QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Finance: What will be the focus of Budget 2013, and how will it help meet the priorities the Government has set for this term?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Budget will be the next step in the Government’s longer-term programme, started when it was elected, to make the economy more adaptable, more sustainable, and more competitive. We will continue to work hard to get back to surplus and stop Government debt rising. We will continue with economic reforms to make the economy more competitive, to steadily improve public services despite tight fiscal constraints, and to ensure that Christchurch recovers from the earthquake. What we are doing is well signalled and predictable, and there will be no big surprises in the Budget.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What approach will the Budget take to building the growth required to support more jobs and higher incomes in the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It will focus on encouraging long-term investment by the private sector, and investment particularly in new jobs. Of course, it will continue the path of the Government improving the effectiveness of its own investment for public services and for the wider economy. Through the Business Growth Agenda we have identified the ingredients needed for businesses to invest and grow to support more jobs and higher incomes, and the Government will build on these. It will also reconfirm the Government’s commitment to conventional monetary policy, predictable fiscal policy, and a sound financial system.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What progress will the Budget report in meeting the Government’s target of returning to fiscal surplus in 2014-15?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can confirm that the updated forecast will show that the Government remains on track to surplus in 2014-15. This is a considerable achievement, given the forecasts of never-ending deficits and ever-rising debt that we inherited. Just 2 years ago, the deficit was $18.4 billion, about half of which was the cost of contributing to the rebuild of Christchurch. As a result of Government decisions since Budget 2009 we will have reduced the Government’s need to borrow compared with the policies we inherited by $30 billion by 2016-17, and by 2015 what was forecast expenditure back in 2008 of $83 billion for that year will actually be only $73 billion. So the accumulation of our budgetary decisions has been to knock $10 billion out of Government expenditure for 2015.
Dr Paul Hutchison: After returning to surplus, what will be the Government’s main fiscal priorities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do not want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but this is a Government with a long-term vision for New Zealand. Beyond the return to surplus, we will need to shift our focus towards using those forecast surpluses to achieve our second fiscal objective, which
is reducing Government net debt to 20 percent of GDP by 2020. We will be doing this in the context of choices between paying off debt, topping up the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, or further spending on improving public services. But 20 percent of GDP net debt is a level that the Government considers to be prudent, which would help us to get ready to weather the next storm in the global economy.
Mining in Conservation Areas—Exploratory Drilling on Schedule 4 Land
2. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Will the changes to the Crown Minerals Act 1991 proposed in the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill allow for exploratory drilling in Schedule 4 areas?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes, but changes do not go further than what is already contained in the existing law. Also, there is a significant difference between work under prospecting and exploration activity and permits, and mining activities and permits. The Government is clear that schedule 4 is a no go for mining.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am unclear. My question was in regards to drilling in schedule 4 areas. I am unclear whether the Minister has confirmed there will be drilling, which was the question on notice.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister started his answer with “Yes,” and then clarified.
Catherine Delahunty: Why has the Government granted mineral exploration permit 52722, which has no practical value because it allows for drilling in schedule 4 areas, which is currently illegal?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I do not know the position in relation to that specific permit, but what is very clear is that there are a range of reasons, short of mining, why you would have prospecting and exploration permits, including understanding the general geological layout of the land and understanding what is happening in a river upstream to understand what is happening downstream. So there are a range of reasons short of mining.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table a legal opinion from Adderley Head to my office, which shows that permit 52722 cannot currently be exercised, because it allows for drilling in schedule 4 areas, which is currently illegal.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that legal opinion. Is there any objection? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Catherine Delahunty: Given that our legal opinion says that permit 52722 has a work programme that is illegal to implement, will he withdraw the permit or amend its work programme to prevent drilling in schedule 4?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, if the member did me the courtesy of showing me that opinion, we might be able to have a bit more of an informed discussion. But I think what is very clear is that prospecting and exploration permits do allow for drilling, but that is quite different from drilling for mining purposes, which we have a policy against.
Catherine Delahunty: So is the Government changing the Crown Minerals Act so that Hawkeswood Civil Ltd, which is the owner of this permit, can now undertake drilling in an area under schedule 4 protection?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No. If the member had listened to my first answer, what is very clear is that in relation to the things she is asking about, there is no material change between the current law and the new law.
Catherine Delahunty: Has the Minister made it clear to companies that they can look but not touch in schedule 4; if so, why has the director of Sea Group Holdings Ltd said it is prospecting with an eye to dredging in McGregor Bay, which is under schedule 4 protection?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, companies can say whatever they like, but it is the Government that makes policy and makes the decisions.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether he has made it clear to these companies.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the question was very adequately addressed in light of the question. The member has further supplementary questions.
Catherine Delahunty: Does the Minister still think that the Government has made it clear to mining companies that they can look but not touch in schedule 4, given that the Broken Hills Gold Company has applied for a mining permit on schedule 4 land?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I do not think there is any ambiguity in our policy. Let me say again that we have a very clear view against mining on schedule 4 land.
Catherine Delahunty: In the light of what he has just said, will he then decline the application by Broken Hills Gold Company Ltd for a mining permit on schedule 4 land in the Coromandel?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Look, it is not appropriate for me to give an answer on an open application. The policy is very clear: we say no to mining on schedule 4 land.
Catherine Delahunty: Will he rule out granting mining permits for all the areas listed in schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act for which minerals prospecting and exploration permits have already been granted, such as the areas covered by the permits held by Sea Group Holdings Ltd and Hawkeswood Civil Ltd? Will he rule them out?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, as I have said now a number of times, there is quite a difference between prospecting and exploration permits, where the law does permit that, and there is a range of reasons for doing that short of mining. But we say no to mining on schedule 4 land.
Government Communications Security Bureau—Prime Minister’s Awareness of Ministerial
3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Did the acting Prime Minister inform him that he had signed a Ministerial certificate suppressing details of the involvement of the GCSB in Operation Debut when he returned from his overseas trip in August 2012; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): As I previously told the House, I think, some time last year, the Acting Prime Minister did not inform the Prime Minister’s office or him that he had signed the certificate, because he rightly thought that the Government Communications Security Bureau would inform his office or him. However, it failed to do so.
Grant Robertson: Can he confirm that in his 4 years as the Minister responsible for the GCSB the ministerial certificate signed by the Acting Prime Minister was the only such certificate signed in that time?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, but of course I would not expect the Deputy Prime Minister to know that, because he is not involved in those processes.
Grant Robertson: Why did the Government Communications Security Bureau director Ian Fletcher not raise the issue of the ministerial certificate that the Acting Prime Minister had signed at their meeting on 22 August, only 5 days after the Acting Prime Minister signed it?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I simply was not at the meeting, so I cannot answer that question.
Grant Robertson: Does he stand by his statement that the Acting Prime Minister—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to my colleague. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a point of order. [Interruption] Order! It is a point of order. It will be heard in silence.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I ask you to reflect on the answer that we have just got. It took me a little while to work my way through it. The Prime Minister cannot say he was not at a meeting that he
was at. He said: “On behalf of the Prime Minister, I was not at the meeting.” The Prime Minister was at the meeting. That is the whole point. He had a meeting with Mr Fletcher.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I am sure if the question was asked again, the Acting Prime Minister would deal with it adequately. The point is that he did say that he was unable to answer as Acting Prime Minister because he was not at the meeting.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the way forward is the question will be asked again.
Grant Robertson: Why did the Government Communications Security Bureau director Ian Fletcher not raise the issue of the ministerial certificate the Acting Prime Minister had signed with him at their meeting on 22 August, only 5 days after the Acting Prime Minister signed it?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot answer that question on behalf of the Prime Minister, because although he was at the meeting, I was not.
Andrew Williams: Given that Mr English, the Deputy Prime Minister, stated on 3 News on 3 October 2012 “I assumed the intelligence agencies would be informing the Prime Minister about their activities.”, how can we believe that the Prime Minister did not have foreknowledge of that certificate?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think the member has any grounds to make that assumption or not make that assumption. He would have to direct that question to the Prime Minister in person.
Grant Robertson: Given that he has stated that this was the only ministerial certificate signed in his time as Minister responsible for the GCSB and that he thinks the bureau should have told him about the certificate, has he asked the bureau director, Ian Fletcher, for an apology?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: These matters have been discussed extensively and assertively.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very direct question. It did have a preface about statements that the Prime Minister had made, but it—
Mr SPEAKER: Let us have the question again.
Grant Robertson: It was not written down.
Mr SPEAKER: I might be able to help.
Grant Robertson: The end point of the question was: has he asked Mr Fletcher for an apology, given that it was a ministerial certificate that had never been done before in 4 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said before, these matters have been discussed extensively and assertively to my knowledge. Again, you would have to ask the Prime Minister in person the question about—
Hon Trevor Mallard: You are the Prime Minister.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, yes, but I can answer the question only if I have the knowledge and, actually, in my capacity as acting on behalf of the Prime Minister, I do not have that knowledge. You would have to direct the question to him.
Andrew Williams: What led the Acting Prime Minister to believe that the Government Communications Security Bureau had briefed the Prime Minister?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I think the Deputy Prime Minister has said publicly, he assumed that because the intelligence agencies met regularly with the Prime Minister they would be advising him of any higher-profile procedure or policy matter that came before him. On reflection, of course, the Deputy Prime Minister would have been better not to have made that assumption.
Grant Robertson: In light of what he described as a “red flag” about illegal spying being given to him in July—that the status of Mr Dotcom’s residency had been discussed in the High Court in August—does he consider that the Government Communications Security Bureau director Ian Fletcher fulfilled his duty to him in not briefing him about the case?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Mr Fletcher has fulfilled his duties in respect of uncovering and dealing with a culture of low compliance in the organisation. As outlined in the Kitteridge report, this would be one example where the bureau could have acted more thoroughly in its relationship with the Prime Minister, and I am sure—in fact, I can tell you the Prime Minister has made that view clear to it.
Grant Robertson: Has the Deputy Prime Minister apologised to the Prime Minister for not briefing him about a ministerial certificate the like of which had never been signed in his 4 years as Minister?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, but those discussions have also included the necessity to deal with aspects of the way the intelligence agencies operated, which meant, in this case, that the Minister in charge of the agency was not informed, as he should have been, on a matter of some importance.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a letter from Simpson Grierson lawyers dated 15 August 2012 to Ian Fletcher, the director of the Government Communications Security Bureau, seeking information held by the bureau about Kim Dotcom and three associates.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a letter from the Government Communications Security Bureau director, Ian Fletcher, to Simpson Grierson lawyers, declining that request but acknowledging that information was held about Mr Dotcom by the bureau, dated 16 August 2012.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that response letter. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. It can be so tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Child Poverty, Abuse, and Neglect—Progress of Children’s Action Plan
4. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What progress has been made on the Children’s Action Plan, and how is this making a difference for vulnerable children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Significant progress across the board on all initiatives, but progress at both Rotorua and Whangarei on the local children’s teams has been particularly interesting and pleasing. The local design approach has seen workshops involving communities, NGOs such as Family Start, Whānau Ora, and private social work providers. It has included iwi and Government agency representatives. These workshops are at the heart of creating a truly localised children’s team.
Melissa Lee: When will these children’s teams be operationalised by?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The first children’s team will go live in Rotorua on 1 July this year, with the Whangarei site commencing on 1 October this year, and work is under way planning for those future children’s teams. Those other children’s teams will develop much more quickly, as these are the demonstration sites and, in many respects, are trail—and trial, actually—blazing.
Melissa Lee: What developments have been made as part of the children’s team process so far?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What we have discovered is that it is hardly surprising that it has to be local. It has to be locally designed, and it has to have buy-in from all of those important agencies—local government, central government, NGOs, and everyone else. We know already just from the two that it is not a cookie cutter approach, if you like. It takes the best of what they are doing there, expands it, puts more resources in, and sees us cutting through a whole lot of bureaucracy.
5. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister of Conservation: Is he confident that the proposed new structure for the department reflects the priorities in the Conservation Act 1987?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Yes, the restructuring is about the Department of Conservation being more efficient by reducing the number of tiers of management
from five to four. The restructuring is also about the department being more outward-looking and more able to effectively partner with iwi, with the community, and with business. Much has changed since the Department of Conservation was founded a generation ago. Business and communities are a lot more involved in conservation, and that is welcomed, and the Treaty settlement process means that the department needs to be more able to partner with iwi.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How will the dual management structure, with two positions of equal status— the chief ranger, responsible for conservation, and the relationship manager, responsible for business relationships—ensure the delivery of these conservation priorities?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Because the conservation side of the work is being run by the rangers. What the Department of Conservation needs to do more effectively is work on how it runs its partnerships with iwi, how it runs its partnerships with business—and we have got more of those happening, and that is a good thing—and also how it partners with community. I can give the member examples in my own electorate of where the department can do better in working with community to look after our special places and ensure the survival of our native species.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How will the insertion of a whole new layer of management, with the establishment of an integration coordinator, ensure the delivery of conservation priorities?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is not a whole new layer, actually. Currently the department has five tiers of management. Under the new structure it will have four. It will have 120 fewer managers because it is this Government’s view that there is too much bureaucracy in the department and we need to be more focused on doing the biz rather than just talking about it.
Maggie Barry: Does the Minister have any examples of where the Department of Conservation has been excessively bureaucratic?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes. In 1997 I wrote as Minister asking the department to open the Heaphy Track to mountain biking in winter. Both the Green Party and the Labour Party at the time came out strongly in support. Over 20 reports were written on this issue and it did not eventuate until 2010, on a trial basis. It is a good example of how the department could be more efficient.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How will the reduction of trained rural firefighters in the department from 600 to 460 help protect our conservation estate?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have been assured by Al Morrison that the changes around the operational features and the number of people who need to be skilled for rural fire fighting is adequate to manage the risks that the department has around the issues of fire risk across the conservation estate.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How will the loss of 140 department jobs in the field and in regional centres and the addition of 29 new jobs in Wellington assist with delivery of on-the-ground conservation work and the collaboration with communities that he has been praising?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The mistake the member is making is in talking only about—
Hon Annette King: Answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Give us half a chance, Annette. The—
Hon Annette King: Well, get on with it.
Mr SPEAKER: Answer the question. [Interruption] Order! That is an example of what happens when you get interjections. Would the Minister please continue his answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The restructuring has been in two phases. The first phase was done a year ago and resulted in very significant redundancies at head office and in the conservancy offices. In making the judgment about the new structure, as compared with the old, the member needs to consider both those phases together. The long and the short of it is this: the previous Government, when it thought money grew on trees, more than doubled the budget of the Department of Conservation. We are a Government that is committed to balancing the budget. That means that the department has to do its fair share in ensuring that this Government lives within its means.
Visitor Numbers—Increasing Visitors from China
6. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Tourism: What is the Government doing to attract more Chinese tourists to New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Acting Minister of Tourism): The Government has conducted the China Market Review to draw on public and private sector expertise around this very important market. The China Market Review’s report has now been released. The report’s—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I might be getting pedantic, but I did not think this member was the Minister of Tourism. Is he the Minister of Tourism?
Mr SPEAKER: No. He could more correctly have introduced himself as speaking on behalf of the Minister. Would the member like to start his answer again.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: My understanding is that while the Prime Minister is away and I am the Acting Minister, I become the Minister of Tourism in his place.
Mr SPEAKER: He may well be right, so I will ask you to initiate the answer again, please. [Interruption] Order! Would the Minister please initiate his answer.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: The Government has conducted the China Market Review to draw on the public and private sector expertise around this very important market—that is the China market, for Mr Mallard’s interest. The China Market Review’s report has now been released. The report’s recommendations range from providing better market intelligence—which could probably be used on the other side of the House—and higher-quality tours to extending visitor visas for Chinese tourists. Some of these initiatives are already under way—for example, tourism and immigration officials have worked together to extend multi-entry visas for Chinese visitors from 12 months to 24 months, which will reduce red tape for visitors and encourage tourists to return.
Jonathan Young: Why are Chinese tourists important to New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: China is our most rapidly growing tourism market, so we need to ensure we are offering Chinese visitors the highest-quality experiences and meeting their expectations. Over the past year more than 200,000 Chinese visitors came to New Zealand—up about 38 percent on the previous year. They spent around $651 million in New Zealand. That is $651 million in the pockets of our small businesses and tourism operators. Growing our major tourism markets will also be an important factor in meeting the Government’s target for exports to be 40 percent of GDP by 2025.
Barbara Stewart: Does he agree with the Tourism Industry Association’s policy and research manager, Simon Wallace, that with the increase of Chinese global tourists “We could be looking at up to 1 million visitors in 5 years’ time.”; if so, what steps and initiatives is he undertaking so that the New Zealand tourism sector can fully capitalise on this increase in tourist numbers?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Firstly, with 38 percent incremental growth, it is possible that we reach significantly larger numbers than we currently have. The China Market Review’s report, which the Prime Minister released in China just this week, goes to the very heart of that question.
Jonathan Young: What feedback from the tourism industry has he seen on the China Market Review’s report?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: I have seen positive feedback from the industry representatives who took part in the review and from the wider industry. It was very important that we engaged with the industry in the process in order to achieve support for the outcomes. The Tourism Industry Association has said that this report provides a road map to ensure that Chinese visitors have a fantastic time in New Zealand. That is exactly what we want to achieve as we grow this market.
Barbara Stewart: Does he accept Mr Wallace’s assertion that 70 percent of Chinese tourists come to New Zealand for a small period of time after visiting Australia; if so, what steps is he undertaking to increase the length of time that Chinese visitors actually stay in New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Once again, the China Market Review’s report goes to the heart of this question. It is about increasing the value from Chinese tourism, improving the Chinese visitors
to become free independent traveller tourists on their second visit to New Zealand, and increasing the value.
Conservation, Department—Funding and Potential Job Losses
7. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Will he support “Love DOC Day” by increasing the funding for the department so it can cancel the proposed staffing cuts?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Department of Conservation staff are the most committed and dedicated public servants I have worked with in any of my nine ministerial roles, and I welcome any public recognition of their work. The Department of Conservation’s budget increased by 107 percent in cash terms, or 62 percent in real terms, prior to the global financial crisis. I am quite confident that the department can continue to do its important work with the very modest 3 percent reduction as its contribution towards this Government balancing the books.
Eugenie Sage: When the Public Service Association, which represents 1,400 Department of Conservation staff, said today that the department cannot make the required savings without sacrificing front-line jobs, why is he so confident that conservation work will not suffer?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In the days when money grew on trees, the Department of Conservation’s budget increased by more than double. That is why our country when we came to Government faced ever-increasing deficits for the next 10 years. The reason I have confidence is that if I compare with a bit over a decade ago, in real terms I have $120 million more per year than what I had in the late 1990s, I have over 200 staff more than what was there in that time, and that gives me great confidence that the Department of Conservation and its staff are able to do the important work in conservation.
Eugenie Sage: When nearly a quarter of the conservation estate—some 1.9 million hectares—is on the West Coast, how can he be confident that conservation work will be done well there when the West Coast region suffers the most from these cuts, with the loss of 25 staff?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The West Coast does have a large conservation estate and a very committed staff, but I am—
Hon Damien O’Connor: Why did you cut the staff?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member who interjects claimed that the staff numbers in Tākaka were being reduced to one. He was out by a factor of 16. I am quite confident the West Coast, like other areas of New Zealand, where I note every single one of the service centres is being maintained, will be able to continue to do its work.
Eugenie Sage: Is he confident that reducing staff numbers on the West Coast to levels below that at the time of the Cave Creek platform collapse is a good idea, when the report of the commission of inquiry in 1995 found that: “The Department of Conservation has been underfunded from the outset with consequent difficulty in carrying out its statutory functions and duties;”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I became the Minister of Conservation after the Cave Creek tragedy. The issue was not a lack of money. That should never be an excuse for any part of the Public Service’s buildings or structures that are unsafe. So I do not accept, and I think the member is incorrect in saying, that somehow it is OK for public sector departments to do things that are unsafe because their budgets might not be what they wish for.
Eugenie Sage: When the Department of Conservation’s current structure was established in response to the findings of the Cave Creek commission of inquiry, how can he be confident that there will be adequate accountability in the new dual structure, which splits the department into a partnership arm and a services arm and has staff in one office reporting to different managers in different locations?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The exact structure of the department is a decision for the Director- General of Conservation, Mr Al Morrison. But what he is absolutely correct about is that the department needs to do a better job of partnering with iwi, and we just need to look at the Treaty
settlement legislation that my colleague Chris Finlayson is bringing through the Parliament, and areas like Tūhoe and the national park and the changes there, as well as the increased involvement of business in conservation and community groups, to see that this new structure makes great sense in the forward-looking approach we are taking to conservation management.
Student Loans—Postgraduate Borrowing
8. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills
and Employment: Is he still confident that post-graduate students will simply convert to borrowing for their living costs following his abolition of student allowances for post-graduate study that became effective on 1 January 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Tertiary
Education, Skills and Employment: The Minister would expect a large number of postgraduate students will borrow for living costs. A number will also choose to undertake paid part-time work, and a number may leave study to enter the full-time workforce. That choice will be up to individual students and their own circumstances. I point out to the member that an increasing number of students entering the workforce is what happens in an improving economy.
Dr Megan Woods: Does he then consider that his abolition of postgraduate allowances contributed to the fall in postgraduate numbers at the University of Otago for the 2013 academic year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is possible that it may have contributed. But you have to remember that this is in the context of the sustainability of student allowances for all tertiary students. Student allowances in 2007-08 cost $385 million. By 2010-11 they had gone up to $620 million. So student allowances continued to rise just when the Government was running large deficits, and in order to make student allowances sustainable, we have trimmed the scheme.
Dr Megan Woods: Is he then agreeing with the vice-chancellor of the University of Otago, Professor Harlene Hayne, that the drop in postgraduate student numbers was almost certainly the result of students deferring postgraduate study because of financial considerations brought about by his Government’s decision to abolish postgraduate student allowances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with the vice-chancellor that that is almost certainly the case. Students make a range of choices in response to both this policy change and, more important for postgraduate students, in response to job opportunities in the economy. It is quite likely that as the economy continues to recover, more students, having already achieved a tertiary qualification, will opt for work rather than further postgraduate study.
Dr Megan Woods: Given that of the 1,000 fewer than expected students at the University of Canterbury in 2013 around 100 are postgraduate students—that is a 12 percent decline in postgraduate students versus a 7.5 percent decline in undergraduate students—does he consider that his abolition of postgraduate allowances has contributed to the fall of enrolments and has put further pressures on an already financially strained university?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the leadership of Canterbury University has speculated publicly about a range of reasons for the drop in enrolments—and the member is right, it does put some more stress on that university—but you would have to say in that case that a combination of job opportunities in Christchurch, particularly, but also across the rest of New Zealand, and the ongoing difficulties it has grappling with the effects of the earthquake, it is not surprising that there is some change in student behaviour in respect of Canterbury University.
Dr Megan Woods: Given that he has just outlined a range of factors contributing to the financial pressures at the University of Canterbury and that the university has committed to submitting its business case on time, will he commit to an October deadline for deciding the full extent and timing of Government support that ensures the continuation of a broad-based and research-intensive University of Canterbury?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government, of course, would want to make a decision as quickly as it could, but that will depend to a significant extent on the quality of the business case. But the member needs to remember that she cannot have it both ways. Her party portrays itself as a party of fiscal responsibility. It cannot go then opposing every single measure that leads to keeping the books in better shape.
Tracey Martin: Has he seen any reports of any other group of New Zealand citizens being required by their Government to borrow to live; if not, does he believe that this is discrimination?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is quite common for New Zealanders other than students to have to borrow to live. It is called an overdraft. A lot of small businesses actually get from one end of the year to the other on the overdraft and they are pleased if it is cleared. Those overdrafts are paying wages and drawings for the people who run those businesses. It is the same for individuals who run overdrafts, so I do not think it is at all uncommon. Students have the privilege granted to them by the public of New Zealand of having interest-free student loans, and I think most students appreciate that.
Accident Compensation Corporation—Injury Prevention Programme for Rest Homes
9. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for ACC: What is ACC doing to reduce the incidence of injuries in rest homes?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): Following international and New Zealand research, ACC is working in partnership with all district health boards and the Ministry of Health by funding a vitamin D supplementation programme for older adults in residential care.
Simon O’Connor: What is the uptake of vitamin D since this programme has been in place and have any benefits yet been seen?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Vitamin D is a proven way to help reverse muscle weakness, which plays a part in many falls. Research has also shown that vitamin D supplements can reduce falls in older adults in aged-care facilities by more than 25 percent. In 2007 only 16 percent of aged-care residents were prescribed vitamin D. In the last quarter the uptake was recorded at 74 percent, which is above the 70 percent target of the programme. As vitamin D prescription rates in this programme have increased, accident claim numbers have fallen. For example, claims in the 65-plus age group as a whole, excluding those in residential care, increased by 11 percent in the 2011-12 year, while claims for the 65-plus group in residential care fell by 19 percent. [Interruption] And I am sorry that the Labour Party does not care about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That is quite a sufficient answer.
Child Poverty—Minister’s Statements
10. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement that the Government does not measure child poverty, as 29 other OECD nations do, because “… while the Labour Party is worried about what those measures are, we are getting on and actually doing something about it”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Aye.
Jacinda Ardern: Does the Government have a plan to reduce child poverty in New Zealand?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, we do, and it is a long one. We have insulated over 204,000 homes already; we have seen immunisation rates increase over the past 5 years, from 67 percent to 92 percent; Well Child has got an extra $21.3 million for 18,000 mothers needing additional support; there is $24 million on rheumatic fever over 5 years; $1.4 billion has been going into early childhood education; and an additional $48 million is going into early childhood education equity funding, which supports priority learners in communities, and we are already seeing results from Māori and Pacific children. On top of this we also spend $180 million a year on childcare subsidies, guaranteed child assistance payments, and early learning payments, $60 million for positive
behaviour programmes, including Incredible Years, $140 million on Whānau Ora, which is working with all of those—
Mr SPEAKER: I think the length of the answer is quite satisfactory.
Jacinda Ardern: In light of that answer, why did the Children’s Commissioner say this morning that “New Zealand does not have a plan for child poverty. I believe we should.”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: With all respect to the Children’s Commissioner, he and his expert advisory group have put forward a paper to the Government with over 78 recommendations, and the Government is working through that. I think he sees that as the plan. We certainly see the economic development. I would love to read out the other half—I got only halfway through my list, but I will not test the patience of the Speaker.
Jacinda Ardern: In light of her claim that the Government has a plan to reduce child poverty, how much has she reduced child poverty by?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We are already seeing results. We have certainly seen them in the last 3 years. [Interruption] Well, they are numerous, actually, when we look at immunisation rates and when we look at the number of home insulations that have gone on, where we are seeing some results. But no one denies that there are children who are living in poverty and are doing it hard in this country.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very straight question—how much has the Government reduced poverty by. I did not get an answer from the Minister. She mentioned immunisation rates. I clearly asked about the poverty rate in New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty I have is that I could not hear the answer because of the noise coming—particularly from the Labour side of the House. If we could have the question put again, I will listen very carefully to the answer. I literally could not hear it, and I am as close to the Minister as anybody in this House, which clearly demonstrates that the level of interjection and background noise today is at an unacceptable level. I ask the member to put her question again.
Jacinda Ardern: Certainly, I will repeat the question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Jacinda Ardern: In light of her claim that the Government has a plan to reduce child poverty, how much has she reduced child poverty by?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I believe that we are making progress in a number of areas, and that would depend on which measure one used.
Jacinda Ardern: What measure is the Government using for child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What this Government is doing is working along on a number of complex issues that we think will fundamentally make a difference. The Labour Party may be caught up in measures. We are caught up in results.
Jacinda Ardern: Mr Speaker, if I could just ask for your assistance. In one question the Minister said “It depends which measure”. I asked which measure then, and then she said there is a whole range—
Mr SPEAKER: Again the problem I have got is, because of the noise from your own colleagues, I could not even hear the answer. The only way forward is for the member to ask the question again, but on this occasion I want to have the chance to hear the answer. If I do not hear it satisfactorily, that will be the end of the matter—if the interjections from this side of the House do not allow me to hear the answer.
Hon Paula Bennett: Speaking to that point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: It is not a point of order.
Hon Paula Bennett: Well, the member did have a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: You can raise a point of order.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. For the second time that member’s party has not allowed me to actually answer so that members could hear it, so you had to ask me to repeat it. If they wish to hear the answer, then that is exactly what they should do.
Mr SPEAKER: I have made that point perfectly—
Hon Paula Bennett: So should that happen—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have made that point perfectly clear to them.
Jacinda Ardern: What measure is her Government using for child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: There is not a Government measure for poverty.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just ask for your assistance. If the Minister has said earlier in an answer “It depends what measure you’re using.”, and then says “We don’t have one”—
Mr SPEAKER: No. You are now—[Interruption] Order! Order! We are now at a stage when you are litigating the quality of the answer through a point of order. The Minister answered your question quite adequately and, I would have thought, to the satisfaction of the member.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What evidence has the Minister seen on teen pregnancy rates?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: In this country, after looking at the Unicef report that was taken from data from 2009 and 2010, we have seen teen parent birth numbers fall for the last 3 years, despite them rising previously. The birth rate for teen parents is at its lowest since 1962—that is, since records began. Although it is early days, it is likely that this drop has been due to better use of more effective forms of contraception and an increasing number of mums in particular, or teen girls, in education—exactly the areas this Government has made a significant investment in.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for interrupting the flow of question time, but I think that last question demonstrated a problem that has been apparent in the House for some days. There is something wrong with the sound system. In this quarter of the Chamber—and I say this with no disrespect to the two members involved in that questioning process, who have both got reasonably clear voices—once the level of sound of other hubbub starts to rise, it effectively deadens out the sound of those principal speakers. There is something not quite right with the modulation of the sound process, and we simply cannot hear clearly enough what is going on. I think, over the weekend it might be appropriate to get someone to have a look at that balance, before the House resumes on Tuesday.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for that point of order. There has been a lot of work going on with the sound system, because I think it is evident to every member that we are having significant problems with the sound system. But, fundamentally, the other part of the problem is the level of background noise coming from right across the House. If members want to have the opportunity to question Ministers and to get answers that I can hear, so I can make rulings on the quality of those answers, I need to be able to hear both the question and the answer.
Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill—Minister’s Statements
BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
BRENDAN HORAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker, I would hate for that side not to hear.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will also just address his question.
11. BRENDAN HORAN (Independent) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does he stand by all his statements regarding the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes, of course, always—in the proper context.
Brendan Horan: How does the Minister reconcile his comments that real rights are rights for people who disagree with you with the fact that his bill will trample basic human rights and make criminals of legitimate protesters, that is, Kiwis with genuine concern for our environment, unlike the Minister or, indeed, the Minister for the Environment?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Quite simply, I clearly believe that every New Zealander has rights, including people accused of very serious allegations against their parents.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to the member. There have been a lot of Speaker’s rulings about not bringing personal matters of that sort into questions and answers. There is a lot of tradition in the House and a lot of Speaker’s rulings on it, and references to matters such as that have often been ruled out of order when they are part of ministerial replies.
Mr SPEAKER: It is a matter of inference and it is a matter of whether that is how the answer is interpreted, particularly by the member involved. Mr Horan, it appears to me, took no offence with the answer. I think it would have been more satisfactorily answered in a different way—
Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took so much offence to that comment that I am speechless.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member took offence, I ask the Minister to stand and withdraw the latter part of his answer.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I withdraw.
Brendan Horan: Given his claim that the bill is about “higher-paid jobs in the provinces”, will he support a requirement for a minimal level of local content in mineral extraction, and at what percentage—50 percent, 30 percent, 20 percent, or even a paltry 10 percent?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, there is simply no need for that. Many of the major businesses in this field are New Zealand ones. Indeed, the biggest, the Todd Corporation, is the biggest by quite some margin. There are many others—New Zealand Oil and Gas, Greymouth Petroleum—and there are thousands of New Zealanders employed in this industry.
12. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): As long as I really did say them and they are in context and in full, yes.
Andrew Little: Which statement does she stand by: her one to the House on 14 March 2013 that “Where people need legal representation in the Family Court they will get it. This is not changing.”, or her statement in the New Zealand Herald on 30 March 2013 about planned changes to her Family Court Proceedings Reform Bill that will mean “more involvement by lawyers than indicated” and “opportunities for lawyers to be involved in relation to children as well”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Both of them. They are both very sensible comments.
Andrew Little: When she said in the House on 14 March 2013 in relation to the proposed family dispute resolution process that “After six sessions of mediation a judge will then be able to actually triage the matter.”, was she indicating that the work of the external reference group currently looking into that question is at an end; if so, why is it that that group is still meeting to consider all issues to do with the proposed new processes?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No, I meant that that is exactly what the proposal said. The external group involving the judges and other parties involved in Family Court proceedings are of course working with the Ministry of Justice to make sure that the rules and regulations come under way. But that is actually the proposal.
Andrew Little: Can she assure the House that the impending changes to her bill will mean that the bill will now comply with New Zealand’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The bill is currently in the select committee—and that member is actually a member of that select committee—so it would be a little bit difficult for me to say what that committee is going to come back with. But I can tell the member this: it will be an excellent bill and I hope he will support it.
Andrew Little: What has prompted her to change her mind on Family Court reform: the statement of the New Zealand Law Society that the changes “would make the Family Court less
efficient and accessible and would put children at risk”, the statement from the Principal Family Court Judge, Laurence Ryan, that “there will be no cost savings at all … fewer cases settle, more judicial time will be required and more cases will go to defended hearings.”, or the hundreds of others who are expressing fear about the reforms, and why did she let the bill even get this far?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: None of those. Of course, I have always said that this is a bill that would go through a select committee process and that obviously the submitters would be listened to. I am absolutely determined that family dispute resolution will be a major part of any Family Court matters, and none of that is changing.