Questions and Answers – May 15

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 — 4:02 PM


Budget 2013—Job Creation and Growth

1. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: How will the Budget continue the Government’s ongoing programme to deliver jobs and growth for the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government will build on its four priorities for this term, including responsibly managing the Government’s finances and building a more productive and competitive economy to deliver jobs and growth. Over the last 4½ years we have taken a number of steps towards those priorities, including reducing company tax, reducing tax on work and savings, increasing tax on consumption and property, cutting red tape for business, and getting the Government’s own finances in shape to keep interest rates lower and take pressure off the exchange rate. The Budget will continue the practice over the last four Budgets of consistently investing in new infrastructure, in science and innovation, in our schools, and in health care, and continuing to provide further reduction in business costs.

Todd McClay: What reports has he received on employment and wage growth in the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have received moderately positive reports last week through the quarterly employment survey and the household labour force survey. Unemployment fell to 6.2 percent in the March quarter, with 15,000 fewer people unemployed, at the same time as there was an increase in the labour market participation rate. The quarterly employment survey shows around 30,000 more jobs in the last year and 50,000 more jobs in the last 2 years. Weekly earnings increased by 2.5 percent in the year to March, with the largest increase in manufacturing, where apparently there is a crisis, but earnings went up 4.3 percent. This compares to an increase in the cost of living of less than 1 percent over the same period.

Todd McClay: How does growth in New Zealand compare to the outlook in Australia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is reasonably similar, despite the fact that Australia is benefiting from the highest terms of trade it has seen in many generations. Economic growth in Australia is forecast at around 3 percent over the next 4 years, which means that Australia is expected to do better than most of the developed world. This is encouraging because Australia is our largest trading partner, and we are expecting comparable growth in New Zealand. However, we are focused on what we need to do here in New Zealand, and tomorrow’s Budget will confirm that we are on track.

Hon David Parker: Is the reason he is no longer saying that he is “sticking to a plan that is working” that 200,000 people have left for Australia and only 8,000 jobs have been created of the 170,000 he promised at the last election?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, we are sticking to a plan that is working. In respect of jobs, there is no doubt that the 2012 job growth was weaker than we would have liked, and certainly weaker than

those who were looking for new jobs would have liked. However, the prospects for job growth have picked up in 2013, and I guess that is the point. We are better to stick to a plan that involves expanding our productive sector and our exports and our savings, and to not take up a plan to spend more, tax more, and throttle our export industries, which is the Labour-Greens’ plan.

Andrew Williams: Is it part of the Government’s growth strategy to achieve pay parity with Australia, given that the earnings gap with Australia has increased by $58.18 under this National Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, we still do. We still are aiming—and I would expect New Zealand Governments will, for the next decade—to close the earnings gap with Australia. It is telling that in last night’s Budget, Australia put some of its tax cuts off for several years, which means that the gap in real after-tax incomes is likely to be closing a bit more over the next couple of years because our policy remains on track.

Hon Dr Pita Sharples: Given that Māori are disproportionately affected across unemployment, how will the Budget reduce Māori unemployment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, because the growth prospects in the economy look pretty positive, and in the most recent employment figures Māori unemployment began to drop; and, secondly, because the Government has invested in this Budget $43 million over the next 4 years, which is a major expansion of Māori and Pasifika trade training of 3,000 places. I want to give due credit to the Minister for his strong advocacy for this policy.

Andrew Williams: Does the Minister concede that the only real growth under this Government has been the growth in the number of New Zealanders going to Australia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. Of course, as the member I think probably knows, the number of New Zealanders going to Australia is generally related to the difference in growth rates. So when we had a recession and Australia did not, more New Zealanders went to Australia. Now that the gap between our growth rates has closed right up, I think you would expect to see the outflow reduce reasonably substantially over the next 4 or 5 years.

Andrew Williams: What does he say to the 11 percent of 20 to 24-year-olds who, after 4 years under this Government, are still yet to see any of the jobs and growth promised by this Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would say to them that we can now look to the future with some optimism. Unfortunately, in their time since leaving school they have had to bear the burden of one of the worst recessions in a generation, but, compared to young people in almost any other developed country, their prospects are positive, and we are right behind them.

Todd McClay: What recent reports has he received about the Government’s economic programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Just overnight the IMF put out its country report on New Zealand. That report is very favourable—well, it is favourable; I would not say “very favourable”, but it is favourable—about the approach that the New Zealand Government has taken to the management of the economy, and particularly to the management of the Government’s books. In fact, it believes that the speed at which we have reduced our deficit and headed to surplus is about right and that the actions the Government has taken are reinforcing the growth prospects for the economy.

Andrew Williams: What does he say to the people of Northland, who have an unemployment rate of 10 percent overall, and in the case of young Māori—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Allow the member to ask his question.

Andrew Williams: Could I repeat the question?

Mr SPEAKER: The member can start his question again.

Andrew Williams: What does he say to the people of Northland, who have an unemployment rate of 10 percent; and in the case of young Māori—where it is two or three times that level—what does he say to them in terms of what jobs and growth they will get promised by this Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think we would say to them that they will benefit from Government policies that would do two things. One is building a highway north of Auckland up to the North. The second thing is that they should support the Government’s oil and gas programme in the North and not support political parties that are trying to stop the highway to the North and are trying to stop the oil and gas programme, because Labour, the Greens, and the Mana party are trying to destroy jobs in Northland; not create them.

Andrew Williams: So how can he give this series of answers, when under this Government the number of children living in benefit-dependent households has increased by 32,000?

Mr SPEAKER: Hon Bill English, in so far as he is responsible.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, there was an increase in benefit numbers when we had a recession. I might say that was in contrast to what was going on under the previous Government, when, even though the economy was booming, benefit numbers went up. [Interruption] The Government’s welfare reforms and housing reforms are focused strongly on reducing that dependency, and there will be more evidence of that in the Budget tomorrow.

Skycity, Convention Centre—Negotiation of Compensation

2. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Economic Development: On what date did the issue of compensation in the event of future reform of gambling law first arise in the negotiations over the SkyCity Convention Centre; and which party raised it?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Negotiations with Skycity began in June 2011 and they were undertaken on a commercial basis by ministry officials and advisers with the company. As the member may appreciate, the nature of negotiations is such that issues are often raised in an informal way around a negotiating table and are not necessarily recorded. As Minister for Economic Development I was not involved directly in those negotiations and am therefore not aware of every suggestion that was made or when it was made. However, in order to be of assistance to the member, I think it is fair to observe that, given that the company was being asked to build a very large convention centre and operate it for 35 years, the issue of what compensation would arise if Parliament subsequently altered the concessions would have come up fairly early on.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that there was a partial answer to this question, but this question was put on notice. It asked: “On what date?”. That was not answered. When I asked this question of the Prime Minister yesterday he expressly referred me to Minister Joyce as the person who would know the answer to that question. I expect an answer: on what date did the issue first arise?

Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty the member has with the question is—and I accept she asked for a specific date—that the Minister quite clearly in his answer said he was unable to provide a specific date, because the discussions occurred over a long period of time and they moved from informal-type discussions to more formal, and therefore there is no specific date recorded.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue is that the Minister has previously made public statements identifying that it was Skycity that raised this question, not the Government, and hence the Minister is already on the public record identifying the answer to at least one part of this question; presumably, he must have information about the other part of the question as well. It is not consistent for him to argue both sides of the coin.

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, but I do not accept the point the member is making. I was listening very carefully. The Minister was quite careful in explaining why he was unable to give the specific date that the member asked for. The member has further supplementary questions if she wishes to use them.

Metiria Turei: Given the Minister’s answer that the issue was raised some time ago, does he then agree that Nigel Morrison of Skycity was incorrect when he blamed the NZ Power

announcement 4 weeks ago for supposedly spooking him into seeking compensation, when, in fact, as the Minister has confirmed, compensation had already been on the table for some time?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I can confirm a couple of things for the member. Firstly, the general concept of compensation has been there for some time. If the member has had a look at the heads of agreement, she will note that one aspect of the compensation is in regard to the gambling levy while the convention centre is being built, which is over a different time frame—until up to 4 years after the convention centre is built. My understanding is that that particular element came up quite late in the process. I cannot give you the exact date, but nor would I necessarily be able to contradict Mr Morrison in that regard.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Has his department given up keeping file notes of important meetings and requests?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As far as I am aware, it has not given up keeping those notes—

Grant Robertson: Just on this.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it was asked to check and could not identify a specific date.

Metiria Turei: Given that the issue of compensation has been on the negotiating table for some time, does he not believe that the public have had the right to know that the price of this deal was 35 years’ worth of compensation if the public decided they wanted to change gambling law?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not quite sure what the problem is that the member has raised, because exactly—the point is that the discussions took place over a period of time. We did not discuss how those discussions were going, or I think certain members of the media might have committed us to a larger number of pokie machines than eventually was agreed, so we said we would talk about that at the end, and we have now presented the arrangements to the public. Parliament will get an opportunity to debate those arrangements and then we will make a decision as to whether or not to pass them.

Metiria Turei: Was the Minister deliberately keeping the compensation provision secret until this past Monday because he knows that there is likely to be serious public concern that the public’s right to make gambling law reform in the future will now come with a multimillion-dollar price tag for the next 35 years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is incorrect, and I think it is important that I point that out to her because she has made these statements a number of times in the media and she is wrong. The reality is that the compensation relates to the specific concessions that are identified in the agreement. They do not relate to harm minimisation and other aspects of gambling policies. For example—[Interruption] Do you want to hear about it or not? For example, the problem—

Grant Robertson: Rubbish! Cashless gambling machines?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, you will learn something, Grant. The problem gambling levy—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is absolutely inappropriate for the Minister to bring you into the debate and ask you whether you want to hear about it. [Interruption] And I ask you whether it is appropriate for the Minister who has just breached to breach again by interjecting during a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is quite right. Points of order should be heard in silence and no member of Parliament should bring the Speaker into the debate. But to be fair to the Minister, he was responding to a level of interjection from the Opposition benches. A further supplementary question?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like the opportunity to complete my answer—

Mr SPEAKER: Absolutely.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —because it is a very important point.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can continue with his answer.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I was saying to the member, it is important to note that the issue of compensation is in relation only to the specific concessions laid down in the agreement. In terms of

items such as further changes to harm minimisation, further changes, for example, to moneylaundering laws, and further changes to the problem gambling levy—all of those are able to be made for the entire 35-year period without any recourse by Skycity.

Metiria Turei: Under the heads of agreement, how much money would New Zealanders have to pay Skycity if they wanted to outlaw cashless gaming technology, such as ticket-in, ticket-out, which is currently illegal in New Zealand, because, for example, it increases money-laundering? How much would the taxpayer have to front up with if they wanted to outlaw cashless gaming under this deal?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, the member has listed one of the concessions that of course does apply for compensation. I would point out to the member, though—

Grant Robertson: Right, so why did you say it didn’t?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, that is exactly what I said at the front. I said that apart from these specific items raised, all other aspects can actually be changed. In terms of changing ticket-in, ticket-out—or cashless gaming, as the member puts it—which, of course, is available not only here in New Zealand now but also across all Australian states, the reality is that of course Parliament can choose to change that, and there would be an element of compensation, because that is part of the concessions granted to Skycity.

Hon Members: How much?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have the number in front of me, but it is part of the concessions granted. It is laid down in the KordaMentha report.

Metiria Turei: Can the Minister confirm, then, that as the Minister responsible for this deal he cannot tell the New Zealand public what their potential financial liability will be under the heads of agreement for any future changes in gambling law reform that affect the concessions provided to Skycity by him under this deal? He does not know how much it will cost.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I could but it would take up a fair bit of the House’s time because it is quite a KordaMentha report. If the member wants to make some specific requests—if she is unable to deduce from that report—and if she wants to put them down in writing I am more than happy to address them for her.

Metiria Turei: Why was the independent consultant KordaMentha not instructed to also consider the costs of the social impacts of increased gambling harm caused by the gambling law concessions in the deal, as it has specifically noted were excluded in its report?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Because that is Cabinet’s responsibility to make that assessment, relative to all other aspects. The specific requirement that we asked of KordaMentha was to assess the economic considerations to ensure that at the economic level, between Skycity and the Government the arrangements were fair to both parties. The social considerations are very much a matter for Cabinet to consider when weighing up the decision.

Metiria Turei: What has the advice to Cabinet been, then, as to the financial and social costs to New Zealand from the gambling law concessions that are part of this deal; and if he does not have this figure, how does he justify telling New Zealanders that this is a good deal if he cannot tell them how much it will cost both from the compensation and from the financial and social costs of increased gambling harm?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There is not an actual number, and the reason for that is that nobody has been able to define, for example, how any element of gaming necessarily increases the amount of problem-gambling harm in the community. That is the reality of it.

David Shearer: Like cigarettes 40 years ago.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, in actual fact it is a little bit different from cigarettes—for the somewhat challenged ones in the Opposition—because, actually, there are some people for whom any aspect of gaming actually causes a problem. They have access to a range in the community, and there is no evidence to suggest that adding or subtracting, for example, one individual pokie machine at a casino or anywhere else has any effect on its own on problem gambling.

Prime Minister—Statements

3. 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: Does he stand by his statement as to the question of whether the MMP review was dead in the water, when he answered: “As far as I’m concerned, yeah.”; if so, what does he say to the 1.27 million New Zealanders who voted to keep MMP on the law he passed requiring a review of MMP, and to the over 5,000 New Zealanders who submitted to that review?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, yes.

David Shearer: Is he aware that the last communication the Government sent to Labour on this issue said: “It hoped to progress a collaborative process for considering and responding to the commission’s recommendations.”; if so, how is unilaterally ending the process in any way collaborative?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, because that matter was handled by the Minister of Justice, but what I can say is that the very helpful chart that she has put out indicates that right across Parliament there are a range of different views; there is clearly no consensus. Just because Labour and the Greens think something is good does not mean it should be rammed through—although we do know that the way Labour handles electoral law is just to ram the Electoral Finance Act down its throat because it suited them—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is quite a sufficient answer. [Interruption] Order!

David Shearer: Has he received advice on which of the commission’s recommendations on MMP National opposes; if so, which recommendations are they?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot recall any particular advice; it may have been the case. What I can say is that National does not support—not that I have prime ministerial responsibility for this— a lowering of the threshold from 5 percent to 4 percent. The reason is that as soon as you went to 4 percent, the argument would be put up that it should be dropped to 3 percent. As soon as you do that, in my view, you get a very unstable democracy.

David Shearer: Did the Government have any discussion with John Banks or with any representatives of the ACT Party before deciding to kill off the review’s recommendations; if so, was it over a cup of tea?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I did not. If any other member of the Government did, you would have to direct the question to them.

David Shearer: Further to his comments on the casino deal, is acquisition of land owned by TVNZ part of the deal?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is a matter ultimately for the parties, which is clearly Skycity, as the member will know. In terms of what the status of that is and whether there is a willing buyer or a willing seller is a matter for the parties, not for me.

David Shearer: So is the Prime Minister saying that the land is for sale and Skycity will be purchasing it, or not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Minister advises me that, apparently, Television New Zealand is interested in engaging in discussions with Skycity, but I am not involved in that.

David Shearer: In that case, why then, as of yesterday, has TVNZ still not been approached about the sale of that land, which is essential for building the Skycity convention centre?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member would need to direct that question to Skycity. I am not the one holding negotiations.

Tertiary Institutions—2012 Financial Performance

4. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills

and Employment: How well has the tertiary sector performed financially in 2012?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Very well indeed. Indicative figures released today show that the publicly owned tertiary education institutions have collectively recorded record revenues and record levels of overall Government funding in 2012. Together their revenues totalled $4.56 billion, and they have had a sector-wide surplus, before unusual and non-recurring items, of $157.9 million, or 3.5 percent of their income. It is pleasing to note that while Government funding overall has increased by 13.4 percent since 2008, total income across the sector from all sources has also gone up, by 16.8 percent. It shows that our universities, our polytechnics, and wānanga have had another successful year financially, as well as educationally, despite the toughest economic times since the Great Depression.

Simon O’Connor: By how much has the Government funding of public tertiary institutions increased since 2008?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Overall Government funding of publicly owned tertiary education institutions has risen by 13.4 percent since 2008, reaching more than $2.2 billion in the 2012 year. University funding has increased by 16 percent over that 4-year period. Polytechnic funding has increased by 8.7 percent over the 4 years, and Government funding of wānanga has gone up by 10.7 percent over the same period. The Government has continued to improve the quality of its overall tertiary spending, including student support, so that it can keep growing its investment in quality tertiary institutions.

Simon O’Connor: How has the income of tertiary education institutions increased overall?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Total income across the public tertiary sector from all sources has risen by 16.8 percent since 2008. This has contributed to healthy financial surpluses across the sector, and these surpluses in turn have contributed to very healthy balance sheets at most institutions. The Government has worked hard to assist institutions to achieve better educational and financial results over the last 4 years. We have introduced performance-linked funding to provide a financial incentive to providers to increase their educational outcomes; we have changed the model for polytechnic governance to introduce smaller, more skills-focused and industry-focused councils; and we have made a number of highly skilled and experienced appointments to university councils.

Economy—Sustainable Growth

5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree that New Zealand is currently operating as a two-speed economy and that the current growth mix is not sustainable; if not, why not?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No. In some respects the Government, of course, does not get to pick the current growth mix. The Canterbury earthquake was not forecast. It will have an impact on New Zealand’s growth mix for the next 6 or 7 years. The other reason that I do not agree, though, is that in the December quarter, 15 of the 16 measured industries, including manufacturing, showed growth. We are not seeing that growth leading to general inflation or interest rate pressures as yet. Auckland and Christchurch property markets are showing significant price increases, and that is some concern, which is why the Government is taking steps to free up the supply of housing and reduce pressure on rising house prices. Overall, we are seeing reasonably broad-based and balanced growth—certainly more balanced and sustainable than it was in 2008, before the global financial crisis—but we have some way to go to get an economy that is more sustainably driven by export growth and strong savings and investment.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister agree with Westpac Chief Economist, Dominick Stephens, that “We also continue to see big regional disparities, reflecting New Zealand’s twospeed economy.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has itself just published some regional GDP figures, which are creating some debate. I do not agree with the economist that there are big regional disparities. But certainly those that have strength in industries such as oil and gas and the dairy

industry are doing well. They would be worried about Labour-Green policies, which are aimed at shutting down those industries.

Hon David Parker: Has he seen the International Monetary Fund’s forecast that New Zealand will have the worst current account deficit in the developed world this year and every year through to 2018, and, if the IMF is anywhere close to the mark, does not that prove absolutely he has failed in his stated ambition to rebalance the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. I do not agree with that. I have seen the IMF figures. Of course, the irony of this criticism from the Opposition, as pointed out in the Business and Economic Research report that Opposition members were waving around a few days ago, is that if the economy did adjust faster to exports and savings, it would be at the expense of household consumption and household incomes. So they cannot have it both ways, saying that the Government is not doing enough to ensure households have better incomes, and then turn round and say it has not rebalanced the economy fast enough by cutting household consumption and incomes.

Hon David Parker: Well, if he does not think having the worst current account deficit in the world is a problem, is he aware that the forecast in his last Budget—

Hon Steven Joyce: Oh, what! That was when you were in charge.

Hon David Parker: Actually, it was not, Mr Joyce. You need to check your facts.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member—

Hon David Parker: Is he aware that the forecast in the last Budget was that unemployment would presently be 5.7 percent, that his Budget 2 years ago predicted unemployment would now be 4.8 percent, and, given that unemployment is now above 6 percent nationally and 7 percent in Auckland, does he consider that to be successful management of the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, if it is a measure of it, the worst current account deficit under this Government, which is what it is today, is less than half what it was for the last 3 years that the Labour Government was in power.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister of Finance agree that a capital gains tax would reduce distortions in investment signals and drive investment from rental house price speculation into productive export industries?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The one proposition we have seen for a capital gains tax is the proposition put forward by the Labour Party, and, of course, what it does is exempt most housing stock, so it would have no impact. In fact it remains a tax—

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not my question. My question, and I am happy to repeat it—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think on this occasion the best way forward is for the member to repeat the question.

Hon David Parker: Does he agree that a capital gains tax would reduce distortions in investment signals and drive investment from rental house price speculation into productive export industries?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not. The proposition we have seen, which is Labour’s proposition, exempts most housing, not rental housing. It remains, in effect, a tax on the growth of businesses; that is actually what it is. It will not have much impact on the housing market, but it will certainly tax all gains from growing a business, reinvesting the profits, and employing people. In that context, it is an anti-jobs tax.

Accident Compensation—Benefits for Small Businesses

6. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What benefits does ACC provide small businesses that have a good workplace injury record?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): ACC has in place the workplace safety discount programme to recognise small to medium sized businesses that can demonstrate that they

have health and safety policies in place. This allows for a 10 percent discount for successful applicants.

Chris Auchinvole: Can all small businesses access ACC’s workplace safety discount programme?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: This programme originally targeted seven high-risk industries such as agriculture, construction, and forestry, for example. In 2012 Cabinet agreed to expand the workplace safety discount programme to include all industry groups, to encourage small businesses to increase their awareness of health and safety practices and their capability to implement safety management practices. A newly developed assessment tool was launched on 1 April 2013 to help them with this.

Chris Auchinvole: Does ACC have any other benefits for small businesses with good workplace records?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, ACC offers a no-claims discount programme, which was introduced with experience rating on 1 April 2011. Businesses that pay less than $10,000 a year in levies are eligible for this programme and qualify for a 10 percent levy discount if no weekly compensation or fatal claims have been lodged for their businesses in the previous 3 years.

Question No. 7 to Minister

ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. According to the forward schedule we were provided with for Parliament, question No. 7 was to be in the name of Brendan Horan. We would like to know why that is not the case.

Mr SPEAKER: There was no question lodged by Mr Horan.

BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to reply to that gratuitous and uncalled-for interjection. The fact is that the House is—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is not a point of order.

Child, Youth and Family—Notifications of Neglect Case

7. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: How many notifications did Child, Youth and Family Services receive regarding the four neglected children found dirty, malnourished, with head lice infestations and open scabies wounds, prior to their removal by Police in January this year?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): This is a complex case, and I have asked Child, Youth and Family for a report. Because of the family’s transience—living in a number of regions—I am unable to give detailed information and an actual number at this time. What I can say is there has been previous Child, Youth and Family involvement and notifications over many years, but Child, Youth and Family was unaware that they were at that residence until 4 January, when the police were involved. However, these matters are also still before the courts, and I cannot prejudice those proceedings in any way.

Jacinda Ardern: How is it possible that Child, Youth and Family received several notifications of neglect or abuse—in what has been described by police as one of the worst cases they had seen— against a parent who had existing convictions for leaving children unsupervised, and yet the children were removed only after the police visited the home?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: What I can say is that, unfortunately, in this country, we have literally thousands of substantiated cases like this. They are incredibly complex—

Hon Ruth Dyson: Like this? That’s nonsense.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, we do. We have got more than 22,000 substantiated cases of abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse in this country a year. That is the reality of it. We have more than 6,000 children who are removed each year. We will go back and look at the reports from Child, Youth and Family. It has had a lot of intervention for some time, and a lot of community

organisations have been involved as well, but, at the end of the day, I think the actions that have been taken are right.

Jacinda Ardern: Why did Child, Youth and Family provide no oversight of the children once they had been placed with a family member, resulting in the children simply being returned to their parents and to a continued state of neglect as early as 3 days later?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: In light of my still getting more information, I will give the member as much as I have at this time, but I am cognisant that it may change over the next couple of days while I am getting more. From what I understand, there were multiple children at the address on the night of 4 January, on the Friday night. At that point, the police removed the children. Child, Youth and Family was involved. It was the police and Child, Youth and Family that placed them in what they thought was a safe environment. Child, Youth and Family was then involved the next day. It was the understanding that the children were going to stay there, and they would then go through a process of where they were placed and what happens to them. When Child, Youth and Family went back on the Monday to do that, the children were gone. It then spent the next 3 days with the police looking for those children, and they were found on 10 January by the police at that address.

Jacinda Ardern: Why were there further delays before the children were removed a second time from the house when the police are reported to have found them in the parents’ home not once, but twice?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am not aware of there being delays a second time. So, as I pointed out—as I did—they were removed on that Friday night. Child, Youth and Family was there on the Saturday. It went back there on the Monday. At that point, the children were back with the parents. It was then actively looking for them, as were the police, and they were found 3 days later. So they were not placed back with the family at all, and they were removed at that time and taken to hospital. That is my understanding.

Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister guarantee to the House that this will be an isolated case when in answers to written questions she recently advised that of the more than 100,000 substantiated notifications her department has received in the last 5 years, approximately a quarter were the second, third, fourth, or even fifth substantiated notification of abuse or neglect of a child—or is she presiding over an under-resourced, under-staffed, and highly stressed department?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: What I can assure the member of is that we spend nearly half a billion dollars on Child, Youth and Family in a year. We have increased its funding under this Government by 15 percent over the last 4 years. We have increased the number of extra front-line workers, so we have an extra 96 of them, and an extra 149 social workers in schools. We have also introduced up to $50 million that will be going into gateway assessments. But let me put it this way to the member: in 2006 we had 1,089 unallocated cases; in 2012 there were only 95. Actually, the department is responding better than it ever has before, but, unfortunately, we have parents who are incredibly neglectful, and we get incredibly sad cases like this.

Hon Dr Pita Sharples: What progress has been made with regard to the Iwi Leaders Forum request to return their children home by Child, Youth and Family to their iwi whānau?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have been working on memoranda of understanding with iwi. We have signed our first one, and we are seeing developments there. What we are most interested in is whether we can have pre-assessments done so that we know that those children, if they do have to be removed, are staying within their iwi and are in a safe environment. We are taking it one step further than that and we are now looking at prevention. We also have whānau finders. We have started them, and that has certainly been at the behest of my Associate Minister Turia there, who is constantly trying to get us better connected with knowing where these children are and how they can stay within their iwi and still be in a safe environment.

Budget 2013—Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre

8. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Immigration: What announcements has he made on the future of the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): On Friday I announced that Budget 2013 will include funding to enable the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre to be rebuilt by the end of next year. For decades the Māngere centre has played a crucial role in helping tens of thousands of refugees from the world’s trouble spots adapt to a new life in New Zealand, but many of the ageing buildings are beyond repair. The decision to rebuild the centre demonstrates the Government’s strong commitment—

Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Why Māngere?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: —is that nimbyism over there—to preparing refugees for New Zealand life and their move into the community.

Jami-Lee Ross: Can the Minister tell the House how is the rebuild to occur and what will this mean for the centre?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The Government will contract with the private sector to construct new facilities, with the Government leasing the buildings back over the long term. The $5.5 million to be set aside is part of the cost to lease and maintain the new buildings over the next 4 years. This arrangement will result in a $15 million upgrade for the refugee centre, and will see the facility increase its capacity from 160 to 192 individuals, with the provision to accommodate up to 300 individuals in the event of a mass arrival.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister’s last answer mean that earlier proposals to use other centres such as the Waiōuru Military Camp and other equally grim places as ways of detaining mass arrivals now no longer applies because these people will be able to be processed through the Māngere centre?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: To the Waiōuru example, I can assure the member that that option is off the table, but the policy in the event of a mass arrival will be, as it is now, that people will be housed in centres that are commensurate with their risk and need. If that security level is higher, it may well be a high level of detention is required.

Health Services—Provision of Community Health Care

9. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: What progress, if any, has been made towards providing more health care in the community?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Very good progress has been made—for example, in relation to home support in the community. The Government expects to spend $251 million on home support for older people in the 2012-13 year—that is $30 million more than in 2008-09. Although most district health boards are delivering more hours and one or two are delivering less, overall in 2012 district health boards purchased over approximately 10 million hours of home support, which is 1.4 million more than in 2008. However, like so much in the work that we do there is always room for improvement for New Zealand patients.

Hon Annette King: Is Dr Paul Ockelford of the New Zealand Medical Association correct when he said this morning that if the Government wants doctors to provide more health care in the community rather than in hospitals, Government funding should follow?

Hon TONY RYALL: Mr Ockelford certainly presents a view that if additional services are to be purchased from doctors and general practices, then funding should follow. In many ways, that is why the Government has invested so much in the public health service over the last few years, and New Zealanders will see tomorrow that this Government remains very strongly committed to protecting and growing the New Zealand public health service.

Hon Annette King: Does he intend to inform New Zealanders that, in fact, moving health care into the community can actually mean moving the cost on to the community, which is happening now under his policy and impacting on older people in particular?

Hon TONY RYALL: The Government remains very committed to improving services in the community. I can tell that member that, for example, we have been increasing the funding that is made available to general practices. We have made funding available so that doctors and nurses have additional time to provide mental health services in the community. We are actually seeing quite a lot of additional services provided for New Zealanders across a whole range of areas.

Hon Annette King: Is he aware that the impact of moving health care from hospitals into the community without funding has meant that Mr David McFarlane, a 75-year-old pensioner from Kaiapoi, has to pay $200 to his general practitioner to have skin cancer removed—a procedure previously carried out without cost in the public hospital?

Hon TONY RYALL: In many parts of the country people may pay for some skin lesion services; in many parts of the country they may not. But certainly what we are doing is providing more services in our public hospitals. We are providing more operations than at any other time in the history of New Zealand. We have increased the funding, and more services are being provided, unlike the situation in the 2000s when the budget doubled and fewer people got operations.

Hon Annette King: Is it the Government’s intention that New Zealanders now pick up the cost of health care provided in the community that was provided free of charge in public hospitals?

Hon TONY RYALL: The vast majority of services provided in our public hospitals—in fact, virtually all of them—are provided free. This Government is very focused on making sure that the services that New Zealanders receive are improved. They will see in the Budget tomorrow continuing strong commitment—

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure you listened to the question. I did not ask whether they were provided free in the public hospital; I asked whether the community is now going to pick up the cost of health care that was provided free in the public hospital.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not the way the question was originally asked, but if the Minister—

Hon Annette King: Mr Speaker, I will repeat it if you would like, so you can see exactly how—

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is not necessary at all. Does the Minister now want to answer further? No.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a letter from Mr David McFarlane, with his approval, saying that he now has to pay $200—

Mr SPEAKER: 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.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a report from his doctor, saying that he needs to have these skin cancers removed because if they are not removed they will invade surrounding tissues.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! And, again, that is with the patient’s approval?

Hon Annette King: It is all with his approval.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the doctor’s report as well. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to also table two receipts from Mr McFarlane showing that he paid $200 to have skin cancer lesions removed.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to also table the receipts. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Brendan Horan: What would the—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! [Interruption] Would the member just proceed with his supplementary question.

Brendan Horan: What would the Minister say to the Bay of Plenty mother who approached me yesterday, concerned when told—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member has every right to ask his question. Would the member please ask his supplementary question. [Interruption]

Brendan Horan: How dull some of their comments are on that side, but never mind.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member just proceeds to ask his supplementary question, we will get to the further business of the House far more quickly.

Brendan Horan: What would the Minister say to the Bay of Plenty mother who approached me yesterday, concerned when told by her doctor that her 11-year-old son will have to wait 6 months to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist for treatment for a respiratory condition, which will likely require an operation, and whose condition may worsen, with risk of infection, whilst on the waiting list; what would the Minister say to that Bay of Plenty mother?

Hon TONY RYALL: I would say to that Bay of Plenty mother to make sure that the general practitioner refers her to Tauranga Hospital, because I could tell that mother that more services are being provided to children and adults in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board region than ever before, and the services are being provided faster than they were before. This Government has invested strongly in the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, unlike the previous Government, when the budget doubled and fewer people got operations. We are providing record numbers of specialist appointments and a record number of operations, and that mum should be very happy with the increased services we have provided.

Electoral System, Referendum—National Party Response

10. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Did she receive a response from the National Party following her request for party views on the Electoral Commission’s recommendations for changes to MMP; if so, what was that response?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Yes, this morning I have publicly released a summary of all party responses. As the member will now know, the National Party did not agree with key changes suggested by the Electoral Commission.

Holly Walker: Given the Minister’s own stated preference to adopt the recommendations as a package, and the fact that the Green Party had committed to vote for legislation doing that, is the only reason she could not get 61 votes that her own party blocked it?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It is wonderful that the member thinks she can read my mind, but I do not think I have ever stated that. I have said that if there should be change, then generally it is better to have all the changes together, unlike under the royal commission response in 1986 from the then Labour Government, when it did nothing for many years on it, and it was a National Government that had to bring it through.

Holly Walker: Is the real reason she will not introduce legislation that the National Government needs the hugely unpopular one-seat threshold in place to keep John Banks and Peter Dunne on side?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member does not realise that the member she has just referred to is actually an electorate MP. I know that that is not something that is known of in the Green Party, but, actually, it carries quite a sway in the electorate.

Holly Walker: In her view, is writing one letter to political parties 5 months after the MMP review report came out a genuine attempt to get cross-party agreement, or was that just window dressing, given that her Government never intended to do anything?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: To the first part of the question, yes.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: What did she mean when she said in her letter to David Shearer “… I hope to progress a collaborative process for considering and responding to the Commission’s

recommendations.”, when in fact she meant “Unless everyone agrees with the National Party, we won’t respond to anything.”?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is a highly political question, really. The member is trying to— [Interruption] And I think it deserves a response. Quite frankly, what it does not mean is that we will put forward only two proposals, which is what that member’s party decided to do, which just happened to suit it. And, no, it actually meant that if parties could come back with some form of consensus, then I would be happy to progress it. There is not consensus. It is not going anywhere.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave that the Electoral (Adjustment of Thresholds) Amendment Bill, in my name, be introduced and set down for first reading next sitting day.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is so sought. Is there any objection? There is.

Holly Walker: Does she stand by her statement on Radio New Zealand National this morning that she would prefer to see all the changes implemented together; if so, given that the Green and Labour parties have now both publicly committed to support such legislation, will she now introduce it to the House to implement the changes in time for the next election?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Again the member has taken a little bit of what I have said and not the rest of it. If I were supporting change, then, obviously, I would want to see—it is always best to have all of the changes brought forward together. But surely that member can count: Labour and the Greens is not 61.

Holly Walker: I seek leave to table a letter dated 25 March 2013 from the Minister to the Green Party co-leaders seeking feedback on the MMP review’s recommendations.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Holly Walker: I seek leave to table the Green Party’s response to that letter, stating that the Green Party would vote for legislation to implement the changes as a package.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the response. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

High-power Laser Pointers—Controls

11. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Associate Minister of Health: What announcements has she made regarding controls on high-power laser pointers?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister of Health): Today I announced that the Government will introduce new import, sale, and supply measures for the high-power laser pointers under health and customs legislation. The new regulations will control the importation of these dangerous devices, and restrict their use to authorised users who have a legitimate purpose, such as astronomers and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Dr Cam Calder: Why is the Government moving to control these devices?

Hon JO GOODHEW: Powerful hand-held laser pointers are currently cheap, easy to obtain, and can be sold or supplied with little information regarding hazards and safe use. They can cause eye injuries and skin burns, for which ACC accepts about 10 claims a year. They can also cause temporary flash blindness, which poses a serious risk if a person affected is a pilot or is in charge of a vehicle or equipment. The Civil Aviation Authority reports around 100 laser strike incidents on planes each year.

Dr Cam Calder: When will the new controls be introduced?

Hon JO GOODHEW: An order under the Customs and Excise Act 1996 and regulations under the Health Act 1956 to control these devices are being drafted. I expect the new controls will be in effect by the end of this year.


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