Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he believe that Hon John Banks has behaved in a manner that “upholds, and is seen to uphold the highest ethical standards” as required by the Cabinet Manual? Questions to Ministers
Hon John Banks—Compliance with Cabinet Manual
1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he believe that Hon John Banks has behaved in a manner that “upholds, and is seen to uphold the highest ethical standards” as required by the Cabinet Manual?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: Does he find it acceptable for a Minister to act unethically, as long as they comply with the law?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, the member is making an assumption, or an assertion, should I say, and, secondly, I would point out to the member that the issue of ethical standards applies to Ministers when they are holding their warrants.
David Shearer: Does he believe that John Banks acted ethically and gave an honest answer when he claimed that he “hardly knew” Kim Dotcom, in light of reports that he flew in Dotcom’s helicopter to his mansion for a 2½ hour meeting and dinner, attended Dotcom’s birthday party and proposed a toast in his honour, and attended a fireworks display with Mr Dotcom?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no ministerial responsibility for that.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Banks gave this assertion when he was in his position as a Minister, as a statement.
Mr SPEAKER: The point the honourable member is making is that his question asked whether a statement made by a certain Minister while he was a Minister, in relation to matters that occurred perhaps before he was a Minister, upheld whatever it was—ethical standards; forgive me, I cannot recollect exactly the last part of the question. I believe that there is ministerial responsibility for a statement made by the Minister while he was a Minister, and I think to that extent the question should be answered more than that, because the Prime Minister does have responsibility for the ethical standards or otherwise of statements made by Ministers while they are Ministers.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the Minister would have answered it as honestly as he could, subject to his memory of things that had happened 2 years ago. But I have no capacity nor knowledge of being able to understand the veracity of that argument, because I have no ministerial responsibility for it.
David Shearer: Does he believe John Banks when he says he cannot remember asking Kim Dotcom for the donation to be split into two $25,000 cheques to disguise its origins?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no reason to doubt it.
David Shearer: Given the questions around the donations from Dotcom and Skycity, has he or his office sought assurances about the legitimacy of the 42 other anonymous donations, totalling $648,000, given to Mr Banks?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What my office has sought is an assurance that the Minister acted in compliance with the Local Electoral Act. He has given that assurance categorically, and I will not be sacking a Minister for complying with the law.
David Shearer: Did he or his office ask John Banks whether he had lied to journalists late last week in relation to the level of his involvement with Kim Dotcom?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
David Shearer: Did he or his office ask John Banks what contact Kim Dotcom has had with him or his office since he became a Minister; if so, what was his response?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. My office sought an assurance on the basic allegation that Mr Banks had broken the law, and he in fact assured us that he had not broken the law. If the member wants us to start sacking people for complying with the law, it is going to be a very interesting test.
David Shearer: Does he not think it is about time he sat and had another cup of tea with John Banks to discuss his promise to have higher ethical standards under his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but I will recall for the House that when I went off to the police because I believed I had been illegally taped, the first thing I got from the Labour Party was “Don’t waste the police’s time.”, and the first thing Trevor Mallard has done is run off to the police. Mind you, he knows the police quite well, Trevor Mallard. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon John Banks—Donations to Member’s Political Campaigns
2. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Did Mr Banks explain to the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff that he would use “obfuscation” in his dealings with the media over the “anonymous” donations from Kim Dotcom?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): No.
Barbara Stewart: What did his chief of staff ask Mr Banks about the Dotcom and Skycity donations, bearing in mind that Mr Banks was not being “absolutely upfront” in all his dealings?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The thing is, as I said to the House yesterday, on Saturday morning my chief of staff sought an assurance from Mr Banks that he had fully complied with the requirements of the Local Electoral Act in respect of donations. Mr Banks gave his assurance during that phone call, and stated that he was not aware that Mr Dotcom had made the donation to his mayoral campaign.
Barbara Stewart: What was his reaction to Mr Banks’ admission that he had used obfuscation in his dealings with the media?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Minister himself has said that he has followed legal advice, but in hindsight it may have been better for him just to have answered those questions straight away.
Denis O’Rourke: Did John Banks tell the Prime Minister he was obfuscating as a result of legal advice?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Denis O’Rourke: Has the Prime Minister received any other advice or reports indicating that Mr Banks may be obfuscating on other issues dealing with Dotcom, bearing in mind that he had been toastmaster at Dotcom’s birthday party—or did he mistake him for Cameron Slater?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but can I make this point to the member: he is a member of New Zealand First. If New Zealand First members are that interested in getting answers from Mr Banks, why did he not just get the boss to ask him while he was sitting on the plane? They look like they were having a nice old time together.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did John Banks tell him or his office that Mr Dotcom facilitated a discount for personal accommodation for Mr Banks at the Hyatt in Hong Kong while Mr Banks was a Minister, and if so, did he or his office ensure that Mr Banks was properly briefed on the requirement to declare that discount on his declaration of pecuniary interests?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not to the best of my knowledge, but my chief of staff has said to me that Mr Banks has made an assurance that he paid for all expenses on the trip to Hong Kong.
Denis O’Rourke: Did John Banks tell the Prime Minister that obfuscation is just another word for bull – – – com?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but maybe that member should go out and watch the footage of Winston Peters holding up a “No” sign, telling the New Zealand public for 6 months that he did not know anything about Owen Glenn. Maybe he should go and look at Winston Peters dealing with the media for 24-plus years, and he will get a great example of what obfuscation is. It is when you do not answer any question, no matter how directly it is asked of you, and no matter how much you need to bend the truth.
Budget 2012—Amendments to Public Finance Act
3. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Finance: How does the Government intend to strengthen the Public Finance Act 1989 in the Budget this month?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government proposes to introduce several new principles to the Public Finance Act to ensure greater transparency around the implications of Government decisions for the wider economy and for future generations. The proposed changes would require Governments to consider the impact of their spending and taxing on the broader economy, particularly interest rates and exchange rates; set out the priorities for revenue and spending, not just debt; take into account the impact of fiscal policy decisions on future generations; and report on successes and failures of past fiscal policy. We are also looking at adding a spending limit to the Public Finance Act.
Maggie Barry: Why is the Government proposing to strengthen the Public Finance Act?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The current Public Finance Act has served New Zealand well, in terms of maintaining a focus on low debt, since 1994. However, the global recession and the events in the years immediately preceding that recession point to a need for a broader focus. In particular, in times of surplus Governments come under pressure to increase spending, which can put extra pressure on the economy, generate higher inflation, higher interest rates, and higher exchange rates, and this is bad for exports and jobs, and our long-term economic health.
Maggie Barry: How would the proposed spending limit work?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The proposed spending limit would limit increases in spending to the rate of growth in inflation and population. It would exclude natural disasters, finance charges, and asset impairments, which are outside the Government’s control, and also exclude the unemployment benefit. If a Government decided to exceed the limit, it would need to clearly explain the reasons and outline how it intended to ensure that future expenses remained within the limit.
Maggie Barry: So how would the proposed changes contribute to the Government’s wider economic programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is committed to rebalancing the economy away from property speculation and excessive Government spending and borrowing, to an economy based on savings and exports. The changes in the Public Finance Act will provide more transparency for those times when a Government is tempted to increase spending and borrowing when it is not necessary.
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: In the most recent World Economic Outlook published by the IMF in April 2012, which of the 34 advanced economies listed is forecast to have a worse current account deficit (as a percentage of GDP) than New Zealand in 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The two countries are Cyprus and Greece. I note that a number of countries that will have a smaller current account deficit will achieve that because
they have deep recessions and are going through dramatic austerity programmes. These are not choices that the New Zealand Government is willing to make.
Hon David Parker: Given that according to the IMF the only country in the world of any size with a worse projected deficit is Greece, how can the Prime Minister be taken seriously in his pre- Budget speech yesterday, titled “Sticking to a Plan That’s Working”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: For the reasons that we said. New Zealand has the choice of a reasonably moderate adjustment to the global aversion to debt. We are making considered and balanced decisions as we go through that adjustment. Other countries do not have those choices. If the member would prefer the UK’s current account deficit of about 1 percent, then I presume he prefers its policy mix. We do not.
Rt Hon John Key: Has he seen any reports of the Opposition finance spokesman in 1999—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister of Finance is not responsible for anything the Opposition spokesperson might have said at any time. The right honourable member has to be rather more subtle in framing his question than that, to bring it within order.
Rt Hon John Key: Has he seen any reports of what happened to the current account deficit in the 9 years that Labour was in office, and any reports of what the Opposition finance spokesman said when he was campaigning with Mr Michael Cullen in 1999 about the matter?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am sure I would certainly find those reports, but I can recall that at the time the Labour Party campaigned to halve the current account deficit, and it ended up doubling it.
Hon David Parker: Will the rising current account deficit be funded by a combination of more overseas borrowing and selling New Zealand assets to foreigners, or does it intend to print money?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The current account deficit will be financed in the same way it has been for some time. It is one of those economic variables where change occurs slowly over time. As recently as 4 years ago it was one of the highest in the developed world, at over 8 percent. If it can peak at around 6 percent through this business cycle, taking into account the significant impact of the earthquake that would represent significant progress. New Zealanders are doing their bit by saving and being careful with their spending, and the Government is lending weight to that by being careful with its spending so that we can get to a position where we are saving, as well.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether it would be funded by a combination of more borrowing and selling of assets. The Minister said it would be funded as it was previously, but he did not tell the House the answer or address the question as to whether it was a combination of borrowing from overseas and selling assets.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I cannot ask the Minister to limit it just to those options. What the Minister did say was that it would be funded in the way that it has been traditionally funded. The member asked how it was going to be funded, and that was the answer from the Minister of Finance. I cannot pin him down to those particular options in case there are other options. The member does have further questions, should he wish to pursue that further.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister realise that another near-zero Budget, rising net international liabilities, and record numbers of New Zealanders leaving to Australia are proof of his Government’s failure to properly manage the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not. Many New Zealanders have put their shoulder to the wheel through the recession. They have been resilient, they have been adaptable, they have responded to the economic signals, and the Government is doing everything it can to support them because they want to see more jobs, higher incomes, and a growing economy, and we are on track to achieve that.
Paul Goldsmith: How does New Zealand’s present international position compare with the situation that the Government inherited in 2008?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Just to add a few facts to the debate, the current account deficit for the year ended 31 March 2012 is 4.1 percent. On 31 March 2008 it was 8 percent. So it is currently half the level that we inherited.
Paul Goldsmith: What steps has the Government taken to rebalance the economy towards savings, exports, and paying its way in the world?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Every step the Government takes is headed in that direction, but some of the significant ones have been to reform the tax system, increasing taxes on consumption and property speculation, and cutting taxes on work and saving; curbing Government spending increases and getting on track to surplus; keeping a lid on the cost of doing business, for instance, by getting on top of the fast-rising costs like ACC; and providing more investment and savings opportunities for New Zealanders, by pushing ahead with the mixed-ownership model.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister realise that the chorus of reports saying that it is going to get worse include the Bank of New Zealand forecast that New Zealand exports will decline by over $3 billion over the next 12 months, and if so, when is he going to acknowledge that his efforts to rebalance the economy have failed?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the member is going to judge any economic policy on what might happen in the next few months, then that indicates his unsuitability to be trying to run an economy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not think the question quite deserved that kind of answer. I think the question is not unreasonable. There are commentators who have made these kinds of predictions, so I do not think it deserved quite that answer.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not acknowledge that. The fact is that it is going to take some time to undo the enormous damage that the Labour Government did to this economy when it had a decade of benign global conditions. We are dealing with that legacy, plus the global recession. Many New Zealanders are actually quite proud of the way they have adapted, and they are looking forward to a brighter future.
Hon John Banks—Donations to Member’s Political Campaigns
5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all the answers he gave to Oral Question No 4 yesterday?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, because unlike question No. 2 yesterday, at least the quotations directed at me were correct.
Mr SPEAKER: I call Metiria Turei. [Interruption] Order! I want to be able to hear Metiria Turei.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister require John Banks to meet ethical standards as a Minister, or will he retain his confidence in John Banks until he is convicted of electoral fraud?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, the member is making an outrageous assertion that the Minister would be convicted of such a thing. Secondly, the Cabinet Manual is quite clear: ethical standards apply at the time of the holding of the warrant.
Mr SPEAKER: Metiria Turei. [Interruption] Order! I must be able to hear Metiria Turei.
Metiria Turei: Given the reason that the Prime Minister lost confidence in Richard Worth was “nothing of a legal nature”, why is he applying now only a legal test to John Banks?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not. The issue in relation to Mr Worth was his ethical behaviour at the time that he was a Minister.
Metiria Turei: Can he confirm that he would have sacked Pansy Wong, had she not resigned, because of her “ethical lapses” as a Minister, not legal ones?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I cannot confirm that.
Metiria Turei: Why, as he set out yesterday, is he applying a legal test for John Banks when he accepted Phil Heatley’s resignation because he failed to meet the Prime Minister’s high ethical standards?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said yesterday, that would have been a matter in relation to a legal test had that been a proven case against Mr Heatley.
Metiria Turei: Can the Prime Minister confirm that he accepted Phil Heatley’s resignation for failure to meet his high ethical standardsm, before any legal or other proceedings were taken against Phil Heatley?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I can confirm is that I tried to encourage the Minister not to resign and, quite to the contrary, the Minister did resign.
Metiria Turei: Why is it now the position of the Prime Minister to retain confidence in a Minister regardless of a breach of ethical standards when he set an ethical standard for Ministers at the beginning of his tenure as Prime Minister and he applied that ethical standard to Richard Worth, Pansy Wong, and Phil Heatley; and is it because he needs John Banks for the numbers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the last point, no. In relation to the rest of the question, the member is actually making a whole lot of assertions that are simply not correct. The allegation against Mr Banks—[Interruption] Well, members might not like it but the allegation against Mr Banks is that he failed to meet his legal obligations in the signing of his mayoral declaration. The Minister has made it quite clear that he did meet his legal obligations. I accept that, and the fact that that member is going down this line just shows you that she thinks he met his legal obligations as well, as do those people over there.
David Shearer: What other assurances did Mr Banks give his office, apart from the fact that he had complied with the Local Electoral Act?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That was the assurance that we sought. That was the allegation that has been made. The allegation that has been made is that the member failed to meet his legal obligations. The Minister has told us he met his legal obligations. That member wants me to sack Ministers for complying—
Grant Robertson: Oh, he’s getting angry.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: This is angry? OK, you should meet Trevor.
Business Sector—Coordination of Growth
6. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: What action is the Government taking to improve co-ordination of the business growth agenda?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Last week the Government confirmed its intention to establish the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on 1 July this year. The ministry will bring together the existing functions of the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Science and Innovation, the Department of Labour, and the Department of Building and Housing. The purpose of the new ministry is to assist the Government to drive forward its business growth agenda, and make it easier for businesses to engage with the Government.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What benefits can businesses expect to see from a new ministry?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Businesses can expect to see the Government moving faster to tackle the issues that matter to them. This will help grow competitive businesses so that we are better able to afford the sort of society we aspire to. Structure, of course, is only one part of the solution, but the current fragmented structure makes it harder to achieve the results New Zealand needs. In the medium term we expect the new ministry to deliver savings through the consolidation of corporate services of about $5 million to $6 million a year, and of policy capability of about $2 million to $5 million a year. Although obtaining savings is not what is driving this change, there will be efficiency benefits.
Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry—Implications of Proposed Changes
7. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What damage, if any, has been done to staff confidence and retention by the change proposals for his Ministry announced on 23 February 2012, and does he intend to announce on 10 May 2012 a reversal of many of the proposals?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Not as much damage as Trevor Mallard caused David Shearer’s self-confidence yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. I accept that the primary question does make an assertion of damage, and that it is risky to incorporate that kind of assertion into a primary question, but, still, it is a primary question, and I think it should be treated with some respect because of that. I accept that the answer was always going to have a few more nuances because of the wording of the primary question, but I think that was a bit over the top.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I was going on to say, the Minister has made it clear to the chief executive that he expects the ministry’s leadership to ensure that any changes are carried out in a manner that retains an appropriate base of talent for New Zealand’s foreign policy interests. The chief executive will announce final decisions in due course.
Hon Phil Goff: What is the Minister’s assessment of the damage done to the vital trade negotiations division in light of this letter, which I am holding, from all of the staff of the trade negotiations division, which states that the change process has undermined confidence, has put real pressure on the retention of staff in their area, and has held up urgent priorities, such as the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is vital for this country?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Any discussions taking place between the chief executive and ministry staff, including communications with the trade negotiations division, are a matter for the chief executive. However, I can go further and say it is no secret that there has been criticism of the change proposals, and the Minister expects that there will be revisions.
Hon Phil Goff: In this paper, which I am holding, from the Minister to the Cabinet committee on State sector reform and expenditure control on Monday, does he admit that “The Government has substantially revised the change proposals” because they have failed to get “the required amount of buy-in from staff, especially senior staff” and “there were too many unachievable elements”—in other words, the original recommendations and the whole process were botched, and they are now having to do a total U-turn?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It is no secret that there has been criticism of the change proposals, and the Minister expects that there will be revisions. The Minister has emphasised the need for the ministry leadership to pay close attention to all feedback before any decisions are made. Those decisions will be for the chief executive to make.
Hon Phil Goff: Has the chief executive now told his staff that the total savings from this dramatic staff restructuring will be a mere $12 million, not the $24 million that the Minister told this House, and not the $40 million that he was told in his briefing paper; and was it worth the damage done to staff morale and retention, the $9.2 million he spent on consultants this year, and the $3.3 million he is now telling me he will be spending on specialist consultants in the next few months? Was it worth it?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am not exactly aware of that figure—
Hon Annette King: You’re lost for words.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: —because I am the acting Minister. I would say to the future Mayor of Wellington that I am not lost for words. [Interruption] I am praising her! These are matters that have been the cause of some concern and consternation, and, as I have said, the chief executive has been told by the Minister that changes will need to be made.
Hon Phil Goff: Why in this paper to his Cabinet this week is he recommending that New Zealand close its embassy in Stockholm by the end of next month, and then consider closing the embassies in the Netherlands and Spain, when he admits in the Cabinet paper that this has implications for, and I quote his own words, “our overarching goal of securing a comprehensive agreement with the European Union containing preferential trade provisions”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As has been told to that member on a number of occasions, from time to time there will be changes to the places where, for example, consulates or
embassies are located. For example, in the late 1980s, when that member was a junior Minister in the Lange-Palmer-Moore—and whoever else—administration, the Labour Party shut down the San Francisco consulate. And, as I explained to the member, embassies have been opened from time to time. Change needs to take place, and, as I have said before, one should not assume that because a consulate or an embassy has been opened it should be open forevermore.
Hon Phil Goff: In admitting in this Cabinet paper, which will, I think, go to Cabinet next Monday for final approval, that he will—I am helping out his colleagues who have not read it already—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Phil Goff: Does he say in this paper that he will substantially revise the remuneration proposal that would have slashed allowances to staff with families who are deployed overseas, and does he now acknowledge that this was a particularly dumb and counter-productive proposal that has already caused the outflow of a huge number of talented staff, particularly when staff base salaries in the ministry have been frozen for 4 years, unlike the Minister’s own salary?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It is no secret that there has been some criticism of the change proposals, and the Minister expects that there will be revisions. The Minister has emphasised the need for the ministry leadership to pay close attention to all feedback before any decisions are made. Those decisions will be for the chief executive to make.
Health and Safety—Workplace
8. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Labour: What steps is the Government taking to improve workplace health and safety?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour): Today I announced an extra $37 million over 4 years to help reduce the unacceptably high number of workers who are killed and seriously injured in this country each year. I have also ordered a full review of New Zealand’s health and safety system by an independent task force to ensure that it is fit for purpose. Too many New Zealanders are injured or killed at work. The cost of workplace injuries to New Zealand’s economy is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion a year. The human cost is, of course, immeasurable. The steps announced today will go towards achieving a new target of a 25 percent reduction in the rate of workplace deaths and serious injuries by the year 2020.
Simon O’Connor: How will this added investment help reduce the work toll?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: A strong and effective regulator is the cornerstone of any health and safety system. That is why the bulk of this extra funding will go towards increasing the number of on-the-ground health and safety inspectors by 20 percent, from 148 to 180, over the next 3 years. This will bring our ratio of inspectors to workers in line with Australia’s. In addition, the existing health and safety inspectorate will be upskilled, more front-line specialist technical support will be hired, additional funding will be put into the high hazards unit, and more support will be given to joint- and industry-led health and safety initiatives.
Simon O’Connor: What does the Minister expect from the review of the health and safety system?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I expect fresh thinking and new ideas to improve the system and help change the culture of workplace safety in New Zealand. That is why I am establishing the independent task force to undertake the review. Although the specific terms of reference and membership of the task force will be confirmed shortly, I will expect the final report at the end of the year. That report will be timed to take any findings of the royal commission into account, and will make recommendations to ensure that the 25 percent by 2020 reduction target is met.
Māui’s Dolphin—Protection Areas
9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Does her proposed extension of the Marine Mammal Sanctuary for Maui’s dolphins allow the use of set nets, drift nets, and trawl nets within the sanctuary?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation): The Government is taking a joint approach to proposed protection for Māui’s dolphins off the Taranaki coast, using both the Marine Mammals Protection Act and the Fisheries Act. We propose dealing with fishing restrictions under the Fisheries Act, which allows for greater penalties, powers for seizure, and greater enforcement capability through fisheries officers. This is an accepted approach, as recommended in the 2007 threat management plan. As the member is aware, we have brought forward a review of this plan.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a clear, concise question, put down on notice: “Does her”—
Mr SPEAKER: Maybe I can save the time of the House, because I accept the member’s point that the question is very clear and is capable of being answered, I would have thought. I did not hear an answer to that primary question.
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The answer I gave was that fishing restrictions, of which set nets, drift nets, and trawl nets form a part, are actually dealt with under the fisheries legislation.
Mr SPEAKER: It appears the Minister is claiming no responsibility for those issues. If that is the case, I must accept the Minister’s response.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not clear that that is her reason for not answering the question, but in so far as the question refers directly to her area of responsibility, which is the proposed marine mammal sanctuary and whether or not from her point of view as Minister of Conservation fishing, or these techniques for fishing, are allowed, there still is no direct answer to that question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think in fairness at question time here Ministers should be entitled to answer in a way that is consistent with their responsibilities. It is up to members then to use their intellect to chase the answer that is given, because clearly I can think of plenty of supplementary questions to follow the answer given. I did not hear an answer to the question. The Minister explained why, when I asked her to answer the question, those matters that form part of the question are not her responsibility. But I am sure there are further supplementary questions that can dig into that, without my interfering further in the question than the Minister’s answer.
Gareth Hughes: How can it be described as a sanctuary at all, given that the Minister for Primary Industries has proposed to allow the use of set nets in 42 to 83 percent of her sanctuary and trawl nets in 100 percent?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: We are going through a process, and it is a joint consultation process with the Minister for Primary Industries and me. That will take into account the adequacy of protections, both under conservation legislation and under fisheries legislation. There has been ample opportunity for that process to be consulted on, for submissions to be made, and to avoid any judicial review by overenthusiastic political persuasion.
Gareth Hughes: Is it not true that all that her proposed sanctuary will do is place limited restrictions on seismic surveys?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: As I have explained, this is a joint consultation, as is recommended and as is the accepted approach under the threat management plan. That threat management plan is also under review, and we have brought that forward. If it is not an accepted approach, then I am sure the member will be making submissions accordingly.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, the question is simple, it is clear, and it is to the Minister about her portfolio area. If I had wanted to ask the question of the Minister for Primary Industries, I would have. The Minister has put a document out for consultation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! But the Minister, in her answer, has pointed that out exactly—that this is a process of consultation. It would appear no final decisions have been made. I cannot expect the Minister to tell the House of any final decisions if the process of consultation is still under way.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, if I may.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the member briefly.
Gareth Hughes: It is a fair point, but my question was specifically on her proposal, not on any decisions that she has made.
Mr SPEAKER: I think, in fairness, she has pointed out that the document is out for consultation, and members are at liberty to make submissions on that consultation process. To expect the Minister to give a finite answer now, I think, is unrealistic. The member still has a further supplementary question.
Gareth Hughes: Is the Minister’s proposal not a sham sanctuary and an insult to the 67,000 people who signed the petition tabled in this Parliament today calling for effective Māui’s dolphin protection measures?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: No.
10. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Corrections: What reports has she received about trade training within prisons?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): Statistics for 2010-11 show that the number of New Zealand qualifications framework credits gained by prisoners from trade training inside the wire has increased by 45 percent since the year before. In the last financial year there were, on average, 4,767 prisoners engaged in employment activities, and they gained 108,080 credits. The evidence is clear that a lack of skills and education is a major driver of crime. This Government is committed to increasing the numbers of offenders involved in education and training.
Ian McKelvie: What is the Government doing to further improve employment training in prisons?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This Government is absolutely committed to improving and increasing employment training in prisons. The recently opened new training workshops at the Christchurch Men’s Prison will see up to 130 prisoners per year provided with real skills and qualifications in essential trades such as plumbing, roofing, drainlaying, and painting and decorating. These are all areas where there are likely to be major skill shortages as we rebuild Christchurch. Giving these prisoners the skills and training they need to get jobs on release will provide them with the opportunity to become productive and hard-working members of the Christchurch community, and we know that offenders who are able to gain employment are more likely to stay out of prison in the future.
Earthquakes, Christchurch and Canterbury—Briefing Paper on Pyschosocial Consequences
11. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Canterbury
Earthquake Recovery: Has he required that all his Ministers involved in the Canterbury earthquake recovery read the briefing paper dated 10 May 2011 prepared by Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, into the psychosocial consequences of the Canterbury earthquakes; if not, why not?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Acting Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): No, because he has no responsibility for other Ministers. I can confirm, however, that both he and the Associate Minister have read the paper.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Has he seen the statement from orange-zoned residents in Southshore that “Rumours are rife, nerves are frayed, and the feeling of being completely out of control of our lives is overwhelming.” as a result of now the 10th delay of an announcement about their future; and how
could he let that happen when he was forewarned by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman that this is exactly what happens to people if they are left disempowered by decision makers?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I cannot comment as to whether the Minister has seen that specific quote that she refers to, but I can tell that member that we are very aware of the stress and difficulty for the remaining 401 orange zone owners of not knowing the long-term fate of their land. Every effort is being made to resolve these issues, but they are incredibly complex. The most important thing we can do is to make sure we get those decisions right, and we are working to do that as fast as is possible.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How does the Government’s approach to announcing these land decisions measure up to Sir Peter’s advice that recovery is primarily judged in terms of people feeling that they are coping with their lives; and will he assure this House—guarantee to this House—that this latest delay is not related to his availability for the announcement?
Hon AMY ADAMS: That member should know, if she has read the paper, that what Sir Peter also says is that it is inevitable that there will be frustration, anger, and despair as a normal consequence of this process, and the Government is doing everything it can to assist with dealing with those instances. These are very serious issues, and there has been a tremendous emotional impact on the people of Canterbury, as that member knows. This Government has committed immeasurable resources to being on the ground to meet that need, and it is doing everything it can to stand by the people of Canterbury, as the majority of Cantabrians recognise and acknowledge.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Will he ask the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, in light of the petition of over 18,500 people presented to Parliament today, to work with the people and local authorities of Christchurch to ensure that the Avon River red zone becomes a reserve and river park when the homeowners have to leave, or does he still believe that red zone property owners have to make decisions about their future, before he will consider anything?
Hon AMY ADAMS: We are certainly interested in considering the proposal from those residents. No decision has been made about the long-term future of the red zone land, and I would note that in fact the Avon River park through the central business district is one of the anchor projects that is being worked on. We are very happy to receive the proposal, and I can assure the member that it will be given full consideration.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Will he meet with the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network to discuss its suggested solutions to the range of problems that people are facing right now in Christchurch, solutions that have been endorsed by the Canterbury Communities’ Earthquake Recovery Network and a number of individual resident associations, in light of Sir Peter Gluckman’s advice that governance structures must understand and actively include community participation?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I can assure that member that the Minister, the Associate Minister, the chief executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and a number of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority managers meet regularly with all interested groups, and will continue to do so.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the briefing paper prepared by the Office of the Prime Minister’s science advisory committee, and Professor Sir Peter Gluckman.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the release from the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network, setting out the different areas of concern that they have.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a press release, or is it a—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: It is a media release. It has been sent to the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: No, we do not table media releases that are readily available to members.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I would like to seek leave to have it tabled, because this is a community organisation that wanted to have it tabled in the House of Parliament, and I would like to seek leave on their behalf.
Mr SPEAKER: Even members of Parliament, much as they might like to, cannot table media releases, because they are available to all and sundry, and we are not going to—[Interruption] Let me check with the member. Someone has interjected, which they should not have done, but still, because I do not want to disadvantage any community group, is this a media release that was released nationally, to national media, or to only local media? I ask the Hon Lianne Dalziel.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I believe that it was released only to Christchurch media.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document from a local community group. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Schools, Scholarship Examinations—Achievement Rates
12. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: What evidence has she seen of excellent achievement in scholarship exams?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Last Friday I was honoured to present, together with the Governor-General, the New Zealand Top Scholar Awards. These awards celebrate the highest achievers from last year’s scholarship exams. There were 45 awards in all, 35 for Top Subject Scholars and 10 Premier Award winners. I also presented the Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence to Jade Leung from St Cuthbert’s College. I congratulate all recipients.
Nikki Kaye: What was particularly encouraging about these awards?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The House will be delighted to know that it was very encouraging to see that 10 of the 45 awards went to Christchurch students. This was despite all the disruption and turmoil these students went through over the last year. It was also encouraging to see that there were schools from a range of deciles represented. However, it will be good to see an even greater spread in future years. These students personify the excellence that is found in the New Zealand education system. I am very proud of them all.