Questions and Answers – February 26

by Desk Editor on Thursday, February 26, 2015 — 5:36 PM


Economy—Progress 1. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making in building a more competitive and productive economy as one of its priorities for this term of Parliament?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: In the last hour or so the Minister gave a speech in Auckland that covers this very question. There is broad agreement amongst commentators that New Zealand is doing well compared with other developed economies, and that we are making good progress. Our economy is growing, employment is increasing, wages are rising, and households and businesses are benefiting from low inflation and a long period of stable low interest rates. We are also making good progress in improving public services in areas like welfare, health, education, and law and order, and we are pressing on with wide-ranging economic reforms under the Business Growth Agenda to support more jobs and higher incomes.

Ian McKelvie: How will the Budget on 21 May build on the progress with the Government’s economic programme, and what will be its main areas of focus?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government’s seventh Budget, on 21 May, will set out the next steps in our economic programme. We have 3 very busy years ahead of us, and there is much to do. Our approach will remain clear and predictable. We will stay focused on the four main priorities, which are responsibly managing the Government’s finances, building a more productive and competitive economy, delivering better public services, and continuing to support the rebuild of Christchurch. We have progressed all of these priorities in the last term, and that is helping us to ensure that New Zealanders and their families benefit from a growing economy and the Government’s responsible management.

Grant Robertson: How does the Minister think a “more competitive and productive economy” will be created when today we learn that total goods exports were down by $371 million, or 9.1 percent, in the last year?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would say to the member to just be careful not to get carried away with each month’s exports or you will be in this emotional rollercoaster up and down. What I can tell the member is that last year New Zealand’s exports of goods passed $50 billion for the first time, despite the high exchange rate that exporters have been challenged with.

Grant Robertson: What progress does the Minister think he is making to his 7-year target of lifting exports from 30 percent to 40 percent of GDP, when they have fallen by 9 percent on a 1-year basis, not on a monthly basis, Minister?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, the member needs to be aware that just before that decline there was a big increase. He can take the view that it is all turning to the proverbial in a handbasket, but, (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) actually, most New Zealanders are impressed with the resilience of New Zealand’s export sector through a very tough period of the global financial crisis and high exchange rates relative to the US dollar. We will continue to challenge that target, but I would point out to the member that the other thing that has happened in the meantime is that Statistics New Zealand has rebased New Zealand’s exports over the last 20 or so years, and that has made the target harder to achieve.

Ian McKelvie: How are the growing economy and the Government’s responsible economic management translating into real benefits for New Zealand families?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealand’s families are benefiting from the Government’s programme in several important ways. For example, from 1 April this year, paid parental leave will increase by 2 weeks to 16 weeks and by another 2 weeks from 1 April next year; the parental tax credit will rise from $150 a week to $220 a week, and the entitlement will increase from 8 to 10 weeks; the Government’s new Homestart scheme will help around 90,000 Kiwis into their first home over the next few years; and New Zealand superannuation will increase by another 2.07 percent, which means that superannuation will have increased by 31 percent since April 2008, double the rate of inflation over that time. Then from 1 July, children under 13 will have access to free general practitioner visits and free prescriptions, and the average ACC levy for a private motor vehicle will fall by around $130 a year.

Ian McKelvie: What other indicators confirm that the economy is heading in the right direction, particularly compared with many other developed countries?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are a number of positive indicators. Our challenge over the next few years is to ensure that the economy continues to grow solidly. Current signs are very encouraging. Business investment increased from $30.5 billion in 2010 to $38.4 billion last year. That is an $8 billion improvement in real terms in just 4 years. And 146,000 additional new jobs created in the past few years represent the strongest employment growth we have seen in this country for over a decade. Forecasts show the economy growing by an average of about 3 percent a year over the next 5 years, following annual growth of between 2 and 3 percent over the last 3 years. This would be, if it comes to pass, an 8-year stretch of sustained growth, supporting more jobs and higher incomes, following the domestic recession we inherited in 2008 and the global financial crisis.

Health—Budget for 2015/16 2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What advice has he received on the Health budget for 2015/16?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: The member will be aware that the details of Budget 2015 and the evidence and advice that sit behind the Budget are confidential until the Budget is announced in May. I have received a range of advice that will inform the thinking of the Cabinet for the Budget in May.

Hon Annette King: Was the funding signal given to district health boards to ensure they can complete the first drafts of their annual plans by March $250 million, as recommended by Treasury, or $320 million, as proposed by him in the paper to Cabinet in December last year?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Nothing has yet been decided on the health budget, and the paper leaked to the member has never even been considered by Cabinet. There have been no cuts. The Government has increased the health budget by an average of $466 million per year since we have been in office, and we have seen consistently improving results across the sector. This year will see further increases in the health funding, and we expect even better results for New Zealanders. By contrast, the member doubled the health budget and we are—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no responsibility there.

Hon Annette King: Does he stand by the advice he was going to give to Cabinet, but has not given yet, that the signal of $320 million to district health boards for 2015-16—and this is a quote (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) from the Minister—“will make it extremely challenging to manage the pressures in Vote Health.”; if not, why not?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I stand by all my statements, and I stand by the statement that in the last year funding has increased by $327 million to all the district health boards across the nation. What this Government is not going to do with the Budget is double the health budget but see deficits blow out by $155 million, as it did under that member’s tenure.

Hon Annette King: Is his recommendation to Cabinet that 20 district health boards share $86 million to address the cost pressures they face in 2015-16 sufficient to meet wage pressures, which, as he stated in the Cabinet paper he has not given to Cabinet yet, were “estimated to cost $50 million for just a 1 percent in wage/pay increase for our hard-working health workers.”?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Obviously, a number of employment negotiations are taking place, and I am not going to prejudice the Government’s position by discussing those negotiations. But suffice to say that the member is wrong again on those facts.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have just been challenged on the facts. I seek leave to table the Cabinet paper that he has not released, which has those figures in it.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular paper described by the member. Is there any objection to that paper being tabled? There is.

Barbara Stewart: Will Budget 2015 rectify the increasing trend of patients being discharged untreated by our hospitals, which in many cases has doubled under this Government?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I have stated in my previous answers, the funding for the health budget has increased over $466 million per year, year on year, since this Government took power. That will see further increases in our health funding relating to both elective surgeries and other services to the communities.

Barbara Stewart: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I can anticipate the point of order that is coming. I am going to invite the member to repeat that question for the benefit of the Minister.

Barbara Stewart: Will Budget 2015 rectify the increasing trend of patients being discharged untreated by our hospitals, which in many cases has doubled under this Government?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I have not been briefed on those specific facts, but if you would like to make a written question to the Minister, we will answer it in due course. Thank you.

Hon Annette King: How much of the $86 million signalled to cover cost pressures across all district health boards will Counties Manukau District Health Board receive in light of its chair, Lee Mathias, stating on Tuesday this week that its district health board alone is predicting a shortfall of $100 million—just one district health board?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I said in my response to the primary question, I cannot make available the details of Budget 2015 because it is confidential until the Budget is released. What I can say about the Counties Manukau District Health Board is that it received, in the last financial year, $1.33 billion worth of funding, and that is an increase of $311 million since this Government took office.

Hon Annette King: Is the Minister aware that the Counties Manukau District Health Board has been told it would get $23.61 million for 2015-16 when it is predicting a shortfall, just in this year alone, of $35 million?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I have already said to that member—and that member knows the Budget process—I cannot release that figure. What I can say is that since this Government took office, there are now 220 more doctors on the front line. There are now 433 more nurses on the front line in the Counties Manukau District Health Board, and there are now, in terms of orthopaedic surgery, more patients who are operated on in the Counties Manukau District Health Board region, and that member should know all of this. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Benefits—Reports 3. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received on the latest valuation of the benefit system?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is the Minister going to respond?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The valuation measures the future cost of New Zealand’s benefit system. The latest valuation shows welfare reform is having a major impact on those costs. The total cost of the benefit system over a lifetime is now $69 billion, a $7.5 billion reduction. Once you remove all the outside factors like the economy and unemployment, etc., $2.2 billion of the reduction is solely due—

Iain Lees-Galloway: Minor details!

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: If you just listen, you might learn something. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! It was not helped by the Minister’s interjection across the House, but she was responding to interjections from my left. Could the Minister just complete her answer.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Once you remove all the outside factors like the economy, $2.2 billion of the reduction is solely due to this Government’s welfare reforms and the hard work of the front-line Work and Income staff who are supporting people into work. The reductions we are now seeing will mean fewer people on benefit in the years to come, which means we are going to see healthier and more prosperous households.

Scott Simpson: What indicators does the valuation provide regarding the number of young people on benefits?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This Government’s investment in youth services is having a great effect. The report shows us that 51 percent—just over half—of young people on the youth payment at 17 years are off a benefit when they turn 19, compared with just 31 percent 3 years ago, and we want to keep that momentum going. There is still much work to be done, particularly on intergenerational issues. The valuation showed that nine out of 10 young people who went on to a benefit grew up in benefit-dependent homes as children. This reinforces the importance of working to break that cycle of intergenerational welfare dependence, which this Government is committed to doing.

Superannuation Fund—Responsible Investment Framework 4. JAMES SHAW (Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he have confidence that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund is living up to its commitments to ethical investment as outlined in its Responsible Investment Framework?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The answer is yes. It is important to note that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund operates independently of the Government and is overseen by an independent board, but it does have a Responsible Investment Framework, which is closely aligned with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. It is benchmarked and assessed by the UN on a regular basis. The last report concluded that the Superannuation Fund was managing responsible investment issues and risks to a best-practice standard and was one of the best-performing signatories of the principles globally.

James Shaw: So does he believe that loaning $200 million through a tax shelter country like Luxembourg; using a shell company like Oak Finance, which was created by a US investment bank like Goldman Sachs; to a Portuguese bank like Banco Espirito Santo, which collapsed amid accusations of fraud and tax evasion; to help a Chinese company now under investigation for bribery, working for the Venezuelan State Oil Company, is a good example of the Superannuation Fund living up to its Responsible Investment Framework commitments?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think there are distinctions between the framework generally and particular investments. I think the member raises fair questions about that investment and I know that those questions were addressed at the select committee this morning. I think it is important that the Superannuation Fund be very careful to operate carefully as well as investing responsibly. The (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) House has noted, and I have seen public reports, that most people in the House think that on the whole it has performed well, but I think we would all hope and consider that it should learn any lessons that need to be learnt from this particular investment.

James Shaw: When he told the House on 18 February that he expects “the Superannuation Fund to take into account the risks to future profits for the companies in which it invests.”, is he concerned that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in financial products like the Oak Finance – Goldman Sachs loan, which Moody’s described as speculative and high risk?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think I said in the previous answer that there were issues of concern there and that I believe that the Superannuation Fund should be very careful to learn the lessons from that. This is an interesting situation where the Superannuation Fund rightly, I think, operates independently of politicians, but as a result of that it has a heightened level of responsibility in terms of the way it makes investments. Again, I think on the whole the Parliament would probably be supportive of the returns that the fund has been making. That obviously comes with some risk—all investment does—and we would expect that the Superannuation Fund would learn any lessons that should be learnt from this particular investment outcome.

James Shaw: Does he also believe that investing in fossil fuel companies, which are directly contributing to the disappearance of small island States and the displacement of millions of people as a result of catastrophic climate change, is a good example of the Superannuation Fund living up to its Responsible Investment Framework commitments?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do actually think that it is OK for the Superannuation Fund to invest in fossil fuel companies, in the same way that I think it is OK that the Green Party continues to fly around the country in planes fuelled with fossil fuel. The simple fact of the matter is that fossil fuels are a part of our daily life and actually a part of the investment scene internationally, and I think we have to be very careful about the suggestion that we should start telling the Superannuation Fund not to invest in a whole range of things because of the political views of certain parties in Parliament.

David Seymour: What seems to be coming out of the answers is that there are—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can we just have the question please.

David Seymour: What would happen if the Superannuation Fund was to have another objective added, which was to be a supplier of capital to small businesses at sub-market rates?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member illustrates some of the risks when various politicians decide what a fund such as the Superannuation Fund should or should not invest in according to their political beliefs, rather than to the likely investment returns of the funds. Actually, it is good that the fund invests in small and medium sized businesses, provided the return is good. The purpose of this fund is to help meet New Zealand’s future superannuation entitlements, and we do have to be careful not to take political views on all the different types of investment that we think the fund should or should not invest in and take the risk that it actually ends up losing money because Parliament gives it such confused objectives.

James Shaw: Given that answer, when he told the House on 18 February that it is ethical to invest in oil and coal companies because there is a profit to be made, does he also think that the Superannuation Fund should invest in tobacco companies and arms manufacturers because there are profits to be made there too?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: What I believe is that the Superannuation Fund should operate its Responsible Investment Framework, which it does, and that it should come up with that framework itself. We have an independent benchmarking of that framework from the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. That is benchmarked on a regular basis, and the conclusion drawn by that body is that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund is managing responsible investment issues and risks to a best-practice standard. I think that on that basis we can assume that it is balancing those investment opportunities—all the investment opportunities—appropriately for the fund. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

James Shaw: Why is he so reluctant to use his power to direct the guardians of the fund to stop putting New Zealanders’ hard-won superannuation savings into polluting industries, stranded fossil fuel assets, and dodgy deals?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I think the member is fixing on two issues, one of which I think there is a legitimate concern about, which is the outcome of an investment. The other, frankly, is a little hypocritical coming from the Green Party—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —which uses fossil fuels. The challenge with that is that we actually have a fund that I think, again, by all agreement is actually performing reasonably well because we do not fetter it on a regular basis with politicians’ decisions. So I think that Parliament and the Minister would have to be very, very careful before making those sorts of directions, and generally that has been the case on all sides of this House.

Transport, Auckland—Connections between Airport and Greater Area 5. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Transport: What work is the Government doing to provide better transport connections between Auckland International Airport and the Greater Auckland area?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Increasing population and air traveller numbers are going to place growing pressure on State Highway 20A, which connects Auckland’s international airport with the Greater Auckland region. Last week I was delighted to turn the first sod of the $146 million project to upgrade the Kirkbride Road intersection on State Highway 20A near Auckland Airport. The project will support future population and business growth in South Auckland and in the Greater Auckland area and will improve travel times to and from Auckland’s international airport—New Zealand’s international gateway.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What benefits will the upgrade of the Kirkbride Road intersection on State Highway 28, near Auckland Airport, deliver for travellers and for business?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: By accelerating this $146 million project to upgrade this intersection there are at least three benefits: firstly, a safer, faster, more reliable route into the city on, for the first time ever, one streamlined motorway; undoubted benefits to the local community, including public transport, cycleways, and for walkers; and it will also undoubtedly support regional economic growth. For Mr O’Rourke, who is very passionate about both light and heavy rail, he will be pleased to know that that option has been included in this magnificent project.

Partnership Schools—Whangaruru School 6. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her decision to approve the Whangaruru Partnership School; if so, why?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes; because the school is in an area where there has been longstanding concern about educational underachievement. The school was set up to give a group of the most disadvantaged kids another shot at education.

Chris Hipkins: Why did she agree in September to vary the contract for Whangaruru School, reducing the number of qualified teachers it is required to have, at the very time she was receiving advice from the Education Review Office that its report into the school was delayed because the school was facing major problems?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Because we are trying to find successful pathways for these young people, and the particular choices they were making required different skills.

Chris Hipkins: How does lowering the bar or lowering the standards that Whangaruru School has to meet when it became apparent that it was having major problems fit with her earlier commitment that charter schools would be held to higher standards and be more accountable than State schools? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I reject the basis that that question was asked on. Having teachers who have a particular set of skills but are not registered does not mean lowering the standards. It means providing a pathway for the kids who are involved in vocational opportunities.

Chris Hipkins: Does she believe that she made a mistake in agreeing to increase the number of untrained teachers at Whangaruru School, given the Education Review Office readiness report subsequently found that adequate support for the untrained teachers already at the school had not been available?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No. I think the issue, though, of the level of support available is a key issue, and it is one of the ones that I have identified in the performance notice that I issued to the school.

Chris Hipkins: Did she or her officials know, prior to making the variation in Whangaruru School’s contract, that the school was having difficulty ascertaining the registration of key staff and that it was not clear that there was a sufficient appraisal process in place to be able to attest that their current teachers continued to meet the registered teacher criteria?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do not know where the member is getting his information from, so I cannot comment on it.

Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table the Education Review Office’s readiness report, for the Minister’s benefit, because she obviously has not read it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member had just sought leave to table the document, that would have been a far more appropriate way to do it. I will put the leave and let the House decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Primary Industries—Support for Farmers and Growers 7. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What Government support is available for farmers and growers along most of the East Coast of the South Island since a medium-scale adverse event was declared on 12 February 2015?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): The Government has made an extra $200,000 available to localised rural support trusts, which provide advice, coordination, and emotional support. Rural assistance payments are also available from Work and Income, and assistance from the Inland Revenue Department will give greater flexibility to affected farmers and growers around their tax obligations. History shows that farmers and growers are not interested in a handout. They want to know that the Government acknowledges that many of them are experiencing tough times right now, and I know that they have the resilience to get through this.

Jacqui Dean: What recent developments occurring from the drought conditions has he been advised of?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Just because we announced a medium-scale adverse event it does not mean that the drought conditions are over for farmers or growers. Yesterday irrigation from the Ōpua Dam stopped. The Ōpua supports three important areas, and they are social, environmental, and economic. It supports the Timaru water supply, which, as I understand, will still be maintained. Fish and Game has also been rescuing fish from drying rivers and releasing them into the Ōpihi River, which is fed by this storage scheme. And, of course, the Ōpua also underpins hundreds of jobs and the South Canterbury economy. This just highlights how much worse it could have been if we did not have decent water storage projects built in this country.

Jacqui Dean: Where can farmers and growers in affected areas continue to receive up-to-date information and support?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Organisations such as Rural Women, Beef and Lamb, Dairy New Zealand, and rural support trusts are holding various events over the coming weeks where farmers and growers can meet and exchange support and advice. Federated Farmers are also operating its feed line, and of course the banks have made support packages available for farmers. Of course, farmers and growers can reach out and call the 0800 number for the rural support trust. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Hon Damien O’Connor: Why will the Minister not provide the support that farmers and growers have been asking for in report after report, and that is more resource for a better bioprotection system?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Well, we are. We are, and industry knows that. Industry was very worried at the last election that the Labour Party could have been sitting on this side of the House on the Treasury benches, because they knew that you did not support irrigation, you did not support biological—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! You cannot bring me into this answer.

Wage Rates—Minimum Wage 8. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Should the minimum wage be enough to live on?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources) on behalf of the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: The minimum wage is an hourly rate, not an amount of total family income. The majority of those on the minimum wage are young people under 25. Many are students working part-time who often have access to other means of Government and family support. However, the Government recognises that it is not easy for those on lower incomes, particularly those with children. That is why the Government provides targeted support for low-income families through things like Working for Families, the accommodation supplement, and income-related rents. That support can, of course, amount to many hundreds of dollars a week.

Denise Roche: Is it fair that minimum wages rose by just $20 a week and the student allowance by 90c in the same week that MPs are likely to hear that our pay has increased by about $200?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Be very clear—the minimum wage is now the highest in the world relative to average incomes and the fourth highest in real terms in the world. We have put it up every single year. Be very clear also that this Government does not agree with the Remuneration Authority, but, of course, that is an independent body.

Denise Roche: How can he justify a minimum wage increase that after the rent has been paid leaves workers much worse off than they were a year ago?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: That is simply nonsense. Let me repeat—we have increased it every single year we have been in office. It is now—on, really, any measurement—one of the highest minimum wages in the world. But we have also got to be careful that we do not put people out of work, and that is the difficult balancing act that we as a Government, and a responsible one, take on board.

Denise Roche: Is it fair that $20 a week is only half as much as the average rent increase in the past year, leaving workers way out of pocket?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I remind the member that, in fact, the minimum wage has gone up over $100 a week under this Government.

Denise Roche: Will he peg real minimum wage increases in the future to the rate that productivity rises, or does he not think it is fair that workers get a share of the wealth that they are producing for their country?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: In fact, the minimum wage at this time—from 1 April—has gone up by more than wage increases on average in this country. As I say, it is now one of, on any measure the member likes to take, the highest in the world.

Denise Roche: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was asking about whether he would peg it to productivity—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.

Denise Roche: Will he peg real minimum wage increases in the future to the rate that productivity increases, or does he not think it is fair that workers get a share of the wealth they are producing for their country? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, I would note, as I say, that at 3.5 percent it has probably gone up by more than the measure the member is using. There is a wide range of factors that go into determining the minimum wage—inflation and, to some extent, the productivity measure that the member talks of.

New Zealand Defence Force—Deployment in Iraq 9. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Defence: What rules of engagement, if any, has the Government set for the New Zealand Defence Force personnel operating in Iraq if they come under attack?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) on behalf of the Minister of Defence: Rules of engagement are currently being finalised. It is a longstanding practice that we do not release rules of engagement, as that would provide a level of operational detail that could endanger the safety of personnel.

Hon Phil Goff: Was the Minister’s statement on Radio Live yesterday that if there were assailants outside the camp wire, “We are not going to say: ‘Whoops! Can’t go after them because the wire’s there.”, consistent with the Government’s position and the rules of engagement?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It was a general statement. As I have said, however, rules of engagement for specific missions are classified as they detail the extent of force, including lethal force, that may be used. For that reason they are not disclosed.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did that so-called general statement totally contradict the Prime Minister’s assurance at his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday that there is no way New Zealand troops would go outside the wire at Camp Taji, stating that even “If there’s some fight down the road, they couldn’t go out and assist.”; how are those two statements lining up with each other? They totally contradict each other.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I actually did not hear the specific answer. I am sure the Minister of Defence, in his customary way, was trying to be helpful. I have said, however, what the rules of engagement are and what release of the details means. I have repeated that, and repeat it.

Hon Phil Goff: How on earth will the Kiwi soldiers deployed into Iraq know what they are not or are allowed to do if the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence utterly contradict each other in that way, when they are already concerned that they will not have a status of forces agreement to give them legal protection?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: They will know very clearly what they have to do. As that member knows, as a former Minister of Defence, the New Zealand Defence Force’s rules of engagement are orders of the Chief of Defence Force for the purpose of the Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971.

Hon Phil Goff: In the absence of a status of forces agreement, if there is a green on blue attack where the trainees turn their guns on those training them, what legal protection will there be for a Kiwi soldier who shoots a rogue Iraqi soldier in self-defence, or will the response be, as has been suggested, that you will simply whip him out on a diplomatic passport as if he had committed a criminal offence?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Actually, the first part of the question before it degenerated was actually a good question and it is a very fair one. The Government will not be deploying the Defence Force overseas without appropriate legal protections. I say to that member that one does not have to get hung up on the title “status of forces agreement”, it is the substance that matters. That is what is being worked on at the moment. I can give that member and the House the assurance that they will not be going until that is sorted. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Food Safety—Reports 10. TRACEY MARTIN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Food Safety: What reports, if any, has she seen regarding food safety issues in kindergartens, play centres and kōhanga reo?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister for Food Safety): I have seen the New Zealand Public Health Surveillance Report that covers October to December 2014. The report states that the third most common setting for illness outbreaks in New Zealand is childcare centres. Some of the reported illnesses will relate to food, and the Circumstances of Exposure part of the report noted 23 childcare centres with 327 cases of various illnesses.

Tracey Martin: Given that answer, does the document that the Minister is referring to support the implementation of another layer of cost and bureaucracy linked to the Food Act 2014 when these centres already have to comply with food safety regulations set down by the Ministry of Education?

Hon JO GOODHEW: The member refers to the consultation process that the Ministry for Primary Industries is currently undertaking with all parts of New Zealand where food is served. Safe food is important for everyone in our society. What the ministry is intending to do, as is evidenced in the Act that was passed last year, is to find the right balance between ensuring safe food and also keeping the costs down for the businesses that are serving that food.

Tracey Martin: When the Minister made the following statement: “We want the regulations to be practical and appropriate for the wide range of businesses operating in New Zealand’s food industry, from coffee carts and catering companies to restaurants and large industrial food manufacturers,” was she aware that kindergartens, playcentres, and kōhanga reos could be caught by these regulations?

Hon JO GOODHEW: The answer to that is, of course, yes. The Food Act applies to food for sale. If an education provider is offering food as part of its service and is charging fees, then the Act will apply. However, there is an exemption from the requirements to operate under a food control plan or national programme for home-based early childcare education services and early childcare education services that undertake only minimal food handling. It is important that during the consultation phase of this process, given that the Act comes into effect next March, all of the early childcare centres and sector engage with the Ministry for Primary Industries to sort through what the ramifications will be for them. But underlying all of this is that safe food is a priority for New Zealanders.

Tracey Martin: Given that playcentres, kindergartens, and kōhanga reos work on a donation basis and given that the previous Minister for Food Safety stepped in to minimise unintended consequences of the Act in the 50th Parliament, will this Minister step up on behalf of our youngest children to exempt these centres, and if not, why not?

Hon JO GOODHEW: The member raises an important point, which I think is easily answered by this. We have looked at minimal food handling as being an area that would indicate that there is no need to comply with having to have a food control plan or a national programme. So each individual case will need to work out what the nature of the food that they serve is and, in fact, if they are not charging for the serving of that food, then it is most likely that they will be exempt. However written into the Act is also the ability for the director-general to on a case by case basis exempt a particular requirement or the charging of fees for an individual entity. So I can assure the member that we need to work through this, one step at a time, and have great engagement from that sector with the Ministry for Primary Industries. Now is the time to get it right.

Primary Industries, Minister—Confidence 11. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast – Tasman) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he have confidence in his department? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes, I have confidence in my ministry. In particular, I have confidence in the way it is responding to the fruit fly incursion in Auckland. It is coordinating 180 staff, working hard on the ground with the support of the local community to eradicate this pest. I also have confidence in the way it is supporting those in need through drought conditions. The Ministry for Primary Industries has provided additional funding to rural support trusts and is regularly engaged with local authorities to coordinate support for farmers and growers in the affected areas.

Hon Damien O’Connor: How have the 13 brown marmorated stink bugs entered New Zealand, and can he assure New Zealanders that a population has not been established, which would cost the country billions of dollars?

Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I cannot confirm that, but what I can confirm is that there has been a population explosion in the US. The Ministry for Primary Industries is reviewing all the import health standards. It is looking at chemical eradication, in particular, for products that are coming in to the border. We are extremely aware of this pest and the ramifications it could have on the horticulture industry. That is why biosecurity will always be my No. 1 priority.

Hon Damien O’Connor: What is the cost to the Ministry for Primary Industries of moving the Pasifika Festival out of the fruit fly exclusion zone?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I am unaware that there is any cost. What I can say, because I visited the response site yesterday, is that there has been great collaboration between the Auckland Council, Ministry for Primary Industries officials, and also the organisers of this festival. It makes prudent sense for it to be moved to the planned location, and I endorse that.

Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify, and I am not trying to be smart—did the Minister say he did not know of the cost?

Mr SPEAKER: It would really help—[Interruption] Order! It would help if members themselves could listen to the answer. The Minister responded that he was unaware of the cost.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Does he accept ultimate responsibility for the failure of our biosecurity system, and why does he not abide by his own Government policy of “three fly strikes and you’re out” and simply resign?

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Nathan Guy, either of those two questions.

Hon NATHAN GUY: What a ludicrous question. We cannot take anything this member says seriously. Last year, when we had a fruit fly find in Whangarei, this member came out and said that we should ban all imports of fruit and vegetables from Australia. Not even the industry was calling for that. Do you know what that would have meant? The price of bananas would have gone up. We could have had trade ramifications from the Australians. This member is completely out of touch.

Richard Prosser: With regard to the Associate Minister’s answer to supplementary question No. 3 in response to question No. 9 in the House yesterday, will the Minister explain the mechanism by which his department, when triaging calls to the answerphone of the hotline, which is not staffed 24/7—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is simply too much noise while this question is being asked. If the member could also just make his question far more concise. He does not need, I think, to refer to the answer yesterday, but just start with the essence of the question. I can assist the member to get an answer.

Richard Prosser: Will the Minister explain the mechanism by which his department, when triaging calls to the answerphone of the hotline, which is not staffed 24/7, manages to identify the origin of cellphone calls in order to give priority to calls from cellphones from the street next door to an existing fruit fly find over calls from cellphones on the West Coast of the South Island?

Mr SPEAKER: To the best of the Minister’s ability, the Hon Nathan Guy.

Hon NATHAN GUY: The 0800 number is working extremely well. We have noticed a big increase in calls. Yes, there is a process where members of the public who are calling through late at night will go across to a recording and they are treated with priority in the morning. I know that the (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) member has a real focus on border security, particularly when his pocket knife got removed from him when he was wanting to fly on a plane.

Richard Prosser: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.

Richard Prosser: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a recording of the 0800 number, which shows that the caller was asked to leave a message—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If it is an 0800 number, every member has the ability to dial that after question time if they wish to listen to it.

Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to clarify, I am sure this recording will no longer exist.

Mr SPEAKER: I am not putting the leave to table a recording of an 0800 number answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. This is a point of order. It will be heard in silence, but before I hear it, if the member is any way questioning a decision I have just made, that, in itself, will lead to disorder.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My colleague has been pointing out that on a very critical matter to do with biosecurity a phone is not being answered when it should be. He has evidence of that, and I think the country needs to know that that is the level of unimportance that the Government attaches to it. Therefore, it is significant—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. He is very lucky if he remains for the last question. I have ruled that I am not prepared to put the leave. That is the end of the matter.

Hon Members: Why?

Mr SPEAKER: Because I have explained that to the member. Anybody can go and ring an 0800 number if they so want to. Question No. 12, Barbara Kuriger. [Interruption] Order! If I hear another interjection from that quarter, I will be asking a member to leave the Chamber.

Family and Sexual Violence—Reports 12. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki—King Country) to the Minister for Women: What reports has she received relating to the prevention of family and sexual violence in New Zealand?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Minister for Women): Today I was proud to release the Ministry for Women’s report Wāhine Māori, Wāhine Ora, Wāhine Kaha, which concentrates on preventing violence against Māori women. This research will contribute to work being done by the Government’s family violence ministerial group, and marks the first time the Government has sought to engage in and understand primary prevention of violence against women from a Māori perspective.

Barbara Kuriger: How were Māori engaged with in order to develop the findings of the report?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: In partnership with the Ministry of Social Development, 11 hui were held around New Zealand with 16 Māori service providers and 47 research participants. Through this engagement, the Ministry for Women identified a range of perspectives on what primary prevention is and what the protective factors are that keep Māori women safe from being victims of violence. Analysis of the key discussion themes has shown promising primary prevention strategies for Māori women and their families.

Barbara Kuriger: How does the Minister plan to engage with Māori to share the findings of the report?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: I have planned a number of engagements around the country to meet those who will be able to benefit from the research presented in Wāhine Māori, Wāhine Ora, Wāhine Kaha. These interactions will build on and broaden the findings in the report by giving service providers, iwi, and community members an opportunity to share their views. As well as discussions with stakeholders, who will be able to use the findings to achieve better safety outcomes (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) for Māori women, I plan to ensure that there is a strong uptake of this work in homes and communities. Violence is a problem for many New Zealand women, not just Māori women, so any ideas will be used in the broader context of policy development to help prevent family and sexual violence in New Zealand.

Sue Moroney: Why, then, has her ministry given up on reducing violence against women by 2016, as it once planned to do, and now does not expect to see any reductions until 2018 in its latest output plan, despite the fact that this has been one of her ministry’s top three priorities for 6 years now?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: I want to assure the member that, as the Minister for Women, preventing violence against women up and down this country continues to be one of my top priorities. I will be working closely with the ministerial group in a whole-of-Government approach to solve some of these deeply entrenched challenges, and the research findings from this report will be an important part of that, particularly for how to keep women safe in Māori homes and communities.

Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked why her ministry had changed its targets and its dates, and there was no response to that—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am unsure whether the question was addressed. I am going to invite the member to repeat the question.

Sue Moroney: Why has her ministry given up on reducing violence against women by 2016 and now does not expect in its latest output plan to see any reductions until 2018, despite that being one of the top three priorities for her ministry for the last 6 years?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: That member is incorrect. The ministry has not given it up. It has not changed its target. This is a Government that is committed to solving the challenges and keeping women up and down New Zealand safe in their homes.

Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table the output plans from the ministry from 2013-14—

Mr SPEAKER: Can I just—[Interruption] Order! All I need to do is to clarify whether they are freely available to members. Yes, they are, so I will not be putting the leave.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister’s last answer is true, did she receive reports of a particular case of family and sexual violence in Northland in 2014, and what did she or her colleagues do about it?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member can answer the question in respect to her own ministerial responsibility. Did she receive such a report?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: My question today refers to a report preventing Māori violence in Māori families, and I have not received any other reports.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked what reports has she received—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I think that if the member had listened to the answer before he jumped to his feet, he would have heard that the member then concluded the answer by saying she had received no other reports.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Of the reports she has received relating to—going off the primary question—the prevention of family and sexual violence in New Zealand, what reports has she received about a high-profile case in Northland that should have come to her and her colleagues’—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. I will refer the member to Standing Order 115, which I have mentioned once before. There is a matter before the courts. It will not be discussed in this House. The member, if he had wanted to do so, had the ability to write to me if he intended to raise the matter; he has not done so. That concludes questions—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest of respect—

Mr SPEAKER: Point of order, the Rt Hon Winston Peters—[Interruption] Order! I have got to call the member first—the Rt Hon Winston Peters. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am not infringing any sub judice rule, which I am very familiar with as a trained lawyer—much more than you are, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a point of order, and I wish to listen to it in silence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am asking whether or not she received any high-profile case information, and what she did with it. For example, she could answer “I referred it to the legal authorities.” or “I referred it to the police.” But to say that I am captured by the sub judice rule when I have not mentioned any case is simply not correct.

Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We all know that the member is skating very much on the head of a pin on this issue, and we also all know that he was fired by Russell McVeagh for not being a very good lawyer. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a serious matter—[Interruption] Order! I have given a ruling where I think this House is in danger of breaching an arrangement that is longstanding with regard to the judiciary. If the member intended to raise it, he had the ability, as I have pre-warned him before, to write to me, so I am declaring the question out of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I will listen once more to the Rt Hon Winston Peters on this matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I am not litigating this issue. It is the one that Mr Bridges raised when he made his point of order. It was totally offensive and an utter lie, and he should apologise. At least I got employed by the firm; you did not.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think we take that as one all.


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