QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Child Poverty—Prime Minister’s Statements
1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “there are more children in poverty than at some point in the past”, and if so, does he remain concerned about child poverty levels in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and I think all New Zealanders would like to see child poverty levels lower. That is why the Government is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in helping people to get off welfare benefits and into work, because full-time paid work is the best way of lifting children out of poverty. That is why we have borrowed billions of dollars to maintain income support for lower-income families through a very significant recession. And that is why we are doing concrete things to help families—for example, through home insulation, free after-hours visits to the general practitioner, increased funding for early childhood education, increased immunisation, rheumatic fever prevention, and the Children’s Action Plan. This contrasts with the idea that you can simply legislate to stop child poverty, which is the Greens’ policy, or give well-off families $60 a week, which is Labour’s policy.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given all of the above, does he agree with the Salvation Army, which today said: “little has been achieved in reducing the rates and incidence of child poverty and our housing situation appears to have got worse.”; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and just to quote from the report, under the heading “Child poverty”, the very first thing it says is “Child poverty rates may be easing”. The second thing it says, in the housing area, is that a number of the indicators are improving. The third thing is that this is the Government that has actually insulated 320,000 homes in New Zealand. This is also the Government, I might add, that has put in $1.8 billion when it comes to income-related rents and accommodation supplements. By the way, the very report that the member is talking about was actually in the New Zealand Herald today. I myself looked at it and there it was, under the headline “Good news on state of our nation”.
Hon David Cunliffe: What grade is the Prime Minister used to receiving if he takes the D he got from the Salvation Army for child poverty to be good news, or was he talking about the D he got for housing availability, the C+ he got for affordability, or the C- he got for housing-related debt?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The first thing is, if we look at the report, it has 22 indicators. Eleven of those indicators have actually improved and four have been reasonably flat. Seven, in the view of the Salvation Army, have got worse. The Government is actually very confident in its record that it is doing a great deal. Of course, there is always more that can be done.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with the Salvation Army, which today said that “the Skycity convention centre deal has blatantly traded off social harm for economic development”; if not, why on earth not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and I am a little bit surprised the member has asked that, because under its indicators in the report on social hazards, gambling per capita has gone down and it gets the nice, big, green tick up, actually, under a National-led Government.
Hon David Cunliffe: He is grasping at straws. Does the Salvation Army’s finding that housing availability is rated as “no progress or going backwards” concern him, or does he think that is good news too?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the author of that report really meant what they said, then the author actually needs to get out a bit more, because this is a Government that has done in Auckland a housing accord, which the Labour Government sat on its hands and did nothing for. This is a Government that has reformed both building practices in New Zealand and planning. This is a Government that has overseen interest rates that are 50 percent of what they were. The Labour Government sat there, for year after year after year, and did absolutely nothing. By the way, the officials who used to advise Helen Clark are some of the same officials who advise me, and they spent virtually their entire time in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet giving her advice on housing, for which she did absolutely nothing. So if the author does not understand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is long enough.
Hon David Cunliffe: When the Prime Minister gets out more in the leafy suburbs of Parnell and St Stephens Avenue, I am sure he will notice that rents have gone up—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The level of interjection is unacceptable, but it would be helpful if the Leader of the Opposition could phrase his question slightly differently.
Hon David Cunliffe: I am here to help. With rents up 17 percent nationwide, 18 percent in Auckland, and 37 percent in Christchurch since he took office, how does the Prime Minister expect struggling families to afford a roof over their heads?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Two things. The first is that the Government has put $1.8 billion in the last 12 months alone into subsidising housing through income-related rents and the accommodation supplement. The second thing is, yes, I live in Parnell and I am proud of it. That member lives in Herne Bay. He just does not want his supporters to know he does. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member just proceed with his supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: I think it’s the commute to Helensville that’s getting him down, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: And that is not helpful. Would the member just ask his supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Perhaps he just takes the helicopter view.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: In all seriousness, how does the Prime Minister, with all his worldly experience, expect young families to buy their own home when his Government is requiring a minimum 20 percent deposit, which Quotable Value data shows reduced the number of first-home buyers to its lowest level in 3 years—its lowest level in 3 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the biggest determining factor for people when buying a house is paying the interest rates on their mortgage. They are at a 50-year low and are half the rate they were under a Labour Government. Labour, I might add, forced those interest rates up. Let us be honest. Its programme of mismanaging the economy drove interest rates up and drove people out of their homes. That is the first thing. The second thing is that to actually get into a home, people have to be able to pay the mortgage by having a job. Under this Government, 1,500 people a week are going off welfare and into work. The Greens and Labour are opposed to jobs and growth. That is the truth.
Hon David Cunliffe: What does the Prime Minister say to the struggling middle-income families who, a major bank predicts, if they are on a $500 a week mortgage now, will be paying another $136 a week within 3 years because of the interest rate rises under his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would say this. First, they will be grateful that Labour is not in power, because it would have been $1,000 a week—[Interruption] Well, that is what it was. The exact numbers would have been $1,000 a week. It is as simple as this. This is an Opposition that will
spend as much money—not its own money, by the way; other people’s money—to try to get into office. There is only one impact of that—interest rates will go up faster if Labour gets into office. I say to that family: “Do what you’ve always done. Stick with National, and you’ll be doing the right thing.”
2. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s economic programme supporting stronger economic growth, more jobs and higher incomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The steps taken by the Government over the last 5 years are starting to deliver results as we are working alongside New Zealanders to recover from the recession and build a platform for growth. Last week’s household labour force survey and quarterly employment survey exceeded expectations, with annual jobs growth to the year to December at 66,000. That is, 66,000 more people were employed at the end of 2013, compared with the end of 2012. Labour force participation increased to 68.9 percent. That is 68.9 percent of the adult population available for work. This is the second-highest level ever recorded. So the decrease in unemployment has occurred at the same time as the number of people available for work is at its second-highest ever level. In respect of the crisis in manufacturing—employment and manufacturing suffered yet another blow, because employment grew by 3,000 to 169,000. Incomes are rising. Since 2008, after-tax average wages have increased by 25 percent, at a period when the cost of living has increased by 10 percent.
Jami-Lee Ross: How has New Zealand’s stronger economic performance benefited New Zealanders by delivering higher incomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It has delivered higher incomes, although not as rapidly as we would have liked, and not yet for every New Zealand household. Last week’s labour market statistics showed that 2013 weekly earnings grew by 2.8 percent in 2013, above the 1.6 percent increase in the cost of living. This is from the quarterly employment survey, which is the best measure of wage growth. This measure has been used by successive Governments to adjust New Zealand superannuation and paid parental leave. I would also note the average wages used by the Green Party for its policies on minimum wages and welfare benefits, despite arguing here that the quarterly employment survey is not the right measure of wage growth.
Hon David Parker: Why does the Government use the Labour Cost Index in its determination of the minimum wage? Is it because the index is the official measure of the change in wage rates?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government does not use the Labour Cost Index to determine the minimum wage. Second, the Labour Cost Index does not measure what people get paid. It is an index of the value of labour for specific skill sets and specific industries. What measures what people get paid is the quarterly employment survey, and that shows rising real incomes.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table the document that shows that the Government uses the Labour Cost Index as the basis—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I need the source of the document.
Hon David Parker: It is a combination of Statistics New Zealand information and information released by the Government at the time the minimum wage is set.
Mr SPEAKER: I think it is a marginal call, but on the basis that the House can decide, leave is sought to table that documentation. Is there any objection to that being done? There is objection.
Jami-Lee Ross: What other reports has he seen on the improving performance of the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a wide range of reports on improvements in the New Zealand economy. The most recent quarterly survey of business opinion shows a near 20-year high in business confidence. The manufacturing crisis can be measured by the BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index, which has shown growth in manufacturing for 15 consecutive
months. The most recent performance of manufacturing index recorded the highest rate of employment growth in manufacturing since 2007—yet another sign of the manufacturing crisis! Recent data from the job site SEEK shows that job ads are up by 13 percent compared with January last year.
Jami-Lee Ross: How is the improving economy helping vulnerable families to get ahead?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government believes that the most important way to help vulnerable families is through more jobs and a business environment where they can be paid more. There is no better news for those who are vulnerable and dependent on the State than to see a continued improvement in the jobs market and rising real wages. Those people stuck in long-term welfare dependency will never benefit from a strong economy if they are left in that dependency. The Government is continuing to work with those families through ongoing investment in the welfare system, and over the last two Budgets we have invested around half a billion dollars to help people off welfare and into work. In the last 12 months 17,000 people have come off a benefit.
Child Poverty, Abuse, and Neglect—Government Measures to Address
3. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Do her measures of success for vulnerable children include lowering child poverty, child abuse and child neglect rates; if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree with the Salvation Army’s assessment that a D should be awarded for child poverty, as “virtually no effort has been spent in actually addressing the underlying causes of this poverty.”; if not, what evidence does she have to prove otherwise?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, I do not, and I think the Minister of Finance has just given one of the best analyses that I have heard of the difference that we can make for those vulnerable children and their families. So it is about more jobs being on board and 17,000 fewer people on benefits in the last 12 months. It is certainly seeing that acknowledgment of food in schools. It is an increase of those in early childhood education. It is the increase that we are seeing for those who are achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement and education results. It is a very long list, and not one I am sure you would want me to take the time of the House on.
Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister tell the House what percentage of working families are in poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have that figure with me.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree with the Salvation Army’s assessment that a C minus should be awarded for lack of progress for children at risk when the number of substantiated child abuse or neglect cases rose 4 percent in the last year and by 41 percent in the last 5 years; if not, what evidence does she have that things are getting better for these children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, I do not, and at the end of the day what we have is a higher public awareness. As the member would know, in 2008 police changed how they notified to Child, Youth and Family. We are now aware of those children who are not being harmed themselves but are perhaps in families where they are witnessing family violence. We take that far more seriously than we ever have. We report on it. It means there has been a dramatic increase in notifications, but as a consequence of that—
Jacinda Ardern: Substantiated—the question was substantiated.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We also have an increase of substantiated, because we are getting into more of those families where we are seeing it. We share information with police more than we ever have. That is why we have the Children’s Action Plan, which has more than 30 initiatives addressing the very heart of what is a very complex and intergenerational problem.
Jacinda Ardern: Is she satisfied with the current delivery rate of her Children’s Action Plan, when, based on her answers to written questions, at current rates it will take almost 190 years for her Children’s Teams to reach New Zealand’s vulnerable children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member has made that number up. There is no number like it. What I would say is, no, I am not satisfied. Five years ago when I came into this job, I would have quite liked there to have been a plan for these vulnerable children, but I had to start the work from scratch. There was nothing there for them. They were ignored. They were hidden. It was actually easier just to think that it was not happening. I have had to start from scratch and get it going. As I say, it is complex and intergenerational, and we will make a difference for them.
Health Personnel—Recruitment and Retention
4. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister of Health: What is the Government doing to assist areas that face difficulties recruiting and retaining health professionals?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I am pleased to advise the House that registrations of interest for the 2014 Voluntary Bonding Scheme are now open. The scheme works by encouraging health professionals to start their careers in hard-to-staff communities and specialties by offering payments to their student loans after a 3 to 5-year bonded period. There are currently 2,700 participants, and Vote Health has so far paid out $11 million. Registrations of interest for this year’s intake are open for new general practitioner trainees; graduate doctors, nurses, and midwives; radiation therapists; and medical physicists until the middle of March.
Dr Cam Calder: What other initiatives are aimed at improving health care in higher need communities?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Tony Ryall—I ask the Minister to talk a bit closer to the microphone; it was hard to hear.
Hon TONY RYALL: Last September I announced the Government will invest an extra $16 million to support our high-needs general practices. This included a $1.5 million scholarship fund for 30 graduate nurses. As the Government wants even more graduate nurses working in our highneeds communities, we have increased that scholarship fund to $2.4 million, which means 48 graduate nurses will now receive $50,000 scholarships to work in general practice. This is a considerable investment in helping general practices in some of our most needy communities in New Zealand.
5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: What papers or reports, if any, did her office produce in the last 12 months relating to the measurement of child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): In respect of the measurement, none.
Metiria Turei: Can the Minister confirm for the House that she did not seek any reports on the Children’s Commissioner’s $500,000 project to measure and monitor child poverty, or even seek advice on whether such a measure was necessary?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have definitely received reports on child poverty. I am part of the Ministerial Committee on Poverty, but I have not sought from my department an argument on the measurements. We are more interested in the actions that need to be taken and those are the reports that I expect from my department.
Metiria Turei: Upon whose expert advice did the Minister write off the Children’s Commissioner’s child poverty monitor work?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It was certainly discussed at the Ministerial Committee on Poverty. That is where the discussion took place. That is the advice that I sought.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister see, then, any connection between the Salvation Army’s D ranking of her failure over child poverty with her express refusal to engage with the Children’s Commissioner’s child poverty monitor project?
Rt Hon John Key: You mean D as in Dotcom?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have heard it said that it might be D for Dotcom, but what I would say is that the Ministry of Social Development household income report comes out. It does an accurate analysis of a number of measures. We report it transparently and publicly. It is certainly what we, on this side of the House, take notice of. As I say, it is very transparent. The member can get a copy of it any time. It is that advice that I take.
Metiria Turei: If a parent was given a D for looking after their child, would she consider that they were doing a good job, or not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: For me this gets to the heart of the actual issue. So the member thinks that it is only the Government’s throwing money around and getting into every household and giving them 60 bucks a week for a newborn baby that is going to make the difference. I actually think it is not about just the Government; it is about the Government, community, and parents themselves actually putting their children first in many instances. It is about what is happening in the streets. It is about what organisations like the Salvation Army do. So I do not think it is a D for the Government. In fact, what the Salvation Army did say was that “as a national community,”— and I quote—“we have made credible and worthwhile social progress. It is important to acknowledge and celebrate this because, for the most part, it is intentional and hard won. The Government should be applauded for its contribution to this progress.”
Metiria Turei: Well, then, how does the Minister explain that for all her rhetoric and chestthumping and political bluster, the reality remains—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member like to start her question again.
Metiria Turei: Thank you, Mr Speaker. How, then, does the Minister explain that for all her rhetoric, chest-thumping, and political bluster, the reality remains that one in every five children in this country remains living in poverty after 5 long years of her Government?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What we have seen by every measure is that it has flat-lined. What we have done through the worst global financial crisis—and people might like to write that off and pretend it did not happen, but actually what we did was we put more money, more support, into those families that really needed it. We are seeing improvements when we look at the number of jobs that are on board and the opportunities for people to take them up. I am very confident that you are going to see the real results of that.
Metiria Turei: Is the Minister refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of having one in every five New Zealand children still living in poverty, and is she actively snubbing the commissioner’s work on monitoring child poverty because she does not want to be held accountable for her failure to make any improvement in the lives of those one in five New Zealand children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: And that, ladies and gentlemen, was chest-thumping. Right, so what we have here is, actually, I do not agree with the member. This is the Government that has introduced the Children’s Action Plan. This is the Government that has put more emphasis on early childhood education and that has increased the amount that goes into accommodation help. It has put an emphasis on rheumatic fever, which, quite frankly, we have not seen at all. We have got after-hours for under-6-year-olds now. We have got food in any school that wants to take it for breakfast. More than $500,000 is going to KidsCan to actually help those children. I do take it seriously. I want to see every child in this country thriving and achieving and having the best possible start that they can.
Pest Control—Use of 1080 Poison
6. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by all his statements on the use of 1080 poison by the Department of Conservation?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister of
Conservation: Yes. The Minister gave a comprehensive speech on 29 January announcing the Battle for our Birds, which clearly sets out why 1080 use is essential for dealing with this year’s beech mast. It is a very good speech and I would encourage the member to read it.
Richard Prosser: Is he aware that bird repellents being trialled for use with 1080 poison have been shown to be ineffective and that researchers are unlikely to have an effective bird repellent available in time for his department’s planned increase in the use of aerial 1080 this year?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, what I can tell the member is that the Minister is absolutely aware that this is all about the need to protect New Zealand’s native birds. What we do know is that without the use of 1080, 99 percent of kea chicks die; with the use of 1080, 100 percent of them survive to 1 year. Without this, our native birds are seriously at risk of eradication, and there is no question in the mind of any sensible person that this is absolutely necessary.
Richard Prosser: Can he assure the House that there will be no increase in the planned use of aerial 1080 until a suitable bird repellent is available to protect our endangered native species such as kea, given his department’s own findings that 20 percent of kea in the areas to be poisoned will be killed by 1080?
Hon AMY ADAMS: No, I absolutely will not give that assurance, because what we do know is that if we were to delay the use of 1080 through this year’s beech mast, we would face the eradication and loss of more species, as happened last time. What we do know is that if we do not use 1080 to protect our native wildlife, there is a serious of loss of species or serious degradation of the populations. I do not think that is acceptable to New Zealanders.
Richard Prosser: Can the Minister describe to the House the process by which stoats are killed by 1080, given that stoats do not directly eat the cereal-based 1080 baits that are used in aerial poisoning applications?
Hon AMY ADAMS: No, I cannot give him a detailed biological indication of the impact of 1080 on stoats, but what I will repeat for the member’s benefit is that we know that if we do not use 1080, particularly during this significant beech mast event, we risk serious loss of our native bird population. The facts are these, once more for the member. It does not kill kiwis. Yes, there is some damage to some species, but without the use of 1080, 99 percent of kea chicks risk being lost. I do not think that is acceptable.
Richard Prosser: I seek leave to table seven documents. They are—
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the member to list all seven documents at once if he could do so briefly.
Richard Prosser: They are pathology reports prepared for the Department of Conservation about seven radio-tagged kea found dead in north Ōkārito.
Mr SPEAKER: All right. Second document?
Richard Prosser: They are all the same—seven separate pathology reports.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is seeking leave to table seven separate pathology reports. Is there any objection to that course of action? There appears to be none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Freshwater Management—Water Quality of Rivers
7. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Why do the Government’s proposals for improving freshwater management allow New Zealand rivers to have higher concentrations of nitrogen pollution than China’s Yangtze River?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): As usual, the member is deliberately scaremongering on water quality. Although the Yangtze River indeed has serious pollution issues, nitrogen is not the only pollutant there is and, even according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, it is not the pollutant of particular concern for the Yangtze River, where the issue is, in fact, primarily around industrial and sewage waste and the management of sediments. The Government’s proposals for freshwater management will improve water quality and not allow the degradation of New Zealand rivers, something that that member’s party failed to do in 9 years of propping up a Labour Government. Furthermore, the nitrate toxicity threshold for the bottom lines is only one of
the ways that nitrogen must be managed to meet the national bottom lines, and most rivers will need to be more aggressively managed for nitrogen levels to meet periphyton standards, a fact that the member either does not understand or deliberately chooses to ignore.
Eugenie Sage: Will she review her proposed nitrate toxicity bans and the national bottom lines for rivers, which Fish and Game has described as an “abject failure” and, effectively, a licence to pollute in relation to farm nitrate pollution?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The first point I would make in response to that question is that they are not my nitrate toxicity levels; they are the levels that have been devised by an expert panel made up of more than 60 water-quality scientists. They are specific levels that none of my colleagues or I have had any input into. Furthermore, as I mentioned in answer to the primary question, the nitrate toxicity level is only one of the ways that nitrogen is measured in our rivers.
Eugenie Sage: Will she change her proposals, given that nitrogen pollution can have significant impacts on river health at much lower levels than her proposed bottom line of nitrate being toxic to fish and aquatic life?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The National Objectives Framework levels have been out for consultation. We are now working through the submissions that have come in, and no final decisions have been made. But again I would reiterate for the member that the nitrate toxicity level is set, which is only one of the ways that nitrogen is controlled, at a level where there is full species protection for 80 percent. And for the remaining 20 percent, it is the level at which you would start to see some impact on growth. I think it is a very reasonable level and it is the level that was chosen by the expert science panel and the work that they did to come up with these levels.
Hon Tariana Turia: Does the Minister agree with Te Wai Māori Trust that if the Government waits to develop additional attributes, there is a danger that nothing will happen; if so, will she agree that the implementation deadline should be dropped from 2030 to 2020?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I do not agree that nothing will happen. There are two aspects to that question. One is around developing additional attributes. I certainly agree, and I have been saying for some time, that the National Objectives Framework would continue to be a developing tool, and there certainly will need to be more work done, but we need to start and start now with what we have. In respect of the time line for implementation, that is something that we can certainly continue to talk about, but I would point out to the member that in actual fact the information that I have suggests that most councils are well on track to having these guidelines in place between 2016 and 2020. There is a review set in 2016, where we can certainly look at it, but the indications that I am seeing suggest that councils are actually taking to this with some vigour.
Eugenie Sage: Will she strengthen her weak water-quality proposals, given that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has described them as “not adequate for protecting water quality to even current levels in New Zealand,”?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I think the best way to address that question is to remind the House of what the national bottom line on nitrogen pollution was under the Labour-Greens Government, which was: do what you like. There were zero limits from central government. It had no interest in requiring councils to lift their standards. This Government has. This Government is lifting them. Can I remind members also that quite apart from bottom lines, we still have an obligation to maintain or enhance. No river quality is allowed to deteriorate under this framework, despite the member’s scaremongering.
Eugenie Sage: If the Minister is so confident that her proposals will maintain water quality, how does she respond to the submission and analysis of the New Zealand Freshwater Sciences Society, the professional body of freshwater scientists, which says that her proposals have “the potential for New Zealand rivers to become some of the most nitrogen polluted among OECD countries.”?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Very easily. I respond by saying that they are simply wrong.
Tertiary Institutions—Governance of Universities and Wānanga
8. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and
Employment: What steps is the Government taking to strengthen the governance of New Zealand universities and wānanga?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Yesterday I announced that the Government will reform the composition of university and wānanga governance councils, to create smaller skills-based councils that can respond more quickly and strategically to the challenges of modern-day tertiary education. New Zealand universities face a number of critical challenges, such as rapidly changing skills needs in the employment market, an increasingly competitive international university environment, and rapidly changing technologies in teaching and learning. Although our universities and wānanga have been performing well, these reforms will allow them to respond to these and other challenges more quickly and strategically. Similar reforms to our polytechnic sector in 2009 have been very successful, and I expect these will be too.
Colin King: What are the main components of the reforms?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The main changes are to decrease the size of councils from the current 12 to 20 members down to 8 to 12 members, to allow council membership to be more flexible, and also requiring council members to have governance capability. One university has already indicated its desire to reduce the size of its council to 12, but has been unable to do so due to the legislative requirements, which we are now changing. The changes for wānanga are particularly important. The governance settings for wānanga were not written with them in mind. The changes will allow wānanga much more flexibility, to reflect their unique stakeholders on their councils.
Andrew Little: It’s a top-down, boss-driven politicisation.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: These reforms will not—as some members opposite have asserted and seem to be repeating their assertions now—compromise academic freedom or eliminate the input of students and staff into decision making.
Colin King: What other steps is the Government taking to strengthen our tertiary sector?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This Government has a very good record in terms of the progress it has made with the tertiary sector. Since 2009 it has made a series of incremental reforms to improve performance, including the introduction of performance-linked funding, educational performance indicators, and reducing low-value spending. These reforms have been bearing very good fruit. In 2012 a total of 162,000 qualifications were completed in the New Zealand tertiary education system. That is up 23 percent from just 4 years previously. More young people are now moving from school to degree-level study, from 13,500 students in 2007 to 16,500 in 2012, including many more young Māori and Pasifika.
Grant Robertson: In light of his view that governing bodies of 20 cannot act quickly or strategically, has he approached the Prime Minister to reduce the size of Cabinet to perhaps eight or 12 people?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Steven Joyce.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sorry but that is a little shallow—in fact, shallow as a bird bath, as is usual from Mr Robertson. In fact, it may have escaped the member in his many years of moving back and forth between university and Parliament, but fundamentally a university council governs a university, which is a single organisation—it can be quite large—while a Cabinet governs an entire country. It is a subtle difference, and maybe one day Mr Robertson—in the dim, distant future— may get to see it for himself.
Schools, Partnership—Allocation of Funds
9. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that all of the funding allocated to Partnership Schools will be spent on educating students; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): I am satisfied that all the contract funding to partnership schools will be spent on meeting the contracted outcome for each school, which is to deliver educational achievement. In exchange for that, partnership schools get greater flexibility to raise student achievement, are subject to a higher degree of scrutiny—as the member has demonstrated—and have greater accountabilities than schools in the mainstream system.
Chris Hipkins: Is she satisfied that the taxpayer is getting good value for money from the $1.8 million given to He Puna Marama Trust for its establishment costs, given that it has leased facilities at a cost of just $58,000 a year and is asking the existing State schools in the area to deliver teaching on its behalf?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Different choices are made between leasing, owning, and servicing over the life of a property. As I have said, these schools are contracted for the term of their contract to deliver educational outcomes. They are free to make those choices but they must deliver the educational outcomes expected of them.
Chris Hipkins: If a partnership school were to close before the end of its contract, is there any provision in those contracts for the Crown to recover any of the establishment costs that the school has been funded for; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I have answered in response to that question in the House before, we will use the usual commercial instruments available to us to recover costs invested by the Government.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was actually a very specific question as to whether there was any provision in the contract allowing the Government to recoup money if a school closed before the end of its contract. She has not actually answered that question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think that on this occasion the Minister has. She said they would use the normal provisions under the contract.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She talked about the normal provisions under the contract, but she has not actually indicated what they are.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member resume his seat. I have accepted that the question has been addressed. The member has further supplementary questions. That is the way it works.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest respect, one has to understand what “usual commercial instruments” might be. That member is asking the question as to whether that commercial instrument is in existence and is a term of the original arrangement. He is not asking what they might do in its absence. That is a subtle difference, but it is very important.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that the member is raising a point that gives a very good lead to the member to ask his next supplementary question.
Chris Hipkins: Are you going to give me an extra supplementary question, Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: No I am not at this stage.
Chris Hipkins: Oh well! We will move on then. Will partnership schools asking any existing State schools to deliver programmes on their behalf be required to reimburse that school for the full cost of their students’ participation in those programmes; if not, what will they have to pay the State school for?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is completely usual within the education sector for sharing and collaboration of resources. In the case of partnership schools, arrangements have been made between them and their local community. In addition, they are, as other schools are doing, using provision from Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu—The Correspondence School, having relationships in some cases with NorthTec and other tertiary institutions; all of these, which our Government is actively encouraging, occur.
Chris Hipkins: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I can anticipate the point of order, so I am going to ask the member to repeat his question.
Chris Hipkins: Will partnership schools asking any existing State schools to deliver programmes on their behalf be required to reimburse that school for the full cost of their students’ participation in those programmes; if not, what will they have to pay to the State school?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: None of the partnership schools are asking mainstream schools to deliver programmes on their behalf. They do partner around particular parts of the curriculum. They have done that prior to partnership schools being established.
Hon Annette King: What does that mean?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It means, for those who are not aware of it, that when a school provides a particular curriculum subject—say, in forestry science—then other students might use that. That is a very normal, regular, and highly desirable practice in the New Zealand education system.
Chris Hipkins: If a student from a charter school is participating in a subject offered by a State school, what will the partnership school or charter school have to pay the State school for that programme’s delivery?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: That is entirely between those two entities. Our schools are governed by boards of trustees who make those decisions every day.
Broadband, Ultra-fast and Rural—Connection Statistics
10. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister for Communications
and Information Technology: What recent reports has she received on the number of end users able to connect to the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiatives?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): I am pleased to announce that at the end of 2013 more than a quarter of the Government’s ultra-fast broadband project had been completed. At the halfway stage of the Rural Broadband Initiative the build is more than 60 percent finished—360,000-plus end-users can now connect to ultra-fast broadband, an additional 179,000 can connect through the Rural Broadband Initiative’s improved wireless coverage, and 60,000 can connect through upgrades to fixed line services. In terms of priority users, an impressive 80 percent of schools and 84 percent of rural hospitals that are covered by the project are now able to connect to fibre.
Jonathan Young: How is uptake of fibre and improved rural broadband coverage tracking?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Over the last quarter of 2013 we saw a 40 percent increase in uptake. This is in line with what the Government has repeatedly projected and matches international experience of projects of this nature. As the build advances and the larger retail service providers enter the market there is a rapid increase in level of connections. In terms of rural coverage, there are already nearly 50,000 rural users seeing the benefits of faster broadband through upgrades under the Rural Broadband Initiative. Faster broadband, internet, and fibre connectivity are absolutely critical to New Zealand’s prosperity and our ability to participate in the global economy, and are estimated to deliver GDP growth of $5.5 billion over 20 years and $33 billion of economic benefits to New Zealand end-users.
Clare Curran: Does she still have confidence in Chorus, given today’s announcement to the market that it overestimated the number of new copper connections in its quarterly reporting figures, following a string of highly public and embarrassing events last year over the copper price, leading to two judicial inquiries and the Commerce Commission undertaking two final price determinations—all of which mean at least another 2 years of uncertainty about broadband prices for Kiwi households?
Hon AMY ADAMS: What I can say to this House is that I have far more confidence in Chorus than I do in the Labour Opposition, which repeatedly miscalculates the numbers.
Internal Affairs, Minister—Information Security
11. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Prime Minister: Is the Hon Peter Dunne a suitable person to hold the position answerable in this House for the security of
information held by Government in light of him repeatedly declining to deny, in the House yesterday, that he made the draft Kitteridge report available to a Fairfax reporter, and, if so, has he received an assurance from Mr Dunne that he did not make the document available to any reporter?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and no.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is he the Minister responsible to this House for commissioning the Kitteridge report into the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), the Henry report into how that report was made available to a Fairfax reporter, and the reinstatement of the Hon Peter Dunne to his ministry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Has he, since he received the Henry report, received any further information that has helped him to identify the source of the leak of the Kitteridge report into the GCSB?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Hon Trevor Mallard: What, if anything, has changed with regard to who made the Kitteridge report available since he said on 7 June that he could not accept Mr Dunne’s assurances that he did not leak the draft Kitteridge report?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What is true is that I accepted Mr Dunne’s resignation because he failed to comply with the inquiry. What I have also done, as I have said to the House before, is accepted Mr Dunne’s assurances that he has categorically ruled out playing any part in leaking the report. Another way of saying that would be “I’ve moved on.”—and do not worry, Trevor; one day David will move on when it comes to you, as well.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the Henry report that there is only one conclusion you can take from reading the report; if so, does he still believe that Mr Dunne is the person most likely to have made the draft Kitteridge report available to a Fairfax reporter?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the first part of the question, yes. In relation to the second part of the question, I accept Mr Dunne’s assurances.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In respect of the Prime Minister’s answer to the second part of the primary question, which was “has he received an assurance from Mr Dunne that he did not make the document available to any reporter?”, to which he said no, preparatory to the reappointment of Mr Dunne, did he ask Mr Dunne for his assurance that he did not leak the Kitteridge report?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, because I accepted him at his word, just as, I am sure, I will accept that member’s word that he did not discuss untoward things when he went to the Dotcom mansion three times.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have tended to be rather strict about people keeping to the point of the question and not going on for too long. The Prime Minister gets up, demonstrates what a hopeless leader he is, and then begins to criticise the questioner, whereupon you should have shot to your feet consistently to rule that he was out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his input today, but on this occasion the question was a bit more convoluted than that. The Prime Minister certainly answered the question but added something that did not help the order of this House.
Anzac Day Centenary—Commemorations at Gallipoli
12. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: What progress is being made in planning for Gallipoli 2015 commemorations?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Veterans’ Affairs): I can report two significant milestones from last week. As expected, there was tremendous interest in the Anzac commemorations at Gallipoli next year. The ballot for tickets to that commemoration has now closed, and 10,112 applications for the 1,000 double passes were received. The process has now started to review registrations, remove duplicates and invalid applications, and put forward confirmed applications for the ballot. I can also report a very productive meeting last Friday with
my Australian counterpart, Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson, and I am confident that the 2015 event will be a fitting reflection of the huge sacrifice made by both our countries nearly a century ago.
Dr Paul Hutchison: When will ballot results be announced?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Successful applicants will be advised by early April and will then have until the end of October this year to arrange flights and accommodation for the commemorations, to confirm their passes. Those who are unsuccessful and who elected to be on the wait list will be notified of any passes that may be available from those who can no longer attend, up until about 31 March. Can I just take this opportunity to remind those who are unsuccessful that there will be no other way to go, and that will obviously disappoint them, but there will be other opportunities to attend commemorations throughout the northern summer and right through the WW100 period.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Trans-Pacific Partnership—Release of Information
1. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Member in charge of Members’ Notice of
Motion No 1: Why did he lodge the notice of motion requesting Trade Minister Hon Tim Groser to table any final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement at least 28 days before it is approved by the Cabinet?
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Member in charge of Members’ Notice of Motion No 1): The public of New Zealand and our Parliament deserve the opportunity to scrutinise and critique the Trans-Pacific Partnership before it is signed. Parts of the trade deal being negotiated between the European Union and the United States will be released for public scrutiny. The New Zealand public should have the same opportunity to scrutinise the Trans-Pacific Partnership to see what our negotiators are putting on the table.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why does he consider it important that all members of the House and all New Zealanders have the opportunity to read the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement before it is approved by Cabinet?
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN: It is important that New Zealanders have the chance to look at this agreement, due to the fact that it could impact on the ability of future Governments to protect the environment. Leaked versions have shown that New Zealand has opposed—[Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The fact is that this question goes to the sovereignty of this Parliament, and I think we are entitled to hear the question being answered with some silence, rather than a raft of Cabinet Ministers all shouting out at the same time—and I wonder why.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The point about hearing it in reasonable silence is fair enough, but throughout question time one of the most vocal members has been the member himself—the member raising the point of order. Would Dr Russel Norman complete his answer, please.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If that is your view, then please raise it at the right time, not later.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] The member will leave the Chamber. Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: Would Dr Russel Norman complete his answer.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN: I lodged this motion because I believe it is important that New Zealanders have the chance to look at the agreement, due to the fact that it could impact on the ability of future Governments to protect the environment. Leaked versions of the agreement have shown that New Zealand has opposed US efforts to have countries within the Trans-Pacific
Partnership agreement follow existing global environmental treaties. Any agreement that could impact on our ability to fight climate change and protect the environment deserves proper scrutiny.