QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on Government policy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, in the context they were made in.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by his reported statement on asset sales that “the sales process could be delayed if market conditions were unsuitable.”; if so, what would constitute unsuitable conditions to pursue the sale of Genesis Energy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes; any vendor always reserves the right to not take an asset to market. One would assume that the conditions would be ones that would see a poor price received by the Crown.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with Brian Gaynor of Milford Asset Management that there is not a “hope in hell” of the Genesis sale going ahead and that “Unless things change dramatically for Mighty River Power and Meridian it won’t happen.”? And if he does not agree, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not agree with Brian Gaynor, but I do agree with David Hay, who thinks there is not a hope in hell of him getting a fair trial from the Greens.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be appreciated if you could prevent the Prime Minister from including extraneous material—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I certainly do my best to assist members asking supplementary questions. In that particular case, the member asked two questions within the one supplementary question. The Prime Minister very adequately addressed the first one.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the statement by William Curtayne of Milford Asset Management on the odds of the Genesis sale going ahead, when he said: “It depends on the Government’s desperation to get rid of it. There is always a price for an asset. If they want to take a big haircut they will likely be able to sell it,”? And if he does not agree, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. What I can tell the member is that the Government has received around about $4 billion so far for the assets it has brought to the market. We know that the member does not like the mixed-ownership programme. We know that he wants New Zealanders to have democracy and to vote on that, but when it comes to democracy in the Green Party, he is trying to stamp it out.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the last question time we had, in relation to Mr Joyce you made a ruling about the continuous inclusion in answers by Ministers of material that was not relevant to the question—that is under Standing Order 383/2—and you noted yourself that that would lead to disorder in the House. We have now had two answers from the Prime Minister today that have done that. There will be disorder and I ask you to bring him into line.
Mr SPEAKER: When I made a ruling on the Thursday of the last sitting week, it was with regard to a Minister immediately starting an answer with an attack on the person who was asking the question. I referred to Speaker’s ruling 176/3 and pointed out that that, in itself, leads to disorder. In this particular case, the question was asked, it had political connotations, and I think the Prime Minister addressed it, and equally with a political flick back. That is part of this political exchange.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the recent Dominion Post editorial that said: “The Government’s asset sales programme has been an unmitigated disaster—so disastrous it borders on economic vandalism. Valuable assets built up over generations have been hocked off at firesale prices to a handful of investors because Mr Key’s Government could not bear to admit now was not the right time to sell.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, what I do believe is that the Government has brought to market companies that have generated $4 billion, approximately, in assets. We will see those companies operating better, and we will have a better oversight when it comes to those companies. If the member does not like it, he should rise to the challenge I issued to him last week and buy it back. He would have to borrow the money. Or in the case of that member, he would print the money. If he wants to get—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! That answer now is quite sufficiently long.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the editorial in the Marlborough Express that “[No] voter should disregard those referendum papers when they arrive in the mail … Even if assets-sales opponents can’t make themselves heeded, they can make themselves heard … This being the case—whatever you think—it is far, far better to speak up.” and to have your voice?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I seriously made the point before, the member wants to parade around the country using taxpayers’ money to make New Zealanders go and vote on something that was the major campaign plank of this Government and its election result with a record number in 2011. The member has just gone out today and in a press release called me a Muldoonist, and he is running around snuffing out any chance at a tilt at leadership. Well, that is Muldoonist, if you ask me.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is four questions and four replies, and they all repeat the first, second, and third mistake in the end—the Prime Minister abusing a questioner who is legitimately going about their business. When are you going to throw him out?
Mr SPEAKER: When I determine that it is necessary to do so. [Interruption] Order! Otherwise, there may be some people leaving the Chamber early. That was a question that, again, had a political loading, and if members ask questions with political loading, they are likely to get an answer back with some political overtones.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the growing consensus from the business world, from the media, and from the public that asset sales have failed, are an economic disaster, and should be stopped, will he cancel his plans to sell Genesis Energy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I just do not agree with the proposition of the member. We know he does not like the programme and we know he wants to go and print money or borrow more money—that is the way the Green Party’s economic policy works. But normal New Zealanders do not want more debt on the balance sheet; they want better-performing assets and they want a stock market that has more variety. This is a member who wants New Zealanders to invest their KiwiSaver accounts in Australian electricity companies but is not prepared to have them invested in New Zealand ones.
2. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on business confidence and the outlook for investment and jobs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): ANZ last week released its ANZ Business Outlook for November. The report shows a net 61 percent of businesses are optimistic about the
year ahead, which is just below a 15-year high. The retail sector is the most optimistic, recording the largest lift in confidence in November, to a 19-year high. A net 39 percent of agricultural firms expect increased activity, which is also a 19-year high, suggesting a broad-based improvement in business confidence. A net 47 percent of firms expect increased activity in their own businesses, and that is around a 14-year high. Investment intentions and hiring intentions are at the highest in 10 years. ANZ noted that this result suggests positive growth prospects for jobs and the economy because businesses have the confidence to invest more money and employ more people.
John Hayes: What other reports has he received on New Zealand’s improving economic outlook and how are interest rates expected to respond to higher growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research recently released its quarterly predictions. It forecast a continuing recovery with growth of 3 percent next year, in line with forecasts from the Reserve Bank and Treasury. It forecast that economic growth is likely to deliver more investment, more jobs, and more wage increases. Firms are advertising and hiring more, and hours worked in the economy have now recovered back to pre-recession levels. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research expects interest rates to rise in 2014 as higher growth starts to hit capacity constraints in the economy. This has been clearly signalled by the Reserve Bank for some time and businesses are generally anticipating some interest rate increases.
John Hayes: How are business confidence and hiring intentions translating into more jobs and higher economic growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is an ongoing improvement in the outlook for jobs. In the year to September employment increased by 53,700 new jobs, and wages grew faster than expected and were ahead of inflation. Unemployment fell to 6.2 percent in September but it is still too high. New Zealand’s annual economic growth is currently 2.5 percent but as it picks up and companies follow through on their intentions to hire more people, we would expect to see the creation of yet more jobs. Overall, this picture is reasonably encouraging but there is plenty more work to do.
John Hayes: What steps is the Government taking to build on this improved business and consumer confidence to help deliver investment, jobs, and growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is continuing a broad programme of microeconomic reform designed to support businesses to make the decision to invest another dollar and employ another person. That programme has set out over 300 initiatives in the Business Growth Agenda. This is contributing to business confidence but the credit for recovery belongs to people in New Zealand’s workplaces, who have been resilient and productive through difficult times. They will be looking forward to the prospects of more workers alongside them in the workplace, higher wage increases, and some dividends from economic growth.
Hon David Parker: Does the same New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report for December, from which he just quoted, say that “Auckland house prices have surged to unprecedented levels, relative to history and international experience …”, that the average house price in Auckland now costs 10 times the average household income compared with the historic norm of three to four times, and that “There is more borrowing and the risk from a potential fall in house prices is high.”; if it does say that, does this imbalance in the economy, together with declining rates in homeownership, not show that National’s housing policy is in disarray?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, it does not show that. Auckland housing is too expensive. That is why the Government started 3 years ago on a programme that has led to the announcement just a few weeks ago of several thousand opportunities for new development and several thousand more will be announced before Christmas. I look forward to the Opposition supporting the Government’s housing accords, its Resource Management Act reforms, and its attempts to free up the supply of new housing to make housing more affordable for New Zealanders.
Immigration Policy—Minister’s Statements
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by his statement “I want to make it clear that jobs for New Zealanders will always be the number one priority”; if so, why?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Associate Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of
Immigration: Yes, because it is true.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the answer is: “Yes, because it is true.”, was he making New Zealand students the No. 1 priority when the Government changed the rules so that foreign students could work in New Zealand whilst they studied in New Zealand; if so, how?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: The reason we made those changes is that there is actually clear evidence that international students contribute significantly to the economy. I would be happy to get the member specific figures around the contribution that they make, but he may be aware that there was a recent report that showed that significant contribution.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he believe it will be harder or easier for New Zealand students to get New Zealand jobs over the holidays when they now have to compete with foreign students applying for the very same jobs in the New Zealand economy?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: I think you have to take a number of things into account when you answer that question. The first thing I would say, which is repeating what I said before, is that there is a significant economic contribution made by those people, so there are jobs that are sometimes created by some of those people coming into the labour market. The second thing I would say is that there is a range of other contributions that international migrants make. If you actually look at the international migrant investor category, for instance, which I think is contributing about—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very exact—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard the question. What is the point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, I am about to make it—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —if you will give me slight chance to do that.
Mr SPEAKER: I will give the member every chance to—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Standing Orders require the Minister to be to the point and to answer the question. My question was, is it harder or easier—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough. [Interruption] Order! The member asked a question. The Minister was addressing that question quite adequately. The member cannot demand an answer in terms of whether it would be harder or easier. The member has other supplementary questions. If he wants a more incisive answer to his questions, then he had better design a more incisive question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I can do it better than you can. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Supplementary question, Brendan Horan. [Interruption] Order! I have called Brendan Horan for a supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: No, it is a point of order, so it will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek a clarification of your ruling there. If you would like it to be more incisive, how would you be more incisive than to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] The member will resume his seat. He is now challenging a decision I made about the adequacy of the answer, and to use a point of order to do that will lead to disorder.
Brendan Horan: How can the Minister be serious about making jobs for New Zealanders the No. 1 priority when last year his department issued over 145,000 temporary work visas for heartland Kiwi jobs, including nearly 2,000 dairy farm workers and even 507 truck drivers?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: I cannot confirm the figures that he mentions, but what I can tell him is that over the last 5 years there has been a drop of about 20,000 in the number of work visas issued.
So under our Government I think we are having that balance of investing in New Zealanders and ensuring that they are at the front of the queue while seeing a significant drop in terms of those work visas.
Brendan Horan: I seek leave to table a Official Information Act response to over 145,000 temporary work visas having been issued in the past year, including—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table this Official Information Act response. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is. Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters— sorry, the right honourable Prime Minister, John Key.
Rt Hon John Key: To the Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that now I do deserve an apology.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will not be here for much longer to receive any apologies at all; I can assure him of that.
Rt Hon John Key: Could the Minister tell the House whether it will be easier for a student to get a job over summer if they are working for a company that could be exporting to China—to which there is now $8 billion worth of exports taking place—if they go to a company that might have a 90-day probationary period, if they are part of the businesses enjoying interest rates at a 50-year low—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The question is now certainly long enough. Will the Minister please address it.
Hon NIKKI KAYE: That is an excellent question.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Most of that material was not even close to being within the responsibility of the Minister of Immigration.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I ask the member to look at the primary question. The question then asked about whether it is easier to get jobs etc. That refers back to—
Grant Robertson: And there was a whole lot of material that was nothing to do with it.
Mr SPEAKER: There was quite a lot of material in it, and when I realised the extent of the material that the Prime Minister was trying to outlay, I brought him to heel. [Interruption] Order! This close to Christmas I would be reluctant to be asking members to leave the House, but if this disorder continues I will not hesitate to do so. Would the Minister please complete the answer.
Hon NIKKI KAYE: As I said before, that is an excellent question. I can confirm that what the Prime Minister mentioned is only half of the initiatives that we have done under our Government to ensure that young people have access to a job. Yes, under our Government more of them will be able to get jobs because of the excellent economic policies that we have implemented.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the reason for export education is to attract more foreign students who will pay for their New Zealand education with foreign money from their foreign economy in order to benefit our export education economy, how does export education work if the foreign student is unable to pay for their education here without first working in our economy?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: With regard to the first part of the question, I would say to him that my understanding is that the changes we recently made around student workers’ rights will contribute $2.6 billion to the international education sector.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: This is not an answer at all, for goodness’ sake!
Hon NIKKI KAYE: Yes it is, because it actually translates to 28,000 jobs. So the point, Mr Peters, is that it is not just about the visas that are issued. It is about the jobs that are created by the international education sector, and our estimate is that that is 28,000 more jobs for young New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How on earth can an export education policy work, or make any sense at all, when New Zealand students are already struggling to find jobs in this country and when
Australia has just shut down the option of work for the same students whom he is allowing to work in our country?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: We set our immigration policies for what is best for New Zealand. As I said before, the way that it works is the international education sector contributes a significant amount in terms of new jobs, and 28,000 is what we anticipate as a result of the changes that we have announced. For instance, in the electorate of Auckland Central, I can tell you that there are a number of education institutions that are creating real jobs for students over the summer because of those young people coming to study here.
Health and Safety, Workplace—Corporate Responsibility and Legislative Reform
4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that corporate manslaughter legislation was “off the table”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): In a word, no. I did not use the phrase “off the table”. What I actually said was I had some discussion with the Attorney-General about it, and the last discussion I had certainly did not indicate that that was where we were likely to go.
Hon David Cunliffe: Is the Prime Minister now hedging on this matter because his justice Minister, Judith Collins, has said she is still awaiting advice and investigation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. What is true is that Ministry of Justice officials have been looking at the issue of corporate manslaughter, but the Minister of Justice advises me that there have been very few successful prosecutions. What I am also aware of is that the changes that we are actually making in relation to workplace safety legislation mean that they will include harsher penalties and specific duties on directives relating to health and safety, including prison in some extreme cases. So it is unlikely that corporate manslaughter will be necessary.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that three-quarters of New Zealanders polled favour the criminalisation of corporate manslaughter, is his reluctance to move forward not based on one set of rules for his corporate mates and another for people who get killed in mining and forestry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member is—[Interruption]
Tracey Martin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence to the word “tosser” being used inside Parliament by the Hon Tau Henare. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not hear the interjection, but if the member has taken offence at the interjection, I ask Tau Henare whether he interjected with that word; if so, could he withdraw and apologise.
Hon Tau Henare: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you. I think, to be fair to the member, we will have the question again.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that three-quarters of New Zealanders polled want to see corporate manslaughter criminalised, is this not just another example of the Prime Minister looking after his big business mates while ordinary Kiwis get killed and maimed in mines and in forests?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not think that the member actually listened to my answer. The reason why the Government does not believe it is necessary is that it is already making those changes in the proposed legislation.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with Hancock Forest Management, which says that our forestry safety system is broken?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not necessarily agree with that statement. What I do agree with is that this is an industry that needs significant change. I will say that the tragedies that have taken place in the forestry sector are running at a rate roughly very similar to when the member was a Minister under the Clark Government. What is certainly true is that there is a need for change and this Government is embracing that change, including putting $30 million into the new WorkSafe New Zealand, including undertaking an audit of all of the forestry firms that are out there at the moment, and including writing to the forestry owners and lifting overall performance. Everyone agrees that nine deaths are nine too many, but this has been a long-standing problem in the forestry industry.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that on his watch there have been 90 serious injuries and 30 deaths in the forestry industry, which is much more than under Labour, why does he then think that “writing to forest owners” is in any way sufficient?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would have to check the member’s facts, because we know that often it is not the case, but—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I can say is that the Government recognises that there is a need to improve health and safety. These are changes to a sector that has been operating for a very long time under existing rules. This Government is doing something about it. Quite sadly, the member was part of a Government that did nothing about it.
Hon David Cunliffe: How exactly does the Prime Minister plan to make the forestry industry safer when he has ruled out an inquiry and now corporate manslaughter charges, or is it just that fact that Mr Bridges says “Yeah”, he says “Nah”, and Mrs Collins says “Maybe”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That sounds more like a David Cunliffe speech, actually. But anyway, stepping back to one side, the member needs to go and look at what the Government is actually doing. This is a serious area and the Government had a serious response, which included an independent task force. I might say that if you look at what the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety came out with, it made it clear that it did not think corporate manslaughter should be progressed. What the Government is progressing is much tougher rules in the new workplace safety legislation that will be introduced next year, which will include duties and specific responsibilities on directors that can include a term of imprisonment. We are also putting a huge amount of money into WorkSafe New Zealand. We are out there working with every business in the forestry sector, we have got a non-compliance audit going on, and we are writing to forest owners. If the member thinks that we are not doing enough, I think he is barking up the wrong tree.
Hon David Cunliffe: If the Prime Minister is so enamoured of an independent task force for forestry, why will he not enact the recommendations of the royal commission on Pike River, which required the families to be compensated, while he washed his hands, including of the corporate obligations?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I do not believe that to be correct. Secondly, if one looks at the Pike River situation and the tragedy that was Pike River, the Government has done a number of things. Firstly, it has honoured, and will continue to honour, all of the ACC obligations to those families, with the current estimate likely to be about $20 million. Secondly, the Government is also aware of, and has tried to play a part in, where it can, the individual trust funds that have been established, which total about $8 million for those families. Thirdly, I have had extensive conversations with those families, and the one moral issue they have actually raised with me is entry into the mine. The Government has no legal responsibility to fund the re-entry into the mine, yet we have set aside between $7 million and $10 million to do that and will continue to potentially do more, if required. It is a great tragedy, but it is also a great tragedy that that member is playing politics with it.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wish to say I take offence at being accused of playing politics with a matter of life and death on the Pike River miners’ deaths, and if—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a debating chamber. People will throw political barbs from one side to the other. To say that a member is playing politics—
Hon Annette King: He’s allowed to take offence.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry?
Hon Annette King: He’s allowed to take offence.
Mr SPEAKER: I just do not think that politicians can take offence at that, to be honest. This is a political debating chamber. If politicians were not using political tactics, I fail to see why they would be here.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave for the Crimes (Corporate Manslaughter) Amendment Bill in the name of Andrew Little to be set down for first reading as members’ order of the day No. 1.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that particular course of action. Is there any objection? There is.
5. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What recent announcements has she made in respect of changes to ACC levies?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): Yesterday I announced $387 million—
Hon Tony Ryall: How much?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: —$387 million—worth of ACC levy reductions. The new rates will be in place for the levy year starting on 1 April 2014. The Government is also on track for further levy cuts in the following levy year. The work levy paid by businesses will decrease by 17 percent. The earners levy paid by employees will decrease by 15 percent. This means that the average New Zealand household can expect to keep just over $200 more each year. Small businesses will be around $180 better off annually, and larger employers will receive, on average, a $6,000 reduction.
Chris Auchinvole: What other statements has she seen in respect of alternative levy cuts?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have seen the media release from the Labour Party spokesperson on ACC where he advocates for levy cuts that would give a miserly—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I cannot see that this is a responsibility of the Minister.
Hawke’s Bay Water Management—Minister’s Involvement
6. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by his statement “No, I did not” when asked in this House whether he gave any indication to the Department of Conservation on the direction or content of its submission on the Tukituki Catchment Proposal?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Yes, and I am sorry to bore the House by again repeating the statement by the Deputy Director-General of Conservation, Doris Johnston, who said: “The Minister did not play any role in my decision making. He gave no direction. He never told me his view.”
Eugenie Sage: How does the Minister reconcile the statement that he did not provide any indication with the fact that a Department of Conservation staff member sent an internal email stating that staff could not provide much comment at a forthcoming meeting on the Ruataniwha scheme because “We will still be waiting for guidance from our Minister.”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The record is quite clear that I did seek a copy of the department’s submission before it was made to the board of inquiry. It is also very clear, if you look at the hundreds of pages that have been released to the Green Party and others, that on the Friday prior to my meeting the recommendation from the department was a neutral submission—i.e., before the department even met with me there was a departmental senior official recommending a neutral submission.
Eugenie Sage: I seek leave to table an email from a Department of Conservation staff member to Doris Johnston, which says that Department of Conservation staff were waiting—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table this particular email. Is there any objection— [Interruption] Order! I am putting the leave to the House, and members can decide whether they want it tabled or not. Leave is sought to table that email. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Eugenie Sage: Does he still stand by his statement that he did not provide guidance, when that is what Department of Conservation staff said they were waiting for, and 2 days after he met with
senior management the department’s substantive submission, which it had spent over 3 months preparing, was suppressed?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member is being very selective in the documents that she is quoting. On the Friday prior to the meeting with my department, when Department of Conservation officials met with the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and met with the regional council—after that meeting, departmental officials decided they would lodge a neutral submission. The only direction I gave to the department was that I wanted to see a copy of the final submission before it was lodged, and that was received by me, and that was the submission that was lodged.
Eugenie Sage: Is not the Minister trying to cover up the fact that he influenced his department not to submit on the largest irrigation dam scheme in New Zealand, despite the impact that the scheme would have on water quality and native fish in the Tukituki catchment?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I do not think the words of Doris Johnston can be clearer. She said she made the decision. She said she did not know what my view was. She said that I gave no direction. The only way the member’s claims can be correct is for a senior public servant, appointed by the previous Government, to be not telling the truth.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How can he say that he exercised no influence over the Department of Conservation’s decision to withdraw its substantial submission querying the model allowing nitrates to allow the Tukituki River to be toxic and cause ecosystem collapse, when an email from his office at 8.46 a.m. on Tuesday, 30 July says: “The Minister would like to see the DOC submission together with a short note justifying it, prior to the submission being lodged.”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: A Minister asking the department to provide him with a copy of a submission before a board of inquiry, and an explanation of why, is absolutely proper. I would love to show the member the hundreds of pages of submissions that were approved by previous Ministers under the Labour Government on equivalent boards of inquiry.
Question No. 4 to Minister
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I seek leave to table advice from the Ministry of Labour that indicates there were more deaths in forestry under the previous Labour Government—that there were seven more—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Point of Order—Figures Presented by Members
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether I could ask you to reflect on the fact that sometimes on this side of the House we have been making the point that we cannot rely on the numbers that are presented by Opposition members.
Grant Robertson: How’s this a point of order?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a point of order, actually, thanks very much, sunshine. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is raised as a point of order. The Prime Minister has asked me to reflect on something. I have given him the chance to make a statement. Please allow him to do so.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I wonder whether I could ask you to go away and reflect on that, because members on this side of the House have from time to time, on recent occasions, been pulled up because they have challenged the validity of the numbers that are raised. This is, I think, the second or third question time in recent times that the Leader of the Opposition has actually deliberately or otherwise misled the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I get the point the Prime Minister is making. I will reflect on it. I think it is substantially the point I have been making throughout this question time. It is a political debating
chamber and people are going to level figures that can, at all times, be disputed. But I will reflect on the matter, for the Prime Minister.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In reflecting upon that matter, as requested by the Prime Minister, and given the Prime Minister’s statement that in the 9 years of the Labour Government, according to his information, which may differ from ours, there were seven more deaths than he has admitted occurred under his Government in 5 years, would you turn your mind to the veracity of the point that the rate of deaths under the current Government is much higher than under the previous one.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will certainly consider both the points that have been raised, but whether I get to the stage of turning my mind to the figures that are being advanced by, effectively, one side or the other is probably something that is unnecessary in my ruling. I will reflect on the point that the Prime Minister has made—[Interruption] Order! The information will now be available because it has been tabled.
Roading, Wellington—Wellington Northern Corridor Road
7. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Transport: What progress is the Government making on the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Very good progress. Yesterday it was my privilege to turn the first digger bucket of soil to mark the start of the construction of the MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway, an important milestone on the Wellington Northern Corridor. Yesterday also marked an important milestone for Transmission Gully, a section of the corridor, with the New Zealand Transport Agency announcing the preferred bidder and final details of that being made available in February. Beginning the construction of the MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway and the announcement of the preferred bidder for Transmission Gully are significant steps forward in the Government’s long-term strategy to improve transport infrastructure nationally and locally.
Paul Foster-Bell: What are some of the many benefits of the Wellington Northern Corridor?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway is expected to be open to traffic in 2017—
Hon Annette King: How about putting that kilt on.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has a right to ask a question and to at least have a chance to hear the answer. Could I ask for a little less interjection from my left-hand side of the House.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am slightly intimidated by Miss King’s excitement over my recent customary dress, but—
Grant Robertson: It wasn’t the dress we were worried about.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the Minister now continue with the essence of the answer.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: She might not have been worried about the dress but she was excited by what she saw. The MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway is expected to be open for traffic in 2017—[Interruption]—and Transmission Gully—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Can we just have an end to the comedy show, and a completion of the answer would be helpful.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is very difficult for me. I accept that the te reo that is required here, Peka Peka, in the context of their laughter is probably causing a degree of excitement, but I do have to get this information out for the public.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister had better hurry up because he is running out of chances.
Grant Robertson: There’s only one pecker.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, it has got worse; it has gone from Annette King to Grant Robertson. I am terribly intimidated now.
Mr SPEAKER: And I invite the Minister this time to finish his answer or I am moving elsewhere.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the point of order. It might be helpful.
Grant Robertson: I just want to reassure the member that I have no interest in his “Peka Peka”.
Mr SPEAKER: And that is certainly not a point of order. Does that Minister wish to finish or shall we—supplementary question?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do. The question was about the benefits. I would like to get the answer out there. It is important for the people of the Wellington region.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister had better hurry up and do it.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway is expected to be open for traffic in 2017 and Transmission Gully is aiming for completion by 2020. The full 110 kilometres of the Wellington Northern Corridor is expected to be completed by 2024. This work is expected to provide up to 8,000 new construction jobs, and, once completed, about a thousand jobs will be the effect on a permanent basis throughout the community. I would like to thank the mayors of the region who turned up yesterday, Fran Wilde, Ross Church, Nick Leggett, Wayne Guppy, and Celia Wade-Brown, all of whom have been extremely supportive of this important piece of infrastructure. The only thing that could stop this road now is a Labour-Greens Government.
Hon Peter Dunne: Has the Minister received any advice from the New Zealand Transport Agency about the level of progress to be expected in reasonable circumstances next year with regard to both the construction of the expressway and Transmission Gully?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I would like to begin my answer by acknowledging the hard work that the Hon Peter Dunne, as MP for Ōhariu, has done over a long number of years to promote this project. We would expect to have the preferred bidder in contract in February, with work perhaps beginning by the middle of next year. On the MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway, we are following a similar process and would expect that work to commence perhaps in the third quarter of next year.
State-owned Assets, Sales—Estimated Revenue
8. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What is the current estimate of proceeds from the Government’s asset sales programme?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Treasury’s most recent published estimate, included in the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update in May, was $5 billion to $7 billion. The member will, of course, be aware, though, that that included Solid Energy, which is no longer part of the programme.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has not addressed the question, which was on notice and which asked for the current estimate of proceeds, not the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update.
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the Prime Minister to answer the question, as he had not quite completed the answer. He certainly started with the latest Treasury figures, but we will see where it gets to.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Treasury’s most recent published estimate, included in the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update from May, is $5 billion to $7 billion.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has again referred to the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update and is alleging that that is the most recent—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister said the most recent Treasury figures, so that is an answer to the question. I will allow the member, as he continues his supplementaries, an additional supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question did not ask for the most recent published figures; it asked for the current estimate of proceeds. That was a question on notice—as you will admit, very straight—and I would ask that you hold the Prime Minister to the question on notice.
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister has used the current published figures by Treasury to answer the question. That is not to the satisfaction of the member, and I can understand why. I am not responsible for the answer that is composed by the Prime Minister, provided that it addresses the question. On this occasion, the best way forward is—[Interruption] Order! The most appropriate way forward is that I will allow the member additional supplementary questions to see whether he can delve into it, and I will be watching carefully those supplementary questions.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a separate matter from that point of order. In an answer during question No. 1 from Dr Norman, the Prime Minister actually gave a figure of $4 billion. He actually gave that figure during question No. 1. So it is very difficult for us on this side of the House to understand how we can now relate back to a previous figure, when he actually gave the figure of $4 billion in another answer.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is making a reasonable point, which is why I have suggested that the best way forward now is allowing the Hon David Cunliffe to continue his supplementary questions, knowing that he has an additional supplementary question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member needs to go and look at his own question. The question was what is the current estimate—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I have moved past that. We have accepted that your answers have been given. I can understand why the member is not happy with that answer, and I have said that the way forward now is additional supplementary questions. That is the way we will proceed.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We seem to have got ourselves into an interesting situation here, because I have received a copy of an answer to a written parliamentary question, which refers directly to a subsequent Treasury update—subsequent to that of the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Then the way forward is for the member to now use his ability to ask supplementary questions. I invite the member to ask a supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: According to the Treasury report Estimated Proceeds of the GSO Programme, which was provided to Ministers in October 2013, subsequent to Budget 2013—which was forgettable, but which was in May—what are the estimated proceeds from the asset sales programme according to this more recent update?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that data in front of me. If the member wants to direct the question to the Minister of Finance, he has that data.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table an answer to a written parliamentary question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no. We do not go down the track of tabling written questions. The member has made his point. We are not going to start tabling written questions in question time.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do seek your guidance here. It was a worthy primary question, a question on notice—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just need to understand what the point of order is. If it is relitigating a decision I have already made, that will lead to disorder.
Hon David Cunliffe: No, it is not relitigating; it is seeking your guidance on a more general implication of the ruling you have made, which I think is a legitimate follow-on point of order. A question on notice has been provided that was specific and straightforward in asking for not a previous but a current report. It is clear from an answer that the Government has provided in writing to the Opposition that a report exists and has been received by Ministers that is chronologically subsequent to the one referred to by the Prime Minister. We are not dealing with a supplementary question, as you well know, but a question on notice, which was very specifically worded.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! We are now relitigating exactly where we were. The member asked a very clear and concise primary question. The member is disappointed with the answer. I share some of that disappointment. Therefore, having accepted that the Prime Minister had addressed that question, I gave the member the ability to ask a further supplementary question. He has used that supplementary question to show very clearly that there is some more recent data.
That has made the political point. But to continue now to relitigate whether the first answer was satisfactorily addressed or not will lead to disorder.
Hon David Cunliffe: Which of the following two statements is true, in relation to the Treasury report Estimated Proceeds of the GSO Programme, presented to Ministers in October 2013, first, that the Prime Minister has no knowledge of it and does not know how much the asset sales programme is on track to generate, or, second, that he does know but is not frank with this House or the New Zealand public?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will leave the Prime Minister to answer that.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I will take the third option, none of the above.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the previous supplementary question sought a binary yes or no answer, how could he possibly—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. The member asked a good political question and got a political answer back.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why is the Prime Minister so terrified of the citizens initiated referendum that he is hiding the estimated proceeds until voting is over, and why does he not want New Zealanders to be able to make an informed decision?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, unless the member knows something I do not know about the end date of the citizens initiated referendum, the Minister of Finance advises me that at the Finance and Expenditure Committee meeting tomorrow he will give the latest update.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that in answer to, I think, my second supplementary question the Prime Minister said that he did not know what was in the Government share offer report of October, and then in a subsequent question said that he neither did not know nor did know, would he like to clear up the confusion and restore his name for heroic transparency by releasing the document in question to the House, which is the Government share offer report of October 2013?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member needs to wait only one more sleep and the Minister of Finance will update it. Secondly, if one looks at the bottom end of the range, it was $5 billion, and that programme, as I was trying to point out while the member interrupted me, included Solid Energy. We know that about $4 billion has been raised so far, and we have got Genesis to go. It is very, very simple. If the member wants to be heroic, then he will do what the Greens do. He will print some money and he will buy back the assets.
Hon David Cunliffe: In relation to the Prime Minister’s reply to the previous supplementary question, that he looked forward to the proceeds of the Genesis sale, can he confirm that he will indeed proceed with the sale, or would he accept this challenge: if over a million people vote in the asset sales referendum against the sale of State assets, will he suspend the sale of Genesis Energy— will he suspend the sale of Genesis Energy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me refresh the member’s memory. In 2011 there was a general election. Labour ran an entire campaign opposed to the mixed-ownership programme and got the worst result in 85 years of the Labour Party. The National Party ran on the ticket of the mixedownership model and got the best result it has ever had in MMP history and the second-best result ever. Over a million people voted. When it comes to arrogance, it is pretty simple. The member has asked the question through the referendum about whether people support the programme. If the answer to that from New Zealanders is no, then the one who will not be listening to the public will be David Cunliffe if he does not guarantee that he will buy the assets back. As we saw, his weasel words were out in full display the other day—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Grant Robertson: Point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am just waiting for the member’s own team to assist him.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table figures from the 2011 election that indicate that more people voted for parties opposed to asset sales than voted for parties in favour of them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. Every member, if they cannot recall the election date, will easily be able to research it.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have listened to this question because I did not want to interrupt the flow. I would ask you to reflect that the primary question was to do with the current valuation. The Prime Minister’s primary answer was a 7-month-old valuation, and then in his following answers he said that he has access to a current valuation. How can you possibly say that he answered the primary question, when he said that he has access to a current valuation as to what he is going to get for selling the assets? How can you say that he answered the primary question?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard an interjection at one stage where he did not have that information. He was aware the information was going to be released. He was arguing that he did not have that information.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given the Prime Minister’s apparent ability to change his tune within—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! That sort of question is not helpful either. Could the member rephrase his question—[Interruption] Order! It was only the Thursday before the adjournment when I was asked by the Labour Party to make sure that Ministers did not start with a personal reflection on a member on this side of the House. Today we have just, in this particular question, had a very clear reflection on the Prime Minister. I cannot have rules for one side of this House and not for the other. [Applause] I thank the Labour Party particularly for acknowledging that. Now we will have the supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Mr Speaker, in order to facilitate progress of the House—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just ask the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: I am thanking you for the ruling. Can we clear this up once and for all by the Prime Minister giving an unequivocal answer to the following question: will he continue with the sale of Genesis Energy, no matter how many people in New Zealand vote against his asset sales in the citizens initiated referendum?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said, the Government went to the election in 2011 and campaigned on this asset sales programme. It is very simple. The Government has gone to the people of New Zealand and got a majority. The reason the member asked that question is that he does not want to answer the question of whether he will buy the assets back. It is pretty simple, David. Put up the money. Your mate—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am just waiting, to assist the member, for both sides of the House.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: That question simply asked whether the Prime Minister would proceed or not—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member cannot expect to have a yes or no answer to that particular question. [Interruption] Order! Does the member wish to stay for the balance of question time? [Interruption] Order! Does the member wish to stay for the balance of question time?
Ship Grounding, Rena—Report on Environmental Impact
9. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for the Environment: What reports has she received on the environmental impacts of the Rena grounding?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): I recently received the Rena Recovery monitoring programme 2011-2013 research report into the effects of pollution on the Bay of Plenty following the Rena grounding, which was today released by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The results show that initial fears of long-lasting and negative effects on beaches, reefs, and fisheries can, for the most part, be put to rest. Although the environment has not yet returned fully
to its pre-Rena state, it is improving and the report concludes that the grounding of the Rena should have no long-lasting environmental effects.
Jacqui Dean: How did the Government work with local communities to mitigate the impact of the grounding?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The Government invested $2.42 million to support the Rena recovery plan, which addresses and monitors the long-term effects of the grounding in collaboration with the community, iwi, businesses, and central and local government. The programme identifies the environmental issues for the beaches, seabed, water fisheries, wildlife, and management of waste, and sets out the responsibility for the recovery and the monitoring of each aspect. I want to commend the local communities, iwi, and council for their commitment to this project. With their help, we will continue to monitor the Bay of Plenty environment as it tracks back to its pre-Rena state.
Brendan Horan: Would the Minister agree that to return the Astrolabe Reef to its pre-Rena state, the bottom line must be that the Government commit to removing the festering, rotten wreck from the reef?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, in terms of the impact on the reef itself, I would note that the report has only very limited sampling because, of course, it is still an active salvage site. In terms of the removal of the wreck from the reef, that is an issue that I believe is being taken to the local council for resource consent. I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to comment on a local council process.
Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked that the Government commit to removing the festering, rotten—
Mr SPEAKER: And the Minister very adequately addressed that.
Te Ururoa Flavell: In light of her response stating that the report talked about no long-lasting effects of the Rena disaster, would she confirm that this may well change should that wreck remain on the reef?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, the report does not make any comment about the impact on the reef from the wreck staying or going, so that is not a question I feel able to answer. As I mentioned in answer to the previous question from Mr Horan, whether or not the wreck remains on the reef is a matter of live debate and of an application, I understand, to the local council. All the information in relation to that will be put as part of that process.
Education, National Standards—Impact on Student Achievement
10 CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that the introduction of National Standards has led to a tangible improvement in student achievement; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes. If by tangible he means measurable, the national standards data shows a small overall improvement in reported achievement from 2011 to 2012, with reading up 1.2 percent, writing up 2 percent, and maths up 1.4 percent. Obviously, we have data across two data points only and so it is early days, as I have often said in this House. But parents have told me again and again they value the good clear information about their child’s progress. I would also note that of the over 2,100 schools in the system, just two did not report national standards data for 2012, so there is good uptake and it is making a measurable difference.
Chris Hipkins: Why is she satisfied that national standards will improve student achievement when a report released by her own ministry found that national standards had incorrectly measured the achievements of around four out of every 10 students?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: A number of the components of the New Zealand education system take some time to bed in. As the member will know, the New Zealand curriculum, introduced in 2000, took 12 years, and our national qualifications framework has taken a decade to be moderated. The Education Review Office itself constantly reviews how well that methodology is working. We
have a substantial body of evidence now growing on how well we are doing with national standards, where we need to improve, and we are continuing to do that. But mainly we are improving how we report to parents, who are most interested in how well their children are doing, and national standards help deliver that.
Chris Hipkins: Does she believe that national standards are providing better information on student achievement to parents given that fewer than half of the parents surveyed believe that national standards were providing a valuable record of their student’s learning?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, and although the member has not disclosed the name of the particular report, I am assuming it is the New Zealand Council for Educational Researchreport where fewer than half of the sample responded, so we are talking about half of a half, and, actually, three quarters of parents in that same research report said that they appreciated getting clear reporting on national standards.
Rt Hon John Key: Does the Minister think it will help the progress of young New Zealanders when we measure and monitor, and report to them, to their parents, and to their teachers the progress of a child and their capability in reading, writing, and maths relative to not doing so; and what does it say about an organisation that cares more about the unions than it does about the kids?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer the first part—[Interruption] Order! The first part of the question can be answered.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, another good question. Of course we are interested in that and of course parents want to know how well their children are doing in reading, in writing, in maths, in science—in every curriculum subject. Now that we have national standards they are able to do that by child, by classroom, by school, and by year, which has never been able to happen before. Now we are able to do that we can also intervene without guessing, as previous administrations did, and know where we need to invest science and maths resources and other such initiatives. We are interested in every child, unlike the Opposition.
Chris Hipkins: Will the latest statistics from the OECD show that New Zealand has plunged from seventh in science to 18th, from 12th in maths to 23rd, from seventh in reading to 13th, a decline that educational experts have widely predicted will be exacerbated by national standards? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am unable to answer that question because the OECD results are embargoed under a very strict protocol, the detail of which will not be released until 11 o’clock tonight in New Zealand.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a speech the Minister delivered last week, on 28 November, to the Iwi Chairs Forum, where she did talk about the OECD statistics.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Any member can seek out that speech if they so want.
Chris Hipkins: Is it the Government’s intention that teachers should spend increasingly more time filling in forms to comply with Government reporting requirements and less time actually teaching; if not, how does she respond to the 60 percent of teachers and 70 percent of principals surveyed who say that national standards have created more work for little gain?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Again, let us be clear about that sample, because when you use 60 percent and 70 percent you are talking about fewer than 180 schools out of 2,100. Nevertheless, we take those concerns seriously. So what has this Government done? We have designed with teachers a progression and consistency tool where—let us be clear—we are not asking teachers to make new judgments. We are asking them to compile all of the judgments they already make, enter them into a tool, put good quality data in once, and be able to use that information multiple times.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! The right honourable Prime Minister.
Rt Hon John Key: Can she confirm that when the Programme for International Student Assessment results are officially released tonight, those 15-year-old children will not have ever done national standards and that may well be part of the problem?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I can confirm that absolutely, because the 15-year-olds upon whom these results are measured went through school from 2001 to 2012. Therefore, regrettably, they were not caught by national standards.
Biosecurity Management—Government Initiatives
11. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister for Primary
Industries: What announcements has he made on strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity system?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Last week I presented official appointment certificates to 32 new quarantine inspectors and five new detector dog handlers. Sixteen of the new inspectors will be based in Auckland, eight will go to Wellington, and eight will go to Christchurch. Three new dog teams will go to Auckland and one will go to Wellington and one to Queenstown. The new front-line recruits will further strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity front line. These appointments mean that close to 100 new quarantine inspectors have joined the Ministry for Primary Industries in the last 14 months, and the ministry is planning to recruit a further 24 quarantine inspectors in March next year.
Shane Ardern: What other announcements has he made on strengthening New Zealand’s biosecurity systems?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Last week I also unveiled one of the 12 new X-ray machines that have been installed in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Queenstown airports and in Auckland’s international mail centre. The modern machines mean that the Ministry for Primary Industries will be able to screen items with greater accuracy and image quality. This will further strengthen our biosecurity system as border staff will be better equipped to spot risk items before they enter New Zealand.
Shane Ardern: Why is the Government placing such a high priority on biosecurity?
Hon NATHAN GUY: New Zealand’s primary industries account for 72 percent of New Zealand’s merchandise exports and, of course, they are the backbone of the New Zealand economy. It is vital that we protect these industries from biological risks associated with imported pests and diseases. That is why biosecurity is my No. 1 priority, and it is why last week’s announcements are the latest in a range of actions taken by this Government to boost biosecurity.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Do the 56 biosecurity incursions under his Government provide enough evidence of its biosecurity failure, or does he now need X-ray machines to prove that cutbacks to staffing, cuts to funding, and the introduction of species such as European alpine newts, angry pest birds, black grass seed, and wood termites have undermined New Zealand’s biosecurity reputation and put the whole New Zealand economy at risk?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The member’s rhetoric is inaccurate. What the member needs to understand is that I have got hold of a report recently that shows that in 2007 that member’s Government was warned that it had a number of gaps and inconsistencies in the biosecurity system, limited progress was being made in addressing these issues, and these issues had been given insufficient priority. If the member wants me to go through a list of incursions under that Labour Government’s watch, I am happy to do it. In fact, I will—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That will not be necessary.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table a list of 50 incursions that have occurred—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How many?
Hon Damien O’Connor: —50—from 2008 to 2012.
Mr SPEAKER: I just need to clarify the origin of that document.
Hon Damien O’Connor: It is an answer to a parliamentary question—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, then, if it is an answer to a parliamentary question, it is available to all members.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table another paper.
Mr SPEAKER: Again, if it is an answer to a parliamentary question—
Hon Damien O’Connor: Yes, it is, but I am not sure that everyone has access—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Everybody has access to parliamentary questions once they are published.
12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “We were never going to use legislation because we knew right from the get go that people wouldn’t vote for that”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, in the context that I made it in relation to the question I was asked.
Clare Curran: If, as he says, he knew from the get-go that he was not going to use legislation, why did his Government’s discussion document include three options to do just that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because if the member saw all the statements I made, that was in relation to a period post that point. What is true is that the retail service providers wrote to the Government and suggested a recommended price, along with potentially seeking agreement from Chorus. That would have required legislation, but what became apparent because the parties could not reach an agreement was that from that point on there was never any chance of legislation.
Clare Curran: How can he credibly deny that he was not intending to overrule the Commerce Commission when the Chorus Chief Executive Officer, Mark Ratcliffe, has publicly said that legislation appeared to be an option until last Thursday?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It potentially was an option when it wrote at the time—not Chorus, because it would not agree with it—but from that point on, it became pretty obvious that legislation was not possible, because what was clear was that other political parties would not support that.
Clare Curran: How can he say that “No one anticipated … the magnitude of the fall.” in the wholesale copper price when at the time of the Chorus demerger, Goldman Sachs forecast a price of $8.47 a month, which is lower than the ultimate Commerce Commission price of $10.92?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is relatively easy. I relied on two experts in this area. The first person said: “the people of New Zealand who are receiving broadband services now will find that their existing copper services will actually go up in price when they are waiting for fibre.”
Hon Steven Joyce: Who was that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That statement was made in 2011 by Clare Curran. Then I relied on another muppet who said: “The average New Zealander will pay at least $5 more a month for the same service they are currently getting on their copper phone line.”
Hon Steven Joyce: Who was that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That statement was made by that muppet, in 2011, called—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Clare Curran: Can he not see that it is his Government’s inept handling of this issue that has created false expectations for Chorus of an inappropriate overrule of the Commerce Commission, and that this and his comments that Chorus would go broke are responsible for the current uncertainty around Chorus and the roll-out of the ultra-fast broadband?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: A few things—firstly, the member is deliberately misleading the House. I said that it could go broke—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister cannot accuse a member of deliberately misleading the House. He can start his answer again.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member has misled the House because the statement was “could go broke”, and, actually, that is reflected, if you look at the share price reduction, in how severe
analysts believe the situation is. Secondly, everybody, including the member, thought at the time that the price would either stay the same or go up. But let me say this. The Government is, firstly, committed to ultra-fast broadband. Secondly, the Government is committed to finding a way through this current situation. Thirdly, the Government’s view is that Chorus needs to play its part, but the Government is likely, if there is a substantial hole, as referenced by the information the Government may or may not receive from its independent inquiry, to then go and speak to Crown Fibre Holdings to ask it to look at what options might be available. That could include moving some of the money around in the existing contract, all of which may be possible to ensure that ultrafast broadband is built on time for New Zealanders.
Clare Curran: I seek leave to table the tape of the Prime Minister saying that Chorus could go broke, which appeared on Television New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a transcript that is well available to members if they want?
Clare Curran: No, it is not. It is a tape.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member needs to go and look at her own Hansard. I said it would—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not speaking to the point of order. Leave has been sought to table this particular tape. I am going to put the leave and the House will decide. Leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Clare Curran: I seek leave to table a report by Goldman Sachs dated 28 November 2011, and titled Telecom Corporation of New Zealand Ltd—Life after Chorus.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table this particular report by Goldman Sachs. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier today you were invited by the Prime Minister to consider whether the Leader of the Opposition had misled the House in respect of forestry statistics. Given that the Prime Minister has said that there were no reports of impending decrease in the copper price, the Goldman Sachs report should be viewed by you also when assessing that earlier point of order because the same issue arises.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his very valuable advice. As I have said, I will give further consideration to the point raised by the Hon David Cunliffe.
Point of Order—Use of Quotations within Substantive Questions
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have waited until the end of question time. Can you just have a look at question No. 12, where within the quotations marks it says: “We were never going to use legislation because we knew right from the get go that people wouldn’t vote for that”? There is no explanation in that question of the relationship to what it is. If this question time is going to be valuable for the public, I think there should be some explanation of the context around that. The other point I would make is from further up in the afternoon. I think this is a worse offence. The Hon David Cunliffe asked question No. 4, and then put in quote marks the words “off the table”. They were comments not made by the Prime Minister, yet they are conveyed on the question sheet as if they were. I think there is clearly something going wrong with the verification process and, frankly, it needs to be tidied up.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central): It is a fairly clear thing. When we provide questions to the Clerk, we have to provide authentication for those questions. We provide that authentication, and that ends up on the question paper. Where we are unable to do that, there is occasionally dialogue with your office, and we sometimes have to change the question when we have not been able to provide that authentication. So if it ends up on the question paper, it has been authenticated.
Mr SPEAKER: The point raised by Grant Robertson is right. There is a very rigorous process by which questions are looked at carefully by the Office of the Clerk, before they are finally accepted. Authentication is required. However, Mr Brownlee raises a reasonable point in that sometimes some of the quotes probably need more looking at than perhaps occurs on all occasions. I will consider the matters raised by both Mr Robertson and the Hon Gerry Brownlee.