Questions and Answers – August 20

by Desk Editor on Thursday, August 20, 2015 — 4:47 PM

1. MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Education : Does the Minister agree that Māori boarding schools such as Turakina have produced a considerable number of Māori leaders; and, if so, what is she doing to ensure the long-term sustainability …
Questions to Ministers

Schools—Māori Boarding Schools

1. MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Education : Does the Minister agree that Māori boarding schools such as Turakina have produced a considerable number of Māori leaders; and, if so, what is she doing to ensure the long-term sustainability of Māori boarding schools?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes, I do indeed agree that Māori boarding schools have made a mighty contribution, not only to their own communities but to our country, not only in terms of leadership but in terms of fine artists, musicians, performers, professionals, mums, and dads. Presently, there are six Māori boarding schools with combined rolls of 622 students. They are all State-integrated schools. That means that the Government funds the teaching and day-to-day schooling, and it licenses, but does not fund, the boarding facilities. The proprietors of the school are responsible for the facilities, including all classrooms and hostels. Over and above operational funding and staffing entitlements, the Government has provided, since 2014, the Puāwaitanga scheme, which funds 90 students at $16,500 each per year, a total of $1.2 million, across Māori boarding schools. In addition to that, the Government funds another 219 students at Māori boarding schools from its boarding allowances, at a cost of $1.64 million this year. These boarding allowances were put into place last year.

Marama Fox : What, if anything, is being done to explore alternative models to address the issue of dwindling rolls in Māori boarding schools so that they can be sustained?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : Over the last 25 years rolls at Māori boarding schools have collectively fallen by more than 50 percent. The first challenge to this model of a boarding school came in the 1970s when these schools were integrated into the State system under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975. Māori boarding schools, like other boarding schools, now face challenges that did not even exist a generation or two ago. Parents now have more education choices available, and many of these options are now available closer to home than the Māori boarding schools.

Marama Fox : Will the Minister work with the alumni of Māori boarding schools and other interested parties to explore options for ensuring the ongoing role of Māori boarding schools in Māori education?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : In fact, the ministry has been working together with each of these schools for some time. I would encourage the alumni of Māori boarding schools to work with their proprietors and boards of trustees to ensure the ongoing role of these schools. To assist interested parties, I seek leave to table the education report Next Steps for Turakina Māori Girls College, a copy of which was given to the board of Turakina Māori Girls College, was prepared by the Ministry of Education in 2015 but has not yet been publicly available, and sets out reasons for initiating—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During her answers, the Minister appeared to be quoting from what appears to be a bound published official document. I request that she table—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! This is very easily resolved. Was the Minister quoting from an official document?



2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health : If Government health expenditure has not kept up with all inflationary pressures, as he admitted three weeks ago, what impact has this shortfall had on patients?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The central premise of the member’s question is wrong. Inflation is currently 0.3 percent. Cost pressure funding for 2015-16 for health is around 0.6 percent. Extra investment of over $4 billion under this Government is delivering free GP visits for under-13s, 50,000 more operations, 60,000 more first specialist assessments, and 5,500 more doctors and nurses. It is only a National Government that can both handle the country’s finances and deliver more services.

Hon Annette King : Does he stand by his statement that no data has ever been collected on the number of patients referred back to their GP without a specialist appointment; if so, why have 17 of the 20 district health boards that have reported so far said that 146,000 people have been returned to their GPs without an appointment in the last 4 years?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : As the member herself admitted on Radio New Zealand last Thursday, that data is partial and incomplete. The only thing that we do know is that Labour was sending 65,000 people a year from hospitals back to GPs. We are the first Government ever to build a complete picture of the data, and, as I have said before, that data will be assembled and ready to publish next year. That member knows that that data is incomplete and not correct.

Hon Annette King : How many GPs like Dr Lesley Bond from Rolleston have contacted him since he became Minister, concerned their patients cannot get a specialist appointment even after several referrals and their condition has deteriorated to the point where they cannot drive, they cannot walk, or they are now terminally ill?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : As one member in the House has said previously, it is better to help patients than to use them—and that member, of course, was Annette King. The only thing that we know is true is that when we came into Government, there were 24,000 surgical discharges per year in Canterbury; there are now well over 30,000—sorry, that is first specialist assessments. In terms of operations, we have lifted the number of operations in Canterbury by 52 percent. So, actually, the answer to unmet need is to do more. Unfortunately, that member, when she was Minister of Health, did less—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon Annette King : What was his reaction after hearing Graham Higgins’ story on Television One on Sunday night—a man who did not receive a specialist appointment in time and who is now terminally ill with cancer?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : My reaction is, look, I have every sympathy for that gentleman. The reality is that we do not know the details behind that case, and I think that it would be good if Mrs King actually worked to help that patient rather than exploit and use him.

Hon Annette King : Why—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have not called the member yet.

Hon Annette King : Why are alarm bells not ringing for him about timely access to services for New Zealanders, after hearing about the patient yesterday who died because their bowel cancer was not diagnosed in time because the number of people waiting for more than 12 months for a colonoscopy in Auckland is four times greater now than it was in 2010?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : That is absolutely incorrect. I mean, we have done 6,000 more endoscopies and decreased the waiting time by 30 percent. I just think it is outrageous that Mrs King continues to exploit people’s misery to make a political point, because she actually knows that we are doing 60,000 more appointments and 50,000 more operations. She doubled the budget, did 7,500 fewer appointments, and 2,000 fewer operations. How could you have done so badly?

Hon Annette King : Are district health boards—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : If the member wishes to—

Hon Annette King : Yes, I do. Are district health boards finding it difficult to make the cuts required this year because of the $1.7 billion missing from the health budget over the 6 years of this Government, and is that why only one out of 20 district health boards has had its annual plan signed off by him—and it is almost September?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : That is totally incorrect. There is an extra $400 million that went into the Budget this year for health. Budget spending in health is at record levels. All we do know is that Mrs King doubled the budget and did fewer operations and fewer appointments. She had her turn as health Minister, and—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I waited until the end of Annette King’s question. I am sorry that I was not quite quick enough in raising the point of order at the end of the Minister of Education’s contribution, when she sought leave to table a document. My understanding is that Ministers, if they wish to table documents, do not actually need leave. So if there was objection, then, in fact, a Minister can still table a document without seeking the leave.

Mr SPEAKER : Well, that is certainly news to me. I think all members are required to seek leave of the House if they wish to table a document. I am not aware that a Minister is treated in any way different from a member of Parliament in that case. The leave was put; it was denied.

Barbara Stewart : Can the Minister confirm that the real reason his Government has failed to fund a national bowel cancer screening programme is that Government health expenditure is insufficient, and that he would prefer to save money rather than lives?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : That is totally incorrect and emotive. That member knows we have got a $24 million screening programme. We put another $12 million in at the election. We have spent another $11 million plus on endoscopies, and we are taking the business case to Cabinet later this year. So that is totally false and mischievous.


3. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance : What recent reports has he received on the outlook for the New Zealand economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : The Minister of Finance has received a number of reports recently, with a range of news on the short-term outlook of the economy. The assessment of ASB in its quarterly economic forecast report is that the New Zealand economy will expand at a rate of between 2.0 and 2.9 percent over this year and next, which is a solid, sustainable rate of activity for an economy that is in the process of adjusting to recent falls in dairy incomes. We are seeing an adjustment in the engine room of the economy, and more resources and investment will shift to new industries well positioned to leverage off their improved international competitiveness due to the decline in the value of the New Zealand dollar and the recent drop in short-term interest rates.

Jami-Lee Ross : How are lower interest rates and a fall in the New Zealand dollar helping to support New Zealand’s export competitiveness?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The decline in short-term interest rates is feeding through to lower borrowing costs for New Zealand businesses, and a fall in the New Zealand dollar is raising returns for companies exporting goods and services. For example, Statistics New Zealand has recently reported an increase in tourism, with guest nights at hotels, motels, backpackers, and holiday parks in June of this year 3.1 percent higher than in June of last year. Most of this rise was due to international guests, and, encouragingly, 10 of the 12 regional areas surveyed reported more guest nights compared with a year ago. Inbound tourist service sectors are more globally competitive than they were a year ago, and, of course, that means more jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders in the period ahead.

Jami-Lee Ross : How are rising wages, low cost of living increases, and higher employment rates supporting higher take-home pay for New Zealand households?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Well, very low increases in the Consumers Price Index, our measure of living costs—even though New Zealand recently recorded its 17th consecutive quarter of expansion in output as measured by GPD—is lifting inflation-adjusted, or real, incomes. The average wage is up 3.2 percent in the latest 12-month period compared with an annual inflation rate of just 0.3 percent, so wages are rising well ahead of inflation. The average annual wage now is over $57,000 for the first time—that is $10,000 more than when National was elected into Government.

Fletcher Tabuteau : How can the Minister so easily dismiss Monday’s Auckland chamber of commerce business confidence survey, which tells us that 85 percent of businesses there expect conditions to either remain static or deteriorate?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am not aware that I have dismissed any of those surveys. I think that in terms of the Auckland chamber of commerce, we are seeing a significantly higher level of activity over the last year, and the rating that the chamber has identified suggests that it will not increase but also it does not necessarily suggest that it will decline. We are, as I have said a number of times, expecting a softer growth rate than we have had in the last year as a result of a decline in dairy prices, but the New Zealand economy remains strong.

Jami-Lee Ross : What reports has he received on continuing job growth in New Zealand?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Earlier today ANZ released its job ads survey. ANZ reports that the annual growth in the rolling 3-month average of ad volumes lifted slightly to 1.7 percent in July, with some interesting ranges around the country. Hawke’s Bay, for example, saw job ads increase 11.7 percent in the year to July. Job ads in Auckland increased 7.9 percent. Partly offsetting those gains were falls in Canterbury, Wellington, and the Waikato. Overall, moderate increases in job ads are consistent with continuing employment growth on top of the 69,000 jobs added in the economy last year. That included over 24,000 more jobs in manufacturing and is consistent with an outlook for economic growth of 2 to 2.5 percent.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Thirty Year New Zealand Infrastructure Plan

4. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Finance : Does the Thirty Year New Zealand Infrastructure Plan identify reduction of greenhouse gas pollution and adaptation to climate change as key challenges for infrastructure planning over the next 30 years; if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : Yes, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change is discussed throughout The Thirty Year New Zealand Infrastructure Plan 2015. I refer the member to the executive summary of said plan, which says: “Our climate is changing, and our natural resources are under pressure. … As a country we have a wealth of natural resources, but we are beginning to deplete some of our important natural resources and are reaching limits on some of the crucial inputs such as land and fresh water. These issues raise questions around how we develop and manage our infrastructure—it needs to be resilient to changes over time, and use resources efficiently.” So when the member reads the plan she will have much to look forward to.

Julie Anne Genter : Why is climate change not mentioned even once in the action plan on page 51 of the 30-year infrastructure report?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Well, actually I am not sure that the member is completely correct, although I would have to refer to it. Actually, there are some references in a number of places in the report in regard to climate change. For example, there is a summary of future work, which on page 69 includes advice to Ministers and other departments about potential opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector. It also refers, on page 80, to the Ministry for the Environment publishing updated climate projections for New Zealand and guidance to local government on coastal hazards and climate change. So I am not sure that there are no reports in there on climate change.

Julie Anne Genter : What specific projects in the national infrastructure plan will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and what percentage of the overall spend on infrastructure do they make up?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I do not have that to hand, and I am not sure that would be a practical way of presenting an infrastructure plan. The reality is that all infrastructure has to take into account climate change. For example, if you are expecting sea level rise and you are building a bridge in a coastal environment, you will probably build it a little higher than you perhaps would have in the past, and we see that a number of times in a number of infrastructure projects. We would also take a different approach, including what expectations you would have on transport mode use development, and in a range of areas, but I do not think that you could ascribe many individual projects as directly a response to climate change. It is more the way you adapt the infrastructure development to both respond to and mitigate climate change.

Julie Anne Genter : Does he see the incoherence in having an infrastructure plan that mentions climate in passing, but devotes over 80 percent of transport spending to projects that will increase carbon emissions rather than decrease them?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I just do not agree with the member’s characterisation of transport projects. This may come to the quite fundamental difference between the Government and the Green Party on this matter, because the Government does not believe that people will sacrifice their personal mobility over the next 50 years in response to climate change. We believe that actually they will change the fuel mix of their vehicles in response to climate change, but there will still be cars and there will probably still be buses, and these will need roads, and that is the bulk of the transport projects that the member refers to.

Tim Macindoe : What comments has the Minister seen on the 30-year infrastructure plan since its release earlier today?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I have seen a number of comments, including a series of tweets from a well-known economic and environmental commentator of some standing. This person says: “Government announces 30-year infrastructure plan—doesn’t mention climate once. What planet are National living on?!”. I am happy to refer that commentator to a number of places in the report, if I can indulge the House briefly: the executive summary that I have referred to; page 16 talks about rising sea levels and increasing rainfall; page 25 discusses reducing transport’s share of greenhouse gases; page 47 talks about adaptation, including climate change; page 65 says that the infrastructure unit will be recording the responses to climate change; pages 69 and 80—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Bring the answer to a conclusion.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : So I expect the author of that tweet will find much to like in this report when she gets around to reading it.

Julie Anne Genter : I seek leave to table the Minister of Finance’s speech, which mentioned climate change—

Mr SPEAKER : No, no. Order! The speech is available on the internet to all members.

Julie Anne Genter : What is the Minister’s response to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, which calls on Governments to prioritise infrastructure that reduces greenhouse pollution as the best way to achieve stronger economic performance and, amongst that infrastructure, to prioritise public transport in urban areas?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I have some awareness of exactly how much we have already done that, which is huge, actually. This Government has arrived at a point and invested alongside local government to ensure that we have brand new electric commuter trains in both of our major cities, Auckland and Wellington. That has happened under this Government. This Government has also invested hugely in public transport more generally. This Government has invested more than any previous Government in cycling, and I think, if you look, this Government has probably invested more in the rail sector than any Government going back 50 or 60 years. So to suggest that this Government, and its infrastructure plan, is not investing in the sorts of things that the member would like, I think is simply incorrect.

Julie Anne Genter : Apart from electrification of the rail network, which was promised by a previous Government, are there any new major projects in the 30-year plan that will reduce emissions and enable New Zealand families, households, and businesses to go about their daily lives without increasing carbon emissions; if so, what are they?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I firstly must need to correct the member’s incorrect version of the electrification in Auckland. It may have been wish-listed by a previous Government, but it was funded and appropriated by this Government, in the face of the global financial crisis. She can pretend that is not the case because it does not fit her narrative, but it is not true. And in terms of the future, we will continue to invest in public transport, but as I pointed out to the member earlier, personal mobility is something that many New Zealanders hold in very high regard. They will not necessarily sacrifice that because of the Greens wanting them to, but they will be prepared to change fuel sources, and that means that private passenger vehicles will continue to be a very important part of the transport mix well into the future.

Julie Anne Genter : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice on this. I thought that the question was quite specific, and asked which new projects—new projects—

Mr SPEAKER : No, no. [Interruption] Order! I invite the member to go back and look at her question. She started with words to the effect of “Apart from the electrification of rail, etc., that was done by a previous Government”, and then she led into her question. That gave the opportunity for the Minister to respond to that part of the question.

Julie Anne Genter : Are the Minister and the rest of the Cabinet living on another planet where somehow climate change is not going to affect infrastructure or change the way that people get around, or will they join us in the real world, where global business leaders are calling on Governments to prioritise climate change and pollution reduction in their infrastructure planning?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : It is never a good idea to write your last supplementary question before you come down to the House, because I have shown through all the answers that that is completely different. Here is the plan, and here is page 7, for the member, with the reference to climate change. Here is a later page, page 47. Here is another page, page 33. Here is another page, page 69. Here is another page, page 80. If the member would like me to get my stickers out, highlight it for her, and deliver it to her office, I am more than happy to do so.

Biosecurity Management—Border Control

5. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister for Primary Industries : What actions is the Government taking to strengthen biosecurity measures at the border?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): A new package of measures recently announced will be implemented by the end of the year to strengthen our overall biosecurity system. This includes 20 new biosecurity dog detector teams, five new X-ray machines, the trial of a mobile X-ray machine that can be shifted to different sites, and the introduction of new communications to target passengers more likely to carry Queensland fruit fly host materials. These measures have been made possible through $27 million extra in new biosecurity funding as part of Budget 2015. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am just waiting for Dr Megan Woods.

Stuart Smith : Why is biosecurity so important for our growing primary industries?

Hon NATHAN GUY : That is a very good question. We will not be able to reach the goal of doubling the value of our primary sector exports by 2025 if we do not have an effective biosecurity system to protect against pests and diseases. That is why biosecurity is my No. 1 priority as Minister. New funding through Budget 2015, the Biosecurity 2025 project, and the introduction of the border processing levy will help ensure that our biosecurity system stays fit for purpose well into the future.


6. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : What State Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities were identified as having “specific opportunities” for “capital recycling” in the Treasury Report: Capital Investment, Recycling and the Fiscal Strategy dated 3 November 2014, and did he reject any of the specific opportunities identified by officials?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : As was pointed out to the member yesterday, opportunities for capital recycling within State-owned enterprises and Crown entities are commercially sensitive, so the Minister is not going to go into the specifics of options that Treasury suggested. What he can say, though, is that the Government has a clear policy of no further Government share offer – type asset sales or, indeed, outright sales of State-owned enterprises. With regard to the second part of the question, the Minister of Finance did disagree with a number of options from Treasury, as Ministers often do, but, of course, these are independent entities that need to actively manage their balance sheets. The Minister would expect individual State-owned enterprises to be buying and selling assets all the time as part of their usual business—at times, without needing ministerial improvement—basically making sure that they maximise returns to taxpayers.

Grant Robertson : What is his definition of capital recycling?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am not sure what the formal definition is, but I imagine that it would be releasing capital and recycling it into other things.

Grant Robertson : In light of that answer, does he mean by the “other things” that capital will be recycled into “going back into those State-owned enterprises and Crown entities from which they have come”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : No, not necessarily. I will give the member an example. There was a significant sale by a then State-owned enterprise, Meridian Energy, which sold a big investment in 2005, as it happens, called Southern Hydro, which created a $652 million gain, and then there was an applying of that to dividends to New Zealand taxpayers. So that meets the definition of capital recycling.

Grant Robertson : Is the purpose of capital recycling in fact what the Treasury paper says: that the $2 billion that he hopes to save would be “sufficient to bring forward debt repayment”—i.e. the Government is planning to pocket the proceeds of the sales, not recycle them into the State-owned enterprises?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : That is a very interesting insight that the member has just given us. He defines repaying debt as pocketing the proceeds of the sale of—[Interruption] It may come as a surprise to him, but repaying debt is actually of benefit to taxpayers. If he thinks that that is pocketing it, pocketing the money is not repaying debt. Repaying debt is improving the capital position of taxpayers. That is an appalling suggestion.

Grant Robertson : Why should New Zealanders, who are the ultimate owners of these State-owned enterprises and Crown entities, not have the right to know which parts of the assets are being put forward for sale, or is this another application of the “Groser principle”— that ordinary New Zealanders are to be viewed as children?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I may be wrong, but I do not recall, for example, in 2002 or 2003 the then Labour Government saying: “Oh well, we’re going to get Landcorp to sell some farms over subsequent years, and we’ll probably sell Southern Hydro in Australia, and we’ll report to you now, a couple of years in advance, and actually make sure that you’re aware of it ahead of time.” I do not recall that, but then I am used to the idea that the Opposition applies a different rule for the current Government than it did for the previous Government.

Grant Robertson : Will he rule out that the recommendations that he accepted from Treasury in this paper included Landcorp and KiwiRail?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Having made the point that these matters, in relation to the list, are commercially sensitive, I am not going to play a game with the member now, where he progressively rules out individual organisations. But I can tell the member that if he thinks we could make a lot of money out of KiwiRail, then he really does need to reconsider his position as finance spokesman for the Labour Party.

Tourism—Regional Growth

7. TODD BARCLAY (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Tourism : What recent reports has he received about regional tourism growth?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of Tourism : Tourism is making a significant contribution to our diverse and resilient economy. Tourism contributes $8.3 billion, or 4 percent, to our GDP, and it is second only to the dairy industry in terms of foreign exchange earnings.

Grant Robertson : First time ever.

Hon PAULA BENNETT : That is right; it is the first time ever. Things are certainly improving. Over half of that money is, of course, spent outside of our major cities. It is particularly pleasing to see a report that shows that 10 out of 12 of our regional areas saw a growth in the number of guest nights over the past year. Nationwide, international guest nights are up 8 percent in the year to June 2015. Obviously, this means that more tourists are staying longer and spending more money.

Todd Barclay : What contribution is tourism making to regions in the South Island?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : The Otago region has had a record number of international visitors in the past year, with 1.4 million people visiting the region. Those guests spent a massive $1.3 billion, which not only helped local tourism operators but also contributed to overall growth in the Otago economy of 6.3 percent. Canterbury is enjoying similar success, with international visitor arrivals into Christchurch increasing by 6.7 percent on the previous year, to almost 440,000 people, spending an estimated $837 million. It is fantastic to see so much success in our tourism industry being spread around the region.

Todd Barclay : What role is the Government playing in promoting tourism?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Since taking office in 2008, this Government has invested an unprecedented $600 million in tourism and tourism promotion. Of course, this includes funding Tourism New Zealand, which I would like to congratulate on behalf of this side of the House, because the others are sounding a little bit negative today. It was recently named the tourism board of the year and most engaged tourism board globally.

Workplace Health and Safety—Farms

8. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety : Why are dairy, sheep and beef farms not defined as high-risk workplaces requiring worker health and safety representation, when more than one-third of New Zealand’s workplace deaths in the past 5 years have happened in the agricultural sector?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): Firstly, risk is one of two factors—size being the other. Dairy, sheep, and beef farms with 20 or more staff will be required to have a health and safety representative if requested. As I tabled in the House yesterday, the risk criteria used to consult on high-risk industries include industries with a fatality rate greater than 25 per 100,000 and a serious injury rate of more than 25 per 1,000. Although sheep, beef, and dairy are very large in the statistics, they are also our largest industries, so when equalised, they fell below that threshold.

Sue Moroney : What makes a worm farm more dangerous than a cattle farm?

Hon Simon Bridges : Trivialising the issues.

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : The member does trivialise the 11 deaths in the category of other livestock farming, of which worm farming is one. There were 11 people killed at work, and more than 1,000 serious injuries.

Grant Robertson : How many were killed on dairy farms? What a stupid argument.

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Well, the member asks how many were killed on dairy farms. We could stratify this any way we like. We could say that some forestry is in but other forestry is out; some livestock farming is in but other livestock farming is out. We will consult on the taxonomy—[Interruption] We will consult on the taxonomy that has the best available data on where risk resides, and we will see what comes out of that consultation.

Sue Moroney : Why is minigolf more dangerous than actual golf, why is putting up curtains in a building more dangerous than demolishing a building, and why is driving a bus full of tourists more dangerous than driving a bus full of schoolchildren?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Well, I just explained to the member the process for determining the draft lists. If she wants to provide a submission on that process, she is perfectly welcome. But I reiterate what I said in the Committee of the whole House: the fact that an organisation may not be required to have a health and safety representative does not let them off the hook. All persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) and all workers will be required to participate in health and safety at work.

Clayton Mitchell : Why is culpability being extended to individuals who are both a PCBU and a worker, since Federated Farmers informed us that most on-farm injuries affect the farmer themselves?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Because the obligation to take practical steps to keep themselves and each other safe at work is for both PCBUs and workers.

Sue Moroney : Why should quarries, like the limestone quarry where Murray George Taylor was crushed to death in June this year, not have access to worker representation on health and safety?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : I would need to go back and check, but my understanding is that quarries are included under the mining categories.

Sue Moroney : Why is he making up dodgy rules to keep National’s backers out of health and safety requirements, instead of focusing on fixing New Zealand’s appalling—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! That question is out of order.

Denise Roche : Is he concerned that the executive director of the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum, Francois Barton, has branded the decision to exclude most farming from the high-risk category as disappointing and as sending “the wrong message” to the industry about workplace health and safety?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : I have been in constant contact with both the Business Leaders’ Health and Safety Forum and leaders in the farming community, and they are very aware of the Government’s expectation that those farming sectors need to improve health and safety at work. Farming does have particular characteristics; among others is the fact that the farm manager and owner is very often working side by side with the workers, and, therefore, representation is not the only way to ensure participation. I am satisfied that these sensible changes will ensure health and safety on farms.

Denise Roche : What is the likelihood of health and safety actually being enforced on farms, given that two-thirds of dairy farms inspected in the first quarter of this year failed to comply with minimum employment standards like minimum pay rates?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Enforcement is usually in the breach, and my very strong desire is that, actually, before we get to enforcement, we get to high levels of compliance. The bill provides a very strong framework for that to occur, and I am satisfied that there will be improvements.

Denise Roche : Does the Minister agree that telling most farmers that they work in a low-risk industry can only undermine the agricultural sector’s motivation to change in response to the new law; if not, why not?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : The thresholds are for high risk. There is risk in every industry, but we need to make sure that we have a balanced approach that is appropriate for those circumstances. I reiterate that I do not believe that the requirement not to have a health and safety representative is a watering down or is letting people off the hook. Indeed, it may well be more difficult, not less difficult, to comply.

Health—Subsidised Medicines

9. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Health : Can he confirm that 3.5 million New Zealanders received a funded medicine in 2014/15, and that this is an increase of more than 100,000 compared with the previous year?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, a record number of New Zealanders—around 3.5 million—received access to the medicines they needed in the last year. This included an estimated 70,000 New Zealanders who benefited from 41 new medicines or widened access to existing medicines. During the year, Pharmac concluded new supplier agreements for new medicines to treat dementia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and multiple sclerosis.

Melissa Lee : How is the Government supporting Pharmac to continue to provide New Zealanders with access to medicines?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Pharmac is continuing its good track record of controlling pharmaceutical costs while increasing subsidised medicines and treatment for more New Zealanders. Pharmac successfully managed its funding in the last financial year, and we have increased it to a record $800 million in this year’s Budget. This means that since 2008, National is spending nearly $150 million more per year on giving New Zealanders access to the medicines they need.

Hon Annette King : Can he confirm that he received advice from Pharmac that if it did not receive the $11 million increase that it had asked for in its funding bid for this last Budget, it would be unable to meet ministerial expectations of an $11 million investment in new medicines each year?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : That is very much the nature of Budget discussions, but that is not how it turned out.

Hon Annette King : I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request that I received on the 12th of this month, from Pharmac, setting out that it did not get the money that it wanted—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! After the discussion yesterday, I just need to clarify whether the member has taken the time to check whether it is available on a website?

Hon Annette King : No, it was to me; it was not to anybody else. It was an Official Information Act request to me.

Mr SPEAKER : On the assumption that it may not at this stage be available on a website, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular Official Information Act request. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Overseas Investment—Land

10. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister for Land Information : What is the actual dollar value of added investment that has come into New Zealand for development purposes that was promised by the 608 successful overseas purchasers of New Zealand sensitive land who promised the introduction into New Zealand of added investment for development purposes as part of their successful consent application?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Local Government) on behalf of the Minister for Land Information : As we have explained to the member before, the Overseas Investment Office does not collect information like that and does not have a statutory obligation to do so. However, the Minister has seen evidence—[Interruption] No, you might find this interesting—of support for foreign investment into New Zealand, and that evidence shows that—

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have been down this path in previous questions, and the Minister has very clearly answered the question in her first answer. I cannot believe that there is any need for any more material.

Mr SPEAKER : I will explain again to Grant Robertson that I am the adjudicator as to how long a Minister takes to answer a question. I often allow the answer to go on for longer if I anticipate that the Minister is making a genuine attempt to inform the House. I accept that the member has every right to get upset if, in continuing the answer, it is in any way an attack on the Opposition, and then I would deal with it appropriately. But at this stage I am certainly hopeful that the Minister is attempting to give an answer that is enlightening to the House, and I invite the Minister to continue her answer.

Hon PAULA BENNETT : What the Minister has seen is evidence of support for foreign investment into New Zealand, and that evidence has quite clearly shown that over the last 16 years we have seen a number of applications—in fact, 67 more applications accepted by the then Labour Government between 1999—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I was hopeful that the answer was not going to extend to that part of the answer. [Interruption] Order! If Grant Robertson has any further points of order to raise, I am happy to hear them—[Interruption] Just a minute—but to continue to interject like that from his seat will only create disorder in this House.

Grant Robertson : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am surprised that after that answer by the Minister you did not raise the fact that she, in fact, was adding to disorder in the House by directly going against the ruling that you made.

Mr SPEAKER : That is not a point of order; that is, in fact, a direct challenge to me as Chair. As soon as I discovered where the answer was heading, I cut the answer off completely at that stage.

Stuart Nash : In light of that answer, can she at least tell me—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am now having trouble hearing the question because of interjections from my right. Could the member please start the question again.

Stuart Nash : Thank you, Mr Speaker. In light of that answer, can she at least tell me how many of the 608 successful overseas investors have actually delivered on their promise to introduce added investment into New Zealand for development purposes?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : The Overseas Investment Office actually does go out there and monitor the applications as to what they have done. It has been monitoring them, and certainly in her time as Minister, the Minister has not seen any evidence that they have not been.

Stuart Nash : Now that Steven Joyce has admitted that “We have not been as effective as other countries in ensuring that overseas investment has provided additional benefits.”, when will she direct the Overseas Investment Office to start collecting all information on whether foreign buyers are keeping the promises they have made to New Zealanders?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Well, I want to say that we do encourage more investment into New Zealand, particularly into the regions, and we think that that makes a difference for them in so far as more jobs being created, the amount of money that is going in there, and the difference that that makes. As I say, I am just genuinely surprised at the avenue that this member is choosing to go down when we actually saw 67 percent more land sold under Labour—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Stuart Nash : Does she agree with John Key that “Looking 4, 5, 10 years into the future, I’d hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country, and that is a risk.”—if yes, can she confirm Landcorp will not flog off its farms to foreign interests and that the iconic 13,800 hectare Lochinver Station will stay in Kiwi hands?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Paula Bennett—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Yes. What I certainly can confirm is that we are selling less farmland here than we certainly saw earlier. Let me give you some of the numbers. The net area of land consented since 2008 has been 310,768 hectares, yeah? So around 310,000. How much was actually sold between 1999 and 2008? It was 941,000—941,000. So, yes, I do agree that we will not be tenants in our own land, and this side is making sure of that.

Stuart Nash : How can New Zealanders have any confidence that we will not become tenants in our own land when she has not turned down one application to buy productive New Zealand land in almost 3 years?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : They can have confidence because they have got a National-led Government and not a Labour-led one. They can have confidence because we actually changed the system to ensure that we have a vetting screening earlier so that when we decline, they do not come up in the decline numbers, but, actually, we are pushing them back. They can have assurance because literally hundreds of thousands fewer hectares have been sold under National than were under Labour. Look in the mirror. I am not sure I need to seek leave, but I would like to table a piece of paper from my office that quite clearly states that the net area of land consented under Labour was significantly more—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I am not going to put the leave. The Minister certainly does have to seek leave to have the paper tabled, but I am not going to put the leave on the basis that the information has been clearly outlaid in the answer the Minister has just given to the question. It does not add further information to the debate.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Minister—Statements

11. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery : Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): on behalf of the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery : Yes.

Ron Mark : Does he stand by his statement in 2012 when he said, as the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: “We have to get the science and engineering right on how to progress.”; if so, why did he not make that abundantly clear to Fletcher Construction, or did it simply not get the memo?

Hon AMY ADAMS : Yes.

Ron Mark : Does he also stand by his statement that by “centralising management” and giving Fletcher Construction a $1 billion monopoly it would “help reduce the risk of cowboy builders”, and how is that looking right now?

Hon AMY ADAMS : When the Minister made reference to “cowboy builders” he was referring to builders who would choose to go bankrupt to avoid their obligations, and he certainly stands by his statement that we do not need those people in the industry if that is their approach.

Ron Mark : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this because I know the Minister is standing in for the real Minister, but the quote—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am going to give the member the chance to raise his point of order. He does not need to make any other comments. Just refer to the Standing Order that is relevant and I can make a ruling.

Ron Mark : The quote I gave was 2010. He could not possibly have made that statement—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Now the member is simply disputing the answer. That is not a point of order. He can carry on with his questions if he wants to.

Ron Mark : Does he agree with statements made by Alastair Miles, the Canterbury Registered Master Builders Association president, that “EQC and EQR were responsible for selecting builders, giving them a scope of work and checking the repairs” and “They opened the doors to anyone, including painters acting like builders.”?

Hon AMY ADAMS : I cannot speak as to whether the Minister is aware of that statement, but I would certainly say on behalf of the Minister that the Earthquake Commission was in charge of running the home repair programme. It worked with Fletcher EQR. It had a significant programme in place to ensure the quality of the work. All work is required to be carried out in accordance with the building code, and where a very small number of homes are found not to have been done in that way, then they will be put right and they will be put right at no cost to the homeowner.

Ron Mark : So who is ultimately responsible for the fact that a massive 35 percent of the work inspected by “MBIE”, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, has been found to be non-compliant—35 percent non-compliant? Is it the Irish immigrant workers who are being blamed now—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just finish the question.

Ron Mark : —is it Fletcher Construction, or is it the Minister himself who was warned by international experts—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That question is quite long; the Minister can give the answer.

Hon AMY ADAMS : I can assure that member that the homeowners certainly will not have any responsibility for putting it right and that the Earthquake Commission and Fletcher EQR have an obligation to ensure that all work carried out under the home repairs programme is compliant with the building code, and it will be. I can point out to that member in the House that we are talking about 1.7 percent of repairs of a very successful programme in which 83 percent of homeowners have indicated that they are satisfied or very satisfied. None the less, we want all repair work to be compliant. It will be made right and the homeowner will bear no cost.

Broadband—Regional Deployment

12. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Communications : Can she provide an update on the broadband deployment in the regions?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications): Today we have released the regional snapshot showing how better broadband is being rolled out across the regions, which identified that nearly 1 million homes and businesses across New Zealand are now able to benefit from better broadband, thanks to the Government’s Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative and Rural Broadband Initiative. The ultra-fast broadband build is complete in 11 towns in provincial New Zealand and another eight towns are expected to be completed in the next 12 months. Uptake for ultra-fast broadband is at 14.6 percent, a figure that has quadrupled in just 2 years, and uptake for the Rural Broadband Initiative is at 33 percent. So we are making good progress on the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative and the Rural Broadband Initiative, and regional New Zealand cannot get enough of it.

Dr Shane Reti : How does better broadband support economic development in regional and rural communities?

Hon AMY ADAMS : In my view, improving connectivity is the single biggest thing we can do to support regional economic development. Better connectivity ends the tyranny of distance. It allows regional New Zealand to connect not only with other parts of the country but with the world instantly and without disadvantage. It is estimated that the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative alone is going to deliver more than $33 billion of economic benefit. That is more jobs and higher wages for rural New Zealand. From rural agriculture to tele-health and digital learning, high-speed reliable broadband is a game changer for regional New Zealand.

Dr Shane Reti : What is next for extending better connectivity to the regions?

Hon AMY ADAMS : We have made excellent strides with the first phase of the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative and the Rural Broadband Initiative, but we want to do even more to satisfy New Zealanders’ thirst for connectivity. That is why we have committed an extra $210 million to extend the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative further into provincial New Zealand, which will take us up to at least 80 percent of the population.

Dr David Clark : One of the most ineffective programmes ever.

Hon AMY ADAMS : They are jealous, are they not? We have also committed $100 million to enhance rural broadband coverage and speed and another $50 million to extend mobile network coverage in black spots, to some of the most remote locations. We have had an outstanding response from councils for the registration of interest stage for the expansion, with all but four councils putting in responses. I hope to be making further announcements on the request for proposal shortly.

Clare Curran : What does she say, then, to the people of Southland about their rural broadband, given that in a survey just released by Adventure Southland only 4 percent have noticed any improvement from the Government’s rural broadband scheme?

Hon AMY ADAMS : Well, I am pleased that the information was at least attributed in that question. But what I can tell the member is that there are a number of issues affecting that particular part of Southland, many of which do not relate to the programme. But I can tell Southland that 80 percent of everyone outside ultra-fast broadband will get better broadband thanks to this Government, which Labour voted against.

Point of Order—Urgent Question

CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. An urgent question was lodged with you prior to question time, and I believe that now is the time when you make a ruling on whether in fact the urgent question will be allowed.

Mr SPEAKER : Again, the member needs to study the Standing Orders, Speakers’ Rulings, and McGee. An urgent question is a decision that I make. I then have a duty to advise the member who wished to ask the urgent question, and I have a duty to advise the Minister. I do not normally make such an announcement in the House. But for guidance with urgent questions in the future, the issue that I consider is whether that question has to be asked today—whether it is a matter of such importance that it will not wait until next week. In this particular case, I did not consider that the question met that test.


Content Sourced from
Original url

Previous post:

Next post: