Questions & Answers – May 5

by Desk Editor on Friday, May 6, 2016 — 11:28 AM

1. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Land Information: Why is her Government planning to hike Overseas Investment Office application fees?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Minister for Land Information): The Government is planning to increase most Overseas Investment Office application fees in order to fund improvements for faster application screening by the Overseas Investment Office and more responsive monitoring and enforcement.

Ron Mark: What warning is a rise in fees sending to foreign buyers who are not of good character but who have the wealth to disguise the truth?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: The fees review is predominantly around giving investors greater certainty around the timing and the length of time that an application takes; currently, it is about 90 days. Investor feedback has been that they want that to be turned round faster, and we are looking at a 20 percent improvement.

Ron Mark: Why will the Government not tell foreigners that they must present straightforward applications in which the owner and their background are clearly detailed and authenticated?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: The Overseas Investment Office does work with applicants to ensure that they are clear about the 23 criteria involved, one of which is the good-character test. To give you an example of consents this year that have been rejected right from day one, 57 percent have been rejected.

Ron Mark: Why should a foreign owner who is later found to have lied not have to forfeit the New Zealand asset they purchased, without compensation?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: The Overseas Investment Office legislation is clear. One of the conditions of consent for most of the approvals is that they must remain of good character. If the Overseas Investment Office finds that the applicant loses that good-character status, there are a number of enforcement actions, including forced sale—and we have seen an example of that up north.

Ron Mark: Why does the Minister not just admit that these changes fit more into the Government’s promise to China to speed up the rubber stamp than into the public’s desire for more transparency and better due diligence?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: I refute that, and I want to give an example of the importance of foreign investment to regions in New Zealand, including Masterton, where Premier Beehive, which employs 150 staff in that member’s very area, was bought by Australians—over $1 million of investment into that business, which I would have thought that member supports. Foreign investment is clearly an important part of growing our regions.

Joanne Hayes: Can the Minister provide more information about the review?

Hon LOUISE UPSTON: The review that has been undertaken has been under way for quite some time, and it has been looking at both the balance of the time that it has taken to process applications—whether we need target exemptions—and the need to provide greater certainty about the status of applications. Law firms, Business New Zealand, and Federated Farmers, amongst others, have been consulted, and it is their feedback that we have taken into consideration with the decisions that have been made.

Better Public Services—Delivery

2. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Finance: What steps has the Government taken to deliver Better Public Services to support New Zealand families?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): The Prime Minister set 10 challenging targets for Better Public Services in 2012, and since then we have made some very good progress. Benefit dependency, for example, continues to fall. We have made significant progress on crime: we currently have the lowest crime rate in New Zealand since 1978. We have reduced the number of children and young people experiencing physical abuse. And immunisation rates continue to grow, with almost 94 percent of 8-month-olds fully vaccinated. This is a Government that measures success by the results we achieve, not necessarily by the amount of money that we have spent.

Alfred Ngaro: What progress has been made against Result 1, Reducing Long-term Welfare Dependence?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The number of benefit recipients has decreased by 7,245 over the last year, largely driven by decreases in sole parent support and in jobseeker support numbers. This is good news on two levels, because sole parents, in particular, are getting into the workforce and becoming more independent. In the last year we have reduced the long-term cost of benefit dependence by around $2.4 billion, through welfare reform and better support for people on benefits to get back into work. It is also helped by strong growth in the labour market, with over 200,000 additional jobs created in the last 3 years, and an employment rate in New Zealand that is in the top three of the OECD.

Alfred Ngaro: What progress is the Government making in achieving better results from the health system?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The health sector is a very key priority for this Government. Since 2008-09 annual funding for health has increased by around $4 billion—from $11.8 billion to $15.9 billion over 7 years. This has resulted in the number of patients receiving elective surgery increasing from around 118,000 in 2007-08 to 167,000 in 2014-15—that is around 50,000 more surgeries a year over the last 7 years. We have seen major improvements in rheumatic fever, and yesterday the health Minister announced additional funding for Pharmac, which will take its annual budget to a record $850 million—

Hon David Parker: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am sorry to interrupt the member.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, you often remind us that it is for the Speaker to determine the length of an answer, and that is correct. But it brings disorder when the Opposition feels that a different standard is applied to Ministers answering questions than to Opposition members, including Mr Peters, asking them.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was right with his first point; it is for me to determine. The answer, I hope, is now concluded, because it was certainly a very long answer.

Alfred Ngaro: How are improvements in results in the education sector supporting our young people?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, a fulsome answer because education is improving under this Government. Spending has increased by $1.8 billion, which has contributed to the outstanding success of Result 5 of Better Public Services targets, increasing the proportion of 18-year-olds with National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2. That has jumped by nearly 10 percent since 2011. We have also introduced a range of other initiatives to boost student achievement, including trades academies, the Youth Guarantee scheme, and Māori—

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I make the same point of order. There are so many—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. [Interruption] Order! Both members will resume their seats. To continue to raise points of order like that is in itself creating disorder, Mr Parker.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Answers are meant to be concise. When the Minister fills them full of irrelevant superlatives—things that are not facts but are his assertions of how grand he and his Government is—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, I do not want any further assistance from either members, if both members want to stay for the balance of question time. I will determine when the answer has gone on for too long. If the Opposition does not like a particular answer and starts to make a lot of noise, that is not in itself a reason for me curtailing the length of the answer.

Hon David Parker: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I just need to make it very clear—[Interruption] Order! The member will just resume his seat. We have discussed the matter as to the length of answers and me determining that I will determine them. If the member now wants to raise a point of order that does not in any way address the matters we have just determined, I will certainly consider it. But if the member is going to continue to relitigate the decision that I have already made, I will then be asking the member to leave.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your answer addressed the length of questions. My second point of order is that they are full of irrelevancies in the answers that do not meet the prescription—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I covered that point as well by saying just because an Opposition member does not like the answer does not mean that I will necessarily curtail it. [Interruption] Order!

Hon Ruth Dyson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During three of the four points of order raised by the Hon David Parker, and during your ruling, the Minister continued to interject, and that is outside the Standing Orders, and he should be reprimanded—

Mr SPEAKER: That is certainly not within the Standing Orders. If there is a point of order being heard, it will be heard in silence. I did not notice the interjection; I was concentrating very much on what the member was saying. Is there a further point of order? [Interruption] I hope it is relevant to the House, and not in any way just relitigating the territory we have just covered, otherwise I will be asking that member to leave the Chamber. So I am just being very clear.

Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that if the Minister was quoting from an official document—and it certainly appeared that he was quoting from an official document, because he appeared to be reading his answer—

Mr SPEAKER: Easily resolved. [Interruption] Order! Was the Minister quoting from an official document? [Interruption] No, he was not. Question number—[Interruption] Order! I know it is Thursday afternoon, but we are still going to get through question time.

Health Services—Funding Levels

3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: Will core Crown health expenditure in 2016/17 meet all health demographic and inflationary cost pressures; if not, why not?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The member will be very surprised to hear that she, like everyone else, will just have to wait until Budget day. But what I can tell her in advance is that Budget 2016 will feature the highest ever new investment in medicines in a year—$39 million, bringing Pharmac’s budget to $850 million in total.

Hon Annette King: Will the Ministry of Health be forced in 2016 to make savings to cover cost pressures in the disability support services budget, given it was required to find $37 million this year to cover the shortfall in funding?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member will just have to wait—21 sleeps to go.

Hon Annette King: Will disabled people living at home with support bear the brunt of any shortfall in funding in 2016, as they have this year because the Ministry of Health cut $8.2 million from services by curtailing demand?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member knows the answer to that one—it is the same as for the first two questions—but what I would say is that she should stop promising everything to everyone, because it just does not work. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. We will just have the supplementary question.

Hon Annette King: Will Budget 2016 fully fund the recent sleepover settlement, having underfunded the settlement by $13 million this financial year; if not, why not?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I will tell you what it will not do. It will not double the health budget and cut 7,000 people—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No. [Interruption] Order! I want the question answered—I want an answer to the question that was asked. Does the member want to repeat the question to assist the Minister?

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When you were standing on your feet and ruling, the Minister was saying it was stupid, and I think he ought to apologise to you.

Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear that. If the member wants to ask the question again, we can move on.

Hon Annette King: Will Budget 2016 fully fund the recent sleepover settlement, having underfunded the settlement by $13 million this financial year; if not, why not?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As I say, 21 sleeps to go.

Hon Annette King: How much is he planning to put aside for deficit support for district health boards in Budget 2016, in light of his announcement yesterday that the deficits are “about $60 million”, up by $14 million in just 2 months and nowhere near—

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

Hon Annette King: —the $19 million he planned for the whole year?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: What I can say is we will not need the $160 million of deficit support that Mrs King would have needed to fund her ever-expanding deficits as health Minister. We have got them down to about $60 million, and they are getting lower all the time.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister, on several occasions, has made claims about when I was the Minister of Health. In fact, the dates that he uses for when I was the Minister of Health, I was not. I think it is important that he remembers it is 11 years since I was the Minister and I stopped being the Minister in 2005.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member feels she is being misrepresented can I refer her to Standing Order 359.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You cannot allow the member to use a point of order to make a debating point. It is just not on. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No. I need no need further assistance. I certainly need no further assistance on this. The member in quite a long way suggested misrepresentation. She is entitled to do that. I have suggested the remedy she must then take.

Hon Annette King: When will he stop the smoke-and-mirrors routine with the health budget, especially for the people of Canterbury, where he was forced to put in $6.6 million for mental health services recently, while at the same time demanding the district health board make $15 million in cuts?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I do not accept that at all. There is $254 million of extra funding that has gone into that district health board over the last 7 years. We have put in an extra $86 million to support the district health board through the earthquakes, including, actually on top of that, another $20 million just recently for mental health. So I am afraid you are on the wrong track.

Revenue, Minister—Meetings with Foreign Trust Industry Representatives

4. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Revenue: How many times did the Minister meet with representatives from the foreign trust industry between 27 November 2014 and 14 May 2015, and what other stakeholders did he meet with during that time period to discuss foreign trusts?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Revenue): I am advised that the Minister at the time had one meeting with representatives of the foreign trust industry and one subsequent meeting with the advisers to the foreign trust group OliverShaw Ltd. That meeting was on a range of issues, one of which was foreign trusts.

James Shaw: Why did he not also meet with stakeholders from the international development community, the Tax Justice Network, the Law Foundation, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, Transparency International, or tax experts like Professor Craig Elliffe or Dr Deborah Russell?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Not being the Minister at that time, I am unable to answer what was inside the mind of the Minister, but I am aware that those groups meet formally and informally. I would not have described them as experts in the foreign trust industry specifically, and, therefore, I do not have the information to answer that question.

James Shaw: Is it standard operating practice in his office to make rapid policy changes based only on input from industry lobbyists?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I contest the two prefaces in that question: that it was a hasty process and that it was on the basis of just one meeting.

James Shaw: Will the John Shewan review of foreign trusts be meeting with any other stakeholders besides those from the foreign trust industry?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: That will be a matter for Mr Shewan, but the terms of reference are on the public record.

James Shaw: Why did the Minister tell the foreign trust lobbyists at his very first meeting with them, on 16 December 2014, that the Government had no intention of reviewing foreign trusts; and is that also standard operating procedure?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: As I was not the Minister at that time and was not in that meeting, I am not going to speculate on what was or was not said in that meeting.

James Shaw: What proportion of New Zealand foreign trusts does he estimate are being used for illegal activities like money-laundering or tax evasion?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: It is a very difficult question to answer because of the way in which it has been asked. The fact is that anybody who is embarking on illegal activity that is identified by the New Zealand tax jurisdictions will be held to account for that activity. I repeat that the New Zealand presence is of the trustee. The foreign trusts themselves, the settlors, and the transactions are all in overseas jurisdictions, and it would be they who would be interested in that activity.

James Shaw: Is he concerned that although the foreign trust industry itself estimates that there are about 20,000 foreign trusts operating in New Zealand, the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) says that there are only 11,646 registered trusts, meaning that nearly half of all foreign trusts operating in New Zealand may be operating illegally?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I have not seen that first figure. I would go by the number that are registered with IRD.

Housing New Zealand—Procurement and Conflicts of Interest

5. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister responsible for HNZC: Does he have confidence in Housing New Zealand’s handling of procurement and conflict of interest issues in light of the Auditor-General’s report into the contracting of Andrew Body Ltd to advise on the sale of state housing?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): on behalf of the Minister responsible for HNZC: The Minister is satisfied that Housing New Zealand has accepted the recommendations of the Auditor-General’s report. It has already taken action to improve the procurement practices so, yes, the Minister has confidence in the current practice.

Phil Twyford: Is it acceptable for Housing New Zealand to fail to follow its own rules and not tender $2.3 million worth of contracts to merchant banker Andrew Body to advise on the State house sell-off, and is the Minister satisfied that Housing New Zealand’s assurances to the Auditor-General will be sufficient to ensure that these practices are not continued?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Minister has certainly had guarantees from Housing New Zealand that those practices are not occurring. Six out of the ten were over $100,000. Certainly its own guidelines said that it should have gone out. It felt it had reasons why it did not. It has accepted the findings of the Auditor-General and it has made changes since, and we accept that.

Phil Twyford: Is he concerned that the investment fund of one of Andrew Body’s clients, the UK company John Laing Group, is now part of a consortia shortlisted to buy more than 1,200 State houses in Tauranga after the Auditor-General found that Housing New Zealand failed to properly manage Andrew Body’s conflicts of interest in respect of his relationship with John Laing?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Certainly, what the Minister has been informed by Housing New Zealand is that it was very aware of Andrew Body’s conflicts of interest, and they were raised. What it did not do well was record them, so he thinks they certainly did know of them. To the first part of the question, yes, the Minister is confident they are going to manage it well.

Phil Twyford: Is this why the Government changed the law to give him extraordinary unfettered powers to sell State houses to anyone he likes, on whatever terms he likes, so that he can flog off billions of dollars of State housing to speculators while New Zealanders in need miss out?


Phil Twyford: How can the public have confidence in his stewardship of State housing when he is selling off billions of dollars of State housing to merchant bankers and foreign companies, when New Zealanders are living in garages and camping grounds, and his Government cannot even follow basic rules about conflict of interest?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because, as per usual, the member is making it up and his question has no validity.

Building and Construction Industry—Growth in Auckland

6. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister for Building and Housing: What does the latest data show about the growth in residential construction in Auckland?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The latest building consent data for the year to March shows the fourth consecutive year of growth of over 20 percent. This is the longest and strongest period of growth on record. New construction of homes in Auckland bottomed out at 3,500 per year but is now over 9,500 per year. We have gone from an annual investment of $1.5 billion to now $4.1 billion annual investment in residential construction, which, in both real and actual terms, is the highest ever on record.

Jami-Lee Ross: What does the household labour force survey data, out yesterday, tell us about the growth in people working in the building industry in Auckland?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yesterday’s data shows that 80,000 people are now working in the building sector in Auckland. That is a growth of 28 percent over the last year, and it comes on top of growth of 12 percent in the previous year and another 8 percent in the year before. It shows the level of momentum that there is in new house construction in Auckland. It means there are 29,000 more people working in the house construction and building industry than prior to the Auckland Housing Accord being entered into. One of the challenges with such growth is maintaining the quality of the building work. That is why we are responding with a big investment in additional apprenticeships and growth in investments in skills areas like engineering. But we also need to make sure that the building system and the regulations maintain the quality as well as the quantity.

Jami-Lee Ross: What is the latest advice on house prices in the Auckland market, and is he satisfied the market has cooled?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The market does remain quite volatile, but there is some reason for optimism. If we look at the latest Quotable Value values, which is the largest sample size, for the first time in 5 years they show no quarterly increase in the house price. The real estate data actually showed similar figures. I do express some caution about using just a single real estate agent’s numbers or just a single month’s figures, albeit we will need to get a sustained period of lower house price inflation for the Government not to maintain its rolling ball of measures to grow housing supply.

Phil Twyford: Why does he continue to trumpet the build rate in Auckland as some kind of success when a shortfall of 40,000 dwellings has built up on his watch and the current build rate falls far short of what is needed even to house the 52,000 net new arrivals in Auckland in the last 12 months?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: When the rate of residential investment in Auckland has gone from $1.5 billion a year, which is what it was when Labour left Government, to $4.1 billion a year—

Phil Twyford: That was the GFC, Nick. You’ve forgotten that.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Oh, they have discovered it. They have discovered that there was a global financial crisis. But when the rate of residential investment has gone from $1.4 billion to $4.1 billion a year, only a whinger in the Opposition would take offence.

Literacy—Statements by the Minister of Finance

7. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with Hon Bill English that a lot of Kiwis are “pretty damned hopeless” and “they can’t read and write properly”; if so, does she accept any responsibility as Minister of Education?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I think the House is better served by the Deputy Prime Minister’s full quote, with which I do agree, and it was: “The dairy industry has rightly said that a lot of the Kiwis who are turning up are pretty damned hopeless. They won’t show up. You can’t rely on them, and that is one of the reasons the immigration is a bit permissive, to fill the gap. But we can’t leave that problem unsolved, which is, in the long run—we can’t leave that problem unsolved. That is, a cohort of Kiwis that now can’t get a license because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable—you know, basically, young males. And if we don’t work together to get them working, then they’ll be with us a long time.” In regard to the second part, I do accept—

Hon Ruth Dyson: How about the question? Give it a passing run.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Perhaps I will finish the question. I do accept—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Perhaps I will finish answering—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Oh, I beg your pardon.

Mr SPEAKER: I just require a little more cooperation from this side, from one particular member. The answer was long, but it was completing a quote to give justification to the answer, so I allowed that. There were two parts to the question, and the member who asked the question deserves a response to the second part.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Thank you, Mr Speaker. In regard to the second part, I do accept responsibility for my part as Minister of Education, but we all have a role to play—including the member—in encouraging educational success in all our young people.

Chris Hipkins: When Bill English claimed that a lot of Kiwis cannot read and write properly, was he basing that claim on a recent Tertiary Education Commission study that found that up to half the students meeting National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) literacy and numeracy requirements are not functionally literate or numerate; if not, what was he basing it on?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Well, I am not responsible for what was in the mind of the Deputy Prime Minister, but I would hazard a guess that he was basing it on the education system when it was run under that party’s Government.

Chris Hipkins: While we are on that topic, could Bill English have been basing his claim on the fact that although NCEA achievement rates for Māori and Pasifika students have shown modest increases, in the past 5 years the number of New Zealand European students gaining NCEA has fallen across the board, with an 11 percent drop in the number meeting minimum university entrance standards?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is either playing fast and loose with the statistics or just does not understand them. First of all, I do not know how 30 percent and 32 percent increases are modest in his world, but Māori and Pasifika have gone from 43 percent under that Government to 72 percent. Pasifika have gone from 51 percent to 79 percent under this Government, and students overall, including New Zealand Pākehā, have gone to 84.4 percent. It is not possible that there has been a drop in terms of NCEA. In terms of university entrance, yes, we took the decision to raise the standard of university entrance to ensure that when young people go to university, they are able to complete the degree. That is a service that we have performed, and we were prepared to do it, and we will continue to raise the quality of education of all New Zealanders.

Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a memorandum to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority board from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority staff dated 23 February 2016, which has the statistics I referred to, showing a drop for New Zealand European students.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular New Zealand Qualifications Authority board report. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

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

Chris Hipkins: Why should parents have confidence in this Government’s management of the education system when the Deputy Prime Minister describes Kiwi kids as “pretty damned hopeless” while at the same time, in his role as Minister of Finance, he has presided over funding cuts that have seen schools spending less per student in real terms than they were spending when National took office?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Parents should have confidence because they are not having to be barraged with the nonsense coming from the Opposition and, instead, are getting transparent data that is used appropriately in its context, that is not misused or misleading, and that is available to them every day, in real time, at every school.

Chris Hipkins: Why does this Government have such low expectations for the 64,000 young New Zealanders under the age of 25 who are unemployed, choosing to label them as “pretty damned hopeless”, as Bill English did, rather than training them and educating them to do the jobs that are available?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Before I came to the House at 2 o’clock, I was addressing a hui of about 60 workers who are focused on an initiative called Count Me In. Their job is to go out into the country and find the kids who have disengaged from education and reconnect them to education. In Gisborne we are running a pilot for year 9 kids who are likely to fall by the wayside because their siblings have, and we are ensuring they get a better education. Across the country, through trades academies, through vocational pathways, and through better relationships with industry, business, and employers, we are identifying the skill sets that young people need to have to make them more employable—the very kids who were the subject—

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

Hon HEKIA PARATA: —I will just finish—of the dairy industry’s concern. We are now making it possible for driver licences to achieve credits at school, so more kids can drive. Thank you.

Chris Hipkins: Why is this Government so out of touch with the reality of underfunding that schools face every day, overlooks declining student achievement, and labels the 64,000 young New Zealanders who are unemployed as “pretty damned hopeless” rather than educating them and training them to meet some of the most critical skills shortages New Zealand has ever seen?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is actually quite hard—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the answer.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is actually quite difficult to find anything in that rant that has a smidgen of truth to it that allows me to respond, but I am going to have a go. This Government has very high expectations for all New Zealanders—not for some, as occurred under that administration, but for all New Zealanders, at every stage of their education. That is why we introduced national standards, so that we would know, every year, how well kids were or were not doing. That is why we have introduced Better Public Services targets, because we are prepared to be transparent and hold ourselves accountable. That is why we have seen a 31 percent increase in Vote Education, while student numbers have gone up 4 percent.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Was the Minister aware that the year 13 Māori students at the partnership school Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Parāoa achieved a 100 percent pass rate for university entrance last year and that Chris Hipkins wants to close that school? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Hekia Parata—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I was aware, and it would appear the member was too. She wants to join in the congratulations to those young people. I would like to commend kura hourua and the parliamentary under-secretary for his support and applause of success—something foreign to the member, obviously, but success for young people—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Damien O’Connor: Why will the Minister not fund alternative education properly to employ qualified teachers to help our most needy students so they do not become, to quote Bill English “pretty damned hopeless”, or does she agree with education expert Judy Bruce, who said: “This is the Ministry of Education’s dirty little secret.”?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Again, I am sorry I am not aware of that particular expert whom the member is quoting—

Hon Damien O’Connor: Get on top of your portfolio.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Did the member want an answer? Alternative education is fully funded. It is currently under review because the outcomes from there are not as good as other parts that we are investing in, and we want to invest in success. So the member can be assured that it is very much on my agenda.

Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table a report indicating that alternative education students are underfunded by—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the report and the date.

Hon Damien O’Connor: It is a press statement.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. I used to think the member was better than that.

Foreign Affairs, Minister—Meeting with Reverend Socratez Yoman

8. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will he, or a Cabinet Minister on his behalf, meet with senior church leader and human rights defender Reverend Socratez Yoman from West Papua next week at Parliament when he visits; if not, why not?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs): No. I will be travelling next week on official business, but officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be meeting with the Reverend Yoman.

Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was: “Will he, or a Cabinet Minister”. He did not answer that.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, he did. He said “No” right at the start. [Interruption] Order! The member has raised a point of order, and I have addressed it. I think she now understands why. Now we can move to the next supplementary question.

Catherine Delahunty: Has he ever met with an indigenous rights leader from West Papua to discuss human rights abuses?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: Not that I can recall.

Catherine Delahunty: Does he stand by his statement that he will “condemn human rights abuses wherever they occur”; if so, has he publicly condemned Indonesia for the arrest of 1,700 West Papuans in just the last 3 days for exercising their freedom of expression and assembly?

Mr SPEAKER: There are two supplementary questions. The member can address either.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I have been following with some interest the reports of the arrests that the member refers to, and I have asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to report to me with further information, including information that it might receive from the Reverend Yoman next week. Can I tell the member that I routinely raise human rights questions with representatives of the Indonesian Government, and, further, at last year’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting the Prime Minister signed up on behalf of New Zealand to a joint statement that saw the forum take some steps to engage with Indonesia on precisely this question.

Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table a letter from the Minister to myself on 13 April 2016 in which he says that he will condemn human rights abuses wherever they occur, including in West Papua.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is none.

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

Catherine Delahunty: What evidence does he have that limiting his condemnation to polite conversations with the Indonesian Government has ever made a difference given the ongoing State-sanctioned killing and torture of West Papuans?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: As I indicated in response to an earlier supplementary question, I have been following the reports of arrests with some interest. The Government is concerned about these matters, and the Government wants to see an improvement in the situation in that part of the world. The Government does not believe that megaphone diplomacy will serve that objective.


9. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: What recent announcements has he made to help attract entrepreneurs to New Zealand?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Last week I announced a new Global Impact Visa, designed to bring innovative global entrepreneurs to New Zealand. This visa will cater for high-impact entrepreneurs, investors, and start-up teams to launch global ventures from New Zealand, and will attract younger, highly talented, successful, and well-connected entrepreneurs who are at the start of their entrepreneurial career and able to establish their ventures here in New Zealand.

Melissa Lee: In what ways will the introduction of global impact visas contribute to the Government’s Business Growth Agenda? [Interruption]

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Father Jack over there. Global impact visas will help meet the Government’s Business Growth Agenda of innovation and investment objectives by lifting innovation in New Zealand, and will help expand the pool of smart capital by attracting individual investors and entrepreneurs to live here. The successful implementation it gives will create new jobs through the establishment of new ventures and access to global networks.

Prime Minister—Statements

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

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Ron Mark: When will he tell his Minister of Revenue to “get some guts” and tackle those multinationals shirking their fair share of tax, like Facebook, Methanex, Lockheed Martin, and Google, as opposed to hiding behind OECD directives?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure which statement the member was referring to, but in regards to multinational tax, we have put a lot more people and resources into the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) in recent years. The Government’s view is that we should be working with the OECD multilaterally, and we are asking our officials to look and see if there is anything that the latest changes in Australia and the UK are doing that we might be able to apply here. It is important that all companies pay their fair share of tax, but you have to ultimately do it multilaterally because these are multilateral issues.

Ron Mark: Why do ordinary Kiwis have to pay tax, when 20 multinationals in New Zealand who earned $10 billion in one year paid only $1.8 million in tax?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is actually a bit misleading, anyway, to refer to turnover and the level of tax in relation to turnover because in this country we tax profit, not turnover. In terms of just quoting turnover figures for certain companies, no matter what their origin is, and then saying that this is what they should or should not be paying in tax—it should actually be on profit. I refer the member back to my earlier answer in relation to the work that is being done both within our IRD and also with the OECD multilaterally, because I share the view of the member, that everybody should be paying their fair share of tax, and we are working hard to ensure that that is the case.

Ron Mark: If the conservative Governments in the United Kingdom and Australia, you know, new besties—

Mr SPEAKER: Just have the question, please. I just want the question. Start the question again.

Ron Mark: If the conservative Governments in the United Kingdom and Australia can adopt Google taxes in their own national interests, then why can we not do the same here now?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I note that in the case of Australia we are literally talking about an announcement that was made in the last couple of days and has certainly not been passed through its Parliament in any way, shape, or form yet. But, as I said in answer to the earlier supplementary question, we have asked our officials to have a look and see whether what Australia is proposing would work in New Zealand, and we are certainly open-minded about that. It is an important issue. But we think the most likely positive outcome for the New Zealand Treasury is in terms of the work that is being done at the OECD, and we are a very active participant in that.

Regional Cultural Facilities—Announcements

11. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What announcements has she made on funding for regional cultural facilities?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): I have just this afternoon announced the launch of a more flexible replacement for the regional museums policy, which we are calling the Regional Culture and Heritage Fund. It will be funded at the same level as the old regional museums policy, an average of about $6.6 million a year, but it widens the eligibility criteria to include potential support for local performing arts venues, heritage buildings, and whare taonga. We have also removed the requirement for collections to be of national significance, to allow smaller museums and art galleries to potentially access that fund. As a supplement to support from local government, philanthropist, and community funding, this fund will be able to support more regional institutions, which may struggle to get the capital needed for major projects.

Jonathan Young: How do cultural facilities help with the regional development?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: Some of the finest recent additions to our regional culture scene, such as the Len Lye Centre, in the member’s own fine electorate of New Plymouth, and the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin, have significantly befitted from the regional museums policy funding. They bring in tourism, jobs, and growth. They enable all New Zealanders to have access to the best of national and international culture. They encourage innovation, creativity, and personal development, and they inspire our children. The new Regional Culture and Heritage Fund will help to showcase talent, heritage, and culture across the country.

Tertiary Education—Oversight

12. JENNY SALESA (Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: Is he confident in his oversight of the tertiary education sector, given that over the next 5 years there is estimated to be a 58 percent shortfall in the number of plumbers required in Auckland alone?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Overall, yes. The construction industry in Auckland is growing rapidly. There have been an additional 25,000 construction jobs added in the last 2 years. There has also been very big growth in training, as well. In regard to plumbers in particular, the figure that I have seen in the presentation I think the member is referring to from Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers talks of a need for around 600 more plumbers in Auckland over the period 2013-2018. I think that is entirely achievable because, for context, there are currently around 2,500 people doing plumbing apprenticeships or apprenticeship-type training around New Zealand in this area. There are also big increases in the first-time enrolments for plumbing, which reached 633 in 2014. So although the workforce in construction is growing rapidly, I am confident that the response from trainees and employers is also growing rapidly.

Jenny Salesa: Why is Auckland’s unemployment rate above the national average, at 6.6 percent, while at the same time companies in the construction industry are scrambling to find enough labourers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure of the accuracy of the member’s statements, but in terms of the growth in employment just under half the growth of employment over the last 6 months has been in Auckland. We have also seen very big increases in the construction sector over that period. The member herself will be aware that we have a number of initiatives in place, including the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Initiative—she has attended some of the presentations in regard to that—which is recruiting young Māori and Pasifika, in particular, into the trades, and that is proving to be successful.

Jenny Salesa: By what percentage has the annual number of apprentices participating in industry training fallen since 2008?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have the numbers with me since 2008, because they did reduce during the global financial crisis, as Mr Twyford referred to, but since 2013 we have seen an increase of 12 percent in just 1 year from 2013 to 2014, and today there are around 42,000 people enrolled in apprenticeships and apprenticeship-type training.

Jenny Salesa: After 8 years in the job as the responsible Minister, what does he say to Steve Fowler of Macrennie Commercial Construction, who says “There’s a general shortage across the board and that’s all skill sets”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member is very generous about my length of tenure in the job, but leaving that aside, for example we are seeing a rapid increase in the number of people working in construction. I remember very similar comments in the Canterbury rebuild back when we were told we would need to double the size of the construction workforce in Canterbury and it would not be possible. In actual fact, it happened, with increases in training, with people returning to the workforce, and in terms of migration as well. We are now seeing very rapid growth in the sector in Auckland. The training system is responding effectively, and the system is growing dramatically.

Jenny Salesa: Does he accept any responsibility for the skills shortage gap in Auckland, as the Minister responsible for skills training, or does he just agree with the people who have given up relying on his Government and now say the best answer is easier access to foreign workers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: With the greatest respect to the member, the only people who have given up on this Government are the Opposition members, because they do not make any progress against it. In relation to the work that is being done, we are seeing rapidly increasing numbers of apprentices, rapidly increasing numbers of people working in the construction workforce, rapid increases in people in areas like Māori and Pasifika trades training—and those things are all contributing to a growth in the construction workforce to meet the needs of a rapidly growing demand for building houses in Auckland.

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