Questions & Answers – Nov 19

by Desk Editor on Friday, November 20, 2015 — 11:52 AM

1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What pressures are facing the public health workforce as a result of this Government’s decision to fund core Crown health expenditure to cover “most, but not all, inflationary pressures”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): There are always a wide range of pressures in the health system, which is why we have increased Vote Health by $4.1 billion over our 7 years in Government. One of the pressures facing the public health workforce is the need to constantly fact-check assertions made by a prominent public figure, including the false claim that access to—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a primary question on notice. The Minister has given an answer to it. It is quite clear where he is going with the second part of his answer. It is the same place he went with every answer yesterday, Mr Speaker, and it brings the House into disrepute, as well as encouraging disorder.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member may be right as to where the answer is going. At this stage I cannot tell, but if the Minister is using it to simply attack a member of the Opposition, I will take a very dim view of that answer. An answer can be given, but the opportunity to attack a member of the Opposition is not necessary in the answer. Does the Minister wish to continue his answer?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, one of the pressures is the ongoing need to waste valuable front-line time checking false assertions. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We just need less interjection from both sides.

Hon Annette King: Does it alarm him that by not covering all inflationary pressures, as he has admitted in this House, huge pressure is being put on staff like senior doctors and dentists, with 75 percent of those surveyed, in a study released today, turning up to work with infectious illnesses, so as to not—

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

Hon Annette King: —burden colleagues or because of a lack of cover?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: There are about four questions there, but the key point is that, actually, this year inflation is running at 0.4 percent and we are funding inflation at 0.6 percent, so the funding is actually now ahead of inflation.

Hon Annette King: What was his reaction to the September 2015 Auckland District Health Board staff survey results, showing 69 percent of respondents believe the message they are getting from the organisation is that achieving volumes, targets, and budgets is more important than staff well-being and the quality of the work environment?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: My reaction was to go and check the facts.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the said survey. I point the Minister to page—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no need to do that. [Interruption] Order! There is no need to do that part. The member can seek leave to table the survey. I just need the date of it, and I will put the leave.

Hon Annette King: Yes, the date of it is September 2015—Auckland District Health Board Care Capacity Demand Management Programme discovery report, page 10.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document has been described. I will put the leave. [Interruption] Order! I need to put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular staff survey. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Marama Fox: Does the Minister understand that amongst New Zealanders aged 50 to 64 years, Māori are approximately five times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and Māori women are apparently the worst in the world; if so, what is the Minister doing about that situation?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is caused by smoking, and that is the reason why we have massively increased the taxes on cigarettes, to try to decrease those rates. Smoking rates have decreased by 25 percent under this Government, but there is still much more progress we need to make, especially amongst Māori women.

Hon Annette King: Is a pattern emerging in health with an overworked and stressed workforce leading to mental health staff in Auckland on strike, medical physicians preparing to strike, affecting cancer services, staff working unpaid hours, and annual leave not being taken—

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

Hon Annette King: —and doctors and dentists working while unwell, stressed, and fatigued?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No, the only pattern emerging is the need to constantly go back and check the facts.

Hon Annette King: Would the Minister like to check this fact: is the president of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Dr Hein Stander, right or wrong when he said today: “The environment senior doctors and nurses are working in is increasingly toxic.”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No, that is a press release by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, which was done in conjunction with Mrs King. I have checked that fact.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister cannot accuse another member of working with anyone, and that is a total lie.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has been here a long time. She knows how to handle it. I refer her to Standing Order 359.

Hon Annette King: Why would staff feel supported and valued when the lowest paid in district health boards—the cooks at Middlemore—many of whom have worked for more than 40 years not only lost their jobs but their retirement income entitlement because of the Government’s failed Health Benefits Ltd experiment and despite the promises?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Look, I really have to go and check those facts, but what I can say is that we took very strong and urgent action on Health Benefits Ltd, and that member knows that, actually, there was a need to save $300 million across the health system. Her answer would be to run a deficit. We have actually taken action that makes the health system sustainable. But Grant Robertson would run deficits, and if that is the way he wants to run their fiscal—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the question has now been answered. [Interruption] Order!

Marama Fox: Can the Minister tell us why chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is not a national health target under the current Government?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Because there are six national health targets, but at a sub-target level it is included, I believe, in district-level plans.

Finance, Minister—Business Confidence

2. SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that the Government is focused “on reinforcing the business confidence needed to invest, create more jobs and increase incomes”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, it was an insightful and coherent statement. The Government does not create jobs; businesses do. What the Government can do is create an environment where businesses have the confidence to invest another dollar and employ another person—for instance, since 2008 there have been 152,000 more jobs in the economy and the average annual wage is up around $10,000 per year. We would expect this kind of progress to continue over the next 4 or 5 years.

Sarah Dowie: How does New Zealand’s employment rate—the proportion of the population in a job—compare with other developed countries?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: First, can I say that the unemployment rate is higher than we would like it, but part of the reason is that the proportion of the population participating in the labour force is near record levels and among the highest in the developed world—our employment rate is very high, at 65 percent, which is the sixth-highest employment rate in the OECD. By comparison, in Australia the employment rate is 61 percent, in the UK it is 60 percent, and the OECD average is 56 percent compared with New Zealand’s employment rate of 65 percent. That means that compared with the average for developed countries New Zealand has an additional 9 percent of the population in employment.

Sarah Dowie: How do recent wage increases compare with the changes in the cost of living for New Zealand families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Inflation for the last year was 0.4 percent, which is a record low—very low—and we would expect it to be rising somewhat. Just to keep it in perspective, it means that an average $100 spent at the supermarket last year can now be expected to cost 40c more over $100 of spending. Over the same period the average wage has increased by 3.1 percent, considerably faster than the increase in the cost of living.

Sarah Dowie: What specific steps is the Government taking to reinforce business confidence to invest another dollar and employ another person?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a number of steps we have already taken, which I have referred to in the House before, around 90-day trial periods, changing our income tax system, and of course there is more under way. We are reducing ACC levies, with further cuts on the way. Over the next 10 years, with local government, we will spend $110 billion on infrastructure, including extending ultra-fast broadband and building effective links between education and employment so that young New Zealanders can see clear pathways into a productive workforce.

Prime Minister—Statements

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

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.

Ron Mark: Does he stand by his statement that he “thinks it is right to leave people primarily in these graveyards in Malaysia”, when the Australian Government has decided to repatriate 39 deceased soldiers primarily from Malaysia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would be a bit hesitant to venture further explanation of the Prime Minister’s view on that matter, other than to say that it has been considered, as I understand it, a number of times. One would expect that we are capable of making our own judgment about it. These are our fallen soldiers, not Australia’s.

Ron Mark: Why does the Government now repatriate the remains of soldiers who die overseas?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not exactly sure just where the member is trying to get to.

Hon Member: Just answer the question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As has already been pointed out, previous Governments have made particular decisions about the extent of repatriation, and the current Government of course does. We are in somewhat different circumstances now than we were in the Malaysian and Vietnamese campaign.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question to the Prime Minister was about soldiers being repatriated now, like from Afghanistan. Could I put the question again, to help the Minister?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I refer the member to Speaker’s rulings 191/3 and 191/4. If the member wants specific answers to supplementary questions, then it is difficult to get that when he starts with such a general primary question.

Ron Mark: Why can the Government not bring back the bodies of those soldiers not buried in Commonwealth war graves whose families have requested that?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have not been party to that particular discussion with those families, and in fairness to them I think it would be better if we were able to answer that question in the full knowledge of what exchanges have been taking place. I would be reluctant to make assertions without the knowledge of those exchanges.

Ron Mark: Given that he has refused to allow those remains to be repatriated, how can the Prime Minister guarantee that a soldier’s grave by a motorway or under an overhead rail bridge will be respected in the future and remain accessible to the family, as they are in the Commonwealth war graves?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Again, the member seems to be referring to particular circumstances. Out of respect for the families and with the seriousness of the issue for the individuals concerned, I would prefer to answer his question if and when I have a better understanding of what exchanges have gone on about those issues.

Hon Phil Goff: Why should the wishes of the families who have lost their loved ones who are now buried in Malaysia not be regarded as a paramount consideration when, firstly, the RSA supports their case for repatriation if they wish and, secondly, the Australians are in the process of repatriating those bodies next year, and these bodies are not in a Commonwealth war graves cemetery—

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

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course their families’ wishes would be of concern. I imagine that when the member was Minister of Defence and turned down—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: 2007.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: —these ideas in 2007, I presume—[Interruption] I assume the member as Minister of Defence took the families wishes into account when he “refused to repatriate the bodies”. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I suggest that if Mr Brownlee and Mr Goff wish to continue the conversation, they take it outside the Chamber. Question No. 4, Eugenie Sage. [Interruption] Order! I will not give another warning to Mr Goff.

Coastal Communities—Sea Level Rise and Local Response

4. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Has he given clear national direction to local authorities to help them protect coastal communities from rising sea levels; if not, why not?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Deputy Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: The Ministry for the Environment has provided guidance within the uncertain bounds of the science. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has projected sea level rises by the end of the century of between 0.28 and 0.98 of a metre. With this range of projections it is not possible to provide a definite sea level rise to plan for. We welcome the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment out today, and we will be proposing changes to the Resource Management Act, the national policy statement, and the guidance to councils in response to her, we think, very sensible report.

Eugenie Sage: Given his Government’s reliance on providing guidance but not clear policy direction to councils, despite their request for such direction, when does he expect the Ministry for the Environment to finish updating its 2008 guidance to councils on sea level rise?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Of course, there is guidance in effect today, but as I said in the primary answer we are committed to updating that and also working through in a careful, considered way the recommendations from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. But let me make very clear that when it comes to climatic issues such as this, region-by-region approaches are required. Simplistic nationalised ones such as those the Green Party advocates are not wise, in our view.

Eugenie Sage: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question included “when”, and the Minister did not answer that.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. The question was a very long-winded question, starting with “Given”. When a member asks a question as general as that, it gives the Minister quite a lot of licence with answering. Tighten the question.

Eugenie Sage: Why is the Government happy to propose a national policy statement for plantation forestry despite regional variations in soils, land forms, and erosion-proneness, but not provide councils with a similar level of consistent national guidance to prepare their coastal communities for sea level rise?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: As I said in the primary answer, in terms of the changes we will be proposing in light of the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, they are to the Resource Management Act and they are in terms of national policy statements and the guidance to councils in response to her sensible report. But I would add that being consistent across the country does not mean being uniform or having, as I have already said, simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions that the Green Party would advocate.

Eugenie Sage: Does he accept that there will be a significant cost to ratepayers and widely differing outcomes for homeowners if every council has to come up with its own approach to tackling the risks of sea level rise to its communities?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, not necessarily. As I say, one size does not fit all. It may be the case—for example in Sumner—that it does not necessarily have to be costly planning restrictions. It may simply be sea wall extensions. There are a variety of responses at a variety of levels.

Eugenie Sage: In working through the parliamentary commissioner’s recommendations, will his Government commit to clarifying the guidance and to providing stronger national direction to local governments to deal with inevitable sea level rise?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: As I hope I have made very clear, we think improvements are required, and there will be improvements in relation to that guidance because, you know, it is in a sense a living document. We certainly want to review it in light of the sensible report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

Eugenie Sage: Will he commit to starting work in this term of Government to consider what financial assistance, if any, should be provided to New Zealanders who find themselves in the unenviable positon of owning a home in an area that is deemed to be at risk of sea level rise; if not, why not?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Firstly, in fact, there is funding that has been made available in relation to adaptation. I accept that primarily that has been in relation to helping our international friends, and primarily in the Pacific. I think the direct answer to the member’s question is no, not necessarily, but we will carefully work our way through the recommendations in this report. We do not think it is the time for knee-jerk responses, and, indeed, in the report Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, also makes clear that that is her view.

Eugenie Sage: Is his Government’s reluctance to commit to a strong, national policy direction on sea level rise another example of this Government wanting to shirk the hard decisions and leave them for future Governments and future generations?


Schools—Property Investment

5. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made regarding property investment in schools?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): I was pleased to visit Wellington East Girls’ College this morning and announce that this Government will be investing $39 million in redeveloping infrastructure at the school. This is on top of the $9 million already spent on enabling works over the last couple of years. The redevelopment will retain the block’s striking facade, but a completely new building will be built behind, containing 28 teaching spaces. In addition, a second, separate two-storey building will be built to house the school offices and another three learning spaces. Today’s announcement follows recent announcements of major developments at Balmoral School, Takapuna Grammar School, Western Springs College, and Aotea College, totalling $149 million.

Paul Foster-Bell: How will this investment benefit students at Wellington East Girls’ College?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: This is an exciting development. Once the work is complete, almost half of the school’s teaching space will have been upgraded and transformed into flexible, open, and light spaces that can be changed to meet learning and teaching needs. The redevelopment will increase the school’s maximum capacity to 1,250 students. It will also include news spaces for the special education unit and improve access across the site. The modern teaching and learning spaces will ensure students are well supported to thrive in the future.

Grant Robertson: Will she commit today to stage 2 of the Wellington East Girls’ College rebuild, as she and her ministry officials promised the school prior to the last election?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am not sure what the stages and phases are that the member is speaking about, but what I can say is that just under $50 million in the school is a matter for celebration—other than for the unhappy face of that member.

Paul Foster-Bell: How does this announcement reflect the Government’s ongoing commitment to infrastructure investment in education?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: This Government commits $450 million of capital funding to supporting the annual maintenance, development, and modernisation of New Zealand’s 2,100 State schools. On top of this we have already committed over a billion dollars in capital funding to rebuilding and repairing schools in Greater Christchurch. In Budget 2015 we committed a total of $373.9 million to improving schools’ infrastructure over the next 4 years. Most notably, seven new schools and kura kaupapa are being built around the country and four existing schools are being expanded at a cost of $332 million. They will together provide space for about 4,600 students. Today’s announcement is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure that New Zealand students have the best possible learning environments.

Education System—Truancy

6. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied the Government has fulfilled its 2008 commitment to tackle truancy; if so, why is the truancy rate now higher than it has ever been?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, I am satisfied that our Government is continuing to work hard on tackling truancy. As I have said in this House before, one unjustified absence is one too many. We want kids to be in school and learning. The attendance survey for 2014 indicates a slight increase in the truancy rate over the past 2 years, but the total absence rate has been decreasing since 2009. This is compared with a 41 percent increase in the rate of unexplained absences under the previous Labour Government, which was so complacent that it measured truancy only every 2 years.

Chris Hipkins: Did the National Government promise in 2008 to give schools an additional $4 million a year to “crack down on truants”; if so, how much of that money have schools received?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: What the Government has done has been to more than double that amount of money and put $9.7 million into an integrated Attendance Service to support schools with tackling this. That is in addition to the operational grant that schools also have at their discretion to tackle truancy.

Chris Hipkins: Did the National Government promise in 2008 to “Help schools out by providing additional funding ($4 million a year) to ensure they can fight truancy on the front line.”; if so, how much additional money have schools received to combat truancy since 2008?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: To be clear in my answer to this, the decision we have taken was to double the amount of spending on truancy to $9.7 million, instead of the $4 million, and to provide it in an integrated Attendance Service for chronic and persistent truancy, while occasional—

Dr David Clark: Answer the question.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: —truancy is dealt with by the school. I am answering the question, if that member would care to listen. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Dr David Clark: I’m listening very carefully. I didn’t hear an answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, you can listen without interjecting, as well.

Chris Hipkins: Did the National Government promise in 2008 to crack down on parents of persistent truants by increasing prosecutions; if so, why are fewer parents being prosecuted now than there were under the previous Government?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The numbers of prosecutions are not the measuring stick we use; it is retention in schools. You do not prosecute people if there are not people to prosecute. Fourteen prosecutions have occurred for persistent, chronic truancy. Funding of $75,000 has been made available to schools that are pursuing their own prosecutions. In the meantime we have put $145 million into Positive Behaviour for Learning, which is aimed at attracting, engaging, and keeping kids at schools. We have funded 960 more trades academy places to engage kids and keep them at school. Truancy is not simply a school responsibility; it is the responsibility of parents, family, and whānau, as well as of the children themselves.

Chris Hipkins: Does the Attendance in New Zealand Schools 2014 survey result 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: What I can tell you is that there has been an overall increase of 0.7 percent. Yes, young people do bunk school, and it is in our interests, as well as schools’, to try to—

David Shearer: It’s failed. Just face it, you’ve failed.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: —provide engaging programmes to keep kids at school. But as I have said—no, no. We have not failed. We have seen achievement going up 23 percent for Māori in the time that we have been in Government. We have seen the participation of kids at early childhood education increase while we have been in Government. We have seen an overall increase of 13 percent. That is not failure in those young people’s vocabulary, nor in ours.

Chris Hipkins: Is she concerned that a recent Programme for International Student Assessment study found New Zealand stood out for having one of the strongest links between skipping school and maths achievement, with those students who skipped school one or two times before their exams being up to 2 years behind those who did not skip a day; if so, why is her Government breaking its promise to increase the amount of support to tackle truancy?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, I am concerned about that. To the second part of the question, how is providing $9.7 million instead of $4 million a decrease?

Flag Referendums—Process

7. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Deputy Prime Minister: What steps is the Government taking to allow New Zealanders to choose our future flag?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister): As of tomorrow the papers for the first of two postal referendums will begin to arrive in the mailboxes of New Zealanders who are enrolled to vote. Voting opens from tomorrow and closes on Friday, 11 December. Earlier this year Parliament enacted a law that for the first time ever gives New Zealanders an opportunity to have a say in choosing the flag. This fulfils a promise we made in the election campaign last year. Very few Governments around the world have ever asked their citizens for their views on the design of their national flags, and I would encourage everyone who is eligible to vote to have their say to choose our flag.

Alastair Scott: After the first referendum, what will be the next steps in the process to choose the future flag? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No. Order! I want to hear the answer.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The purpose of the first referendum is to allow people to rank five alternative flag designs that have been chosen by the independent Flag Consideration Panel following public consultation. After the preferred alternative flag is selected, a second referendum will be held to allow voters to choose between the preferred alternative and the current flag. That referendum will be held in March 2016. It makes sense that people should see the alternative flag at the time when they have the opportunity to choose between that and the current flag.

Denis O’Rourke: What steps is the Government taking to ensure that New Zealanders participating in the first flag referendum can express their preference for none of the five options listed, in favour of the current flag?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: They will have the opportunity to not participate, if they do not think they should—although New Zealand First used to trust the people with referendums on everything, and now it does not—and they have the opportunity in the second referendum to vote for the flag of their preference, if it is the current flag.

Denis O’Rourke: If a voter does cast a vote in the first flag referendum and does not choose any of the five options listed, but indicates in some way a preference for the current flag, can the Minister assure such voters that their vote in that way will be counted as a vote against all of the options listed; if not, why not?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, that would be an informal vote; and the reason for that is that in the second referendum they have the chance to vote for the current flag or to change it. It is pretty straightforward.

Denis O’Rourke: If the total number of voters who cast votes in the first flag referendum but who do not indicate a preference plus the total number who spoil or otherwise cast informal votes together exceed the number of votes in which a preference is voted for, will the Government then cancel the second flag referendum and introduce amending legislation to confirm keeping the current flag?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, because, unlike New Zealand First, we think New Zealanders are quite capable of following the logic of the referenda and quite capable of clearly expressing their preference through the ballot paper, as they do through general elections and local body elections, and so on. I do not know why the member seems so concerned to prevent them from having a clear choice of the current flag or the new flag.

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Minister—Statements

8. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes.

David Seymour: Does he stand by his statement of July last year, in respect of Auckland’s volcanic cones, that there “would be no change to public access”?


David Seymour: How does the Minister reconcile his two previous answers with the knowledge that from the end of this year people will no longer be able to drive to the tihi of Maungawhau/Mount Eden?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Quite easily, because there will be unrestricted public access, but there are limitations on vehicles going up there for the safety of the environment and the safety of those going up the mountain. So there were some restrictions put in place some years ago in relation to buses, and more recently, as the member has noted in his question, there will be some restrictions on vehicles unless people are physically impaired in some way.

David Seymour: Is the Minister prepared to explain to the disabled, the elderly, and those with small children that it is acceptable for them to be required to drive up to a gate, call a council staffer, and explain their disabilities, and if it satisfies that council staffer, they will be given a gate code to enter—is that what he thinks is acceptable? And has he consulted—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just one supplementary question allowed.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, yes, I am very happy to explain it to those people. These are, of course, decisions for the authority; they are not matters of ministerial responsibility. If anyone is upset about the proposed changes, they could write to the maunga authority, which is made up of equal numbers of iwi representatives and Auckland Council reps, and, I would suggest, also cc it to Mr Goff.

David Seymour: How can the public have confidence in the Minister when he first states there will be no changes, and then attempts to litigate the extent of the changes he has just denied were taking place?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: This makes me nostalgic for Hilary Calvert. Quite easily, actually. These are perfectly acceptable changes and, as I said, they are not matters of ministerial responsibility. If anyone is upset about it, they could—I cannot, of course, give legal advice. One could seek judicial review.

Crime Resolution—Rate

9. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Police: By what percentage has the crime resolution rate decreased overall since 2008?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): When measured as a percentage of overall crime, the rate has fallen from 46.7 percent in 2008 to 41.5 percent in 2014, but this can be a bit misleading because of the number of recorded victims, which has decreased markedly since then. Although there were 223,000 unresolved offences in 2008, there were only 205,000 unresolved offences last year—in other words, New Zealanders are not only less likely to be victims of crime under this Government but also less likely to be victims of unresolved crime.

Kelvin Davis: Why has the proportion of reported sexual offences that are solved fallen from two-thirds when his Government came to office to less than half today?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The answer to that is quite complex—probably more complex than I can go through in one supplementary answer—but what we can say is that we know that there are a large number of offences from a long period ago that are now being reported thanks to the fact that people are speaking up more confidently, and police are encouraging that with the extra resources that they have deployed into adult sexual assault and child sexual assault, and, therefore, those crimes are much more complex and can take a very long time to resolve.

Kelvin Davis: Why has the number of sexual assaults resolved fallen under his Government even though the number reported has increased by a thousand since 2008?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I refer to my previous supplementary answer.

Kelvin Davis: Was his Government standing up for the victims of crime when he allowed police funding in real per capita terms to be cut in six of its seven Budgets, and is that why police are solving fewer crimes?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I reject the basis of the question. Under National, the police budget has increased from $1.26 billion to $1.53 billion—more than 20 percent. The number of front-line police officers in operational roles has gone up, and crime has dropped to its lowest level in 35 years. I stand very strongly by that record.

Kelvin Davis: In light of that answer, saying that the police budget has not been cut, why is it that in the select committee the Auditor-General said the police budget has been cut by $15 million?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I cannot take the statement from the Opposition at face value, given its track record, but I stand categorically by the fact that there are now 600 more officers than there were when National took office—600 more—and crime is going down. In fact, if I were a criminal in this country, I would be voting Labour, because that is when they get away with crimes. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I did not hear the very last part of the answer, but offence has been taken—[Interruption] Order! Would the Minister stand and withdraw the last part of his answer. [Interruption] Order!

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Which part?

Mr SPEAKER: Offence has been taken, would the Minister just stand and withdraw the last part of this answer.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] Order! Stand and withdraw, or leave.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I withdraw—something. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The reason I cannot hear is the continual level of interjection from one particular member. It makes it very difficult for me to hear what is being said.

Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your clarification. There was an incident last week, where members took offence and yet the person making the statement was not required to withdraw. I understood previous to now that if a member takes offence, then whoever has made the statement should withdraw and apologise, but your ruling last week suggested that that needs to happen if it is the House that has taken offence.

Mr SPEAKER: That is the case. It is not actually the particular singular member. I made that quite clear. I should not have to explain it again to Mr Prosser. It is a matter of the context of the remark that is said, the order or disorder of the House at the time, and whether I anticipate that offence has been taken, as I just did. As I said, because of the level of interjection, I did not actually hear the remark, but offence was clearly taken.

Broadband, Ultra-fast and Rural—Progress

10. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister for Communications: What is the current status of the build programme for Ultra-Fast Broadband and the Rural Broadband Initiative?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Today I am releasing updated build statistics that show that we are now almost 56 percent through the ultra-fast broadband programme stage 1 with 13 New Zealand towns and cities complete, and also show that uptake has increased by 26 percent over the last quarter. The Rural Broadband Initiative is on track to completion in the middle of next year, the cell tower programme is 82.5 percent complete, and copper network upgrades are 98 percent complete. We have also finished the build programme to rural hospitals and are at 97 percent of the school build programme.

Brett Hudson: How does the increase in speeds available to New Zealanders compare with when this Government first came into office?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Internet speeds across New Zealand have tripled in the 7 years we have been in Government and look on track to double again by the end of the current build programme. In particular, I am pleased to report that nearly half of rural New Zealanders will see their available broadband speeds increase twentyfold with the upgrade to rural broadband through the Rural Broadband Initiative.

Question No. 11 to Minister

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was originally set down for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I seek leave—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. That is actually creating disorder. The same tactic was used yesterday, and I referred the member then to Speaker’s ruling 169/5 and I asked that member upon the completion of question time to read that carefully. And I do not anticipate such a tactic being used again by the Opposition. It is creating disorder. Does the member want to proceed with her question?

Climate Change Issues—Pacific Islands

11. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What plans does New Zealand have to help our Pacific Island neighbours given that the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, has recently appealed to New Zealand to “stand with us Pacific Islands countries and increase their commitments”?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Acting Minister for Climate Change Issues): We are already committed to assisting Pacific Island countries to develop their responses to climate change. In Tuvalu alone we have invested $10 million filling in borrow pits that were dug to build runways in the Second World War. This has increased Tuvalu’s usable land area by 8 percent and has been designed specifically to account for the projected 100-year sea-level rise. We have also invested $20 million to support Tuvalu’s renewable energy goals and, as a result, Tuvalu’s outer islands will get 90 percent of their electricity from New Zealand – funded solar panels.

Marama Davidson: Given that for small Pacific Island nations the outcome of the upcoming climate talks in Paris is a matter of survival, will he instruct New Zealand delegates at those talks to push for a more comprehensive plan acknowledging that they are the lowest emitters paying the highest price?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think we already have that fair and ambitious intended nationally determined contribution and target heading into Paris—30 percent reductions in emissions below 2005 levels by 2030. I think it is ambitious in the sense that it is more than we have done previously. It is comparable with what other countries do and it reflects our national circumstances. As I have already said, I think we also support our Pacific friends with the many programmes we run in the Pacific but, ultimately, I will come back to it, probably the best thing we can do in addition to our own efforts is work hard on an ambitious, binding agreement in Paris, and that is certainly what we are going to try to do.

Marama Davidson: Given that this Government seems to rely solely on aid, does he realise that all the aid in the world will not stop sea-level rise, with the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, making it quite clear—

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

Marama Davidson: —“No matter how much aid, we cannot be bought on this one because it is about the future.”?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, there is much more than aid. There are the things that we do in New Zealand, the things we take to Paris, and our own intended nationally determined contribution. I would not be, as that member seems to be, dismissive of the very significant work we do in the Pacific, whether it is in water security with several million dollars’ worth of work with low-lying Pacific Island countries, whether it is in renewables with $100 million worth of work, or whether it is in other areas, I think New Zealanders should be very proud of that work. I am sure that our friends in the Pacific, indeed the ones I have talked to, are really appreciative of what we are doing to help them.

Marama Davidson: Will those renewable energy options like solar panels, which you have just referred to and that the Minister is so proud of, still work under water?


HomeStart Roadshow—Spending

12. KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Is he confident that all taxpayers’ money allocated for his HomeStart roadshow is being spent appropriately?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Local Government) on behalf of the Minister for Building and Housing: Yes. The first HomeStart roadshow meeting was held on 15 April in Henderson, and the last on 1 October in Timaru. All 19 meetings were held in locations across the country, some even in Labour electorates.

Kris Faafoi: Is it appropriate for National MP Parmjeet Parmar to host or co-host a roadshow funded by taxpayers for the purpose of raising her “local profile” in Mt Roskill in case of a by-election; if so, why?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, it would not be, and that is exactly why that did not happen and she did not do that. So to make it really clear, and I think it is only fair that it gets on the record, it is a very short email and, I would like to say, the only email that I have seen that Parmjeet has actually sent. It said: “Hi Jane. Please can you check with Hon Nick Smith’s office re KiwiSaver HomeStart roadshow. I am keen to have one in Mt Roskill and can talk to Maungakiekie and Epsom electorates to come together for this. We will need enough time to prepare and put up hoardings, etc. Thanks. Parmjeet.” That does not say anything about a by-election at all.

Kris Faafoi: If there was nothing wrong with that request made by Parmjeet Parmar, why was the purpose of her request to raise her profile in Mt Roskill blacked out in three out of four occasions in documents released to me under the Official Information Act?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because, quite simply, that is not what the MP requested and that is not what the Minister did. If the member wants to pick on a public servant who has made a mistake, then he can go ahead and do that, because that is what has actually happened here, but he cannot start pointing the finger when it is very clear what the member actually asked for.

Kris Faafoi: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request document that says that Parmjeet Parmar has also expressed a strong interest in hosting a roadshow to lift her local profile.

Mr SPEAKER: In view of the circumstances, I will put the leave, and it will be for the House to decide. Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Kris Faafoi: Does he believe—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Will the member please resume his seat. The interjections now are far too frequent from my immediate right, and they will cease.

Kris Faafoi: Does he believe it appropriate for a ministerial staffer in his office, funded by the taxpayer, to be working with National Party HQ to organise those roadshow meetings to raise the profile of National MPs, as is shown in those Official Information Act documents?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Those documents actually do not say that, so let us get it clear: we have got a policy we are proud of, we have held 19 meetings throughout the country, we have an MP who is doing a fantastic job locally, and we can afford to run a by-election. So things are going pretty well for us.

Kris Faafoi: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act response to me that is from the Minister’s office and is pointing out instructions to members’ offices—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document has been described. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular Official Information Act document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

  • Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Kris Faafoi: Why did his department or his office black out the fact that National HQ was working with his office to organise those meetings; or were those meetings just a front for National Party campaigning on the taxpayer dollar?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question is OK.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Let us get clear on what these meetings actually are about. They are about a HomeStart that offers $435 million over 5 years to help around 90,000 New Zealanders into their first home. Launched on 1 April this HomeStart grant offers up to $20K for new builds and up to $10K for existing properties—a fantastic policy, and a lot of people want to come to meetings. Anyone else who wants to promote it, we would love to hear from you.

Kris Faafoi: I seek leave to table three letters sent from me to the Chief Ombudsman, to the State Services Commission, and to the Office of the Auditor-General asking for them to investigate the nature of those Official Information Act requests and the content of them. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The purpose of tabling documents is to better inform the House. On this occasion such information may be informative to members. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table those particular three letters. Is there any objection? There is objection.

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