Questions and Answers – August 26

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister of Finance : How is the Governments fiscal strategy supporting resilience in the New Zealand economy?
Questions to Ministers

Economy—Fiscal Strategy

1. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister of Finance : How is the Government’s fiscal strategy supporting resilience in the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): It was important to support the economy during the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes, and during that period the Government ran up considerable debt, but following these events we have worked hard to turn the Government’s finances round. The latest forecasts are that Government debt will plateau at about 26 percent of GDP before falling to 20 percent of GDP by 2020. This compares with current net debt levels of around 20 percent in Australia, 38 percent in Canada, and 80 percent in the UK and the US. The Government aims to get on top of debt so that we are in a position to respond to any significant economic shocks in the future.

Nuk Korako : How does the New Zealand’s macroeconomic resilience compare internationally?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Using information from the OECD, Treasury has collated a list of countries that have the following features of macroeconomic resilience: a broadly balanced Government Budget, net debt that is less than 40 percent of GDP, economic growth that is greater than 1.5 percent, and scope to further cut interest rates. New Zealand meets all of these criteria, and, in fact, there are only four other OECD countries that meet those criteria: Australia, Norway, Iceland, and South Korea. So this illustrates that New Zealand is in a good position to deal with any turbulence in the global economy.

Nuk Korako : How does the Government’s fiscal strategy affect inflation, interest rates, and the exchange rate?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Responsible fiscal management can reduce inflationary pressure. It gives the Reserve Bank more scope to cut interest rates, which supports businesses to invest and helps families with their mortgages. Lower interest rates can also influence a lower exchange rate, and that has certainly happened in the last 6 months or so in New Zealand. Low inflation, lower interest rates, and a lower exchange rate right now are helping to support moderate, sustained growth of around 2 to 2.5 percent.

Nuk Korako : How does sustained, moderate economic growth translate into more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealand families? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! There were a number of complaints into my office about the level of interjection and noise yesterday. Yesterday it was coming from all sides of the House. To date there has been a strong level of interjection from my left, which must not continue. I invite the member to ask that third supplementary question again.

Nuk Korako : How does sustained, moderate economic growth translate into more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealand families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Although there has been a great deal of interest in fluctuations in international financial markets, New Zealand remains on track for moderate economic growth. There have been 69,000 more jobs created in the last year—200,000 since early 2011. The average wage is now $57,000, up $10,000 since 2008 and up 3.2 percent over the last year. That is against a background of inflation of 0.3 percent. The Business Growth Agenda also offers a wide range of initiatives designed to support businesses to invest further and hire more people.

Grant Robertson : Is it correct that every forecast of the economy released in the last few months means that he will fail to even reach the downside scenario of the Budget in terms of growth, unemployment, and debt?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : No, not necessarily. What is pretty important is that the right adjustments are occurring in the economy, so growth is a bit softer. But lower interest rates and a significantly lower exchange rate are likely to support moderate and sustained growth, and we will get an update in December on Treasury’s view of it, and an update on the Reserve Bank’s view several times before then.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : If things are going so fine, why does he have to get up every day in this House and try to tell us how well things are happening and going—and if it was happening it would be obvious without him every day trying to defend the situation?

Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Bill English—the first part of that question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : It is because I am so concerned for the welfare of Opposition party members, who look panicked, crisis-driven, and deeply anxious about this economy. I am pleased to see the member is looking a bit more relaxed this week than last week as a result of the Government’s assurances.

Housing New Zealand Corporation, Minister—Confidence

2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he have confidence in the Minister responsible for Housing New Zealand Corporation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Andrew Little : Did the State house he grew up in have mould and leaks, and is it OK for kids today to live in mouldy, leaky, cold State houses because of lack of maintenance?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, not from memory. Obviously, the house would have been much more modern back then, given it was so many decades ago. But also I will say that my mother took absolute pride in making sure that she kept the house clean, tidy, and ventilated. But what I can say is that this Government is proud of the fact that it is spending $300 million a year improving the mess we inherited from Labour. Its own house was never in order. It is not in order at the moment. No wonder we inherited—

Mr SPEAKER : Order!

Andrew Little : Given that it would take only $35 million to get every State house up to standard and he is taking nearly $100 million a year in dividends from Housing New Zealand, why does he not let Housing New Zealand keep its dividends until it gets all of its houses fixed?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government may well take a dividend from Housing New Zealand—as it should, in fact, because it spends $300 million a year maintaining and upgrading. The Minister for Social Housing was on the radio very recently talking about just how many homes have had improvements over the last very short period of time.

Andrew Little : Given that the average State house needs just $600 of repairs and he is pocketing $1,500 in profit per State house each year, will he promise here and now to suspend dividends and fix all the houses immediately?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The advice I have is that the average spend on repairs of a home is $10,000, actually. In some cases it is $20,000. The Government spends $300 million a year but indeed all that demonstrates is that the Leader of the Opposition is not very good with numbers—but maybe Jacinda Ardern is better with numbers these days.

Mr SPEAKER : Order! That will not help the order of the House.

Andrew Little : How many more kids in State houses in New Zealand have to wind up in hospital seriously ill before he takes their issues seriously and makes sure that they have the same right that he had to a safe, warm, dry State house?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It would be easier to take the member seriously if what Labour did when in Government was actually maintain the houses. But, in fact, not only did it not do that; it let them run down. Here are the facts: through Warm Up New Zealand we have insulated 280,000 old, cold, damp homes, which were never insulated under a Labour Government, and of which 48,000 were State houses. We spent $30 million providing heating at about 10,000 properties, and we have installed thermal curtains in 17,000 hot homes since February 2013. It is a joke for the Labour Party members to come here and talk about this. They ran the housing stock down. They should hang their heads in shame—that is what they should do.

Andrew Little : I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library showing that Labour took, over its time in Government, $281 million in dividends and spent $758 million in capital contributions compared with this Government’s $636 million in dividends and $132 million—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document has been well and truly described. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular document prepared by the Parliamentary Library. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.

Andrew Little : Where is the moral compass of his Government; and how can he possibly justify continuing to profit off State houses while kids like Iriah Marama and Emma-Lita Bourne are getting sick and dying?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Where is the moral compass of an Opposition that just failed to upgrade and maintain houses? They were a mess under the Labour Government. They were a disgrace, and this Government has actually had to fix them up. It is the same old story all the time with Labour: hopeless in Government; roaring like lions in Opposition.

Andrew Little : How can a man who grew up in a State house be OK with making a profit off our poorest families while they live in conditions that are killing their kids and making them seriously ill?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government does not make a profit out of Housing New Zealand. It spends $700 million on income-related rents. It spends $300 million maintaining them. I am advised by the Minister responsible for HNZC that the previous Labour Government suspended the maintenance on those properties to build more properties. Labour let those houses run down, it let those tenants get sick, and now in Opposition it wants to pass the buck to someone else. It is a disgrace, Mr Little. It is a disgrace.

Health System—Reports

3. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Health : What reports has he received on New Zealand’s health system?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Many reports have crossed my desk recently on the improved performance of our health system under National, whether it is the 50,000 extra elective surgery operations we are doing every year or the 400,000 extra kids who now have free access to GP visits. I have received another upbeat report published in the Southland Times yesterday, which says: “overall the health system [is] working well … ‘We do have a good health system’ ”. Those are the words of Mrs A King of Rongotai, and I want to thank her for her positive endorsement of the Government’s performance in health.

Hon Annette King : In light of that answer—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I am just waiting for a bit of quiet. I have called the Hon Annette King.

Hon Annette King : Thank you, Mr Speaker. In light of that answer, would the Minister like to complete the quote that I made, which said that the health system is “creaking around the edges” and does demand some action?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Actually, that is not what I believe the member said, but I thank her for her positive endorsement. It is great to have her on board with “team health New Zealand”—thank you very much.

Simon O’Connor : What other reports has he seen supporting Mrs King’s view that we “have a good health system”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Yesterday I released the latest quarterly report on the health targets. They showed that the primary care target to help smokers to quit was met for the first time, with a national result of 95 percent. In addition, all district health boards met the improved access to elective surgery target and delivered 10,614 more elective surgical discharges than planned. The Government is committed to delivering year-on-year increases in elective surgery. These results are a fantastic achievement that is improving patients’ experience of the health system.

Hon Annette King : Did he also know that at the public meeting, where there was standing room only, I also said that the health budget is missing $1.7 billion since this Government was elected 7 years ago and that there are many people in Southland-Otago dying of bowel cancer because he will not roll out a bowel cancer screening programme to the southern part of New Zealand—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Bring the question to an end.

Hon Annette King : —where the highest death rate and incidence are? Did he also hear—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Bring the question to an end.

Hon Annette King : Oh, I have got plenty more.

Mr SPEAKER : No. The member has had her opportunity.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : Of course, we all know that it is completely untrue that there is $1.7 billion missing from the health budget. We actually put in $400 million more last year. I think it is time Mrs King became more positive inside the House, because she has actually been quite positive when she goes around and speaks to people around the country about our record.

Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether, in due course, you could give some further consideration to a situation where the Government used a Government question in order to attack an Opposition member of Parliament, which, of course—

Hon Members : Aw!

Chris Hipkins : —hang on, hear the point of order; I think you should hear the point of order—there are Speakers’ rulings against. There are two ways that the Opposition can approach that. One is that we can raise points of order with you about it. The other is that we can join in and have members asking supplementary questions on that, but I think that involves a little bit of give and take from you as Speaker as well in allowing the Opposition, effectively, a chance to respond in the form of a question without being cut off.

Hon Simon Bridges : It was hardly right to say that the question was attacking when, indeed, it was praising the Hon Annette King for her positive comments about the New Zealand health system.

Mr SPEAKER : No, I do not need any assistance from the member. This is question time. The principal purpose is to hold the Government to account, but inevitably there will be political debate around questions and answers. That has happened for as long as I have been in this House and it will have happened for as long as Mr Hipkins has been in the House. In that particular exchange I did note there was one supplementary question from the Government. There were two very good supplementary questions from the Hon Annette King, who certainly had her chance to respond to the answers that were given.

Prime Minister—Policies

4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all of his Government’s policies?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Metiria Turei : Does the Prime Minister stand by his Government’s decision to not introduce a comprehensive warrant of fitness for rental properties in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister work with us in the Green Party to implement a comprehensive warrant of fitness for rental housing, given the research that shows that 1,600 New Zealanders die from housing-related illnesses every winter.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No.

Metiria Turei : What more information does the Prime Minister need to help him move his decision and to introduce a comprehensive rental warrant of fitness, if not the 1,600 extra deaths each winter from housing-related illnesses, if not the deaths of Emma-Lita Bourne or Soesa Tovo—

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

Metiria Turei : —or the thousands of other illnesses and hospitalisations that Kiwi children suffer?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : From the Greens, none.

Metiria Turei : Will the Prime Minister meet with the families of Emma-Lita Bourne, Soesa Tovo, and Iriah Marama and explain to them that their deaths and illnesses are acceptable to him and his Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am more than happy for the Government to continue to correspond with the families about the steps that the Government has taken, including the $300 million a year that we are spending, including what we have done in terms of insulation of State houses, putting in heating devices, and the variety of other things we do. I am actually quite proud of this Government’s record of tidying up the mess that we inherited from Labour.

Metiria Turei : Is the Prime Minister saying to New Zealanders that he thinks that it is perfectly fair that some New Zealanders will live in warm, dry homes while thousands of others will live in cold, damp, and mouldy homes that make them unsafe, or even lead to their deaths, and he will do that—he thinks that it is fair—because he does not want to work with the Greens?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Not wanting to work with the Greens has got nothing to do with the issue; that is a longstanding position. In relation to the homes, we have insulated 280,000 homes under our watch—48,000 State houses. We have spent $30 million providing heating and housing. We have installed thermal curtains in 17,000 homes since February 2013. We are spending $300 million a year maintaining houses. I would strongly suggest that we are probably doing more to improve the stock of housing than has ever occurred under any Government in New Zealand’s history, and I am quite proud of that fact.

Metiria Turei : Has the Prime Minister forgotten that the considerable success of the home insulation scheme arose out of an agreement between the National Government and the Green Party to insulate those 300,000 homes; and how many more New Zealanders does he believe it will take to get ill, be hospitalised, and die before he will introduce a comprehensive warrant of fitness for rentals, which—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. She had now asked, effectively, two questions, and is still going on. I will allow the Prime Minister to answer.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : In relation to providing improved standards for housing—for want of a better term, a warrant of fitness—the Government is moving in that area, as the member is aware. There are a number of important steps that we can take, and the Government has prioritised important areas like insulation. We are also conscious of the fact that if there was to be a standardised warrant of fitness across every house, there would almost certainly be very increased costs for those who have to rent those properties. And then I am sure the member would be back in the House telling us that we were responsible for rents going up.

Clayton Mitchell : Was it his intention under National’s Health and Safety Reform Bill to make paid school sports coaches and teachers legally culpable if children are injured or worse?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : We reject that proposition. I can assure the member that any time that he wants to play bar-the-door with Winston Peters, he is free to do it, but do not catch him or he will sulk.

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

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The Rt Hon Winston Peters has a right to raise a point of order, and I wish to hear it in silence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters : That is another unwarranted attack, which is going to lead to disorder. I know he has got an envy complex, but that will not solve it.

Mr SPEAKER : It is—[Interruption] Order! I will hear from the Rt Hon Prime Minister.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I was simply referring to the comments I have seen by the Rt Hon Winston Peters himself that he was as quick as lightning back in those days of his rugby career—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! This will not help the order of the House. The Rt Hon Winston Peters actually raised a reasonable point that it is not necessary to continue to attack the New Zealand First Party in the answers that are given by the Prime Minister.


5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Does he agree with First NZ Capital that there is a 25 to 30 percent chance of New Zealand going into a recession in the next 12 months?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No, consistent advice from officials and elsewhere suggests the economy can be expected to grow at an annual rate of between 2 and 2.5 percent in the year ahead. That is not to discount that there are downside risks in the international economy, and there has been some significant turbulence affecting global markets recently, which if, for instance, it continued or worsened, would have some impact on our growth prospects. But, of course, the member could be cheered up by the fact that, for instance, today export figures show that exports in July this year are around 14 percent higher in New Zealand dollar values than they were in July 12 months ago. So there is some indication the economy is responding.

Grant Robertson : Is it correct that per capita GDP growth was negative in the March quarter?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I cannot confirm whether that is the case, but it is possible because we have a record high inflow of migrants, particularly from Australia—for the first time in a generation, a net inflow from Australia—and it is possible that because of the very large number of people turning up in New Zealand and turning up to the labour market, per capita GDP growth may be temporarily negative.

Grant Robertson : Does he think that per capita GDP growth will improve in the June quarter; if not, what would he call two quarters of negative per capita GDP growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Well, Mr Speaker—

Rt Hon John Key : A Labour Party poll result.

Hon BILL ENGLISH : It is more than two quarters negative. In fact, I think it is 42 quarters negative. In respect of the member’s question, I do not actually follow per capita GDP quarterly. It makes no real sense to follow quarterly numbers of that type, because productivity and GDP growth is a medium to longer term phenomenon and, of course, more people turning up is, to some extent, a vote of confidence in New Zealand’s future growth prospects, because when the member’s party was in charge they were leaving in their tens of thousands.

Grant Robertson : Does he not think that the fact that he has had to move in just a couple of months from arguing that the New Zealand economy had no problems at all to arguing whether or not we are heading into a recession might be a cause for him to finally be straight up with New Zealanders about the state of the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : I think that shows that the Opposition underestimates New Zealanders. New Zealanders are not waiting around for some politician to give them a verdict on the economy. They are making their own decisions in their businesses and their households and their organisations. They take account of all the information they see around them, and we back them. We think they are making good decisions, because they are adaptable and resilient people.

Grant Robertson : Does he stand by his statement on Radio New Zealand this morning that the Government’s strategy for diversification of the economy amounts to waiting for a sector to fail, and does he not think he owes New Zealanders a bit more urgency when it comes to diversification than a broken-down ambulance at the bottom of the cliff?

Hon BILL ENGLISH : Of course I stand by the statement, which is not, of course, what the member actually said. The Government has been pursuing a strategy of significant and growing investment in science and innovation. That has been important for industries that want to diversify. But I simply pointed out the obvious. If prices in one sector drop, New Zealanders do not wait around for the Opposition spokesman to tell them what to do. They shift their investment and employment to sectors that are growing, such as information and communications technology, which is growing at 10 percent a year; wine exports, which are three times what they were 10 years ago; tourism, which is burgeoning. Of course those sectors are going to attract investment and jobs.

Seafood Industry—Growth

6. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Primary Industries : How is the Government supporting growth in the seafood industry?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): The seafood industry is vital to many regional economies and directly provides around 8,000 jobs across New Zealand. The Government will continue to support the seafood industry through research and development, enabling greater market access and upholding our world-leading sustainable fisheries management system. Seafood export values have risen by around 6 percent to $1.5 billion in the year ended June 2015, and are projected to increase to almost $1.8 billion by 2019.

Ian McKelvie : What are some ways in which the Government is partnering with the seafood industry to achieve greater sustainability and value out of our fish stocks?

Hon NATHAN GUY : The Government has partnered with industry and the Precision Seafood Harvesting programme through the Primary Growth Partnership. This $48 million programme has developed a new net design that can help target the right species and the fish at the right size, more precise catches, and more sustainable use of our overall fishing stocks. Aotearoa Fisheries has recently celebrated beginning the building of six new state-of-the-art vessels, which will specifically allow the installation of this fantastic technology.

Trans-Pacific Partnership—Ratification Process

7. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Green) to the Minister of Trade : Will the New Zealand Parliament be able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement if the Government signs the TPPA; and is it Parliament or Cabinet that ratifies the TPPA?

Hon TODD McCLAY (Acting Minister of Trade): I welcome the question from the member. The Cabinet Manual and the Standing Orders set out the procedure for Parliament’s examination of international treaties, and, as with all international treaties, Parliament is not able to amend parts of a treaty. However, Parliament has significant involvement prior to ratification of an agreement. Although it is the executive that ratifies treaties, Parliament has an important role to play in the treaty examination process. The executive will only ratify a free-trade agreement after Parliament’s completion of treaty examinations.

Dr Russel Norman : So would a correct summary of the Minister’s answer be that the New Zealand Parliament is not able to modify the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement once the Government has signed it, and that it is Cabinet, not Parliament, that ratifies the treaty?

Hon TODD McCLAY : As with my first answer, the rules around this, in so far as the Cabinet Manual and the Standing Orders are concerned, are clear. But it is correct to say that no one single country can amend an agreement unilaterally and therefore not one of the 12 countries can amend the agreement, should agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership be reached. This is the same with agreements that we sign up to under the World Trade Organization and the UN. It is also important, I think, to note that for New Zealand the reason this is something that is in place is so that any hard-fought gains that we receive through that negotiation cannot be changed following agreement.

Dr Russel Norman : Does it strike him as a particularly democratic process when the elected members of the House of Representatives have no ability to influence the negotiation because it is done in secret, elected MPs cannot modify the agreement once it has been signed in secret by the Government, and nor does Parliament have any decisive say over whether New Zealand ratifies the agreement?

Hon TODD McCLAY : It strikes me that this is the same procedure that has been followed for a number of agreements that have gone through this Parliament—indeed, it is the same procedure that took place in the China free-trade agreement, the Hong Kong agreement, and, most recently, the Korean agreement. But I would say, as has been publicly stated, that if the Trans-Pacific Partnership is agreed, we are likely to see a different procedure in the way that it is followed through in this Parliament than was the case with China. It will be close to the Korean agreement, where the agreement was available prior to signing. Certainly, the parliamentary process must be finished before ratification will take place.

Dr Russel Norman : Has he seen the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s lead negotiator on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which said that all explanatory material from the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, such as briefings to Ministers, would be kept secret for 4 years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement comes into force; and will not keeping that material secret make it very difficult for ordinary New Zealanders to get their heads around the detail of the treaty, which is the size of a book and is written in—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Hon Todd McClay—either of those two supplementary questions.

Hon TODD McCLAY : The procedure that will be followed here is that the agreement will be available for the honourable member, others in this Parliament, and the public to see prior to signature. We will need to follow the same procedure that has been in place in this Parliament for all other agreements through the treaty examination procedures before ratification takes place. Our Minister of Trade is negotiating the very best deal possible for New Zealand. The Government has said that it will sign up to the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement only if it is in the best interests of New Zealand. I think the public will have plenty of time to go over the very detailed text of this agreement before that member gets to cast further doubt upon it.

Dr Russel Norman : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was specifically about the explanatory material—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I listened very carefully to the question. It was not specific enough; in fact, there were at least two questions in the question. I cannot help the member if he does not ask a concise question to get the answer that might be more satisfactory to him.

Fletcher Tabuteau : Has the Minister of Trade provided a briefing to the Minister of health and safety on the secretive, closed, and undemocratic investor-State dispute settlement clauses within the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement regarding the new, secret tribunal provisions inside legislation currently being debated in the House?

Hon TODD McCLAY : Well, there is no such Minister, and there is actually no such secret, undemocratic agreement floating out there anywhere around these issues. But I think that the Minister of Trade has been clear. In as far as the investor-State dispute settlement provisions are concerned, it is important that we negotiate a position where the New Zealand Government has the ability to pass regulation and law, and, at the same time, where we are able to protect New Zealand investors when they invest in other countries as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement where those countries may not have the same approach to democracy that we do here.

Prisons, Private Management—Mt Eden Corrections Facility

8. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Corrections : Have any cases, other than the one he mentioned in Oral Question No 7 yesterday, been identified of Mt Eden Corrections Facility guards giving sparring prisoners “coaching on their technique”?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): No.

Kelvin Davis : Why did he not personally request to see the footage of the incident mentioned yesterday, considering the seriousness of the allegations?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : Because it is not my job. I am not an investigator.

Kelvin Davis : Does he trust Serco’s word, considering that it advised him on 23 July that there were no other issues with Mt Eden prison, and since then we have seen evidence of extortion, prisoner abuse, understaffing, a meth ring, and guards giving prisoners sparring tips?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : There are clearly issues at Serco’s Mt Eden facility, and that is why I instituted a two-stage review to look into these matters.

Kelvin Davis : Can the Minister assure the public here and now that there are no more nasty surprises hiding in Serco’s Mt Eden files; if not, is it not time to cut his losses and tear up the Serco contract?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : As I said yesterday, and as I have said time and time again in this House, it is premature to make decisions as to the future of Mt Eden Corrections Facility. There is a review under way, and I suggest that that member, like me, waits for the findings of that review.

Mahesh Bindra : How many similar incidents is he aware of in the Serco-run Auckland South Corrections Facility?

Mr SPEAKER : If the member did not hear the question, I can have it repeated.

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : Look, I do not know what the incidents are that that member is asking about, but I have been assured that Wiri Prison in South Auckland is being run effectively.

Kelvin Davis : On a scale of 1 to 10, how does he rate his performance in responding to Serco’s management of Mt Eden prison, and why?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : I am doing an effective job in managing the Department of Corrections, thank you very much.

Employment, Youth—Reports

9. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Social Development : What reports has she received on Government initiatives to support young people into employment?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): I have received a report on how the South Dunedin Social Sector Trial is helping young people off benefits and into employment and training through the youth-focused drop-in centre, Youth Link. This team has helped 210 young people aged between 18 and 24 off a benefit between March and July this year, with 170 going into work and 40 into study. This is excellent news for the Social Sector Trials, taking place in 16 communities around New Zealand, which see Government and communities working together to get better results for young people.

Dr David Clark : Waste of money.

Jacqui Dean : What other initiatives are helping support young people into work? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, there is just so much chatter between both sides that I could not hear the supplementary question. Could I have it again, please?

Jacqui Dean : What other initiatives are helping support young people into work?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : This Government—unlike, it sounds, the Opposition, which thinks it is all a waste of time—is absolutely committed to supporting young people to realise their potential. The June quarter numbers show the lowest number of youth—that is, 18 to 24-year-olds—on a main benefit in the last 5 years. In fact, since 2010 this number has dropped by 23 percent. As part of this work, we have introduced legislation to extend the Youth Service to more young people to provide intensive support to those at risk of long-term benefit receipt. Budget 2015 is funding 800 placements a year in the Limited Service Volunteer scheme, and we are also extending the 3K to Christchurch scheme to support more people moving to where there is employment.

Social Development, Minister—Statements

10. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development : Does she stand by all her statements?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes, if taken in context.

Darroch Ball : Does she stand by her statement she made in reference to the Defence Force’s youth Limited Service Volunteer scheme funding that “We have reduced that because, of course, the numbers of young people as we have come through the global financial crisis have reduced.”?


Darroch Ball : Why is the Minister quoting falling youth unemployment, which currently sits at 64,000, as a reason to reduce funding to the Limited Service Volunteer scheme, when in 2010 her ministry is quoted as using the exact same youth unemployment figure of 64,000 as a reason to actually increase the funding to the scheme?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Because the number of young people on a benefit has fallen as the economy has recovered from the global financial crisis. I have just quoted to the member in the answer to the previous question, which I will repeat again, that the numbers have dropped by 23 percent of those young people who were receiving a main benefit in 2010. The important thing with the Limited Service Volunteer scheme is that we get the right young people going through that scheme and work with employers to make sure that they are able to go into work or work preparation at the conclusion of that scheme.

Darroch Ball : I seek leave to table a document that was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, which shows the 2010 quarter one unemployment at 64,000 and quarter one 2015—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Such figures are published on a regular basis by Statistics New Zealand.

Darroch Ball : What other reports, including any Treasury reports, that were not included in her Official Information Act response to me have made her go against her own ministry’s advice recommending funding for 1,200 places and instead cut funding to 800 places—or were there no reports and she just wants to cut costs?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : As I have just said, we have seen a reduction in the number of young people on a main benefit—

Darroch Ball : What reports?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Well, those are published on a quarterly basis. The member can see them on the website any old day; he does not need to actually have an Official Information Act request. I suggest that he does a bit of homework and go in and look on the Ministry of Social Development website.

Darroch Ball : How can she justify reducing the funding when in 2014, of the over 1,300 Limited Service Volunteers trainees, 80 percent graduated from the course and 60 percent moved into employment and training, compared with her ultimate Youth Guarantee scheme, where just 60 percent—and, in 2013, just 52 percent—graduated with National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, of which a portion never moved into any employment at all?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : As I have said, the important thing with those young people going through the Limited Service Volunteers scheme is to ensure that at the end of that they are able to go into employment or into employment preparation. We have been working very hard with employers to make sure that that is a good transition from that scheme. That means that we have to be very careful about the young people whom we actually put on to that scheme, because if they fail in that it can set them back quite considerably in the process.

Accelerated Auckland Roading Programme—Progress

11. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Transport : What recent reports has he received on progress on the Government’s Accelerated Auckland roading programme?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Last week the New Zealand Transport Agency started consultation on planned improvements to Auckland’s Northern Motorway on the North Shore, which is the northernmost link of Auckland’s western ring route. Once completed, the improvements will provide a direct, continuous motorway connection between Albany in the north and Manukau in the south, and an alternative motorway route through Auckland. The project will also improve access in and out, and around Albany, and provide support for the significant growth of housing and employment expected in the Albany area as well as other future housing areas in north-west Auckland. It is great to be delivering for our biggest city.

Alfred Ngaro : How will the Northern Motorway improvement project support increased use of public transport as well as cycling and walking?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES : The project is currently looking at an extension of the successful Northern Busway, reflecting the Government’s commitment to improve public transport, as I say, in our biggest city. The proposal would see the current dedicated busway, which currently ends at Constellation bus station, extended all the way through Albany bus station, improving journey time reliability and time savings for passengers on express services. I am also really pleased to see that the project plans include more than 5 kilometres of new walking and cycling paths, making it easier for many to commute by bike or on foot.

Historic Claims Team—Claims

12. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development : How many people who have made claims with the Historic Claims Team are still waiting for a response from the Ministry of Social Development, and of those, what is the longest period a claimant has waited?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): The policy is that every person who makes a claim to the historical claims unit receives a response from a member of the historical claims team in the form a phone call, face-to-face meeting, a letter of acknowledgment, or a combination of these. When claimants are legally represented, communications are directed by their legal representative. I am advised by the Ministry of Social Development that it is not aware of anyone who has not received a response. However, if the member has any names, I am very happy to look into it.

Jacinda Ardern : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question was on notice and asked for the longest period that a claimant has waited. The Minister did not respond to that.

Mr SPEAKER : This is a very fair point that has been raised. It is a very specific question. How many people have made the claims, is the first part, and that has not been addressed. Is the Minister able to give us that answer?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : The question was how many people who have made claims are still waiting for a response, and what is the longest period that they have waited? My answer is—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! I apologise. I accept that the question has been addressed by the Minister.

Jacinda Ardern : How can she claim that she is not aware of any claimants who are still waiting to hear a response, when in answers to written questions she herself stated that there were more than 200 claimants who had not received a response from the ministry?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I would have to have a look at the exact details of the question that was asked in order to make sure, because this was a question on written notice. I have checked with the ministry today, and it is not aware of any claimant who has not had that first response from the ministry.

Jacinda Ardern : Why has anyone with legal representation explicitly not been allowed to have their case fast tracked by the historical claims team?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Well, it is not a matter of not being allowed. What we have done is we have developed the fast-track approach and divided it into two tranches. The first tranche is almost complete, and we have had 82 percent of those claimants—fortunately, because it is a very long process—take up the response. The second tranche, which is just due to go out now, is those who have legal representation. Of course, the difference is that you cannot deal directly with those claimants; you have to go through their legal representative and follow due process. So that is why they were in a separate tranche, and that process is happening now.

Jacinda Ardern : Why is the gentleman who was sexually abused by a staff member at Epuni Boys’ Home—like many others—and placed in the Porirua psychiatric hospital at just 13 for an entire year, and who attempted suicide at 15 and his punishment was to be sent to a boys’ training centre, not being fast tracked when he lodged his case more than 10 years ago and is still waiting?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : There are a number of claimants who lodged their claims prior to the historical claims unique process starting. [Interruption] I am not sure whether they want an answer.

Jacinda Ardern : In light of these historical claims—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The two front—[Interruption] Order!

Jacinda Ardern : In light of these historical claims, can she guarantee that children in care are better off, and not worse off, as a result of Child, Youth and Family intervention?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY : I think it is important to remember that the historical claims process is dealing with the claims of people who were in State care from the 1940s to 1992. I do not think that there is a member in this House who would not apologise to anyone who was in State care and was abused during that time, and we all want to see that claims process completed and those people get the recognition for the trauma they have suffered. What we have now in process—as Minister for Social Development, I have put into process an expert panel to redesign the Child, Youth and Family system because I cannot give that guarantee that the children who are in State care today are better off.

Jacinda Ardern : I seek leave to table the written answer that said there were 247—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! Written answers are published. They are available to all members.


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