Questions and Answers – August 27

by Desk Editor on Thursday, August 27, 2015 — 4:53 PM

Questions to Ministers

Social Development, Minister—Statements

1. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development : Does she stand by all her statements?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes, in the context in which they were made.

Darroch Ball : How can she stand by her statement “Our … vulnerable kids deserve the … best support we can provide,” when New Zealanders are sick and tired of years of the same empty words and bureaucracy of process and paper, and just want for once the children in State care to be safe?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I would say to that member that I share the concern, and that is why earlier this year I set up an expert panel with the express terms of reference to make a substantial change to the system that manages children in State care.

Darroch Ball : Does her statement in reference to the 15th review/overhaul that “This time we’re going to do it properly,” imply that for 7 years her Government has been getting it wrong?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : The comments that I made about the 14 reviews were that I was not doing a 15th review and that I was doing a substantial overhaul of the system—and that is the difference. I am absolutely determined to make sure that the new system that, hopefully, we are able to start implementing from next year will put children and children’s needs at the heart of whatever system we have.

Darroch Ball : How does the Minister explain that 117 kids were abused in care last year despite her Government’s relentless reviews, green papers, white papers, action plans, and overhauls—10 of which in 7 years have achieved nothing?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I agree with the member that 117 cases are 117 too many and we have to make sure that whatever system we put in place has the needs and the welfare of those children, who are the most vulnerable in our communities, at the very centre of the system.

Darroch Ball : How many more kids in Child, Youth and Family Services care, according to her ministry’s statistics, will be abused by the time the next paper rolls out in December, and what commitment will she make now to stop that happening, or is she just another Minister for Social Development delivering diddly-squat?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : This is a very serious issue that affects thousands and thousands of New Zealand children, and I take the responsibility, as a Minister, extremely seriously. I want a system that actually delivers better outcomes for those children we take into State care, so I am not going to rush into a knee-jerk reaction. I have appointed an expert panel, which is looking at designing a complete overhaul of the Child, Youth and Family system so that we get good outcomes for those children.

Economy—Jobs and Wages

2. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance : What reports has he received that expect the economy to deliver more jobs and higher wages for New Zealand families over the next three years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : I have seen a recent report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that makes some good comments about the New Zealand economy—if I could just find my answers—and says that it will continue to grow, continue to add jobs, and continue to lift New Zealanders’ incomes in the years ahead.

Alastair Scott : What is the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research’s assessment of the outlook—

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

Mr SPEAKER : I hope that it is a sensible point of order.

Grant Robertson : Oh, it is a very important point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wanted to give the Minister a little time to find his laminated—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is not a point of order. [Interruption] Order! That is the sort of point of order that actually creates more disorder.

Alastair Scott : What is the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research’s assessment of the outlook for various sectors in the economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Although the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research notes that the fall in dairy prices has had a significant effect, a range of industries continue to support growth. Construction activity remains strong, supported by much higher levels of house-building activity in Auckland and increased non-residential construction. Wool, kiwifruit, pipfruit, and meat are all undergoing a revival. Kiwifruit export volumes are soaring. Business investment and hiring intentions remain solid. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research reports that tourism and manufacturing are benefiting from a lower New Zealand dollar and higher global demand, and the lower New Zealand dollar and the high US beef prices are providing some relief to dairy farmers who are culling unproductive stock.

Alastair Scott : What reports has he received showing that increasing exports are supporting growth and resilience in the New Zealand economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : This is very interesting for the House. Yesterday Statistics New Zealand released its report on overseas merchandise trade for July. The value of goods exports was $4.2 billion in July of this year, just over half a billion dollars or 14 percent higher than in the same month a year earlier. Meat exports were up 24 percent, led by beef, and that was up 40 percent due to higher prices alone. Fruit exports increased by 32 percent, to $311 million, and the value of dairy exports was up slightly, by nearly a million dollars, to $932 million, with increases in cheese, dairy spreads, and milk protein offsetting the fall in milk powder exports.

Julie Anne Genter : Can he confirm that 52,000 more people are unemployed now than when he took office—that is 54 percent—and why does he think that the policies that he has been implementing over the past 7 years will give a different outcome over the next 3 years?

Mr SPEAKER : Hon Steven Joyce, either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member may or may not be aware that, actually, the number of people employed is significantly higher than it was 7 years ago, because the labour market has expanded substantially over that period. Of course, again, the member may not be aware that we had the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes, which caused significant dislocations to our employment market over that period. The Government is confident that New Zealand is continuing to deliver very high levels of employment—I think, from memory, about the fifth highest in the OECD—and that that is continuing to improve over time through the careful stewardship of the economy, which encourages investment and growth.

Alastair Scott : What steps is the Government taking to support the New Zealand economy in uncertain times?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The Government is continuing to undertake a range of measures as part of its plan to support a resilient, growing economy. The Government’s fiscal constraint is taking pressure off exchange rates and interest rates, which supports less borrowing and higher national savings. We remain on track to surplus and to begin paying down debt. We are reducing costs through ACC levy reductions. We have lowered taxes for work and savings. We are boosting business research and development funding. We are on track to deliver $110 billion of investment in infrastructure over the next 10 years. The Government’s Business Growth Agenda is helping businesses to have the confidence to invest and is supporting regions to take advantage of economic opportunities.

Julie Anne Genter : Has he seen any reports, such as that from President Obama, that job growth in the American solar industry is 10 times higher than in other industries, and what specific actions is his Government taking to remove the barriers to growth in low-carbon industries?

Mr SPEAKER : Again, the Hon Steven Joyce may answer either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The Government is making a considerable effort to make sure that there are no regulatory restrictions on the development of new industries. But where I would probably differ from the member is that we will not be planning big new subsidies for new industries either, because that would actually be a drag on the New Zealand economy rather than encouraging growth in the New Zealand economy. This Government is focused on growing the New Zealand economy. Of course, the good news for the member is that renewable energy is probably higher in New Zealand than in most of the developed world. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am just waiting for colleagues—

Julie Anne Genter : How can he claim that his Government does not want to pick winners when Ministers in this House are constantly standing up and talking about the support that they are giving to the dairy industry, the wine industry, and the fossil fuel exploration industry; and why would he not support renewable growth, as that is going to not only grow jobs but also help us—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Hon Steven Joyce, either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Where the Government does make a contribution—and the member has identified some areas—is in the area of research and development in particular, through such things as the Primary Growth Partnership, through the Callaghan Innovation research and development growth grants spend, and so on. The member may be interested to know that industries such as information and communications technology and high-tech manufacturing are seeing very considerable growth in research and development and in activity generally, in terms of the development and diversification of New Zealand industries. That is fine; in fact, that is available now to all of the renewable energy industries that the member talks of. But what we are not prepared to do is go further than that and subsidise, for example, the price or the uptake of a particular industry.


3. 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 on 29 July, 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 at 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 : Can he explain why, after his claims of all that extra spending in health, we have failing emergency departments unable to treat the number of patients arriving and seeking help, with many of them sitting or lying in corridors, with or without fluorescent lights, because the hospitals—

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

Hon Annette King : —are running to capacity?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : No, that is totally incorrect. The member is having flashbacks to her own tenure. What she knows is that 95 percent of patients are in and out of our emergency departments within 6 hours. The service is much, much better than it was a whole decade ago, back when Mrs King was the Minister. I am really surprised that she has got the gall to get up and ask that sort of question, but she can continue to do so.

Hon Annette King : Would his answers about how much money he has put into the health system be much comfort to Mary, who reported on 11 August 2015 that she sat for hours with a severe leg infection, unable to get a bed in the emergency department, while five other people sat beside her with intravenous fluid drips in their arms, waiting to get out of the corridor?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : That sounds more like 15 August 2005, not 2015. But, as Mrs King has said before, it is better to help patients rather than use them. I am very pleased to see that Mrs King’s views on the health system have changed substantially over time, because back in 2002 she said that New Zealand is not rich enough to have the kind of health system found in Australia. Yet only last week she was saying—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer is now almost as long as the question.

Hon Annette King : Is it acceptable to him for a person with renal colic to sit in a jam-packed corridor outside the emergency department on a chair for hours because there were no beds available—so overcrowded in the corridor that the doctors and nurses were bumping into each other and had difficulty taking blood from the patients?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : You will notice that Mrs King gives no names, no dates, and no hospital. I do not think you could possible believe that. I think it is probably fiction.

Hon Annette King : Does the Minister realise that rather than constantly dodging direct questions, failing to give direct answers, and then harking back with selective figures from—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I just have the question.

Hon Annette King : —10 years ago, he needs to focus on what is happening in emergency department corridors today, which, according to a member of Parliament, is described as—

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman : Who—who?

Hon Annette King : Wait till I tell him what they said.

Mr SPEAKER : You had better hurry up.

Hon Annette King : “It makes them look like some sort of makeshift refugee camps.”

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : This is all scaremongering and rumour. The member gives no details. The only facts we know are that she doubled the budget and delivered 7,500 fewer appointments and 2,000 fewer operations. As they said in the Dominion Post in September 2005, how can a Minister spend so much money yet make the system worse? That was Annette King—no record to stand on, I am afraid.

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although this is unusual, the Minister did say: “Who was that record a quote from”—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I just want the point of order.

Hon Annette King : I would like to table Hansard, 6 March 2008—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will immediately resume her seat. There is no need to table Hansard in this House.

Hon Annette King : When he railed against people waiting in corridors under the previous Government when hospitals were at capacity, calling it unacceptable and a failure of the health system, did he envisage that he would be hearing under his watch about a man with cancer who waited for hours in the ambulance bay beside the emergency department without a pillow or a blanket?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : To be honest, if all this was true, Mrs King would be giving names, naming hospitals, and giving dates. I believe she is just making it up and, frankly, you have got no credibility unless you give details. It is better to help patients rather than use them, Mrs King.

Hon Annette King : Is he aware that the increase in those getting a first specialist assessment since 2008-09 averages out at an increase of just 3.8 percent a year—which Professor Philip Bagshaw, who knows a thing about people waiting in pain and disability, described as absolutely inadequate—and reflects the $1.7 billion missing from the health budget under this Government?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : The only fact in all this is that Mrs King doubled the budget twice and actually delivered 7,500 fewer appointments and 2,000 fewer operations. All the rest is Mrs King making it up. If it was not made up, she would be citing—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : —names, dates, hospitals. She cannot do it.

Hon Annette King : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did cite a name, and that was Professor Bagshaw. Can I seek leave—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is not a point of order, but I will have the point of order that you are getting to.

Hon Annette King : Can I seek leave to table where I got the direct quote from? It is from a newspaper, but Dr—

Mr SPEAKER : No, no. [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. We are not about to table newspaper articles in this House.

Family/Whānau Violence—Bail

4. JONO NAYLOR (National) to the Minister of Justice : What initiatives has she announced to support judges making family violence bail decisions?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Yesterday I announced that from 1 September a pilot will begin in the Christchurch and Porirua courts, under which judges will receive a detailed new report on a defendant’s family violence history when making bail decisions in family violence cases. The new report will show all recorded family violence incidents involving a defendant in an easy to read, summarised form. It was developed in partnership with the judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, and the police. Bail decisions are critical in family violence cases. Giving judges a clear picture of previous patterns of offending when they are making a bail decision will help to protect victims from further harm. After a trial period and a review, it is expected that the summary report will be rolled out nationally from early 2016.

Jono Naylor : What other work is under way to provide the judiciary with the information it needs to keep victims safe?

Hon AMY ADAMS : It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that we need to make it easier for family and criminal courts to be able to share information in family violence cases. Currently, specified family violence information can be shared between the courts only if there is a protection order in place when the family violence offence happened. In my view, the Family Court should be able to access sentencing notes from the criminal court, to help understand the severity of previous offending, and the criminal court should be able to get information, such as the reasoning given by the Family Court for granting protection orders. I will shortly be announcing further changes to ensure judges in both criminal and family jurisdictions have more comprehensive information available to support family violence decision-making.

Jono Naylor : What other initiatives are in the pipeline to contribute to better sharing of information in family violence cases?

Hon AMY ADAMS : The discussion document I have launched recently, reviewing all family violence legislation, specifically raises concerns about deficiencies in information sharing across and between all agencies involved in family violence cases, the Government, and NGOs. For example, I am seeking views on creating a presumption that where there are family violence concerns, all relevant information should be disclosed. We have seen numerous death reviews and coroners’ reports highlighting the need for better sharing of information if we want to make inroads into our horrific family violence statistics, and this will continue to be a feature of the Government’s work programme in this regard.

Children—State Care

5. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister for Social Development : Will she make an emergency one-off injection of funding into Child Youth and Family to address concerns about the safety of children in State care raised by the Children’s Commissioner today?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): No. Budget 2015 allocated $8 million extra to help Child, Youth and Family meet current demand and $5.8 million to develop and test a new operating model. Since 2008 the baseline for Child, Youth and Family has increased by $90 million, with no apparent substantial change in the outcome for children in State care. Throwing money at a system that is not working is just plain ridiculous. That is why in April I appointed an expert panel to design a complete overhaul of New Zealand’s child protection system to ensure that we get better results for children in care and to ensure that money is invested in the areas that will make the biggest difference for our kids.

Jan Logie : Given that the Children’s Commissioner has said that these 5,000 children cannot wait for these initiatives, what will the Minister do today to action any of the report’s 53 recommendations?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I think the member completely misrepresents the comments from the Children’s Commissioner. He is entirely supportive—he makes that very clear in his report—of the work that we are doing here with an expert panel to completely overhaul the system. The member should make sure that she accurately quotes the Children’s Commissioner.

Jan Logie : Given that the Children’s Commissioner is doubtful that children are currently better off in State care, after being removed from their family, what is the Minister doing today to ensure that placements that are made tomorrow will be safe?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Again, the member is misrepresenting the Children’s Commissioner in his report. His comments around not knowing relate to the lack of data. If she looks at page 61, I think it is, of the report, he makes that very clear. I am also concerned at the lack of data following the progress of children after they come into State care, and that is one of the issues that the expert panel is looking at. In fact, all the recommendations of the Children’s Commissioner are incorporated in the review that the panel is doing.

Jan Logie : Given that National has been in power for the majority of these kids’ lives, will the Minister accept responsibility for her Government’s systematic under-investment in Child, Youth and Family and these children?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Well, there has not been under-investment. As I said, an extra $90 million has been put by this Government alone into Child, Youth and Family. The previous Minister led a large piece of work that had a green paper, a white paper, a Vulnerable Children Act, a Children’s Action Plan—all designed around maintaining children in their families and helping those children so that they do not need State care. So there has been a huge of amount of that has gone in. What we are going to do now, though, is get to the very heart of the matter, as the Children’s Commissioner talks about—the system that is needed to put children and their needs at the centre of the State’s care.

Jan Logie : Has the Minister seen last year’s report from the chief social worker that the most common request from case workers within Child, Youth and Family is for more staff?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Yes, I have. I have also heard the voices of children who say that the most important thing for them is a safe, stable, and loving home. Their first placement needs to be the best placement for them. So that is what I talk about. This is a very complex issue. We are not going to have a knee-jerk reaction. The Children’s Commissioner is very supportive of the work that this Government is doing with the expert panel designing a complete overhaul of the Child, Youth and Family system.

Jan Logie : Is one of the recommendations that she is taking to Cabinet next month to outsource any responsibility for child protection to private businesses?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Cabinet papers are, of course, for Cabinet. What I am taking to Cabinet next month is a very high-level report from the expert panel. I do intend to make that public following Cabinet’s consideration of it.

Jan Logie : Will the Minister commit to keeping Child, Youth and Family services within the Government’s direct control and our collective care?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Where the Government takes children into its care it has an absolute responsibility to make sure that those children have better outcomes in their lives, and I am determined to make sure that that happens.

Jan Logie : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not hear my—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question was definitely addressed.

Marama Fox : Given the response to your first question, were you impressed by the finding in the Youth Services Strategy case study that young people on placements who are connected with a Whānau Ora provider that could connect the person through to their marae had “much better experiences and reported better outcomes as a result of”—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I have the question, please.

Marama Fox : Yes, and here is the question: that being the case, will she make an emergency one-off injection of funding into Whānau Ora to ensure much better outcomes for tamariki and rangatahi Māori?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Yes, I was impressed, and yes, I am committed to continue to work closely with the Minister for Whānau Ora to look at ways that the Ministry of Social Development and Whānau Ora can better deliver results to at-risk New Zealanders. I note that Budget 2015 provided a $49.8 million boost for Whānau Ora navigators, and they are making a valuable contribution to other Government initiatives, including the four Children’s Teams that we have already rolled out.

Question No. 6 to Minister

GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise the point of order under Speakers’ rulings 168/3 and 168/4. There are two parts to the point of order I am raising. This question was set down to the Prime Minister and asked him whether he stood by a statement. That statement was made in this House. There is no dispute that the statement was made; it is in Hansard.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I just have the point of order.

GRANT ROBERTSON : The point of order is that I believe the transfer of the question undermines the integrity of question time. I do not understand how the Opposition can hold the Prime Minister to account when direct quotes that he has given in this House are transferred. If you will indulge me, Mr Speaker, the second part of my point of order is that the option that then gives the Opposition is to simply ask the Prime Minister: “Does he stand by all his statements?”. That is a ridiculous situation, because that question would not be transferred, we then lose valuable supplementary questions, and the opportunity is opened up for the Minister answering to say they do not have the material available to them. I think this kind of transfer undermines the integrity of question time.

Mr SPEAKER : I do not agree with the member. [Interruption] Order! If I felt for one minute that it did, in transferring, undermine the integrity of question time and, effectively, it was an anathema to the justice of the question time system, then I would not allow the transfer. I think there are, in regard to the second point made by Grant Robertson, ways that this question could have been worded in such a way that it could not have been transferred, and that includes ways that are more general than just “Does the Prime Minister stand by his statements?”. I suggest that if he wants advice on the wording of that, he takes some advice from, perhaps, the Office of the Clerk, to help him in further wording of questions so that it is more difficult for the transfer to occur. But in this case the transfer is the right of the Government, provided it does not in any way mean the shifting of responsibility does not allow for a fair chance of an answer. The question, in essence, is around KiwiSaver. That responsibility is in the hands of the Minister of Finance, and I think the question can proceed, if the member wishes to continue.

GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER : If it is a fresh point of order, I will happily hear it.

GRANT ROBERTSON : The ability for a Minister—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I just have the fresh point of order.

GRANT ROBERTSON : The point of order is this: how is it not anathema to—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Now the member is questioning a ruling I have just given. I have been quite clear about it. If the member wants to raise a fresh point of order, I will hear it, but—[Interruption] Order! The member may want to resume his seat. We get to a very disorderly state in this House if members then continue to relitigate, particularly when they lead me to believe that it is a fresh point of order and, as they get into their so-called fresh point of order, it is simply a chance to argue the case with me. That is unacceptable. I have made a ruling. The member can shake his head and say that he does not agree with it. I think there are frequent opportunities for members to disagree with rulings that I make in this House, but, at the end of the day, they must accept them.

GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central): I seek leave of the House for this question to be transferred back to the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I invite the member to look at Speaker’s ruling 169/5. I am not putting that leave.

KiwiSaver—Government Contributions

6. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Does he stand by the Prime Minister’s statement that “the removal of the $1,000 kick-start contribution will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : Yes. This was based on advice from officials, which stated: “This change is likely to have only limited effect (if any) on enrolment rates in KiwiSaver amongst the legislated target population because other subsidies and employer contributions remain in place.” Incentives for people to join KiwiSaver include: auto-enrolment when starting a new job, the 3 percent employer contribution, and the member tax credit of up to $521 each year, all of which significantly outweighs the $1,000 kick-start payment when taken together.

Grant Robertson : Why did the Prime Minister tell his House that “the formal advice from the Inland Revenue Department” was that sign-up rates for KiwiSaver would not be affected by cutting the kick-start, when the Inland Revenue Department’s regulatory impact statement on cutting this kick-start includes paragraph 44, entitled “Lower numbers of KiwiSaver members (particularly among the self-employed and children)”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The paper and the regulatory impact statement make a number of comments. I draw the member’s attention to paragraph 56 of the Cabinet paper, which says “This change is likely to have only limited effect (if any) on enrolment rates in KiwiSaver among the legislative target population because other subsidies and employer contributions remain in place.” In terms of the regulatory impact statement, which is available online to members, paragraph 32 says a number of things, including “Therefore removal … of the kick-start would reduce fiscal costs without reducing savings rates …”.

Grant Robertson : How does he justify his belief that the cut to the kick-start for KiwiSaver will not make a blind bit of difference when the Inland Revenue Department statistics for the month of July show there was a 45 percent net decline in the number of new members compared with the monthly average for the previous year?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I caution the member about 1 month’s figures in relation to this.

Grant Robertson : Two months.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : But the member talked about the July figures. The key thing to note is that the numbers are, of course, dropping each year anyway. The reason they are is because so many people have signed up—2.5 million New Zealanders are now in the scheme. In 2009, 25,000 people a month were signing up; last year that was closer to 15,000 a month; and this year it is dropping again. It would be expected to, as increasing numbers of New Zealanders are signed up, because there just are not as many New Zealanders left to sign up.

Grant Robertson : That’s such a load of nonsense.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : No, it is not nonsense, Mr Robertson; it is called mathematics—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Minister can resume his seat to await the supplementary question.

Grant Robertson : Why did his Government use Treasury’s analysis to justify cutting the kick-start, when that analysis has been described by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research today as being wrong because it used data from a short time period affected by the global financial crisis, compares the wrong groups of people, and ignores evidence that young people tend not to save without incentives?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I am not sure that saying the period 2007 to 2010 or 2011 is a short period—in fact, it covers a period prior to the global financial crisis as well. Actually—

Grant Robertson : Right, so it’s all fine? It’s all fine, those stats?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Just shh for a minute, Grant—you are getting carried away.

Dr Megan Woods : Have you lost your cards again, Steven?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Just wait and I will answer the question for you.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just finish the answer.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The reality of it is that if you look at the comments by the Financial Services Council, it talks about how KiwiSaver has been beneficial with some income groups, and the Government absolutely agrees. KiwiSaver has been beneficial. The earlier Treasury report talked about a lift in saving rates overall. In fact, the greater impact of lifted savings rates has actually come through the tax reductions that the Government introduced in 2010, which the member does not understand, because the entire Labour Government was high-taxing New Zealanders throughout the 2000s, and then wondered why people were not saving.

Grant Robertson : Does he agree with Treasury’s advice that KiwiSaver is poor value for money and only marginally adding to New Zealand’s national savings rate?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I think it is fair to say that it is only marginally adding to New Zealand’s savings rate, because a fair amount of the savings that are occurring is transferred from other potential savings, including a reduction in people’s—

Grant Robertson : That’s exactly the opposite of what the NZIER report says.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Well, with the greatest respect, the report was sponsored by the Financial Services Council, which likes to be subsidised for savings. I understand that, but that is the council’s perspective. Again, for the member’s edification, the reality is that KiwiSaver has not lifted a lot of savings rates overall. It has definitely helped in some income groups—there is no doubt about it. The Government is supportive of it and retains very big incentives for people to belong.

Grant Robertson : So, for the record, can he confirm that he continues to believe that the cut to the KiwiSaver kick-start has not made a blind bit of difference to the number of people in this scheme, despite the fact that there are now 2,000 fewer zero to 17-year-olds in the scheme today than when he put that in?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The Minister did stand by the Prime Minister’s statement. The point for the member to understand is that actually there has been a lower number so far of zero to 18-year-olds, which you would expect because they are not actually in the workforce. But the primary reason why we are continuing to see a decline in the overall numbers of people in the KiwiSaver is because—

Grant Robertson : Just admit it—he was wrong.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Mr Speaker, he just keeps up a commentary the entire time I am trying to answer his question, which makes it quite pointless, because actually he does not want an answer. What he does not want to know—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister will resume his seat.

Rheumatic Fever—Rates

SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill): My question is to—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Sarah Dowie, question No. 7.

SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill): My question is to the Minister of Health. Can he confirm that rheumatic fever rates have dropped—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I am now giving a last warning to the Minister Steven Joyce. If he continues to interject like that and cause disruption, I will be asking him to leave the Chamber. Sarah Dowie, could we start that question again.

7. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister of Health : Can he confirm that rheumatic fever rates have dropped 24 percent since 2012 following the Government investing more than $65 million on a range of initiatives to combat the disease?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, I can. The Government is committed to making progress on issues that affect vulnerable children. In the past few years, we have made great progress on reducing the number of first-episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations, by 24 percent since 2012, including a reduction of 36 percent for Māori children and 31 percent for Pasifika children since 2013. This morning I visited the Porirua Union and Community Health Service, which operates a sore throat swabbing drop-in clinic. It was great to hear the stories of families whose health is benefiting from these new services. They are doing a great job there at that health centre.

Sarah Dowie : What are some of the initiatives that the Government has invested in to reduce rheumatic fever?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : To achieve these reductions, we have established 300 drop-in clinics and 200 school-based services, covering 25,000 children. We have reached over 3,000 families per year with the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes initiatives in all high-incidence areas, and we have engaged 30,000 Auckland and Wellington Pasifika families through home visits and community events to raise prevention awareness. These initiatives are making a difference, but there is more work to be done towards achieving the Better Public Services target of reducing rheumatic fever by two-thirds by June 2017.

Barbara Stewart : Can the Minister confirm that the June 2015 Better Public Services interim target of a 40 percent reduction in first-episode rheumatic fever hospitalisations was not met, and, in fact, only a reduction of 14 percent was achieved?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : New Zealand First always wants to rain on the parade, but—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just answer the question.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : This is a tough-to-achieve target that no other Government has ever tried to tackle. Last year there were 135 new cases, and the year before that there were 175. That is great progress, and the member should be celebrating and supporting it.

Barbara Stewart : I seek leave to table a Ministry of Health report titled Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme update, stating that over—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is no need to add any more. I just need to check whether that is a report that is available for members to get on the web?

Barbara Stewart : No.

Mr SPEAKER : On the basis that the member said it is not—[Interruption] Order! I will accept the member’s word. The member said that it is not easy to obtain that report. On that basis, I will put the leave and the House will decide. Leave is sought to table that particular Ministry of Health report on rheumatic fever. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.

Health Care—Dementia

BARBARA STEWART (NZ First): My question is—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have called Barbara Stewart.

8. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health : Does he agree with Alzheimer’s New Zealand’s Catherine Hall that “dementia is one of the most significant healthcare challenges facing us globally and in New Zealand”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, Alzheimer’s disease is a big challenge, both globally and here in New Zealand, especially as our population ages. That is why this Government launched our plan the New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care in November 2013. This national plan was developed in consultation with the sector, and it provides comprehensive guidance on supporting people living with dementia. The Government has backed this up with a series of funding increases in recent Budgets, including a $40 million package for residential dementia – level care and to develop dementia care pathways, and another $44 million package over 4 years to support people living with dementia.

Barbara Stewart : What funding priority signals are you sending to district health boards for dementia services over the next 3 years, in view of the fact that the number of New Zealanders experiencing dementia is increasing at a faster rate than previously expected?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : I think that we covered this pretty comprehensively in the first question, but I will quote directly from that answer. This Government has backed this up with a series of funding increases in recent Budgets, including a $40 million package for residential dementia – level care and to develop dementia care pathways, and another $44 million package over 4 years to support people living with dementia.

Barbara Stewart : Does the Minister agree that having only a 3-year strategy to combat dementia is very short-sighted management of this long-term issue, and that Alzheimer’s New Zealand is correct in stating that “We urgently need a national dementia plan.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : No, I do not. As I said in the first answer, we launched our plan, the New Zealand Framework for Dementia Care, in November 2013, and it looks out far further than 3 years—that is the plan.


9. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education : Does she stand by her predecessor’s statement in 2010 regarding truancy that “We cannot sit back and do nothing. These figures are really shocking and we need to get serious about tackling this problem”; if so, by how much has the truancy rate increased since then?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): I do indeed stand by my colleague’s statement and wholeheartedly support her sentiment. Since 2011 there has been a 0.6 percent increase in unexplained absences. One unjustified absence is one too many—we want kids to be in school and learning. What we saw under the previous Labour Government was a 41 percent increase in the rate of unexplained absence, and it was so complacent that it measured truancy only every 2 years. Under this Government we are working hard, and that is why since 2011 we have had an electronic survey every year to encourage a more regular collection of data and give us a better understanding of who the kids are who are not consistently attending school and how we can keep them at school and learning.

Chris Hipkins : Do the Attendance in New Zealand Schools 2014 survey results show that one in every 78 students regularly bunked school in 2013—a 30 percent increase on the number the year before?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : No, it does not. What it shows is that the frequent truant rate increased from 1 percent in 2013 to 1.3 percent in 2014, while—[Interruption] I am glad the Opposition takes so much pleasure in checking—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just complete the answer.

Hon HEKIA PARATA : So we are working very hard to keep kids at school, and playing with percentages may be what the Opposition wants to do but we are focused on getting kids to school.

Chris Hipkins : Why is a 30 percent increase in the number of students regularly skipping classes acceptable, and what confidence can parents have that she is dealing with the issue, given that after 7 years of a National Government the problem is getting worse?

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

Hon HEKIA PARATA : What the Attendance Service deals with is chronic truancy. What the member is referring to is overall truancy, which, of course, is a partnership between parents and schools and the Government. The Government is doing its part to get and keep kids at school. That is why we have introduced Positive Behaviour for Learning in 600 schools. That is why we have introduced Kia Eke Panuku, which has seen Māori attendance and suspensions halved in the time we have been in Government, and also Pasifika absences have decreased since we have been in Government. But, overall, truancy is a partnership between parents, their children, schools, and the Government.

Chris Hipkins : Is it acceptable that students were absent for almost 10 percent of their classes last year and thousands of students—thousands of students—were wagging school on a regular basis?

Hon HEKIA PARATA : Of course it is not. It is not acceptable, and that is why we have introduced a new attendance service, we have increased the funding to it to $9.5 million, we have introduced 24 new providers across the country, we are working with six social sector trials, we are engaging with parents to see that their kids are at school, and we are providing more engaged pathways through the vocational pathways, 5,250 trades academy places, 10,000 fees-free places—

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

Hon HEKIA PARATA : We are working hard at this.

Chris Hipkins : Has she seen the comment “In a country as small as ours it is ludicrous to think we can’t keep proper track on where our young people are. We can do much better for our young people because if we don’t there will be more mindless murders like that of Michael Choy.”; if so, and if everything is going so well, as she says, has Bill English—the author of that comment—asked her to explain why truancy continues to go up after 7 years of a National Government?

Mr SPEAKER : Again, either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon HEKIA PARATA : I, along with other Ministers, are constantly scrutinised because we believe in transparency and self-review on how well we are doing. I have not once said that I am complacent about this. What I was demonstrating was that we are investing significantly into this area so that we get consistent attendance. Can I just draw the member’s understanding to the distinction between kids being sick and therefore not being at school, kids coming from families dealing with mental health illness who are not at school, and kids who are chronically truant. There is a difference between the surveys that have been reported today.

Tourism Industry—Growth

10. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Tourism : How is the Government supporting growth in the tourism sector?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of Tourism : Tourism growth has been a priority for this Government. Since taking office in 2008 we have invested an unprecedented $730 million in tourism and tourism promotion, including of course the $89 million to build and maintain the cycle trails, supporting businesses through the Tourism Growth Partnership, and joint-venture marketing efforts with regional tourism organisations. Tourism of course makes up 4 percent of GDP, and the Minister of Tourism of course is doing a fantastic job at that.

Matt Doocey : What recent reports has the Minister received about the number of visitors coming to New Zealand?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : Good news for the House. For the first time ever a record 3 million visitors came to New Zealand in the past year, a 7 percent increase on the previous year’s visitor numbers.

Richard Prosser : How many of them bought houses?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : As tourists, yes? This is a tourism question. Even better is the fact that they spent a total of $8.7 billion—$8.7 billion. That is up 28 percent on the previous 12 months, with nearly half of this spent outside of our major three cities.

Matt Doocey : How is the Government supporting efforts to encourage growth in overseas visitor numbers?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : This year’s Budget included $2.5 million in additional funding for Tourism New Zealand’s promotional efforts. Campaigns promoting New Zealand as an outstanding visitor destination generated 22,000 stories and reached more than 1.2 billion people globally last year. The equivalent advertising value of the media generated was approximately $490 million—more than four times the whole of Tourism New Zealand’s total annual budget. Promotional efforts are also targeting more high-spend visitors, and the 19 percent increase in average visitor spend shows that Tourism New Zealand’s work is paying off.

Children—State Care

11. CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Minister for Social Development : Does she agree with the statement by the Children’s Commissioner that “we don’t know if children are better off as a result of state intervention, but the indications are not good”?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes. I have been concerned at the lack of data that tracks children through and beyond State care, and that is why in April I appointed an expert panel to lead a complete overhaul of New Zealand’s child protection system to ensure that we get better results for children in care and to ensure that money is invested in the areas that will make the biggest difference for those children. I also note that the Children’s Commissioner’s recommendations line up with the expert panel’s terms of reference.

Carmel Sepuloni : Does she agree with the Children’s Commissioner, who said that to develop a trained, skilled, and supported Child, Youth and Family workforce “will require considerable new investment”?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Yes. I am expecting the expert panel—and I know that it is addressing the needs of the workforce. One of the concerns that I have and that I have conveyed to the panel is that we are asking social workers to deal with increasingly complex needs of children that they are simply not qualified to deal with. We should be employing more child psychologists, perhaps, psychiatrists, therapists, etc. So I am expecting that the expert panel will be recommending a wider range of specialist services to support our excellent social workers.

Carmel Sepuloni : Is she prepared to place that considerable investment into developing a trained, skilled, and supported Child, Youth and Family workforce; if not, will she take full responsibility for cases like the one where a child was removed from their home and then shifted an additional 60 times by Child, Youth and Family?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I do not want to get ahead of the process, and, as I said earlier in the House, the Children’s Commissioner is very supportive of the work that I am doing with an expert panel to completely redesign the Child, Youth and Family protection system. I think we should wait until we get that full business case to see where we need to invest more to get the best outcomes for those most vulnerable children in our communities.

Carmel Sepuloni : Does she agree with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s finding that having poorly trained care staff in residences can increase risk for both young people and staff; if not, why not?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Yes, I do agree with him.

Carmel Sepuloni : Given that she agrees with that question, and given that Child, Youth and Family’s goal is of 100 percent registered social workers by 2015, is she happy with the fact that there are still 500 Child, Youth and Family social workers not registered; if not, will she be supporting my member’s bill, given that she has said there is nothing in it that she disagrees with—

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

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : As I told that member earlier today, I will not be supporting her bill.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta : Does she agree with the Children’s Commissioner that Child, Youth and Family is particularly failing the 58 percent of children in care and 68 percent of young people in Child, Youth and Family residences who are Māori, and what will she be changing immediately to address this issue?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I think that the member needs to be careful what words she is putting in the Children’s Commissioner’s mouth. His recommendation No. 5 is about improving cultural capability. In actual fact, that was also addressed by the review that the Chief Social Worker did, and a great deal of work is already happening within Child, Youth and Family practice to make sure that every Child, Youth and Family office has that cultural capability. In addition to that, we have memorandums of understanding with five iwi, and just this month a trial of a new way of working with iwi began with Tainui. That is entitled Mokopuna Ora, and I look forward to the results of that 6-month trial.

Marama Fox : Given that answer, is the Minister able to expand on how that cultural capability can be improved in the residences and not just in the Child, Youth and Family offices?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : As I said, the review done by the Chief Social Worker, which is the work that forms a part of the internal Child, Youth and Family modernisation process, is certainly addressing all of those issues in Child, Youth and Family offices, in residences, and in youth justice facilities. Child, Youth and Family is being considerably helped with that by its relationships with iwi and the different partnerships that are being explored in terms of the way we can work together to make sure that our mokopuna and tamariki are well connected into their Māori communities and to the larger whānau.


12. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister for Building and Housing : Does he agree with the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank that the key problems with housing supply are “a limited supply of land ready for building; restrictive planning processes, and a lack of coordinated planning in infrastructure development”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing) on behalf of the Minister for Building and Housing : Yes, that is why we have a significant programme of work under way to speed up land supply and address planning and infrastructure issues. In respect of land supply, we have established 129 special housing areas across New Zealand that will yield more than 51,000 new homes. We are also reforming the Resource Management Act to provide the more long-term solution required to deal with restrictive planning processes that currently impede land available for housing.

David Seymour : Is it—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Call for a supplementary question, then I will give it. [Interruption] Supplementary question, David Seymour.

David Seymour : Is it the case that New Zealand has run out of land and that a whole generation will be confined to live in apartments over train stations?

Hon PAULA BENNETT : No, there is quite a lot of land in New Zealand and still quite a lot of land that can be used for the supply of housing, and we can see both the brownfield and greenfield developments in Auckland. I must say, though, that some of my neighbours in New Lynn are doing a pretty remarkable development down by the train station. I am equally enthused by apartment living and its opportunities, but I think the great thing about this country is that we can give people housing choices, and that means they can also have the availability of living in homes as well.

David Seymour : Does the Minister expect to see substantial reform of the Resource Management Act passed in this term?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Paula Bennett, in so far as there is ministerial responsibility.

Hon PAULA BENNETT : The answer unequivocally would be yes. He absolutely does think that, and we, certainly on this side of the House, understand the importance of changes to the Resource Management Act to free up land and make that building available. It seems that we have still got a bit of work to do across the House.


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