Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-LeaderGreen) to the Minister for Social Development : Will she set specific targets for reducing child poverty; if so, what child poverty measures will she use?
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Child Poverty—Government Actions to Address and Measuring Numbers Affected
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Will she set specific targets for reducing child poverty; if so, what child poverty measures will she use?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): This Government has committed to four Better Public Services targets that will help children. They are: reducing longterm welfare dependency; increasing participation in early childhood education; increasing rates of immunisation and decreasing the incidence of rheumatic fever; and reducing the number of assaults on children. Added to that are targets related to the economy and jobs, which, of course, have a direct impact on child poverty. There are a number of measures of poverty, and the Child Poverty Monitor, which was released yesterday, itself also recognised the complexity of the issue and used a range of measures.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister answer the primary question, which is will she set specific targets for reducing child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We already have.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister tell the House what are the specific measures of the targets for reducing child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I have said, child poverty is multidimensional and there is a multi-measure approach. In fact, the Ministry of Social Development has a strong position, in that no single measure can actually properly capture the different aspects of poverty, and we therefore use the multi-measure approach. We are open and transparent in reporting that. In fact, the information that was used for the Child Poverty Monitor released yesterday used all of the information that the ministry itself reports. Those reports show that it has been on a flat line for the last 3 to 4 years, which, considering the global financial crisis that we went through, shows that we have been quite remarkable, I think, in keeping it there. But there is absolutely no doubt that we need to do more work, and that is what we are concentrating on.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that the Minister says that there are many measures of child poverty, would she care to pick one of those measures of child poverty specifically and tell us what her target is for that measure of child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It would be quite easy for me to go to the Better Public Services target of 90 percent of 8-month-olds fully immunised by December 2014, and that 90 percent of 8- month-olds nationally have completed scheduled vaccinations. Also, reducing the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds, to 1.4 cases per 100,000, is a real target that this Government has set, and has a direct impact, and, of course, it is all about child poverty.
Dr Russel Norman: Well, I appreciate the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just come to the supplementary question.
Dr Russel Norman: Well, can the Minister tell the House—aside from the targets she mentioned about immunisation and rheumatic fever, which are health targets—what is one specific child poverty target that actually addresses the measures of child poverty, as identified by the Children’s Commissioner?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member raises in his question both measures and targets. What we have are multidimensional measures because of the complexity of the issue, which we report on through Ministry of Social Development reports on household incomes, and which we saw in the report yesterday. So there is your answer on your measures. Another target that I can well and truly point to is us actually addressing the economy and making sure that we have more jobs and betterpaying jobs for New Zealanders. Unless we get that right, quite frankly, we are not doing the best by those children that need us.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister believe that she has responsibility for the rates of child poverty, and hence how does she measure the rates of child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I believe that all of us do.
Dr Russel Norman: Without an official measure of child poverty—because the Minister has failed to provide one so far—how can she possibly know whether the policies she is promoting are working or not, without some measure to determine rates of child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, as I have stated, there are a number of measures. They are reported on. The member himself can point to them and then hold the Government to account if he wishes to. Quite frankly, Australia and Canada are the same as us, and use multi-measures and do not have just one. Actually, to use just one would not actually be getting into the depth of what is a very complex issue.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister believe that Mr Mandela was right when he said that overcoming poverty is an act of justice, and hence her failure as a Minister in 5 years to overcome poverty means that one in four children are now still living in poverty, and one in 10 children are living in extreme poverty? Is that a matter of justice for those children, or are they still living with injustice?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have responsibility for the first half, but what I would say is that we actually take the care and well-being of those children incredibly seriously. We have a number of issues that we are actually addressing. It is not one simple one that will actually fix this. We have flat-lined over the last 3 years. We would like to do better than that and we will, but at the moment what we are concentrating on are the actions that they need on the ground. I can talk about the $1.5 million that has gone into KidsCan. I can talk about the food in schools that we are supporting through KickStart, to make sure that they have breakfast and lunch in schools. I can talk a lot about the microfinance scheme that we are getting up and running. I can talk about warrants of fitness for houses. I can talk about 240,000 homes that have now been warmed up. I can talk about the extra bedrooms—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
2. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What progress has the Government made with its economic programme in 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has made encouraging progress in its economic programme in 2013. The economy is building good momentum. It is generating more jobs, which lift people out of welfare dependency and out of poverty. It is generating higher incomes and more opportunities. In the 12 months to June the economy grew by a relatively strong 2.5 percent. Updated figures for the September quarter will be issued next week, and forecasters expect the annual growth rate to improve further in the second half of 2013. The growth in the economy is now broad-based across almost all sectors of the economy and almost all regions, which
means that many New Zealanders are beginning to benefit from that economic growth. The OECD is forecasting growth of over 3.5 percent in New Zealand in 2014, which will make New Zealand one of the better-performing developed economies.
David Bennett: How have the stronger economy and improving business and consumer confidence in 2013 translated into more jobs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It does take some time for more confidence and for employment and investment intentions to translate into jobs. However, in the September quarter alone 27,000 more New Zealanders had new jobs, and the increase in jobs over the year to September was 53,700— that is, 53,700 more jobs this September than in the previous September. Employment levels increased by 2.4 percent in that year, and labour market participation increased to 68.6 percent. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Regional employment data was reasonably strong, with eight regions having lower unemployment than Auckland. Again, that shows the broad-based nature of the economic recovery.
Phil Twyford: Why is his Government trying to claim credit for the exemption of new builds from loan-to-value ratios and at the same time claiming that decisions on loan-to-value ratios are made by an independent Reserve Bank without any interference from the Government, or is his desperate attempt to have it both ways just a symptom of a housing policy that has completely collapsed leaving massive uncertainty in the market place?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has not tried to claim credit for a decision that was not the Government’s; it was a decision of the Reserve Bank. I think the Opposition is probably trying to claim credit for it, even though it was a decision of the Reserve Bank. As the member will know from seeing what is happening on the ground in Auckland, the Government’s policy of focusing on increasing the supply of houses on the ground in Auckland and in Christchurch is beginning to gather some momentum.
David Bennett: How is the Government’s economic programme helping improve the fairness of the tax system and supporting those families most in need? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before the Minister starts, can we have a little less noise from my lefthand side of the House.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: A particular feature of the Government’s programme through the recession has been, firstly, that we have protected the most vulnerable at all stages, and, secondly, that income inequality has dropped slightly over the last 4 or 5 years, despite the predictions of many that a recession and tax changes would make it a lot worse. So the Government has been able to demonstrate that with sensible and moderate economic management we can achieve a growing economy, more fairness, and protection for the most vulnerable.
Hon David Parker: Was the asset sales programme a centrepiece of his economic programme in 2013; if so, given that it has raised billions of dollars less than was projected and has resulted in the sale of shares to only 2 percent of New Zealanders rather than the broad spectrum that he previously promised, why would New Zealanders have confidence in the rest of his management of the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In answer to his first question, no, it is not the centrepiece of the Government’s economic programme but it has—[Interruption] It actually amounts to something like 2 percent of the Government’s total assets. However, it has been a centrepiece of the Opposition’s criticism of the Government. Opposition members do not know what they are going to say after the referendum and when the asset sales process is over. What will the Labour Party then stand for if it is not against asset sales?
David Bennett: What reports did he receive in 2013 supporting the Government’s economic programme, and how is that programme supporting growth in certain sectors of the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government, of course, understands that the credibility of economic growth will be measured by people other than the politicians. For instance, the OECD, back in June, confirmed that New Zealand’s macroeconomic policies strike the right balance between supporting a recovery from recession and ensuring sustainable medium-term growth. It noted our work in improving productivity to support long-term growth and it supported the Government’s focus on getting back to surplus. For an international body that has an overview of the economic policies of all developed countries and many developing countries, that is a pretty reasonable verdict. Just yesterday Statistics New Zealand confirmed that the manufacturing sector is in good heart, with strong sales volumes—numbers that indicate that perhaps there is not a crisis in manufacturing.
State-owned Assets, Sales—Outcomes
3. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: How has the Government’s asset sale programme increased the confidence of “mum and dad investors” in capital markets and improved the standard of living for New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I do believe it has increased the confidence of mum and dad investors in capital markets, because tens of thousands of New Zealanders took part in those share sales and more of them will have the opportunity early next year, subject to market conditions. When the Government confirmed the share sales programme as a part of its larger programme to lift New Zealand’s living standards, we said it would help reduce Government debt, increase opportunities for investment for savers, and improve the companies’ financial performances. All of those things have been achieved, and so far the Government has $4 billion in the bank to spend on other public assets. We are waiting to hear from the Opposition about whether it is so opposed to asset sales that it will buy the assets back. So far, it has not committed to that.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree that the partial sale of State assets to 2 percent of the population has increased the gap between the rich and the poor in this country; if not, why?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, no, particularly since the main complaint about it is that those who felt they were wealthy enough to buy the shares are now less wealthy several months later, which shows that the taxpayer got good value for those assets and investors need to take a long-term view.
Hon David Parker: How can he stand up and seriously claim that foregoing half the revenue and the ownership of State-owned enterprises to 2 percent of the population is to the benefit of the country as a whole when the sales make the Crown’s income account worse every single year till the end of the forecast period?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because what I have said is correct. Secondly, if the Opposition believes that the Government would be better off owning the assets, then it would commit to buying them back, particularly if a majority of those who vote in the referendum are against the sales. I would have thought it is up to Opposition to take that referendum seriously and commit to buying the assets back.
Hon David Parker: Would he still be begging the Opposition to buy the energy companies back in a desperate attempt to pump up the slumping share prices if the asset share programme had been a success rather than the failure it has patently been?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, we will be advising—not begging—the Opposition to abandon its policy around the electricity assets where it is the only political party in the world we can find that is promising to undo a competitive electricity market and go back to central control. The last time it happened was 1917 in the Russian Revolution, but it actually has not happened since. We are very pleased to have completed three-quarters of the asset sales programme. The people of Christchurch will get a new hospital financed by the proceeds of those sales, and they will be wondering what Labour and the Greens are going to do about buying back the assets.
Hon David Parker: Given that only 2 percent of New Zealanders invested in shares and that the price of the shares for each energy company is now below the float price, how does that build confidence in capital markets?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is up to investors. The member cannot claim that those sales have widened the gap between rich and poor, because, as he has pointed out himself, they bought the shares and they are now worth less, so the gap between the rich and the poor must have closed.
4. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: What reports has he received on progress in the manufacturing sector?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): The crisis in manufacturing continues to be rather hard to find. Yesterday Statistics New Zealand released its economic survey of manufacturing for the September 2013 quarter. The volume of total manufacturing sales was up 0.5 percent in the quarter, and sales volume for manufacturing, excluding meat and dairy, which is a favourite barometer some less than disinterested observers use, was up by 2.8 percent. This is the largest quarterly increase since June 2002. Sales for 10 of the other 12 manufacturing industries also rose. So I strongly urge those who like to talk the sector down to pick another statistic, so it too may rise.
Dr Jian Yang: What reports has he received indicating that the manufacturing sector is expanding?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have also received the latest BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index. In October that was 55.7—the highest result for the month of October since 2007. New Zealand’s manufacturing sector has now been expanding for 11 consecutive months. All the five seasonally adjusted indexes within the overall Performance of Manufacturing Index were in expansion for October. I would like to congratulate the manufacturing sector on its determination, its resilience, and its innovation, despite a tough world economy, a high New Zealand dollar, and constant negative carping from the New Zealand political Opposition.
Dr Jian Yang: What is the importance of the high-technology and medium to high – technology industries within the wider manufacturing sector?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealand has a remarkable number of innovative companies in the high and medium to high – technology sectors carving out market share in tough international markets. Over the last two decades the high-tech sector has grown rapidly. Exports rose to $1.4 billion in 2012, which makes its growth trajectory faster now than the New Zealand wine industry. New Zealand has 16 companies in the top 100 of the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia-Pacific list, up from seven last year. The Government’s Business Growth Agenda is working to encourage business investment in research and development, with initiatives like establishing Callaghan Innovation, lifting research and development co-funding to $142 million a year, plus the introduction of repayable funding for start-up technology companies.
Hon Shane Jones: How much of the increase in manufacturing is construction-related manufacturing arising out of the Christchurch earthquakes? And if he does not know, why does he come down to this House boasting about things that show that he is actually not on top of his portfolio?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Steven Joyce—either of the two questions.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Dear old Shane. I should table this for you, Shane. This is the list of tables for each part of the manufacturing sector, which shows that 10 out of 12—not just the construction sector—have gone up. There is one person in this House who should do the work, and his name is Shane Jones.
Hon Shane Jones: Is he likely to table that paper in front of the 200 employees of Unilever who are about to lose their jobs and the large number of workers in the timber processing sector who, as a consequence of not being able to gain access to logs, are also going to join the unemployment queue with their friends in Rotorua?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The reality about the wood and timber processing section of the industry is that, actually, it too has grown in the last quarter. Again, perhaps the member would like
to read these tables. For Mr Jones’ benefit, the New Zealand employment market is a dynamic market, with a large number of jobs created and lost every year. It is difficult when individuals lose their jobs. What is more important is that we attract new investment into new industries. That is what this Government is doing. That is what the Labour Opposition opposes.
Child Poverty—Government Actions to Address
5. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement that “I do not think that anyone denies that there are children living in this country at a standard that we do not find acceptable”; if so, what specific targets, if any, will she set in light of the Child Poverty Monitor released on Monday?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): I do stand by my statement, and, as I have said in answer to question No. 1, we have a number of targets that we think are helping to reduce child poverty and put them at the centre of our work. But in light of the Child Poverty Monitor, which was released yesterday, there was no new information in that. In fact, all of the information was taken from the 2013 Ministry of Social Development household incomes report. So there was nothing new in it that changes what we are doing today.
Jacinda Ardern: Which of her public sector targets will decrease the number of children living on less than 60 percent of the median income?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, reducing welfare dependency would be one that would make a difference for those children. I think that the economic growth work is some of the most important work that will happen, as long as we are getting businesses that are able to employ more people, pay better wages, and have better productivity. That is actually what counts the most. We want to see those children living in households with better incomes. The best thing that we can do is support the economy and support jobs so that that can happen.
Jacinda Ardern: What will her Government do to address low wage rates in New Zealand, given that 40 percent of the children living in poverty are being cared for by adults in paid work but who are still not earning enough to survive?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is why we are maintaining Working for Families. We have also got the accommodation supplement of $1.2 billion, 40 percent of which goes to low-income working families and we wish to continue that level of support for them. They can also access hardship assistance when they need to. We are also looking at what we are doing for budgeting services. But, without a doubt, I repeat again that it is actually our economic agenda that supports businesses so that they have better productivity and can pay better wages, which will make the biggest difference for those families.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was very specific. I asked what her Government was doing to address low-wage rates not tax credits or redistribution.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member asked what the Government is doing to address low wage rates and the Minister responded with Working for Families, the accommodation supplement, and the economic agenda.
Jacinda Ardern: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have ruled that that question has been addressed. I am happy to accept—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I find it very hard to work out how that addresses a question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] The member will resume his seat. I have already given an explanation. I think the question was asked quite legitimately and it was addressed by the Minister satisfactorily.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just clarify that if the member is disputing a ruling I have just made, I will take that very seriously.
Grant Robertson: I am trying to understand what the rules are in the House around the relevancy of answers, and whether when someone asks a question about wages it is OK to talk about something in another policy area such as tax credits.
Hon Members: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, I do not need assistance from either Minister. What I have determined—clearly not to the satisfaction of the member—is that the member asked what the Government is doing to address low wages, and the Minister took the opportunity to talk about other programmes that she considers have an effect on a household under low wages. That is a satisfactory addressing of the question. If the member wants to ask a further supplementary question, that is the way to get into the detail of it. It is not to argue that the Minister has not addressed the question, particularly when I have ruled that the Minister has done so.
Jacinda Ardern: What does she consider to be an unacceptable standard of living in terms of income?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have an income level that I am here with, but what I would say is that we have one of the most generous welfare systems in the world. I suppose you could look at it in Inland Revenue Department terms, where it has a level of income, but obviously what we think it is with the benefits system, and that level of income, is what we would see as a minimum.
Jacinda Ardern: When will she finally accept that her public sector targets are doing nothing to address the core issue of child poverty, that insulation does not mean that you have enough money to turn on the heater, that immunisation will not stop you contracting an infectious skin disease, and that giving money to KidsCan does not lift low wages; if so, is it time to accept that everything her Government is doing is papering over child poverty, rather than addressing it?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, I do not. In fact, what we have seen in the last 3 to 4 years is that it has actually flat-lined, and I think that it is remarkable, when you think about the extreme conditions that this country has been in, that we have actually managed to maintain that level of support for those children and their families. What we are seeing now is that real attention, and you can see that it is turning round economically. I repeat, as I did, my question: do you want to know how wages are raised? It is that businesses can afford to pay employees more, and the best way you do that is to support businesses and to actually put the right things—
Jacinda Ardern: It’s not working.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, actually, it is working. There is absolutely no doubt about it that we will see those children being better off, and in the meantime we will be targeting assistance to those who need it most.
Sue Moroney: Why has her Government contributed to—in her own words—“children living in this country at a standard that we do not find acceptable.” by cutting in half the meagre incomes of over 2,700 parents, since 15 July alone, because they did not meet work obligations such as travelling 40 kilometres to attend a monthly Work and Income seminar?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, we have obligations for people who are on benefits, because the best thing that we can do is to support them to get off. If they cannot, once a month, actually make an appointment at Work and Income, then they have very much no hope of actually getting a job. So, yes, we have clear expectations. We give them plenty of time to know when their appointments are coming up, and we expect them to be fulfilling them. If they were putting their children first, they would be there.
Māori Affairs, Associate Minister—Statements
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Māori
Affairs: Does he stand by all of his statements?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Associate Minister of Māori Affairs): No, I do not. I once said that reforming Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, which the Labour Government neglected to do, could benefit the economy by up to $3 billion. In actual fact, a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers
study commissioned by the Ministry for Primary Industries has estimated that the economic benefit to the nation of this reform could be up to $8 billion over 10 years and could create over 3,400 new jobs.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he stand by his statements that—and I quote him—“Access to the foreshore and seabed for recreation, employment, or simply for its own sake is a birthright. For all New Zealanders that should be protected in legislation.”, and, further, that “equality is a fundamental, bedrock principle of our constitution.”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I made those statements in my capacity as Attorney- General when working to reform the disgusting foreshore and seabed legislation. They are not part of my delegation as Associate Minister of Māori Affairs.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he still hold these views expressed in manifold positions as a politician and Minister when a minority is, through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act, given by birth sole development rights to all—[Interruption] Well, this might be a joke, “Big Ears”, but it is not to New Zealanders. It is not to New Zealanders.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the member please—I know that he was responding to an interjection on this occasion. Could he just now start the question again so that we can get an answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you, Mr Speaker. How can he still hold that view, expressed in numerous positions as a politician and as a Minister, when a minority is, through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act, given by birth sole development rights to all New Zealand’s minerals apart from gold, silver, uranium, and petroleum?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, the member has got the wrong end of the stick, which is perhaps not surprising. I suggest he go to the letter from Dr Sharples to me dated 31 January 2012, where he set out my delegations as Associate Minister. Were he to do the right thing and put the question down to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, I would be very happy to answer that question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Not a bad sidestep. Is it not true that iwi have been granted mana tuku iho, or universal recognition—
Hon Paula Bennett: Not your best work.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! An interjection like that is not going to help us with the order of the House. Would the member start his—[Interruption] Order! Would the member start his question again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not true that iwi have been granted mana tuku iho— [Interruption]—no, it does not mean wide, Paula; it means universal recognition—over the whole foreshore and seabed, giving them priority over even the Department of Conservation, and where does that leave the rest of New Zealand?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, as I said in the answer to the previous question, he has got the wrong end of the stick. He should read the letter of delegation from Dr Sharples to me dated 31 January 2012, and he would see what my delegations are as Associate Minister. I am more than happy to answer any questions—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought that he would repeat that same objection to my question—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —excepting he actually caught himself by the letter of delegation from Dr Pita Sharples. He is the Associate Minister of Māori Affairs, and he should know exactly what Pita Sharples was asking for and, under him, got.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have before me the list of delegations for the Hon Chris Finlayson as the Associate Minister of Māori Affairs, and his answer is satisfactory. Question No. 7, Paul—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question—no so fast.
Mr SPEAKER: I am just ensuring that we are out of here by Christmas Day.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, you will stay for as long as we take to get the truth—that is the fact of it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member can ask his supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact—[Interruption] Relax, boys. You are going to look far more nervous next year, I tell you.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I will give the member one more chance to ask a supplementary question, otherwise we are moving on.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that legislation promoted by him and the Minister of Māori Affairs has empowered iwi to now veto applications by ordinary New Zealanders for resource consent under the Resource Management Act for areas over which he has granted customary title?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: This is rather tiresome. I refer the member to the letter of 31 January 2012 to me from Dr Pita Sharples, where he set out my role and responsibilities as his Associate Minister. I would be more than happy to answer the question, but he has got to do the right thing and ask the right Minister the question, and not hide behind some vague, fatuous question about statements and responsibility.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is a rather diverse and angry response. I never took the Judicature Modernisation Bill away from him and gave it to “Crusher” Collins; John Key did that, and that is why he is so furious and angry. But back to this, my supplementary question—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has just raised a point of order, so if that point of order is now finished, then I am going to say that it is not a point of order. Is the member now wanting a further supplementary question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Most certainly.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, great.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is this Minister putting so much time and effort into legislation and programmes of apartheid and separatism that put this nation’s very future at risk?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I will try and not be provocative, but can I suggest to the right honourable member that it would be very helpful if, before he drafts a very lazy question, he reads the statement of delegation.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Either he can answer the question that I put to him or he can deny it, but he cannot just deviate and do what he likes, as is his wont to do.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It is just not me in that capacity.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has answered the question. What he said was that the way the question was phrased to him, it does not come within his delegated authority. That is an answer given.
Hon Trevor Mallard: That is not what he said at all.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it is very difficult to understand quite what is right. I think that the easiest way forward—because it is close to Christmas—is that I am going to invite the member to ask his question again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you very much. Why is he putting so much time and effort into legislation and programmes that lead to apartheid and separatism, and put this nation’s very future at risk?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have particular delegations given to me by Dr Sharples in a letter dated 31 January 2012. They include a specific responsibility in relation to Te Ture Whenua Maori Act. If he had asked me that question as Attorney-General, I would have said that he was the one supporting apartheid by stopping Māori from going to court—something that was profoundly offensive.
Medicines, Subsidised—New Listings
7. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Associate Minister of Health: What recent announcements has he received regarding newly listed medicines?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Associate Minister of Health): Merry Christmas to you. In line with Government policies for better, sooner, more convenient health care, Pharmac has renegotiated an agreement to reduce costs for a number of medicines imported to New Zealand. This will mean a saving of more than $20 million over 5 years, as well as the listing of new medicines for rare blood disorders and influenza and improved access to asthma inhalers. The savings made will free up resources that Pharmac and district health boards can use to purchase more health care services, a win-win for patients.
Paul Foster-Bell: What benefits will be generated through this agreement?
Hon TODD McCLAY: More New Zealanders will benefit from the better health care outcomes that access to these newly listed medicines bring. Increased access to asthma treatment will benefit thousands, including around 1,200 children who will now need only one inhaler instead of two, as previously, to receive their treatment. We know that asthma is a significant cause of poor health, particularly for children in New Zealand. The New Zealand Health Survey data showed that 14 percent of children aged 2 to 14 take medications for asthma. This announcement builds on recent decisions that will improve children’s respiratory health, including whooping cough vaccines and influenza vaccines for under-fives with respiratory illnesses.
Trans-Pacific Partnership—Release of Information
8. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Trade: Will he release the final text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement before it is approved by the Cabinet; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Trade): It is important to note, firstly, that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is still under negotiation at this time. Should the negotiations be successful, the Government would release the text after New Zealand’s initial signature of the proposed agreement, which requires approval by Cabinet. The Government will not be releasing the text before that point because the negotiations will not be formally concluded until the member countries have, in fact, signed the text. Once that negotiation phase is complete, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as with all trade agreements, will then go through the full parliamentary treaty examination process where, of course, the text will be available.
Julie Anne Genter: Given that the Government will not be releasing the text before signing us up to the deal, will he release the national interest analysis, which spells out the advantages and disadvantages for New Zealand of this agreement, before Cabinet approves it; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member misunderstands the process that these things go through. She suggested that Cabinet will ratify the agreement; Cabinet will not. In fact, Parliament ratifies the agreement. Of course, the national interest analysis is laid in front of Parliament, and Parliament debates a treaty such as this before it is ratified.
Julie Anne Genter: Was Gerry Brownlee correct when he said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would give New Zealand a “$5 billion year-on-year boost to our export economy,”—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am sorry; I am going to ask the member to repeat that question again. I am having trouble hearing it.
Julie Anne Genter: Was Gerry Brownlee correct when he said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would give the New Zealand economy a “$5 billion year-on-year boost”, given that the Australian Productivity Commission’s report found that trade agreements were usually oversold and failed to deliver the claimed benefits?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You asked for the question to be put again. The member put it again, and this time about five Ministers talked all the way through it. We could not hear what on earth she was trying to ask the second time round either.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Every member has a right to hear the supplementary question. If the member is telling me he did not hear it the second time, I ask the members to please be quiet while we hear it for a third time, without interjection.
Julie Anne Genter: Was Gerry Brownlee correct when he said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would give New Zealand a “$5 billion year-on-year boost to our export economy,” given the Australian Productivity Commission’s report finding that trade agreements were often oversold and failed to deliver their claimed benefits?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I find Gerry Brownlee to be a very wise man, and I would disagree with the Australian Productivity Commission on this basis: it is quite clear that the New Zealand – China free-trade agreement, for example, has been of huge benefit to this country; greater than was actually expected at the time. There has been a lot of talk in this House this afternoon about lifting people’s incomes, and free-trade agreements are definitely one way in which that can be done and done very successfully.
Julie Anne Genter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question did quite specifically ask—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question was addressed—the question was addressed. If the member wants further supplementary questions, she has them.
Julie Anne Genter: Why is the Government continuing to rely on the figures sourced from the East-West Center, a US Congress – funded thinktank, to justify to New Zealanders the alleged benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That horrible US Congress, a subversive organisation—why would we ever rely on anything it ever said! The important point is that, actually, the negotiations have not been concluded, so anybody’s estimate at this point is an estimate. Should those negotiations be completed—and for the sake of lifting wages and growth in this country we should all hope that they are—then there will be a national interest analysis that will be laid upon the Table in this Parliament, and the Parliament will get to assess the value as calculated by the New Zealand Government bureaucracy. That is the way in which it should be done. In the meantime we are all talking about estimates because the agreement has yet to be finally negotiated.
Julie Anne Genter: How can New Zealanders have confidence that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will be a good deal for us when he will not release the national interest analysis until after we are already signed up to the deal? He is relying on figures from a thinktank funded by the United States Government, and the major beneficiary of trade deals with the United States has always been multinational corporations based in the United States.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think we have all learnt something in that last supplementary question. The reality is this—I will say it again, a little bit more slowly for the member—the agreement has not been negotiated yet. The agreement is being negotiated at the moment.
Dr Russel Norman: What’s in it?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Mr Norman, nobody knows until the negotiations are completed. We have estimates from different groups, which the member has—at the point where the negotiation is completed, just like in every other Government that has been in this Parliament, it will be laid upon the Table and, actually, it will be debated by this Parliament. There are not many days to go until we know whether this thing will be proceeding or not. At that point Parliament will get the opportunity to go ahead.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table for the benefit of the Minister the Australian Productivity Commission analysis, showing there is little—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just clarify the source of the document? Is it available on the net to all?
Julie Anne Genter: The Australian Productivity Commission report.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not ask what the report was; I asked where the member sourced it. Is it available on the net to all?
Julie Anne Genter: I do not think that the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is it available on the net for members?
Julie Anne Genter: Yes, it is available.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it is.
Hon Phil Goff: In the absence of greater openness and transparency around the negotiations— [Interruption]—when you have finished, Nick Smith—what guarantee can the Minister provide—
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, my understanding is that the supposition at the start of that member’s question is probably creating disorder in the House—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And the best way forward—the member is right in raising the point that he does. I will invite the Hon Phil Goff to ask his question again, and then the Minister will have the opportunity to respond to that question in the way he sees fit.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Were you ruling that that was a fair point of order? I do not see how you could.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I was saying to the member that the best forward is for the Hon Phil Goff to be able to complete his question. I have no doubt that the Minister will have the ability to then address the question.
Hon Phil Goff: In the absence of greater openness and transparency around the negotiation itself, what guarantee can this Minister provide the House that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will not prevent New Zealand being able to legislate for the public good in areas like health and the environment and will not prevent Pharmac from negotiating to buy lower-priced and generic drugs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I completely reject the assertion at the start of that member’s sentence. The reality is that this Government has adopted an identical process—an identical process—to the one that was operated by the Labour Government. The member raises on regular occasions in public the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions as the one difference. The reality is that it walked out on being advised. It walked out and it has been invited by the Minister of Trade to come back any time it likes. The process has been identical to Mr Goff’s process. He is the pot calling the kettle black.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked the Minister what guarantee he could provide about two areas. He did not even attempt—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member had asked just that question I might be able to help him. But he talked at the start of his question about the absence of openness and transparency. The Minister then responded to that part of the question.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not part of the question. That was setting out the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I invite the member to reread his Hansard. I heard it as part of the question.
Child Poverty—Government Actions to Address and Commentary
9. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Does he agree with the Children’s Commissioner that “Setting targets, like we do with the road toll and with NCEA, if we had that kind of commitment, that legislation and plan, then we’d see a yearon- year fall”; if so, is he prepared to instruct the Ministerial Committee on Poverty to introduce the four child poverty measures released in the Child Poverty Monitor?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister): First of all, there are not any legislated targets for the road toll and the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Along with the NCEA pass rates the Government has set a number of targets directly relevant to the welfare of children. There is no need to instruct the Ministerial Committee on Poverty to introduce the four measures, because the four measures that were published yesterday are public measures taken each year by the Ministry of Social Development and published so that anyone can monitor the progress of incomes. The final point I would make is that what is wrong with the commissioner’s proposal— or the limits of it—is that those measures of child poverty are static income measures. There is a lot
more to relieving poverty than measuring static income such as, for instance, breaking the cycle of dependency on our welfare system through the parents of young children, raising educational levels in the public education system for those who need it most—of which New Zealand has traditionally done a pretty poor job—enhancing mobility into the workforce through a growing economy, and much more active support for many of those who find themselves caught outside the labour market. These are dimensions to poverty and its resolution that the Children’s Commissioner, I am sure, understands but certainly did not articulate in his report yesterday.
Te Ururoa Flavell: What does he believe that the Prime Minister meant when he said about child poverty “So we had much higher levels, then it went down, then it went back up a bit,” and how does the Minister, the Prime Minister, or anyone else know what the reality is, if the Government refuses to adopt and monitor official measures of child poverty?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, there is a misconception that there are no official measures for child poverty. If I can help correct that misconception, the Child Poverty Monitor report published yesterday was a repackaging of existing official measures of child poverty. The Children’s Commissioner happened to pick the measure that shows the biggest number of those in child poverty when there are three other measures that show lesser numbers. But those are official measures. They are taken each year, they are published, and we are fully accountable for any implications people may draw from them. So the Prime Minister’s comments were based on those official measures reported by the Ministry of Social Development every year, and, actually, he is correct. Child poverty rates did drop through the 2000s, they rose a bit through the recession, and now they are flat to dropping again, which actually is a remarkable performance for New Zealand in the context of the global financial crisis and the economic mismanagement prior to that by the previous Government that caused recessions in New Zealand.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Is the Minister concerned that the rate of poverty severity, where households are both income poor and experiencing material hardship, is twice as high for Māori and Pasifika children aged 0 years to 10 years than for the New Zealand population; if so, will he be arguing for a substantial investment in having a living income and in expanding Whānau Ora?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, we do share that concern and are particularly concerned with what the member refers to as poverty severity and what is referred to in other situations as persistent deprivation—that is, those families that are caught in a cycle of low income, the effects of which are made much worse by social dysfunction and a very complex set of problems. So we are focused pretty strongly on that particular aspect of child poverty. With respect to The Living Wage Aotearoa New Zealand Campaign, which is a proposition put forward that is voluntary for businesses and other organisations to lift incomes, of course we want to see higher incomes, and we support economic policy that will deliver higher incomes. I want to thank the member and his party for the work he has done on Whānau Ora, on originating it, and I look forward to further work with the Māori Party on expanding Whānau Ora, because it has, for the first time in quite a while, the potential to assist the Government to deliver its support in an appropriate way to exactly the families that he refers to.
10. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports has he received on the affordability of health care for New Zealanders?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I have received dozens of recent reports on health care, nearly all of which have had an affordability element. One specific report I have received on affordability is that, despite tight times, this Government has increased funding by an average of $500 million a year over its 5 years in Vote Health. District health boards, of course, are often moving around resources to meet the changing needs of New Zealanders.
Hon Annette King: Does he agree with the conclusions in the Child Poverty Monitor that of concern is the number of children whose visit to a general practitioner was postponed because of
cost, and is this why there have been 40,000 hospital admissions each year under his watch of children aged between 0 years and 14 years with diseases of poverty, including bronchiolitis, acute upper-respiratory infections, pneumonia, and skin infections?
Hon TONY RYALL: On the issue of access to general practice, this Government has invested, I think, about $30 million in bringing free after-hours visits to general practice up and down the country. Currently about 96 percent of New Zealanders under 6 can now go to the doctor free during the day and after hours, and this is making a considerable impact on the ambulatory sensitive hospitalisations of children in that age group.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, is he aware that the Child Poverty Monitor now backs up the findings of the recent New Zealand Health Survey, which show that over 180,000 children have an unmet need to primary health care, of whom 43,800 could not visit their general practitioner because of cost; if so, will he increase the funding provided for primary health care for the poorest, sickest children, from the miserable $5.60 per child per year he announced in this year’s Budget?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government has increased the subsidies to general practitioners every year. The Government has also provided some extra funding for very low-cost access and will also be making a further announcement on additional resources provided to those practices. What I can say is that despite being Minister of Health for 6 years, that member never delivered—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was straying into material he is not responsible for.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member makes a reasonable point. The answer is now concluded.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What recent reports has he seen that call for more elective surgery to be a priority?
Hon TONY RYALL: I have seen a couple of very, very interesting reports. One is from the Opposition spokesperson on health calling for more money for older people for elective surgery to be the priority for Government spending, and then, 2 days later, that same Labour spokesperson was beating another drum, saying that, actually, the priority should be on children’s health spending.
Hon Annette King: Does he agree with the statement by the Prime Minister about the cost of going to a doctor: “Oh well, look, in the end it’s called a market, and if they decide to charge a lot more, then probably someone will go down the road.”, and does that attitude account for the fact that tens of thousands of children miss out on vital primary health care because they cannot “go down the road”?
Hon TONY RYALL: The information I have is that we have increased our funding for primary health care by well over $160 million over a 5-year period, which has gone into additional services and increased subsidies for general practice and other involvements in primary care, and, of course, I always agree with the Prime Minister. This is a Prime Minister who has been strongly supportive of the average $500 million a year extra that has gone into Vote Health under his stewardship.
Hon Annette King: Does he agree with the Child Poverty Monitor findings that there are marked ethnic inequalities for all the health indicators reviewed; if so, why has he allowed many district health boards to actually reduce the funding provided to Māori primary health care NGO providers over the past 2 and 3 years, at a time when poverty and sickness are so high?
Hon TONY RYALL: The fact is that there are many indicators that will show that the Government is making progress in respect of reducing disparities. I look at one in particular, and that is immunisation, where, as I have previously told the House, in most of our district health boards—in fact, over half of them—the Māori immunisation rate is now higher than the Pākehā immunisation rate.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to repeat her question.
Hon Annette King: Does he agree with the Child Poverty Monitor findings that there are marked ethnic inequalities for all the health indicators reviewed; if so, why has he allowed many district health boards to actually reduce the funding provided to Māori primary health care NGO providers over the past 2 and 3 years, at a time when poverty and sickness are so high?
Hon TONY RYALL: No, because as I have pointed out, the immunisation target, which is not one that opponents of the Government like to talk about, shows that despite 9 years of rhetoric and huge Budget increases, Labour was never able to close the gap in 2-year-old immunisation rates, and this Government has.
Television, Switch-over to Digital—TV TakeBack Programme
11. CLAUDETTE HAUITI (National) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent reports has she received on the progress of the TV Takeback scheme?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): I recently received an update showing more than 170,000 TVs have been received for recycling. Following the successful TV TakeBack initiatives in the South Island and Hawke’s Bay over the past year, the programme is now under way in the upper and lower North Island, including Auckland. Through a Government subsidy, people in these areas can now recycle their unwanted televisions for no more than $5, and I encourage them to do so.
Claudette Hauiti: What impact has the scheme had on waste going to landfills?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The programme, which sees the Government partnering with a range of councils, recyclers, and retailers to provide a nationwide network of subsidised options, has now diverted around 2,700 tonnes of waste from going into our landfills. Televisions dropped off for recycling are disassembled, with components recycled locally or sent to specialist facilities overseas. Televisions contain materials that can be harmful if released into soil or waterways, such as lead, mercury, and phosphorous. Safe recycling takes away the risk of contamination and reduces waste to landfill, and so far around 170,000 tonnes of lead have safely been recycled through this programme.
12. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: Does he believe he is doing a good job of tackling housing demand for those most in need?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): Yes, because we are doing so much. We have passed two big housing bills this year. We have completed the insulation of 47,000 State houses. We are adding 3,000 bedrooms to existing State houses. We are now giving priority to families with rheumatic fever. We are funding 1,100 new community social houses, which is a record number. We are moving at pace to repair the 5,000 State houses damaged in Christchurch. We have helped 3,300 families through the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service. We have built four temporary accommodation villages in Christchurch, and we are building 700 new homes in Christchurch and 500 infill houses in Auckland.
Phil Twyford: How can he claim his policies are working when the Child Poverty Monitor report shows that 18 percent of children are below the poverty line before housing costs are taken into account but a staggering 25 percent are below the poverty line after housing costs are taken into account, or is it just their fault for being poor?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would firstly point the member to the Massey University Home Affordability Report, which shows that housing affordability in 2008 was significantly worse than it is now. I would also point to the measures this Government has taken whereby every single State house will be insulated by the end of the year. That is something to celebrate. I point out that this Government is giving priority—for the first time ever, giving direct priority—to families at risk of rheumatic fever to have access to State houses, as part of the Minister of Health’s programme to
reduce by two-thirds the incidence of rheumatic fever. They are the things that will make a real difference to child poverty.
Phil Twyford: How does he explain that the number of children below the poverty line before housing costs has fallen by 15,000 since 2007, yet the number below the poverty line after housing costs has increased by 25,000 during the 5 years of his Government’s housing policies?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first point I would make in respect of the poverty line is that it is set as a proportion of income. So if the income of the nation doubles, somehow those people say that the basic income or definition of poverty shifts. That is not logical and shows it does not work. This Government is instead focused on the real things that will make a difference for families: getting children immunised, insulating houses, and providing national standards in education. They are the things that will make a real difference to children in New Zealand.
Phil Twyford: Does he think that his housing policies have been a success, when Government agencies are referring people to live in camping grounds, and just this week a Christchurch woman with three children was forced to move into a tent in a public park, and how much more evidence does he need before he accepts there is a housing crisis and that his endless photo opportunities—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Tell the whole story. You’re a liar.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Phil Twyford: —will not solve the problem?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can anticipate, but I will hear from the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I believe you may have heard the comment that Mr Brownlee made. That was totally out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: It is. I ask the Hon Gerry Brownlee to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. The gentleman was—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise, and add no more before sitting down.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear first from Grant Robertson.
Grant Robertson: On numerous occasions in the House, you have threatened people on this side of the House with being removed for what Mr Brownlee did on the first occasion. He then, when I stood up to take my point of order, repeated the infringement. You must ask him to leave the House if you are consistent in your rulings.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify: is that the point of order that the member rose to take? Then on this occasion I am going to ask the Hon Gerry Brownlee to withdraw from the House. [Interruption] Order! The member will just withdraw from the House. Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When we were interrupted I had not answered the member’s question, and I now ask for the opportunity—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, so much time has now gone by, I ask the member to re-ask that question.
Phil Twyford: Does he think that his housing policies have been a success, when Government agencies are referring people to live in camping grounds, and just this week a Christchurch woman with three children was forced to move into a tent in a public park, and how much more evidence does he need before he accepts there is a housing crisis and that his endless photo opportunities will not solve the problem?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is not acceptable for a family to be permanently living in a tent, although I could give numerous examples of when, under the previous Government, just that occurred. That was without 160,000 homes being damaged in an earthquake, and 14,000 that are permanently lost. In respect of the family that the member refers to, I visited her this morning. I am
informed that she has been offered three homes: two from the private sector, and one from the council. I am further advised that she has accepted the home that was closest to where her children are at school, which should be welcome.
Phil Twyford: How many days before the release of the Child Poverty Monitor report did Housing New Zealand remove the total number of people on the waiting list off its website, and did he have a hand in this belated and crude attempt to hide the truth about his failed housing policies?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The numbers on the waiting lists are a matter of public record. I do note for that member that for all his talk about a crisis in housing, the actual numbers on waiting lists are very similar to what they were in 2008, at a bit over 4,000. I would also note that if you look at this Government’s programme of work in respect of the massive investment of $2.9 billion on State housing, and look in terms of this programme of work with the Auckland Housing Accord, the record new number of houses being built, and the record 1,100 houses that are being built with community social housing providers, it just shows how much is being done.
Louise Upston: Can he advise the House of what other reports he has received on improvements in housing?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The comprehensive measure of housing affordability comes from Massey University. I really would draw the attention of members opposite to that neutral measure of housing affordability, which has shown that over the last 4 years there have been significant improvements.
Hon David Parker: Is that for ownership or renting?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The single factor that I would bring to the attention of the member who is interjecting is that when Labour left Government, interest rates were over 10 percent. They are currently at 5 percent and that makes a huge difference to the affordability of housing.