Questions and Answers – March 12

by Desk Editor on Thursday, March 12, 2015 — 4:56 PM

Questions to Ministers

Prime Minister—Statements

1. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister : Yes.

Ron Mark : Given the Prime Minister said “last week we were looking through the various policies we want to announce—so they were finalised, I suppose, last week.”, on what date and at what time, then, was the decision taken to double-lane the eight Northland bridges not listed in the draft Northland regional land transport plan 2015-21?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I cannot give exactly that detail, other than to say it was before it was announced. But it is certainly the Government’s plan to campaign on what it plans to do for Northland. The issue for New Zealand First is whether or not it is for or against the bridges being double-laned.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleague Tracey Martin yesterday asked this very question. It has been 24 hours since that question was put. We would have thought that by this stage the Prime Minister’s office might have been able to give you that answer—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I refer the member to the primary question he has asked: “Does the Prime Minister stand by all his statements?”. Then he asked a supplementary question that said: “On what particular date and at what time was this decision made?”. The Minister is quite at liberty to say, when he rises to answer that question, that he does not have that information with him.

Ron Mark : Since the 3 News Reid Research Services poll of 5 March 2015, what is the cumulative value of policy pledges made by Ministers to Northland?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I think that National Party policy is the one that has been announced, because we are campaigning to get an MP into Parliament who represents Northland, not one who represents Southland.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! This is a point of order.

Ron Mark : The question was nothing to do about what the National Party is campaigning to do; it was about the value of—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member is now making exactly the same point as he made just before. If he asks a very general primary question, such as “Does the Prime Minister stand by all his statements?”, and then he moves on to ask quite specific supplementary questions about a cumulative dollar value, he cannot expect the Minister to have that information with him. Does the member wish to ask further supplementary questions or shall we move to question No. 2?

Ron Mark : Further to the Prime Minister’s points of order yesterday, are the pledges he is making to the people of Northland being made in his capacity as the Prime Minister or as the leader of a very nervous National Party?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : There is no responsibility for the Prime Minister’s role as leader of the National Party, but I can say that they are promises made out of respect for the voters of Northland, who need to know what they are voting for, not what they are voting against. Part of the plan is to get an MP who will service Northland, not a new New Zealand First MP from Invercargill, which is what that member is campaigning for.

Ron Mark : Then how many Ministers have visited Northland since 5 March, and what specific ministerial duties have they been performing whilst they are up there?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : If the member spent more time up there and not trying to elect an MP from Southland for Northland, he would know. There have been quite a few ministerial visits, because the Government does a lot in Northland and it plans to do a lot more. And we believe that Northland voters deserve to see what the plan is.

Government Financial Position—ACC Levies

2. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Does he stand by his statement “every Minister believes that the decision that affects them is the one that makes all the difference to the surplus or the deficit”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I do, because I am sure there are any number of Ministers who believe that their decisions or decisions about their portfolio were responsible for the fact that Treasury announced in the 7 months to January a $77 million surplus, the first one in a number of years. Of course, it is too early to tell whether that will translate into a surplus for the full year, but we are quite happy for any and every Minister to claim credit for the fiscal management that has gone into generating that $77 million surplus.

Grant Robertson : Does every Minister have advice from their own department, Treasury, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and outside agencies that they are in a position to save New Zealand businesses and workers $350 million, as the Minister for ACC had?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : All I say to that member is that when those members attacked the manufacturing sector by saying it was in crisis, it came right, and now that they are attacking the surplus, we have got one.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Can I invite the member to repeat his question.

Grant Robertson : Do not interrupt him this time, Gerry—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I have been gracious enough to the member to allow him to ask his question. I would now be grateful if he would.

Grant Robertson : Does every Minister have advice from their own department, Treasury, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and outside agencies that they are in a position to save New Zealand businesses and workers $350 million, as the Minister for ACC had?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, but I think that a number of Ministers have had advice that protests outside Government agencies over restructuring and excessive wage rises would probably make it harder to get to the surplus, and that member has organised such—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The question was answered at the very start.

Grant Robertson : Has the Minister of Revenue expressed the belief to him that decisions around the implementation of the child support system will make the difference between surplus and deficit, given that the cost of that project had blown out from $30 million to $210 million?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I think he may have done and, as I think has been discussed both here and in the select committee, the child support changes were made a great deal more complex by the select committee. It turns out that the cost of inserting those more complex changes into a very old tax system were high, and the Minister took a number of policy decisions to wind them back and reduce the cost, and that has helped us get to a surplus.

Grant Robertson : How often did the Minister of Revenue report to him about the escalation of $180 million of cost on the implementation of the child support system?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Oh, pretty regularly over a period of 2 or 3 years. I mean, it is a large, complex area of policy, where striking a balance between administrative cost and fairness has proven to be very difficult. Every member of this House gets to deal with people who feel like they are on the wrong end of the child support law, and I thought that the member might have been a bit more understanding about the reality for many New Zealand families.

Grant Robertson : As Minister of Finance, has he sought to hold anyone accountable for a blowout of $180 million in the implementation of the child support system?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Yes. There have been a lot of discussions about clarity and accountability, and I think, as the Commissioner of Inland Revenue has stated in the last few days, ultimately she is accountable.

Grant Robertson : If she is accountable, what action does the Government intend to take?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, the Government has a lot of confidence, actually, in the Commissioner of Inland Revenue. It has taken a series of decisions to minimise the cost and, actually, if the member took the time to understand the issues involved, he would probably be asking a different set of questions.

Grant Robertson : So can we confirm for the House’s benefit that the Minister of Finance does not believe that he needs to do anything in particular about the fact that there has been a $180 million blowout in the cost of implementing the child support system?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, I would not confirm that, because it is not the case. The Government has worked on this issue for 3, if not 4, years, trying to deal with the complexity and cost of delivering more fairness for New Zealand families who find themselves in pretty difficult situations, and I think that every member of Parliament knows how hard these issues are. It turned out to cost more than was originally expected. A number of decisions were taken to wind that cost back considerably.

Economic Growth—Reports

3. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Finance : What recent reports has he received about the growth outlook for the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Today the Reserve Bank issued its Monetary Policy Statement for March with updated forecasts that the economy will grow by 3 to 4 percent over each of the next 2 years, after estimated growth of over 3 percent in 2014. The bank says that the domestic economy remains strong supported by growth in employment and construction activity. Business investment and household income and consumption are moderately strong, supported by low interest rates, high net migration, rising house prices, and the flow-on effects of high commodity export prices in the last dairy season. As the Reserve Bank pointed out, of course there are some risks to this scenario over the next couple of years. It also forecast that annual inflation to March 2015 would be zero, which I think is unprecedented, and revised down its estimates of increases in the cost of living to 1.3 percent for the year to March 2016.

Dr Jian Yang : What does the Reserve Bank see as the main drivers of inflation and the economic outlook?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The Reserve Bank says that headline inflation forecasts reflect a high exchange rate, weak global inflation, and falling oil prices, so, effectively, New Zealand is importing deflation from offshore. Domestic or non-tradable inflation is higher at 2.4 percent but it does remain well below the long-term average. Oil prices are expected to remain at their current level over the next 2 years, moderating tradables inflation and boosting incomes and economic activity. The Reserve Bank says the outlook for the economy depends on these four factors: oil prices, dairy prices and farmers’ spending, domestic capacity pressures, and the housing market.

Dr Jian Yang : What is the role of housing in the outlook from the Reserve Bank?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The Reserve Bank seems to spend a lot of time focusing on the housing market because in an economy where most things seem to be pointing towards sustained economic growth for some time, which will lift incomes and households across the country, the housing market in Auckland is one obvious imbalance. Projected building work continues to rise with the Canterbury rebuild and building work continues to rise in response to the housing shortage in Auckland. House price inflation is being driven in part by net migration and by falling interest rates, but also the Reserve Bank agrees with the Government’s view that shortage of supply is a critical driver of house price increases in Auckland.

Dr Jian Yang : What steps is the Government taking to improve housing supply and take pressure off interest rates?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Of course, the critical thing about housing supply to understand is that it is councils that make the decisions. So the Government is working closely with councils to create special housing areas; we are reforming the Resource Management Act, which I know will have support from the Opposition members who are keen to see the supply of housing expanded; and we are spending $1.9 billion a year on accommodation support. On 1 April the Government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart programme will get under way, and that will also encourage new supply of housing.

Transport Infrastructure—Investment in Northland

4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport : How much has been spent in total by the New Zealand Transport Agency on roads in the Northland region under National Land Transport Programmes set by the current Government since it was elected in November 2008?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): I cannot be as precise as the member seeks, because records on spending are kept only year on year and start in July and finish in June the following year. But starting in July 2008 through to June 2015 this Government has spent $750 million on Northland roads, some 40 percent more than the Labour Government did in the same period of time. We back Northland, unlike the Labour Party and New Zealand First.

Phil Twyford : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was on notice. The National Land Transport Programme provides detailed information on yearly disbursements. It is not good enough for the Minister to say he cannot answer that question in detail or accurately.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, no. As I understood the Minister, he then talked about the financial year, so he gave a figure from 1 July 2008 of $750 million. The question has undoubtedly been addressed. If the member feels it is an unreasonable answer, I suggest he now makes progress with his supplementary questions.

Phil Twyford : When he told the media and the House that National had spent $750 million on Northland roads, was he aware that that includes a quarter of a billion dollars budgeted or spent by the then Labour Government; if so, why is he trying to deceive the people of this country about his cuts to the road funding in Northland?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Simon Bridges—either of those supplementary questions.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : The member is plain, simple wrong. We have spent $750 million over 7 years. But here is the thing, Mr Twyford: no matter how you cut the numbers, year on year, month on month, we have spent more than you.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! It is not—[Interruption]

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am on my feet.

Hon Annette King : Yes, Mr Speaker. I see that.

Mr SPEAKER : I am on my feet.

Hon Annette King : Would you like me to sit down?

Mr SPEAKER : I would like that. I was going to say to the Minister that it is not appropriate to bring the Speaker into this debate.

Hon Annette King : If the Minister quoted from an official document when he gave the figures to the House today, could he please table it? I am waiting for—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! It is easily resolved. Did the Minister quote from an official document? [Interruption] Order!

Phil Twyford : Why is he refusing to release the cost-benefit analyses completed for each of the 10 new bridges, and which projects have been cut or delayed to free up the funding for his by-election announcement?

Mr SPEAKER : Again, either of those two supplementary questions, the Hon Simon Bridges.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I appreciate it is difficult for the member. This is the second question he has asked me, ever—some 200 percent in 1 week—so I say congratulations on asking a question. The projects stack up. There are three bridges that will be prioritised in the first 3 years. All are in the regional land transport plan. It is quite clear to the people of Northland that these are important projects that need to be done, and we back Northland.

Phil Twyford : Was he aware, when planning to widen—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member can start his question again.

Phil Twyford : Was he aware, when planning to widen the “Darby and Joan” kauri bridge in Waipoua Forest that it is not actually a bridge but a single-lane section of road left that way in order to protect two ancient kauri trees? What does this Government have against ancient kauri trees—first the Resource Management Act reforms, and now they are in the way of National’s pork barrel?

Mr SPEAKER : Again, the Hon Simon Bridges—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I can sure the member that “Darby and Joan” are safe and sound.

Phil Twyford : Had he seen the widely published photograph of his colleagues putting up an election hoarding close to a busy main road before he announced—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is no ministerial responsibility in that question.

Phil Twyford : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The ministerial responsibility lies in the fact that the question—you did not listen to the full question—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat. He is very lucky that he is remaining in the Chamber today. I have ruled that question out of order. I will on this occasion give the member the opportunity to have another question, otherwise we are moving on.

Phil Twyford : Has he been advised that the widely published photograph of his colleagues putting up an election hoarding was done before his announcement of the 10 new bridges in Northland; if so, is he embarrassed that local people are taking the large pig standing in the photograph as a metaphor for his announcement?

Mr SPEAKER : I fail to see much ministerial responsibility. I will leave it for the Minister to answer. I call the Hon Simon Bridges, but he has a certain amount of latitude.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I understand the anger and disappointment from the member opposite. It must be gutting to know—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will remove that sign immediately from the Chamber. The member will remove that from the Chamber. Does the Minister wish to complete his answer?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I appreciate it is gutting—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Because of the way that was taken from the Chamber, the member can remove himself for the balance of question time.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : No, first of all I want the member to remove himself. Phil Twyford withdrew from the Chamber.

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

Chris Hipkins : There are some quite clear Speakers’ rulings around the use of props in the House, and I wonder whether you could indicate for future reference, so that members can comply with those, which of those you feel Mr Twyford did not comply with.

Mr SPEAKER : I can. If the member wants to look at Speakers’ rulings 56 and 57, there are a number of rulings about the use of visual aids. If they are of value to the House, then they can be used. That one I determined was straight electioneering and under no circumstances will I allow that. [Interruption] Order! Under no circumstances will I allow that to be displayed in this Chamber. Then I asked the member to remove it. The way he then removed it, by displaying it to everybody in this House, I found totally unacceptable. On that basis I have asked the member to leave the Chamber.

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : Is it a relitigation?

Hon Annette King : No, not at all. I wish to table the New Zealand Transport Agency figures from 2007-08, 2008-09, to 2013-14 showing that—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member has explained what she is attempting to table. I just need to check whether the information is freely available on the website.

Hon Members : Yes.

Mr SPEAKER : Yes, it is, and I will not—[Interruption] If other people wish to leave and accompany their colleague, I can assist.

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just clarify because the Minister said they were not available—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member is really testing my patience. I have explained on many occasions the purpose of tabling a document. It is not to make a political point. It is to further inform the proceedings of the House. On this occasion, I have ruled that if it is freely available to members, they have the ability after question time to go back and, if they want that information, get it on the website. Members need to bear in mind the tabling of documents is not to make a political point.

Julie Anne Genter : Can the Minister confirm, according to advice from his own officials, that funding ranges for local roads, road maintenance, and road safety were reduced by National in 2009 and 2012 in order to increase funding ranges for a few expensive new State highways, none of which are in Northland?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : That is incorrect. I appreciate, though, the member’s interest in public transport. We have not made an announcement on that in Northland yet. Can I say we have not talked about buses. That is lucky, though, because that is what the Labour Party, through—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That will not help the order of this House. [Interruption] Order! I will have to be asking somebody to leave, and it will be from the front bench on my left at this stage.

Julie Anne Genter : I seek leave to table this report from the Ministry of Transport stating that funding ranges for new and improved State highways were significantly increased in 2009 and 2012—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document has been described. I just again need to check the source. Is it freely available to members on the web?

Julie Anne Genter : No, it was not.

Mr SPEAKER : I will take the member’s word and therefore put the leave. It is a Ministry of Transport report that is not freely available to members. I am putting the leave. The House can decide. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Police, Minister—Advice Received

5. MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Police : What advice, if any, has he received about Iriheke Pere given that it is over 18 months since he was shot in the back while he was handcuffed and not resisting arrest?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Justice : I appreciate the member’s interest in the matter. Of course, it is the subject of an Independent Police Conduct Authority inquiry. The authority is independent in its day-to-day operations and it does not report to the Minister of Justice on individual complaints, so I have not received any advice on the matter.

Marama Fox : Although we acknowledge that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is an independent authority, we would like to know whether the Minister has any indication of when Iriheke Pere and his whānau expect to receive a report explaining why he was shot?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : As the member acknowledges, the Independent Police Conduct Authority is independent in its operations and it would not be appropriate for me to comment on a specific case. The member will, if she has a strong interest in it—and I am sure she does—need to take this particular matter up with the authority.

Marama Fox : What assurances can the Minister give that the delay in the timing of the report will not impact on Iriheke Pere’s potential claim for personal injury, given that the statute of limitations for personal injuries ends in August 2015?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : As I say, the Independent Police Conduct Authority is independent. I think that given the tenor of the member’s question it is a matter on which Iriheke Pere would be wise to take legal advice.

Roading—Waikato Expressway

6. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Transport : What progress has the Government made on completing the Waikato Expressway Road of National Significance?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Earlier this week I was delighted to announce that over $1 billion worth of funding has been approved by the New Zealand Transport Agency for work to complete the remaining three sections of the Waikato Expressway. The funding means that planning and work on the final three sections of this motorway can get under way, which, when completed, will see the expressway extend 102 kilometres from Cambridge to the base of the Bombay Hills. The new funding will also bring the Government’s total investment in the expressway to around $2 billion. Just like for other regions, such as Northland, there is no question that the Government is fully committed to supporting the Waikato and ensuring that it realises its economic growth potential.

David Bennett : What benefits will the Waikato Expressway deliver?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Many benefits. At least 1,000 jobs will be created once the final three stages of the expressway get under way. The expressway is a vital piece of infrastructure, which, once completed, will become the key strategic route for the Waikato region. It will connect the agricultural, tourism, and business centres in the wider Waikato and Bay of Plenty areas with Auckland. This improved connection will increase capacity while reducing travel times, reducing fuel and vehicle operating costs, and reducing the number and severity of accidents in the region.

Tim Macindoe : What reports has the Minister seen on the announcement this week that work on the final three sections of the Waikato Expressway is set to get under way?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I have seen a report from the chair of the Waikato Regional Transport Committee, who says: “This is fantastic news and the work will give a further shot in the arm to the regional economy, road safety and quicker journeys for both business and the public.” I have also seen a quote from the Mayor of Hamilton, Julie Hardaker, saying: “This project is a major contributor to economic prosperity, not only for our region but for New Zealand. Easy, safer, and quicker travel times between Auckland and Hamilton will provide another boost to Hamilton’s liveability and economy. We have already experienced the benefits of this roading project with the sections completed to date.” It is clear from these comments that the Government is really delivering for the people of Waikato. Indeed, we are doing so throughout the regions of New Zealand.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Government’s Objectives

7. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues : Is the Government’s objective to increase New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions or is the Government’s objective to decrease New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions?

Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Decrease.

Dr Russel Norman : In light of that reassuring answer that the objective is to decrease, does he think he has been a successful climate change Minister given that New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20 percent since this Government was elected in 2008?

Hon TIM GROSER : The spectre of the tall-poppy syndrome hangs menacingly above my head. I will leave it to others to make a judgment on that.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he think he has been a successful climate change Minister given that, according to United Nations figures, New Zealand’s carbon intensity has increased by 14 percent since his Government was elected?

Hon TIM GROSER : Leaving the first part of the question aside for the same reason, let me just say that that figure is completely misunderstood. The reality is that the Government measures emissions intensity in terms of percentage of emissions per unit of real GDP. On that basis—

Hon Ruth Dyson : The rest of the world is wrong; only Tim Groser is right.

Hon TIM GROSER : No, it has been misquoted. On that basis, emissions intensity in New Zealand has decreased by 30 percent between 1990 and 2012—the exact figure is 29.2 percent.

Dr Russel Norman : I seek leave to table a report from the Parliamentary Library showing emissions intensity has increased by 14 percent.

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

Dr Russel Norman : I seek leave to table a document from the library showing that New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased 20 percent since 2008.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Dr Russel Norman : Does he believe he has been successful as a climate change Minister given that the Ministry for the Environment is projecting a further 48 percent increase in New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade?

Hon TIM GROSER : The Government is on track not only to meet its 2008-2012 commitment to reduce net emissions to 1990 levels, but it is absolutely on track to achieve its objective of reducing emissions further to a minimum of minus 5 percent. Those are the commitments that we have taken; those are the commitments that we will meet.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the Government on track to meet its publicly announced target of decreasing emissions by 50 percent by 2050 in light of the Government’s own projections that show emissions will increase by 50 percent in one decade?

Hon TIM GROSER : I am still confident that can be achieved, for a number of reasons: No. 1, because our forestry cycle will swing sharply back in the other direction to being a sink for carbon emissions after 2030. Secondly, I think this country has got every reason to be optimistic that we will find long-term solutions for 70 percent of our gross emissions in the longer term because approximately 50 percent are agriculture—48.5 percent is the exact figure. There is major scientific research coming through that is extremely promising that should be available on the commercial market in 5 to 10 years. And this country, if you had been listening to the statements Mr Bridges has been making, is actually ideally placed to make major reductions in transport emissions, which are 20 percent of New Zealand emissions, as the cost of hybrids and electric vehicles continues to reduce given the massive share of renewable electricity in our country. So if he is—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is a very long answer.

Dr Russel Norman : This graph is relevant to my question, Mr Speaker. Is he proud of the fact—[Interruption] Yes, that is right; the National Party will cheer, but this shows New Zealand’s emissions intensity.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I know there may be some confusion about what the particular graph is showing, but the member still deserves the opportunity to ask his question.

Hon Steven Joyce : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This may help the House. I do not think you are allowed to table political polls in the House.

Mr SPEAKER : That is not a legitimate point of order. Would the member now get on with his question.

Dr Russel Norman : Is the Minister proud of the fact that the blue line in this graph is the line of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions going up by 48 percent—is he proud of the fact that New Zealand’s emissions are going to go up by 48 percent—and that the blue line also happens to be the colour of the governing party, and is he surprised by that?

Hon TIM GROSER : Putting aside exactly what that graph represents and its authenticity, the answer is that I am very proud to be part of a Government that is going to deliver on the two international commitments we have to reduce our net emissions.

Dr Russel Norman : Is it not true that when he is called the Minister for climate change he really is the Minister for climate change, and a very successful Minister at that?

Hon TIM GROSER : Until the Prime Minister suggests otherwise, I think I do consider myself the Minister responsible for climate change issues.

Hon Hekia Parata : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a wharenui and I think it is totally inappropriate to have props like that thrown around on the floor of our House.

Mr SPEAKER : It is a very large prop. The member might have found it easier to handle if it had been somewhat smaller, but he is allowed a visual aid if it assists—

Hon Member : It’s on the floor.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do note it fell on the floor—[Interruption] Order! I do not think that is satisfactory. I was going to allow the member to finish his line of questioning, and then certainly, if he was not moving to pick it up, I would be asking him to do so.

Dr Russel Norman : Given the facts that I have presented showing rapidly increasing greenhouse emissions, does he want to change his answer to the primary question, which is that the Government’s objective is actually to increase New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions and it is doing a jolly good job of it?


Dr Russel Norman : Will the Minister rise to what he himself has called the great challenge of our age—climate change—and match the recently announced European climate target of a 40 percent emissions reduction, or will he continue to keep New Zealand on track for a 48 percent increase in emissions in the next decade?

Hon TIM GROSER : We will meet our existing international contributions, and we will be consulting the New Zealand public shortly on what should be the next level. In the process of doing so, we will be pointing out that for a particular set of reasons that will be clear when members read the discussion document, there is no low-hanging fruit in New Zealand. If we look at Germany, for example, the 25 percent reduction in gross emissions was achieved almost exclusively prior to the introduction of the European emissions trading scheme by closing down lignite coal stations in eastern Germany. These soft options do not exist for New Zealand.

GDP Growth—Regional New Zealand

8. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Economic Development : What reports has he received on GDP growth in New Zealand’s regions?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Yesterday regional GDP figures for the year ended March 2014 were released by Statistics New Zealand. They show growth across all New Zealand regions, with a national increase of 6.7 percent. This nominal GDP data, combined with the household labour force survey data last month showing employment growth of 80,000 jobs in the last year, paints a strong picture of a broad-based economic recovery. It also highlights the results of the Government’s continuing focus on economic policies that encourage business investment in regions right across New Zealand.

Dr Shane Reti : How is the Northland economy performing compared with the rest of the economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Northland’s economy grew at 7.8 percent in the year to March 2014, which is well above the national average. This—[Interruption] I know that the Opposition wants to talk that down, but it is the region’s highest annual growth rate since 2007 and places Northland as one of the top three regions for growth in the North Island in that year. This strong performance is expected to continue, with the recent ANZ Regional Trends report highlighting that Northland had recorded the strongest annual rate of economic growth in the country in December: up 5.1 percent. Northland is a region that has struggled historically, but these figures highlight that under this Government Northland’s fortunes are turning round.

Dr Shane Reti : What other reports has he received on growth in Northland?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The regional GDP figures continue a strong run of economic indicators for Northland, with figures out this week also showing that the region’s tourism sector is having a good run.

Sue Moroney : People who live there are wrong! They don’t know what’s going on!

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Shh! Too noisy. Northland’s guest nights grew 5.3 percent. [Interruption] For the member, Northland’s guest nights grew 5.3 percent in the year to January, and the annual growth in guest nights is now running at 8.1 percent, against the New Zealand – wide growth rate of 5.6 percent. When you add that to the—

Dr Megan Woods : That’s the March figures. What about before that?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Shh! When you add that to the 7,500 extra new jobs created in Northland in the last year, it is clear that the region has turned the corner and is beginning to grow well. To put that employment growth into perspective, the entire country grew 80,000 jobs last year. So Northland generated, on its own, nearly 10 percent of the country’s job growth.

Partnership Schools—Contractual Arrangements and Whangaruru School

9. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education : Does she stand by her statement that in the event a charter school closes before the end of its contract “we will use the usual commercial instruments available to us to recover costs invested by the Government”; if so, which specific provisions of the contract with Whangaruru School allow for the recovery of funds in the event the school closes?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, to the first part of the question; in respect of the second part, it would be inappropriate for me to predetermine the outcome of the process that the school in Whangaruru is currently in.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not speculating that the school was about to close, and it is a question on notice. It is not unreasonable to ask that the Minister actually give a fulsome answer to a question that has been lodged on notice.

Mr SPEAKER : I think that the way forward is I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.

Chris Hipkins : Who owns the 100 hectares of farmland that have been purchased for Whangaruru School, and which provisions, if any, of the contract with that school allow for the Crown to make any claim to that land in the event that the school closes?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : The sponsoring trust owns the assets of the school. If I were to predetermine the outcome of that, I would be anticipating the kind of legal action we might need to take in the hypothetical situation that that particular school might arrive at a particular end to the process it is currently in.

Chris Hipkins : Do charter school contracts allow the Government to reclaim any of the set-up costs or unspent operating costs in the event that any charter school closes before its contract has been completed; if so, which clauses in the standard contract allow for that?

Mr SPEAKER : Hon Hekia Parata—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon HEKIA PARATA : Helpfully, the contract is online and has been publicly available for some considerable period of time, so I could direct the member to it. It would depend on the nature of the breach of the termination, were it to occur, as to the remedies available.

Chris Hipkins : Do charter school contracts allow the Government to recoup any assets at the end of the contract if it is not renewed?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : We have no contracts with charter schools. We have contracts with partnership schools.

Hon Members : Ha, ha!

Hon HEKIA PARATA : Well, I want to answer truthfully. So, no, I do not have any charter school contracts.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a question on notice. The words “charter school” are used in the primary question. The words “charter school” are used in the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with the ACT Party, which resulted in these schools being established. If the Minister had a problem with the terminology, there was plenty of opportunity for her to address that prior to now. To simply not answer a question, based on the fact that she does not like the terminology that is being used, is unacceptable. It is an offence to the House.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I—

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : I will allow the Minister to respond.

Hon HEKIA PARATA : The legislation that was passed establishing these legal entities called partnership schools, and that member was a member of the select committee, makes it clear at law that what exists is a partnership school. Because the member is now verging into technicalities relating to the contract, I have said I do not have a contract with a charter school.

Chris Hipkins : Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : No, I do not need further assistance. The difficulty I have with the Minister’s argument is that when I look at the primary question, which has been accepted as a question on notice, it does utilise the words “charter schools”. It probably should not have at the time. It has been there now. I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.

Chris Hipkins : Do partnership school contracts allow the Government to recoup any assets, in the event that a contract is not renewed?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : As I have said already, the contract provides for remedies dependent on the breach, were a school’s contract to be terminated. So I cannot anticipate which path we might go down, in the hypothetical situation of a school having its contract terminated.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister might have misheard the end part of the question. I was not asking about termination; I was asking about a contract not being renewed. Those two things are actually quite separate.

Mr SPEAKER : I think on this occasion the Minister adequately addressed the question that was asked.

Chris Hipkins : Do partnership school contracts allow the school operators to claim additional “committed costs” from the Government, in the event of early termination of their contracts; if so, what is the nature of those conditions?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Hekia Parata—either of those two questions.

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I am going to have to ask the member to repeat his question because I am not clear which particular—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is easy for me to manage. Would the member please repeat the question, and hopefully it is just one question.

Chris Hipkins : Do partnership school contracts allow the school operators to claim additional “committed costs” from the Government, in the event of early termination of their contracts?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I would have to take advice on that because I do not want to mislead the House, and that is a particular technical question in the contracts. I am happy to come back.

Hon Trevor Mallard : Didn’t she sign the contracts?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I am not a lawyer.

Chris Hipkins : How many students are currently on the roll at Whangaruru School and how many students is it being funded for?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I am advised that there are 37 on the roll and it is being funded for 40.

Social Development, Minister—Announcements

10. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister for Social Development : What recent announcements has she made on steps to protect children?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): On Tuesday I launched two new guidelines for people and organisations who are working with children, as part of the Government’s Children’s Action Plan. These guidelines are the first step to help organisations meet their obligations under the Vulnerable Children Act 2014. The guidelines Safer Recruitment, Safer Children and Safer Organisations, Safer Children advise on how employers of the children’s workforce can consistently recruit safe people to work with children and develop good child protection policies. Regulations are being developed as part of the next step of this process, which will cover the mandatory requirements that Government agencies must comply with.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar : How will children benefit from these new guidelines?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : The guidelines provide organisations with a standard, quality, child protection policy to better identify and respond to the needs of vulnerable children. The recruitment guidelines ensure that people recruited to work with children are assessed in a consistent way. The guidelines give a good cross-sector approach to good practice and safety checking, from sports clubs to voluntary homework clubs and cultural groups. Although the vast majority of our children’s workers are safe and conscientious, we do know that predators will seek to work with and be around children, and we must have robust safeguards in our workforce.

Darroch Ball : Does the Minister have confidence in the recent Better Public Services result showing a sharp decline in the number of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : It is true that this year we have seen the first decrease in the number of substantiated cases of abuse of children, but I would say that although we might celebrate that, it is too early at this stage to be sure that that is a trend.

Darroch Ball : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister quite specifically whether she had confidence in the recent result, and she did not mention any confidence or no confidence in that.

Mr SPEAKER : Does the Minister want to just add to the answer in order to satisfy the member? I cannot assist.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : The latest child abuse statistics show that the number of children abused in the year ended June 2014 fell by 2,306, or 12 percent, on the previous year. I would say that the numbers are actually still appallingly high—

Tracey Martin : Do you have confidence?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Do I have confidence in the work of Child, Youth and Family? Yes, of course, but I think what I am saying to you is that it is too soon to know whether this is a continuing trend. We will have to watch and wait and see and continue the work we are doing over the next year or so before we can tell whether that decrease is going to be continued.

Darroch Ball : How can the Minister be confident now or even in the future in the Better Public Services results without a public independent audit on how her ministry is achieving them, or is she going to continue to allow the ministry to act like a self-licking ice cream and manipulate its own results?

Mr SPEAKER : Either of those supplementary questions.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : It is very easy to stand in this House and make stupid comments about some very hard-working public servants who are out there doing their very best. I have to say that this Government, in introducing a green paper, a white paper, and a Children’s Action Plan and passing the Vulnerable Children Act, has done more to protect vulnerable children in this country than that Labour Party over there did in Government or than any Government that that member’s party has supported.

Accident Compensation Corporation—Confidence in Board

11. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister for ACC : Does she have confidence in the ACC Board?

Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister for ACC): Yes.

Sue Moroney : Was ACC’s recommendation to reduce levies in the work and earners accounts ignored by the Government in 2013 and then again in 2015 in order to help the Government’s books into surplus, as the Prime Minister confirmed in Parliament on Tuesday when he said it was a factor in that decision?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : The Government has been very consistent in what we have said about this. We have said that a range of factors are taken into account. Surplus may be one factor, but also a number of other factors are taken into account. Long-term view in terms of claimants, our current costs around the scheme, the discount rate—a range of things are taken into account.

Sue Moroney : Will she seek an urgent reconsideration of the Government’s levy rates in light of ACC’s advice to the select committee this morning that its work account and earners account have already reached the top end of their funding bands—that is, the work account has reached 140 percent of what it needs to fully fund the lifetime costs of accidents and injuries in December—

Hon NIKKI KAYE : No, that is just not true.

Sue Moroney : —that is what the ACC board told the select committee this morning—while the earners account reached 130 percent of what it requires at the same time?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : I think the member needs to listen at the select committee hearing. What I understand the chair told the select committee today—

Sue Moroney : You weren’t there.

Hon NIKKI KAYE : —from National members who were there—was that there has been a $4 billion shift in January around the overall claims liability. That swung back by $2 billion in February, but what that demonstrates is the Government’s very fiscally prudent approach to take a long-term view in terms of ACC.

Sue Moroney : Is the Minister denying that in December last year the earners account achieved 140 percent of its funding ratio, and is she denying that the work account achieved 130 percent of its funding ratio?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : In terms of the work account, I would encourage her to understand ACC a bit better and to understand gradual process, because when you take into account—

Sue Moroney : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Hon NIKKI KAYE : —gradual process, it is not—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! We do have a point of order.

Sue Moroney : It was a very specific and direct question—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is a lot of noise in the House today. Would the member please just repeat the question for the Minister to answer.

Sue Moroney : I cannot read it specifically, but I will relate it. [Interruption] I will relate it—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Sue Moroney : —because it is not written down. Is the Minister denying that the work account has achieved 140 percent of its funding ratio as at December last year and that the earners account has achieved 130 percent as at December last year?

Hon NIKKI KAYE : With regard to the work account, as I said, she has not taken into account gradual process—and that is what she continues to fail to do—which means that the solvency rates come down as a result of that. But the second point that I would make—and this is the main point here—is that you can take these accounts at a point in time, but if you do that, you end up in the situation that we had of having a $5 billion deficit in ACC, because you need to take a long-term view because of the significant shifts in the account. The Labour Party needs to understand that what businesses need is certainty and stability around levies, not the yo-yo effect of what it is proposing.

Sue Moroney : Given that ACC takes into account all of those factors she just mentioned before it makes recommendations to the Government, will she stop just making a different excuse every other day about why she will not return ACC levies to the right amount and stop overcharging businesses and workers for—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Now the question is going on for too long.

Hon NIKKI KAYE : Let me make a couple of points. The first point is, as I have said before, we need to take a long-term view because otherwise we will end up in the situation where we have a $5 billion hole. The second point that I would make to the member is that under our Government we have gone from the $5 billion hole to, essentially, a fully funded scheme. But what businesses do not need is a yo-yo effect, which is what the Labour Party is promoting. The other point that I would make is that there has been $1.5 billion worth of reductions under this Government. It is money back.

Sue Moroney : Is she aware that section 6 of the Accident Compensation Act, which she referred to in Parliament on Tuesday, is, in fact, the interpretation section of the Act, which just tells us what various words mean, and can she explain how that section of the Act gives her the legal authority to use ACC levies, which are supposed to be gathered to pay for injuries and accidents, to achieve a surplus in the Government’s books instead?

Mr SPEAKER : Well, there are two question there.

Hon NIKKI KAYE : Yes, I am aware that section 6 is the interpretation section, but she needs to read it in the context of both section 330 and section 331(5), and I will read that out for her—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, no—[Interruption] Order! That will not be necessary. The Minister was asked the question “Is she aware …”, and she has answered it.

Small Businesses—Support

12. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Small Business : What steps is this Government taking to support growth for small business?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): Small businesses are the backbone of the New Zealand economy. This Government has taken a number of steps through the Business Growth Agenda and the Better Public Services targets to support growth for small businesses. Another initiative is the regional business partners programme, which aims to deliver a service valued by small and medium sized businesses in the regions across New Zealand. In the 6 months to 31 December 2014 the Regional Business Partner Network has worked with over 1,500 businesses looking to grow and innovate, providing one-off advice and information, such as raising awareness of the support available to them, simplifying guidelines and communications, and improving the consistency of services delivered to small and medium sized enterprises.

Scott Simpson : What reports has the Minister seen that show that there is growth in small and medium sized businesses?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : I have seen a number of recent reports that confirm there is growth among small and medium sized businesses. The ANZ Business Outlook report stated: “Business confidence is buoyant … Businesses remain very optimistic … [and, as a result] a net 22 per cent expect to be investing more.” The report also talked about business growth being strongly correlated to GDP growth. New Zealand’s GDP growth of 3.2 percent and strong GDP growth in the regions of New Zealand will give small and medium sized businesses even more confidence to grow under the policies and economic management of this Government.

Scott Simpson : What factors would stifle the growth of small business?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : There are a number of factors that would remove flexibility and stifle the growth of small businesses. They include adding complex new taxes, which would stifle the growth of small businesses; enforcing and making compulsory unionised workplaces, which would stifle the growth of small businesses; and reducing the ability of small businesses to employ people for trial periods would stifle their growth. If we want small businesses to grow and hire more Kiwis, the last thing they need is those initiatives, which are promoted—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Barbara Stewart : Can the Minister list his five favourite regulations benefiting small business from the 1,246 statutory regulations gazetted in the 50th Parliament?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Well, I might find that there are probably a whole lot more than five, but I suppose they are the rules and regulations in and around small business; creating a low tax environment; simplifying the tax system; bringing our accounts into surplus to keep interest rates lower; the 90-day trial system, which is covered in regulations—I could go on, but it is a Thursday. I suggest that the member could look at the Business Growth Agenda, in which she would see 350 actions, of which over half are now well completed.

Jacinda Ardern : Will he consult the Small Business Development Group, the panel of small-business owners who advise Government on small-business issues, on their view on current ACC levies at their next meeting on 15 April?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : I can pre-empt that. I have been in discussions with members of that group and they are very thankful for the $1.5 billion of ACC levy reductions that are now locked in from 2012 to this year. So the Small Business Development Group is quite pleased with the moves we have done to make ACC financially sustainable and, of course, to bring the levy reductions into play.

Jacinda Ardern : I will be verifying that. Can the Minister confirm that of the approximately 31 patsy questions he has asked himself this term—

Hon Steven Joyce : 32, including yours.

Jacinda Ardern : No, 31, I added the extra—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not want to have to deal with—[Interruption] I do not want to have to deal with anybody severely on the Government side of the House at this stage of proceedings. The member might want to start the question again.

Jacinda Ardern : Yes, I am happy to. Can the Minister confirm that of the 31 patsy questions he has asked himself—

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not believe that there is any such procedure in this House for the asking formally of a patsy question. There is, however, an opportunity for Opposition parties to ask questions, but, of course, they do not because they do not like the answers, particularly in this case. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have been in the House somewhat longer than Mr Brownlee—not much—but I have heard many, many patsy questions asked in question time.

Jacinda Ardern : I am going to start again. Can the Minister confirm that of the 31 patsy questions he has asked himself, not one has included anything substantive to reduce the cost of doing business; if so, will he accept our suggestion that he use his next patsy question to announce a reduction in ACC levies?

Mr SPEAKER : Again, the Minister, the Hon Craig Foss, can answer either of those two.

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Well, technically, I have not asked myself any questions actually, but I wait with pleasure every day when the member gets up and asks me questions about small business, because it is such an easy hit. Everything that that member talks about on Labour’s policy, be it voting against $1.5 billion of ACC cuts, capital gains tax, compulsory unionism—you name it—compliance frenzy, the member can shake her—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have heard enough.


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