Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy LeaderLabour) to the Minister of Health: In light of his admission yesterday that health funding has not kept up with all inflationary pressures under this Government, how will the health budget absorb the increased …
Questions to Ministers
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: In light of his admission yesterday that health funding has not kept up with all inflationary pressures under this Government, how will the health budget absorb the increased cost of purchasing medicines that the Prime Minister has said is likely to result from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Kia ora, Mr Speaker. The member is being selective in her portrayal of health funding, which under this Government has risen by $4.1 billion—actually an increase above inflation. The member is also getting ahead of herself on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, if there is any increase, it is likely to be small and the Government will fund that. Over 7 years National has increased and managed the health budget, whereas Labour blew the budget and left a deepening $150 million deficit.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mine was a straight question on notice, and the last part of that answer—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, that particular answer was perfectly in line with the Standing—[Interruption] Order! I do not expect the Hon Annette King to interject when I am on my feet, if she wishes to stay for the balance of question time. I am giving a ruling as to the satisfactory nature of that answer. In my mind it had a little bit of politics in it. This is a debating chamber.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have given previous rulings in this House about—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member please sit down. I just want to deal with something else. I will give the very last warning to the Hon Annette King. If she continues to interject through a point of order, whether her colleague is on his feet or I am on my feet, I will be asking her to leave the Chamber. I apologise to the member for interrupting.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have given rulings on previous occasions about primary questions on notice when Government Ministers use their answers to them to take political flicks at the Opposition. You have previously said that was unacceptable. I can see why my colleague Annette King rose to take the point of order that she did, because that answer did contain that at the end of the answer. In fact, earlier in the answer it strayed close to it, but the last part most definitely was out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry—I apologise to the member but I do not recall giving such a reason. I judge every question on its time, and frequently a primary question will have a bit of political connotation in it. I then judge whether it is likely to create disorder. In this case I do not think that answer was unacceptable, as I have already indicated. So in actual fact what we have here is a case of the member relitigating a point I have already ruled on.
Hon Annette King: If funding for the increased costs of pharmaceuticals arising from the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal will not be “by raiding the … budget” as he claimed yesterday, how much has Pharmac, which has been providing technical advice to him, said would be needed to cover the savings Pharmac normally achieves in Vote Health?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The whole point is that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has not been signed yet. We do not know what is in it. That is a budgetary matter that would be dealt with in the next Budget, should the agreement be signed.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, is he saying that he has had no advice or assumptions given on the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Vote Health, even though we know that Pharmac has been providing technical advice to the Ministry of Health, or is he being kept in the dark?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman—either of those two questions.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Refer to answer No. 2.
Barbara Stewart: In light of what the Minister is saying now, how does he reconcile that with what his Prime Minister said 1 month ago: “We won’t sign anything that undercuts Pharmac in a way that would have a dramatic impact.”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: There is no contradiction there at all, I am afraid.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a letter received today from Pharmac, received under an Official Information Act—is that all you need, Mr Speaker? Thank you.
Mr SPEAKER: That is all I need. I am putting the leave. Leave is sought to table a letter from Pharmac, dated today. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that Pharmac saved $1.4 billion this year alone on the purchase of pharmaceuticals for New Zealanders, and how will these sorts of savings be affected if patents are increased for longer, as indicated by him in the House yesterday?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am very glad that Mrs King has brought up Pharmac’s performance, because it has been excellent. In the last year it funded 20 new pharmaceuticals, and 21 existing pharmaceuticals have been funded for new users over the same period. That is going to benefit 70,000 extra New Zealanders over this coming year. So, yes, I am aware of its performance.
Hon Annette King: What advice has he received on the impact on cancer and heart patients if they are required to wait longer before they can access generic medicines because of extensions made under the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal on high-cost patent medicines?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Mrs King is making a massive assumption. The Trans-Pacific Partnership has yet to be signed.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked what advice—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.
Hon Annette King: What advice has he received on the impact on cancer and heart patients if they are required to wait years longer before they can access generic medicines because of extensions made under the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal on high-cost patent medicines?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: There is absolutely nothing to indicate that that will happen.
Hon Annette King: If the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal will not raid the health budget but Pharmac is unable to make the savings necessary for district health boards, where will the Ministry of Health find $40 million over the next 4 years to fund home care for the disabled, given the ministry also has to find $32 million of cuts in the same period?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The first point is that there are no cuts to the health budget. We have actually increased it by $4 billion over the past 4 years. The second point is that Mrs King has made it clear that she is opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but she might want to think that, actually, if we do end up with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we will have a far stronger economy and be able to afford much more in terms of health care. So that is really what she wants to consider: what is in New Zealand’s interest here.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act document from Treasury—a report dated 22 April this year—that shows funding for disability support coming out of the Pharmac drug savings.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular Official Information Act document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Russel Norman: Has he received advice as to the impact on the health budget of any potential Trans-Pacific Partnership deal?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Officials cannot provide advice when they do not know what is in the deal.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I hope it is not that the question has not been addressed, but I will listen—
Dr Russel Norman: It has not been addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question had—[Interruption] Order! The question was definitely addressed.
2. FLETCHER TABUTEAU (NZ First) to the Minister of Trade: Does he agree with the headlines in the Nikkei Asian Review, “Will TPP end with whimper like Doha Round?”, and in Gareth Morgan’s column, “Could the TPP become Key’s most embarrassing moment”?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Acting Minister of Trade): No, the Minister does not agree. Trade agreements help to open up markets for Kiwi exporters, and exports drive the New Zealand economy and its growth. Helping our exporters means creating jobs for New Zealanders, and we will not be successful by exporting to ourselves. Interestingly, Trans-Pacific Partnership countries account for 45 percent of New Zealand’s total trade, and five of New Zealand’s top 10 trading partners are included in this negotiation. The 12 participating economies account for $27 trillion—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This answer is definitely now too long. It was answered immediately when the Minister rose to his feet.
Fletcher Tabuteau: How can it be that at the eleventh hour and 59th minute our agricultural trade envoy is saying: “The deal’s simply not at the stage where the industry could support it or even New Zealand could really accept this deal.”?
Hon TODD McCLAY: That is because this is still a negotiation and it is not yet an agreement. Our negotiators are overseas, and they are working hard to deliver the very best deal that they can on behalf of New Zealand, and I would ask that member and his party to support those negotiators, to support New Zealand farmers, and to support all those who could benefit from a high-quality trade agreement that the Government is negotiating.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Given the Prime Minister claims that he wants good outcomes for DairyNZ, will the Prime Minister and Minister of Trade resign if dairy does not get what it actually needs from this deal come its signing?
Hon TODD McCLAY: If I had that member’s leader’s piece of paper that says “No”, I could hold it up. The Government is negotiating the very best deal that it can on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, on behalf of all New Zealanders. No agreement has been reached yet. That is why it is still a negotiation, and Minister Groser is there negotiating as we speak.
Fletcher Tabuteau: The Malaysian trade Minister has said today—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just have the question, please. What is the question?
Fletcher Tabuteau: Can I not quote?
Mr SPEAKER: No, you can ask a supplementary question. I invite the member to ask a supplementary question.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Excuse me—thank you, Mr Speaker. Has the Minister of Trade read that the Malaysian trade Minister has said today that he will not sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership until the Malaysian Parliament has given him the permission to do so? Can the Minister of Trade give all New Zealanders the same democratic opportunity?
Hon TODD McCLAY: No, I have not seen those comments. I am not sure that we will be asking the Malaysian Parliament, on behalf of New Zealanders, to cast judgment on this agreement for us, but what I can give the member an assurance of is that should the Trans-Pacific Partnership be successfully concluded and, overall, be in broad agreement in the interests of New Zealand, we will follow the same process as other agreements have been through the department.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly, that answer was trifling with the House, and I would ask you—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. He will be leaving very early if he carries on with his trifling points of order.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order, but before—[Interruption] The member will resume his seat. Before I hear the point of order, I want to be entirely fair with the member. If he is in any way relitigating a decision that I have just made, the member will be leaving the Chamber.
3. TODD BARCLAY (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the outlook for the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): In a speech delivered yesterday, the Governor of the Reserve Bank said that the economy is growing at around 2.5 percent a year, consistent with the solid, moderate growth that this Government is looking for. He highlighted the factors supporting that growth, including our record high labour force participation rate; our strong population growth, as New Zealanders return from overseas and skilled migrants are attracted to New Zealand; ongoing investment activity, including in construction; and continued strength in the services sector, which makes up around 60 percent to 70 percent of GDP. He pointed out that the economy is also being supported by an exchange rate that is 25 percent down against the US dollar compared with this time last year, and, of course, lower interest rates.
Todd Barclay: How is the fall in the exchange rate and interest rates supporting sustained growth in the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: These are adjustments that one would expect, particularly given the way that the commodity cycle has worked for the dairy industry. Industries that were forced to become more efficient when the exchange rate was US88c are now likely to become more profitable with the exchange rate at 67c against the US dollar. Of course, these businesses may get the benefits, in time, of lower interest rates. These changes will, for instance, benefit the technology sector. A report released today stated that technology exports have doubled over the past 6 years and are now worth more than $6 billion, making them New Zealand’s third-largest export earner behind dairy and tourism. Of course, we welcome these positive comments from the Labour Party members about the diversification of the economy, which seems to have been going on under their very noses, and we are pleased—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: —that they understand the importance of the technology industry.
Todd Barclay: How is the Government supporting export sectors such as information and communications technology?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Information and communications technology is among the 350 pieces of concrete microeconomic policies laid out in the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. A key part of supporting exporters, including information and communications technology, is the significant efforts to secure free-trade agreements. The Government is also rolling out ultra-fast broadband, building the Rural Broadband Initiative, and establishing three information and communications technology graduate schools—in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. So the Government’s unfolding vision of a growing and robust information and communications technology sector seems to be going pretty well.
David Seymour: Does the Government have any plans to lower barriers to foreign direct investment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: New Zealand is, in general, open to foreign direct investment, but, of course, in some areas there are quite significant barriers. The Overseas Investment Act applies a set of very complex tests to people who want to buy certain categories of land in New Zealand. The Government has no plans to change that piece of legislation.
Todd Barclay: How does economic growth translate into more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealand families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Economic growth, of course, is about companies investing another dollar and employing another person. The effect of that is that since late 2010, New Zealanders have created 194,000 extra jobs, and the latest forecasts anticipate about 150,000 more jobs by 2019. Average annual wages have increased by $5,700 in the past 4 years, and are forecast to rise to about $63,000 a year in 4 years’ time. That is an increase of a further $7,000. So, despite some concerns about dairy prices at the moment, the outlook for the economy, for jobs, and for incomes is for moderate, sustainable growth.
Grant Robertson: Has he seen any reports of anyone other than him saying that the economic slowdown is coming at “the right time in the electoral cycle”; and when will he apologise for that cynical and out-of-touch comment?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, there are actually two questions.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports of that member saying it, but, of course, the relationship between the economic cycle and the political cycle is important. Labour decided to think about thinking about work, and then it went and thought about work, and the result of its thought about work was that it has now decided to think about it further. The next election is coming far too quickly for Labour to work out what work is.
Grant Robertson: Which of the following reports has given him such a rosy outlook on the economy: GDP growth being negative in the March quarter, the worst quarter since December 2010; dairy prices having fallen by over 50 percent since March; commodity prices being down 20 percent in the year to June; economic pessimism outweighing optimism for the first time in 6 years; economic pessimism at its highest since the Canterbury earthquakes—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will need the question. [Interruption] Order! We now need the question.
Grant Robertson: I asked the question. I haven’t finished.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: On any given day there are things about an economy, or a world economy, that are not going well and there are things that are going well. We are fortunate that because we have a resilient economy, enough of the New Zealand economy is going pretty well, particularly the manufacturing sector—since Labour said it was in crisis. But as the Reserve Bank Governor said yesterday, we are currently growing at about 2.5 percent, and that is consistent with an outlook of sustainable, moderate growth.
Housing Market, Auckland—Non-resident Foreign Buyers
4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Does he stand by his statement that non-resident foreign buyers in the Auckland housing market are a non-event; if so, on what empirical data does he base that?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): My full statement was: “We know from the IRD data that the number of non-resident taxpayers with income or losses from rental properties has not changed in 5 years and is a non-event.” The actual number is 25,000, as compared with the 1.75 million homes in New Zealand, or about 2 percent. This number also includes a large number of New Zealand citizens and residents who live offshore but own a home in New Zealand. I do not share the member’s view that people with Chinese-sounding names are the root cause of our housing problem.
Phil Twyford: What are the advantages to New Zealanders, if any, of allowing non-resident foreigners to trade our houses for capital—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to invite the member to ask that question again. There was a lot of interjection here. I did not hear the tail end of the question.
Phil Twyford: What are the advantages to New Zealanders, if any, of allowing non-resident foreigners to trade our houses for capital gain?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The consistent advice that I have had from the Productivity Commission, Treasury, and my own ministry is that overseas buyers are not having a significant effect on house prices. I also note that in Sydney they have had greater house price inflation than in Auckland, despite controls of the sort that the member proposes. I do not think a policy of allowing foreign property speculation from Australia but banning it from China, as Labour proposes, is a principled policy. I think it is something a lot less.
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very straight question—
Mr SPEAKER: The question was about the advantages. I will invite Phil Twyford to ask the question again so that it is absolutely clear to the Minister.
Phil Twyford: What are the advantages to New Zealanders, if any, of allowing non-resident foreigners to trade our houses for capital gain?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I was in Auckland last night and actually met with a number of overseas interests that are buying and building a significant number of new homes for Auckland, and given the supply challenge that we have, actually, that investment helps us to address those supply issues.
Alfred Ngaro: E te Mana i te Whakawā. What reports has the Minister seen on the claim that the Auckland housing problem is the fault of people with Chinese-sounding names?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have seen many reports disputing that people with Chinese-sounding names are to blame for housing affordability and the 30-year decline in homeownership. The Race Relations Commissioner called it shameful scapegoating. The Listener said it was demonising one ethnic group on highly questionable data and said that it was different only in scale to that which occurred in Nazi Germany. [Interruption] That is what the Listener said.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just bring the answer to a conclusion.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: We also saw Labour Party members resigning as a consequence. We saw others who were very disappointed that Andrew Little has become the Pauline Hanson of New Zealand politics.
Phil Twyford: Why will he not back the vast majority of New Zealanders, including the majority of National Party voters, who want a ban on foreign buyers, or is he right and they are all wrong?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member himself does not support a ban on all foreign buyers. He has said that he actually supports Australians being able to speculate on the New Zealand market, which shows how shallow and opportunist the policy of members opposite is.
Phil Twyford: Does he take responsibility after 7 years in Government for the fact that banks approved three times as many mortgages for investors as they did for first-home buyers?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: What that data showed was that 33 percent of new mortgages were granted to people who were investing in property. That is not surprising, given that 35 percent of homes in New Zealand are rented. What I do take responsibility for is doubling—doubling—the rate of house builds. I draw attention to the pipeline report yesterday that shows with this Government’s policies 80,000 new homes are to be built in Auckland over the next 6 years. That is where this Government sees the solution lying.
Phil Twyford: Is he concerned that a couple who, according to the New Zealand Herald, are listed on the electoral roll as students amassed Auckland property worth $26 million and gave $370,000 to the National Party?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That last part of that question makes it entirely out of order. [Interruption] Order! I am inviting the member—I was quite happy to rule the question right out, but the Minister obviously wants to answer the first part. [Interruption] Then the question is out of order. [Interruption] Order! I have a point of order.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On what basis is that question ruled out of order under the Standing Orders?
Mr SPEAKER: I would have—[Interruption] Order! I am happy to explain. The Minister for Building and Housing is not responsible for any donations to a political party.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I just want to be clear with the member. If this is a fresh point of order, I am happy to hear it.
Chris Hipkins: It is a fresh point of order. It may be something that you want to consider and come back to the House on. Members often ask Ministers questions with reference to matters that they are not directly responsible for but that have a relevance on their responsibility. A donation to a party, although the Minister may not be responsible for it, can actually have relevance to the Minister’s portfolio.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is now skating on very thin ice.
Chris Hipkins: I’m not.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I assure the member he is. We are relitigating a point. Political donations occur—we all know they do—but a Minister of the Crown is not responsible for political donations to a political party. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. There are many Speakers’ rulings confirming that.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A further point of order? Again, I just want to be clear, because I have got to treat everybody in this House absolutely fairly. Is it a fresh point of order?
Hon David Parker: It is. I accept your ruling. I accept your ruling, and I would ask that the same level of sitting down Ministers is applied when the Ministers refer to things that they have no responsibility for, which is Labour Party policy. It is the same rule.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will do my best to do so when I see—[Interruption] Order! I have a very good mind to be asking Kris Faafoi to leave the Chamber on that basis; a very good mind, indeed. [Interruption] Order! In answer to the point raised by the Hon David Parker, I attempt to do my best. I may fail—miss—on the odd occasion, but I will certainly do my best. When a Minister blatantly brings in a Opposition’s political policies, I will do my best to shut that down. I call question No. 5, Paul Foster-Bell—[Interruption] Order! Again I have had to put up with another interjection from the Hon Annette King. I have given one warning. Because of the seniority of the member I will give a final warning. If it happens again this question time, the member will be leaving the Chamber.
Student Loans—Repayment by Overseas-based New Zealanders
5. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What progress is the Government making in ensuring overseas-based New Zealanders repay their student loans?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koe e te Whare. Earlier today I announced that overseas-based Kiwis with student loans have collectively repaid more than $200 million in additional repayments towards their outstanding balances through the Overseas-based Borrowers Initiative. In the year to June a total of $185 million was collected from overseas-based borrowers, which includes $79 million directly as a result of this programme. Reaching $200 million in additional repayments is a good milestone for the programme. This is all money we would not have collected if we had continued on the old way of ignoring student debt owed by people overseas.
Paul Foster-Bell: Ko tētahi atu pātai: why is it important for borrowers to repay their loans quickly?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is important that student loan borrowers meet their obligations to New Zealand taxpayers, who have supported their tertiary study, so that we can provide the same support for the next generation of students. Just because a borrower has gone overseas, it does not mean that their loan goes away while they are not here. It is also important for the borrowers themselves, whether they are based in New Zealand or offshore, to get their loans paid off more quickly. Prior to the Government starting this initiative as firstly a pilot programme in late 2010, overseas-based debt was in the too-hard basket. We still have a long way further to go to get overseas-based borrowers fully repaying what they should, but reaching $200 million in additional repayments is significant progress.
Paul Foster-Bell: Pātai ano: what other measures has the Government introduced to ensure borrowers repay their loans more quickly?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This feels like a linguistic arms race now.
Grant Robertson: You’re losing.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As part of the overseas-based borrowers initiative—I am waving the white flag—we have brought in fixed repayment obligations and higher repayment thresholds for overseas-based borrowers. We have introduced border arrest systems for the most non-compliant overseas-based borrowers with high levels of default on student loan repayments. We have extended the student loan and allowance stand-down period for permanent residents and Australian citizens from 2 to 3 years, and we have put in place an ongoing information-sharing agreement between our Inland Revenue Department and the Department of Internal Affairs, to collect contact details from passport applications. These and other measures have made the student loan scheme more affordable, avoiding a blowout in costs while keeping student loans interest-free.
6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Green) to the Minister of Trade: Has the New Zealand Government provided to other governments involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations any documents regarding New Zealand’s position on specific issues in the negotiations; if so, have those documents been made publicly available to New Zealanders?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Acting Minister of Trade): Kia ora, Mr Speaker. As part of the negotiation process, negotiators necessarily provide documents to other participants in a negotiation in order to assist the negotiating strategies to obtain the best outcomes for New Zealand. All Trans-Pacific Partnership members have agreed to keep negotiating texts confidential. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been open about the issues under negotiation and has actively engaged stakeholders. Hundreds of groups and individuals have been involved in consultation.
Dr Russel Norman: So is the Minister saying that the New Zealand Government has provided position papers to the other Governments involved in the negotiations on New Zealand’s negotiating position in the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Hon TODD McCLAY: The New Zealand Government has been negotiating with 11 other countries. We do so, so that we can deliver the best outcome of this negotiation for New Zealand.
Dr Russel Norman: Why is it that the Government will reveal its negotiating position to the other parties in the negotiation by these documents but it will not make those negotiating documents available to the people of New Zealand?
Hon TODD McCLAY: In our desire to deliver the very best agreement possible for New Zealanders it is necessary for us to negotiate with our partners.
Dr Russel Norman: How could it undermine the negotiating position of the New Zealand Government to tell the people of New Zealand what is in these documents that have already been shared with the other negotiating partners?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Disclosure to other countries of all of our negotiating positions and including New Zealand’s bottom lines, which is the information the member is asking us to deliver, and the sensitive and likely negotiating positions and strategies New Zealand is applying is likely to undermine our negotiating position. Part of the reason our negotiators are in Hawaii at the moment and we do not have an agreement is that, actually, there are issues that remain outstanding to be negotiated in New Zealand’s interest.
Dr Russel Norman: Putting aside the issue of New Zealand’s bottom lines, how can it undermine the New Zealand Government position in the negotiations to release to the New Zealand public the papers that the New Zealand Government has already given to the other Governments that are party to the negotiations—the other Governments already know what is in these papers?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked.
Hon TODD McCLAY: What is becoming more apparent is that member’s desire to undermine New Zealand’s—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Simply answer the question.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at that comment. I ask him to withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not going to ask the member to withdraw. I have stopped him from answering that. He is not to continue in that vein. I do not think it was something that was necessary. It was creating disorder. It was hardly an offensive remark, but I ask now the Minister to complete an answer to the question.
Tracey Martin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I hope we are not getting to the position of relitigating decisions.
Tracey Martin: I am going to ask you please whether you can clarify. My understanding was that under the Standing Orders it was if a member—a member—took offence. Have we now changed so that you decide—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, nothing has changed, but I am happy to bring the member up to date. It is a matter of whether it is an offence to the House; not whether it is an offence to an individual member. On occasions there are times when members have said they were offended; in fact, I think there was a case yesterday when I did consider whether, as in this case, the member should have taken offence. It is a matter of offence to the House, not to an individual member. Would the Hon Todd McClay—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No—would the member resume his seat. We have spent enough time on this. If the member raises a fresh point of order I am happy to hear it—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want to be fair to the member. He will resume his seat. But if in any way we are continuing to relitigate a point that I have made, it will require me to be even-handed as in the action I took on Tuesday.
Dr Russel Norman: The question is, in determining offence to the House, basically, what the Minister is saying is that anyone who disagrees with the Government’s position is undermining the New Zealand Government’s position. Most of us on this side of the House—
Mr SPEAKER: The member now is in very grave danger of not being here to hear the answer. I have explained that I am not interested in relitigating the point. I have explained to Tracey Martin that I need to decide whether the words stated were offensive enough they could lead to offence. On occasions I do; on this occasion I did not. Would the Hon Todd McClay complete his answer.
Hon TODD McCLAY: No, the Government values the views of New Zealanders, which is why there have been two full consultations under the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the negotiation. What I would say to that member is that people who want us to make public these documents actually do not want to see the text; they just want to derail the agreement. The agreement, if concluded, will deliver benefit to the New Zealand economy.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the actual reason that the Government will not release the documents is that it has already shown to all the other Governments involved in the negotiation—the actual reason they will not release them to the public of New Zealand—because the people of New Zealand will not agree with the negotiating position that this Government has taken? That is why they are kept secret.
Hon TODD McCLAY: The answer to that question is no. The other answer is nobody has taken that member’s flag.
Workplace Health and Safety—Reforms
7. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Does he stand by his statement, “It’s important to strike the right balance between safe workplaces for workers and unnecessary red tape on businesses and I’m confident we have landed in the right space.”?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): Yes, I am confident that the Health and Safety Reform Bill as amended is sensible, workable, and will make a real difference to improve New Zealand’s unacceptable safety record. It will contribute to the Government’s commitment of achieving its goal of at least a 25 percent reduction in workplace death and injury by 2020.
Clayton Mitchell: What assurances can the Minister give to small and medium sized businesses that WorkSafe New Zealand inspectors will not become revenue collectors at the expense of small to medium sized enterprises?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The overwhelming number of offences for which a fine is levied are levied by the courts, not WorkSafe New Zealand at all. I simply reject the notion that WorkSafe New Zealand has that as its raison d’être.
Clayton Mitchell: Why has the Minister ignored the personal responsibility of staff to look after their personal protection equipment, or “PPE”, leaving small to medium sized businesses to carry the financial cost of damage or loss of this equipment by employees; and, will he amend clause 28 of the new Health and Safety Reform Bill to rectify this?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Michael Woodhouse—either of those two supplementary questions.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The answer to the second part of the question is no, because, although a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) will be required to provide personal protection equipment, nothing prevents them under other employment law or civil jurisdiction from claiming the cost of damage, particularly when it is done in a grossly negligent way.
Clayton Mitchell: Will the Government help small business by funding the health and safety representative training for small to medium sized businesses as they face the ever-increasing and crippling workplace compliance costs?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The Government already invests heavily in health and safety training and education. There is a contribution by the workplace—the PCBU—as it is the primary beneficiary, and I think that we have got that balance right.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Will farming be one of the high-risk industries that will be required to have health and safety representatives, even if the business has fewer than 20 employees?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The decision on which industries constitute high or low risk has not yet been made but I intend to bring guidance to the House in advance of the Committee of the whole House.
Marama Fox: Ā, tēnā koe, e te Mana Whakawā, he pātai Reo Māori tēnei. Mō aua mahinga ‘whakawhara’, arā, e pērā ana ki ngā mahi ono rākau he nui kē ngā kaimahi Māori kei roto, he aha ō mahi kia mōhio paitia ai, he māngai hei tautoko i ngā kaimahi katoa?
[Thank you, Mr Speaker. This is a question in Māori. What industries, if any, does the Minister consider to be ‘high risk’ and what does he intend to do, if anything, about ensuring those risk industries that particularly impact on all Māori workers such as forestry will continue to have health and safety representatives?]
Clayton Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not get that whole question. Could I ask that the question be repeated so that I can get my earpiece in?
Mr SPEAKER: Was the member unable to hear the translation?
Clayton Mitchell: No, I did not get a translation of the question—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am here to assist the House. On this occasion, I am going to ask Marama Fox to repeat the question for the benefit of the translator, so that all members can hear it.
Marama Fox: Kia ora e te Mana Whakawā, he pai tēnā, he hōnore. E te Minita, mō aua mahinga ‘whakawhara’, arā, e pērā ana ki ngā mahi ono rākau he nui kē ngā kaimahi Māori kei roto, he aha ō mahi kia mōhio paitia ai he māngai hei tautoko i ngā kaimahi katoa?
[Thank you, Mr Speaker. That is fine and it is indeed an honour. What industries, if any, does he consider to be ‘high risk’ and what does he intend to do, if anything, about ensuring those risk industries that particularly impact on all Māori workers such as forestry will continue to have health and safety representatives?]
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I do not want to get ahead of the advice that officials will give as to which industries will fall into which box, but, contrary to some of the scaremongering that has been going on from the Opposition, loggers and forestry workers, for example, will certainly be considered high risk under any definition. It would not be helpful for me to start speculating more broadly on what those industries might be before I get the advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, but I will continue to work with the Māori Party behind the scenes, as we have done, and I appreciate their support.
8. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Education: What reports has she received on trades academies?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā. Today the Education Review Office has released a report that shows that trades academies are delivering overwhelmingly positive outcomes for students. The report shows the impact trades academies are having on energising and focusing students on the importance of learning and achievement. Trades academies, introduced in 2011, are designed to increase retention rates, raise National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 achievement rates, and smooth the transition from school to further education, training, and work. We currently have more than 5,000 students engaged in trades academies across the country.
Hon Judith Collins: How are trades academies delivering for young New Zealanders?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is young New Zealanders themselves who are reporting that trades academies work for them. The Education Review Office report has numerous positive comments from students, including: “You know, I’m really good at something after all” and: “Just came here for a day off school, realised it is opening doors now and it’s worth it”, and from teachers: “Overall I think the Trades Academy is wonderful—seen too many successes for me not to be happy. It’s about the kids.” This is why this Government announced in the Budget that we would fund an additional 300 places for trades academies each year for the next 4 years.
Children, At-risk—Cost of Predictive Risk Model
9. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: How much money has her Government spent developing and testing the ‘predictive risk model’ that was announced in 2012 to identify children at risk of harm and abuse, and in what year will it be rolled out?
Hon NICKY WAGNER (Minister of Customs) on behalf of the Minister for Social Development: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. The Government’s 2012 White Paper for Vulnerable Children identified predictive modelling as a potential tool to identify children most at risk of abuse and neglect. As a result, the Government has asked agencies to look at the feasibilities and the ethics of predictive modelling to identify children at risk of harm. I am advised that the cost of this work since the release of the 2012 white paper has been $342,394, and this includes all feasibility studies, ethics reports, and the work of the Ministry of Social Development that has been contracted externally. As a result of this work, a proposal was put forward with options to test predictive modelling. The Minister declined to proceed with the observational study, but the work undertaken so far will be used to advance the study using historical data, and it will start later this year.
Jacinda Ardern: Was Paula Bennett, as her predecessor, briefed on the planned trials of the risk predictor model, and was it her who gave officials the green light?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I am afraid I do not have that information with me here today, but the Minister will be very happy to answer that question if you put it in writing.
Jacinda Ardern: Who could have told officials to go ahead if it was not Paula Bennett when it clearly was not her given that her notes show that she asked officials to “stop phase 2 planning immediately and talk to me!”—with the exclamation mark?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Well, the Government is absolutely committed and has a strong effort and investment to improve the lives of vulnerable children. We are doing everything we can to make sure that we can put that work forward—for example, the Children’s Action Plan, with 30 initiatives; the Vulnerable Children Act; the four Children’s Teams; stronger child protection, with memorandums of understanding; tougher sentences for crimes against children; and extra payments for grandparents.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree with Paula Bennett’s pursuing the risk predictor model, when an Official Information Act inquiry shows, in contrast, that she rejected trialling it and handwrote on the policy papers: “Not on my watch. These are children, not lab rats.”?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. The Minister obviously does not want to support the observation group. But the Minister is supporting predictive modelling because there is merit in identifying the future use of abuse. I do not think this undermines the value of the model, and we will be trialling it using historical data.
Jacinda Ardern: Who did, then, agree to the observational trials, as part of the risk predictive model?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I am afraid I do not have that information, but you could put that in writing to the Minister.
Border Control, SmartGate System—Security and Processing of Passengers
10. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Customs: How will the Government’s investment in next generation SmartGates increase security and ensure passengers are processed faster and more efficiently at the border?
Hon NICKY WAGNER (Minister of Customs): Last week I was pleased to announce—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am going to invite the Minister to start again. I could not hear a word of it.
Hon NICKY WAGNER: Last week I was pleased to announce that the Government is investing in an additional 29 new-generation SmartGates, which will double the number of SmartGates at New Zealand’s airports. SmartGate has processed over 13 million passengers so far. It is saving time and is freeing-up our customs officers to keep our borders safe.
David Seymour: Will the new SmartGates apply Bayesian analysis to visitors’ names to try to figure out their ethnicity?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: No. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am quite keen to hear the answer.
Hon NICKY WAGNER: No. From what I believe, Bayesian analysis, particularly when applied to Chinese-sounding names, is statistically invalid, politically impotent, and morally bankrupt. We would never use this type of shoddy and dodgy analysis in our high-quality—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough.
Mark Mitchell: How are the next-generation SmartGates an upgrade of the existing gates?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: I was privileged to trial the new SmartGates last week. The new gates are a faster, one-step process that scans your passport and performs a biometric scan at the same time. It eliminates the kiosks and the printing of tickets, and it will reduce queuing. It is a great thing for New Zealand.
Partnership Schools—Cabinet Papers
11. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Education: Has she taken any papers to Cabinet proposing changes for charter schools; if so, is this an admission that the charter school model is not working?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā anō koe e te Mana Whakawā, otirā, tēnā anō koe.
[Thank you once again, Mr Speaker, and to you indeed as well.]
No, but I have been taking papers on partnership schools to Cabinet since 2012. Many of these have sought to refine the partnership school model in some aspects. These papers have regularly been made available to the public, on the ministry’s website. In regard to reviewing and evaluating the partnership school model, this is a process that we continuously undertake across the whole education portfolio. I will always work hard to ensure that Kiwi kids are receiving the best possible educational outcomes. If improvements can be made in any aspect of education, I will seek to make them.
Catherine Delahunty: Are policy changes being proposed because charter schools or partnership schools have already developed problems with student safety, educational success, cultural responsiveness, asset retention, and competency of management?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We are constantly refining policy, including the partnership policy, because we are intent on where we think there are weaknesses or flaws that we improve them. We do that in all parts of the education system.
Catherine Delahunty: Is the Minister still intending to go ahead with the two new partnership schools announced in Budget 2015, given the widespread failures with educational success, asset retention, cultural responsiveness, and competency of management?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I reject the member’s characterisation of the schools. We have definitely had one school that has had problems. The other eight have not. Yes, we have provisioned in the Budget for two further schools.
Catherine Delahunty: Could not the same money have been spent on supporting the students within existing local public schools, thus avoiding experimenting on kids?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Partnership schools are another option available to parents who freely choose where they send their kids. Many of the young people who are in the partnership schools are ones where the other options have failed them.
12. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Trade: Why did he say to journalists asking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement “we need adults to do this—not breathless children to run off at the mouth” and why does he think we should trust the Government to protect New Zealand’s interests when the Prime Minister has already admitted on TV that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement may trade away New Zealand’s right to ban the sale of our homes to foreigners?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Acting Minister of Trade): The member needs to be careful not to take the Minister’s comments in isolation or out of context. Equally, that is not actually what the Prime Minister said. The Government is working to get the best deal that it can for New Zealand.
Hon David Parker: What written advice has the Minister received from the Minister for Building and Housing or that Minister’s officials about the effect of foreign buyers on Auckland house prices?
Hon TODD McCLAY: I am not aware of all of the advice that the Minister has received from all other Ministers in their portfolio areas, but what I can say is that, again, as far as the Trans-Pacific Partnership is concerned, it has not yet been agreed. It is still in negotiation, and the outcome of that agreement, should it be reached, will depend on the circumstances around the policy the member is suggesting.
Hon David Parker: Given that National does not know how big the effect of foreign buyers is on house prices, how can he look New Zealanders in the eye and say that he is correct to trade away New Zealand’s right to ban foreign buyers?
Hon TODD McCLAY: Because the Minister is not going to single out one group of New Zealanders who have unusual sounding names to the members opposite, and stigmatise them as far as housing policy is concerned.
Hon David Parker: Why does that Minister imply that it is racist to talk about foreign buyers from China, but never makes the same accusations when we talk about foreign buyers from the USA under the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Hon TODD McCLAY: That is not what I said. What I said was that it was some of the worst policy development I have seen in the history of this Parliament, from Mr Twyford and his cronies.
Hon David Parker: Does he believe that New Zealand should be able to control whether overseas buyers should be allowed to buy New Zealand homes?
Hon TODD McCLAY: That is not actually policy that falls within the Minister’s competence.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that it is absolutely central to the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as we have heard about for months in this House, how can the Minister deny that he has got responsibility for whether he protects that?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think, in view of where the supplementary questions have gone and where the answers have been given, on that basis I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.
Hon David Parker: Does he believe that New Zealand should be able to control whether overseas buyers are allowed to buy New Zealand homes?
Hon TODD McCLAY: That is not actually an area that falls within the competence of trade. The Government has a number of tools available to it around policy that can have an effect upon housing policy.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member is now going to say that the question has not been addressed—we have now tried it twice. If that does not address the question, it may not be to the satisfaction of—is it a fresh point of order?
Hon David Parker: No, my point of order is that he denied responsibility for answering the question, saying it was outside his ministerial responsibility. Given that he is negotiating that very issue, how can he deny responsibility?
Mr SPEAKER: The question has been addressed; obviously not to the satisfaction of the member. The way forward is further supplementary questions.
Hon David Parker: Why does he call his critics ideologues, tell journalists that they are breathless children, and expect New Zealanders in the dark to trust him, when he has already shown that he is the ideologue by selling out New Zealanders and giving up the right to ban the sale of overseas houses to foreigners?
Hon TODD McCLAY: The member needs to be careful not to take the Minister’s comments out of context or to put meaning in them he did not intend. In as far as the Minister’s involvement with the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is concerned, his ideology is to deliver the very best agreement that he can for New Zealand.
Point of Order—Speaker
RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I need to draw to your attention that there is information now airing in the media that you, yourself, Mr Speaker, swore at the leader of my party under your breath and it was caught by the microphone. Given the inconsistency with which we have been treated over here, do you not think that you should withdraw and apologise?
Mr SPEAKER: I absolutely assure the member that I never did such a thing.