Questions & Answers – Dec 8

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, December 9, 2015 — 10:52 AM

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): I note that question No. 5, in my name, which was originally directed to the Prime Minister, has been transferred to the Minister of Health. I seek leave of the House to transfer that question back to the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: I am not prepared to put the leave, and that is well stated in a Speaker’s ruling, on page 168 of Speakers’ Rulings. The Government has a right to decide who is answering the question. I have a duty to make sure that it would not be anathema to justice if it was transferred in a way that the Government could then dodge giving an answer to the House. I do not believe that is the case this time.

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not challenging the original transfer. I have a right to seek leave to have the question put to another Minister, and I am seeking to have that leave put to the House—to transfer the question back to the original Minister to whom it was directed.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I decide whether to put the leave, can I ask the member to have a look at Speaker’s ruling 169/5. There I say that the matter of transfer is over to the Government. The Speaker will not put the leave to transfer the question back, because the Government has already made its decision. It seems to me that we just waste the time of the House if we then put the leave, because inevitably it will be declined. Does the Leader of the Opposition still wish to seek leave?

Economic and Fiscal Outlook—Announcements

KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National): My question is to—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise. Can we just have a little less interjection, so that we can hear the question that is being asked.

1. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Finance: What upcoming announcements will the Government deliver on the economic and fiscal outlook?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Treasury will update its Economic and Fiscal Update as part of the Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update next week, on 15 December. A lot has changed since May, when the forecasts were last done, with growth a bit lower than expected in the first half of 2015, lower commodity prices, lower interest rates, lower inflation, and a lower exchange rate. Although there are some risks to the economic outlook, recent lifts in business and consumer confidence, including in the rural sector, along with further growth in the manufacturing and servicing sectors, support an outlook for moderate growth of 2 to 2.5 percent over the next few years.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What reports has the Minister received confirming that the Government is continuing to control its spending, and how is this reflected in the Government’s financial statements?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Financial reporting covering short periods of time can give fluctuating results, but the Government accounts issued today for the first 4 months of the financial year to October show that the operating balance is around $690 million better than expected back in the Budget. The residual cash position is around $900 million better than forecast. Spending has fallen from 35 percent of GDP 4 years ago to around 30 percent this year, while at the same time, we are getting better public services, which goes to show the benefits of being thoughtful when spending has to be restrained.

David Seymour: Is the Minister looking forward to receiving the next long-term fiscal outlook from Treasury?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I am not sure whether my enthusiasm for it matches Treasury’s, because I always think that long-term economic forecasting is somewhat speculative. Treasury almost always paints a picture that we are going to hell in a handbasket and that politicians had better do something about it.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What is the outlook for continuing jobs and wages growth for New Zealand families over the next 5 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the short term: pretty good. New Zealand has among the highest labour-market participation rates and the highest unemployment rates in the OECD—a sign that the labour market is performing pretty well. Outcomes for young people are strong, with the rate of 15 to 19-year-olds who are not in employment, education, or training at the lowest level ever recorded. Wages are up 3.1 percent, well ahead of inflation of 0.4 percent.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What are some of the consequences of low inflation, including for the spending power of New Zealand households?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: For households, price stability is generally welcome, as it means more spending power from their take-home pay, with inflation currently at 0.4 percent and wage increases of up to 2 to 3 percent. However, lower inflation means less tax revenue, and that does put pressure on the Government’s finances.

David Seymour: Will the Minister cancel Treasury’s programme of producing long-term fiscal outlooks in light of his answer that they are merely speculative?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, in fact, they are a statutory obligation of Treasury. They do give an indication of where Government would end up if it stayed on its current track, and I am pleased to say that long-term forecasts based on this Government’s current track look reasonably manageable. The long-term forecast based on the track that the previous Labour Government was on looked completely out of control.


2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I do.

Andrew Little: Is the reason he has reinstated Judith Collins as Minister of Corrections that he now recognises that she was the one who negotiated the disastrous Serco contract and it is time for her to clean up her own mess?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are many reasons why I reinstated Judith Collins, but one of them is that she was an excellent Minister in corrections and police.

Andrew Little: How can he have confidence in a Minister who used a taxpayer-funded trip as Minister of Justice to promote her husband’s company, met with Chinese Government officials on Oravida’s behalf, failed to see any of that as a conflict of interest, and, what is more, misled him about the whole thing?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I just note to the House that she is actually not a Minister yet. I suppose there are many reasons why I made the decision, but one of them of course was that I followed the advice of Annette King, and it is a shame that he does not follow the advice of his own deputy leader.

Andrew Little: How can he have confidence in a Minister who leaked the private details of a public servant out of pure spite?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I reject the proposition in the member’s question.

Andrew Little: You should have had the health ones—they were easier, John.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will just have the supplementary question.

Andrew Little: What assurances has he sought from Judith Collins that she will stop misusing her position to malign public servants and line her husband’s pockets?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I take offence at that question.

Prime Minister—Statements

3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister said that New Zealanders detained in Australia are “free to come home and process their individual case from New Zealand.”, did he know that the Australian request for removal from Australia form removed the right of those deportees to continue their visa appeals?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I believe the member to be wrong. The member is relying on her interpretation of the form. Actually, the form predates the assurances given to both me by Prime Minister Turnbull and by the immigration Minister Peter Dutton to Amy Adams. The immigration Minister has confirmed as early as this afternoon that the form does not apply to New Zealanders who have been deported back to New Zealand applying to go back to Australia under appeal. The Minister has confirmed—and we accept his advice—that there have already been successful appeals here in New Zealand of New Zealanders going back and the Minister has confirmed, again to Amy Adams, that there will be no cost for deportation. Unfortunately, the member is working off incorrect information. Had she gone to the Minister, not Radio New Zealand, I could have cleared that up for her straightaway.

Metiria Turei: So is the Prime Minister standing by his statement that he is 100 percent confident that New Zealanders being deported from Australia will get a fair hearing on their appeals when the form they are required to sign in order to return to New Zealand expressly says that Australian agencies may discontinue their appeals once they leave Australia?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not looked at the form but I am advised that the form says they may face that issue, and, as I said, the assurances we have had from the Minister of immigration in Australia is in fact that that is not the way it is going to be interpreted. There is a special position afforded to New Zealanders on the back of the assurances given by the Australian Prime Minister.

Metiria Turei: Has he, then, asked the Australian authorities to provide written confirmation to every New Zealand deportee who has been required to sign this form before they can leave Australia that the provisions both relating to them paying their own airfares and to the discontinuation of their appeals by the Australian authorities do not apply to them?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I am making it clear to the House today that that is the advice I have received from the New Zealand Minister of Justice on the back of the assurances she has received from Peter Dutton, the Australian immigration Minister. Secondly, my understanding is that Mr Dutton is actually going to put out a statement this afternoon to make sure that that position is understood by New Zealanders, but the position is very clear: although the form says they may be precluded from an appeal, in fact the way it will be interpreted in Australia for New Zealanders is that that does not apply.

Metiria Turei: Will he ensure that every New Zealander who is required to sign this form is provided written confirmation to them that these provisions will not apply?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: You would have to really put that question down to the relevant and responsible Minister.

Metiria Turei: Has the Minister, or his Government representatives, requested of the Australian authorities that these provisions are removed from the form that New Zealand deportees are being required to sign in order to return to New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot be sure of that because I have not had a full debrief of the conversation that Amy Adams had with the Australian Minister, but my understanding is that it is a generic form used for everyone, so I doubt that would be the case, but the position is not about what is on the form, which says “may”. The issue is how the form is processed by the Australians, and the Australians have been very clear that the assurance that the Australian Prime Minister gave me and that Peter Dutton gave to Amy Adams is that New Zealanders are free to come back to New Zealand and have their appeals processed from New Zealand. They already are doing so, and some, on the advice of Mr Dutton, have successfully returned to Australia.

Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister saying that he is prepared to take their word for it on the basis that, despite their assurances, New Zealanders are still being required to sign a legal document, which is required to be signed before they can come home, that removes those rights from them; and what guarantees can he possibly give to New Zealanders that he has not misled them over this issue?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member is incorrect. It does not remove their right. It says it “may”. Secondly, the assurances I can give them are the assurances I have had from the Australian Prime Minister when he came over to New Zealand, and now from the Minister of immigration. If the best the member can come up with is that the Minister of immigration in Australia is going to make those assurances to the New Zealand Minister of Justice, that the Minister of immigration in Australia is going to say to the Minister of Justice in New Zealand that already some successful appeals have taken place, and, thirdly, that the Minister of immigration in Australia is going to put out a statement confirming all this, but that he is lying—well, that is not a very strong argument she has got.

Andrew Little: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the lack of Pharmac funding for Keytruda that “we’ve got to give health more money” given that his Government has cut health funding in real terms by $1.7 billion?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is incorrect about health funding, but he has never been terribly good with numbers.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The health funding has gone up from $11.8 billion in 2008 to $15.9 billion, so that is a $4.1 billion increase. We have also increased the Pharmac funding by $150 million, from about $650 million to about $800 million. But, yes, if Pharmac was to fund Keytruda, by definition, it would need more money. And if that was not the case, then, by definition, it would have to cut funding to some other drugs.

Andrew Little: Is it not true that Pharmac could buy Keytruda and other lifesaving medicines if it had the money, but he has tied Pharmac’s hands by starving it of funding?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, that is not true. Not unless you think increasing its budget by $150 million, or putting $4.1 billion extra into health, is cutting its funding. In the end, one of the great things about modern science is that there are more and more of these great drugs coming along and as a country, actually, we will buying more and more of them. I have no doubt that a National-led Government will continue to increase Pharmac’s budget, and that will allow Pharmac to buy more drugs.

Andrew Little: Why has his Government increased Pharmac’s budget by only 2 percent since 2012, when it needed 10 percent just to keep up with population pressure and inflation? Is that what he calls investing in health?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We have increased Pharmac’s funding from $650 million to $800 million. We have increased health expenditure from $11.8 billion to $15.9 billion. There are clearly new and modern drugs coming on to the market. But, actually, the way for Pharmac and New Zealand to be able to afford those is to have a strong and vibrant economy, and that is what a National Government is delivering.

Andrew Little: Is it OK that Australians, right now, are getting lifesaving treatment with Keytruda for free, while Kiwis, like Tessa Taylor, are selling their homes and begging for money to buy it?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is always a range of drugs that are not funded by the Government or that take some period of time to be funded by the Government. We rely on the efficacy advice from Pharmac, and if you look at the current advice that Pharmac has had, it has examined 8 months’ worth of data when it comes to Keytruda. One interesting thing about that is that one in three patients in the trial has had a clear benefit. The other two-thirds have not. That is not to say that it would not work for the particular individual in question; it may. The Government, over time, will be increasing Pharmac’s budget, and we will see where that goes in terms of which drugs it funds.

Marama Fox: How would the Prime Minister respond to the detainees who report that food is being withheld in order to pressure them to sign the papers that will have them removed to New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would need that to be actually clarified as being correct. It sounds extremely unlikely, but, as I said earlier, the form in question that the member is talking about predates this particular issue. We have had these assurances, and successful appeals have already been processed according to Mr Dutton.

Marama Fox: Is the Prime Minister aware of whether or not the detainees who are being deported back to New Zealand know whether or not they can have legal aid in New Zealand to appeal their decisions?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The advice I have had from the Minister of Justice is that they are not eligible for legal aid in New Zealand.

KiwiRail—North Auckland Line

4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Does he condone the action of KiwiRail in closing bridge 143 over the North Auckland Line, thereby severing the connection between two parts of the property owned by Owen Clements?

Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): I am advised that KiwiRail made the decision to close bridge 143 after 2 years of engagement with Mr Clements due to concerns with the condition of the bridge. An engineering inspection assessed the bridge as being in a dangerous condition and unsafe for use. In accordance with KiwiRail’s health and safety obligations, it decided to close the bridge with immediate effect. KiwiRail takes its responsibility for safety on the rail corridor seriously, and I encourage it and Mr Clements to continue to work together to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware that because there is no alternative access to one part of the severed land, the farm has become uneconomic, resulting in the forced sale of the owner’s dairy herd?

Hon TODD McCLAY: Although this is an operational matter that KiwiRail is responsible for, I did receive a letter from Mr Clements on 24 March of this year. On 25 March I wrote to KiwiRail on his behalf. KiwiRail has said that it is not responsible for the maintenance of this bridge. In this case the responsibility to maintain, upgrade, and replace the bridge lies with the bridge’s users. I do understand that KiwiRail is in discussion with Mr Clements, and I would encourage both parties to continue to work together towards an outcome where there is safe access to the rail network for all concerned and equal access to the property owner.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he acknowledge that the bridge was built because KiwiRail’s predecessor had severed the property in 1922 with the railway line, that KiwiRail was responsible for maintenance and repairs for decades, and that KiwiRail should keep it open; if not, why not?

Hon TODD McCLAY: No. I do not have that degree of detail. However, what I can speak to is that in 1919, at the time the rail was built, the farm had access via Wairere Road on both sides of the rail corridor, and it was not landlocked. I understand that access changed to Mr Clements land and this occurred as a result of council roading initiatives in 1997, which resulted in the bridge becoming the only viable route for access to the two parts of his farm. Again, I understand that KiwiRail is in discussions with Mr Clements. This is an issue of safety on the rail corridor and for users of the bridge. I encourage both parties to discuss this.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he accept that under section 169(1) of the Public Works Act 1981 and prior legislation that KiwiRail and the Minister, because of that section, have a continuing statutory obligation to “provide access to the land so cut off or between the … land so separated”?

Hon TODD McCLAY: KiwiRail first raised this issue with Mr Clements in December 2013. There have been many ongoing letters and discussions between them. I do not have the level of detail the member has raised. If he would like to set me down a question, I would be happy to look into it for him.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Minister wrote a letter to Mr Clements, and looking at the Act in the decades under which KiwiRail maintained that bridge, will he now act to see that KiwiRail maintains and reopens the bridge with the appropriate compensation for Mr Clements, and not use its funds to try to beat a farmer down; if not, why not?

Hon TODD McCLAY: No. There is no question that KiwiRail are beating a farmer down. Its focus is on safety for the use of that bridge, and I encourage both parties to continue to talk together in good faith to resolve this situation as quickly as they can.

uestion No. 5 to Minister

Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 5, Andrew Little.

ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): I decline to ask the question.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect to question No. 5, which is pretty important to this House, we did not hear what just transpired down there.

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise—there was a bit of noise. The member whose name the question was in has declined to ask the question. It therefore moves to question No. 6.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave for the New Zealand Public Health and Disability (New Medicines and Rare Conditions) Amendment Bill to be set down for first reading forthwith.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Social Housing, Auckland—Supply

6. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Social Housing: What recent announcements has she made about community housing providers increasing social housing supply in Auckland?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yesterday I announced that the Government is contracting with five community housing providers in Auckland, which will deliver more than 500 new social-housing places over the next 3 years. The response from the sector was very positive. We are contracting for more than 200 places more than we expected to, and a range of providers are on board, including the Salvation Army, which will provide 87 places, Accessible Properties, and the Chinese New Settlers Services Trust.

Simon O’Connor: What does the success of this process reveal about community providers’ ability to supply new places?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Getting new housing in Auckland is challenging, but community providers have consistently said that if we give them long-term, flexible contracts, they can fund new social-housing developments. That is what we have done, and they have stepped up to the plate. We changed the law so that the Ministry of Social Development can negotiate contracts for up to 25 years, giving providers a Government-backed, guaranteed income stream that they can then borrow from.

Phil Twyford: Will she admit that her announcement yesterday will not house a single extra family, because of the fixed allocation of subsidies, and that because of her Government’s refusal to actually build houses and increase the stock of housing, people will continue to languish in cockroach-infested caravan parks on her watch?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Absolutely not. Of course more people will be housed, because there will be more places and because they are also building new ones. As they are built, it means that they will take people off the wait list and place them in the houses. I know that the member does not like good news, and I know that he would like to see those people stay in those cockroach-infested cabins—

Hon Steven Joyce: Then he can talk about it.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: —because he can then talk about it and try to blame the Government—but we are taking action, we are seeing progress, and this is evidence of that.


7. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he agree with former Minister of Corrections Judith Collins that: “Serco has a strong track record in managing prisons. I’m confident that the company will bring the high standards of professionalism, safety, rehabilitation and security expected by the Government to Mt Eden.”?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): The statement the member quotes is from December 2010, when Serco’s contract to manage Mt Eden prison was announced. Since that time there have been a number of issues at Mt Eden prison, which have all been well canvassed in this House. Those matters are subject to a report by the Chief Inspector of Corrections, and I await the outcome of that review.

Kelvin Davis: Are organised fight clubs, widespread contraband use, dropping, dodgy reporting, and guards teaching prisoners sparring representative of high standards of professionalism, safety, and rehabilitation; if so, how?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I have said in the answer to the primary question, all those issues are subject to a report by the Chief Inspector of Corrections. That is subject to legal action and I will say no more about that.

Kelvin Davis: Does he think that the Department of Corrections having to retake control of Mt Eden Corrections Facility because of Serco’s terrible performance represents a “strong track record”?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The Department of Corrections took this step as an appropriate action to the events that took place up to that point.

Kelvin Davis: How many other times has the Government been forced into holding a major investigation into a private service provider, and how is this evidence of high standards?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Look, I cannot give an answer to that question—I do not have the facts. But if he would like to put that in writing, I am happy to get the answer for him.

Mahesh Bindra: Does he stand by his answer to my supplementary question on 23 July: “Now that he is caught between his own career and Serco’s survival, which will he choose?”, when he answered: “I believe in my own career, thank you very much.”?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I stand by the answers to my questions at the time that they were made, thank you.

Kelvin Davis: If he believed he was “doing an effective job in managing the Department of Corrections”, why does he think the Prime Minister is replacing him with the person who created the Serco problem?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I have got no responsibility for that; the Prime Minister does.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister advise as to whether or not during the time that he has been the Minister he has had the full support of the Prime Minister, his Cabinet colleagues, and his caucus on this issue.

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Yes.

Climate Change—Paris Climate Agreement

8. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Will New Zealand join Canada, Australia, Tuvalu and the 43 other low-lying islands, and support the inclusion of a goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees in the Paris climate agreement; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Local Government)on behalf of the Minister for Climate Change Issues: New Zealand’s position has been consistent. We support the international consensus around the goal of limiting global temperature increase to no more than 2 degrees, but we recognise that an increase of even 1.5 degrees could severely exacerbate the particular challenges facing the most vulnerable smaller Island States of the Pacific. We are working actively with others to find a solution to the issue. Obviously, there is a week of intense negotiation ahead of Ministers, so it would be premature to judge an outcome at this point.

Marama Davidson: To clarify, is the Minister saying the Government will not support an explicit and binding goal in the Paris climate agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degrees?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have been very clear and very consistent that we believe that we can manage 2 degrees, and that that is what the 196 countries will sign up to. However, we have sympathy and recognise 1.5 degrees and the difference that does make to Pacific countries, and will support them in their endeavours to push that agenda.

Marama Davidson: Does the Minister stand by his statement that a 1.5-degree limit is “just an aspirational” target, and does he also consider keeping Pacific Islands habitable, and their people alive, to be an aspirational goal?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, and no.

David Seymour: What is the relationship between the intensity of carbon emissions and poverty?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Certainly, as far as I am aware, the Minister has not seen one. What I will say, though, is that even in the negotiations that are going on in Paris at the moment you can see some of the positive things that are coming out for developing countries. For example, in Africa I see that they are signing up to an agreement where they will commit to a delivery of 300 gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity to Africa from clean energy sources. That has got to be good for poor people. So, actually, in some respects you can see some of the outcomes of discussions on climate change, meaning we will see more renewable and clean energy going to those who need it most.

Marama Davidson: Is the Minister really saying that New Zealand is willing to ignore the voices of its Pacific Island neighbours and some of its closest allies by refusing to explicitly support a 1.5-degree limit to global warming?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Not at all, and that is why we have committed $200 million more to actually support our Pacific cousins in helping them get clean renewable energy and doing what we can to support them. We recognise the effects of climate change on those small nations and that it is felt more acutely by them than even by us here in New Zealand. So we stand next to them. We recognise their request for a 1.5-degree limit. However, we have made a commitment. We believe it is more likely that the other countries will sign up to it, and we are committed to the negotiations that are currently going on.

Hon David Parker: Has the Prime Minister explained to her why New Zealand was awarded a “Fossil of the Year” award immediately after he spoke to the climate change conference?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: On behalf of the Minister—so that would make me a “him”, just to be clear—as far as I am concerned, the current Minister has not had those discussions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has the Government, in Paris, posed as having a new $200 million initiative for the Pacific Islands when successive Governments have been promoting renewable energy in the Islands for over a decade now?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is quite simple. Some people talk about it, and others do it, and that is what this Government has been doing.

Police—Human Resources Management Information System

9. STUART NASH (Labour—Napier) to the Minister of Police: Does he have concerns that the Police’s planned new Human Resources Management Information System has been classified by Treasury as having “major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas”?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): I am concerned to ensure that this project delivers both for Police and for the taxpayer. That is exactly why the Government has the monitoring and plans in place that it does. The report the member refers to is exactly part of this oversight.

Stuart Nash: Does he agree with a total budget of more than $56 million for the project; if he does, is this really the best use of resources for the Police?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: It may surprise the member, but police actually like to be paid. There are 12,000 staff in New Zealand Police, and it is a very, very complex system. The biggest risk, actually, is to the legacy system, which is coming to the end of its useful life. I think everybody would appreciate that that is requiring replacement.

Stuart Nash: Has he had any advice that the cost of the Human Resources Management Information System could blow out by $10 million?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Sorry, can I—by how many?

Mr SPEAKER: I could not hear the—[Interruption] No, can we have the whole question again.

Stuart Nash: Has he had any advice that the cost of the new Human Resources Management Information System could blow out by $10 million?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The report that the member refers to does identify that stage one of the project is over its initial budget by nearly $10 million, but at this stage that can be managed within the overall project appropriation of $56.2 million. There have been no requests for further funding.

Stuart Nash: Would he tell the House why Police might have to spend $10 million on a cost blowout in the Human Resources Management Information System on top of the $56 million for the system, when the $10 million blowout alone would fund the salaries of 150 community police officers?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I simply do not agree with the member’s math. What I said was that stage one of that project has incurred costs greater than those which were originally budgeted. It does not automatically follow that the project overall will be over budget by that amount, or that the New Zealand taxpayer will be asked to stump up more money. These are very expensive projects, as the member knows, and it is important that we get it right.

Driver Licences—Schools

10. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcement has she made on driver licences in schools?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Today I was pleased to announce, together with my colleague the Associate Minister of Transport, the Hon Craig Foss, that students will now have the opportunity to earn National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits by obtaining driver licences. This initiative is the result of a cross-agency group that has been working for over 12 months on removing obstacles that prevent young people getting into employment. Schools currently are able to offer driver training as part of their curriculum, but this initiative will provide further structure to that learning. From next year, students will be able to gain up to a total of eight credits towards NCEA levels 1 and 2. This initiative has widespread support from employers, who see the lack of driver licences holding young people back from getting jobs.

Scott Simpson: How will this initiative assist young people in regional and rural New Zealand?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Many National MPs have been working hard on their provincial priorities meetings up and down the country over recent months, listening to regional and rural New Zealanders on the issues that matter.

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

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

Grant Robertson: You do. The Minister has no responsibility in a ministerial role for what National MPs may or may not have been doing in the regions. It is a ridiculous answer.

Mr SPEAKER: That was part of the answer, but it actually was not the question. The question is: how will this initiative help in rural New Zealand? The Minister has every right to answer that.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: And completing that answer—as a result of all that hard work it has been raised with my colleagues that the difficulty in obtaining a driver’s licence is preventing many young people from getting into employment and extracurricular activities like sport and volunteer work. Employers also tell us that not having a licence holds many young people back. For example, a licence is necessary to carry out work as a builder’s apprentice. This initiative will also further incentivise students to gain their licence, ensuring safer roads for everyone. [Interruption] Get some anger management.

Tracey Martin: Kia ora. Will the Minister look to fund and increase the number of driving simulators stationed at schools, to reduce the cost for learner drivers as they work towards the recommended 120 hours of practical driving, as per New Zealand First policy; if not, why not?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No, I will not be doing that, because schools are already funded for the curriculum they choose to deliver.

Prime Minister—Statements

11. POTO WILLIAMS (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “you back the rapists” during question time on 10 November 2015?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, in the context of a robust debate.

Poto Williams: Does the Prime Minister understand that his statement “you back the rapists” has caused offence to members of the Opposition, victims of sexual and domestic violence, and more than 13,000 people who signed a petition asking for him to apologise?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I stand up very strongly for the victims of sexual offences. This Government also supports that. The comment was in relation to what I believed was advocacy only for the criminals, from the Opposition.

Poto Williams: Does the Prime Minister believe that his statement “you back the rapists” is consistent with the principles of being a White Ribbon ambassador; if not, will he consider returning his White Ribbon badge?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, because that is the point, is it not—that I am actually defending the rights of victims.

Poto Williams: Has he discussed his role as a White Ribbon ambassador with the trustees of the White Ribbon campaign since he made this statement in the House?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I personally have not, although I am aware of a complaint from one of the ambassadors, and it was a member who ran for the Labour Party, as I understand it, who made that complaint.

Law Commission—Projects

12. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Justice: What new projects has she asked the Law Commission to begin in 2016?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Last week I announced that the Law Commission will commence three new projects in 2016. These are to review the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, the Search and Surveillance Act 2012, and the Declaratory Judgments Act 1908.These three pieces of legislation each have a significant impact on New Zealanders, although operating in quite different areas. I look forward to the Law Commission’s careful consideration of the complex issues involved in these areas.

Alfred Ngaro: How is the Law Commission progressing with this year’s work programme?

Hon AMY ADAMS: The Law Commission has informed me that it is very close to finalising its reports on both the justice response to victims of sexual violence, criminal trials and alternative processes, and the review of the Crown Proceedings Act and national security information and proceedings, which I intend to release before Christmas and respond to early in the New Year. Earlier this year the Law Commission also completed its review of the burials and cremation legislation, which has been referred to the Minister of Health for consideration.

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