Questions and Answers – August 27

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 — 4:39 PM

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Economic Programme—Progress

1. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making in building a more competitive and productive economy and how is this helping New Zealand families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): We are making good progress on building a productive and competitive economy. Confidence among households and businesses is improving, exports and jobs are growing, and this is helping New Zealand families get ahead. Despite the impact of the drought earlier this year, the economy grew 2.4 percent in the 12 months to March, and almost all forecasts show New Zealand on track for 2 to 3 percent growth over the next few years. This helps all those who have jobs to be more confident that their jobs are secure. And for those who are looking for jobs, they can be more confident that there will be opportunities for them. This is good news for New Zealand families.

Jami-Lee Ross: According to the latest economic data, what are some of the benefits being delivered to families from the improving economic outlook?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: First, it is important to acknowledge that the circumstances of every single family are different, and, of course, the economy remains challenging for a number of families, but there are some helpful indicators. The annual increase in the cost of living is the lowest in 14 years. Floating home mortgage interest rates are the lowest in almost 50 years, although there is an expectation that they will start increasing over the next 12 months. There are around 46,000 more jobs in the economy than 6 months ago. On average, in the past 2 years wages have been rising faster than the cost of living. This, of course, gives families a bit more headroom to continue doing what they are doing, and that is get on top of their debt and realise some of their aspirations.

Jami-Lee Ross: What measures has the Government taken to support lower and middle income families during the past 4½ years, particularly through a fairer tax and income support system?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Despite the recession and the fact that the Government has had significant deficits, we have made supporting lower and middle income New Zealanders a priority. We have maintained large Government support programmes, such as Working for Families, paid parental leave, accommodation subsidies, and interest-free student loans. Over the past two Budgets we have invested more than $470 million to support more New Zealanders out of welfare. Households earning under $60,000 a year—which is half of all households—will pay around $2.7 billion of income tax, but they will receive more than $8.1 billion in income support, which means that households earning under $60,000 a year are large net recipients of income support.

Jami-Lee Ross: How is the New Zealand economy performing compared with other developed countries?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Recently, the Reserve Bank Governor noted that New Zealand would be one of the fastest-growing developed economies in the world, which I thought was probably a bit optimistic, so we went to check. New Zealand’s 2.4 percent growth in the year to March compares favourably with the US, which grew 1.8 percent, Canada 1.4 percent, Japan 0.2 percent, and the UK 0.6 percent. The euro area contracted by 1.1 percent. Australia grew 2.5 percent in the year to March. So, for many families, New Zealand is the best place in the developed world to be if they want job security and the opportunity for a higher income.

Prime Minister—Statements

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Dr Russel Norman.

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN: My question is to the Prime Minister and asks, does he stand by— [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am sorry, but the level of interjection coming from all corners of the House is too much. Would the member please start his question again.

2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements relating to Government policy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Dr Russel Norman: Should New Zealanders believe his statements that the asset sales would not cost more than 2 percent of the sale proceeds, or should they believe Treasury figures that show that the cost of selling Mighty River Power was twice that much?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Dr Russel Norman: Should New Zealanders believe his statement on Campbell Live that under his new law the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) would not have access to the content of New Zealanders’ communications, or should they believe his subsequent statements that the GCSB would be able to read their emails?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Dr Russel Norman: Should New Zealanders believe his statement that the Auditor-General’s investigation of the Skycity deal vindicated his Government, or should they believe the Auditor- General herself, who said that the process was neither transparent nor even-handed?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Dr Russel Norman: Should New Zealanders believe his statement that the Henry inquiry had Ministers’ permission to examine their email records, or should they believe Judith Collins’ statement at the Privileges Committee that the Henry inquiry did not have permission to read her emails?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Dr Russel Norman: Should New Zealanders believe his statement that he will not confirm whether the GCSB receives funding from the US Government, or should they believe this cable from the US Embassy showing that the National Security Agency has funded a position within the GCSB?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Dr Russel Norman: Given those answers, in all their fulsomeness, why does he think that the credibility of his statements has fallen to a point where according to the latest polls only 23 percent of New Zealanders believe that he tells the truth?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not.

Dr Russel Norman: Does it concern him that fewer than one in four New Zealanders believe that what their Prime Minister tells them is the truth?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is wrong in his assertion.

Dr Russel Norman: When the Prime Minister said it has been “fun” fighting red zone landowners in court over compensation after an earthquake, does he think it has been fun for them?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment—Management of Portfolio

3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Is he satisfied with the performance of his Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, and are there any areas of his performance that need to improve?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I say to contestant No. 1, yes—and I can see why the member is concerned about employment, because all he has been thinking about for the last 20 months is his own employment opportunities, which is why he stabbed his—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There were two parts to that question. The Prime Minister answered the first one but he did not answer the second.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion, if the Prime Minister could address the second part of the primary question—are there any areas that require improving.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure the Minister himself would say he is not perfection but he is pretty close.

Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, could the Prime Minister tell the House, according to the latest household labour force survey, how many New Zealanders are unemployed?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: On the numbers I have in front of me, 153,000 according to the household labour force survey. That is 65,000 fewer, because in the last 2 years employment has gone up. What we know is that labour markets are very fluid. Last week one person lost his job; now there are three people looking for it.

Grant Robertson: Is he satisfied that 153,000 New Zealanders are unemployed?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To be precise, it is 153,001, because one got sacked last week by the Labour caucus.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the Prime Minister now please address the question that was asked, which is whether he is satisfied with 153,000 unemployed.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but what I can say—

Grant Robertson: So what are you doing about it?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, the Government is doing a long list of things, and actually it would be very interesting if we could go through contestant Nos 1, 2, and 3 and see which ones support these. This is a Government—

Grant Robertson: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker. If he is deciding what to answer, I may as well ask another one.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House needs to settle down. The Prime Minister did answer it very directly and said no, he is not satisfied, but then the member himself interjected and said “So what are you doing about it?”, so he gave the Prime Minister a perfect chance to continue his answer.

Grant Robertson: Does the Prime Minister know where New Zealand ranks in terms of unemployment in the OECD, and if he does not know, does he think it is higher or lower than it was at the same time in 2008?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised it is 11th. I am also advised that this is a Government that is moving up the OECD rankings. This is a Government that has had 65,000 more people in work in the last couple of years. But what is absolutely fascinating about this question is that this is the member, contestant No. 1, who has had this responsibility for 21 months—

Mr SPEAKER: And the Prime Minister has no ministerial responsibility for that.

Grant Robertson: To enlighten the Prime Minister, I seek leave to table figures from the OECD that show that New Zealand ranked sixth in terms of unemployment in 2008 and 12th in 2013.

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

Grant Robertson: So is the Prime Minister telling New Zealanders that they should be satisfied that after 5 years of his Government, 153,000 New Zealanders are out of work?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, New Zealand relative to the rest of the world is doing pretty well. There have been 65,000 jobs created in the last couple of years. There has been a global financial crisis that we have had to go through. Our unemployment rate over time is tracking down while the rest of the world is tracking up. But on this side of the House we want to do things to create employment, so let us go through the three contestants and see—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no need for that in this answer.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table figures from the household labour force survey that show—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Such figures are freely available to all members. [Interruption] No, I do not intend to at this stage, but if I see those signs raised by any particular member again, then I will be asking that member to leave the Chamber for the balance of question time.

Student Achievement—Funding and Initiatives

4. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made about investment in education?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yesterday we announced a $27 million investment in education initiatives targeted to the children and young people who are falling behind. Thanks to the data-rich environment that our Government has championed, including national standards, we know more precisely what needs to be done, where and with whom—schools and parents. The initiatives include $5 million to Building on Success, which uses the most effective elements to help secondary school Māori school students; $1 million to boost Pasifika success in National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA); $3 million to support new entrants develop literacy and numeracy skills; $3 million to partner with 100 schools to increase NCEA level 2 achievement; and $1.75 million to support teen parents in mainstream schools.

Colin King: What does the Minister expect to achieve with this investment?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I expect better outcomes for more kids. I expect better support for the teachers in schools that make this happen, and I expect more parents, whānau, and aiga to participate in their children’s learning and to support their schools to be successful.

Tracey Martin: Kia ora, Mr Speaker. What data-rich—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: It is not the member’s fault at all. The microphone was not on when she started. Would she like to start again.

Tracey Martin: What data-rich reports, if any, has she seen that convinced her that to reallocate funds to the untested Building on Success programme was a better investment than the Te Kotahitanga programme, which has now been cut?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: We convened the designers of Te Kotahitanga, as well as He Kākano, as well as Starpath, as well as Gateway, because we are constantly focusing on how we improve. Te Kotahitanga was to have closed at the end of last year. It has helped nearly 49 schools over the 12 years it has been in place. It has been successful for some, but not for all. We want it to be successful for all. So working with its designers, we have taken the best elements and we are now looking at a targeted but differentiated approach, and we expect 100 schools to be involved in this programme each year.

Tracey Martin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I seek your clarification. Was the answer that no reports had been seen by the Minister?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order at all. If the member wants to further debate it, she has the opportunity—she does not today; she has another opportunity perhaps later in the week.

Regional Economies—Minister’s Statements

Hon SHANE JONES (Labour): Thank you—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon SHANE JONES: That is enough, Gerry. This is the humpty, not dumpty.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! It would be somewhat unusual if the Leader of the House was the one who was ejected from the House today.

5. Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement “The New Zealand economy is, of course, the sum of its regional economies and that is why the Government is placing huge emphasis on assisting each region”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I thank contender No. 2 for his question, and welcome him to the contest.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! My patience will run out very quickly with National members unless they simply answer the question that they have been asked.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, I do. In the 19 or so months I have spent as Minister for Economic Development I have travelled around and to nearly every region in New Zealand, many of them twice, three, or more times. Everywhere I go meet talented, hard-working business people, entrepreneurs, and their staff who are investing, competing in, and growing jobs to the benefit of families right across New Zealand.

Hon Shane Jones: How does further concentration of Government services out of the provinces and into main centres like Wellington actually help the regions?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, actually I disagree that that is occurring. In fact a member just to his left is probably complaining about not enough public servant jobs in Wellington.

Hon Shane Jones: Why does he think it is right to prefer the wealthy property-owning gentry in Auckland while so many in the regions and South Auckland are suffering?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate the member has some concerns, obviously, on that matter, and he probably thinks some suburbs like Herne Bay get a greater than their fair share of attention, but actually we are focused right across the country.

Hon Shane Jones: Was it his objective to cause decline and stagnation in the regions or was it just his incompetence?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Dear oh dear. The member obviously has not done his work. Many of the regions have been growing very strongly, for example, Taranaki, where the member, I think, made a fleeting visit not so long ago in favour of oil and gas. Of course he is not brave enough to say it anywhere else. Also, of course, Southland has done well, Canterbury has been doing very well, in fact the whole South Island has been doing well, and Waikato is doing well. So actually the regions are leading the recovery in New Zealand.

Andrew Williams: Does he believe that there are significant benefits for regional economies stemming from the mining, extraction, and petroleum industries, and that the benefits from these industries should be shared with the region in which that activity is based?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, firstly, of course I do see that, and along with any number of industries. Actually they are shared with those regions. If you take Taranaki, for example, it has the highest level of average income in New Zealand bar no region, and when you deduct its housing costs it is the most affluent region for New Zealanders because of its oil and gas, alongside its other industries. My view is that we should encourage these industries right across New Zealand so that we can see investment for growth and jobs—

Dr David Clark: Where are the jobs?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Be quiet, parrot.

Hon Shane Jones: What progress has the Minister’s five-member advisory group to assist in the implementation of the recently adopted Māori economic development strategy and action plan, He Kai Kei Aku Ringa—The Crown-Māori Economic Growth Partnership, made or is it simply another failed talkfest, like the Minister’s fabled regulatory impact analysis report?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, the member may be pleased to know that that panel has been meeting and advising Ministers and the agencies in terms of economic development. There is a lot of work going on in that area—

Hon Shane Jones: Too much hui, no doey.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, listen Shane, you might learn something because plainly you do not know anything, from the questions that you have asked today. So fundamentally the reality of it is that we are focused on a whole range of things: improving the productivity of Māori land, improving the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, working with aquaculture, working in the fishing industry with Māori, and of course in science, so right across the Māori economy. I should add education and skills as well. Again if the member would like to know something about it he could possibly drop me line and I will take him through it.

Andrew Williams: Does he agree that New Zealand First’s royalties for regions policy, which would see 25 percent of royalties collected by the Government from our mining extraction and petroleum industries staying in the regions where these industries are located, would be positive for regional economic development; if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Actually, what occurs is that, in fact, the whole range of Government investment goes into individual regions and, in fact, again Taranaki benefits from that but also so do all the other regions. If you look across Government expenditure in each individual region, actually everybody gets a pretty fair shake of it. I do not think that just a gimmick, where you would take 25 percent of the royalties and put it into a particular area, would make any difference. The main thing is to encourage the growth in jobs. Again, I would point to the member and encourage him, and say yep, I agree with him—get out and encourage those opportunities because it is quite obvious that the Labour Party and the Greens will not.

Andrew Williams: Is he aware that under New Zealand First’s 25 percent royalties for regions policy, $96 million of the $383 million of royalties collected in the year 2011 by the Government would have remained in the regions and would have helped regenerate regional New Zealand by both expanding job opportunities and supporting local infrastructure?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member obviously did not listen to the last answer, which was that we actually do invest in every region according to the sorts of things that they need in those regions. So if you take, for example, a region like Taranaki, which is one of the ones that the member talks about in terms of oil and gas, investing hugely—

Andrew Williams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry, the question was, was he aware that $96 million would have stayed—

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I am certainly aware of—[Interruption] Order! I am aware of the question and I am aware that the Minister is aware of the question. He was attempting to answer it. If the member does not want the answer any more, we will move on to the next question.

Fishing, Recreational—Economic Impact

6. BRENDAN HORAN (Independent) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What is the best estimate he or his Ministry have, if any, of the economic value of recreational fishing including direct and indirect employment?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): The value of recreational fishing in New Zealand’s top five recreational species—snapper, rock lobster, kingfish, kahawai, and blue cod—is $342 million. Of course, there are 638 fish stocks throughout New Zealand and it would be almost impossible to calculate the total value of these or the total jobs created by the recreational sector.

Brendan Horan: As he has withheld this information during the consultation period and admitted that he has not consulted with iwi, and he has no idea whom his officials have consulted, how does he expect the New Zealand public to have any faith that he will come to a fair, transparent, informed, and considered decision?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I am aware that my officials have consulted with iwi.

Brendan Horan: Does he agree with the statement that nearly a third of us have gone fishing or have gathered shellfish in the last 12 months, and that recreational fishers go fishing an average of nine times a year, as said by his predecessor, the Hon Phil Heatley, in a speech to the New Zealand Recreational Fishing Council?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I do agree that recreational fishing is hugely important to New Zealanders.

Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise. I have a point of order and it will be heard in silence.

Brendan Horan: My question was quite specific in asking whether he agreed that nearly a third of New Zealanders—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister very adequately addressed that question.

Ministers—Confidence

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): Mr Speaker—[Interruption] Give them a vote, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: It is not within my powers to give them a vote, Mr Cunliffe.

7. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, about as much confidence as he had in his portrait artist.

Hon David Cunliffe: Good start, Prime Minister. Why does he have confidence in his Minister for Primary Industries, who failed to consult either Cabinet or him before proposing snapper quota changes, and what will be the consequences for that Minister for breaching the Cabinet Manual?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Far be it from me to give advice, but the last leader of the Labour Party who spoke about snapper was holding them up, and he has gone as well, so—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just address the question.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Oh, OK, no problems—just offering some free consultancy services to the interested parties.

Mr SPEAKER: I am not interested in the free consultancy services, though I thank the Prime Minister. Would he now address the question.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Cabinet Manual, as Helen Clark once famously said, is a guide.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why does he have confidence in his Minister of Labour’s plans for unfair workplace laws, which even Treasury warns would lead to lower wages, when 44 percent of New Zealanders have not had a pay rise in the last year anyway?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Good question, given the unions have such a big vote. Nice—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now address the question.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Oh, this is just too much fun. I have forgotten the question—something to do with labour. We do promote safe workplaces, and that is why the Minister is actually guiding a new health and safety workplace bill through Parliament.

Hon David Cunliffe: To continue the comedy feel, why does the Prime Minister have confidence in his Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, when she said that the Henry inquiry was “chilling” and treated the privacy of Ministers in a contemptuous way, directly contradicting his statement that anyone who objected to the inquiry’s “basic” intrusion “wouldn’t make it as a Minister”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: She was clearly offering a view, and, as I said at the time, she is entitled to a view. But in the end I put out terms of reference. Every Minister was able to object to those if they wanted to. None of them did.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does he have confidence in any Minister who does not keep his word to the New Zealand public—for example, that he would not raise GST before taking office and then

raising it after, or describing Working for Families as “communism by stealth” and then retaining it?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, having an effective marginal tax rate of 100 percent actually is communism by stealth, and that is why this Government actually sold—

Hon Annette King: What have you done about it?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, actually, funnily enough—interestingly enough, I am glad you asked that question; it is the most sensible question I have had all day. What this Government did was lower the effective marginal tax rates. In fact, if you want to discourage people from being in the labour markets, the very biggest thing you can do is keep raising taxes and raising those effective rates. When you lose 100 percent of every extra dollar you earn, why on earth would people bother trying to earn more money?

Prime Minister—Statements

8. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Jan Logie: How can he stand by his statement that equal pay for aged-care workers is “one of those things we’d love to do if we had more cash”, when the Employment Court ruling in the case of Kristine Bartlett now means that the Government’s reliance on paying women poorly to subsidise aged care may no longer be a matter of just love but a matter of law?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not familiar with the particular case, if the member is talking about the one that is now before the courts. But what I can say is that I stand by the original statement. It is something we would like to do if we had more money.

Jan Logie: What preparations is the Government making to respond to equal pay claims based on the 1972 Equal Pay Act, following the Employment Court’s decision?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The matter is before the courts.

Jan Logie: Who does he think should bear the $140 million a year cost to settle these claims— some of the lowest-paid women workers in the country, as at present; the elderly; or the Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not possible for the earlier two to actually settle that particular case.

Crime Prevention—Drivers of Crime Programme

9. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Justice: What recent reports has she received on progress with the Drivers of Crime programme?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Last week the Minister of Māori Affairs and I released a report showing this Government is making real progress on addressing the underlying causes of crime. The Drivers of Crime programme was launched in December 2009 to coordinate efforts across agencies to address complex, longstanding problems, with an emphasis on reducing Māori offending and victimisation. The latest reports show that offending rates for Māori youth between 2008 and 2012 are down 32 percent. This is an outstanding result and shows this Government’s commitment to reducing crime and improving support for victims.

Scott Simpson: What are some of the key Drivers of Crime results?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: We have launched two alcohol and other drug treatment courts in the Auckland region, with a Government investment of $10 million. Preventable hospitalisations for Māori and Pasifika children under 5 from the most deprived areas are down 22 percent and 17 percent respectively. More Māori children from the poorest neighbourhoods are now attending early childhood education and significantly more Māori and Pasifika children are achieving at least National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, compared with 2005 rates. The Incredible Years and Triple P foster parenting programmes have both been expanded through health and education and additional funding provided for restorative justice services. These are all key initiatives that are producing positive results in the fight against crime.

Housing, Affordable—First-home Buyers

10. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Prime Minister that “first-home buyers are a priority for the Government”; if so, why are houses more unaffordable for young New Zealanders now than six months ago?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I agree with the Prime Minister’s statement. That is why the Government announced some changes to the KiwiSaver first-home deposit subsidy and Welcome Home Loans, to ensure that, within the restrictions imposed by the Reserve Bank, first-home buyers can get their foot in the door. Secondly, we are working hard to ensure that there will be more houses built more quickly so that pressure will come off the housing market and so that first-home buyers, like any other New Zealander who wants to buy a house, will be dealing with a more affordable market. We look forward to the Opposition supporting the Government’s legislation on that.

Hon David Parker: Why, after he said that restrictions on high loan-to-value lending would avoid interest rate rises, have two major banks, ANZ and BNZ, already increased fixed interest rates for most home buyers, while ASB has begun offering a lower discriminatory rate for borrowers with deposits larger than 20 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: You would need to ask the banks about their interest rate policies. The Government has simply repeated the argument that has been made by the Governor of the Reserve Bank that these restrictions may enable some delay until he raises interest rates.

Hon David Parker: Is he aware that ANZ is now saying “One outcome of [loan-to-value ratio changes] will be more rigorous application of low equity premiums”, or in other words, interest rate increases for first-home buyers with deposits under 20 percent; if so, who is correct, ANZ or the Minister in his earlier comments?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think there was anything unpredictable about the fact that banks are adopting policies that are more discriminating about which interest rates they charge to which customers. That was part of the consultation the Reserve Bank went through with its loan-to-value ratios, and we will get to see whether the loan-to-value ratio restrictions have some impact on the market or not. The Government, though, is focusing on its policy, which is to improve the flexible supply of housing, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch. In respect of Auckland there is an accord between the Government and the Auckland Council. There is legislation coming through the House, which I hope the Opposition will support. The Auckland Plan should become operative in the next few months, and that will provide the opportunity for a more significant expansion of the supply of houses in Auckland.

Hon David Parker: When he said that the steps his Government is taking are good for firsthome buyers, did he realise that those steps would lead to almost 80 percent of the first-home buyers with deposits under 20 percent now seeing their homeownership dreams being crushed?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I disagree with that. Again, the Opposition is aiming to undermine, if not remove, the independence of the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank has powers under the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act. It has exercised those powers in respect of the restrictions on high loan-to-value loans, which the Opposition used to be in favour of—in fact, it said that we were old-fashioned because it was not happening. Now it is. Of course, the Government is focusing on increasing the supply of homes to the market. We are still dealing with the legacy of having a booming housing market under the previous Government, when it did nothing about supply.

Hon David Parker: Why is his Government so determined to protect the advantages of property investors and speculators over everyday New Zealanders, who are being left unable to buy even one home?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I completely disagree with that statement. The Government has, over 2 or 3 years, brought together a range of policies that will increase the supply of houses to the market. That will, I am sure, upset the plans of speculators and investors who are relying on restricted supply and fast-rising prices, and over the next 6 to 12 months we will get to see what difference

that will make. But certainly an increase in the supply of housing will make a bigger difference than will the Reserve Bank restrictions on low-deposit loans.

Health Targets—Progress

11. CLAUDETTE HAUITI (National) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on the latest national health target results?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The latest quarterly results for 2012-13 show more good news across the three national preventative health targets. Record numbers of New Zealanders have been assessed for heart disease and diabetes in the last 5 years and have received advice on how they can make changes to their lifestyle. More people are getting help to quit smoking. In the last year around 411,000 smokers were offered free help and advice to quit, from hospital and general practice nurses or doctors—an internationally recognised health prevention measure—and more parents are immunising their babies. Ninety percent of 8-month-olds are now fully vaccinated, which is protecting them from childhood diseases like whooping cough and measles.

Claudette Hauiti: What other progress with national health targets can the Minister report?

Hon TONY RYALL: We are making really good progress with elective surgery, which relieves pain and restores lifestyle to people, with more than 158,000 discharges provided against the target of 148,000. All patients who were ready for treatment received their radiotherapy and chemo within 4 weeks of the decision to treat. As the member knows, national health targets are a balance of improving access and better prevention, and we are seeing more high-priority front-line services being delivered as a result of an increase of an average of $500 million a year going into health over the last 5 financial years.

Prime Minister—Statements

Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills): My question is to the Prime Minister and asks: does he stand by all his statements? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am going to ask the Hon Ruth Dyson to repeat that question.

12. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and apologies. When you are rudderless over there, question time finishes so early.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Does he stand by his statement to Cantabrians who think the Government’s offer of 50 percent of rateable value for red zone commercial property and bare land is unfair that “One option is the Government says ‘thanks very much. It’s been a lot of fun. If you don’t want to take the offer, that’s where it’s at’.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: An option is that the Government says it has put its best offer on the table, yes, but the matter is before the courts on appeal.

Hon Ruth Dyson: How is it fun or fair that red zone property owners with a partly constructed home are being offered the 100 percent rateable value Government offer while those who have not begun their construction are being offered 50 percent, yet neither have land insurance; how is that fun or fair?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The question is whether it is fair, and the Government’s view is that these are properties that do not have insurance.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Does he stand by his statement that the red zone offer, an offer described by Justice Panckhurst in the Christchurch High Court yesterday as being “not made according to law”, is generous and fair; if so, how can he explain that losing half the value of your land is generous and fair?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Under the circumstances and considering precedent, yes, those are properties that do not have insurance, and for some of those people it will be above what they have paid for it.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Did he rethink any of his statements when the Valuer-General stated publicly that there had been no formal analysis of the value of bare land in Canterbury, contradicting the written word of Minister Gerry Brownlee, who said in the Cabinet paper on this issue that the Valuer-General had said that the land was worth only 10 percent of the rateable value?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised that that position was offered by officials. But what I can say is that in the end, yes, everyone accepts that this is a very challenging and difficult set of circumstances, but there is a situation where these properties are uninsured. There are many New Zealanders who lose 100 percent of everything they have through no fault of their own because they do not have insurance. That is why the Government is taking the extraordinary step of offering them 50 percent.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Has the Government lodged an appeal against the decision of Justice Graham Panckhurst announced yesterday?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not yet, but the Government is intending to do so.

Chris Hipkins: Does he stand by all of his statements in relation to the Henry inquiry; if so, can he confirm that neither he nor anyone in his office indicated that the head of the Parliamentary Service, Geoff Thorn, should consider resigning?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I stand by my statements, and the matter is before the Privileges Committee.

ENDS

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