Police—Roadside Testing and Collection of Personal Information
1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Although there is no ministerial responsibility for the genuinely held views of members of the New Zealand public, and both section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 and the Cabinet Manual preclude my intervention—in particular, with policing operations—I can confirm that the Commissioner of Police has referred this incident to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.
David Seymour: Does the Minister believe it is a good use of Police resources to interrogate law-abiding people attending a peaceful meeting of an advocacy group, given an 18 percent spike in burglary reported by Statistics New Zealand just this week?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I have answered that question very clearly. This is not a matter that I can comment on. It is currently with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and for me to make a statement about it or have any sort of view would, in fact, actually try to influence the IPCA—and this is not a Labour Government; this is a National Government.
David Seymour: Can the Minister comment on whether she is completely satisfied with how Police currently allocates its resources, given increases in assault, sexual assault, abduction, kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but no reported increases in rogue advocacy groups in Maungaraki?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Clearly, the member is not aware that road policing is actually funded out of the Ministry of Transport, not out of Police. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
David Seymour: Does the Minister agree with the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, when he said “there would be pretty troubling aspects” to an operation that used the statutory power and, indeed, funding provided under the Land Transport Act to gather personal information for a different purpose?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure how many times I need to tell that member that I have no intention of wading into an investigation that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is undertaking. I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would refer the member to not only section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 but also the Cabinet Manual on this issue. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
David Seymour: Does the Minister have any views about how a police force should operate and how it should allocate its resources?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I do. One of the ways I believe that police should operate is to not have politicians telling them how to do their job. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
David Seymour: Will she guarantee that someone will eventually be held accountable for this gross breach of civil liberties?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member is jumping to conclusions. I suggest he leave it to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which is the right and proper place and people to look into this issue.
David Seymour: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has used his allocation.
2. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the performance of the New Zealand economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Last week the World Bank released its annual doing business report. The 2017 report shows that for the first time New Zealand has been ranked first in the world for the ease of doing business, up one place from last year and up from third in 2014. The report is made up of 10 different indicators that affect the conduct of a business. New Zealand ranks first in the world in half of these, including starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property, getting credit, and protecting minority investors. This is an excellent result, and highlights the good work Government agencies are doing through our comprehensive Business Growth Agenda to reduce the cost of doing business and grow jobs in New Zealand.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What has contributed to New Zealand becoming the easiest country in the world to do business in?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: A range of things. The report notes, for example, our strong procurement model, known as the Government Electronic Tenders Service, which we have improved in recent years to make it easier for small New Zealand companies to tender for Government contracts. It highlights changes we have made to make paying taxes easier for companies and take less time, and it notes that New Zealand is a world leader in the ease of starting a business. Reducing the regulatory burden is all part of creating a competitive and productive economy that provides more and better-paying jobs for New Zealanders and their families.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What else is the Government doing to make it easier to do business in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government’s comprehensive Business Growth Agenda creates an environment where businesses have the confidence to invest in growth. It contains more than 300 separate initiatives, including building better infrastructure, like roads of national significance and ultra-fast broadband; encouraging domestic and foreign investment in the economy; training more highly skilled New Zealanders to contribute to our growth; encouraging research and development; developing our significant natural resources while protecting our environment; improving access to markets offshore through free-trade agreements; and reducing non-tariff trade barriers. There is always room to improve further, and the Government will continue to work hard to make it easier to do business.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What reports has he received showing support amongst small businesses for the Government’s economic programme?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: They are very important, of course, small businesses, because they are a big part of our economy. I have received a report titled “Small businesses signal election priorities” from Mind Your Own Business (MYOB). MYOB’s report found that 42 percent of the businesses surveyed—over 1,000—expect revenues to increase in the next year with just 11 percent expecting a fall, reflecting the benefits of a growing economy. MYOB goes on to say: “People do trust John Key and Bill English’s economic management. There is a strong sense in the small business community that the country is on the right track.” The World Bank’s doing business report underlines that small businesses have confidence—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There has been quite a lot of interjection this afternoon, and a reasonable amount I will accept but when it becomes a barrage so that I cannot hear the balance of the answer, then I will deal with it more severely. Does the Minister wish to complete his answer?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No.
3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister of Police, given crime rose by 5.5 percent in the last year?
Andrew Little: Why have burglaries gone up 7.8 percent and assaults gone up 9 percent in the past year alone?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot give you the exact answer. I do not know all of the reasons, but in some cases it will be because of more widespread use of drugs and some people feeding their drugs habit. That would be one reason. There will be many reasons, though.
Andrew Little: Does he think that burglaries going up 7.8 percent and assaults going up 9 percent has anything to do with the fact that he has failed to increase police numbers in line with a rising population?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. There are a variety of different reasons. One of them is that, for instance, when it comes to domestic violence, that has become a topic that is now more widely debated and exposed, and there is more reporting going on of domestic violence. So, no, I do not think that is the case. This is a Government that has put $300 million more into police budgets just in 2016 alone. The annual budget has gone from $1.2 billion to $1.6 billion. There are hundreds more extra police under a National-led Government and greater use of technology.
Andrew Little: Why has he broken his 2007 promise, which went like this: “improve the ratio of police to population beyond 1:500 from 2009”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We have substantially increased the number of police. One of the things that we have been looking at in the time that we have been in Government is to say that, of course, one way of measuring the number of police is to look at it on a ratio basis, but, actually, I think there are also other ways of looking at it more effectively. For instance, when we look at the use of technology—which I think is a far better investment in a lot of ways—we have effectively gained 354 extra police. You can put all of those things in the budget, but it is really a sort of a slightly lazy way of thinking things to just dream up a number on the day of a police conference and claim that it is a policy. It is not really a policy, is it? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Andrew Little: Why, when he promised in 2007 to have a 1:500 police ratio, does he not have a 1:500 police ratio 8 years on?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, we have been investing considerably more. Secondly, there are different ways of measuring these things. Yes, there were policies that were taken to the 2008 election—which is quite a number of elections ago—but over time the Government not only is investing more but, of course, is looking at ways that we will continue to invest. But just dreaming up a number, as the member did—the reason that he got coverage on page A7 or A9 of the New Zealand Herald about this figure was because no one actually believes he is going to be in a position to do it anyway.
Andrew Little: Why has he spread the police so thin that almost 60 percent of police officers say they cannot deliver on the promises they make to the public?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure the police will always argue that they needs more resources, but that is equally true of every publicly funded institution—they will always argue that they need more. Under this National-led Government there have been not only 600 more police but 354 additional extra police in the sense that the technology that we have rolled out has allowed them to do that. The Government is funding more for police resources and, over time, will give them more, but I do not actually accept the argument that the police are under-resourced. I accept the argument that over time they can do with more, but they have had significant increases in the time we have been the Government.
Andrew Little: Why has his Government lost control of crime, as it has on housing, health, education, immigration, and traffic congestion; and when will he admit that he is out of touch and out of ideas?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If one looks at total crime in New Zealand since 2011, it is down 15 percent. I accept that in the last year it is up 1.4 percent. There has also been an international trend: in OECD countries crime has gone down a bit and crime has risen a bit, but overall it is down 15 percent, which is actually pretty similar to Labour’s polling since 2008, now that it is down to about 15 percent.
4. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
James Shaw: Does he stand by his statement that “New Zealanders value our coasts and oceans, which are an important part of our culture, economy, and environment, and we are committed to managing them sustainably.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
James Shaw: Does he believe that our oceans are managed sustainably today, given that 28 percent of our marine mammals and 90 percent of our seabirds are threatened with extinction?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think if one looks overall at the management of oceans that are under New Zealand’s control, you would say that they are sustainably managed. I think the quota management system by and large actually has been a highly effective method. Secondly, in terms of marine mammals and the like, the Government has been moving, as the member knows, towards putting more of New Zealand’s marine space into ocean sanctuaries. Last week, in fact, the Government was delighted by the steps that New Zealand had led, with the United States, in relation to the Ross Sea. Obviously, we are looking to make progress on the Kermadecs. New Zealand has also done, in the time that we have been the Government, a number of other ocean sanctuaries in relation to places like Kaikōura. So it is a general yes—I think the Government is progressing that objective—but we acknowledge there are some potentially endangered species, and that is why we are taking the steps that we are.
James Shaw: Given that, would he say that his policies are working, when 28 percent of our marine mammals and 90 percent of our seabirds are threatened with extinction?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For the most part, yes, I think they are working, but one of the threats to our birdlife, for instance, is from predators, and that is why the Government has been supportive of, and has the initiative of, a predator-free New Zealand by 2050.
James Shaw: Why did New Zealand abstain from supporting a motion at the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress to protect 30 percent of oceans as no-take marine reserves when 89 percent of other nations supported it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would need to get absolute advice on that, but, testing my memory, it was partly to do with the fact that we believe that the way that we measure our oceans in relation to the quota management system, with a measure of marine reserves, is a more effective way of doing things. I think the member will probably find that a lot of the countries that voted for that simply do not have the ocean space that New Zealand does. I think New Zealand is pretty well respected internationally for the work it does around marine protection. We would certainly like to make progress on the Kermadecs; we realise that the Green Party is supportive of that, and if it would like to go and talk to the nice people at Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) and get them to see it the Green Party’s way, collectively we will be able to pass that though Parliament very rapidly.
James Shaw: Does he agree with the National Party’s 2014 election policy to include the exclusive economic zone in the marine protected areas Act?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I agree with the policy, but we then decided to advance the Kermadecs. As I said, if he could just make himself busy this afternoon and go down to see the good people at TOKM and convince them that, actually, conservation for the wider good of all New Zealanders is a worthy and admirable cause, then we will be able to pass that legislation very soon.
James Shaw: Did Cabinet reject the proposal to extend marine protected areas into the exclusive economic zone because Ministers wanted to keep our ocean open for oil exploration and seabed mining?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Health Services—Elective Surgery
5. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm that 30 percent more hip and knee joint replacement operations were carried out in 2015-16 compared with the 8,439 in 2007-08, an increase of 2,573 operations?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, I can. This 30 percent increase is the result of the hard work of clinical staff and the extra $200 million the Government has invested into elective surgery over this period. It is a very significant increase in access to these important operations, which reduce pain and enable New Zealanders to better get on with their lives. With the growth and ageing of the population, we need to continue to do more, and that is why the Government has put in an extra $96 million over 4 years to ensure that more New Zealanders get the surgery that they need.
Ian McKelvie: Given the forecast ageing and growth of the New Zealand population, what is the Government doing to specifically address this growing need?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Firstly, we are delivering more access to specialist assessments in the area of orthopaedics, where the number of first specialist appointments has gone up from 43,251 per year to 53,627. That is an increase of over 10,000 under this Government. These are some of the 550,000 patients seen by specialists now each year, which is one in 10 New Zealanders every year. We are also focused on intervening at an earlier stage to prevent the need for surgery in the first place, and that is why we have developed mobility action teams made up of GPs, dietitians, and physiotherapists. We are rolling them out across the country to assist New Zealanders with self-management, education, exercise, and pain management. These teams are part of the wider Government response to the increased demand for surgery.
Hon Annette King: Is he dismissing research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in September that showed that the rate of hip and knee surgeries per 100,000 population was lower in 2013 than in 2007, and is this not a truer measure of what is happening in New Zealand?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No, it is not a truer measure of the overall picture. As I said, the number of operations has gone up overall, and more New Zealanders are getting more timely access to these procedures all the time.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the New Zealand Medical Journal research, headed “Equity of publicly-funded hip and knee joints”—it is not easy to obtain.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that particular research document from the medical journal. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: Can he confirm that the total number of additional elective orthopaedic operations across all district health boards between 2014-15 and 2015-16 was only 284; and does this keep up with population growth, let alone with the level of pain and disability that people face?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As usual, I would have to go away and check the member’s figures closely. All I do know is that it is nothing like the 2,000 drop in operations that occurred during her period as health Minister.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act (OIA) response from the Ministry of Health dated 8 September, showing elective surgery discharges—as I said—284.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document has been described. It is an OIA response—
Hon Annette King: And point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I need to put the—and you are seeking leave to table something else as well?
Hon Annette King: Oh, sorry, yes. I will wait to table it.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the other one, and I will put leave for them both together. What is the other document?
Hon Annette King: I wish to table the 2008-09 publicly funded hip and knee replacements funded by Labour but counted by National in its operations.
Mr SPEAKER: And what is the source of the second document?
Hon Annette King: It is from the Ministry of Health’s documents—OIA.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table an OIA response and Ministry of Health data information. Is there any objection to either of those two documents being tabled? There is none. They can be tabled.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
6. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What action, if any, has he taken to ensure that New Zealanders receive services in a timely manner?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): There has been a wide range of actions over the term of this Government to increase timely access to health services, including a $4.2 billion funding increase. The latest example is the national telehealth service, which is providing New Zealanders with timely health advice and support via phone, text, and online channels. Today I visited the service to mark its first anniversary. The service, staffed by registered nurses, mental health and addiction specialists, and poison specialists, provides 24/7 advice, support, assessment of symptoms, triage, and treatment advice. During this first year, one in 10 New Zealanders has accessed the service, and usage grew 16 percent between November 2015 and September 2016. It is an innovative solution that is producing results.
Hon Annette King: Why has he allowed 30 patients to have their eyesight worsened because of significant delays in eye treatment at Southern District Health Board (DHB), with the majority of nearly 5,000 patients waiting twice as long for an appointment than clinically recommended?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, the situation at Southern DHB has not been satisfactory. We have now got a new chief executive there, who has a plan in place to turn the situation around. The reality with ophthalmology is that we are doing 25 percent more appointments and operations than when National came into Government, but the wider picture is that we can now do more because of the enhanced treatment and technology. If you look at something like glaucoma, there has actually been a 100 percent—
Dr David Clark: $1.7 billion in funding cuts is having consequences.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: —listen to this—a 100 percent uplift in those types of injections over the past 5 years.
Hon Annette King: Why was he not on top of the fact that the adverse event report from Southern DHB for 2014-15 published last year was showing a lack of service planning, not enough appointments available, and patients waiting well beyond the Government’s expectation for service?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, as the member is well aware, we had to get in and get involved in Southern. We removed the district health board and we put the commissioner in there. We were left with massive deficits there—$42 million last year, which has now come down to $35 million, with an ongoing plan for increasing access to clinical services. So, actually, services are going ahead in Southern, the situation is on track, and it would be great to have the member’s constructive support, rather than carping from the sidelines. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: Has he not been informed that even with the new national assessment tool for commitment to treat cataracts, for example, those DHBs that have implemented it continue to have huge disparities as to when a person can get an operation—for example, you need 60 points in Waikato, or you need 40 points in West Coast?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, look, the situation is nowhere near as bleak as the member would like to make out. The fact is, this clinical prioritisation tool has just been finished and is about to be implemented across the country. There have always been financial thresholds, going way back in history to when Mrs King was Minister of Health, which meant that there were changes and differences between each DHB in terms of access to specific services. But the overall picture is that there is an extra $4 billion that has gone into health, we are doing more operations, there are more appointments, there are more doctors and nurses, and people are getting more timely access to services. The member just needs to cheer up. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Point of order, Annette King.
Rt Hon John Key: We’re enjoying it.
Hon Annette King: Yes, so am I. I seek leave to table two letters. The first is from the Waikato District Health Board, which I received under the Official Information Act (OIA), saying that the threshold for cataract surgery is 60 points.
Mr SPEAKER: And the second letter?
Hon Annette King: The second one is from the West Coast District Health Board, which I received under the OIA—both are dated; one is August the 16th and the other is August the 10th—saying that you need 40 points for a cataract operation.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two letters from DHBs, received under the OIA. Is there any objection to their being tabled? There is none. They can be tabled.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Better Public Services Targets—Education Sector
7. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made regarding education-related Better Public Services targets?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yesterday I announced, as part of the Government’s Better Public Services initiative, that the Government is on track in lifting participation and achievement. The update shows that 83.3 percent of 18-year-olds achieved NCEA level 2 in 2015. That is a total of 51,299 young people, and represents an outstanding lift of 9 percent since the target was introduced in 2012. The early childhood education (ECE) participation rate has hit a record high. In the year to March 2016, 96.6 percent of children starting school had participated in ECE. This is great news, because it means more of our earliest learners are getting the best possible start to their education. Since then, some regions, such as Canterbury, Otago, Tasman, and Nelson, have reached over 98 percent. Seeing as these improvements are the results of many people’s efforts—the children and young people themselves, their families and whānau, teachers and tutors—we want to acknowledge and celebrate them all.
Matt Doocey: How does increased achievement and participation for our young people increase economic benefit?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We are focused on increasing success across all parts of our education system. We know how critical skills and qualifications are for New Zealanders to do well, so that they can go on to contribute to society and to a thriving economy. Although we are seeing promising results in all of our targets, the increase in the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA level 2 is a standout. A level 2 qualification gives young people opportunities to further their education and employment, as it is often a minimum requirement for jobs. The beauty of NCEA is that it allows every young person to choose a course of study that works for them. These results mean that more young people are getting the skills that they need to be successful in their chosen pathway. Additionally, the work on vocational pathways, trades academies, and Youth Guarantee partnerships gives more choices to young people about where and what they can learn. Those who have struggled in traditional schooling are now getting engaged in education and achieving NCEA level 2.
Catherine Delahunty: Does the Minister believe any participation in early childhood education, as described in the Better Public Services target, is a substitute for guaranteed quality in early childhood education?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We do not think the two are mutually exclusive. However, in order to enjoy quality, children need to be attending, so we have been focusing on lifting that. I can say to the member that the 98 percent of ECEs, at any time, that are subject to quality checks by the Ministry of Education and the regular reviews by the Education Review Office tell us that they are delivering quality.
Catherine Delahunty: Will the Minister establish a target for achieving safe child-to-adult ratios and a goal of 100 percent qualified teachers in early childhood education to ensure quality?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: To repeat a large part of my supplementary answer, at any one time 98 percent of services are meeting or exceeding the licensing standards that set the criteria for quality on curriculum, health and safety, the premises and facilities, governance, management, and administration, and, moreover, we have the highest number of qualified early ECE teachers than ever before.
Catherine Delahunty: Will the Minister stop the effective funding freeze in early childhood education, which funds only roll growth and has seen no increase in per-child funding since 2010?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: This Government has more than doubled the spending on early learning, to $1.79 billion, from less than $0.9 billion when we came into Government. This year’s Budget has also provided an extra $396.9 million over the next 4 years, which accounts for 54 million extra hours of ECE for children. ECE is 33.5 percent more affordable than it was in 2007, and, on average, for every dollar that parents pay for early learning, the Government contributes roughly $4.80.
Anti – money-laundering Measures—Prime Minister‘s Statements
8. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by the Prime Minister’s statement to this House in September on phase two of the anti – money-laundering measures that “there will be a bill in the House by the end of the year”; if not, why not?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): That was certainly the Government’s intention at that time. However, as the Prime Minister also said, there are far-reaching implications for a large number of New Zealanders from these reforms. The time frame that we have been consistently working towards is to have the bill passed by mid-2017, and this has not changed However, the introduction of the bill may now occur early next year to ensure that we do what we can to minimise the cost of the reforms to New Zealanders.
Grant Robertson: In what way has the process of implementing phase two of the anti – money-laundering changes, which would include real estate agents, lawyers, and accountants into the regime, been accelerated, as she and the Prime Minister promised in May of this year?
Hon AMY ADAMS: It had not originally been our intention to have the reforms passed by July, the middle of next year. Now we want to make sure that the legislation is passed by that time. Previously it would have been into 2018 before the legislation was intended to be in place.
Grant Robertson: Has she taken papers to Cabinet committees this year that would have seen the legislation introduced this year?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I have certainly taken Cabinet papers addressing the reforms, and that made it very clear that we are working to the time frame of the legislation being passed by the middle of next year.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked whether the Minister had taken papers to the Cabinet committee about introducing the legislation this year. It was a specific question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that on this occasion, to the dissatisfaction of Grant Robertson, obviously, the question has been addressed. The Minister then said she had taken papers to the Cabinet committee. I think it has been addressed.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on that matter, Mr Robertson.
Grant Robertson: It was a very specific question about the introduction of legislation, which was not addressed by the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: The member may not have heard me. I listened carefully to the answer, and I think on this occasion the question was addressed.
Grant Robertson: Has she taken a paper to a Cabinet committee this year that would have proposed the introduction of legislation on phase two of the anti – money-laundering measures. [Interruption] You could have answered the question, but you transferred it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am very likely to rule a question out of order if the member continues like that.
Hon AMY ADAMS: The Cabinet committee that determines the introduction of legislation is the Cabinet legislation committee. I have not taken a paper to the Cabinet legislation committee. I have taken policy papers on the proposal, and that has us on track to continue with having legislation in place by the middle of next year. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! My patience will run out very quickly, with the interjections coming from both sides of the front bench.
Grant Robertson: Is it her intention that the details of property buyers and sellers will be captured under part 2 of the regime?
Hon AMY ADAMS: We have made it clear that part 2 of the reforms will extend to lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, and high-value goods dealers. Further detail of that will be made apparent when the legislation is made available.
Grant Robertson: How can she possibly argue that she is accelerating the work when she is actually still finalising policy work, which is the same position she has been in since 2014, and is the only reason that acceleration was even mentioned not to take the heat off John Key during the Panama Papers?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The member is simply wrong. The process has been accelerated so that the legislation will be in force sooner than otherwise would have happened. I point out to this House that this is a regime that will have considerable compliance costs on ordinary New Zealanders, and on this side of the House we want to ensure that those costs are no more burdensome on average mums and dads than they need to be. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I gave a fairly severe warning, and it applies to the Minister who is at the moment answering questions.
Grant Robertson: In light of her own statement that she has had no push-back from lawyers on phase two of the reforms, are the further delays and calls for more discussion documents the result of lobbying by the real estate industry or just that Steven Joyce does not want to upset his mates in the Koru lounge?
Hon AMY ADAMS: First of all, I suggest to that member that he should not take his information from the media. What we are doing is making sure the proposals do not impose any more costs on New Zealanders than are necessary. We are still working towards—and are on course—to having the legislation in place by the middle of next year. That has not changed, Mr Robertson.
Building and Construction Industry, Auckland—Growth
9. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Can he confirm the latest reports on building activity in Auckland show an increase from $5.3 billion to $7.2 billion over the last year, or 36 percent?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): Yes. This growth in building activity of 36 percent in 1 year is the fastest growth rate recorded by Statistics New Zealand in building activity in 30 years, and nor has there been in Auckland 5 straight years of increased building activity. The $7.2 billion of building activity in Auckland per annum is also the highest ever and almost double that of the last peak in 2004. These statistics confirm that Auckland is experiencing the longest and strongest building boom ever.
Jami-Lee Ross: What additional steps is the Government taking to address the long-term causes of insufficient supply of housing and the resulting high prices?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yesterday the Government adopted the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, which puts a new legal requirement on councils to ensure they free up sufficient land to match growth. Its significance in respect of house prices is that all the substantive analysis shows that it is the price of the land that is at the core of housing unaffordability, and that councils’ policies to restrict land supply have severely impacted on housing costs while benefiting existing homeowners and providing massive gains to those owning land inside the artificially prescribed urban boundaries. The national policy statement has been developed in just 9 months, as compared to every other national policy statement, which has taken over 3 years. It comes into legal effect on 1 December.
Jami-Lee Ross: Is the Minister concerned, given the rapid growth in building activity, about the quality of building work and materials; if so, what steps is he taking to ensure New Zealand gets both quantity and quality?
Mr SPEAKER: Either of those two supplementary questions—the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I think quality is a challenge when we have got a sector that is growing so quickly. The first step the Government took was to require all building work associated with structural integrity or weathertightness to be done by a licensed building practitioner. Last year we introduced a requirement that all building work over $30,000 had to have a written contract. This year I have announced 32 changes to the building code’s acceptable solutions and verification methods. The latest of those come into effect in an announcement today in respect of reinforcing steel mesh.
Solid Energy—Financial Position
10. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: What was Solid Energy’s indebtedness (excluding performance bonds) in dollars and as a percentage of assets in December 2008 and December 2012?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister for State Owned Enterprises): In December 2008, Solid Energy’s indebtedness excluding performance bonds was $31 million, or 5 percent of asset value; in December 2012, Solid Energy’s indebtedness excluding performance bonds was $375 million, or 41.6 percent of asset value. Solid Energy made investment decisions and incurred debt at a time when international coal prices were at record levels. Coal prices subsequently collapsed, as we know, from US$320 per tonne in 2011 to US$85 per tonne just a couple of years later. The falling international coal price meant there was no prospect of Solid Energy being in a position to repay or finance its bank debt.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not hear the percentage for December 2008.
Mr SPEAKER: It was 5 percent.
Hon David Parker: Five percent—thank you. I seek leave to table the letter from the Minister for State Owned Enterprises to the chair of Solid Energy in May 2009 requesting Solid Energy to increase indebtedness—
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: You tabled it last year.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just need to check, because I think it may well have been tabled by the member earlier. Has he tabled it once before?
Hon David Parker: I have not. It was a long time ago.
Mr SPEAKER: On that basis I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon David Parker: Does he still think it was prudent for the National Government to encourage higher dividends and to increase Solid Energy’s debt by hundreds of millions of dollars?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not recall that letter saying, actually, that they should increase their dividends. But in any event, successive Ministers for State Owned Enterprises—including in a Government not too far from here, according to the Opposition—would make requests of state-owned enterprises to manage their balance sheets well and return surplus capital to the Crown. I do not think the then Minister for State Owned Enterprises was any different from any others.
Hon David Parker: Why did the National Government then reject the warning from John Palmer, then chair of Solid Energy, that the higher debt levels the Government asked for were imprudent for companies like Solid Energy that are exposed to coal commodity price cycles?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This is a path we have travelled down a number of times before. In fact, if you go back to 2013 and look at Hansard, the then Minister reminded the House that Mr Palmer, the then chair, made it clear that the dividend decisions are made by the board. The board takes responsibility for those dividend decisions, and boards are asked to consider their debt and dividend policies, as Mr Mallard, then State-owned enterprises Minister, did in both 2006 and 2008.
Hon David Parker: What are the total losses suffered by shareholders and lenders to Solid Energy, to the nearest $100 million?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have that figure to hand, but I can tell the member that, unfortunately, Solid Energy is in the company of many, many, many international coal companies. I have to hand—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —for example, an article that says—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am just helping.
Mr SPEAKER: I know, and I appreciate that, but a point of order has been raised.
Hon David Parker: I know that the Minister is answering on behalf of another Minister, but given that Solid Energy is in liquidation and has now sold its assets, I would expect the Minister to be prepared to answer, within $100 million, what the losses were—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. The Minister answered straight away that he did not have that information. I was giving him time then to expand on that. I am the sole judge as to the length of the answer, not the person who asked the question, who may be dissatisfied with the answer that he has been given. Does the Minister wish to complete his answer?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes. [Interruption]
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I was pointing out to the member, unfortunately this hit a huge number of coal companies worldwide, including the top four US companies that lost 99.9 percent of their value since the collapse in coal prices.
Hon David Parker: Which has been the greater example of inept mismanagement by his Government: driving Solid Energy into the ground, losing over a billion dollars of value; the fire sale of the power company shares at billions of dollars below current values; bungling the finance company Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme, costing hundreds of millions of dollars extra; or freezing contributions to the Cullen fund, costing $10 billion of losses?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, the member is probably still sad about losing that 2008 election by that list of decisions he claims the Government has made since then. This Government stands by its very strong economic and financial management record, as do the people of New Zealand, apparently. And I might suggest that, if the member is that angry and disappointed, he joins Mr Cunliffe in heading for the exit.
Business Growth Agenda—Support for Small Business
11. CHRIS BISHOP (National) to the Minister for Small Business: What initiatives has the Government implemented through the Business Growth Agenda that assist small business?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Small Business): Through the Business Growth Agenda this Government is working to create a competitive and productive economy to support small businesses. Initiatives include the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband and the Rural Broadband Initiative, assisting small businesses by making it easier to pay provisional tax, assisting small businesses in their engagement with the Government through the New Zealand Business Number, and assisting small businesses to employ and keep staff through the 90-day trial. A recent survey from Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) showed that 63 percent of those businesses want to retain the 90-day trial for new employees. It is because of initiatives such as these that 57 percent of all small businesses say they are more likely to succeed under this Government.
Chris Bishop: What other initiatives are contributing towards the ease of doing business?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Through initiatives such as the 23 small-business roadshows—including the roadshow in Pētone, which that member attended—this Government is informing small businesses about the tools, resources, and support available to them for greater opportunities to assist in their businesses. The business.govt.nz website has numerous free online tools to assist small businesses, such as the Employment Agreement Builder. The site also has valuable information to support 20 milestones that small businesses may face. This means less time working on contracts and Government compliance and more time working on their business.
Chris Bishop: How are these initiatives contributing to increasing confidence from small businesses in the New Zealand economy?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The initiatives I have outlined contribute to an increase in confidence amongst small businesses across the New Zealand economy. That recent MYOB survey of more 1,000 small to medium business enterprises reveals that an increasing number of small and medium enterprises are experiencing improved trading conditions. Forty-two percent of business owners expect their revenue to increase in the next year on the back of a strong and growing economy. A strong and growing economy, combined with the policies of this Government, supports small businesses, which is, no doubt, why 57 percent of them believe they will succeed more under this Government. Small businesses do not want higher taxes, they want to keep the 90-day trial, and they do not want new water taxes. This is no doubt contributing to why only 10 percent of small businesses believe they will succeed under Labour.
12. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Ron Mark: Does he stand by his immigration statement in July, when he said “We’re going to stick with the plan we’ve got.”; if so, how is that plan working, given the weekly fraud reports coming out of New Zealand’s Mumbai immigration office?
Mr SPEAKER: Either of those two supplementary questions—the Right Honourable Prime Minister
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, then, yes. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Every—[Interruption] Order! Every member has a right to ask a supplementary question.
Fletcher Tabuteau: They have made my day, Mr Speaker! [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Fletcher Tabuteau: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that “if we have to give more, then we would expect to get more”; if so, has he forgotten his horrible record of overpromising and not delivering, like the 10 bridges in Northland, the Pūhoi to Warkworth highway, and the ultra-fast broadband in those areas?
Mr SPEAKER: Again, either of those two supplementary questions—the Right Honourable Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, yes. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do need some—[Interruption] Order! I need some cooperation, particularly from one member whom I am looking at towards my right.
Denis O’Rourke: Is he as “highly disappointed” with Gerry Brownlee as he was with another person who misbehaved at Christchurch Airport when Mr Brownlee illegally entered a secure area, then gave untruthful reasons, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, of why he did so, and cost taxpayers $43,000 for the investigation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: They are very, very, very different events. It would just be wholly inappropriate for me to comment on either of them in any great depth. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Denis O’Rourke: If he has a “comprehensive housing strategy”, why are consents in Auckland lagging thousands behind what is needed, and why are code compliance certificates not counted to show just how few houses are actually being built?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member really needs to direct those sorts of detailed questions to the Minister for Building and Housing, but what I can say is we can see from the most recent data that consent numbers are up. As we can see from today’s announcement in relation to house prices in Auckland, they seem to at least be cooling a bit, although let us see what happens over the medium term. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Ria Bond: How can he expect “higher standards of his Ministers” when his Minister of Health’s underfunding has led to 30 patients at the Southern District Health Board suffering sight loss in 2015-16 because of unacceptable delays?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not accept the proposition that that is the case in health funding, at all. You saw the largest amount of money going into health funding in the history of New Zealand in Budget 2016. Can I also say to the member that I thank her and her colleagues for their questions today. I now feel I know the New Zealand First caucus better than Winston Peters does. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that in the situation that we are in there might be some interjection. I just would ask you to reflect on the way in which you are dealing with that versus the way in which you have dealt with some other interjections. I am not saying you were wrong to deal with them on this side, but were we doing that, I wonder what you might have done.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a fair point, but we are witnessing a tactic that we do not see every day in the House, and it is certainly causing some commotion. I am dealing with it to the best of my ability. I can assure the member that there are two or three people I have in my sight. If they continue to cause me trouble and I can identify them as causing that trouble, they will get very similar treatment to Mr Iain Lees-Galloway, or worse.
Tracey Martin: Does he stand by his statement that Steven Joyce is “doing an excellent job of improving results in the tertiary sector”, given his failure to act on complaints about fraudulent qualifications at the International Academy of New Zealand in 2014, and given he is currently ignoring similar complaints regarding another high-profile tertiary institution also in Auckland that was lodged with that Minister in May 2016?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do stand by the view that Steven Joyce is doing an outstanding job. The only complaint I hear is one from a car somewhere—goodness knows where—in New Zealand of Winston Peters screaming out: “Why is it taking six of them to have a go and none of them can land a single blow?”. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Tracey Martin: Point of order. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.
Tracey Martin: Sorry, Mr Speaker, just to clarify: the question was whether he stood by his statement around the tertiary education, skills and employment Minister. What relevance did the second part—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. If the member is arguing that the question was not addressed, it was very clearly addressed. Richard Prosser, do you want to proceed with the supplementary question? [Interruption] Order! Mr Brownlee, I need to ask for your cooperation completely between now and the end of question time.
Richard Prosser: How can the liquidation sale of Solid Energy’s assets be “good news”, given the price of coking coal has doubled this year and taxpayers’ assets worth $3 billion only 7 years ago have had to be sold at receivership prices, partly to overseas interests?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is, of course, relative to what Solid Energy thought it would get for the assets, which was a much lower number. I certainly hope that member has not hogged the question so that Barbara Stewart is not going to get a go. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Ron Mark: I am glad that they recognise an impact off the benches. It is something they lack themselves.
Mr SPEAKER: Can we have the supplementary question, otherwise I will move on.
Ron Mark: Absolutely. You can, Mr Speaker. Supplementary question to the Prime Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: If the member wants to ask—
Ron Mark: I know they do not—they rarely see talent.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The tactic has been tried. The members can judge for themselves how successful it has been. If the member wants to ask his supplementary question, then get to his feet, ask it, and no further interjection.
Ron Mark: How can he say: “Law and order is an area that the Government cares a lot about.”, when crime statistics to the year ending September 2016 show an increase in assaults, an increase in abductions, an increase in sexual assault, an increase in robbery, an increase in extortion, increases in burglary offences—
Mr SPEAKER: Bring the question to a conclusion.
Ron Mark: —just as we have long projected there would be, all under his leadership?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would stand by that statement, because overall crime has reduced since 2011—15 percent, although I acknowledge it is up 1.4 percent in the last 12 months, and thank goodness Steve Hansen’s policy of taking Beauden Barrett off the bench is a lot more successful than New Zealand First’s. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your ruling, and you may wish to take some time about this: what does it take to get a National Party MP put on a final warning?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is quite a serious, direct criticism of the Chair. If the member wishes to criticise the Chair, there is a way to do it. It is not that way.