Press Release – ParliamentToday.co.nz
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) TUESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2012 QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) TUESDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2012 QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economy—Government Priorities 1. SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister of Finance: What are the Government’s priorities for the economy in its second term?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government intends to get back to surplus and manage the Government’s finances very well. We intend to continue to develop a more competitive economy, because we have to earn a living in the next 10 years, rather than borrow it as we did in the last 10 years. The Government intends to rebuild Christchurch, and our final top priority is to improve public services across the board so New Zealanders get better service for the same or fewer resources.
Simon Bridges: What challenges does New Zealand’s economy face?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The fundamental challenge is the same now as it was 2 or 3 years ago, which is to rebalance this economy from excessive resources in the non-tradable sector to the tradable sector. Much of the growth of the last 10 years was built on borrowed money going into an uncompetitive domestic economy. In the next 10 years we have to earn our living by investing in a competitive export sector.
Simon Bridges: How does the Government intend to tackle the economic challenges?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the same considered and balanced way as it did in its first term of office. But I think New Zealanders share with the Government the determination to make real progress over the next few years so that we can have more jobs and higher incomes.
Hon David Parker: Did the briefing he received as incoming Minister from his chief economic advisers in Treasury project that under his Government’s economic settings, New Zealand’s net international liabilities would increase by nearly 10 percent of GDP over the next 5 years—an increase of approximately $25 billion?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That may have been their projection; I would have to go and check. We, of course, want to continue with the significant improvement in recent years in our net international liabilities. I am somewhat more optimistic than Treasury because I think New Zealanders have learnt the lesson that more borrowing and excessive borrowing are not the way for them to get better incomes, and if they refrain from excessive borrowing and get into higher savings, the prospects of that projection coming to pass are less.
Simon Bridges: What signs of progress has he seen in the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Just to give a couple of signs, the economy has grown for nine of the last 10 quarters, and the forecasts for growth in this economy are stronger than in the US, Europe, and quite a number of other developed countries. Secondly, some of the more detailed changes the Government is making are bearing fruit. For instance, on 1 April there will be a $600 million reduction in accident compensation levies because the Government in the last 3 years applied itself to turning the accident compensation scheme round. That is an example of what can be achieved with public services.
Economy—Prime Minister’s Statements 2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “National will deliver a strong, stable government – and build a stronger economy with less debt and more jobs”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: Does he take seriously the question of whether the Māori Party will continue to be bound to his Government for confidence and supply; and if so, is he confident that they will?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I am confident they will.
David Shearer: Has he discussed with Māori Party co-leader Tariana Turia her comments in relation to section 9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act that she is “not one prone to idle threats”; and if so, what was the result of that discussion?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, not specifically in relation to that comment, but I think what the coleader of the Māori Party was saying is that they take that issue seriously. The Government is going through a 2-week consultation process, and I am very confident we will come out with an elegant solution at the end of it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the negotiations for the formation of the Government, did the Māori Party raise that issue in those discussions—yes or no?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement of this morning that “they are bound with us for confidence and supply, which is effectively the Budget, and the mixed-ownership stuff doesn’t flow through the Budget”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I do, insomuch that they are not bound by the mixed-ownership model legislation, which will fall outside of the Budget.
David Shearer: Did he read the Government’s Budget papers, which show that the next 5 years’ capital budgets rely on the sale of public assets?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and that is probably one of the reasons why we have 59 MPs and the Labour Party has very few. And that is because New Zealanders want less debt, more productive assets, and an economy that is going to function, not a load more debt, as Phil Goff was promising and, I have no doubt, David Shearer is, as well.
David Shearer: How will he make a Treaty clause apply just to the Crown’s share of the Stateowned enterprises, when the actions of the privatised State-owned enterprises will affect both the Crown and private shareholders alike?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Treaty is a compact between the Crown and Māori, and what the Government will be aiming to do is to spell out that very clearly in the section that will then apply to the mixed-ownership model. David Shearer: Does he accept that his determination to push ahead with asset sales is creating instability in his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not in the slightest. I accept what it will do is deliver a country that has less debt than it would under Labour, a Government that will deliver for New Zealanders something to invest in other than failed finance companies—which were overseen by the previous Labour Government—entities that will deliver well. I say to that member the same thing I used to say to Phil Goff: “If you don’t like the mixed-ownership model, put up your policy to buy back the bit of Air New Zealand we don’t own.”
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister, if the Māori Party campaigned against asset sales, and if United Future was committed to ensuring that water was regarded as a strategic asset, then where does he get his majority from to make the assertions he is making around the country of having public support? Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the right honourable Prime Minister, obviously he is not responsible for what either the Māori Party or ACT campaigned on. But the latter part of the question can be answered.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As part of the confidence and supply agreements put together between National, ACT, and United Future, we secured support for the mixed-ownership legislation. That is 61; that is a majority.
State-owned Assets, Sales—Ownership of Shares 3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: What steps, if any, has he taken to ensure that should the Government sell 49 percent of Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy, “New Zealand investors will be at the front of the queue for shareholding, and that there will be widespread and substantial New Zealand share ownership”?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): Ministers have made this requirement of widespread New Zealand investment a fundamental part of every step of the process to date. Both the scoping studies and Crown advisers have confirmed that there is sufficient domestic demand to meet the Government’s objectives. As part of any share float the Government has the ability to determine what type of investors are allocated shares, and we will use this ability to ensure widespread and substantial New Zealand shareholding. These proposed share floats are important to ensure public debt remains under control, and we certainly do not want to reach the level of debt as in some countries such as Britain, where they are having to lay off 700,000 public servants. Dr Russel Norman: How will he ensure that New Zealanders are at the front of the queue when New Zealand’s trade and investment agreements state that New Zealand investors cannot be given preference over foreign investors?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government is quite clear that those agreements do not override the Government’s ability in respect of the allocation policy to make those decisions.
Dr Russel Norman: What advice has he received regarding the ability of the Government to give preference to New Zealand investors, and advice regarding that the agreements we have do not prevent him doing that?
Hon TONY RYALL: We have received advice that those agreements do not prevent the Government from ensuring widespread and substantial New Zealand ownership of the mixedownership model companies.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What is he going to put in place, if anything, to stop buyers of shares from onselling those shares to overseas interests?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think what is quite clear is if you look at the mixed-ownership model as it applies at the Port of Tauranga, which is a mixed-ownership model type approach, we have actually got New Zealanders buying out foreigners. I think the fact that we have good quality investments will give New Zealanders that opportunity—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a specific question. It simply asked—
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member. To save time, the honourable member may repeat his question.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What actions, if any, is he going to put in place that would stop buyers of shares in these State-owned enterprises from onselling those shares to overseas interests? What specific actions will he take, if any, to stop that happening?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government is not proposing that it would take any action that would stop ordinary people having a right to whomever they sell their shares. The problem is that party opposite does not think working people are good enough to own shares, and on this side of the House, we think they are. Dr Russel Norman: Will the Minister release the advice he has received, as stated in his earlier answer, that the Government has no restrictions on giving preference to New Zealand buyers of shares in these companies?
Hon TONY RYALL: The member is entitled to make an Official Information Act request for that information, and I am sure we will consider it in due course.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not asking whether I could make an Official Information Act request; I was asking whether the Minister would release the advice. Mr SPEAKER: I think, in fairness to the honourable member, the Minister made it clear that without such a request he probably would not, but with such a request it would be looked at. I think that is a reasonable answer to the question asked.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request from Professor Jane Kelsey seeking that advice, which was declined by the Minister in full. Mr SPEAKER
: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hone Harawira: Kia ora to the Minister. What is the Government’s position regarding the united call from Mana, the New Zealand Māori Council, iwi leaders, Māori organisations, and Māori people all around the country for the Treaty of Waitangi clause to be retained in legislation being drafted for the sale of our power companies, or does the Government feel that it has a greater obligation to remove the clause to make it easier for foreign investors to buy those companies?
Hon TONY RYALL: Kia ora to the member. The Government’s view is that we are about to enter quite a lengthy consultation process with iwi around the country in respect of how those rights and interests can best be protected in the legislation.
Hone Harawira: Kia ora anō e te Minita. What reports has the Government received about the Māori Party being willing to stay with the Government even if it pushes ahead with its plans to remove the Treaty of Waitangi clause from legislation as long as the clause can be rewritten to sound very important even if it is completely meaningless?
Hon TONY RYALL: As Minister for State Owned Enterprises, I have not asked for any specific reports on that matter.
Dr Russel Norman: In the advice that the Minister has received regarding the implications of New Zealand’s trade agreements for the ability of the Government to give preference to New Zealand investors, did officials raise any concerns about the Government’s ability to do that?
Hon TONY RYALL: As I recall, no. Dr Russel Norman: How are New Zealanders to know what is actually the case here—the ability of the Government to give preference to New Zealand buyers of these shares or not—when the Government refuses to release the advice and keeps it secret?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think New Zealanders can take assurance of the fact that the Government has made it very clear that it is our intention to maintain strong and widespread New Zealand interest in these companies, and we would not have made that commitment unless we were able to do so. And I have got to say there are a lot of New Zealanders who are very interested in what is to come. National Certificate of Educational Achievement—2011 Results 4. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the
Minister of Education: What reports has she received on the 2011 NCEA results?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā tātou. I have received a report with some early results from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. These results show that there has been improvement across the board. Some highlights include the overall result for National Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA) level 2 for year 12, which has (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) risen from 76 percent in 2008 to 81.5 percent in 2011; NCEA level 2 for year 12 Māori has risen from 63.1 percent in 2008 to 72.7 percent in 2011; and NCEA level 2 for year 12 Pasifika has risen from 54.4 percent in 2008 to 63.2 percent in 2011. I am also advised that early indications are that Christchurch students improved their achievement rates. This is a great result in the face of a very difficult year, and I am sure that the whole of Parliament joins in offering congratulations to all students who achieved in 2011.
Nikki Kaye: How will she continue to focus on lifting NCEA achievement rates?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I will have an unrelenting focus on the learner at the centre and on raising achievement. We cannot truly be a world-class system while we have groups—that the member opposite has occasionally opined to be interested in—who are consistently underserved every year. We need to make a number of changes across the board to lift achievement. These include raising participation in, and the quality of, early childhood education—[Interruption]; I am glad you are so overjoyed at that—building the capability of teachers so we have higher-quality interactions in every classroom, in every school, across this country; better information about performance; and greater accountability at all levels of the system.
Ministers—Confidence 5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the
Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister for Whanau Ora if he found out that the Minister is promoting public funding being diverted from those in genuine need to those who most certainly are not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have complete confidence in the Minister for Whanau Ora. I think the project is in its infancy, but it will seek to help many families for which the system is currently not working.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister think it appropriate that a person who owns a chain of successful businesses in the Wellington area should have his family reunion paid for by the—quote—“Whānau Integration, Innovation and Engagement Fund”, and what could that possibly be about?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have any details in relation to that. If the member wants to put it down to the relevant Minister, which is the Minister for Whanau Ora, he is welcome to do so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he, or does he not, read the various reports from Ministers whom he is meant to be the overseeing Minister of, such as the Whānau Ora: Transforming our futures paper, which itemises the very example of a business person picking up this money for a family reunion, when there are so many Māori in need around this country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I read as many of the papers as I can, but as I said to the member, if he has a detailed question, he can put it down to the Minister in question.
Environmental Clean-up—Cost of Rena Grounding 6. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Minister for the Environment: What is the estimated total cost for the clean up after the grounding of the Rena?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): There is still significant uncertainty about the total costs and will remain so until the salvage and clean-up operation is complete. A crude estimate of the total costs has been provided to me by officials, of $130 million, of which the bulk is for the salvage of fuel cargo and the ship itself. Though the bulk of those costs are being met directly by the ship’s owner, $28 million has been spent by Government agencies to date. It is our intention to fully recover those costs from the ship’s owner and its insurers. Grant Robertson: Will the Government be charging the ship’s owner, Costamare Inc., under the Resource Management Act? Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The question about prosecution of individuals under the Resource Management Act is very clearly not made under that statute by the Minister. It is one for the regulatory authorities. In this case the Bay of Plenty Regional Council would be the decision maker as to a prosecution against Costamare, the owners of the Rena.
Grant Robertson: Does the Minister believe that the Bay of Plenty Regional Council should take such a prosecution?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Just as it would be inappropriate for the Minister of Police to indicate whether a person should be prosecuted or not, the statute sets down very clearly that I as Minister for the Environment should not be encouraging or discouraging a proper, independent decision by Environment Bay of Plenty as to whether they should or should not take a prosecution.
: In light of that answer, does he stand by his statement, quote: “The Government is of a view we need to throw the full force of the law at those responsible, not only for the deaths of over 1,400 birds but also pollution to tens of kilometres of beaches”; if so, how does he reconcile that statement with his answer?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is the Government’s view that there should be the full force of the law to hold those responsible. The member will be aware that the captain and the navigation officer of the Rena are before the courts as a consequence of the decision of Maritime New Zealand to prosecute them, and that is a matter that is appropriately before the courts.
Grant Robertson: How does he reconcile those statements with his statements to the New Zealand Herald on 2 November 2011, quote: “In fact, it would be remiss given that it is New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster if there was not a prosecution under the RMA.”; how does he reconcile that statement with what he has just told the House?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is a decision for Environment Bay of Plenty whether they wish to prosecute under that Act. The Government has made plain that we hold the owners of the Rena responsible for the environmental damage that has occurred with the worst environmental disaster in New Zealand’s history. That is why the Government, both through the negotiations over the issue of pollution costs, the Resource Management Act, and the maritime transport laws does intend to use the full force of the law to hold those responsible for that disaster.
Child Abuse and Neglect—Green Paper for Vulnerable Children PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National): My question is to the Minister for Social Development, the re-elected member for Waitakere. What progress has been—
Hon Trevor Mallard
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I realise this is a relatively new member, but I think, in 3 years, he should have learned how to ask a question.
Mr SPEAKER: The members now see what happens if they depart from the Standing Orders in asking questions. They should just ask their question.
7. PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What progress has been made on the Government’s Green Paper for vulnerable children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Over the last few weeks we have been talking to thousands of New Zealanders about the issues that the green paper raises: how we value, nurture, and protect our children. So far there have been over 120 community meetings and over 3,000 submissions made.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: How can New Zealanders participate in the green paper consultation and make a submission?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is not too late; there are just 21 days left. Submissions are due by 28 February. To get a copy of the green paper and tell the Government whether you are prepared to, for example, give up some of your own privacy, allow information to be shared on your family, make it mandatory to report suspected abuse, or give priority service and access to health and education services for those with children—all so we can better protect those children who need it; submissions can be as short as a sentence or as long as a thesis—and for more details saysomething.org.nz is the website.
Overseas Investment Rules—Confidence in Ministers Involved in Crafar Farms Sale 8. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the decisions of all of his Ministers who were involved in the process for the sale of the Crafar farms?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. I am confident that the two Ministers involved— the Minister for Land Information and the Associate Minister of Finance—exercised their duties fairly and impartially under the Overseas Investment Act 2005.
Hon David Parker: Was it within the discretion of the Minister of Land Information to decline the approval of the Crafar farms sale—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: You approved every one that went before you.
Hon David Parker: —under the Overseas Investment Act? No, I did not.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The advice that I have seen is that the Ministers have to give due regard to sections 16 and 18 of the Act. If they are confident that sections 16 and 18 of the Act have been appropriately met, then they do need to accept the application. That was the view of both the Overseas Investment Office and the two Ministers.
Hon David Parker: Did the Prime Minister say in 2010 that his Government’s changes to overseas ownership regulations—and I quote—“increased ministerial flexibility to consider a wider range of issues when assessing overseas investment in sensitive land”; if so, why did the Ministers not exercise that flexibility and decline the overseas sale of the Crafar farms?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, that is absolutely correct; that is what I said in 2010. There was a wider range of issues, but, in fact, the bid met the conditions and criteria set out in the Overseas Investment Act. The truth of it is the Act did need tightening up and the number of regulations needed expanding, because when David Parker was the Minister for Land Information, between 2006 and 2008 he actually approved the sale of 410,000 hectares of farmland. That is four times the total amount of land approved for sale under the last 3 years—
Hon David Parker: Does the Prime Minister see a difference between an applicant like James Cameron moving here, living indefinitely here with his family, working here, and paying taxes, and the largest-ever sale of the multiple Crafar dairy farms to a foreign-based company, with future profits going overseas; or does he agree with Mr Williamson that opposition to the Crafar farms sales is bordering more on racism?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I believe that both of the bids met the law as it was written by Labour in 2005. In 2005 Labour did not have a condition that you have to live here. Labour did not campaign on that condition in 2011. Interestingly enough, David Shearer did not know his position on the day that this came out last week, because he had two positions in one day.
Hon David Parker: Does the Prime Minister think it is a good outcome for New Zealand that the previously New Zealand – owned Crafar farms—until now operated by private enterprise—will now be overseas-owned and farmed by a Government company?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, those farms were in a very bad state of repair. I would have thought that, as somebody who has argued about environmental issues, David Parker actually would want those farms to be more environmentally sustainable. The second thing is that I suppose the way I would sum this up would be to make the following statement: “Then we have New Zealand First, which is opposed to any purchase by any foreigner of any asset, investment,”—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You and I both know that he cannot do that. He should be told to desist and get back to doing what he should be doing: answering the question. Hon Gerry Brownlee: In answering a question, any Minister can, surely, refer to a learned piece of advice for the House. Mr SPEAKER: I think the point that the Rt Hon Winston Peters makes is fair enough. The question was asked by a member of the Labour Party, and to bring another political party into an answer is not the wisest thing to do. It is going to lead to disorder. We saw it lead to disorder. The honourable member got to his feet at the same time that I did, because I could see what was going to happen. I think it is unwise to do that. I would ask the right honourable Prime Minister to please not bring another political party, which has not been involved in the questioning, into the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me continue in this way, then. In 2005, when the law was established by Labour, in a third reading speech in this House, Clayton Cosgrove said of it: “As the Minister pointed out, that is totally illogical.”—the ability to stop a foreigner from having any investments in New Zealand. He went on to say “The last one out switches the lights off if we call a halt to any international investment in land in this country.” You see, in Government Labour members say one thing, and on the populist track in Opposition they say a completely different thing.
Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001—Reform 9. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country)
to the Minister for Primary Industries: What is the purpose of the Government’s recently announced proposed changes to the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act 2001?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Primary Industries): The proposals currently being consulted on aim to further support growth and innovation in our No. 1 export industry—the dairy industry. Ten years on, the original legislation that enabled Fonterra to be formed requires updating. The changes address key concerns regarding access to raw milk from Fonterra by competitors, and Fonterra’s ability to move to trading amongst farmers if it decides to do so.
Shane Ardern: Are the Government’s proposals final policy?
Hon DAVID CARTER: No, they are not. This is a consultation process. I invite all those interested in this matter to make a submission by 24 February 2012. Final policy will then be determined on the basis of those submissions.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister that, quote, “it would be great to have Fonterra as a listed company,” and is this why he has included in the proposed dairy industry restructuring legislation the trading of shares in Fonterra, New Zealand’s largest and fully owned cooperative company, against the wishes of a growing number of dairy farmers in this country?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Trading amongst farmers will not occur if Fonterra is forced to lose its cooperative status, and that is made very obvious to its shareholders at every shareholder meeting. That is being attended to at the moment by the likes of the chairman, Sir Henry van der Heyden.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table in the House today the latest Farming Weekly from Federated Farmers—
Mr SPEAKER: It is distributed to most—
Hon Members: No.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. I think the Speaker was displaying his rural roots here. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Syria, Internal Conflict—Government Response 10. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green)
to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What has the Government publicly said in response to the attack by Syrian forces on its own citizens in Homs, and how does it see the crisis there being resolved?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs): The Government has condemned the attacks by Syrian forces on Syrian citizens. Dealing with the current situation, I have this morning issued a statement on behalf of the New Zealand Government condemning yesterday’s bombardment of Syrian citizens in Homs, resulting in a reported death toll of 50. As the member may know, Syria does not have an ambassador resident in New Zealand, but I have asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to request that the Syrian chargé based in Canberra attends the ministry to hear our concerns directly. Over recent weeks we have taken opportunities to encourage and commend Arab League representatives for the initiatives taken by that organisation. We remain deeply disappointed that the United Nations Security Council members have been unable to agree the form of a suitable resolution, and have urged that they try harder to find agreement in light of the escalating violence.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Although the Minister says that, by and large, his Government endorses the Arab League’s work, will it endorse the precise plan for a Syrian-led transition to a democratic and plural political system through political dialogue between the Syrian Government and the whole spectrum of the Syrian opposition?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I do not think it is helpful for us to get into the detail. I would simply say that the Government has applauded the leadership shown by the Arab League, and I believe the formula that the member has just read out to the House is a sound one. What I would say is that it is imperative that the United Nations Security Council now shows some leadership and resolves the issue that separates other members of the council from Russia and China on the wording of the resolution.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister see any parallels between the Russian-Chinese veto of the Syrian resolution and the persistent US vetoes on the Israeli-Palestine resolutions?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I think that range is rather wider than I would care to go in response to the original question. What I would say is that there is a disagreement between China and Russia and the other members of the Security Council over references, in effect, to regime change in the resolution. I believe that we need to encourage all members of the Security Council to work hard to find an agreeable resolution, because that sort of leadership is called for in light of the escalating violence.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister says it ranges a little too widely, and yet he just expressed concern over one—
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot debate the Minister’s answer. The member asked the Minister for an opinion. The Minister gave an opinion, and that is the answer to the question. The member may ask a further supplementary question, but he cannot debate the answer by way of a point of order. Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister agree that the recent experience in the Security Council shows that the time has come to reform the use of the veto under the UN charter, and will he work with other member States towards that goal?
Mr SPEAKER: My goodness! That is a long way from the primary question, but I will not deprive the Minister of the opportunity to answer.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I do believe that New Zealand needs to take a role in the emerging debate on Security Council reform. Late last year I took the trouble of taking a paper on this matter to Cabinet, to ensure that New Zealand was well equipped to join this debate. Over the coming weeks I think the member will see that New Zealand will become more active in promoting Security Council reform. Of course, the question of the veto that he refers to is an inherent part of that discussion.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to table that Cabinet paper that he—
Mr SPEAKER: Is leave being sought to table that? Sorry—I am trying to understand. Does the member believe that the Minister is quoting from an official document?
Dr Kennedy Graham: He referred to a Cabinet paper pertaining to Security Council reform.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can be asked to table a document he is quoting from only if it is an official document he is quoting from. Just because he referred to a paper does not mean he has to table it. Can I check with the Minister? Is the Minister quoting from an official document? Hon MURRAY McCULLY: No, I am not, but if it assists the House I am happy to indicate that the paper I referred to will be released for public discussion at the appropriate time.
Child Poverty—Children and Poverty: Moving Beyond Rhetoric 11. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development
: Has she read the Children’s Commissioner’s newsletter Children and poverty: moving beyond rhetoric?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes. Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree with the statement contained in the report that, quote, “low income families have increased risks of other adverse features … such factors as: … higher rates of child abuse and neglect;” and, therefore, “appropriate policies to address these issues are through various policies aimed at reducing these inequalities.”; if so, what proposals in her Green Paper for Vulnerable Children address child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Actually, we have a Ministerial Committee on Poverty, which my colleague has set up, which is addressing those issues. The paper goes through quite a lot of different thought-provoking opinions on poverty. I think that they are of interest, and they certainly will be taken into consideration when looking at the green paper.
Jacinda Ardern: Has a draft of the white paper on vulnerable children been prepared; if so, has she seen it?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have certainly seen no draft of any white paper following the green paper. Jacinda Ardern: When will the white paper on vulnerable children be drafted and submitted to Cabinet?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: After submissions have closed, and when consideration of them has been taken on board. Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree with the feedback raised no less than four times at one of her green paper public meetings that the response to the issue of child welfare should be developed across parties; if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member and I have had correspondence around cross-party processes and what needs to be done there. The Labour members themselves said that they were not wanting to engage in the green paper process. I would see— Hon Member: Really?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, it is in your very own manifesto. So if the party would like to relook at that, then I am sure it is a first step to opening up discussions. Jacinda Ardern: Why, when Labour is willing to put aside issues with the green paper process, will she not accept our offer to work with her on child welfare policy?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because I note that on page 1 of the Labour Party’s children’s policy, and I quote from it, it says: “We don’t need another lengthy green paper process: we need good policies, and we need them now.”, and that Labour does not support the green paper, so it has been quite obvious.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question explicitly stated that Labour has—
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet. Questions cannot state things; questions have to ask things. The member asked the Minister why she was not following a certain course of action, and the Minister answered.
Jacinda Ardern: I seek leave to table the correspondence between the Minister and me offering Labour’s assistance on child welfare policy, and her response.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents, but you have not specified the dates. It would be helpful if the House knows—is there more than one document?
Jacinda Ardern: There are two documents: the first is the letter from Labour, dated 26 January; and the second is the response from the Minister, dated 2 February.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Border Control, SmartGate System—Progress
12. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister of Customs: What recent reports has he received about SmartGate?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister of Customs): As this is the first day of a new Parliament, I cannot say “more good news”, so I will start by saying this is the first of a number of good-news announcements along the way this year for customs. SmartGate has, indeed, already made a big difference for people travelling between Australia and New Zealand. Now, with new technology, we have been able to change the age of compatibility from 18 down to 16. Previously, you had to be 18 years or over to use SmartGate kiosks. SmartGate provides faster processing for eligible travellers arriving at, or departing from, Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch, and for those arriving at Australia’s eight international airports.
Chris Auchinvole: What benefits does lowering the age-limit on SmartGate have for New Zealand and Australian passport holders?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Lowering the age-limit of SmartGate users will enable an estimated 120,000 additional travellers to use the kiosks every year, as families now travelling with teenagers will be able to use SmartGate and not the manual queuing process. SmartGate has already processed over 2 million travellers since it was first implemented in December 2009, and, by lowering the age-limit, more families will be able to use it. I wish that it was not that the facial structures of children under the age of 16 changed so much, because if that was not the case, we would actually be able to lower it even further than 16.