the top personal income and company tax rates, discouraging all sorts of private investment in the New Zealand economy, printing money, and so on. That is the Greens-Labour prescription for the New Zealand economy.
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: Why did he say in June 2012 that “my office has had no correspondence, no discussions, no involvement” in the convention centre process, when he and his chief of staff dined with the Skycity board on 4 November, he was given a presentation at that evening, and he urged them to think outside the box?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite simply, the question the member is asking about that I answered was in relation to the expression of interest process. That was run by Mr Brownlee at that point as the Minister. The point that the member raises is quite right. All of that was in the public domain. I myself said I had had dinner with Skycity. That is all covered in part 1 of the report, and in part 1 of the report the Auditor-General says there are absolutely no issues at all. All of that was in the public domain.
David Shearer: Given that the Deputy Auditor-General found it was “not appropriate” for the ministerial office staff to continue meeting with Skycity, why did he allow his chief of staff to meet with Skycity executives five times, his deputy chief of staff and the chief executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to also meet with Skycity, and himself to meet with Skycity twice—all immediately before a supposedly open tender process?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Again, I would go through the process. Firstly, let us quote from the report. The basic proposition the member is making is that there was some cosy deal. The Auditor- General says: “We have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with SkyCity was influenced by any inappropriate considerations.” The Auditor-General also says in the report that it is actually quite normal and standard for Ministers and the Prime Minister to have discussions with—
Hon Member: That’s not what John Armstrong says.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, the member might not like it, because it does not suit his narrative, but it is actually in the report if he wants to read it. It is quite normal for that to happen—nothing to see there. The situations the member has outlined all happened in the exploratory phase. In part 1, the Auditor-General says there is nothing to see there.
David Shearer: Was he warned by Gerry Brownlee on 1 March 2010 that “too many people [were] talking to SkyCity,”; if so, why did his chief of staff, who promised to “step back”, continue to meet with Skycity at least two more times?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What did happen at that time was that we were moving beyond the feasibility stage to an expression of interest. What happened was that it was logical, because there were a number of Ministers involved—me as Minister of Tourism, Mr Brownlee as Minister of Economic Development, and other Ministers as well, because there were a number of proposals. What ultimately happened is that it made sense that, because what is now the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would run that process, one Minister would handle it. That is the way we do things around here: quite often there are a number of Ministers involved, and in the end there becomes a lead Minister. That is normal practice.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The essence of that question was why his chief of staff met after the Brownlee warning. That was not addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought—[Interruption] Order! Order! [Interruption] Order! It would be helpful if I could make a ruling. I thought the question was satisfactorily answered in that the Prime Minister talked about it being a normal process. There were a number of other proposals on the
table at that stage, and he felt it was quite normal that his chief of staff and Ministers were involved in meeting potential proponents of the convention centre in Auckland.
David Shearer: Given that his chief of staff asked Skycity what regulatory relief it required in return for building the convention centre, was that question put to other bidders; if not, does he consider that to be even-handed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There was an expression of interest process where, in fact, all of those who decided to tender were told, actually, that the Government was very cash-strapped. Every deal was different in terms of the way it was negotiated. Skycity was in a position where it was able, potentially, to go through a process where in return for some concessions it was prepared to fully fund the process. In fact, this is the whole debate, because—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Answer the question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I am answering the question, Trevor. If you want me to go through it, I can. If you want me to sit down, I am more than happy to do so. But if you go through the process, part 1, the exploratory phase—as the Auditor-General says, nothing to see there. Part 3, the negotiations—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was waiting for the answer to this question. I actually asked whether the other bidders were offered regulatory relief, as Skycity received.
Mr SPEAKER: And the answer from the Prime Minister, in my mind, was quite clear: all of those involved in the expression of interest process were advised that there was a cash-strapped Government.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest respect, I do not want the answer to be interpreted by you; I want the Prime Minister to answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: With the greatest respect to you, sir, you are asking me to interpret whether I think the Prime Minister has satisfactorily answered your question and I was doing that. The member has further supplementary questions if he wants to ask them.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your answer was that all the bidders were told the Government is cash-strapped—
Mr SPEAKER: No, that was not my answer. That was the answer from the Prime Minister.
Dr Russel Norman: —and the question was whether all bidders were told that they could get— or were they seeking—regulatory relief. If the Government is cash-strapped, there is more than one response to being cash-strapped. It could be that they want a low bid; it could be that they are seeking regulatory relief. So for the Prime Minister to simply say the Government told all bidders that it was cash-strapped does not answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: With respect, again, I have judged that the Prime Minister has, to my satisfaction, answered the question. The Leader of the Opposition has further supplementary questions if he wants to delve into the answer by the Prime Minister, and that is the way it should happen. It is not for members to take points of order to continue to dispute an answer that is given, if I have ruled that it is satisfactory.
David Shearer: Given his chief of staff asked Skycity what regulatory relief it required, was regulatory relief offered to the other bidders on the convention centre?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, regulatory relief has not been offered to Skycity. That may be part of the negotiations that they want, but, actually, all bidders were told that we were looking for creative solutions and it was a cash-strapped Government. Every bid was different. In fact, in the case of every bid, with the exception of Skycity, they were asking the Government for $300 million – odd to build it.
David Shearer: Is he saying that his chief of staff did not offer Skycity, or did not ask it if it wanted, regulatory relief, or not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I am saying is that no agreement has been reached with Skycity, although we hope one will be. But what is quite clear is that in the early exploratory stages where
we had discussions with Skycity, I told them myself “Think creatively and see what deal you can come up with.” At that point, after we had done that, which was all in phase one, for which the Auditor-General says there is nothing to see, everything is totally fine, and that is OK, we went to an expression of interest process. What the Auditor-General does not like about that process is that she says—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] I am sorry, but I have been very patient. The question I asked was: did his chief of staff ask or offer Skycity regulatory relief? It is simple.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that the Prime Minister certainly moved to the extent of saying that he himself offered regulatory relief. It would be helpful—[Interruption] Order! Order! I am trying to rule. It would be helpful if the Prime Minister was able to answer in respect of the chief of staff.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That may well be the case—that that is the proposal. But this is the whole point—the proposal of the deal to Skycity was one where we said to Skycity “If you want to come up with a proposal, the Government’s preferred position is no cash. Come up with a range of options.” In fact, what the Auditor-General says is that having gone through five people in the expressions of interest, what they were unable to do—the officials at that point—was to advise the Government what actually would be on the table. That is what took the extended period of time. The Auditor-General believes that we should have truncated discussions—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to keep doing this, but I just want a simple answer to a very simple question: did his chief of staff offer Skycity regulatory relief? It is simple.
Mr SPEAKER: The right honourable Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The simple answer is that I am sure the chief of staff reiterated my comments, which were to think laterally, of which that might be a possibility, and that has been the basis of the whole deal. That is the point, is it not—to come up with some proposals and we will have a look. The problem with the whole issue was that actually we have been unable to actually assist—
Mr SPEAKER: The right honourable Prime Minister—the Rt Hon Winston Peters, a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given who is there now, anyone could have the job. My point is this: the Prime Minister is being asked a simple question, and he is refusing to answer it. Thinking laterally is not the answer. Did he or did he not, or his chief of staff, engage in that arrangement? That is what he is being asked.
Mr SPEAKER: And the Prime Minister’s answer at the start was he is sure that his chief of staff repeated the same sorts of offers that the Prime Minister had made to all the bidders about being expansive with their ideas.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is not the question. The question is: was there a special offer made? Not to think laterally, but the offer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That was not the question. The question has now very definitely been satisfactorily answered—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the answer yes or no?
Mr SPEAKER: The answer was he was sure that his chief of staff repeated statements very similar to the Prime Minister’s. If members bothered to listen to the question and to the answers, I am sure we would have far fewer points of order about the quality of answers.
David Shearer: Given that he told Skycity that the Government was providing no capital funds for the convention centre, did he provide the same information to other bidders; if not, does he consider this to be even-handed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is actually quoting me incorrectly. I said that the Government’s preferred position was no cash input. Yes, that was made clear to other businesses that that the Government was cash-strapped and that that was preferred. Yes, it was made clear
through the expression of interest process that other tenderers should put up the best proposal they could. One happened to put up a public-private partnership, which meant the Government paid over a long period of time, one happened to put up regulatory changes, and others basically put up a proposal where we paid for it.
David Shearer: At what point in his interactions with Skycity was he told that Skycity wanted additional pokie machines as a condition for funding its convention centre?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure that would have occurred when the officials came back at the end of phase two and said to the Ministers: “We think you should accept the Skycity proposal. It would require these sorts of changes, which would then have to be negotiated in part 3.”, which is what we are doing at the moment.
David Shearer: At what point did the Prime Minister come to understand that the condition of Skycity’s bid was that there be more pokie machines made available to them?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That cannot be confirmed because we actually do not have a deal with it, and it may well come up with a variety of different proposals. But in 2009, when I had the dinner with Skycity and said to think laterally, of course I assumed that they would want to have more pokie machines or an extension of their licence. By the way, that is exactly what Labour did in 2002.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What discussions were he and his staff involved in regarding the planned location of the Skycity convention centre on land owned not by Skycity but by New Zealand taxpayers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot detail the exact ones, but what was clear was that if Skycity was to build a larger convention centre than the original one they wanted, at some point I was aware that they would need to acquire land. That land was owned by Television New Zealand (TVNZ).
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How did Skycity conclude it had access to taxpayer-owned TVNZ State-owned asset land if he did not do a secret side-deal in favour of his mates at the casino on that issue?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is pretty straightforward. Skycity, after it decided it would be prepared to enter an expression of interest process to have a larger convention centre, went off to its architects. Its architects designed such a thing, realised they needed more land, worked out who owned the land, and approached Television New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is true, how come Television New Zealand and its board had no awareness of that, but Skycity did, and is it not true that he promised Skycity that his Government would privatise TVNZ’s assets—[Interruption] Well, you can laugh, but the board has no knowledge. At the time I am talking about, it had no knowledge of this, so Gerry can laugh all he likes, embarrassingly, I might say. But the fact is there was a secret side-deal—is it not true, Prime Minister—in favour of Skycity, in favour of his mates, and how sleazy is that?
Mr SPEAKER: The Rt Hon Prime Minister, probably with no reference to the latter part of the question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot speak for the Television New Zealand board, but I am finding it reasonably hard to believe that Television New Zealand entered a commercial agreement with Skycity to sell land that it owned, and it did so without its board knowing. If that happened, then maybe its board process needs to be improved, and maybe the mixed-ownership model would work for it. But contrary to what the member says, we have no plans to sell it or enter it into the mixedownership process.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Report on Inquiry into Expressions of Interest Process
3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his reported statement that “anyone expecting details of a ‘cosy sort of little deal’ would be disappointed” by the Deputy Auditor-General’s report into the SkyCity Convention Centre negotiations?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, absolutely. The Deputy Auditor-General’s report examines all three stages of the process to date, and concludes that the initial exploratory and feasibility stage, which was the stage I was involved in, and the third stage, the current negotiations that the member is asking about, were entirely appropriate. The report noted some procedural issues, primarily that officials did not do enough planning, which I understand the ministry has taken on board, and that the assessment of the expression of interest process went on too long; however, as the Deputy Auditor-General said in the report and made quite clear, the substantive outcome would not be different. That is why the central finding of the report—and the basic accusation that that member has made and why she owes me an apology—is that there is no evidence to suggest that the final deal—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer went on far too long. It was a straightforward question. [Interruption] It was a straightforward question. We on this side of the House were allowing time for the Prime Minister to answer in full, but that, I think, undid the patience of the House. I would ask you to make sure he does not do it again.
Mr SPEAKER: It undid the patience of the member, I accept that. It was a very long answer. It was a very full answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. While the co-leader of the Greens was making her point of order three Government front-bench Ministers, three in the second row, and six backbenchers interjected—at least.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his assistance. As was mentioned yesterday, points of order should be heard in silence. If they are not, then we get the sort of disorder that we are experiencing today, so I request the cooperation of all members for points of order to be heard in silence.
Metiria Turei: Can the Prime Minister confirm that he made that statement hours before the Deputy Auditor-General released her report into the pokies for the convention centre deal?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That may well be right. I cannot remember the exact time. It was probably Monday at my post-Cabinet press conference, which takes place at about 4 o’clock. The report was released, I think, at 2 o’clock, so I guess it was 22 hours.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a document, a transcript of a Radio New Zealand interview—
Mr SPEAKER: No, we are—
Metiria Turei: — that is not publicly available.
Mr SPEAKER: It is publicly available. [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. We discussed only yesterday, when I elaborated on the tabling of documents, that we are not tabling transcripts from radio interviews. They are freely available to members if members want to search for them.
Hon Trevor Mallard: No they’re not.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes they are.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member disputing my ruling, because my patience is getting particularly thin today.
Metiria Turei: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member disputing my ruling?
Metiria Turei: No. Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member about to dispute my ruling?
Metiria Turei: No. Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Then I will hear the point of order.
Metiria Turei: Yesterday you did clarify the tabling of documents. You did say that old reports could be tabled, and that information that was not publicly available or widely publicly available
could also be tabled. If you had given me the chance to explain, this is a transcript that is not publicly available. Even if it was reported yesterday, it still meets the criteria—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Then the member—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. The member is now disputing my ruling and, if she continues to do that, I will ask the member to leave the House. [Interruption] Order! If the member continues—[Interruption] Order! Otherwise we will be having somebody with early showers. The member is disputing my ruling. What I also said yesterday was that we would table documents that I feel are useful to the debate in the House. If members are keen enough to discover that transcript, then they have the ability to go back to their offices and do so. I will not be putting the leave.
Rt Hon John Key: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just speaking to your ruling, sir, that was a transcript of the Morning Report, which will be available on the Radio New Zealand website. It is freely available everywhere.
Mr SPEAKER: And so I have ruled.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to litigate this specific issue. I would like to ask you, Mr Speaker, whether there was an opportunity for you to consider the wider issue of radio transcripts, because, in the case of radio transcripts, it is often possible to purchase them. Ministers have them available, because they can purchase them. Opposition members cannot purchase them, and, therefore, we have to either have our staff transcribe them, which is quite a resource-intensive exercise, or, once it has already been transcribed by someone, we can get it from someone else. So can I ask you to consider it further—
Mr SPEAKER: And I will consider it further for the benefit of the member and for the House.
Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister aware that the Office of the Auditor-General expected that report to be treated in the strictest confidence because of concerns about market sensitivities, and that no one other than Ministers, Skycity, and the Office of the Auditor-General had access to that report before 2 p.m. yesterday?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am well and truly aware that there is an embargo, but, as we know—for instance, last Friday I read reports of characterisation of Shane Jones’ Auditor-General’s report. The comments that I made, of someone claiming a cosy sort of little deal, are hardly market sensitive, and, as the member knows, her basic accusation and claim to the Auditor-General was as follows— because maybe she needs reminding of it—that somehow, the main question underlining the inquiry was whether the Government’s decision—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not an answer to my question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I did answer it directly—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is attempting to answer your question, but if the member continues to ask questions and then rises to her feet through the answer, she is not going to hear the answer to the question she has asked.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: So, continuing, the main basis of the allegation made by the Greens—and that was the basis of the report to the Auditor-General—was whether the Government’s decision to negotiate with Skycity had been influenced by inappropriate consideration such as connections between political—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question concerns the propriety of the early leak by the Prime Minister of a confidential document. What he makes of the document has nothing to do with this. It is the act of leaking it in advance, which we all know happened. He did not answer the question properly.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Mr Peters has misled the House. I have not leaked any document. I ask him to withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you. Does the member have further supplementary questions?
Metiria Turei: Why did the Prime Minister repeatedly refer to the Auditor-General’s report over the month that he had privileged access to it, including in January, when he said: “Put it this way, I didn’t lose any sleep when I was on holiday over it.”, and then again on Monday this week: “Put it
this way, I’m losing even less sleep about it.”, if not to indicate to the market and to everyone else that the deal was safe and sound?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member is making many leaps forward. There is no deal on the table at this point—that is the first thing. Secondly, there is nothing wrong with the general characterisations, no leaking of a report, and the characterisation was, of course, quite accurate because, as I picked up the New Zealand Herald today I read the editorial, and it said it finds nothing wrong with the Prime Minister’s dealings with Skycity.
Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister saying to the people of New Zealand that because he wanted people to believe that he was vindicated, he was therefore entitled to breach the Auditor- General’s confidentiality rules by releasing selective details of the report that he had privileged access to?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I think I am quite entitled to give a general characterisation. By the way, that general characterisation has proved to be absolutely correct, and I quote from the report where it says “We have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with Skycity was influenced by any inappropriate considerations.” Let me make this one last point. This is the member who went to the Auditor-General and said that we had done something wrong. There is nothing wrong, and now all she can go on is the process of my characterisation—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer you to Standing Order 383(2), which states very clearly that “The reply to any question must be concise and confined to the subject-matter of the question asked,”. The Prime Minister has repeatedly today gone well beyond the questions asked to make his political point. That is not what he is required to do by the Standing Orders, and I would ask you to enforce them.
Hon David Parker: Supplementary question—
Mr SPEAKER: I will just rule for the benefit of Mr Norman, first. I think when you consider the content of the questions that have been asked in relation to this, then the Prime Minister has every right to respond fully and with some political connotation. We have a further—[Interruption] Yes?
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Which Standing Order says that?
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, we are not getting into quoting Standing Orders—[Interruption] My job here is to anticipate the quality of the question and the quality of the answer, and I am ruling today that the quality of the question has received a perfectly satisfactory answer from the Prime Minister.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you please issue to members both of the two rulings that you have just given and indicate which previous Speakers’ rulings will be cut out as a result of them?
Mr SPEAKER: I can. I certainly do not intend to do that on the floor of the House today, but I am happy to look at that work for the benefit of the honourable member.
Hon David Parker: Was the phrase that the Prime Minister has quoted from the report today— and I will just repeat it: “We have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with Skycity was influenced by any inappropriate considerations.”—included in the draft report that was earlier circulated to him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Metiria Turei: Will the Prime Minister take any ministerial responsibility for a process that the Deputy Auditor-General has said left other bidders out in the cold and that was also described by the Deputy Auditor-General as neither “transparent [nor] even-handed.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think what is fair to say is that officials will go away, I am sure, and look at the process, but, as the Auditor-General’s report makes quite clear, this was a non-standard type of procurement, and it is likely that Governments will have more of these types of thing in the future. What I go back to the member and say, though, is that she went to the Auditor-General, she made a claim, it was utterly wrong, and she has come today, theoretically, to pound me in the
House, and the only thing she can ask about is whether I was right in saying it was a cosy little deal or not. And I was right; it was not a cosy little deal.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister hold the Office of the Auditor-General in such disregard that he was prepared to breach its confidentiality rules to make himself look good and to misrepresent the report while leaving his officials to take the blame?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I have done nothing to make myself look good. I go back to the Deputy Auditor-General’s report that says “We have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with Skycity was influenced by any inappropriate considerations.” Sadly for the Greens, she has gone on a wild goose chase and found at the end of it that there is no goose waiting there for her.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister expect the public of New Zealand to believe that he has a meeting with Skycity and neither he, nor his staff, nor Skycity kept any record of what happened at that meeting?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have many, many meetings—[Interruption] I have many, many meetings where I do not keep records of those meetings. I meet people all the time. Actually, so does the member, because if I want to quote from some of the meetings he held in scampi restaurants, he might say the same.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You might well smile there, Mr Speaker, but you were sued on that very issue yourself, so I would not get too happy about that.
Mr SPEAKER: Do not bring the Speaker—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: But back to my point—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member has a point of order, I will listen to it, but I certainly will not tolerate him bringing the Speaker into the debate.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, well, if you found it so funny, I thought it should be brought to your memory.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: But here is my point—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will give the member one more opportunity, if he wants to raise a genuine point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is the same Standing Order that Russel Norman cited. The Prime Minister’s answer had nothing to do with the nature of the question that I asked. I want to know how come such an important meeting happened and no one there had any memory of—
Mr SPEAKER: No, you are now asking—[Interruption] Order! Points of order will not be used to raise a further supplementary question. It certainly was not helpful, the last part of the Prime Minister’s answer, to the tension in the House today.
Canterbury, Recovery—Criteria for Offer on Vacant Red Zone Land
4. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: What criteria did he use in deciding that owners of vacant sections in the red zone of Christchurch should only be compensated at half of the sections’ most recent rateable value?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): There has been no decision to compensate the owners of vacant land in the red zones in Christchurch. There has, rather, been an offer to purchase that vacant land in those red zones, and that offer has been made to the owners of those properties. The criteria for determining the offer were in relation to the original red zone offer to insured homeowners in those areas, where we sought to give those people certainty, simplicity, and confidence moving forward. The plan was to get those families in the worst-affected areas into positions where they could move on with their lives. By very definition, people who own vacant land are not living on it.
Denis O’Rourke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific in asking about the criteria for valuing the compensation offered by way of offer, which was only half of the
rateable value. I do not believe that question actually was answered. All sorts of other things were said, but there was no actual information about the criteria that led to a 50 percent offer.
Mr SPEAKER: The question was around compensation, and the Minister started his answer by saying they are not offering compensation; they are offering to purchase. He then went on to say that the two criteria that were important were the opportunity to give certainty to those people with that land, and confidence to move forward. I would have thought that adequately answered the question. The member has further supplementary questions.
Denis O’Rourke: Given that it is standard practice to pay full market value when the Government compulsorily acquires private land, why was fair and established practice not followed when, effectively, compulsorily purchasing red zone vacant sections, irrespective of whether there is any land damage or not, or is the Government just taking advantage of a disaster situation to get the land on the cheap?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Firstly, I refute many of the allegations and inferences in the member’s question. But what I will say is this: if he wants to insist that the Government pay market valuation for those sections, he does not do those people any good at all. We had a valuation conducted on 4,136 properties on 30 June 2012, and the result of that was that the market value assessed for those properties was $2,600 per property. If he wants to get the map, good luck with his crusade. I want to be more generous, and give them 50 percent of the 2007 valuation.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Potential Economic Benefits
5. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: What economic opportunities will a new convention centre bring for Auckland?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): It is estimated that the proposed Auckland convention centre would generate very significant economic benefits, including a $90 million annual injection into the Auckland economy, an estimated 1,000 jobs during construction, and 800 jobs once it is up and running. Of course, the overall economic benefits of the proposal will be assessed before the Government will proceed, and of course we want a good deal for taxpayers. But there is no question that an international-size convention centre is essential for New Zealand if we are to tap into the growing market of valuable business visitors that we are currently missing out on.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What support has he seen for the proposed new convention centre in Auckland?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen very widespread support. For example, I have seen a report from Martin Snedden, who heads the Tourism Industry Association, who said: “Development of a world-class convention centre will not only create a major new market for our tourism industry, it will contribute significantly to New Zealand’s economic recovery,”. I have seen a report from the Holiday Parks Association of New Zealand that said: “A world-class convention centre will provide a real boost for holiday parks, New Zealand’s tourism industry and the country’s economy,”. Michael Barnett, from the Auckland chamber of commerce, said: “the SkyCity proposal to fund and build a purpose built national convention centre in central Auckland is a game changer.” And, of course, there is the backing that one Helen Clark gave to a similar deal to this current Skycity convention centre proposal. That deal involved far less investment than is being proposed now, in return for an additional 230 pokie machines.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: Is he aware of any opposition to the proposed new convention centre in Auckland?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen some opposition to the proposal, just as I have seen opposition to a number of the hands-on decisions made by this Government to encourage jobs in the New Zealand economy, which is, at the very least, a little ironic. Some organisations have consistently opposed the new convention centres, but others have a more confusing history. For example, the leader of one organisation said in 2004, in relation to a similar project: “Here in New
Zealand it has been pleasing to see continuing investment in the quality of our tourism infrastructure. In Auckland, Sky City has pumped $140 million into its new Convention Centre,”. Yet the current leader of the same organisation today supposedly vehemently opposed this proposal. That organisation is, of course, the very confused New Zealand Labour Party.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Advice Received in November 2009
6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Did he or his office receive the 12 November 2009 report from Ministry officials to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, summarising the process with SkyCity for the building of a convention centre; if so, did he read it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): A search of my office records indicates that, no, a report was not received by my office.
Hon David Parker: Was he aware at the time that the 12 November 2009 report, which the Auditor-General refers to, said that Treasury had advised that advice be sought from the Auditor- General to determine the probity of the process with Skycity; if so, what did he do about it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I was made aware, from my officials, that good process would be required, and that is exactly what took place. That is why the expressions of interest process was handled by the Minister for Economic Development’s office. This period of time that the member is talking about—12 November 2009, in that interim period—was all before the expressions of interest process, which was in March 2010. This is all covered in part 1 of the Auditor-General’s report, and part 1 of the Auditor-General’s report has 100 percent tick-off from the Auditor- General.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not that; my question was whether around 12 November he was aware that Treasury had advised that advice be sought from the Auditor-General. The Prime Minister has not addressed that.
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty was the answer to the first part of the question to the Prime Minister, when he said that he was not aware that this report had even been received in his office.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was my previous question.
Mr SPEAKER: That is my point. Well, let us have the question put again to the Prime Minister. It is the easiest way to move forward.
Hon David Parker: Was he aware at that time—i.e., around 12 November 2009—that Treasury had advised that advice be sought from the Auditor-General to determine the probity of the process with Skycity?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I was not aware of that report, because my office never got that report. Sometime after that date my officials did advise me that there should be good process in all the things we do, and that is what took place from March onwards, when there was an expressions of interest process.
Hon David Parker: Did the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet follow up the earlier report with a prior briefing note to him on 2 December 2009, repeating Treasury’s advice; if so, why did he ignore the second written warning to ensure that a fair process was run?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We did not. It was not the second one, as I made it clear. We never received the first one in my office. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet did write a note to me, as is normal. The note was actually largely about a lot of other things in relation to the convention centre. But, yes, it indicated good process was important, and good process was followed by independent officials.
Hon David Parker: Given that he was intimately involved with arranging the Skycity deal, including meetings and dinners, and personally he has already conceded he knew that very valuable regulatory concessions, like extra pokie machines, a longer casino licence, or changes to gaming laws were being discussed, why did he not ensure that the possibility of valuable regulatory breaks was made known through the requests for proposals to other parties?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are a lot of assertions in there and I refute them. The simple bottom line is that there was a proper process run by officials that started in March and that was handled completely away from my office. I was never involved from that point on. In regards to the earlier point—the exploratory phase, which is stage one—the Auditor-General in her report says that is quite normal, to be expected, and nothing to see there. The Auditor-General’s report says we have seen no evidence to suggest that the final decision to negotiate with Skycity was influenced by any inappropriate considerations, and the simple facts of life are that the Labour Party does not like it any more than the Green Party that there is nothing to see in terms of my involvement.
7. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Associate Minister for Social Development: What steps is the Government taking to reduce welfare fraud?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Associate Minister for Social Development): Today I announced new measures to prevent, detect, and deter welfare fraud. We know that the vast majority—more than the vast majority—of the 340,000 beneficiaries in this country are honest and follow the rules, but fraud, even from a small minority, is unacceptable. That is why the Government is equipping the Ministry of Social Development with the ability to target high-value fraud to prevent reoffending by known fraudsters and to recover money that is taken faster. These changes will help us ensure that the welfare system is there to support the needy and not be taken advantage of by the greedy.
Mike Sabin: How much money is lost to welfare fraud each year, and what effect will these changes have on that loss?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: A small minority who rip off the welfare system costs the taxpayer a sizable amount of money. Last year 714 people were convicted of fraud totalling over $23 million. A further $18 million was taken by dishonest overpayments where there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. These changes will help us stop that money going out the door in the first place and to recover what is taken even faster. They aim to deliver on the Government’s election commitment to catch, prevent, and recover $200 million worth of welfare fraud over the next 4 years.
Mike Sabin: How will these new measures prevent reoffending by known welfare fraudsters?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: Three-quarters of the people we caught last year who were taking money they were not entitled to had previously been investigated for potential welfare fraud. Even though we know these people have been dishonest before, too many of them end up reoffending. Starting this year these people will find their future interactions with Work and Income subject to greater scrutiny, and we will restrict their access to self-service options and place a higher bar for them to prove that they are not trying to rip off the taxpayer again. Although they will still receive what they are entitled to, there will be strong barriers in place to stop them from taking more than that again.
State-owned Assets, Sales—Role of Existing Contracts
8. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: What contingency plans, if any, does the Government have in place regarding its asset sale programme should the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter reduce production?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): The Government contingency is that the minority share sale is, and always has been, subject to market conditions. The New Zealand electricity market is well experienced in factoring in production fluctuations at Twai—for example, aluminium production was cut by 10 percent in 2008 and the market adapted to that. The Government share offer programme aims to raise between $5 billion and $7 billion to help control debt and invest in important social infrastructure in the future, like schools and hospitals.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What effect would he expect a reduction in national electricity demand by 14 to 15 percent to have on the value of State-owned electricity generators?
Hon TONY RYALL: Well, of course, that is hypothetical, but what I would say is that our electricity markets in New Zealand are able to price in uncertainty. I think the current situation in respect of negotiations at the smelter is well-known by the electricity market and certainly has been priced into the publicly listed electricity companies already on the New Zealand sharemarket. The member can be assured that any offer document for any of the Government’s share offers will disclose the risks and issues that potential investors need to consider before participating in any such offer.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: By acknowledging the issues with Tiwai Point and its potential effect on the electricity industry, is he admitting that an uncertainty discount will be priced into the shares by purchasers and that the Government will be accepting a lower price for the power companies that it otherwise would if it maintained its current asset sale schedule?
Hon TONY RYALL: No, I am not saying that. I would have thought the company most affected by the uncertainty is Contact Energy, and its share price has gone up.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Was the chief executive of Contact Energy wrong when he said that “electricity demand is weak”, was Statistics New Zealand wrong when it said this morning that “The input price of electricity for producers declined 5 percent in the past year.”, is the New Zealand electricity futures market wrong in showing that wholesale electricity prices will increase below inflation through 2015, and is PricewaterhouseCoopers wrong when it says that electricity “demand growth is stalling. Generation development programmes are being delayed or put on hold.”; and if these entities and people are, in fact, correct, why is he selling State-owned power companies when electricity supply is high and demand is low?
Hon TONY RYALL: All those matters are factored into the price that the Government will get, but the fact is our nation’s debt is growing significantly as the Government has sought to take the sharp edges off the recession and protect New Zealanders from some of the significant cuts that we have seen elsewhere. By selling these assets at minority stake and freeing up cash, we continue to invest in our growing economy and important social infrastructure, like schools and hospitals. I must say it is very odd that that member opposite is advocating for higher power prices.
Trans-Pacific Partnership—Investor-State Dispute Provisions
9. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Trade: Will New Zealand support Australia’s objection to signing up to investor-state dispute provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement; if not, why not?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade): New Zealand is strongly supporting Australia in the related case in the World Trade Organization and will continue to do so. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, however, is a negotiation and we no more negotiate for Australia than Australia negotiates for New Zealand. If the member is interested in our substantive negotiating position on this issue, he could simply refer to a very recent and comprehensive reply from the Prime Minister on this point to the leader of his own party.
Kevin Hague: Why is the Government willing to sign up to investor-State dispute provisions when Australia refuses to do so because it means that it can be sued for making laws to protect Australians, like plain packaging for tobacco?
Hon TIM GROSER: Well, the Government is not prepared to sign up to such unqualified provisions and will not do so.
Kevin Hague: Is the Minister ruling out the Government signing up to any provision that might allow investor-State dispute provisions by big tobacco companies?
Hon TIM GROSER: No, of course I am not, on behalf of the Government, ruling out signing up to any agreement. We are looking towards a well-constructed agreement along the lines that the previous Labour Government—in our view, very correctly—agreed to in a number of trade
agreements. Without similar provisions with similar public policy protections giving policy space to future Governments, we will not be signing a thing.
Kevin Hague: What advice has he received or sought on the likely cost in New Zealanders’ lives lost of the delay due to trade considerations in implementing plain packaging requirements for cigarettes?
Hon TIM GROSER: I as the trade Minister have sought no such advice on that matter.
Kevin Hague: Indeed. What guarantee can he give New Zealanders that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will not give multinational tobacco companies even more opportunity to maximise profit by blackmailing a timid Government into stalling public health measures?
Hon TIM GROSER: I refer to my previous statements.
Canterbury, Recovery—Criteria for Offer on Vacant or Commercial Red Zone Land
10. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Canterbury
Earthquake Recovery: Why is he offering only 50 percent of rating valuation for commercial or bare land in the residential red zone where the land could not be insured?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): We are making a voluntary offer for that land that is many times in excess of its market valuation and in line with offers made to uninsured parties.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How does he explain to people like the McCleans, who had not started building on their land, why they have been treated so differently from their neighbours, who also could not insure their land but were offered 100 percent of their rating valuation because they had started building?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I cannot know the detail of that at this point. I would be happy to have a look at the particular circumstance. What I might do for the House is suggest that there will be different insurance arrangements for people who own bare land and people who have started construction on that land.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How does he tell a business owner who is fully insured that he or she will be offered only 50 percent of the rating valuation of the land when he or she would have been offered 100 percent if they operated their business from an insured residential dwelling?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is the point—they were not operating their business from an insured residential dwelling; they were operating their business from a commercial premises that now has very, very low land value.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Will he extend the 31 March deadline faced by these landowners so that they can carefully consider their options and so he can respond to Scott Robertson’s plea on Campbell Live last night: “I’d just like you to take your time and reconsider your decision. We’re good, honest Kiwis that have done nothing wrong.”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, I think the first point is that Mr Robertson, I understand, has a property in the Port Hills, and no offers have been made to those people. So there is no time line for him to be concerned about. On the other point, I repeat what I said before. We conducted a valuation of 4,136—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is true that my question had two parts. The Minister responded to the second part. He is now responding to a part that I did not ask. I said: “Will he extend the 31 March deadline?”.
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty the member has is that she asked a supplementary question with two parts. The Minister is required to answer only one. But if you will allow the Minister to finish, he may well answer the first part of that question.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: In June 2012 the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority asked valuers to value 4,136 properties in the red zone. This was a land valuation. The valuation came in on a per-property base at about $2,600 per property. On that basis, the 50 percent offer for those properties, based on the 2007 rating valuation, is extremely generous.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As I said before, he answered the second part of my question. The first part of my question he has now not addressed at all, which is “Will he extend—”
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The difficulty, as I explained to the member, is that if you put two parts to a supplementary question, the Minister is required to answer only one part, and the Minister has done that.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table an email from Rebecca and Shane McClean who now live in Te Atatū South, who had an empty section in Brooklands, who have been absolutely gutted after waiting—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has described it sufficiently for the House. Leave is sought to table that email. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the letter of offer that Shane McClean received from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority on 17 January—
Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficiently described—a letter of offer from Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority to a constituent. Is there any objection to that letter being tabled? There is not. It may be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the letter that I have written to the Controller and Auditor-General making a detailed series of complaints about the residential red zone offers.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a letter from the Hon Lianne Dalziel to the Auditor- General on this matter. Is there any objection? No objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Prisoners, Employment Training—Improvements
11. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Corrections: What announcements has she made on improving prisoner employment training in New Zealand prisons?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): More good news. Yesterday I announced that GPS monitoring will be extended to prisoners on Release to Work schemes. Initially, up to 40 prisoners from Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison, Spring Hill Corrections Facility, Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility, and Rolleston Prison will have ankle bracelets fitted that will monitor offenders in real time while they work outside the wire.
Mark Mitchell: What impact does the Release to Work programme have on reoffending rates?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The Release to Work programme has a significant impact on reoffending rates. Research has shown that reoffending rates were reduced by 16.7 percent for prisoners who participated in the programme. The research also found that nearly half of the prisoners involved in Release to Work kept their job after the release. Having a stable job after release from prison is a key element in stopping someone from continuing a life of crime.
Schools, Canterbury—Minister’s Decisions on Proposed Closures and Mergers
12. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by all her decisions in relation to schools in Christchurch?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I stand by all my interim decisions in relation to schools in Christchurch, and I remain open to the views of the schools subject to further consultation.
Chris Hipkins: Did she, or her officials, give Branston Intermediate School an assurance that any students enrolled for 2013 would be able to finish their 2 years at Branston Intermediate School before any closure?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We provided proposals to Branston Intermediate School giving it options, and those have been reaffirmed in the letter it received from me this week.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very specific question and the Minister’s answer did not address the question I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: Will the member please repeat the question for the benefit of the Minister.
Chris Hipkins: Did she, or her officials, give Branston Intermediate School an assurance that any students enrolled for 2013 would be able to finish their 2 years at Branston Intermediate School before any closure?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did not.
Chris Hipkins: Did she write to Branston Intermediate School on 28 September stating that she had made “a proposal about the closure of Branston Intermediate School to be implemented for the end of 2014.”, and did she tell a public meeting at Branston Intermediate School that the school would definitely be open in 2014, as parents have written in to say she said; if so, why is she now changing that proposal so that students who have only just started school this year will have to change school next year?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did provide Branston Intermediate School with a proposal, and in the meeting with the Branston community I repeatedly said it was a proposal and that they were free to make submissions on it, as indeed they can on the proposal they now have.
Chris Hipkins: At the public meeting with Branston Intermediate School did she give them an assurance that Branston Intermediate School would still be open in 2014?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I made it clear, repeatedly, that it was a proposal, that they had the opportunity to give a submission on that proposal, and I got their submission, and they now have a further opportunity.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has indicated some other things that she said to the parents at Branston Intermediate School; she has not indicated whether she gave them that assurance.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I took it from her answer that she was talking of a proposal when she went to that public meeting at Branston Intermediate School.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not ask about the proposal she presented. I asked whether she had given them an assurance that they would stay open in 2014. She has not addressed that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think she has, actually. [Interruption] Order! I do not need help from the Hon Annette King on this. What she said, as I took it from her answer, was that she was talking of a proposal that had been put to the school rather than an assurance under all circumstances, and that when those proposals were finally concluded there was no guarantee given that they would be able to continue beyond 2013.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I put it to you that you are the only person in the House who interpreted it that way. It was a very straight, direct question: was an assurance given or not. We do not know what the answer is.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I have attempted to explain it to the member, because I think I know exactly what the answer is. The answer was that the assurance was not given, that at that stage they were talking of a proposal to that school—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem we have with that is that if the Minister gave it, it would be a breach of privilege because she knows she was wrong. But because you have interpreted it that way, which we know is not in accordance with the facts, then you are effectively getting her off the hook for not answering the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, and I am certainly not attempting to get any Minister off the hook—quite the opposite; I want Ministers to answer questions as clearly and concisely as I can. The difficulty we are getting into is that there is now a regular habit, particularly from Opposition members, of, firstly, demanding that the question be answered to satisfy them. My job is not to design the answer to the satisfaction of the Opposition. My job is to make sure that the question is answered to the
best of that Minister’s ability. I cannot then be further responsible, but in further question time any member can delve into the answers that have been given by that Minister.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order I am happy to take it.
Chris Hipkins: It is a fresh point of order, Mr Speaker. If, subsequently, we can produce evidence that suggests that what you have indicated to the House, the Minister’s answer was incorrect and that she misled the House, will you consider a breach of privilege complaint based on your interpretation of her answer?
Mr SPEAKER: We certainly do not consider breach of privilege complaints on the floor of this House. Any member has the ability to write to the Speaker alleging a breach of privilege, and that will be considered.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: The member of the House who objected during question No. 10 to the tabling of this document wanted an assurance that they had given permission for their details to be made public, and they have. Therefore, I seek the leave of the House to table the email from Rebecca McLean to Phil Twyford.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the tabling of that. Is there any objection to it? There is objection.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a letter dated 28 September 2012 from Hekia Parata to the board of trustees of Branston Intermediate School, indicating that they would be closed at the end of 2014.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter to the school. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a letter from the principal of Branston Intermediate School, dated 14 September 2012—
Mr SPEAKER: Addressed to whom?
Chris Hipkins: It is addressed to parents and caregivers, indicating that the school had received an assurance that they would be—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is satisfactorily explained. Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table an email from a parent at Branston Intermediate School stating that the Minister had given them an assurance at the public meeting—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that email. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Tasman District Council (Validation and Recovery of Certain Rates) Bill—Purpose
1. BRENDAN HORAN (Independent) to the Member in charge of the Tasman District
Council (Validation and Recovery of Certain Rates) Bill: What is the purpose of the Tasman District Council (Validation and Recovery of Certain Rates) Bill?
DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Member in charge of the Tasman District Council (Validation and
Recovery of Certain Rates) Bill): Back to the future. The purpose of this bill is to correct a number of irregularities that occurred when the council set and assessed the rates for the Tasman District Council between 2003 and 2009. The council also wants to address the irregularity with the Ligar Bay and Tata Beach stormwater rates that were set for the 2006-07 financial year.
Brendan Horan: Does he think it reasonable for the Tasman District Council—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The difficulty the member has got now is he is seeking an opinion. The supplementary question on this occasion must relate to the member’s responsibility for that bill. So if the member can phrase the question under that regime, rather than seeking an opinion, that will be adequate.
Brendan Horan: Given the member’s answer, that it is desirable to address these irregularities, is that reasonable, given that the Tasman District Council has paid its chief executives over $2.5 million—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. I rule that supplementary question out of order.