Questions and Answers – April 2

by Desk Editor on Thursday, April 2, 2015 — 7:23 PM

Questions to Ministers

KiwiRail—Replacement of Locomotives

1. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises : What reports, if any, has he received about KiwiRail’s plans to get rid of electric locomotives on the North Island main trunk line and replace them with diesel locomotives?

Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): I have not received any reports on KiwiRail’s review of its locomotive assets. However, I am aware that KiwiRail has put out a statement, which said: “As with any responsible business operator, KiwiRail has a continuous process of asset management. The EF class of locomotives have reached the point that a review of their future is required. They are performing poorly and this is beginning to impact on our operations, so we are currently reviewing their future.” It is my expectation that KiwiRail reviews any asset that may not be performing well, to ensure that it continues to meet operational requirements. However, I also note from the KiwiRail statement that no decision has been made.

Phil Twyford : Why was he not told by KiwiRail’s board, under the no-surprises policy, about its proposal to implement dirty diesel on the North Island main trunk line, putting hundreds of jobs and billions of dollars of infrastructure in jeopardy?

Hon TODD McCLAY : I am informed by the statement that KiwiRail put out that no decision has been made yet, so what the member is doing is speculating. This is a decision and consideration for the KiwiRail board. When it has made a decision, it will signal that to us.

Phil Twyford : What is his view about the consequences of a proposal that would put at risk billions of dollars’ worth of electrification infrastructure, based on the assumption that if electrification infrastructure is not used, it will have to be removed from the line, and has he told the Minister of Finance about that possibility?

Hon TODD McCLAY : The Government’s commitment to KiwiRail is clear. Since 2008 we have invested $1.3 billion in this. When one considers the amount that was spent by the previous Labour Government to buy KiwiRail—and it spent too much of it—more than $2 billion has been spent. We expect KiwiRail to run its business efficiently, and I think that taxpayers have a right to expect that KiwiRail will consider the very best way to deliver service in that environment.

Phil Twyford : How does dirty diesel on the main trunk line square with his Government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions in the transport sector at a time when every other country is trying to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and increase electrification in the transport system?

Hon TODD McCLAY : I repeat, again, that no decision has been made. Firstly, I expect KiwiRail to assess all of the options, including environmentally. Secondly, I think this Government’s commitment to renewables is beyond question. Almost 80 percent of electricity generated in New Zealand is renewable. I expect KiwiRail, on behalf of the taxpayer, to run its business efficiently and effectively, and that is what we are waiting for it to do.

Phil Twyford : Why is he allowing KiwiRail to buy cheap Chinese diesel locomotives when the last lot of cheap Chinese electric locomotives have spent months in the workshop laid up with mechanical problems and asbestos contamination, and the cheap Chinese rolling stock has had equally disastrous consequences?

Hon TODD McCLAY : The Government, on behalf of the New Zealand taxpayer, has invested $1.3 billion in KiwiRail since 2008. I do not think that anything it is doing is cheap.

Phil Twyford : I seek leave of the House to table a letter from KiwiRail management to staff about the dirty diesel plan.

Mr SPEAKER : I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table this letter. Is there any objection? [Interruption] Order! There is objection.

Question No. 2 to Minister

JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green): I seek leave of the House to have my question transferred back to the Minister of Transport, as my question pertains to a critical component of our transport infrastructure.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am not prepared to put that leave. It is quite clearly established in the Speakers’ rulings that the Government has every right to decide who is, in its opinion, the most appropriate Minister to answer the question. It has transferred it and that must be accepted.

KiwiRail—Replacement of Locomotives

2. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises : Is he considering replacing the electric locomotives with diesel locomotives on the Main Trunk Line, and would this mean removing electrification on that line?

Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): No. I would note that this is an operational matter and it is a decision for the KiwiRail board. I would also note that KiwiRail has made no decisions on this issue.

Julie Anne Genter : Why does his Government not consider that decisions relating to core components of our transport infrastructure, like the electrification of the main trunk line, are not a matter of Government policy?

Hon TODD McCLAY : No, that is not what I said in relation to the primary question. What I would say, however, is that this Government has spent more on transportation infrastructure than any Government in the history of this country.

Julie Anne Genter : Would replacing the electric locomotives used on the North Island main trunk line with diesel locomotives increase or decrease the carbon pollution from rail freight movements?

Hon TODD McCLAY : I do know that that is a hypothetical question. I guess it would depend on how much the trains are used.

Julie Anne Genter : I seek leave of the House to table research from the Parliamentary Library showing that the pollution is 20 times greater from diesel locomotives than from electric.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? There is objection. Question No. 3—[Interruption] Order! Question No. 3—

Julie Anne Genter : Supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER : In future, if the member wants to ask a supplementary question, it is important she follows—supplementary question, Julie Anne Genter.

Julie Anne Genter : Will his Government rule out ditching electrification infrastructure on the main trunk line to avoid locking us into a high-carbon transport future; if not, why not?

Hon TODD McCLAY : There is nothing to rule in or rule out at this time. KiwiRail is assessing all of its options. Included in that, I expect KiwiRail to consider all options’ environmental impacts—of each of those options.

Julie Anne Genter : Is the impact of climate pollution from transport a key factor in investment decisions for KiwiRail and for this Government; if not, why not?

Hon TODD McCLAY : There are a number of factors KiwiRail will be taking into account, and that, I am sure, will be one of them.

Julie Anne Genter : Will his Government commit to investing in upgrading or replacing the electric locomotives here in New Zealand, which would support high-value manufacturing jobs today and preserve climate-friendly infrastructure well into the future?

Hon TODD McCLAY : As with my answer to the previous question, our commitment to KiwiRail, on behalf of the New Zealand taxpayer, is $1.3 billion. I think it is fair that the taxpayer should ask KiwiRail to make sure that the funds the Government is giving it are used as well and as effectively as they can be. The Government expects it to consider all options, including environmental.

Julie Anne Genter : Would KiwiRail be forced to cut corners to save money if his Government was actually committed to investment in rail as part of our core transport infrastructure to the same extent as it is committed to spending billions of dollars on low-value motorways?

Hon TODD McCLAY : The answer to that question is no. I have been the Minister for State Owned Enterprises for only 6 months. I have learnt in that time that trains are not very good at cutting corners.


3. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance : What reports has he received on the New Zealand economy and business sentiment?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : Treasury recently released its Monthly Economic Indicators for March. The report presents a positive economic picture, with the New Zealand economy growing 3.5 percent last year. Treasury states that the elevated net migration and a higher level of consumer and business confidence point to solid growth in consumption and investment. I also received the ANZ Business Outlook report yesterday, which showed increases in business confidence, firms’ own activity expectations, and profit expectations. A net 21 percent of businesses expect to be hiring more staff over the year ahead, and a net 25 percent expect to be investing more. The New Zealand economy is not without its risks, as the recent fall in dairy prices shows. However, these are healthy signs. Reducing unemployment and increasing wages for New Zealand households happen when businesses invest.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I just ask for a little less interjection from my left.

David Bennett : How is elevated business activity supporting more employment and higher wages for New Zealand workers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Treasury’s Monthly Economic Indicators reports summarise the views of businesses interviewed around the country. Business activity has remained strong across the country, with increased sales supported by higher consumer confidence and the fall in fuel prices. Businesses expect—

Dr David Clark : Why are median wages down so much in the regions?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Just get yourself a question. Businesses expect higher activity to continue for the foreseeable future. All businesses interviewed are expecting to maintain or expand their labour forces. Businesses are expecting wages increases of 2 to 3 percent this year, well above inflation—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am sorry to interrupt. The level of noise is now getting to the stage where I am going to be asking somebody to leave the House. Would the Minister complete his answer.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is question time, not story time. The—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! If the member wants to raise a point of order I will hear it, but I am not prepared to put up with that sort of rubbish from a senior Opposition member.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It does relate to the point of order I raised yesterday. When Ministers read long-winded, pre-scripted answers to Government questions, there is going to be more interjection from this side of the House.

Mr SPEAKER : If the answer goes on for too long and it looks like it is a speech, then I will, and I do, intervene. On this occasion I do not think the answer was particularly long. I hope it does not go for too much longer, as I asked the Minister to complete it, but at the end of the day I am the adjudicator of the length of answer, not the Opposition whip.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that you do adjudicate on the appropriateness of the length of an answer, but I would hope that we do not get to a situation where the Opposition, which has every right to question the Government through the procedure of the House process, gets us to a position where it actually cannot get answers.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a fresh point of order. This point of order relates to your comment to the member Chris Hipkins. Mr Speaker, can I ask you to reflect. Yesterday you allowed some very spurious points of order from Mr Brownlee. You gave Mr Brownlee some leeway to interject from a seat that was not his own, from a position where he deliberately took the opportunity to take advantage and break up my leader’s speeches. I would ask—[Interruption] Points of order are to be heard in silence. There we go once again. It seems—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have heard enough from the member, because that in itself is a very spurious point of order. I think question time is a very serious time for this House and for democracy. I object to it being termed “story time”.

David Bennett : What are the risks to New Zealand’s economic outlook?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : We have consistently said that we must not be complacent that the good growth that we are currently experiencing makes us immune from economic risks. For example, we saw a further decline in dairy prices overnight, with the global dairy trade index down 10.8 percent. New Zealand does well when our major trading partners do well, and at the moment the outlook for two of our major trading partners is not as strong as it has been in recent years. In Australia, which has higher unemployment than we do, the Reserve Bank there has cut its cash rate to 2.25 percent. Growth forecasts have also lowered in China and there has been more monetary easing there. Meanwhile, the euro area remains burdened by debt problems that are unresolved. So although we have a solid and positive outlook for economic growth, falling unemployment, and growing wages, we do need to keep focused on further economic reform to help ensure the growth is sustained.

Dr David Clark : Is he aware that of 34 OECD countries, 10 now have lower unemployment than during the global financial crisis and a further eight have had a smaller increase than New Zealand; if so, does falling into the bottom half of the OECD on jobs equal economic success for this Government?

Mr SPEAKER : Either of those two supplementary questions—the Hon Steven Joyce.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I think the second part of the member’s question is wrong. I think we are about the 10th or 11th lowest in the OECD right now out of a country list of 34, so that is definitely not in the bottom half. It is actually, incidentally, one place better than when the previous Government left office in 2008.

David Bennett : How is the Government supporting businesses to get ahead through investment and increased hiring?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The Government is taking a range of steps to assist businesses to get ahead. The Government’s microeconomic reform programme, the Business Growth Agenda, is supporting businesses to invest and create more jobs. We are opening up access to markets for businesses through the free-trade agreement with Korea as well as, of course, the World Trade Organization Agreement on Government Procurement. The Government is supporting further diversification of the economy with the Callaghan Innovation research and development grants programme. The Government’s fiscal restraint is helping keep interest rates lower for longer. It is great for families with a mortgage but also takes some pressure off the exchange rate. Overall, the signs are encouraging. Real business investment has increased by around $8 billion in 4 years, and 80,000 jobs were added to the economy last year.

Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Act—Impact

4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Primary Industries : Does he believe the Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Act 2012 has achieved “a stable, permanent capital base for the Co-operative, secures our future and will support progress with our strategy to grow volumes and value”; if so, why?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes; the Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Act 2012 set out to ensure that the original Dairy Industry Restructuring Act was fit for purpose and that the contestability of milk supply provides incentives for the New Zealand dairy industry to reach its full potential. That said, we are legislatively required to review the Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Act. The review of the legislation will consider the state of competition in dairy markets in New Zealand and whether the pro-competitive elements of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Act are still required. This process begins in June this year.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Is the Minister concerned that a low milk price, instead of generating a higher dividend for farmers, which was the theory behind that legislation, has instead seen Fonterra cut its dividend forecast?

Hon NATHAN GUY : Right now we are in a very volatile global market. I think the member needs to also remember that last year we had a record payout of $8.40. Right now we are seeing a very volatile global market for a range of reasons, and they are that the world is basically awash with milk, we have got milk currently that is displaced from the Russia ban, from the EU looking for a new home, and, of course, we have got some stockpiling in China. So all of those things mean that right now we are in a very volatile dairy market.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : What can he say to Waikato farmer Dave Robertson, who said the other day: “I don’t believe what they are saying anymore … The company is not owned by farmers, it’s totally lost touch.”?

Hon NATHAN GUY : I would disagree with those comments. That farmer has a process to talk through that at the top table. There is a Fonterra Shareholders’ Council representing farmers. They have a direct link to the board of directors. The board of directors are currently on a roadshow addressing all of these concerns with farmers. And I am hearing a wide range of views that farmers are expressing to the board of directors, and that is the appropriate mechanism for them to do that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : How does he respond to Waikato University professor of agribusiness, Jacqueline Rowarth, saying that farmers “are questioning whether Fonterra is actually operating as a co-operative anymore, and that’s dire. That is abysmal.”?

Hon NATHAN GUY : That is a question that should be addressed to Fonterra.

Hon Damien O’Connor : Does the Minister consider that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Amendment Act passed by himself has indeed achieved its goal and that of his Prime Minister, which is that it is ultimately to set up tension so that Fonterra will be floated on the stock exchange, as the Prime Minister stated was his preferred option?

Hon NATHAN GUY : I refute the allegation from the member. That is completely wrong.

Child Protection—Announcements

5. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister for Social Development : What announcements has she made to improve statutory child protection in New Zealand?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yesterday I set up an independent panel to lead a complete overhaul of Child, Youth and Family. The panel, led by Paula Rebstock, will look at all aspects of Child, Youth and Family operations and will oversee the development and implementation of a new operating model to modernise Child, Youth and Family. We must do better to protect vulnerable children in need of statutory care, and this review will ensure that Child, Youth and Family is in the best possible position to improve results in the decades ahead.

Matt Doocey : Why has she established an independent panel to lead the development of a new operating model for Child, Youth and Family?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : A number of reports in recent years have highlighted issues with Child, Youth and Family, and it is clear that significant change is required. An expert panel will inject fresh thinking and external expertise into the development of a wide-ranging business case. We need to make sure that Child, Youth and Family is focusing on its core business and is putting children and young people in care at the centre of everything it does. The panel will deliver a high level business case to me by 30 July this year and a detailed business case by the end of this year.

Darroch Ball : If the Minister believes so strongly that improving our child protection systems needs to be prioritised, then why on earth did she and so many of her colleagues refuse leave for the member of Northland, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, to introduce the Criminal Procedure (Removing Paedophile Name Suppression) Amendment Bill yesterday?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I believe that looking after our vulnerable children is a really serious issue, and I believe that that piece of legislation was a knee-jerk reaction.

Jacinda Ardern : Has she asked the expert panel to look at why the police’s recorded offences against children is 56 percent higher than when her Government came in—notifications have increased dramatically—and yet Child, Youth and Family is still investigating only roughly the same number of cases that it was 5 years ago?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : If the member goes to the Ministry of Social Development website, she will see the terms of reference for the expert panel, which are broad ranging. So meeting with the panel today, I have told them to look at all the structure of Child, Youth and Family and the operation of Child, Youth and Family so that we can all be sure that we have a model that is looking after those most vulnerable children in our communities.

Regional Development—Northland

6. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic Development : What lessons, if any, on regional economic development has he drawn from his recent ministerial visits to Northland?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I learn things from every regional visit that I make to every region in New Zealand. Over the last 3 years I have visited hundreds of New Zealand companies and organisations in different regions around the country. I always take away their issues and ideas to address, and many of these have led to the development and implementation of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda.

Dr David Clark : Is he aware that the regions of Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatū, Wanganui, Tasman-Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast, and Otago all have unemployment today that is more than 50 percent higher than it was during the worst part of the recession; if so, does he think that his 6 years of glossy Business Growth Agendas and shady deals with casinos have led us to this point?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Well, speaking of shady, I think I would have to check the member’s figures before I made any comment.

Dr David Clark : Has he yet seen the OECD report Promoting Growth in All Regions, which says that focusing on helping struggling regions to catch up with more developed ones has a positive impact on a country’s national growth overall; if so, why has he neglected New Zealands regions for 6 long years and spent all his efforts on dodgy deals with casinos?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The second part of that question is exactly the discussion we had earlier. It will lead to disorder. The first part is certainly in order and I invite the Minister to answer it.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are right that political questions can entertain political responses, but they are still in order and there is nothing in the Standing Orders and there is nothing in the Speakers’ rulings, which I have checked during this session, that would say that political questions are out of order. They are in order.

Mr SPEAKER : No. [Interruption] No, I do not need assistance on this occasion. The member is quite wrong. They are out of order, and the member has only got to look at Standing Order 380 to see that they are definitely out of order. As I said at the very start of this session today, I have been inclined to leave those inferences and ironical expressions in a question, and they do give a lot of licence to a Minister, but I also have to be mindful that when they are repeated time and time again there is potential for them to lead to disorder. But on the point raised by the Hon David Parker, he is categorically wrong. If I adhered strictly to the Standing Orders, as written, many supplementary questions today would actually be ruled out of order. I invite the Minister to answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Yes, I have read the report that the member refers to, and actually it does inform a significant amount of the work that we are doing to encourage investment across all of our regions. He may not be aware that, for example, in recent times New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has launched a regional investment attraction programme, which was announced last year and is encouraging investment by new industries in different regions of the country. We have the regional business partners programme, which works with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and Callaghan Innovation funds to encourage the growth of regional businesses. For example, we focus on the sorts of reforms that will encourage regional business growth. Most of our regions are based in the resource sector, as we know—in the primary sector—and that is one of the reasons why we are so passionate about advancing reforms to the Resource Management Act. We, of course, have made very significant—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Now we have an answer that is going on for too long.

Dr David Clark : How many ministerial limousine trips are planned to Northland for the coming 6 weeks, how does that compare to the past 6 weeks, and is that a sign that the Government’s focus on the region’s economic development is scaling up or down?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Ministers travel in all sorts of ways, but if the member wants to focus on the amount of ministerial travel to Northland I can inform him that there are very, very significant and ongoing visits to Northland by Ministers. I look at the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Chris Finlayson, who is very active in the region. I look at the Minister, Nick Smith, who is very active in the region. Behind me is Minister Guy, who is very active in the region. I look across at Minister Bennett, who is very active in the region—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I appreciate the Minister could do quite a lot of looking across the benches. The question has been answered.

Hon David Cunliffe : Does the Minister accept that years of neglect by his Government in terms of regional development in Northland, such as through inadequate roading, broadband, rail services, and a lack of good job opportunities contributed to the Government’s humiliating defeat in the Northland by-election?

Mr SPEAKER : It is a marginal question on ministerial responsibility.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I just do not know why they got David to ask that question. It seems a strange one for Mr Cunliffe to ask, but there you go. The member raises some interesting questions about Northland infrastructure. My view on it is we actually have invested significantly more. In fact, the numbers bear that out. For example, in transport it is around 40 percent more than the previous Government did over a similar period. Broadband, of course, is a very significant investment.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Rubbish.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : It is actually true. You can just go and look at the numbers and they will tell you that. But I also accept, as I have earlier this week, that Northland has impatience for more investment, and that is what this Government is working on. It is what we announced during the by-election campaign. We have remained committed to doing so, and will remain so.

Hon David Cunliffe : Can the Minister confirm that he has recently asked Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials for urgent advice on regional development, given that the by-election result shows that the people of Northland considered his random acts of pork-barrel politics just a bridge too far?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Steven Joyce—the first part of that question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I have forgotten how much I have missed David Cunliffe. Actually, the Government has had a big focus on Northland regional economic development for some time. The member may or may not be aware of the Northland regional growth study, which was released on 4 February this year. It is the most comprehensive assessment of Northland’s economy and opportunities that I think has ever been done, but certainly in the last 30 or 40 years. The Government is acting on that, and will continue to act on that for the people of Northland.

Hon Damien O’Connor : Will the promises of hundreds of jobs for Northlanders from the mining industry deliver the same empty future as that faced by hundreds of former West Coast miners from the National Government’s incompetent oversight of Solid Energy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Again, it is a little ironic coming from that member. The reality is that the Northland economy actually has the highest number of jobs right now than it has had since December 2007, I believe.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Totally false.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : No, it is correct actually, Mr Peters.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Stop making a fool of yourself.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Who is making a fool of himself?

Dairy Price—Impact on Dairy Conversions

7. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises : Will he stop any further work on dairy conversions by Landcorp, in light of the drop in the dairy price yesterday and concerns about the impact that those conversions will have on water quality; if not, why not?

Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): The answer is no. Dairy is an important industry for New Zealand and the National Government believes there is further opportunity to expand the farming industry. We will continue to support the sector to grow, which should not halt investment based on hysteria from the Greens.

Catherine Delahunty : Can he confirm that by the end of the Landcorp conversions there will be up to 50,000 additional cows in the Upper Waikato catchment area, resulting in up to 1,000 additional tonnes of nitrogen seeping into the river every day; if not, how many additional cows will there be?

Hon TODD McCLAY : No, I cannot confirm that, but what I can confirm is that Landcorp is aware of its obligations under the Resource Management Act and regional council requirements, and takes all necessary steps to comply with the environmental rules. I have met with the board and I have expressed to it the view of the Government that, in running its business well, we expect it to be profitable, to not be risky for the taxpayer, and that it should also be considerate of the environment. I expect Landcorp to comply with all of its environmental obligations.

Catherine Delahunty : Does he agree with Waikato farmers that the Government has a responsibility not to overload the Waikato River through the Landcorp conversions both because of the threat to the river and the threat to their farms, as they are forced to bear the cost of over-intensification?

Hon TODD McCLAY : Look, as the Minister for Primary Industries said, it is not for the Government to make those decisions. But I would say to the member that she should not misleadingly use statements made by Federated Farmers. It has not said that in the Waikato, it has not asked for a moratorium on dairy conversions, and Federated Farmers actually supports the dairy industry and the farming industry in New Zealand, and she should too.

Catherine Delahunty : Will he guarantee that there will be no additional limits on nutrient production imposed on existing dairy farmers in the Lower Waikato catchment area and that the river quality will not degrade further as a direct result of further dairy intensification caused by Landcorp’s additional cows?

Hon TODD McCLAY : The member is asking the Government to go and tell the regional council in the Waikato what to do. We put in place rules, they work very, very well, and she should support local government and give it the consideration that it deserves so that it can manage these issues well.

Catherine Delahunty : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question had nothing to do with the regional council—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The question, if you think about it, asked for a guarantee from the Minister, which he was never going to give. The member is now wanting to design the answer to her question, and she needs to refer to Speaker’s ruling 167/6, and I think that could help her with further supplementary questions.

Export Sector—Government Support for Exporters

8. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Trade : What recent steps has the Government taken to promote and support New Zealand exporters?

Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade): Well, a large number of measures, but, most recently this week Minister Goldsmith and I announced that the Government is ready to implement the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act to protect and promote the premium value of New Zealand’s wines on the international stage. For members who may not be familiar with the concept, this geographical indication is a label one can attach to a product, in this case our wonderful wines, to indicate the qualities and reputation of the region concerned.

Mark Mitchell : Why is it important that the Government implement this Act?

Hon TIM GROSER : The industry’s position on this has evolved, but I think it is a reflection of the enormous maturity of our wine industry that it is now ready to stand up and protect its intellectual property. It will be very important to the future growth of this outstanding industry, which has grown at an annual average rate of nearly 25 percent in every year over the last 20 years, to now have the intellectual property that it needs around its excellent product.

Mark Mitchell : What else has the Government done to improve access into markets for the New Zealand wine industry?

Hon TIM GROSER : Well, now that New Zealand wine is already our sixth-largest export item—up from, I think, 18th or 19th only 10 years ago—a great deal. In the last two agreements that this Government has overseen, we eliminated the tariff of 15 percent on wine in the Korea free-trade agreement, assuming that this House will pass the implementing legislation, and we eliminated tariffs on wine, ranging up to 20 percent, on the arrangement we have with Taiwan, which has led to a spectacular 60 percent increase in New Zealand wine exports to Taiwan since that came into effect on 1 December last year.

World Trade Organization, Director-General—Support for Tim Groser

9. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Trade : What monetary and other assistance was provided by the New Zealand Government in support of his bid for appointment as Director-General of the World Trade Organization?

Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade): As the Prime Minister announced to your colleague in the House just the other day, exactly the same type of assistance as we provided to other candidates in the past, including, most recently, Helen Clark.

Hon David Parker : Does the Minister know whether the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) hacked or monitored emails of his rivals, either itself directly or through other agencies?

Mr SPEAKER : In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Tim Groser.

Hon TIM GROSER : Well, making the point that, of course, this question should be directed to the Minister responsible for the GCSB, I can quite happily answer the question—

Hon David Parker : Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have a point of order.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not who directed it or whether it was appropriate to direct it; I asked him whether he knew whether—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I think the member is very lucky that the question has actually been allowed to stay in. I invited the Minister to answer in regard to his own ministerial responsibility. Of course, he is not the Minister responsible for the GCSB, but I—[Interruption] Order! I have not ruled the question out. I would like to hear the answer from the Minister.

Hon TIM GROSER : As this House knows, although we accept that there is a foreign intelligence-gathering agency, which does the surprising thing of gathering foreign intelligence, we do not comment on specific operations.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have two points of order. The first is to clarify whether the Minister is claiming that there is a public interest in not answering the question.

Mr SPEAKER : The way to do that is a further supplementary question. I invite the member—

Hon David Parker : No, point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : What point of order is the member making?

Hon David Parker : I do not know whether the question is being addressed. He is either declining—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The way forward is to ask exactly the supplementary question that the member is now asking as a point of order. It is not my job to answer on behalf of the Minister. It is the member’s job to ask questions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the Minister is being asked whether he had personal knowledge. That is not a question that he can evade. His answer has got to be “Yes, I did.” or “I didn’t.” He cannot dodge around on the basis that some other Minister should tell this House whether he personally as Minister had personal knowledge. It is a clean question; make him answer it.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! But in my opinion the Minister did answer it. He addressed the question. [Interruption] Order! The way forward now is to ask additional supplementary questions, and I will grant the member an additional supplementary question.

Hon David Parker : Is he claiming a public interest in not answering the question as to whether or not he knew that the GCSB hacked or monitored emails of his rivals?

Hon TIM GROSER : My answer is fully consistent with longstanding policy not only of this Government but of the Government of which he was a member and of which I was an official adviser. To answer it any other way would break longstanding Government policy.

Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I still do not know whether the Minister is claiming a public interest in not answering—and that was my question.

Mr SPEAKER : I invite the member to ask a supplementary question. I accept the point the member is making. I could interpret the answer, but that is not my job. It is the member’s job, so I will grant him another question.

Hon David Parker : Is the Minister claiming a public interest in not answering the question as to whether he knew whether the GCSB hacked or monitored emails of his rivals?

Hon TIM GROSER : Let me put it another way to the member. We accept that the member has not yet had—he may have in the future—any political responsibility for an externally facing portfolio. But he has the great advantage of having members in his caucus who have, so I suggest he ask them, discretely, what the answers to the further questions might be.

Hon David Parker : How does he reconcile the Prime Minister’s statement that South Korea “wouldn’t give a monkey’s” about spying on his South Korean rival with the Brazilian Government having subsequently called on the New Zealand authorities to explain this same outrage?

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We all appreciate that as questions move along the focus of the questions may change. But it cannot move so far from this Minister’s responsibility to stand as a question that can be directed to this Minister.

Mr SPEAKER : I am going to allow the question to stand. It simply starts “How does he reconcile” those two statements. The Minister then has the ability to answer it, and if he does not consider it is within his ministerial responsibility, that is the answer a Minister can give, and I would find that that has addressed the question.

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With all due respect to your ruling, there are set ministerial responsibilities. The question asked by Mr Parker does not go to the ministerial responsibility of the Minister of Trade. Whether or not he can reconcile the Prime Minister’s statements with those of foreign leaders is not something in his purview, and it should not stand.

Mr SPEAKER : I could have ruled that way, but I have decided not to. In light of the very first question that was asked, the first supplementary question, again, moved it away from a trade issue. I invited the Minister to answer. I used the words “in as far as it relates to ministerial responsibility”. In the answer then given, I think the Minister has now allowed a further breadth to the question that has been asked. A question has been asked; it is not a difficult one for the Minister to answer, and I would like him to do so.

Hon TIM GROSER : I can reconcile the question very easily. We have had discussions with the Brazilian Government at ambassadorial level. We are ready to clarify our operations with any friendly Government that seeks our attention, and that offer remains open. It was not taken up by the Korean Government.

Hon David Parker : Why did his Government let the GCSB put our trade and diplomatic relationship with Indonesia at risk by spying on his Indonesian rival for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) job, given Australia’s recent hacking of communications of the Indonesian Government caused such a public deterioration of their relationship?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! On this occasion it is a question now that relates entirely to the operation of the GCSB. If the member can rephrase his question and link it to a ministerial responsibility, I will allow it.

Hon David Parker : Why did the Government put our trade and diplomatic relationship with Indonesia at risk by spying on his Indonesian rival for the WTO job, given that Australia’s hacking of communications of the Indonesian Government caused such a public deterioration of their relationship?

Hon TIM GROSER : As the trade negotiator who came in from the cold, I would answer that I have not done any spying on anyone, and we are in a very interesting situation right now with Indonesia. If the member continues in this, he can ask a thousand supplementary questions and he will get the same response phrased in different ways, which is that this Government—as well as his previous Government—does not comment on operational matters.

Hon David Parker : Does he think spying on our friends to help his job application at the WTO was proper use of GCSB powers?

Mr SPEAKER : In so far as the Minister considers there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Tim Groser.

Hon TIM GROSER : The same answer as I have given on previous occasions.

Hon David Parker : I seek leave to—and I have obtained this, including the translation of the Portuguese—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! You are seeking leave to table something—

Hon David Parker : I am seeking leave to table the release from the Brazilian Government, which is in Portuguese, and the Google translation that has been provided by the public library—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not need any further assistance from the member or any further description. If it may inform the House, it will be the House’s decision. Leave is sought to table this particular document. Is there any objection? Yes.

Small Businesses—Better for Business – Result 9 Programme

10. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki—King Country) to the Minister for Small Business : How are small businesses benefiting from the Better for Business – Result 9 Programme?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): This week the Government introduced the New Zealand Business Number Bill, a key part of the Better for Business – Result 9 programme. This bill enables certain entities, including small and medium sized enterprises, to obtain or be allocated a New Zealand Business Number and to be registered on the New Zealand Business Number register. The New Zealand Business Number means that small and medium businesses will be able to update their details in one place in order to automatically update that same information across other Government agencies. New Zealand small businesses are spending less time on administration and more time on what they do best: business.

Barbara Kuriger : How else are small and medium businesses benefiting from the Better for Business – Result 9 programme?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Through the website small and medium businesses are able to access the Government-related advice and support they need to set up, operate, and grow. The site also offers tools such as the Compliance Matters tool. The Compliance Matters tool makes managing Government compliance easy, with seven Government agencies now contributing to that tool, which can save valuable time for small and medium businesses. Tools such as these mean that small and medium businesses can focus more on their business and less on compliance.

Barbara Kuriger : What other tools are available through to support small and medium businesses?

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Through small and medium businesses can learn about starting a business and managing and growing a business; calculate the cost for hiring new employees; and use the one-check search for a company name, domain, and trademark—all in one place. Small and medium businesses are benefiting—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Would you like me to start again, Mr Speaker?

Mr SPEAKER : No, I certainly would not like you to start again. I would be very grateful if you would finish the answer quickly.

Hon CRAIG FOSS : Small and medium businesses are benefiting from these initiatives. They make it easier to interact with the Government agencies and are being supported through the various tools available through

Earthquake, Christchurch—Social Housing

11. POTO WILLIAMS (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Social Housing : Why are Christchurch’s social housing organisations facing increased homelessness four years after the last major earthquake?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): In reality, the number of people in insecure accommodation in Christchurch has actually fallen in the last 12 months, but, of course, housing remains an issue. What we are finding still is that demand for rentals for rebuild workers and people seeking temporary accommodation while their homes were fixed had forced some of the most vulnerable down the accommodation list, as in yesterday’s report in the paper. We certainly acknowledge that. That is why we have contracted two community organisations to provide short-term housing for those in need.

Poto Williams : Is it acceptable to her as Minister that 4 years after the earthquakes, social agencies say that young people are living in sheds, families are living in cars, and pregnant women are couch surfing because they have nowhere to go?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Reasons for homelessness are complex in many cases. They are not always just about the house itself but about other issues, and homelessness has been an issue for decades, quite frankly. What we have seen in the repair is that Housing New Zealand is three-quarters of the way done in its work and, in fact, is well ahead of track of where it had to be, repairing 5,000 earthquake-damaged properties. Three and a half thousand have been repaired so far. What we have also got is 159 new homes being built, another 424. What we also see is that the number of builds and the number of houses now are above the number that it was prior to the earthquakes. So some of that complex work is being done with those who are homeless, and we are very committed to it.

Poto Williams : Why has she not provided more emergency housing in Canterbury, given that the latest figures from the council show—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Will the member please start the question again. I am having trouble hearing it.

Poto Williams : Why has she not provided more emergency housing in Canterbury, given that the latest figures from the council show that about 100 more people are on the social housing waiting list than last year, and Christchurch’s newest short-term emergency housing for families is at 100 percent capacity after only 2 weeks?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : The council has a role to do, actually, in preparing the homes that it has, and that would obviously bring down the list that we have. But we are not ignoring it. We have more places in for those who need short-term help, and we have just recently made some announcements and seen people being housed who needed to be.

Poto Williams : Will the Minister commit to increasing the level of emergency housing should her latest measures prove inadequate?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Certainly.

Marama Fox : Can she explain what efforts the Government is taking to decrease unforeseen levels of homelessness in the regions?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : We see that there are people throughout New Zealand who are actually struggling with some housing. What we have announced in the last round also was an increase in housing for young people in youth services. So what we are looking at is more supported teen flatting, with that being a more regional, localised solution where we can actually see, particularly, some of those young people who have come out of Child, Youth and Family being in supported environments, and we have committed more money to that.

Corrections, Minister—Statements

12. MAHESH BINDRA (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections : Does he stand by all his answers given to the House on 1 April 2015?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): Yes, including the answer that our Government has rolled out stab-resistant body armour, spit hoods, batons, pepper spray, and extensive training on de-escalation techniques to front-line officers. These resources were not available under the previous Labour – New Zealand First Government and, for the benefit of Mr Mark, that was foolish.

Mahesh Bindra : Does he stand by his answer that “Over the last few years the Government has introduced stab-resistant body armour, spit-hoods, batons, and pepper spray progressively from 2010.”?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : For the benefit of the member again, yes.

Mahesh Bindra : Was it an April Fool’s Day joke that batons have been introduced to New Zealand’s corrections facilities since 2010; if not, which prisons have them and where are they stored, apart from in the prison museum? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Did the Minister not hear the question correctly?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : I did not hear about half of that.

Mr SPEAKER : I am going to ask the member to repeat the question. It is very hard to hear the member. Could he repeat the question, and could I have a little less noise from my right-hand side.

Mahesh Bindra : Was it an April Fool’s Day joke that batons have been introduced to New Zealand’s corrections facilities since 2010; if not, which prisons have them and where are they stored, apart from in the prison museum?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : Sorry, I beg your forbearance, Mr Speaker. Could he please repeat that again? This is genuine. I—

Mr SPEAKER : All he wants to know is which prisons use batons—I think that is the essence of the question. I will allow the member, for the last time, to read the question. If the Minister has not heard it then, we are going to have to move forward.

Mahesh Bindra : Thank you, Mr Speaker—I hope this is clearer this time.

Mr SPEAKER : So do I.

Mahesh Bindra : Was it an April Fool’s Day joke that batons have been introduced to New Zealand’s corrections facilities since 2010; if not, which prisons have them and where are they stored, apart from in the prison museum?

Mr SPEAKER : There are three questions. The Minister has the ability to answer any one of those.

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : Well, this sounds like an April Fool’s Day question. The answer to the first part is no.

Mahesh Bindra : Does he stand by his statement yesterday that the privately run Mt Eden Corrections Facility is “one of the highest performing prisons in New Zealand”; if so, did he mean that out of all the prisons in New Zealand, it has the highest proportion of prisoner-on-staff assaults in both the serious and non-serious categories?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga—either of those two questions.

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : Look, the answer to the first part is yes. As I said yesterday to the member, and I will repeat it again, it is the top prison performer on the prison performance table, which measures core security, internal procedures, and rehabilitation. Thank you.


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