Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. PHIL TWYFORD (LabourTe Atat) to the Minister for Building and Housing : What policies were put in place at the Weymouth development to prevent houses being bought and sold by speculators given the $29 million Government grant for the project?
Questions to Ministers
Housing, Auckland—Property Speculation
1. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Housing: What policies were put in place at the Weymouth development to prevent houses being bought and sold by speculators given the $29 million Government grant for the project?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The $29 million grant was for the social housing component of this $120 million – plus mixed housing development. The contract requires that 20 percent of the 295 homes—or 59 of them—remain with registered social housing providers, and that is being met. The development is being partially funded by 105 private market sales. The first 20 of these were sold off the plans and had no conditions, so they could secure the bank finance for the community organisations to be able to fund the infrastructure and get on with the project. I am not surprised that some of those homes have subsequently been bought and sold at some increase in price, given what has occurred to Auckland house prices over the last more than year and a half.
Phil Twyford: Was the $29 million grant at Weymouth, which amounts to $100,000 per house on average, meant to enable speculators to make $130,000 in 5 weeks on the back of a Government subsidy, as reported in the media today?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member, firstly, misrepresents the facts. The particular house was bought off the plans in August 2014, actually, after being on the open market for about 10 weeks before it was sold. More than a year later when the house was completed, that purchaser who bought it at the free-market price decided to resell it. That is no different from what has occurred in Hobsonville. It is no different from what has occurred in housing developments all over the country, including many housing developments that the State funded during his time in Government.
Alfred Ngaro: Have there been any changes to the Weymouth project from what was announced in October 2013?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes. The original announcement was for 282 homes at Weymouth. The community developers now believe there will be, in fact, 295. They originally announced that the housing development would have 113 homes that would be sold openly on the market at commercial value. Actually, that number has come down to 105 because they have secured such a good price on those—i.e. there are going to be 21 more houses for social and affordable purposes than when the Government announced the project.
Phil Twyford: Why did the Government not include a clawback provision that would have seen capital gain from the sale of affordable homes within a certain period repaid to the taxpayer as a way of deterring speculation in these houses?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Because the Government is not doing the development. The Government is providing a grant for the provision of 59 social houses. If the member opposite wants to regulate the price of every house that is bought and sold in New Zealand, that is the sort of socialism he might stand for; it is not what we do.
Phil Twyford: When he titled a press release “Weymouth symbolic of Government’s housing success”, did he mean the Government’s success at having houses bought and sold by speculators subsidised by the taxpayer, given that at that point there was no provision at Weymouth to stop houses being sold on in the first 3 years?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Whether it be Hobsonville or whether it be Weymouth, there will be people who buy houses off the plans and resell them. The member might want to note that some of his colleagues are on record doing just that. People’s circumstances change. What you need to realise is that this project could be funded only by some of the houses being at private market value. It is a $120 million development. The infrastructure and other components required private sales to fund it.
Phil Twyford: Does he still think that his policy is a success, given that only 500 houses, on his account, have been built in the special housing areas, that very few of them are affordable, and that he has no policy at all to stop them being sold off to speculators for windfall profits?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The only way we could have a country where nobody was able to profit from houses would be to have the Government controlling the sale price of every house in New Zealand, and that is not this Government’s policy. I would be very surprised if it is the member’s policy. In terms of success of the policy, I would note that the latest statistics from Statistics New Zealand on the level of residential construction in Auckland, out this morning, show that since I have been the Minister the amount of residential housing work occurring in Auckland has more than doubled.
Phil Twyford: Does not this fiasco prove that his flagship policy to increase the supply of housing in Auckland is just more piecemeal tinkering, given that house prices in Auckland went up by 25 percent in the last year?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: What I would note at Weymouth is that it has been the fastest housing project that has taken place in decades in Auckland. This is a block of land that sat vacant for 9 years under Labour. I remind the member what happened to the land at Weymouth when house prices in 2004 went up by 29 percent. The land sat absolutely vacant. It has now got hundreds of houses on it.
Mt Eden Corrections Facility—Serco Contract
2. DAVID CLENDON (Green) to the Minister of Corrections: What was the average period of unlock for young people at Mt Eden Correctional Facility when it was run by Serco in June 2015 and what is the current period of unlock for them under the Department of Corrections?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): The unlock time for youth at Mt Eden Corrections Facility aged 17 and under is currently between 3½ and 5 hours per day. Serco was unable to provide a figure as at June this year within the time available.
David Clendon: What specific actions did the Department of Corrections take to ensure that the number of hours young people spent locked down in their cell was reduced after the problem was identified by the Ombudsman in April 2014?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The Department of Corrections has implemented a number of different initiatives; they include putting in place rehabilitative programmes and rehabilitation programmes for youth, and educational programmes. It is also looking at staffing requirements.
David Clendon: Why then, despite those measures, did the hours of lockdown for young people increase despite the Department of Corrections being alerted to the problem four times in 14 months between April 2014 and June 2015?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The number of hours of unlock time have increased since the step in procedure. I think that is a net positive.
David Clendon: When was the Minister first made aware of the fact that young prisoners were being kept locked down in their cells for 20 to 23 hours a day?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I get regular reports from the Ombudsman, as well as from Department of Corrections staff. I was made aware of this particular fact earlier this year.
David Clendon: Does the admission by Commissioner Burns that the Department of Corrections did not know about the 23-hour lockdown periods until the Ombudsman’s report yesterday reveal a failure in the department’s monitoring of Serco management at the Mt Eden Corrections Facility?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Certainly, monitoring is an important part of being aware of what goes on at Mt Eden prison, but it is also part of the communication between the Department of Corrections and Serco and being vigilant in contract management.
David Clendon: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did reference monitoring but I am not convinced he—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to ask his question again. It was actually very hard to hear because of some interjection on my left. Could the member ask that supplementary question again.
David Clendon: Does the admission by Commissioner Burns that the Department of Corrections did not know about the 23-hour lockdown period until the Ombudsman’s report yesterday reveal a failure in the department’s monitoring of Serco management at Mt Eden prison?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That was Miss Burns’ personal opinion, but in terms of the Department of Corrections, there is communication between the department and Serco in terms of the monitoring of Mt Eden prison.
David Clendon: Were young prisoners locked down at Mt Eden prison for 23 hours a day because Serco did not adequately staff the prison, as indicated by Commissioner Burns’ comments that despite the department’s placing 40 extra staff at that prison, it is still below strength?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That certainly is Miss Burns’ opinion of that particular case, but the step in procedure was deemed to be necessary at the time, and I am confident that the management of Mt Eden prison is currently going well.
3. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on trends in regional employment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I have seen reports of a rise in unemployment in the South Island, which is not unexpected in view of a very substantial fall in dairy prices and in coal prices. However, we need to keep this in perspective: 30,000 jobs have been added in the South Island in the last 2 years and 44,000 jobs added in the last 3 years—not all of these jobs in Canterbury. The South Island unemployment rate is 4.4 percent—the same level as it was 2 years ago, but a bit higher than it was two quarters ago when it was as low as 3.9 percent. The South Island participation rate is 70.6 percent. That is above the highest ever nationwide participation rate—that is, a greater proportion of the South Island working population is available for work than even the record high proportion across New Zealand. Four of the five regions with the lowest unemployment rates are in the South Island.
Alastair Scott: What evidence has he seen of skill shortages in some regions?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, labour markets in a number of our regions seem reasonably tight. We have seen any number of anecdotal reports of skill shortages and employers struggling to fill vacancies. For instance, in the South Island, the Clutha District Council recently ran a job fair in Dunedin because, as it said itself, the Clutha district is awash with hundreds of job vacancies, including up to 350 at a Balclutha meat processing plant—that is Finegand, the largest meat processing plant in New Zealand. So, clearly, across the regions there are some real challenges in filling the vacancies available.
Alastair Scott: What other reports has he seen on labour market trends, particularly in the public sector?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Although the Government is doing as much as it can to encourage businesses to employ more people, it is doing as much as it can to discourage the Public Service from inappropriately employing more people. I have seen a report that showed that in Wellington, public sector employment increased by 50 percent between 2001 and 2008. In the subsequent 7 years from 2008 to 2015 it has increased by a further 3.3 percent over 7 years, rather than 50 percent over 7 years.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, could the Minister tell the House by how many staff—what increase there has been in the number of staff in his department, Treasury, in the last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, I am pleased to see that the member is motivated at least about Public Service jobs, if not about everyone else’s jobs. In respect of Treasury, its headcount has grown for two reasons. One is that functions have been shifted in there from other Government departments, and there have been some new centralised functions for the whole of Government—for instance, data and analytics functions, which are housed in Treasury.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That Minister was asked “by how much?”. It is a very clear question, and he was never required to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: That is true. I can have the question repeated if the Minister wants it. It was, how much has the staff increased at Treasury?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not have the exact number.
Alastair Scott: What measures has the Government taken to increase jobs and the resilience of the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The view this Government takes is that the private sector creates jobs. The Government cannot and should not try to just make them up because unemployment might be rising a bit for the time being. We have taken many steps—in fact, hundreds of individual smaller steps—to help businesses create more jobs. For instance, we have reduced the taxes on work, which was opposed by other parties in the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: They’re still not sure about work.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is right—they are running a work commission to find out what that thing is. We have increased residential building across the country through special housing areas and have made a massive investment into infrastructure, which has enabled businesses to export more, to run more efficient businesses, and therefore to create more jobs. Finally, we have negotiated New Zealand’s biggest trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to support more jobs in the economy; the parties that are running in favour of jobs apparently are against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is completely ridiculous.
Grant Robertson: Is it correct that there are 11,000 fewer people in employment across New Zealand in this latest quarter compared to the previous one?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think those are the figures, and that is a bit of a shame because job growth has been so strong for so long, and because we had a soft economy in the first half of this year, job growth has slowed down. But probably the best hope for a lot of those unemployed people is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is supported by this Parliament. But although Labour is campaigning for jobs, it is campaigning against the free-trade agreements that enable those jobs.
Swimming Pools—Changes to Legislation
4. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Building and Housing: What evidence or research led to his decision to change pool safety legislation that has been in place in New Zealand for well over 20 years?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The evidence and research to change the pool safety legislation was contained in an announcement by the then Minister, Shane Jones, in early 2008, when he announced that a review was needed and published a substantive report. At the time, Mr Jones said that the Act was outdated, that compliance was inconsistent between councils, that Labour wanted to make the Act more flexible, and that it needed to reflect modern house design. I have difficulty disagreeing with Mr Jones.
Jacinda Ardern: Did he mislead Parliament with his estimates, provided to Parliament alongside his bill, given that this morning the Children’s Commissioner called the numbers that he has used inaccurate and stated that the net effect of the law he has drafted is likely to see an increase, and not a decrease, in the number of children who will drown?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The numbers that I have provided were in the advice provided by the ministry. The reason I have confidence that this bill will actually increase the safety of our swimming pools is that if we look at the reports of coroners, the issue is non-compliance with the current law. The reality is that many councils have no requirement for regular inspections. This bill makes two important changes: it requires councils to regularly inspect the fencing, and, secondly, it requires those who are constructing pools to actually notify the owners of their legal obligations.
Jacinda Ardern: Who is right: he and the pool industry, who want 5-yearly inspections rather than the current 3-yearly inspections, or those who have argued against his proposed changes, including Water Safety New Zealand, Plunket, Safekids, the Children’s Commissioner, and even Wellington City Council, which he claims he is trying to help?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member is incorrect. The current law does not require councils to regularly inspect pools. In fact, 30 of our current councils have advised my ministry that they have no programme for regular inspections, and that is why our view is that there should be regular inspections. There is a debate between the Local Government and Environment Committee as to whether that should be 3-yearly or 5-yearly. I would invite the select committee to hear the evidence and ensure that we have a regime that makes our pools as safe as possible.
Jacinda Ardern: How many times has he or his department met with the pool industry regarding these reforms?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I cannot advise the number of times that my ministry has met with them. I suspect that the previous Minister, Shane Jones, who announced the policy, probably did meet with the pool industry. I know that the Labour caucus in 2008 supported Mr Jones at the time.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked how many times he, as the Minister who has drafted this legislation—drafted this legislation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to invite the member to ask that question, but you also asked, as I recall the question, how many times he or his officials met, and he certainly—[Interruption] Order! He certainly answered immediately that he could not answer on behalf of his officials. If the member wants an additional supplementary question to ask the very question about how many times the Minister has met with the industry, I will give her the opportunity.
Jacinda Ardern: Can he confirm that the pool industry has lobbied his Government, which has presided over these changes over the past 7 years, to make these changes because, according to an email from Master Pool Builders, it believes it will reverse the downturn in pool construction?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Some of the key policy decisions on this issue were actually announced by Shane Jones, and I cannot comment on how many times the then Labour Government met with the industry. I can advise the member that in terms of my own position, I have met with both paediatricians and advocates for child safety, and I have also met with people in the pool industry. I just simply invite members who are concerned to let the select committee do a good job of ensuring that we have got practical law, because, for instance, I do not think it is sensible at the moment. I actually think a lockable pool cover on a spa pool is a sensible way to manage child safety, rather than the current law, which requires a fence round such an arrangement.
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for the Environment: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Yes, and particularly my statement yesterday that the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill will help address housing, it will help support job growth, and it will also help support regional development in areas like Northland.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: This quote, “Nor do we see anything in this bill that will enable us to address the huge and growing problem of iwi holding communities to ransom and effectively asking for ‘brownmail’ in order for projects to proceed.”—which unreconstructed serial flip-flopper said that?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am not going to speculate, except to say that we do need to ensure that our resource management laws ensure that those who have interests properly participate, and, equally so, that we get rid of the sort of supermarket circus. That is why we made significant changes to the Resource Management Act in 2009 to stop trade competitors.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did he yesterday mislead the House when he said—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will give the member the chance to rephrase it, but you cannot accuse a member of misleading this House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Sorry. Why did he yesterday tell the House that Resource Management Act legislation was introduced to the House on 16 December 2004 when the Hansard record shows that the House did not even sit that day?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am happy to check. What is absolutely correct is that a bill was introduced to the House in December of 2004 that provided for iwi joint management agreements, and the member and his party voted for that bill.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did he tell the House yesterday, and repeated today, that New Zealand First supported that legislation, when, if he looks at the Hansard record on 2 August 2005, it shows clearly in the Noes votes section that there were 13 votes from New Zealand First against it? Why did he tell a lie? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: My understanding is, and the Hansard record that I had checked is—here is the answer—that when that bill was introduced in December of 2004, Winston Peters and New Zealand First voted for it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has he gone from saying in 2004 that giving iwi greater powers under the Resource Management Act is “a revolutionary constitutional change” to now supporting it wholeheartedly? Has he himself been a victim of the very “brownmail” that he warned us about in 2004?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The bill that I will be introducing to the House has iwi participation agreements in it. This was in the discussion paper that my very capable colleague Amy Adams put out for public consultation in 2009. The real strength of that mechanism is that it enables iwi to identify with their council what the resource issues are in the area that they do need to be consulted about, and equally, those ones that actually add little value and just add bureaucracy to the process.
6. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What reports has he received on the contribution of international education to New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Today I released the latest New Zealand International Education Snapshot report, which shows the sector is continuing to grow strongly, with international student enrolments up by just under 12,000 in the first 8 months of this year, to a total of 104,418—that is, an increase of 13 percent. These students bring a number of benefits for New Zealand. Firstly, the economic contribution, which is worth over $2.85 billion annually and employs over 30,000 New Zealanders, and was specifically highlighted by Statistics New Zealand as a significant contributor to New Zealand’s trade surplus for the year to September. Secondly, international student alumni are great ambassadors for New Zealand when they return to their home countries. Thirdly, international education plays an important role in ensuring that New Zealand’s young students have the skills and abilities required for a successful globally connected economy.
Paul Foster-Bell: What impact is international education having across New Zealand, especially in regional New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: A particularly positive highlight is the growth in international education in regional areas as well as the main centres. Education providers in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Canterbury, and Auckland have all welcomed growth of between 15 and 18 percent, with Nelson, Taranaki, and Northland experiencing double-digit growth in enrolments. International students add vitality to regional education institutions and additional growth in retail and service sectors of regional cities and towns through their spending on tuition fees and living expenses. This strong growth is testament to the efforts of education providers nationwide to delivering excellent education and providing outstanding study experiences to both domestic and international students.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the next supplementary question, I require less interjection coming from one particular quarter to my left.
Paul Foster-Bell: How is the Government encouraging ongoing growth and increased diversity of students in the international education industry?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Last month I announced an additional investment of $2.76 million into initiatives to further boost the industry in regional New Zealand and help develop new international markets for students. Ongoing regional diversification is key to the resilience and further growth of the industry, and the funding will strengthen regional partnerships and increase the spread of students across the country. The additional funding will also focus on market diversification, exploring new partnerships in countries like Columbia and the Philippines that have the potential to become significant international education markets for New Zealand. Activity will also be stepped up in countries where New Zealand has existing educational ties, including Viet Nam and the US.
Student Achievement—National Certificate of Educational Achievement
7. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she confident that increased pass rates for NCEA reflect a genuine increase in student achievement?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, I am. If that member wants to denigrate the efforts and hard work of the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no need to answer the question with that tone. It is simply a question that was answered. If the member wants to add something that is then relevant to the question, I will accept it, but to then attack that member for asking a legitimate question will only bring disorder.
Chris Hipkins: Have any National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) markers been instructed to re-mark exam scripts to raise the number of students receiving Achieved, Merit, or Excellence grades; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Our system is robust, and as part of the integrity of the system the New Zealand Qualifications Authority looks at 100,000 student samples each year and, to ensure fairness to students, a rigorous quality assurance process sees 10 percent of exams re-marked by a senior marker. It is part of quality assuring our system.
Chris Hipkins: Is Peter Lyons of St Peter’s College in Epsom wrong when he said last week that a fellow teacher marking NCEA exams had been told by the chief examiner “to re-mark his scripts to ensure more students achieved excellent pass rates.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I cannot comment on what Peter Lyons said to the person in his staff room, but what I can tell you is that this system is about students meeting the standard, not being compared with other students. That is why we do not have a norm-referenced one. We need to know, overall, how many kids are meeting the standard. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority keeps an eye on that. But as to Mr Lyons’ personal opinions, I cannot comment.
Chris Hipkins: How can she claim that we have a standards-based system if examiners are being told to re-mark exams in order to increase the number of students achieving a particular grade?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I cannot speak to Mr Lyons’—one person’s casual conversation with another in the staffroom. What I can tell the member and this House is that the Auditor-General in 2012 carried out a review of the quality and integrity of our system and found it to be very, very good. The New Zealand Council for Educational Research carried out a similar evaluation in 2013 and found that principals have high confidence in our examination. Students are being assessed and their markers are being assessed to ensure that we have a quality system.
Chris Hipkins: Can she give an absolute assurance to the House and to parents and to students that no student’s grade has been inflated as a result of their exams being re-marked to increase the number of students who gain Achieved, gain Merit, or gain Excellence for NCEA?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I can give an absolute assurance that I am confident in the processes of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, as opposed to one columnist in a paper, which the member is relying on.
Chris Hipkins: Has the number of student results from externally assessed achievement standards decreased by over 60,000 over the past 5 years, while the number of internally assessed standards reported increased by over 150,000? If so, what evidence does she draw from to claim that increased National Certificate of Educational Achievement achievement reflects an actual increase in student achievement, not a change in the nature of the qualifications being achieved?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: To begin with, because I have trust and respect in the New Zealand teaching profession. Secondly, internal assessment does make up about 70 percent of hours, because when we moved to this approach of qualifications, it was in real time to assess learning. Examinations are at the end of the year; it used to be the case that they were at the end of 3 years. Now we have a system that allows real-time marking when the learning has been done, complemented by external examinations.
Employment and Skills Training—Government Initiatives
8. JONO NAYLOR (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made to assist job seekers to relocate for full-time employment?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yesterday I announced the expansion of the 3K to Christchurch employment initiative to other regions. The 3K to Work programme will support those at risk of long-term welfare dependence to relocate for full-time employment. Since it was introduced in 2014 more than 1,700 clients have taken advantage of the 3K to Christchurch scheme. This expansion will support an initial 500 job seekers over the next year to relocate for work, but this number could increase based on demand.
Jono Naylor: Who is eligible to receive the $3,000 under the expanded initiative?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Although this offer has open eligibility, we are focusing it on some particular groups of clients: those who are aged 18 to 24 years, those who have been in receipt of a main benefit for more than 6 months, those who are currently in a work-focused case management service, those who are Limited Service Volunteer graduates, and those who are experiencing social factors where relocation would be beneficial, such as gang affiliates and victims of family violence. By helping these clients successfully move into sustainable employment, the grant will support those who are at most risk of becoming long-term beneficiaries.
Carbon Emissions—Target Setting
9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “it makes no sense to be calling for emissions reductions on one hand, while subsidising emissions on the other”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: In the same reply I gave to the same question just the other day, yes.
Gareth Hughes: If the Government is serious about reducing fossil fuel funding, why did it give $850,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund an oil conference at Skycity?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the differences between us and the Greens is that the Greens regard petrol, diesel, and aviation fuel as evil; we regard them as a normal part of civilised society. Despite our admiration for the usefulness of fossil fuels in shaping modern life, we still campaign against large-scale subsidies on fossil fuels, and we are getting international support for that campaign, because if all countries eliminated their subsidies for fossil fuels at the pump, carbon emissions would drop by around 12 percent.
Gareth Hughes: If it was not a subsidy, what was the quarter of a million dollars of public money that his Government spent on wining and dining 11 oil executives from Shell, Anadarko, and Chevron Oil Co.?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would have to check the member’s numbers, but it is the business of this Government, as it is in most developed countries, to host business owners and operators in order to sell to those owners and operators the opportunities available in the country. It is called attracting investment, and when you attract investment, you enable new jobs. In fact, without that kind of investment, unemployment levels would be much higher than they already are. So whatever the cost of entertaining some of those offshore business owners or operators, the Government certainly does not apologise for the fact that it does cultivate interest in investment opportunities in New Zealand, including in oil and gas.
Gareth Hughes: As the world tries in Paris to keep fossil fuels in the ground, can he explain why his Government is opening up a massive half a million square kilometres of New Zealand’s waters for fossil fuel exploration?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The thing that is keeping fossil fuels in the ground is not the Paris conference; it is the very low price of oil, gas, and coal. That is what is keeping it in the ground. The market is doing a much better job than the Greens ever did, and I will believe the Greens’ views on fossil fuels when they stop flying and driving to climate change conferences.
Gareth Hughes: How can he look with a straight face at New Zealanders and say he is serious about climate change when his Government is giving oil drillers tax breaks, providing the oil industry with taxpayer-funded research, funding petroleum action plans but not clean energy action plans, appointing people with links to the oil industry to the Environmental Protection Authority and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority boards, hosting and sponsoring oil conferences, and opening more of New Zealand to oil drilling?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We look New Zealanders in the face with no problem whatsoever. It is pretty simple: we do not regard fossil fuels as evil. In fact—a bit of anecdotal evidence—a lot of people’s lives rely on them at the moment, and that will probably be the case for the foreseeable future. The Greens think these things are evil and want to stop people using them. I do not know how they can look people in New Zealand in the face and say that they want their vote at the same time as wanting to shut down their ability to fly, drive, have a job, and run a business.
Workplace Health and Safety—Health and Safety Reform Bill
10. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Does he stand by all his statements in relation to the Health and Safety Reform Bill; if so, why so?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): Yes, in the context in which they were made.
Clayton Mitchell: Does the Minister stand by his comments made during the Committee of the whole House earlier this year that removing the ability for a person conducting a business or undertaking to insure themselves against any legal culpability is appropriate; if so, why so?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Yes, to the first part of the question.
Clayton Mitchell: Is the Minister aware that some school principals have been provided with legal advice suggesting that they place their family homes into a family trust to protect themselves from the absurdity from some of this new legislation?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: No, I am not. I am sure they have had a variety of advice; not all of it was accurate. I should remind the member that, actually, the liabilities and obligations by school principals under the Health and Safety at Work Act are no different from those under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, which has been in place for 23 years.
Clayton Mitchell: Will the Minister confirm that he is working on amendments to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and whether they will include New Zealand First’s proposed amendments to delete section 29, “Insurance against fines unlawful”, to protect school principals, board members from council-controlled organisations, and other members at risk; if not, why not?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: No, I cannot confirm that at all.
11. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has the Government made on its commitment to build the Nelson Street Cycleway in Auckland?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): I am pleased to tell the member that in just the few months since the project started there has been incredible progress. In fact, this morning, alongside the Hon Nikki Kaye, it was my privilege to open this new and iconic Nelson Street Cycleway. The cycleway, which is New Zealand’s most ambitious piece of urban cycling infrastructure ever, will transform Auckland’s inner-city cycling network by offering a convenient and safe travel option to and from the city centre, particularly for people who work in the city. I am proud that the Government has delivered a world-class cycleway that will shape the way Aucklanders and visitors move around the city. It is for all ages—even the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Alfred Ngaro: What benefits will the new Nelson Street cycleway provide for the people of Auckland?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Very many. The new Nelson Street Cycleway, first and foremost, ensures that cycling will be an integral part of Auckland’s future transport network, and by making cycling safer, and therefore more attractive, it is contributing to a healthier and a more environmentally friendly set of communities in Auckland.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the plans for the motorway that is over 25 years old, which he says was built in the last year.
Mr SPEAKER: No. If members want that information, I am sure they can find it.
Mt Eden Corrections Facility—Serco’s Performance
12. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he still have confidence in Serco given that Mount Eden Corrections Facility has dropped to last place in the most recent Prison Performance Table?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): My confidence in Serco, as I have already said very often in this House, and in its management of Mt Eden Corrections Facility, will depend on the outcome of the review currently under way and the actions taken to address the issues that it raises.
Kelvin Davis: Given the new tables, does he think Serco’s earlier top rankings were real, or were they due to Serco pulling the wool over his eyes?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Those tables are based on the facts that are available at the time. May I just inform the member that when a prison fails core security it immediately falls to the bottom of the table.
Kelvin Davis: How many core security incidents occurred at Mt Eden in the year to June 2015, which caused it to drop 16 places?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Clearly, the evidence around the fight clubs caused the failure in core security. But may I add that Rimutaka Prison and Whanganui Prison failed core security for the year ended 31 December 2014. Christchurch Prison also failed the core security criteria on 31 March 2015. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am going to ask the—[Interruption] Order! Is the point of order—
Kelvin Davis: Sorry. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did ask how many core security incidents.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.
Kelvin Davis: How many core security incidents occurred at Mt Eden prison in the year to June 2015, which caused it to drop 16 places.
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The member again fails to understand how these tables work. It requires only one incident to fail core security. Clearly, it failed based on the evidence that was given to the Department of Corrections at the time, and that included evidence of fight clubs.
Mr SPEAKER: The question was: “How many incidents?”. If the Minister does not have that information, he can just simply state so. Would the Minister please address the question that has been asked.
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I do not have that information, but clearly there was one incident relating to the fight clubs at Mt Eden prison, which led to that failure.
Kelvin Davis: Does he still stand by his statement that Serco is the “highest performing prison”; if not, what does that say about his position that privately run prisons are working well in New Zealand?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I made that statement in May of 2015, based on the evidence that was—[Interruption] Yes, it was this year—[Interruption] Excuse me.
Kelvin Davis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point of order is that the question asked: does he still stand by his statement?
Mr SPEAKER: I will invite the member to clarify the question again for the Minister.
Kelvin Davis: Does he still stand by his statement that Serco is the “highest performing prison”; if not, what does that say about his position that privately run prisons are working well in New Zealand?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I have said, I stand by that statement, based on the facts that were given at the time, and I made that statement in May of 2015.
Kelvin Davis: How can not receiving a bonus of $325,000 be considered a proper punishment when its baseline is untouched and Serco is still making millions off New Zealanders?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The amount is actually $315,000. That amount is based on the contract that was signed at the time. I suggest that that member needs to understand contractual law—that you must base these sanctions on the contract that exists at the time.
Kelvin Davis: How can the public have any faith in the Department of Corrections given that it missed everything that was going on at Mt Eden until it was exposed on the 6 o’clock news?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I reject that assertion made by that member that the department missed everything, because clearly it has monitored and sought assurances from Serco and is working alongside it right now to manage Mt Eden prison.