Questions and Answers – Sept 8

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 — 5:08 PM

Questions to Ministers

Economy—Policies and Results

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Why did he say “Plan A is a good plan” given the state of regional economies?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister : He said “Plan A is a good plan.” because plan A is a good plan. It enables regions to be resilient to shifts in global prices. The Government is supporting regions in a number of ways, including water reform and Resource Management Act reform, recognising that most regional economies are resource-based economies, and we are investing in regions through better alignment in training and skills, education, and research and development. Some regions are under pressure from the volatility in dairy prices. The Government is working with those regions—for example, through regional growth studies—to attract more investment, jobs, and growth.

Andrew Little : Is plan A working for Taranaki, which is in recession according to the ANZ Regional Trends report, with the economy there shrinking by 3 percent so far this year?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Taranaki does have the highest GDP per head in the country because of long-running success on the back of its oil and gas industry and the dairy industry. It happens that right now the prices for both are low, but, unlike that member, we maintain confidence in the people of Taranaki that they will be able to deal with these lower prices and continue to succeed.

Andrew Little : Given the number of jobs in Taranaki fell by 700 in the past year and the number of people who are unemployed shot up by 44 percent, is it not time to admit that plan A for the economy is failing?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : The unemployment was particularly low in Taranaki because of its economic success. There are other industries there that are succeeding or being cushioned by the reduction in the exchange rate. One job, of course, that was not filled in Taranaki was by that member when he took a second thrashing in the New Plymouth seat.

Andrew Little : Why did his Government undermine the Taranaki economy by slashing transport funding for the region by a third between 2008 and 2014?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We do not agree with the member’s characterisation of road funding, given the size and number of projects going on in Taranaki, and I might say the most recent injection of capital was the settlement signed on the weekend, which is going to be worth $17 million to Taranaki, and it will be supervised by iwi who have a long-running interest in the strength of the Taranaki economy.

Andrew Little : Point of order—[Interruption]

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

Andrew Little : I seek leave to table a chart showing the cut in funding for Taranaki roading, showing a cut to the tune of—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I need the source of the document.

Andrew Little : The source is from the New Zealand Transport Agency and not otherwise publicly available.

Mr SPEAKER : OK, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular chart from the New Zealand Transport Agency, and it is not available on the website, I am assured. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Andrew Little : Has he seen the Economic Survey of Manufacturing released today, which shows manufacturing sales are falling, and how will that affect regional economies?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We would expect that because of the low dairy prices, in particular, being quite low, there are going to be flow-on effects through some parts of the economy. In respect of manufacturing, it will be affected by the state of the dairy industry, because some manufacturing is related to it. On the other hand, there are other manufacturers who are doing very well because of the low exchange rate. Those who are under pressure have the full support of the Government with a regulatory and taxation regime that provides them with incentives to adapt to those circumstances, and we have longer-term confidence in their ability to do so.

Andrew Little : Given plan A is a failure that has led to higher unemployment, weak growth, and record debt, why is he refusing to consider a new direction?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : We do not agree with the member’s description of the future of the New Zealand economy. I know he is among the very few people who want to see the economy crash, because he thinks it might benefit his poor leadership and party standing. But, actually, we have a longer-term view that although this is a softer patch for the economy and a difficult period for some industries, we have longer-term confidence in the New Zealand economy.

Andrew Little : Given that plan A has failed, will he update National’s 2014 slogan to now read “Not working for New Zealand”? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question was not heard because of the level of interjection, mainly from my right—[Interruption] Order! I invite the member to repeat the question.

Andrew Little : The question is and was: given that plan A has failed, will he update National’s 2014 slogan to now read “Not working for New Zealand”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, because plan A is working for New Zealand—much better than Labour’s political strategy is working for Labour. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I require the House to settle.


2. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Immigration : Does he stand by his statement to this House in June of this year that “The Government still has an open mind on that quota number”?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Yes.

James Shaw : If his Government does have an open mind, why did it vote down the Green Party’s bill and stop public consultation on the refugee quota at select committee?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : I am not aware that there has been any shutting down of consultation at select committee—

Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has no responsibility for that. I would ask you to just reflect very carefully on it, because it was the Parliament that actually denied the Green Party’s bill, not the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No. There is an issue, I think, about the second part of the question—being a decision in the select committee. I did not quite catch the question, but I am ruling that the question is in order and is quite capable of being answered by the member. Does the member wish to have the question repeated? Would James Shaw please repeat the question for the benefit of the Minister.

James Shaw : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I noticed that the Minister himself did actually object to—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I appreciate the point that the member is making but that is not going to help the order of the House. The supplementary question I will rule is in order. I will allow the member now to ask it again and I will allow the Minister then to answer the question.

James Shaw : If his Government has such an open mind, why did he vote down the Green Party’s bill and stop public consultation on the refugee quota at select committee?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Although I have no responsibility for either of those things, I am aware that Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee is hearing four submissions on that very issue this week.

James Shaw : How can New Zealanders trust the National Government to increase the quota when John Key has already said in relation to the existing 750 cap that “We believe that that’s the right number for us.”?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : The public can trust the Government to redouble its efforts to ensure that the quota refugees we do take are well settled. The data I have seen is that there is, despite very good examples of strong settlement amongst the quota refugees, an unacceptably high number who are not doing well after they settle here, and that is the Government’s focus.

James Shaw : Why should the public trust the National Government to increase the refugee quota in a meaningful, long-term way when as late as last week it refused to even consider an emergency quota and in the past has lobbied to cut the number of refugees that New Zealand takes?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : The member has something of a fixation on the quota and on the number 750. I remind the House that that is one part of the Government’s humanitarian response, including another 300 places in family reunion, the 250 or so convention refugees who are granted asylum every year, and the emergency places that have been announced this week. In addition to significant other humanitarian contributions on top of the $15 million that the Government has already provided to assist the Turkish Government in supporting refugees on its border, another $4.5 million was announced this week, and I think that is a very, very good contribution above the 750.

James Shaw : So does he believe that New Zealand is doing its fair share, given that since National was elected in 2008 we have slipped from 83rd in the world to 90th in the world for taking on refugees per capita?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : The member is fixated on the quota so I will give him the numbers on quota. Of the 193 UN countries only 22 of them take quota refugees. New Zealand ranks about sixth or seventh on that list, and I think we can be very, very proud of that record.

James Shaw : Does he believe that New Zealand is doing its fair share when we have not increased our quota since 1987?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : For the reasons that I outlined two supplementary questions ago, yes.

James Shaw : So given that the Minister’s office was already advised on increasing the quota when it was last reviewed in 2013 and there has not been an increase for the last 3 years, why does the Government need to do another review?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE : Well, because in the absence of a review nothing would change. We are going to review that quota next year, as we have set out, and that is what the Government will do.


3. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Finance : What recent reports has he received highlighting the resilience of the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Standard and Poor’s recently affirmed New Zealand’s foreign currency long-term sovereign credit rating at AA, with a stable outlook. It pointed out New Zealand’s monetary and fiscal flexibility, a resilient economy, public policy stability, and a sound financial sector. It acknowledged New Zealand’s high external debt and the possibility that foreign investors might become less willing to fund banks at reasonable interest rates. However, it believes New Zealand’s banks will retain ready access to external markets. New Zealand’s fiscal framework was rated as credible and strong, according to all three major credit rating agencies.

Paul Foster-Bell : What was Standard and Poor’s assessment of the outlook for the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Standard and Poor’s says the rating outlook remains stable, reflecting its expectation that New Zealand’s fiscal performance will continue to improve. Its assessment is that growth will slow to the low 2 percents in 2015-16, down from an estimated 3 percent in the year to 30 June 2015. Residential and other construction activity is likely to remain a key driver of growth, and lower currency and falling interest rates should help to support economic growth. Standard and Poor’s says that New Zealand benefits from a high-income and resilient economy, drawing on decades of structural reforms. Overall, this is a reasonably positive assessment of the economy.

Grant Robertson : When the last three ANZ Truckometer reports have been titled “Potholes”, “Flat Tyre”, and “Warning: Dip Ahead”, and the last three ANZ business confidence surveys have been titled “Below the Belt”, “Flagging”, and—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Can I have the question.

Grant Robertson : —“Slippery Slopes”, is it not time for him to stop patronising New Zealanders and start getting real about the state of the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I read past the first line of all those reports, which is a time-consuming activity approximating work—

Hon Steven Joyce : It’s called work.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : —it is work; that is what work is—and I do not share quite as negative an attitude as ANZ does. But New Zealanders do not need to be told that things are a bit difficult. If you are dairy farming this week, it is cold and wet, the price is low, and you do not need politicians pontificating about how tough it is.

Paul Foster-Bell : What reports has he received showing continuing moderate wage and employment growth in the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Although the outlook for the economy has softened, Treasury’s latest Monthly Economic Indicators report says that data released in August points to a moderation in growth over the June quarter, and growth for the calendar year to 2015 is expected to be around 2 percent. That is below the Budget forecast that Treasury made. Total employment in the year to 30 June, though, was up by 3 percent, and total weekly earnings increased by 5.3 percent. So up until 30 June jobs have been growing and weekly earnings have grown, both significantly ahead of inflation.

Grant Robertson : If he did read past the title of the latest ANZ business confidence survey, did he see this graph here, which the Prime Minister described as being positive, or was he reading it upside down?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Yes, I did see the graph, and I am surprised and somewhat impressed that the member did—

Hon Steven Joyce : It was further down the page.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : —because it was a bit further down the page; that is right. But having seen the graph, the Government has come to the conclusion that it is not the right thing to panic and go on about a crisis. The right thing to do is to support our businesses and our farms to export, invest, and employ more people.

Paul Foster-Bell : How does New Zealand’s macroeconomic resilience compare internationally?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : There are a number of indicators that, together, indicate a resilient economy—those being a broadly balanced Government Budget, net debt less than 40 percent, economic growth greater than 1.5 percent, and scope to further cut interest rates, should the economic situation worsen. These are not high economic hurdles, but New Zealand meets all those criteria. In fact, there are only four other OECD countries that meet the criteria of having a broadly balanced Government Budget, net debt less than 40 percent, economic growth greater than 1.5 percent, and scope to cut interest rates. Those other countries are Australia, Norway, Iceland, and South Korea. So by those measures this economy is as well placed as any to handle global turbulence.

Health, Minister—Statements

4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health : Does he stand by his statement on 29 July that core Crown health expenditure covers “most, but not all, inflationary pressures”; and what impact has this shortfall had on patients?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I stand by my comments in the context that they were made. Inflation is at 0.4 percent, meaning that the 0.6 percent contribution for inflationary pressure is actually above the rate of inflation. In terms of impact on patients, this Government is delivering 50,000 more operations, 60,000 more surgical appointments, faster cancer care, 5,500 more doctors and nurses, and free GP visits and prescriptions for 750,000 children. Only a National Government can both handle the country’s finances and deliver more services.

Hon Annette King : If there is sufficient funding, why was Claire Davies, a 24-year-old, who spent 1½ years in pain waiting for an operation, told by her orthopaedic surgeon 2 months ago: “Unfortunately, you are being adversely affected by funding limitations felt throughout the New Zealand health system.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : As the Canterbury District Health Board admitted on the news on Sunday night, that statement made by that surgeon was incorrect and should never have been sent to that patient. That patient will be getting her operation, as she should have got in the first place.

Hon Annette King : I seek leave to table the letter to Claire Davies, dated 3 July 2015, from her orthopaedic surgeon, saying that funding limitations—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! We do not need a description of it. Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Annette King : Did anyone in his office contact the orthopaedic surgeon who wrote the letter to Claire Davies, or did his office speak to the media about the surgeon, in an attempt to warn the media off reporting this appalling story?

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


Hon Annette King : Are 20 district health boards wrong when they report that 160,000 people have been sent back to their GP without a specialist appointment, even though the data has been collected using the new Ministry of Health National Patient Flow data set, which he says will next year show the level of real unmet need?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : As the member well knows, always patients have been sent back to their GPs. They were when Labour was in Government, and, actually, no Government has ever been able to supply all the operations that every person needs. But we are the first Government to ever build a complete picture of that. The member knows, actually, that that picture is not yet complete, and the data will be available later next year. All we do know for a fact is that we are doing more: 60,000 more surgical appointments, 50,000 more operations, and 50,000 more medical appointments. So the only answer to unmet need is to do more. We are doing more; the Labour people did less.

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon Annette King : I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request from the Waitematā District Health Board, dated 21 July 2015, stating that the data was drawn from the National Patient Flow project.

Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular official information from the Waitematā District Health Board. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

Hon Annette King : Is Professor Phil Bagshaw, who runs the charity hospital in Christchurch, wrong when he said that since 2008 the annual average increase in the number of people receiving a first specialist assessment is only, on average, 3.8 percent but needs to be increased to 6 to 8 percent to keep up with baseline population increases—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Hon Annette King : —and the ageing population?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Questions are to be—[Interruption] Order! Questions are to be in line with Standing Order 380. They are meant to be concise. The length of supplementary questions from this member today is unacceptably long.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Yes, but what is also correct to say is that back in 2007 the same Mr Bagshaw said that unmet need is getting worse and the Labour Government is doing nothing about it.

Research and Development—Funding

5. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Science and Innovation : What new investment is the Government making in “high quality” research?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Science and Innovation): Last week I announced funding for 48 new science research programmes through the annual Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment science funding round, a total investment of $96.5 million over 4 years. A total of 157 proposals were received, with the 48 successful programmes selected by the board following robust review by independent experts. The sum of $49.8 million over the next 4 years has been awarded to research in the environmental and biological fields, and a further $46.6 million will go to the areas of high-value manufacturing, energy, minerals, hazards and infrastructure, and health and society. Research-led science is a key driver of economic growth, and this Government is working very hard to invest in it.

Dr Jian Yang : What sort of research will receive funding?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : What is really pleasing is the diversity of research proposals that were received. Medical implants, bee-friendly insecticides, 3-D printing, dairy goat infant formula, dental diagnostics, sensors, self-cleaning ceramic coatings, water-proofing road surfaces, family violence prevention, and aquifer management are just a few of the programmes that have received funding. Funding is divided into two types: smart ideas, and targeted research. The Smart Ideas programme supports new and promising ideas through to commercialisation, while Targeted Research funds benefit New Zealand within six areas: biological industries—

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

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : —energy and minerals, environment, hazards, health and society, and high-value manufacturing.

Dr Jian Yang : Why is the Government investing more in research, science, and innovation?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Growing our private and public sector spending on science is crucial to ensuring sustained economic growth in an increasingly competitive world. The programmes announced last week are part of that, and they contribute to the $1.5 billion a year the Government now spends across New Zealand on science, which is up by 70 percent in 6 years. We are investing in things like Primary Growth Partnerships, the new regional research institutes, and an additional $80 million for research and development grants in the private sector research and development area.

Economic Development, Minister—Statements

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Economic Development : Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Yes, in the context in which they were made.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Does he stand by his statement in August 2014 that “the good news is that the regions are actually leading New Zealand’s economic recovery, and I think that’s pretty exciting.”; if so, why?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Yes, I do, and I am pleased the member is acknowledging it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : How are the regions able to lead the so-called economic recovery when Northland Waste, a local company up north, lost its contract with the Department of Corrections for waste management to a Chinese-owned company with no tender process whatsoever being held? [Interruption]

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

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The good news for the member is that he may just be learning about Northland himself, but the Northland economy is about so much more than waste management. It is a very significant processor in the oil and gas industry, for example. It is very significantly involved in aquaculture. It is a significant region of the dairy industry and the meat industry. It has significant engineering companies. It has a significant tourism industry and a significant education industry. All of these things are contributing to Northland’s growth.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Besides the last by-election being waste management day for him, how does it contribute to the economic development of the regions when a local company gets shut out in favour of a foreign-owned company, and the decision to do this is not fair, it is a not a free-market decision, and it is not open to competition, but instead it is done by decree from the Inland Revenue Department?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The member, I know, has been beating a drum against international investment for some time—in fact, I think, nearly 40 years—but, actually, most New Zealand regions welcome international investment. They welcome it when businesses put money into their regions. In fact, the member himself may like to contribute by opening one of those parliamentary offices he keeps going on about, now that he has won the by-election.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Answers have got to be terse and to the point. When you do not acknowledge that the MP up north has already got three offices—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat—certainly if he wishes to stay for the balance of question time. That is not—[Interruption] Order! That is not a point of order at all. Does the member have further supplementary questions?

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Thank you very much. Could I ask “Mr Fix-it” how it is that the regions are going to support the economic recovery when the Chinese are buying the Paeroa Racecourse and Paeroa—

Hon Members : Oh.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I know you are groaning. There is every reason to groan down there.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat. He raised a point of order a minute ago suggesting that answers are meant to be concise. Equally, questions are meant to be concise. Now—[Interruption] Order! I will give the member one more chance to ask a concise supplementary question; otherwise, we will be moving on.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : You have got a point there. Can I ask the Minister for Economic Development as to how it supports the so-called recovery being driven from the regions if the Chinese are buying the Paeroa Racecourse and the Silver Fern Farms’ Paeroa plant?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Once again, the member is beating the anti-Chinese drum, which he loves doing so much. But can I explain it to him. It works like this: when someone comes into a region and makes an investment in that region, that is generally positive, particularly if it is passed through the Overseas Investment Office and is shown to actually add jobs and growth to the region. I know that member is against that sort of economic activity. In fact, he is against nearly all economic activity in regional New Zealand, but this Government is in favour of it.

Economy—Advice on Government Financial Position

7. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : When did Treasury first advise him that economic conditions were starting to mirror the downside scenario in his 2015 Budget?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Treasury has not specifically advised me of that. Treasury has advised me that since Budget 2015, dairy prices have fallen more than it expected, broadly in line with its alternative scenario. It has also advised that the downside scenario in Budget 2015 does not take account of other offsetting factors—for example, that both the exchange rate and interest rates are lower than assumed in the alternative scenario. These factors, of course, support all export-orientated businesses, not just those in the dairy sector.

Grant Robertson : Will the lower than expected exchange rate offset the negative impacts of other weak indicators, which have been described by economists as portraying a very sluggish economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Yes, eventually it will offset some of those. In fact, it is probably offsetting some of them now, but the exchange rate effects take some time to show through. But one has only to talk to businesses that were profitable at an 88 cents exchange rate against the United States dollar to find them somewhat enthusiastic about their profitability at 63 cents.

Grant Robertson : Did Treasury advise him that unemployment is likely to rise above 6 percent in coming quarters, despite the worst-case scenario in the Budget being 5.5 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I would not want to repeat exactly—you know, to misrepresent Treasury in any way, but it has certainly indicated that unemployment is likely to be sticky around the 6 percent mark.

Grant Robertson : So therefore Treasury is telling him that there will be 16,000 more unemployed people, making 151,000 unemployed people after that forecast comes to fruition, and how can he see that as a successful economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, Treasury has not actually said that. What it has indicated is that the quite strong rate of job growth is likely to slow down. The interesting thing about the New Zealand market is that although there has been strong creation of jobs, there have been large numbers of people showing up to that market, including a net inflow from Australia for the first time in 25 years. We will get an update from the Reserve Bank this week with its forecasts, and then from Treasury before Christmas on its forecast about how migration, job creation, and unemployment are going to interact.

Grant Robertson : Has the economy reached “stall speed”, as the ANZ business confidence survey indicated; if so, does he intend to alter anything about his approach to managing the economy?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Bill English—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I am not quite sure what the ANZ means by “stall speed”. I think it means that it has slowed down, and you do not have to be an economist to figure that out.

Health Services—Access to Elective Surgery

8. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Health : Can he confirm that over half a million patients received a First Specialist Assessment in the last financial year, an increase of 26 percent on the number performed in 2008/09?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, I can. New data shows that in the last financial year 542,000 patients received a first specialist assessment in our public health system, compared with 432,000 in 2008-09. That is an increase of 26 percent—an extra 110,000 appointments per year. And listen to this: one in 10 New Zealanders had an appointment with a specialist in a public hospital. These improvements are a credit to our dedicated health workforce, who are supported by the $400 million extra invested into health in Budget 2015.

Jacqui Dean : How many medical first specialist assessments were completed as part of this overall figure?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : There has been a large increase in the number of people receiving a first specialist assessment for medical as opposed to surgical needs. Medical first specialist assessments are for patients whose condition is managed by a physician rather than by a surgeon—for example, for cardiology, respiratory, or renal conditions. In the last financial year 220,000 patients received medical first specialist assessments compared with 171,000 in 2008-09—a 29 percent increase. That adds to the great work being done to increase the number of surgical first specialist assessments over the last 7 years. As Annette King told a Southland audience recently: “overall the health system [is] working well … We do have a good health system …”

Māori Development, Minister—Statements

9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Māori Development : Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Associate Minister for Māori Development) on behalf of the Minister for Māori Development : On behalf of the Minister for Māori Development, yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Supplementary question for the man who always gets the words perfect—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume his seat. My patience will not last too much longer with the member. Rise and ask a supplementary question in line with the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was for you to make that correction, not him. That is why I pointed it out to him.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I will give the member one more chance—but it will be brief—to rise and ask his supplementary questions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Can I ask the Minister, does he stand by his statement yesterday: “ ‘we’ve got the platform right,’ I think we are in the right space.”; if so, why?


Rt Hon Winston Peters : Does he think it is fair to say that he commissioned a report costing taxpayers over $20,000 to defend his position that Whānau Ora is producing results, despite that report not containing any hard data—which the Prime Minister admitted yesterday?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON : This is hopeless. That is a question that should be directed to the Minister for Whānau Ora.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Can I ask the Minister for Māori Development as to whether he will ensure next time that if he cannot answer the question, he gets someone proficient to do the job, rather than come down here and act like a clown?

Mr SPEAKER : I will invite—[Interruption] Order! I will invite the Minister to answer it, if he so wishes.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON : I will, if he promises not to have late nights at the Green Parrot before formulating his questions.

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

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

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Will the member please resume his seat. The member is calling a point of order and I will hear it, but before I do hear it I just want to say that if the member asks a supplementary question like that, he can anticipate he will get an answer like he did get. Does the member want to raise a point of order?

Rt Hon Winston Peters : My point of order is very simple. That sort of answer is likely to lead to two things: disorder and the worst of personal retaliation.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is exactly—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet, for the benefit of Mr Faafoi. That is exactly the point I was making when the member asked that supplementary question. [Interruption] Order! Again—[Interruption] Order! I will invite the member now to ask a supplementary question, but he is to do it within the bounds of the Standing Orders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : Always do. Which is a better use of taxpayer funding: $20,000 spent through Whānau Ora on Dunedin gang members to buy cannabis, over $60,000 for an Ōtaki Māori club for a 1-day hooley, or $140 million on 2,750 more nurses in our hospitals, 2,725 more primary school teachers in our schools, or 2,360 more police officers protecting our streets from crime?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON : That is a question that should be directed to the Minister for Whānau Ora. The member has been here for almost 40 years, off and on—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The latter part will not help the order of this House.

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

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! Can I remind members, particularly members on the front bench on my right, that this is a point of order. It will be heard in silence.

Ron Mark : Could I ask you, Mr Speaker, given that the report was released by the Minister for Māori affairs, to look into the accuracy and the appropriateness of those answers that have been provided by that Minister today, and to come back to us and say so—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I will certainly undertake to look at the accuracy of the answers. I am not giving an assurance that I will come back to the member.

Building and Construction Industry—Supplies

10. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Housing : Why did he say that the building materials industry “needs a shake-up through increased competition and greater transparency to ensure Kiwi families can get access to more fairly priced building materials and homes”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): I said it because it is true. It is why in Budget 2014 the Government removed tariffs on many thousands of building products. It is also why we announced last month changes to anti-dumping duty law. It is why we have a bill before Parliament reforming the standards system, because part of the problem is enabling the timely approval of imported building products. And it is also why we are working through the complex liability issues, in line with the recommendations by the Law Commission, which noted that because councils face high liabilities, it should be capped. Then there is resistance from councils to innovative building technology, which reduces competition. I can assure the member that we are very open to competition from products with Chinese-sounding names.

Phil Twyford : Why has he done nothing to address the anti-competitive rorts in the building supplies market, which are adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home, even though the Productivity Commission told him all about these rorts 4 years ago?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : This sounds like a bit of a rerun of the Shane Jones claims in respect of supermarkets, which came to absolutely nothing. If the member has evidence of anti-competitive behaviour occurring in the building industry, then I am happy to receive the information and to take it up with the Commerce Commission. I note that the Commerce Commission did an extensive inquiry into the issue around plasterboard. Apart from the issue around the duties, which the Government has addressed, it was satisfied that there were no breaches of the Commerce Act.

Phil Twyford : Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said yesterday: “if people really feel as though the system isn’t delivering for them … there’s a number of avenues they could follow”; if so, in the case of plasterboard, what are the avenues open to people when Fletcher’s Gib board has 94 percent of the market and when it has sweetheart deals with the four major retailers—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Either of those two supplementary questions, the Hon Dr Nick Smith.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I will draw the member’s attention to the very comprehensive report by the Commerce Commission into the specific issue of plasterboard. I would also note that since Budget 2014, when we removed the anti-dumping duties, we have seen almost a doubling in the amount of plasterboard imported from Thailand. I would also note that one of the key issues is actually both designers and councils continuing to specify the tried and true, and that is why the Government is making changes to the Standards Act and to liability laws in order to encourage a greater and wider use of alternative plasterboard products.

Phil Twyford : Does he think that these anti-competitive kickbacks, rebates, and sweeteners, like Fletcher’s flying 150 Auckland builders to the Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney, have anything to do with the fact that the German company Knauf, the world’s second-biggest supplier of plasterboard, was not able to put a dent in Fletcher’s 94 percent market share and has given up?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I am interested in the principles of members opposite who find it obscene for builders to get free rugby tickets, when I have noted them at rugby games all the time when they take free rugby tickets.

Phil Twyford : Has he advised the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs that the Commerce Commission needs more teeth, given that it confirmed all of the rorts and kickbacks are, in fact, going on in the building supplies market but it does not have the powers to do anything about them?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I would draw the attention of the House to the wild claims that were made by Shane Jones in respect of the supermarket circus, which the Commerce Commission found came to nothing when it investigated them. I simply say to the member: put up the detail. I am happy to take a complaint, but just more rhetoric does not cut the mustard.

Animal Health—Herbicide-Tolerant Swedes

11. STEFFAN BROWNING (Green) to the Minister for Primary Industries : Will the Government provide compensation to farmers whose cows fell ill or died from eating herbicide-tolerant swedes?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): No. It is the responsibility of the sellers of fodder crops to ensure that feed is fit for purpose. This was a regional incident, in one part of the country, with a range of contributing factors. The Ministry for Primary Industries advises farmers to apply caution when feeding all brassica fodder crops and to follow the advice issued by Dairy New Zealand.

Steffan Browning : Given that he allowed herbicide-tolerant swedes to be sold to New Zealand farmers, swedes that then caused the death of 200 to 300 cows at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, why will he not compensate the farmers?

Hon NATHAN GUY : If the member had listened to the primary answer that I just gave, he would understand the substance of my answer.

Steffan Browning : Was Dr Mark Bryan’s paper, which he presented at the New Zealand Veterinary Association conference in June, wrong when it said that in winter 2014 cows in central Southland were seven times more likely to die on herbicide-tolerant swedes than any other grazing type?

Hon NATHAN GUY : I have not seen that particular report, but what I can confirm is that this was a regional incident. It was because of climatic conditions, primarily, that meant that the swede crops in question grew quicker than normal, which meant that there were higher compounds of glucosinolates.

Steffan Browning : If he will not compensate New Zealand farmers, will he at least protect them and their cows from the toxic effects of herbicide-tolerant swedes by removing the toxic, herbicide-tolerant swedes from the market?

Hon NATHAN GUY : No, because this was a regional incident. What has occurred is that there is a working group that has been working through this particular issue. There have been animal biopsies and blood samples taken. There has been a new scientific test that has been set up, where we had to import equipment from three different countries. There has been a wide variety of communications that have gone through to farmers to lift their overall understanding. There is also an international, peer-reviewed scientific report that is going to be released, I think, next month, and I am sure that the member will be very interested in that.


12. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Transport : What recent reports has he seen on increased competition in the aviation industry that supports regional New Zealand?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Last week Jetstar launched its new regional destinations in New Zealand. That will result in more jobs—about 100 more—more choice and competition, and lower fares from December in Nelson and Napier, from February in New Plymouth and Palmerston North—[Interruption] Oh, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I cannot hear the answer because of the level of interjection coming from my immediate left. Would the Minister please continue.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : As I was saying, they are from Nelson, Napier, New Plymouth, and Palmerston North, fundamentally growing the numbers of people connecting for work, tourism, and also with their families. What is not to like?

Jonathan Young : How will Jetstar’s new regional air services benefit consumers?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I am glad you asked. There is clearly a lot of interest. Consumers are the big winners in Jetstar’s move into regional air services, which has triggered a price war—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Iain Lees-Galloway—if he wants to leave the Chamber, I can make it easy for him. He is to cease this barracking. There is, indeed, ministerial responsibility for this issue.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : I will start that again. Consumers are the big winners from Jetstar’s move into regional air services, which has triggered a price war on some regional routes. As we have seen in recent years, competition between Air New Zealand and Jetstar has ensured that passengers travelling on main trunk routes have had access to low fares and more choice. So Jetstar’s move to offer regional services will bring these same benefits to regional communities throughout New Zealand. More generally—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I have now heard enough of the answer.

Sue Moroney : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You ruled that there was ministerial responsibility. Is the Minister also responsible for Hamilton missing out on Jetstar?

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume her seat.

Jonathan Young : How will greater competition in regional air services benefit regional New Zealand?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : It is great to see increased air competition in some of our key regional centres—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I gave a fair warning to Iain Lees-Galloway. He continues to interject, and he will now leave the Chamber. Iain Lees-Galloway withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER : I invite the Minister to continue his answer.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : Transport linkages are crucial to regional development, and Jetstar’s new air links will help boost business and tourism traffic into regions like Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and Manawatū-Wanganui. The new services will also provide convenient connections to international services. I take the member’s point—actually, it is not just Jetstar; it is many smaller players in the West Coast, Kaitāia, and other areas providing an increasingly vibrant aviation scene in New Zealand.


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