Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy LeaderLabour) to the Minister of Health : What was core Crown health expenditure as a percentage of GDP in 2010/11 and what is it in 2015/16?
Questions to Ministers
Health Services—Crown Expenditure
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What was core Crown health expenditure as a percentage of GDP in 2010/11 and what is it in 2015/16?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The 2015 Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand state that in 2010/11 core Crown health expenditure was 6.7 percent of GDP, and in 2015/16 it is forecast to be 6.4 percent of GDP. This Government has increased health spending by $4 billion while increasing access to services for all New Zealanders.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, does a 0.38 percent decrease in Crown health expenditure—
Hon Steven Joyce: Oh, you’re going to say it’s a decrease. Oh, good on you, Annette.
Hon Annette King: —as a percentage of GDP, Mr Joyce—between the 2010/11 and the 2015/16 years equate to $930 million less going into health if the spending level had stayed the same; if so, when will he acknowledge that health expenditure has been cut?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: What a silly question. It quite clearly has not been cut, because it has gone up by $4 billion over the term of this Government. You had better go and talk to your question writer.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table—[Interruption] This is a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: And I want to hear it, please.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a Parliamentary Library document dated 3 March 2016, compiled from data from Treasury that shows exactly what I outlined in terms of core Crown health expenditure.
Mr SPEAKER: It may be useful to members. I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that information from the Parliamentary Library. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Simon O’Connor: What reports has the Minister seen about the levels of core Crown health expenditure as a percentage of GDP?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have seen advice that from 2000 to 2008 the average percentage of GDP spent on core Crown health expenditure was 5.7 percent. That is lower than the average of 6.5 percent during the term of this Government. In fact, between 2000 and 2008 core Crown health expenditure as a percentage of GDP never rose above 6 percent. That is what you call an own goal, Mrs King. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member wishes to raise a supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Joyce, that is your final warning for today.
Hon Annette King: If there is a real increase in Crown health expenditure, as he claims every week, why have district health board deficits increased to an unplanned $61.5 million, year to date, 31 December 2015?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: That is a big improvement on the $150 million – plus they were running at under Labour.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the Ministry of Health paper entitled DHB Sector Financial Performance: Year to Date 31st December 2015 setting out the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, we do not need any more. I just need to know whether the document is publicly available.
Hon Annette King: No, it is not.
Mr SPEAKER: On that basis, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table it. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The Hon Annette King, that is your final warning. The level of interjection and the complaints I am getting because of the interjections, particularly between the two front benches, mean I have to deal with it. I have given a warning on this side. I have now given the equivalent warning to this member, particularly when I am on my feet. I will act on those warnings if I, sadly, have to. I need to put the leave for those papers. Leave is sought to table those particular papers, as described by the Hon Annette King. Is there any objection? There is none. They can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Paula Bennett: I am wondering whether the Minister has seen any reports on who might have actually written this primary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That is not a question that is in order. It is not even described as a question.
Hon Annette King: What is his response to the fact that five district health boards have reported that they do not have the funding to cover their vital nursing staff wage increase, negotiated recently in the New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s multi-employer collective agreement, an increase crucial to retaining their workforce?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Vote Health went up by $400 million last year. All district health boards assured me—because they planned well ahead—that they would be able to fund that very excellent pay increase for nurses, and they will be. So do not worry about it.
Hon Annette King: What impact on patients will Waikato District Health Board’s decision to cut its almost $9 million deficit, and growing, by not filling over 69 vacancies, which includes medical personnel, nursing personnel, and allied health personnel, have?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am not worried about Waikato’s performance, because it has delivered an extra 5,500 operations during the term of this Government and an extra 6,600 first specialist appointments. It has had an extra $44 million in Budget 2015, an extra quarter of a billion dollars over the term of this Government, and, actually, it is delivering great services. That member should actually back the staff there, not constantly try to undermine their morale.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request provided by the Waikato District Health Board dated 10 February 2016, setting out their vacancies.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular Official Information Act request provided by Waikato District Health Board. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: Was he alarmed when he read the Ministry of Health report received by him on 4 February, which states that Hutt Valley District Health Board is going to control its growing $5 million deficit through staffing control and, at this stage, has 22 vacancies: 10 for nurses, two for medical, and five for allied health?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am actually very pleased with the new chief executive, my former medical school classmate, Dr Bloomfield, and the fiscal discipline that he is bringing to Hutt Valley District Health Board. He is going to make good use of that extra $76 million that the district health board has received over the last 7 years, and he is actually making the type of decisions that mean that we can focus on getting more services delivered to the people of the Hutt Valley. So he is doing a great job.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request from the Hutt Valley District Health Board dated 4 February 2016, setting out their vacancies.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Economy—Return to Surplus
2. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Finance: What steps has the Government taken to move its books from an $18 billion deficit in 2011 back to surplus?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has taken a lot of steps, because before this Government’s first Budget in 2009 Treasury was forecasting never-ending deficits and net debt blowing out to over 60 percent of GDP, over twice the level that it currently is. This was because of a combination of a financial crisis and the huge spending built in by the previous Labour Government, which included no consideration—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. I have a point of order from Grant Robertson.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled several times in this House that Government questions from its own members to Ministers should not be used to attack the Opposition. That was a primary question being used for that purpose.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not agree at all that the primary question was set down for that purpose. It was to inform members of this House. It was a legitimate question that was accepted. There was a huge amount of interjection coming from two particular members, and if the Minister then takes the opportunity to respond to that interjection, that is legitimate as well.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Just to finish off the answer, in the last seven Budgets of this Government the annual cost of new initiatives has averaged around $600 million. In the seven Budgets up to 2009 the average cost of new initiatives was around $3 billion per year.
Jacqui Dean: What are the Government’s fiscal priorities now that it has delivered on its election promise and made a surplus in 2014-15?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The focus now is on paying down debt. Governments have previously been able to get on top of debt because they relied on tax revenue windfalls, helped by 4 to 5 percent inflation, as occurred in the first decade after 2000. With inflation now at 0.1 percent we cannot rely on fast-growing tax revenue to achieve debt reduction. So we have to continue with tight management of our spending. We are doing this by better management of the Government’s huge asset base of $250 billion, and also addressing the long-term drivers of our biggest area of spending, and that is in social services, health, education, welfare, and justice through our programme of social investment.
Grant Robertson: In light of his answer that his priority is paying down debt, is it correct that he will not begin to pay down a single cent of debt until the 2020-21 financial year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The measure of debt that we use, as previous Governments have, is debt as a percentage of GDP. That is peaking about now, but, certainly, paying off nominal debt will require quite strict fiscal discipline, because we cannot rely on high inflation to deliver big bursts of tax revenue. We have actually got to do what every household and business in New Zealand does, and that is work to the real income that we can earn.
David Seymour: Has the Minister identified a level of surplus at which he will cut taxes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Not a particular level of surplus—this Government has done a tax switch in 2010, actually, when we had a deficit, because we were able to cover the cost of income tax reductions with increases in GST and property taxes. The Government is committed to moderate tax cuts over the next few years if fiscal conditions allow, and we have yet to see whether fiscal conditions will allow it.
Jacqui Dean: What benefits will paying down Government debt bring to New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Holding and paying down debt will allow New Zealand to be resilient, particularly to changes in the global economy that might have a negative effect on us. To do that we need to keep a tight rein on ineffective spending. If we can pay down debt, we will also be in a better position to deal with long-term spending pressures such as superannuation. Our current public pension costs around 5 percent of GDP; by 2050 the cost will increase to 8 percent of GDP. But to keep that in perspective, in the last 4 years we have managed to reduce Government spending as a proportion of GDP from 34 to 30 percent. So the reduction in Government spending as a proportion of GDP in the last few years has been greater than the projected increase in national superannuation through to 2050.
Jacqui Dean: What implications does a focus on paying down debt have on the way the Government manages its books?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Now that the Budget is broadly in balance and there is a stronger focus on debt, we are not so concerned about small positive or negative fluctuations in the Budget balance. This is particularly true for the monthly Crown accounts, the next of which will be released tomorrow, because month to month the accounts can fluctuate depending on timing effects. The Government manages the books by getting better results from our spending. That is, we are willing to spend more where we can get results, but if we cannot get results, then we are not willing to spend money—for instance, on large-scale new tertiary education entitlements, because there is no evidence that that will make any difference to anybody.
Question No. 1 to Minister, 2 March—Minister’s Answers
3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Does he stand by all his answers to Oral Question No. 1 in the House yesterday?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): Yes, particularly my answer pointing out how the Government’s insulation and smoke alarm requirements will save 21 lives a year and the fact that our Government has invested $500 million in making our homes warmer, drier, and safer—16 times what the previous Government spent.
Metiria Turei: Is it not a fact that he misled the House yesterday when he claimed that 18 lives would be saved through the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, when, in fact, the evidence is those lives would be saved by a much higher standard of insulation and a range of other safety measures, including a heating device?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I stand by the numbers yesterday. They are provided in an economic analysis research report, in which it said “The health-related benefits arise primarily from the retrofitting of insulation … A reduction in mortality was the largest benefit—preventing 18 deaths per year …”. That is a report that was commissioned independently from my ministry, and I stand by it.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table two reports that show the connection between the 18 deaths and a higher standard of—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We need just the title of the reports and the dates.
Metiria Turei: The first of those reports is the Cost Benefit Analysis for a Minimum Standard for Rental Housing,from November 2014.
Mr SPEAKER: And the second?
Metiria Turei: The second report is The Impact of Retrofitted Insulation and New Heaters on Health Services Utilisation and Costs, Pharmaceutical Costs and Mortality, from October 2011
Mr SPEAKER: And I just want confirmation that they are not readily available for members if they want them.
Metiria Turei: I found them on the internet; they could be publicly available.
Mr SPEAKER: If they are publicly available, then members can source them for themselves.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Why does the Government not support the housing warrant of fitness bill proposed by the member?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government is not supporting the bill because it goes too far; it is impractical. It would make it an unlawful act to rent or use a property that does not have glass visibility strips and security stays on all windows. I know my own private home in Nelson does not comply; I suspect the houses of most members of this House would not comply. I do find it ironic that the Greens would compel glass visibility strips on the windows of all other people’s buildings, but actually do not even them in Bowen House. It is that classic policy from the Greens—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need that part to the answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I seek leave of the House to have a photo of—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not—[Interruption]Order! The Minister will resume his seat if he wishes to stay to answer the balance of the questions. I remind Dr Nick Smith that when I rise to my feet and call for order, that is the time for him to resume his seat. I do not want to have to remind him of that again.
Metiria Turei: Is the Minister saying that it is silly and petty to have glass visibility strips on windows and doors in rental homes when ACC reports that 133 children are injured by either falling through a closed glass window or out of a window every week in this country; more than 500 children a month injured?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: If that member truly believed that glass visibility strips should be on all windows, I simply challenge her why she does not have them in her own office? If the member really believed that was a practical requirement to impose on every building owner in New Zealand, she could start by setting a good example.
Metiria Turei: Will the Minister apologise to this House for misleading New Zealanders by claiming that 18 lives would be saved by his bill when all of the evidence that he has referred to and has been tabled in the House shows that those 18 lives would be saved only by a much higher standard of insulation, and a clean-heating device, than what is required in his bill?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, because the member is wrong. I can quote directly from the analysis. It says: “The health-related benefits arise primarily from the retrofitting of insulation …”. It goes on to quote the reduction in mortality that would occur, the benefits of hospitalisation, and the reduction in pharmaceutical costs. They are exactly the things the Government is doing. What we are not going to do is to have a pedantic warrant of fitness that will impose costs of administration alone of over $100 million, and which, actually, most members of this Parliament’s own private homes would not comply with.
Metiria Turei: Does his advice not go on to say that the research on those 18 lives is based on an insulation standard as at 2008—a much higher standard than the miserable 1978 standard in his bill? Why will he not tell the whole story?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Because the member misunderstands both the bill and the regulations that the Government has put forward. New Zealand did not require insulation in homes that were newly constructed until 1978. What our bill and regulations require is that if a home has no insulation, you will be required to install insulation as per the current standards.
Metiria Turei: 1978.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, the current standards—that is very clear in the regulations. What the Government is not going to do is to have someone who put insulation in their house in 2010 now having to rip it out and put stuff in that meets the current standard. It is exactly the sort of approach that we would take in, for instance, an area with earthquake-prone buildings where there is a different standard for those buildings that are new, but that does not necessarily mean it makes sense to require absolutely every building in New Zealand to meet new building standards.
Metiria Turei: Is it not also the case that the Grimes report the Minister tabled on Tuesday said that with a higher standard of insulation and a heating device, older New Zealanders with respiratory illness would gain an additional 4 years of life through those two measures—neither of which are in his bill?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would, firstly, draw the member’s attention to the existing housing regulations that make reference to the requirements around heating devices. The second is simply this—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did specifically refer to the Grimes report—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard the question. What we need to do is allow the Minister the courtesy to respond to the question. If the Minister then does not answer the question, let us have a look at the matter then, but at least allow the Minister to get more than 10 or 12 words out before we can address whether he has addressed the question or not.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: And the bit the member does not seem to understand is that if we imposed a requirement on every landlord in New Zealand to provide a new heat pump today, that is a cost that you impose on the sector that would ultimately be passed on in rents. There are not free goods when you have a regulatory cost that is passed on, and that is the part that the member seems to be ignorant of.
Metiria Turei: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am just going to invite the member to repeat the question, because I know what the point of order will be. Would the member please repeat the question for the benefit of the Minister.
Metiria Turei: Is it not true that the Grimes report, which the Minister tabled in the House on Tuesday, said that with a higher standard of insulation and a heating device, older New Zealanders with respiratory illness would gain an additional 4 years of life based on those measures—neither of which are in his bill?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: First, the member is mistaken. The report that I tabled from Mr Arthur Grimes earlier in the week was solely on the issue of home insulation, not on the issue of heating, and in that respect the member is incorrect.
Metiria Turei: Why is the Minister making up numbers and misrepresenting the research to show his bill does better than it will when all he needs to do is improve the standard of insulation in the bill to make sure that New Zealanders’ lives will genuinely be saved through this measure?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The confusion of the member is confirmed by that very question, in that the bill does not set the level of regulation that is in the bill. That is set in the regulations, and the regulations make plain that for new insulation being installed, it needs to meet the modern standard, but that it would be unreasonable for someone who has an insulation standard that was built in the 1990s to have to rip that out to meet some sort of pedantic requirement, for which the Greens, unreasonably, would impose costs on the sector. Those costs are ultimately passed on in rents and hurt the very people whom we were attempting to help.
4. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Tourism: What reports has he received about the contribution tourism is making to the economy?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of Tourism: I have more good news for tourism. The latest International Visitors Survey shows that international tourist spending has increased by an outstanding 31 percent to $9.7 billion in the year to December 2015. This confirms that the tourism sector’s focus on increasing both value and volume is working. Tourism is now worth $10.6 billion—or nearly 5 percent of GDP—and is our second-largest export.
Scott Simpson: How has the Government’s investment in tourism promotion helped grow the sector?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This Government’s unprecedented $700 million investment in tourism and tourism promotion is working to attract tourists from our key markets. So total spending by visitors from China is up 63 percent to $1.6 billion, and from the United States is up 40 percent to $1 billion. Tourism New Zealand has put together some very innovative and highly targeted campaigns and social media campaigns. Australian model Megan Gale is the face of the new social media campaign to promote the New Zealand cycle trails, in Australia, our largest tourism market.
Scott Simpson: What role is increased airline capacity playing in getting more visitors to come to New Zealand?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It may surprise you that that means more visitors coming to New Zealand because we have more flights—who would have thought! Just today Air New Zealand—[Interruption] Thank you. Just today Air New Zealand has announced it was resuming seasonal flights between Osaka and Auckland, with Japan being our fifth-largest tourism market. This comes on top of our new routes to the US and Argentina. There are also now direct Emirates flights between Auckland and Dubai, making it easier to get here from Europe. New flights between New Zealand and China, Indonesia, and Malaysia have also been announced this year. On the regional front, of course, Jetstar is making a huge difference in our domestic market. The good news around tourism both domestically and internationally is outstanding for our country and its economy.
Question No. 4 to Minister, 2 March—Minister’s Answers
5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Revenue: Does he stand by all of his answers to Oral Question No. 4 yesterday?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Revenue): Yes, with one small correction. When I said, as evidence of my concern to ensure all contributions were passed on to KiwiSaver accounts, that there was a 99.994 percent collection rate, I should have said a 99.94 percent collection rate.
Grant Robertson: When he said, yesterday, that he had been unable to verify media reports that 46,154 people had not had their employer contributions paid to their KiwiSaver accounts, did he realise that information came directly from his department?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Yes, I was aware of those reports as having originated from the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). I am now advised that the 46,000 number provided by IRD does not represent the number of employees who have not have KiwiSaver employer contributions passed on. It represents the number of KiwiSaver employees of those employers who may not have passed on all of the contribution. So it is a rather nuanced difference—the number of actual people affected by that is less than that and, in the time available, IRD has not been able to provide the exact number. That should not detract from the fact that IRD, and I, remain very concerned to ensure high levels of compliance.
Grant Robertson: To assist the Minister in the House, I seek leave of the House to table information released by the Inland Revenue Department earlier this year—
Mr SPEAKER: Is it available on their website?
Grant Robertson: No, as far as I am aware, it is not. It includes a table of the total number of employees who have not had employer contributions deducted from their account.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? [Interruption] Order! There is objection—there is objection. Order! I put the leave, there was objection. That is the end of the matter. If the member now wishes to continue his supplementary questions, I invite him to do so.
Grant Robertson: How does the Inland Revenue Department identify those companies that are failing to pass on employer contributions to KiwiSaver accounts, currently numbering 2,210 companies, and what intervention measures does it take?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The first sign of any non-payment is usually with the employer schedules that transfer payments like PAYE, ACC levies, and KiwiSaver contributions. When that occurs, the Inland Revenue Department has a range of interventions that start with follow-up calls and conversations about whether or not there are cash-flow issues or technical difficulties that prevented the physical payment. As a consequence of that, the overwhelming majority of those payments are remedied in a short period of time.
Grant Robertson: Is he therefore satisfied that the Inland Revenue Department is performing that role correctly, when there are still 46,000 New Zealanders who have not got in their KiwiSaver account what they are entitled to?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Putting aside any dispute about whether or not the 46,000 number represents that, yes, I am. The best evidence of that is the fact that although the Inland Revenue Department reported $10.68 million of unpaid employer contributions as at 30 June 2015, by 31 December 2015 that number had fallen to $8 million—a more than 25 percent reduction, which I think is a very good measure of its diligence.
Social Development, Minister—Statements
6. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes, when taken in context.
Darroch Ball: In regard to the Limited Service Volunteers scheme, why did she say she cut funding because “we were having difficulty filling the … number of places”, when she knew that only 27 out of the 1,500 places in 2014 were not filled?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The member misrepresents what I have said consistently in this House when he has asked about the reduced numbers for the Limited Service Volunteers. What I have said is that we have seen an almost 24 percent reduction in 18 to 24-year-olds on the main benefit, we are seeing the lowest “neets” numbers for 15 to 19-year-olds since records began, and as a result of that we have reduced the numbers from where they were increased to at the time of the global financial crisis.
Darroch Ball: Why did she say there was a reduced demand for the course as benefit numbers dropped, when there was information available to her and her officials stating that the Burnham, Wellington, and Auckland courses had been “full” and “oversubscribed”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Because, as I have explained in the House before, this is a targeted intervention with young people. We have a whole range of targeted interventions with them, not the least being the very successful Youth Service. So there has been a reduction in the number of young people who are receiving a main benefit and there is a considerable reduction in the “neets” numbers, and therefore we have reduced the numbers for the Limited Service Volunteers scheme, confirmed funding for it over the next 4 years, and will continue to fund this very successful programme.
Darroch Ball: Why did she give as a reason to cut funding to the course that the number of suitable clients for the course was dropping, when there was information available to her and her officials stating that there was a wait-list to get on the course in both Wellington and Burnham due to overflow of numbers?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not believe that I have said that. What I have talked about is, first of all, a reduction in numbers on the benefit. I have talked about the young people who are suitable to go on this course, because not all of them who want to go on are actually suitable. And I have talked about the fact that there was a global financial crisis, which was when we increased the numbers to 1,500. We have now taken those numbers back to 800, and we are continuing to fill the places. It is a very successful course.
Darroch Ball: Why did she cut funding to the course based on the reduction of demand for the course, when she and her officials had information that noted an increase in referrals from Youth Courts, an increase in overall applications for under-18-year-olds, and an increase in the number of female referrals for the course?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am happy to repeat it for the third time, but I do believe that I have addressed this question on a number of occasions just today.
Darroch Ball: How can she announce yesterday that two new community pilots will help steer young people away from gang life, when she has already cut funding to a highly successful course that had full numbers and had an increase in referrals from Youth Courts?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The pilots that were announced yesterday are not just focused on youth; they are focused on working with the families of gang members, which includes women, youth, and children. However, this Government has a number of interventions put in place in order to work with young people to make sure that they can live successful lives. We will continue to trial different methods and evaluate them, and, as the Minister of Finance said earlier, invest more money where we know it is going to get results.
Darroch Ball: Did her advisers inform her that the Hobsonville Limited Service Volunteers lease was terminated only as a result of a business case from the Hobsonville Land Co.’s board of directors, which is concerned that extending the lease beyond June 2015 would “impact on the infrastructure costs” and compromise the “net present-value target” of the Hobsonville Point housing development?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Actually, my responsibility as the Minister for Social Development is to contract the Ministry of Defence for a number of places. I think the member will find that that was long before my time, but we are very happy with the discussions and negotiations that we are having with the Ministry of Defence around providing this very successful course for 800 young New Zealanders.
Darroch Ball: Is it not true that Auckland Limited Service Volunteers lost capability from 750 to just 300 places per year, not because of the numbers of unemployed or the lack of demand for the course, but everything to do with the Hobsonville Land Co. and decisions made by the Minister of Finance, the Minister for Building and Housing, and the Minister of Defence?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Absolutely no.
Darroch Ball: I seek leave to table all operational group meeting notes for Limited Service Volunteers from January 2014 through to October 2015, obtained through the Official Information Act.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that significant pile of documents being tabled? There is none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
7. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister of Trade: Why does he continue to support the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement in light of the analyses in the Expert Paper Series supported by the New Zealand Law Foundation?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs) on behalf of the Minister of Trade: The Government supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it will be overwhelmingly positive for New Zealand in supporting more trade and investment, jobs, and incomes. The only comprehensive analysis of what the TPP means for New Zealand that I am aware of is the national interest analysis that was released publicly in January. This is the only analysis that looks at the agreement as a whole and, indeed, addresses issues raised in the papers that the member across the House refers to. It concludes that the overall TPP will deliver net benefits for New Zealand, including an additional $2.7 billion to our economy by 2030. Not being in TPP, by contrast, would put the New Zealand economy and our businesses at a competitive disadvantage compared with other countries.
Dr Kennedy Graham: What is his view of the conclusion in Expert Paper No. 4 of the comprehensive and independent series of analyses, which asserts that the text “contains provisions that would facilitate increased emissions, exacerbating climate change”?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do not necessarily agree with that characterisation.
Dr Kennedy Graham: What is his response to the conclusion in Expert Paper No. 5 of the comprehensive and independent analyses that the TPP agreement is favourable to multinational businesses and “may exacerbate the disadvantages of New Zealand’s size and remoteness”?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do not agree with that characterisation either. I think that when we look at the big picture, there may be some challenges for New Zealand coming out of this, but, overall, the costs are minimal compared with the opportunities that we have in order to create jobs and growth for New Zealanders, and on balance we are very much in favour of this agreement.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Will the Minister assure the House that he respects the views of the New Zealand public, such as those we heard in the select committee this morning, and that he will give serious consideration to their submissions?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Yes.
Schools—Government Funding and Parental Donations
8. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statement that “schools have never been more well-funded than under this Government”; if so, why are some schools charging parents a fee to participate in out-of-zone ballots and income from parental donations has increased by 45 percent since 2008?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development)on behalf of the Minister of Education: The Minister stands by her statement. Under this Government overall funding for education has increased by 23 percent. The proportion of schools’ funding coming from Government since 2011 is approximately 88 percent. This is compared with 86 percent between 2005 and 2007. The proportion of funding coming from donations has remained steady at 1.8 percent throughout this time. Individual schools are responsible for managing their finances and the Ministry of Education has made it clear that charging for ballot places is not allowed under the Education Act.
Chris Hipkins: How many schools are currently subject to an enrolment scheme and how many have been asking for a fee or donation in order to enter the ballot?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not have that information in front of me, but I am sure if the member puts it down in writing the Minister can get it for him.
Chris Hipkins: Has she asked the Ministry of Education to establish how many schools are asking for a fee or donation to enter an out-of-zone ballot; if not, why not?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am not sure, but I do know that the Minister has asked the ministry to be in touch with those schools that are charging, to explain to them that that does not comply with the requirements of the Education Act.
Chris Hipkins: Has she seen reports in the New Zealand Herald over the weekend where one principal claimed schools were justified charging parents to enter their child into an enrolment ballot because of the costs involved in collecting data via testing; if so, how many schools are testing prospective students before entering children into what are supposed to be random ballots?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not have that information. The member should actually ask the principal who made that allegation.
Chris Hipkins: What action has she taken in light of revelations that schools are charging fees for entering students into an enrolment ballot to ensure that they stop doing so, given that after being warned by the Ministry of Education they indicated publicly they intended to continue doing so; and why is the Government not making them comply with the law?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As I said earlier, the ministry is in touch with those schools and will continue to be in touch with those schools to make sure that they comply with the Education Act.
9. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent reports has he received on competition in the electricity market?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): The Electricity Authority’s Electricity Market Performance 2015 report released this week—a year in review of all parts of the electricity market—shows clearly that the Government’s focus on competition in the market is really benefiting consumers. There were nearly 419,000 consumer switches in 2015—the highest level ever seen in New Zealand—with consumers saving, on average, $162 per switch. There have been more than 1.8 million consumer switches since 2011, with total estimated savings valued at $207 million. This Government believes that competition is the best way to keep downward pressure on power prices, and strong retail market competition successfully constrained price increases in 2015.
Alastair Scott: What other indications of a competitive electricity market were apparent in the Electricity Authority’s review of 2015?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: The rapid growth of small and medium retailers continued in 2015, with new entrants successfully entering the market and expanding their customer base. Consumers are benefiting from a record high number of retailers—more than 20—and retail brands, more than 30. Competition is also enabling and encouraging innovation, giving consumers greater choices to meet their energy needs and use energy more efficiently. For example, 1.3 million smart meters are now deployed, representing 66 percent of all meters in New Zealand, and retailers continue to jostle in the competitive market with increasingly innovative offerings and services.
Trans-Pacific Partnership—Foreign Ownership of New Zealand Property
10. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Trade: Does New Zealand’s exception for residential property under the Investment Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement allow a future Government to implement a ban on non-resident foreign speculators buying any existing residential house, flat, or apartment?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs) on behalf of the Minister of Trade: No, the New Zealand – specific exemption that has been included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) preserves the right for a future Government to restrict the purchase of residential property by non-resident foreigners by imposing a discriminatory tax. This, I might add, was one of Labour’s bottom lines.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a straight question; he answered it immediately. As per last time—
Mr SPEAKER: So what is the point of order?
Dr David Clark: —on notice, he is using that to attack Labour—misrepresenting—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!—[Interruption] Order! It was a legitimate question; it was answered immediately, but by a long tradition in this House we allow the Minister to then give some explanation of that answer—that is what he did.
Dr David Clark: Did he direct his officials to ensure the right of future Governments to ban non-resident foreign speculators from our housing market, like Australia, Singapore, and others; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: No, we did not direct negotiators, because the Government has no policy to outright ban foreigners investing in New Zealand. We have got no desire to build a great big trade wall to keep foreigners out.
Dr David Clark: Does he accept that Viet Nam could adopt “any measure relating to land ownership”, and why is this so much stronger than the position his Government has taken?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am not responsible for the Viet Namese Government negotiations, but what I would say is that this Government has negotiated quite clearly the ability for any future Government to restrict the purchase of residential property, and we think that is appropriate. The member opposite is really just trying to justify the unjustifiable, which is his failure to support—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!—[Interruption] Order! The continuation along those lines certainly will not help the order of the House.
Dr David Clark: Does the Minister accept that preserving the right to ban foreign speculators is a matter of principle, not a matter of price?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am puzzled, because one of the five Labour Party bottom lines that he referred to as a principle was to restrict the sale of land to foreign owners, not to ban it.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder what remedy is available to me if he continues to misrepresent the Labour Party position, which has been published in the media—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!—[Interruption] Order! It is very easily solved—he picks up his Standing Orders and looks at Standing Order 359. He will understand and can follow that remedy if he feels it is important enough.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a document, dated 23 July 2015—
Mr SPEAKER: What is the document?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: It is a Labour Party press release.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need that. I do not need that.
Dr David Clark: Is it not the truth that having negotiated a deal in secret with 605 corporate advisers, whilst trading away our sovereignty, he is intent on ramming the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) process through, without giving members of the public sufficient time to have their voices heard?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: No, that is not true. I do have every sympathy for that member because he is the first trade spokesman of that party not to support free trade. Mr Phil Goff will be turning in his—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need any more.
Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table my letter, dated 29 February 2016, requesting that the deadline for submissions to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee be extended.
Mr SPEAKER: If it has been presented to a select committee then it is available. [Interruption] Order! It is available to all members if it has been presented.
Dr David Clark: It hasn’t come back to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The purpose of tabling a document is not to get it into the public arena. It is to further inform members. If the letter has been presented to a select committee, then it is available to all members of this House by going on to the e-committee system. So it is available. If the member wants to—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will hear from the member.
Dr David Clark: My understanding is that it is restricted on the system to the members who are on that committee, until such time as it is tabled in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is not. It is available to all members immediately. There was a change made in the Standing Orders at the end of the last Parliament. It is now available to all members.
11. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Trade: What consultation has the Government undertaken throughout the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and what further consultation will occur?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs) on behalf of the Minister of Trade: The consultation process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been amongst the most extensive that a New Zealand Government has undertaken for any trade negotiation, with hundreds of meetings taking place across the negotiating process, as well as public submissions. The Government has made available a large amount of documentation, including the full text of the agreement, detailed fact sheets, and the national interest analysis. For all of this year, the TPP will receive extensive parliamentary and public scrutiny. The legislation will be considered by the select committee for the full 6 months, allowing a significant amount of time for the public to have their say on the TPP. Only when these steps have been completed and other countries have completed their own domestic approval procedures will the TPP be able to enter into force.
Mark Mitchell: What opportunities will businesses and the wider public have in order to seek information on the TPP?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Starting next Monday, the Government is running a series of nationwide roadshows on the TPP. The roadshows are for interested members of the public to learn more about this important trade agreement and to assist businesses to identify and plan for the new export opportunities when the TPP comes into force. Roadshows are being held in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Tauranga, and Whangarei. There will also be a number of hui to discuss with iwi and Māori businesses the outcome of the TPP negotiations, as well as the huge opportunities for Māori to benefit from the TPP.
Mark Mitchell: How will the TPP create significant new trade opportunities for New Zealand companies?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: The TPP is New Zealand’s biggest-ever trade deal, providing access to our exporters to more than 800 million consumers, across 11 countries. These countries account for 36 percent of the global economy, and include the largest and the third-largest economies in the world: the United States and Japan. Tariffs will be eliminated on 95 percent of New Zealand’s trade with its new free-trade agreement partners once the TPP is fully phased in. In total, the TPP will ultimately represent $274 million a year in tariff savings, which is around twice the savings initially forecast for the China free-trade agreement. The TPP supports our exporters to grow and create new jobs, and to diversify their business overseas. Not being in the TPP would put the New Zealand economy and our businesses at a competitor’s disadvantage.
Primary Industries, Associate Minister—Confidence
12. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast – Tasman) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he have confidence in his Associate Minister for Primary Industries?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Primary Industries) on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries: Yes.
Hon Damien O’Connor: How could the Associate Minister yesterday claim progress in the forestry sector when, since 2008, there has been no effective growth in the export of sawn timber, there has been no growth in the export of value-added products, but there has been 400 percent growth in the export of logs from this country, eliminating job opportunities for thousands of provincial New Zealanders?
Hon JO GOODHEW: If I recall correctly, the Associate Minister yesterday noted that domestic processing of logs has been increasing—therefore, more jobs. In 2014 the share of the total harvest was 49 percent. Now it is 51.2 percent. The member is simply incorrect.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Is the Minister for Primary Industries satisfied with the way the Associate Minister has handled the situation whereby foreign forest owners are refusing to guarantee logs to domestic saw millers even though these saw millers are prepared to pay export-equivalent log prices?
Hon JO GOODHEW: What I do understand is that this is a business arrangement between the owners of the product—
Hon Damien O’Connor: What about Kiwis?
Hon JO GOODHEW: Although it may pain the member that this is not working out for New Zealand businesses, this Government does not get in the middle of commercial arrangements.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Is it not the truth that Minister Goodhew does not understand what is going on in her own portfolio, more logs are going offshore than ever before, and her Government does not care about job losses in the provinces?
Hon JO GOODHEW: What the Minister has been told by Minister Goodhew is that there are many good examples of progress in this space, and I will use one in particular. When Minister Goodhew became the Associate Minister she told the Minister that Carter Holt Harvey was concerned that it was not getting enough access to local product for its pulp. Now with Lumbercube’s new cube approach it is getting access to plenty of product. That has happened under this Government and Minister Goodhew has certainly made the Minister aware of it.