QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Programme—Policies and Results
MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore): How good is the Government—[Interruption] How is the Government ensuring recent broad-based growth and good fiscal management is delivering higher incomes—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to ask the member to repeat the question.
1. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government ensuring recent broad-based growth and good fiscal management is delivering higher incomes and more jobs for families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I am surprised the member had to ask, because there is so much evidence for it. As the economy continues to build momentum and moves into broad-based growth, there are signs that Kiwi households and businesses are starting to see the benefits. The economy as a whole grew by 3.1 percent—one of the faster growth rates in the developed world. Average weekly wages increased by 2.8 percent, compared with inflation of only 1.6 percent. Over the past year 66,000 more people got jobs, and unemployment is coming down. The number of jobs listed on TradeMe is 21 percent higher than 1 year ago. The married rate of New Zealand superannuation, which is a good measure because it is tied to the average wage, has increased by $249 a fortnight, or 28 percent, since 2008.
Maggie Barry: What indicators has he seen that confirm the economy is growing and that this is helping to deliver more jobs and higher wages?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The important thing about confidence measures is that they translate into investment and employment, more jobs, and higher incomes. The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index for March rose to its highest level since 2008. The survey found that more workers are reporting higher wages and households are reporting the highest job security in 4 years, the highest job opportunities in 5 years, and the highest reported earnings in 5 years. The latest ANZ Business Outlook shows that business confidence remains elevated. A net 67 percent of businesses are optimistic about their future. Building consents are also up by 22 percent in the year to February. Overall this suggests that broad-based growth is making a difference to households, which have better job security and report a higher likelihood of getting higher incomes.
Maggie Barry: What international reports has he seen that endorse the Government’s fiscal and economic programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It would not be that they are endorsing the Government’s programme so much as endorsing New Zealand’s very significant progress. Last week the IMF released its 2014 concluding statement on New Zealand. It said that New Zealand’s growth is “becoming increasingly embedded and broad-based”, that “Business and consumer confidence is strong”, and that the Government is on track to surplus. The IMF noted two main risks to the economy: a slow08 Apr 2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 2 of 11 down in our major trading partners and a price correction in the housing market. However, it said that the Government’s fiscal management and the current monetary policy settings have delivered improved resilience against these kinds of shocks.
Maggie Barry: How does the current economic and fiscal position compare with the one inherited by the Government in 2008?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is considerably better. By 2008 Government spending had jumped by 50 percent in just 5 years and floating mortgage interest rates by 2008 were almost 11 percent, a level of interest rates that certainly could not be tolerated by households these days. The 2008 Budget increased Government spending by $7 billion, or by more than 12 percent. This left a deficit of $4 billion for the 2008-09 year and forecasts of never-ending deficits. Fortunately, we are doing a lot better than that.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition): Does he agree with the statement by John Key in October 2008—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Question No. 2.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: It is question No. 2—I am sorry, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and especially ones made by John Key in 2008.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with the statement by John Key in October 2008 that if Labour had “in 2004-05 cut taxes, New Zealand would be a lot better off now”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why does the Prime Minister believe that, given that it would have reduced the fiscal surpluses run by the last Labour Government and left the country less well able to deal with the global financial crisis?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not necessarily. If Labour had made better policy decisions for the last 4 or 5 years of being in Government, this country would be a lot better off. Instead, it increased Government expenditure enormously, it robbed New Zealanders of their own hard-earned dollars by overtaxing them, it spent far too much money, and it forced up interests rates. And we all know that under a Labour Government of the future, interest rates will also go up quicker than they otherwise would do.
Hon David Cunliffe: Speaking of tax cuts, does the Prime Minister stand by his statement that his so-called tax switch of 2010, which overwhelmingly benefited high-income earners, was fiscally neutral, or does he agree with Treasury advice that it created a fiscal hole of more than $1 billion over 4 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I accept that it was both fiscally neutral and distributionally neutral.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Prime Minister confirm that National has never yet run a fiscal surplus under his leadership?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I can, but I can also confirm that one is coming.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why does the Prime Minister say that the fiscal surplus for 2014 will be “wafer thin”, and does that reflect lower than forecast tax revenues from an unbalanced economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but the member raises a very good point on just how challenging it has been to actually get New Zealand back to surplus; how few countries in the world have done it; how it would never have happened under a Labour-led Government, which wants just to spend money; how it would never have happened when New Zealanders were overtaxed with a capital gains tax; and how it would not have happened so easily when New Zealanders were having to work longer under more restrictions. The truth is that this is a National Government that is pro08 Apr 2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 3 of 11 growth and is getting the country back to surplus, and this is an Opposition that is opposed to growth.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why does the Prime Minister stand by his position that he wants to make this economy safe for speculators, and why will he not have a capital gains regime like almost every other developed country in the world?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We must be well and truly ahead of Labour, because there is already a capital gains tax for speculation on property.
3. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What announcements has she recently made in respect of the ACC levies?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): I have recently made a statement in respect of the substantial levy cuts for employers and workers. I note that from 1 April the average New Zealand working household can expect to keep about $211 extra each year, small businesses will be around $180 better off annually, and larger employers will receive, on average, a $6,000 reduction. This reflects the excellent performance of the ACC scheme over the last few years. It is fantastic that this year Kiwis will be $387 million better off as a result.
Chris Auchinvole: Does the levy cut reflect a reduction in service or benefits to clients?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No. ACC is constantly working to improve services to clients. In recent years the corporation has made genuine improvements in the way it rehabilitates injured New Zealanders back to independence. ACC has announced an updated and expanded approach to its injury prevention work and is continuing to embed robust privacy practices and new technologies and processes to help it improve client service. It has recently announced better access and wider choice, leading to better support for hearing loss treatment, and the trial of a new sexual violence prevention programme in schools promoting healthier relationships. It is important that not only is the scheme financially sound but it is trusted to support Kiwis when they need it. I am very pleased to see that New Zealanders remain at the heart of everything that ACC does.
4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister of Justice, given her $29,000 taxpayer-funded trip to China, which included two meetings organised with her husband’s company without declaring them in a trip report or declaring a conflict of interest?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Hon David Cunliffe: In that regard, does the Prime Minister know the name and/or position of the Chinese border official who attended the dinner in Shanghai with the Minister of Justice last year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know the name off the top of my head, but I have seen the name in the report.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister have confidence in a Minister who described a $56,000 donation to the National Party as being for “a charity”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not think any Minister has done that.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he stand by his statement that “if Mr Dotcom could prove Mr Banks was not telling the truth, I think we all know what the consequences of that are. That would be that Mr Banks has lied to my office and no minister can enjoy my confidence if they lie to me, but there is no evidence to prove that.”, and that Mr Banks gave his assurance that he was not aware that Mr Dotcom had made the donation to his mayoral campaign?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I hate to break it to the member, but Mr Banks is no longer a Minister, just in the same way that that member is very soon no longer going to be the leader of the Labour—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: Would the Prime Minister consider it possible to reappoint Mr Banks as a Minister, given that the judge’s ruling released yesterday says that Mr Banks’ comments about Mr Dotcom were that “Well I wanted him to make it, ah, and I, I told him he could make it anonymous.”—“I wanted him to make it, and I told him he could make it anonymous.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is asking a hypothetical question about whether I would reappoint anybody else. But I can say this: one thing I know is that New Zealanders do not like hypocrisy. If that member wants to get out there and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer now will not help the order of the House.
Hon David Cunliffe: Has Peter Dunne ever told him, directly or personally, that he did not make the draft Kitteridge report on the Government Communications Security Bureau available to a Fairfax reporter?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not felt the need to directly ask Mr Dunne. I have relied on his public assurances, just like I would like to rely on that member’s about who made secret donations through his trust.
5. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he believe that New Zealand’s biosecurity preparations, including Biosecurity NZ, are sufficiently and adequately resourced to protect New Zealand from biosecurity risks?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes. As the member will know, risk can never be eliminated from any system. That is why the Government has a comprehensive approach to biosecurity—pre-border, at the border, and post-border. An example of this system in action is the detection of two Queensland male fruit flies, caught in biosecurity traps this year—one last week, and one in January this year. This is a sign of the system working as it should, and I would like to acknowledge both the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Whangarei community for their efforts with this response.
Richard Prosser: Given that answer, does he believe that the $1.6 million spent on the first fruit fly and, potentially, the same amount spent on the second fly, just discovered, would have been better spent on the biosecurity fence at the top of the cliff rather than on the fumble-catch ambulance at the bottom of it?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Well, that is a two-part question. It is very important that we do a very thorough response and follow international best practices, which we are doing with this response, similar to the previous response. This is because ultimately we would like maintain our Queensland fruit fly – free status, which is hugely important for the $4 billion horticulture industry in New Zealand.
Richard Prosser: Is he concerned at the news that the Bio-Protection Research Centre at Lincoln University has had its Government funding cut? If so, will he work with his Cabinet colleagues to have that funding reinstated; if not, why not?
Hon NATHAN GUY: That is separate from the Ministry for Primary Industries. That is to do with tertiary education. My understanding is that there has been an independent panel that has assessed that process. For me, biosecurity is my No. 1 priority. That is why funding has increased every year since we took over from the Labour Government. Importantly, we are focusing on the front line, putting in more front-line quarantine inspectors, 12 new X-ray machines, and new dog detector teams as well.
Richard Prosser: Does he consider the $182 million spent on biosecurity to be sufficient given that it represents less than three-quarters of 1 percent of the value of the $25 billion agriculture industry it is supposed to protect, without which three-quarters of our economy would not exist?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Funding is very important. It is my No. 1 priority as the Minister for Primary Industries, because I have to focus on the front line, because of our primary producing exporters whom we rely on in this country. That is why we are increasing our presence in front-line quarantine inspectors—another 125 in the last 18 months—why we have 12 new X-ray machines; why we have five new dog detector teams, increasing to around 35; and why we also now have Government industry agreements where industry can partner with Government on preparedness and response.
Richard Prosser: Does he consider forcing research institutes in this country to seek funding by gaining commercial work on behalf of other Governments because they are not funded sufficiently by this Government to be a prudent approach to biosecurity risk management?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I have already addressed that question.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the continual stream of biosecurity incursions under his watch provide enough evidence of his failure as Minister; or what will it take to prove that cut-backs in staffing and funding have undermined New Zealand’s biosecurity reputation and put our whole economy at risk?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I am sick and tired of the rhetoric from the member opposite. What he does not acknowledge are all the incursions that occurred under the Labour Government, and if that member wants me to run through them I will now: varroa, painted apple moth, didymo—the list goes on and on and on.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Forecasts
6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: By what percentage will New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions increase in the next 10 years, according to the Ministry for the Environment annual report for the year ended June 2013?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): If we take that particular year, we input into it the exact existing Kyoto accounting frameworks—even though they are under negotiation for a new long-term agreement—and we assume for the next 10 years that the current extraordinarily low carbon price will drive the emissions trading scheme, the figure we get is 48 percent. If we change any of those parameters, we get a radically different result.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister therefore confirm that, according to the Government’s own statistics and own information, New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions will increase by about 50 percent in just 10 years?
Hon TIM GROSER: No, I can confirm that that is a projection based on the assumptions that we discussed in answer to the previous question.
Dr Russel Norman: When the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change calls for urgent action from all countries to reduce emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, why will his Government’s policies drive up net emissions by 50 percent in a decade?
Hon TIM GROSER: Well, we shall have to wait and see. We are discussing the difference between a projection and an eventuality that we cannot foresee. The underlying point here relates, however—let us repeat this once again—to the shape of the New Zealand forestry cycle, which operates on a 28-year rotation cycle and at that stage in the late 2020s will be at its absolute height. After new plantings take place, it will start to decline radically.
Dr Russel Norman: Why, when New Zealand is on track to be the worst-performing developed country when it comes to cutting emissions, is his Government not doing more to bring New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions down?
Hon TIM GROSER: New Zealand has been reducing its carbon intensity over the last 24 years by approximately 24 to 25 percent. We are becoming an increasingly carbon-efficient economy, but our gross emissions may be increasing because our economy is growing and the population is growing. I am quite confident that if we follow the policies of the Green Party in some future
Government, it will certainly achieve lower emissions, but it will be at the cost of higher unemployment and lower real wages for New Zealanders.
Dr Russel Norman: When the Minister told TVNZ that “We’re not playing God on this. That natural process will determine what happens to adaptation of human beings …”, is he seriously proposing that we just let climate change take its course, leaving our key industries, economy, homes, and precious species exposed and at risk?
Hon TIM GROSER: The answer is definitively no. That is not what I said. What I said is that the Government needs to provide strategic advice based on good science—and we are going to spend about $100 million on this in the years to 2019—to try to move the country along to a sensible adaptation framework. But actually New Zealanders have got a proven record of adaptation to different sources of change. I could go through numerous examples. My belief is that New Zealanders are better equipped to adapt to climate change than any developed country that I can think of.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by his comment to Radio New Zealand National that we have plenty of time, and how does he square this with other Governments’ responses to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, such as US Secretary of State John Kerry’s call for all countries to act dramatically and quickly to reduce net emissions?
Hon TIM GROSER: We are conflating two different issues here. One is the question of the quantum of global mitigation that the planet is undertaking, and that is not sufficient. In that respect I would absolutely associate ourselves with Mr Kerry’s statement. If we are talking about adaptation, I continue to believe—because the evidence supports this—that New Zealand is extremely well placed, over a very long period of time of 100 years, to make the necessary adaptation, provided we have sensible policies in place.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that New Zealand is on track to increase its net emissions by 50 percent in the decade ahead, according to the Government’s own reports, which will make New Zealand the worst-performing developed country when it comes to cutting emissions, has the Minister now dispensed with the policy of fast following, and instead taken it upon himself to be a leader not in emissions reductions but in emissions growth?
Hon TIM GROSER: The simple reality is that we are focusing primarily first of all on the first Kyoto commitment period and we are extremely confident that New Zealand will meet its international obligations. Beyond that, we are focusing on the period to 2020, where we have put forward a unilateral commitment of minus 5 percent on 1990 levels, which is considerably ahead of certain other developed countries. What happens beyond that is something we have not yet got a position on, other than the aspirational target of 2050, when we aim to reduce emissions by 50 percent.
7. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Infometrics estimate that the 1974 Super Fund would have savings of $278 billion, if it had not been axed by the National Government, and does he agree wages would be higher in New Zealand if we had those higher savings?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No, but it is good to see that the member has gone from relitigating the 2005 election to now relitigating the 1975 election, because, actually, it was voters who knocked that scheme on the head.
Hon David Parker: Does he accept that Australia’s successful universal workplace savings scheme, introduced a decade after National axed ours, is why Australia owns its banks and ours, and why Australians have higher wages?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, but I do know that two of the effects of it in Australia are that Australians have less money invested in businesses than New Zealanders—
Grant Robertson: Rubbish.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: —no, it is true—and its rise in household debt directly parallels its rise in nominal household savings. But if the member believes he wants the Australian system, he should be open with the New Zealand public that he is going to strictly means test national superannuation. There is nowhere in the world that has compulsory superannuation and universal national superannuation.
Hon David Parker: Will the Minister now admit that National was wrong to vote against KiwiSaver, which it now supports, and to call the Cullen fund, which it now supports, a dog?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, but if the member is going to advocate what he calls universal but is actually compulsory superannuation, he needs to explain what impact that will have on New Zealand superannuation. I think those who have been in this Parliament for a while will recognise that we have spent—what—20 years in vigorous discussion over the nature of national superannuation. It ended up universal because that is what the public wanted, and Labour is now advocating the Australian scheme, which involves strict income testing of national superannuation. I invite the member to announce that at the next Grey Power meeting he goes to.
Hon David Parker: Is the Minister able to table any document from the Labour Party supporting his last lie?
Mr SPEAKER: No—there is no ministerial responsibility at all for that.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was allowed to get away with misrepresenting Labour policy—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now the member is using the point of order system to debate an answer that has been given. The member should use an appropriate supplementary question.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do want to ask you how, therefore, it was possible that the Minister’s answer was in order. The Minister gave his answer and, as is allowed under the Standing Orders, Mr Parker then asked a supplementary question based on that answer. That is within the Standing Orders if the answer was in order, which you appeared to rule it was, so I cannot see why it would not be in order for Mr Parker to ask that kind of question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question that was asked from Mr Parker to the Minister was quite in order. It effectively was “Will the Minister now admit that National was wrong?”, and the Minister answered it very quickly by saying no, he will not admit that. The member David Parker has now asked whether the Minister is prepared to table some Labour Party documentation. If the member wants that question ruled in order, to settle the House down I will allow that question to stand, but if the member gets a very political answer back, he should not come back to me.
Hon David Parker: Is the Minister able to table any document that he has received that proves the assertion he made in his last answer, which was that the Labour Party is moving to a meansbased superannuation when that, in fact, is not our policy?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is quite a different question, but carry on.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If I could find a coherent, rational, sensible Labour Party document on this matter, I would table it. But I cannot, so I will table the results of the 1975 and 2008 elections, where these issues were litigated.
Export Sector—Government Support
8. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Economic Development: What announcements has the Government made to further help New Zealand exporters succeed internationally?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Last week the Prime Minister announced that Budget 2014 would contain funding of $69 million over the next 4 years for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, our trade organisation dedicated to helping Kiwi companies succeed overseas. The funding, which comprises $55 million in new money and $14 million of reprioritised funds, will mean a boost in New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s presence around the world. It will add seven new positions in Greater China. It will boost its presence in South America with new
positions in Brazil, Chile, and Columbia, and create two new positions in the Middle East. Of course, these announcements come on top of previously announced investments by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, Education New Zealand, and Tourism New Zealand in the rapidly growing ASEAN region. These markets are all high-growth and high-potential markets for New Zealand exporters.
Ian McKelvie: What else will the increase in funding allow New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to do?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The funding increase will also enable New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to deal in a more intensive way with more companies. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise currently works with around 3,500 companies and focuses intensively on around 500 of those. There are an increasing number of growing firms wanting a higher level of service as they seek to break into, or expand in, international markets. The funding increase that the Prime Minister announced will allow New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to progressively lift the number of companies it works with intensively from 500 to 700 over a 2-year period. Finally, the increase in funding will also allow ongoing investment in its high-impact programmes in sectors such as health, wine, agribusiness, information and communications technology, food and beverage, marine, and aviation.
Ian McKelvie: What other steps has the Government taken to help grow New Zealand’s exports?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government’s comprehensive Business Growth Agenda contains a very wide range of initiatives to boost our international connectedness and exports. For example, in the last year we have signed an economic partnership agreement with Chinese Taipei, launched the New Zealand Story for New Zealand exporters, and made significant policy and legislative reforms to grow New Zealand’s $2.6 billion international education sector. Budget 2013 contained funding of $158 million over 4 years for tourism initiatives for emerging and existing markets as part of the Budget’s internationally focused growth package.
9. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Commerce): Yes, and, unlike the member’s colleague, I am careful not to use political rhetoric and exaggerating language—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That will not help the order of the House. The question has been answered.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why did the Minister tell this House on 19 February 2014 that he was not aware of any documents produced by his office regarding the concerns around the conduct of supermarkets until they were raised by my colleague the Hon Shane Jones, when on 29 January 2014 he met with Katherine Rich, chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, who explicitly advised him of these concerns and he subsequently had his office draft a file note of that meeting and potential responses to questioning on the issue?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The specific allegations of Mr Jones of blackmail, extortion, and retrospective payments were raised in the House around the time the member there mentioned. I did run into Katherine Rich at a function with about 100 to 150 others. The specific issues that Mr Jones raised and talked about in the House for a couple of weeks under privilege were not raised.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: How does the Minister reconcile his answer to this House on 19 February 2014 in answer to a question from the Hon Shane Jones that “I am not aware of any documents prepared by my office regarding the behaviour of supermarkets towards suppliers.”, when the file note he asked his office to prepare after his meeting with Katherine Rich on 29 January 2014 clearly stated: “Katherine Rich has raised an issue with the Minister around supermarkets using dominant-buyer position to put pressure on suppliers.”?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: As I noted in my previous answer, the issues that Mr Jones raised were specific to blackmail, extortion, and retrospective payments. The issues that were discussed very briefly with Katherine Rich at a function were about dominant behaviour, which is section 36 of the Commerce Act, in the context of a much larger discussion about all sorts of matters in the industry.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I seek leave to table the said file note, reference MBIE-MAKO- 14354590, noting the issues raised by Katherine Rich—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that is sufficient—[Interruption] Order! I think that is sufficient information. Leave is sought to table that particular file note. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Given that concerns regarding supermarket conduct towards suppliers were raised with the National Government by the Food and Grocery Council directly and in correspondence as early as 2010, why has his Government failed to take any action to date?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Those matters have not been raised with me directly at all, thus my answers in the House to the allegations of Mr Jones of blackmail, extortion, and retrospective payments.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: My question related to the National Government, of which the Minister is a member, therefore I seek leave to table a letter dated 6 August 2010 from the Minister of Commerce to Peter Silcock, the Chief Executive of Horticulture New Zealand, dealing with the issues that Mr Silcock raised, as per my question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a letter dated 6 August 2010 from the Minister to Mr Silcock. Is there an objection to that letter being tabled? There is objection.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I think Mr Banks is practising his objections for court.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Ask the question.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does the Minister feel it is appropriate to refuse to answer questions in this House on 19 February 2014 regarding Progressive Enterprises because it is the subject of an ongoing Commerce Commission investigation but deems it appropriate to meet with Progressive Enterprises—the very entity currently being investigated by the commission—to carve out a facesaving voluntary supermarket code of practice that no one supports?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: To the best of my recollection, I have not refused to answer any questions in this House about these matters.
Autism Spectrum Disorder—Funding for Support Services
10. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has the Government made about better supporting people with autism?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Last week the Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia and I announced that the Government is investing an extra $32 million over 4 years so that more people with autism receive support to lead full lives. Everyone with autism spectrum disorder is now eligible to be assessed for support services such as supported living, respite, and carer support. In the past some people with autism but with no other disability received support while others did not. This change means that people with autism now have the same access across the country.
Dr Jian Yang: How many people will benefit from the new money announced last week?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am advised that around 2,800 people with a sole diagnosis of autism currently receive support services funded by the Ministry of Health. This extra funding will see the number of people receiving support increase by around 20 percent, to 3,400.
Teachers—Support for New Roles
11. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that the proposed creation of new Executive Principal and Expert Teacher positions has the support and confidence of school teachers and principals; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, because when I visit schools every week they tell me so—they tell me so at airports and on planes, at events, and in communications to me and to my office—and because the evidence in New Zealand and internationally affirms this direction, including the critical acclaim it got from experts at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession 2 weeks ago. But there is lots more work to do.
Chris Hipkins: What evidence did she rely on when determining that a successful school principal could be removed from their school for 2 days a week without that having an impact on the success of their own school?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The policy intent and parameters are set out in the Cabinet paper that was made publicly available the day we announced that investment. We also announced that a working group would be put together to work through the details, including the specifics around the appointment of executive principals. The evidence supports the direction of explicating excellence across career pathways, distinguishing between executive principals and principals.
Hon Member: What?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Perhaps I should explain—differentiating excellence.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not asking—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I know the point the member is going to raise. On this occasion I think the question has been addressed, but I can understand why the member is not satisfied. I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.
Chris Hipkins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What evidence did she rely on when determining that a successful school principal could be removed from their school for 2 days a week without that having an impact on the success of their own school?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The first thing, in answer, is: those decisions have not been finalised yet, because we are consulting with a working group from the sector. The second answer to that is that we already have the situation in New Zealand where principals contribute to the system beyond their school and are out of their school for the periods that that requires.
Chris Hipkins: Will the principal of a school that is being overseen by an executive principal be primarily responsible to the executive principal or to their school’s board of trustees?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The proposal is actually for the executive principal to be focused on an achievement challenge, or a set of achievement challenges, across a community of schools. It is not proposed that it is a hierarchical position to which the existing principals report.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member is raising a point of order as to whether that question has been addressed on this occasion, it has been.
Chris Hipkins: All right. Well, I will move on to the next one. Will a principal of a school that is the subject of an executive principal be primarily responsible to the executive principal or to their school’s board of trustees?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I have already indicated, principals of existing schools will retain their accountability to their board of trustees. The proposal for the new roles is to work on achievement challenges across a community of schools. It will not displace and is not proposed to displace the existing employment relationships.
Chris Hipkins: Will the executive principals remain primarily accountable to the board of trustees of the school that employs them; if not, to whom will they be accountable?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Subject again to the caveat that we are continuing to work with the working group on the design details of this policy because we are consulting, I say that it is expected that a group of those boards of trustees of the community of schools will be the authority to whom the executive principal reports.
Chris Hipkins: Will school boards of trustees have the final say on whether or not their school is placed under the oversight of an executive principal; if not, what role will that board of trustees have in that decision?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: For the third time, it is not proposed that schools be placed under the oversight of the executive principal.
12. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Is he satisfied safety in the petroleum industry is adequate given there have been two fires at installations, six uncontrolled releases of hydrocarbons, 15 events that saw emergency response plans activated, one well integrity issue and three incidents with the potential to cause a major accident, in just the past eight months?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): We have to remember that this is an industry with inherent risks. This Government has worked hard to bring New Zealand mining safety to world’s best practice. I am satisfied that our regime is at that standard, but there is no room for complacency.
Gareth Hughes: Well, how can the Minister stand by his repeated claims that we have a worldclass petroleum regime now that he has admitted that actually safety is not good enough in the industry?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think it is important to understand the difference in the level of reporting required under the new petroleum regulations that came into force in June last year. Under the old regulations, an operator was required to report only incidents of serious harm and complete failure of essential equipment. In comparison, the new regulations have been significantly widened to provide for the mandatory reporting of all dangerous occurrences. I am confident the new system is working as intended and that this will help lead to long-lasting, sustainable safety improvement in this sector.
Gareth Hughes: Is he satisfied that safety in the coal mining industry is adequate, given there have been dozens of incidents like at Spring Creek Mine, where a fire caused poisonous carbon monoxide to be pumped underground, then 3 days later it happened again, and then it saw dangerous levels of methane accumulate in 2,000 cubic metres of that mine?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Yes, and really for identical reasons to those that I have just given in relation to the petroleum sector. We really overhauled the system in terms of the law and the regulations. We set up WorkSafe New Zealand and the High Hazards Unit within it, with significantly more resourcing. The reporting that is required now is significantly greater, as is absolutely right, because we want to know every potential incident, and that is reflected in the figures that the member is asking about in his questions.
Gareth Hughes: Given that petroleum and coal mining are dangerous not only to the environment and to the climate but also to people, when will the Minister stop rolling out the red carpet to these industries and instead invest in cleaner, safer investments for New Zealand?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I do not have any red carpet.