Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (LeaderNZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?• ORAL QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, with one clarification: when I said yesterday that the numbers of people who come to New Zealand and claim refugee status or asylum are significantly fewer under this Government than when the Rt Hon Winston Peters was a Minister, I should have said that the proportion who claim was less.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did not hear the last sentence from the Prime Minister. Could he repeat that? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If we could have a little less interjection, then it is easier for all members to hear the answer. Would the Prime Minister mind repeating the latter part of his answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The last sentence was: I should have said that the proportion who claim was less.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a process for Ministers to correct answers they gave—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am sorry to interrupt. This is a point of order; it will be heard in silence.
Chris Hipkins: —if they subsequently realise that they are incorrect. Waiting until question time has already started is not the appropriate way to do it. They are supposed to do that at the first available opportunity.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: This was not a correction to an answer; it was a clarification of an answer—quite a different matter. It is quite a different matter.
Mr SPEAKER: I think there is some relevance to both the points that have been raised by Chris Hipkins and the Hon Gerry Brownlee. If it is a correction to an answer, then the expectation is—in fact, the Speakers’ rulings are very clear—that the member or Minister, upon becoming aware that he has inaccurately answered a question, must come to the House as quickly as possible. If it is a matter of minor correction—in other words, it could be interpreted as a clarification—I think, in this case, it is acceptable for it to be done in the way that it has been done.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he stand by his statement yesterday in relation to approved visas for applicants seeking refugee or protection status that: “what I do know, on the advice of the Minister of Immigration, is that the numbers are considerably less under this Government than when the member was a Minister.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said in my answer to the primary question, I stand by the view that that is correct when it is taken with the word “proportion”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does he reconcile that statement with his Minister of Immigration saying that he was “advised that information before 2009 is not captured in a reportable format and would require substantial manual collation and research.”, which he was not prepared to authorise? How does he stand by his statement against what the Minister has told me?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: You will have to take up the written question with the Minister’s office. I cannot answer that, and I have not actually even seen that parliamentary question, but in the information provided to my office—I can give the member an example, if he wants. If you go back and have a look, for instance, at the 2005-06 period, the number of people who temporarily came to New Zealand was 498,009, on the advice I had. The number of people who claimed for asylum was 317. The proportion was 0.063653468. In the 2015-16 equivalent, the number was 925,365, the number of people who made claims was 339, and the proportion was 0.036634193.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Prime Minister tell the House that the Minister of Immigration advised him that the number that had come was considerably less, when in fact the Minister of Immigration, in an answer to a written parliamentary question, said—
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Different question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it was not a different question. You are not going to switch the grounds now—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just read the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the Minister of Immigration said that no such information had been collected pre-2009, how could the Prime Minister tell the House that yesterday he had already been advised otherwise by the Minister of Immigration?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because the Minister of Immigration advised me that the proportion is less, and the proportion is less.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he said he was advised by his Minister of Immigration yesterday, was that statement true or false, or did the Minister of Immigration misinform me and the House in a written answer to a written question?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot make any comment on the written question, because I have not seen it, but that was the advice that the Minister gave me and it is correct.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact, Prime Minister, that yesterday not once but twice he misled the House intentionally, and he seeks now to sneak away from his statement yesterday?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. If anyone was misleading the House yesterday it was the Rt Hon Winston Peters when he was taking the opportunity to make a quote about the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) programme, where he used the words I had used about the UNHCR programme deliberately misleadingly, actually, in his supplementary questions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Prime Minister digging a hole for himself by making that statement, when in yesterday’s answer he specifically said that it was not UN refugees we were talking about, but other categories, which was the subject of my question, upon which he then told the House something demonstrably false twice?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member needs to go and look at his own Hansard and my quote that he used in his supplementary questions to me. As I said, I should have used the word “proportion”. Other than that, the answer was quite correct, and I stand by it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the answer yesterday when he pointed to the fact that it was not UN refugees he was talking about, how could he have gone on from that—and Hansard is very clear—and made a statement about numbers that he did not at that time have? That information about not having the numbers was confirmed in a written answer from the Minister of Immigration. Which one of these two Ministers—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Questions need to be—[Interruption] The Rt Hon Prime Minister—the first part. I did not hear the last.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Neither of the Ministers. The member, if he wants a very detailed answer on something completely different from his supplementary questions, should ask the Minister of Immigration, but the Minister of Immigration advised me—because the member was asking a question—about proportions, and I gave the member the answer.
2. MAUREEN PUGH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I am advised today that today was the first release by Statistics New Zealand of labour market statistics data using an updated survey method that is technology-neutral and improves international comparability. The decision to change the survey method was made by the Government Statistician, who is statutorily independent. The decision was not made by the Government. Today’s release shows unemployment fell by 0.1 percent to 5.1 percent, with particularly large reductions in Auckland—down 1.2 percentage points, to where unemployment in Auckland is now measured at 4.7 percent. Unemployment among women has dropped 0.8 percent to 5.4 percent. The survey also points to strong job growth during the quarter.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am about to call Maureen Pugh, but I do not want a continuation of the conversation between Mr Joyce and Mr Little.
Maureen Pugh: What is the outlook for jobs and wages?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The outlook will be fairly positive if the current momentum is maintained. Statistics New Zealand calculates that 105,000 extra jobs were created in the last year, and 251,000 over the last 3 years. It advises that recorded jobs growth is supported by other labour market indicators. It reports that annual average wages have increased 24.9 percent to more than $58,000 since the end of 2008, more than double 12 percent inflation over the same period. There are more jobs, and people are being better paid.
Grant Robertson: Was ANZ correct when it said today “Due to methodological changes, many of today’s figures need to be taken with a grain of salt (particularly the surge in employment). Statistics NZ have cautioned against quarterly comparisons. In fact, in many ways they look meaningless.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: ANZ has every right to have an opinion about the numbers, as does the Government. However, it refrains from attacking the impartiality of the Government Statistician.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Again, this is a point of order, the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Grant Robertson: My question asked the Minister of Finance whether ANZ was correct in that statement. I did not get an answer to that question.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion—[Interruption] Order! On this occasion, I think the question has been addressed. The Minister immediately said that that was ANZ’s opinion.
Maureen Pugh: What else do labour market statistics tell us about the job market?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government Statistician has introduced a new measure of underutilisation, which has not been measured before. It measures the number of people who could work more if given the opportunity. The published underutilisation rate is 12.8 percent. This compares with the OECD average of around 14.1 percent, and, somewhat surprisingly, compares with Australia’s underutilisation rate of 21.8 percent, which is not much short of double the New Zealand rate.
Maureen Pugh: What other reports has he seen about the household labour force survey (HLFS)?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a range of reports about the economic importance of the data, including some people who have questioned, for instance, quarterly comparisons, because the HLFS data does move around from quarter to quarter. Others, however, have made comments around the impartiality of the Government Statistician, including that the Government “actively manipulates official data”, which is absolutely wrong—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no need for that answer to continue any longer. I consider it is an answer that will be in breach of Speaker’s ruling 197/5.
Grant Robertson: Why is the Government taking credit for a quarterly increase in employment that is 70 percent higher than ever recorded before, which ANZ has said should be taken with a grain of salt and that Statistics New Zealand cautioned against making—exactly the quarterly comparison that Steven Joyce did in his media release today?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is not taking credit; it is simply stating the numbers as published—it is simply stating the numbers as published—because we accept that the Government Statistician is statutorily independent. If the numbers go up, it is because the numbers have gone up, not because the Government Statistician is manipulating the numbers, as that member has claimed. And he should know, since he represents more public servants than anyone else in the Parliament. It is a disgrace.
Grant Robertson: Does the Minister consider it a disgrace that the Minister of Finance stood in this House and said that Statistics New Zealand’s statement that inequality in New Zealand had grown under his watch was statistically invalid; is that a disgrace as well?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I certainly did not accuse the Government Statistician of being manipulated by the Government, and certainly would not do that. We have our own arguments with how numbers are put together, but, in the end, that is why they are independent. With respect to those conclusions, I passed on the advice I was given, which, I understand, was legitimate statistical analysis that the conclusions they had drawn were not statistically valid. Since then, I have had further advice that, on balance, they probably were.
• Prime Minister, Statements—Housing Affordability
ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): My question—
Hon Steven Joyce: Apologise.
ANDREW LITTLE: When Mr Joyce is ready, my question is to the Prime Minister. Does—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have asked Mr Joyce to cease once. I do not want to have to do it again.
3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement regarding housing that “we take responsibility, we need to do a better job of it”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I stand by my full statement, which went on to say “But just think of the things we have done over the last 2 years alone”. To say we have done nothing is absolutely not true. We have done a lot. So let me remind the House about the Government’s comprehensive housing plan. It includes a new $1 billion dollar Housing Infrastructure Fund, over 210 special housing areas for 70,000 new homes, an expanded HomeStart scheme to first-home buyers, the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, Resource Management Act reform, a raft of extra tax measures, the new Auckland Unitary Plan, more tools for the Reserve Bank, the independent urban development authority’s finding some areas of high housing need, and getting the Auckland Unitary Plan under way. By any measure, this is a comprehensive plan.
Andrew Little: Does he take responsibility and need to do a better job when only one in five Auckland houses are now affordable for families on the average income, according to the Government’s own figures?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Of course there will be a range of incomes and a range of properties. One thing I do know is that wage growth under this Government has been in the better part of 25 percent in the 8 years that we have been in Government. Interest rates have plummeted to where they were under the previous Labour Government. If we look at the number of properties sold for under $650,000 in Auckland for the previous year, it was 37 percent of properties—at 11,842. And—out of interest—if one was to take a cursory look at TradeMe, as I did just before, around Auckland houses, apartments, townhouses, and units listed for sale at $600,000 and below, it lists 1,433 listings.
Andrew Little: Does he take responsibility and need to do a better job when, under his flagship special housing area policy, 84 percent of those areas have not had a single house built on them?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Everyone appreciates that special housing areas (SHAs) are a fast-track process and a fast-track zoning process, so of course it takes some time for those properties ultimately to have the horizontal infrastructure, and the like. But, for the record, the advice that my office has received is that as of 30 June 2016, when it comes to Auckland’s SHAs, 1,300 homes have been completed, 2,200 building consents have been issued, 2,458 new sections have been created, and 7,170 new sections have been granted resource consent. Of the 154 SHAs in Auckland, 26 have been built on, with the capacity of 29,800; 15 have earthworks under way, with the capacity of 5,300; and 88 are in some stage of the planning process. Only 25 SHAs have no consents—
Mr SPEAKER: Bring the answer to a conclusion.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —of which 16 were declared SHAs in February to May of this year.
Andrew Little: Does he take responsibility and need to do a better job, when developers appear to be using the special housing areas for land banking, rather than building affordable housing and helping first-home buyers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As you can see from the data I just read out to the House—and I will not repeat it, in the interests of time—there is no evidence, I think, to support that there is land banking.
Andrew Little: Does he take responsibility and need to do a better job, when homeownership is at its lowest level in 65 years and young families all over the country are giving up on the Kiwi Dream of owning their own home?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If one looks at the household labour force survey out today, at 5.1 percent, at the jobs that have been created in the 8 years under this Government, at the level of interest rates in New Zealand now, and at the wage growth that has taken place—again under this Government, at 25 percent, and in real terms about 13 percent—I do not think it is true to say that people have given up. But certainly the Government has a number of responses, and one of those to help those first-home buyers is the KiwiSaver HomeStart programme, and I think that has been very successful.
Andrew Little: What is his response to Hunter Wright and Sandi Langridge, a Nelson couple, who say “We consider ourselves pretty average New Zealanders. We don’t earn great money, but we still want the Kiwi Dream.”, and who say that under his Government the dream has become “unreachable”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Obviously I do not know the couple whom the member talks of, and I do not know their income and their circumstances. What I do know is that with interest rates at the levels that they are, with the job growth we are seeing, and, actually, with the prospects for New Zealand, I think there are a lot of young couples who would argue pretty strongly that they are out there, buying houses. There is one particular story, I think in the New Zealand Herald, about that, just today.
Andrew Little: After 8 years’ failure and half-baked policies, is it not time to swallow his pride and adopt Labour’s genuine comprehensive housing plan, because every day that he mucks around families are missing out on getting their first home?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The only thing comprehensive was the way he abused Nick Leggett last week and the way Grant Robertson abused Liz MacPherson.
• Prime Minister—Government Policies
4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Ka tū a ia i runga i te mana o āna kaupapa here Kāwanatanga katoa, nē?
[Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?]
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. I have the privilege of leading a Government that is ambitious for New Zealand’s future, and our policies reflect that ambition.
Metiria Turei: Does he stand by his special housing areas (SHAs) policy in Auckland, now it has proven to be an abject failure?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The failure really was the metropolitan urban limit in Auckland that choked off land supply, which I am sure was one of the real lefty ideas that the Greens were promoting.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree with Nick Smith that special housing areas are about “helping Kiwi families to realise the dream of owning their own home.”; if so, how many Kiwi families are realising that dream in the 97 Auckland SHAs with no home building going on in them?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, yes, and if the member wants me to, I am more than happy to read out the statistics.
Metiria Turei: And the 97?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: OK, so the member does want me to. All right. As of 30 June 2016 in Auckland, the advice my office has is that 1,300 homes have been completed, 2,200 building consents have been issued, 2,458 sections have been created, and 7,170 sections have been granted resource consent. Of the 154 special housing areas in Auckland, 26 have been built on, 15 have earthworks, and 88 are in some stage of planning process. Only 25 have no consent or plan change lodged, but 16 of those were declared between February and May of this year. I think most people would acknowledge that a special housing area is a way of fast-tracking the development of these properties, but they still need to have Resource Management Act consent, they still have to have horizontal infrastructure, they still need to—
Grant Robertson: You’ve been there for 8 years.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, we did not have them 8 years ago, Phil. What we had was the metropolitan urban limit, which we inherited from your lefty mates.
Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister defending the special housing areas policy, where 97 of those areas have no homebuilding on them to date, because it was always his intention that this policy was designed to support the property speculators and the land-bankers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is quite incorrect, and in fact the data I have given to the House is correct. But what I do not support is the hard-working young couple who go out and buy a house, who borrow money against the equity that they have put down, only to see that house price halve. That member has launched a war on the poor. She is saying to the poorest New Zealanders who are borrowing money against their property that she wants to see them owing the bank more than their house is worth. I think there is a reason why the Greens’ numbers are tumbling, and that is because people can see that. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am just waiting for a little more silence from my left.
Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister said in April last year that the special housing area land-bankers would be getting a terse letter from Nick Smith, does he think they were suitably chastised?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Given that only a very small proportion either do not have planning under way, earthworks under way, or building on them, I would say that special housing areas have been highly effective, actually, as a way of releasing land. There will be one or two that do not go ahead—it was never guaranteed that they would, but what was guaranteed was that they would allow process to happen more rapidly, and that is exactly what is happening. What the member is trying to tell New Zealanders is that at the moment that the Minister of Housing designates an area a special housing area—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It simply is not for the Prime Minister to tell the public what I am saying in answer to my question. He has answered my question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: No—[Interruption] Order! I think the point is that the question was relatively short and the answer addressed the question almost immediately. There is no need to continue with a lengthy answer.
Metiria Turei: So now that the housing areas have failed—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I have the question, please.
Metiria Turei: Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker. So—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Less interjection. I am inviting now the question to be asked.
Metiria Turei: So now that the special housing areas policy in Auckland has failed, is sending terse letters to land-bankers and property speculators going to be the new centrepiece of his comprehensive housing plan?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, firstly, I think we can see that special housing areas are a success, because houses are being built and development is taking place. But I will give the member a clue of what a terse letter would look like: “Dear Mr and Mrs Bloggs of Auckland. I know you borrowed $450,000 from the ANZ against your $100,000 worth of equity—or $150,000—in your $600,000 property. But now Metiria Turei has managed to turn that into a $300,000 property, and therefore could you sell your property with no equity left.” That is what a 50 percent reduction in house prices would look like. It is a war—
Mr SPEAKER: Bring the answer to a conclusion.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —on the poor.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would invite you to reflect on Standing Order 380(1), which asks that questions do not needlessly include facts and do not include inferences or arguments beyond what is necessary to make the question intelligible. That is a Standing Order that this member has been violating all through question time.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is strictly correct. I am relatively liberal when I interpret that when allowing questions, but when a question starts, as the last one did, with “Now that that the particular policy has failed”, I give a very wide licence in the answer that may then be given by the Prime Minister or a Minister.
• Climate Change—Paris Agreement
5. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What announcements has she made about the Government’s commitment to the Paris Climate Change Agreement?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Today I am delighted that I have announced that the Government intends to ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of this year, which is significantly earlier than originally planned. Beginning ratification confirms our commitment towards our ambitious target of reducing emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. It also supports the strong international momentum that there is to ratify the agreement this year. Because New Zealand is such a small emitter in global terms, we must be part of a robust international agreement to get results on climate change. Ratification this year means we are playing our part in achieving that.
Scott Simpson: What is the Government already doing to take action on climate change?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: New Zealand already has a climate change record to be proud of. We were one of the first countries to have a comprehensive emissions trading scheme, which we strengthened this year, and more than 80 percent of our electricity is already renewable. We are also world leaders when it comes to agricultural research. We helped establish—and we invested $65 million in—the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, but to meet our new target we will have to make further changes.
David Seymour: Will the ratification of this agreement erode the sovereignty of this Parliament more or less than opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership claimed that agreement eroded it?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: None of the above.
Scott Simpson: What are the next steps required to come up with a plan to meet the Paris target?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Ratification of the Paris Agreement, although very important, is merely words that go down on paper. What now matter, of course, are the actions that we take, so we now are very clearly focused on developing that long-term plan to start reducing emissions while still growing the economy and supporting job creation. This will involve working across Government departments, with the business community, with consumers, and, in some areas, I hope there will be cross-party work as well. As part of that, today I also announced the establishment of a technical advisory group to look at how best we adapt to the impacts of climate change, and my colleagues the Hon Nathan Guy and Jo Goodhew have also announced two new groups to look at how we encourage the planting of more forests and how we reduce emissions from livestock.
• Child Poverty—Publicity
6. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent publicity does she think led to the Guardian writing an article titled “New Zealand’s most shameful secret: we have normalised child poverty”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): I have no responsibility for articles published in the Guardian, a left-wing English newspaper that supports Jeremy Corbyn. To say that a third of New Zealand children can only dream of education and employment is sensationalist rubbish, and I do not think that the measure used in the article is an accurate reflection of poverty in New Zealand at all. Using their definition, the single biggest thing this Government could do to reduce poverty would be to lower the median wage, which I suspect is what would happen if Labour-Greens got into power. This Government is absolutely committed to helping families on the lowest incomes, and that is why Budget 2015 included a $790 million package of measures aimed at reducing hardship amongst children living in some of New Zealand’s poorest families. This Government has increased childcare support for low-income families to help their parents be in work, education, or training. We have increased benefit rates for families with children by $25—the first time in more than 40 years. We have increased Working for Families for low-income working families, and we have introduced free doctors visits and prescriptions for children under 13. We have extended paid parental leave, we have extended parental tax credits, and we fund 125,000 breakfasts for schoolchildren every week—none of which, I note, were mentioned in the article in the Guardian.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she accept that its definition of poverty, which she just called “sensationalised”, is the definition used by Unicef, by the OECD, and by the Conservative UK Government from which this article was published and written?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We have had this discussion in the House on many, many occasions. Measurements of poverty are complex and varied. You can measure them on income, you can measure them on hardship, and a variety of groups use either, depending on which political point they are trying to make at the time.
Jacinda Ardern: Will her new Ministry for Vulnerable Children be required to develop a plan to address child poverty in New Zealand?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The member jumps the gun—there is no such ministry.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she plan to introduce a Ministry for Vulnerable Children?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The Government will make that decision in its own time.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. We are currently debating at the select committee legislation that will be operationalised by the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. To not be able to ask a question about something the Minister has announced will be operating from April seems farcical.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The questions were never out of order. The questions were asked; the Minister then chose to answer them as she saw fit.
Jacinda Ardern: Has the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) or the State Services Commission (SSC) actively recruited a new chief executive officer for her yet-to-be-named children’s ministry who has experience working with significant issues like deprivation and poverty or, at the very least, experience working with children?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have to say, in answer to the member, I do not see any mention of any of that in the article in the Guardian. However, the SSC has responsibility for employment issues, and I have no responsibility for the process.
Jacinda Ardern: If the claim that we have 305,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand is sensationalised, what is the accurate figure?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As I said earlier, we have had this discussion on many occasions. It depends. There are a number of ways of measuring. Whether you use income or whether you use hardship factors, all of those involve judgmental decisions, and it is complex. I refer to the member to the very excellent report that is published annually by MSD, which Bryan Perry produces. It is all there, comprehensively, for the member’s edification.
• Regional Economic Development—Manawat-Whanganui Economic Action Plan
7. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Economic Development: What recent announcements has the Government made about economic development in the Manawatū-Whanganui region?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Last week, alongside the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, and Māori development Minister, Te Ururoa Flavell, I launched a detailed action plan developed with regional leaders to boost the Manawatū-Whanganui regional economy. Part of the Government’s regional growth programme, the plan will build on the region’s existing strengths in primary production and food innovation, while taking advantage of opportunities in fields such as tourism, aged care, and business process outsourcing. This plan was developed locally, actually, by the local people, as a partnership between local government, business, iwi, and central government. It contains a set of concrete actions in these areas, underpinned by strategies to encourage businesses to grow, improved transport, digital connectivity, and skills training. The Opposition is welcome to bag it.
Ian McKelvie: How will the action plan contribute to the growth of the Manawatū and Whanganui?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: One of the major initiatives identified in the action plan is the productivity of the primary sector. The region, of course, has the largest number of sheep and beef cattle of any region in New Zealand and excellent soils. So there is great potential to lift productivity and on-farm profitability. The Ministry for Primary Industries is leading a programme to share knowledge and information amongst farmers to lift productivity and fund a range of other initiatives. Thirty-nine million dollars will also be invested in building New Zealand’s largest agrifood research centre in the FoodHQ precinct on the Massey University campus. A joint venture between the university and AgResearch, research conducted at the centre will span the agricultural sector from farm to consumer, with a focus on dairy and red meat research.
Ian McKelvie: What other investment is the Government making in the region as part of the economic action plan?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: On Friday I announced the Government will invest half a million dollars in partnership with the Whanganui District Council to develop a comprehensive plan to revitalise the Whanganui Port precinct. This is a blueprint for a new marine services centre, an expansion of the boat building industry and visitor services and a recreational area. I was also pleased to announce, with the Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, the next stage in the ring road for Palmerston North. Palmerston North, of course, is a major freight and logistics hub for the lower North Island, and it is crucial it is able to move around efficiently and safely. Finally, I visited Ōhākune in recognition of the Prime Minister’s announcement on the same day of an extension to the Mountains to Sea cycle trail from Tūroa to Ōhākune. It is an excellent addition to the New Zealand cycle trail, and, again, was warmly welcomed by the people of Ōhākune, whom, I have assumed, the Opposition has no interest in seeking the support of.
• Education Funding Review—Rates
8. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by all of her answers to oral question No. 12 yesterday?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes; in the context that my proposal is not to flatten out the current funding rates across different year levels. The proposal is aimed at establishing a per-child funding rate that reflects the teaching and learning challenge at the different levels of the curricula. The publicly available Cabinet paper that I quoted from in my response yesterday acknowledges, in paragraph 33, that an effect of this proposal may be to even out the current variance of funding levels. As previously stated, these are all proposals, and I look forward to receiving the advisory group’s report.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, in my primary question, I asked the Minister about her proposal to flatten out funding rates. That question was authenticated by your office using the Cabinet paper that the Minister has just referred to. I used four supplementary questions yesterday and another primary question today to get the Minister to answer what was, in effect, the primary question yesterday that was, actually, authenticated by your office. So I ask you to give some consideration to what remedies the Opposition has when a Minister stands up and denies something that is authenticated in a primary question, and then forces the Opposition to waste multiple questions in order to extract that information from her.
Mr SPEAKER: I will certainly have another look at the Hansard. I had a very careful look at it yesterday. In this case the primary question today was immediately answered by the Minister. I will have a look at it and may come back to the House—I will certainly come back to the member. But if a member is suspicious that there has been a case of misleading the House deliberately, then there is a quite appropriate path for the member to follow, if he thinks this incident warrants it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I am sure that at the same time you will analyse the questions that were asked by the member so that the answers given are relative to the question answered.
Mr SPEAKER: I can assure the member that I will analyse the questions as much as I analyse the answers.
Chris Hipkins: So why did she state yesterday “the proposal is not to flatten out the levels of funding.”, given the Cabinet paper she just referred to stated “the likely effect of the shift to a standard per-child funding amount, aligned to the expected attainment at each level of the curricula, will be to flatten and even out the current variance in funding between year levels.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member seems to be suffering from a misunderstanding between a proposal and the effect of a proposal. I am happy to table the full Cabinet paper, which makes it clear that the proposal is for three components of a student-based rate, where the first component is linked to the learning level of the curriculum. The second component is linked to the level of risk against the child not being successful, and the third proposal is a component for isolated, small schools. Each of those proposals will have different effects, and depending on what is finally arrived at, we will know the actual effect. But the proposal is not to flatten; it is to provide a student-based approach.
Chris Hipkins: Does she think, in a consultation exercise, that the public who wish to express a view on that are going to be interested in the effects of a proposal rather than, necessarily, the proposal in a completely abstract form, as the Minister has just suggested?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Of course the public is going to be interested in all of that, and that is why these papers have been up on the public website for over 3 months. We have not only shared what the direction of travel is, what the purpose of it is, and what the actual proposal is; we have also explicated what some of the likely effects might be so that there will be informed comment. That is precisely the intent.
Chris Hipkins: Did her Cabinet paper further state “there is evidence the distribution of funding could better reflect the per-child investment required to achieve the … level of attainment and progress and each level of the curricula.”; if so, how does she propose calculating the per-child investment required at each level?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Econometrically.
Hon Member: Ha!
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, that is exactly how. We want to work out what the complexities are. In the current system, for instance, we have higher funding rates at the beginning of the system than at the end. We have the lowest for years 4, 5, and 6—where we are seeing some of the biggest achievement challenges occurring. Surely, the member and the House are interested in us assuring that we are investing to grow achievement for every young New Zealander.
• Queen’s Birthday—Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre
9. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What announcements has she made about the Government’s gift on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): Today at Wellington’s Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, along with the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and Minister Brownlee, I opened the new Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre, named in honour of Her Majesty as a 90th birthday present from New Zealand. The category 1 building, which is fully restored to the highest heritage values, is now fit for modern purpose and activities for students in its classroom space, as well as online research in the specialist research rooms.
Paul Foster-Bell: What function will the new education centre serve?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: There have been more than 13,000 students who have gone through the education programme in the last year, and this new building will vastly increase that number, as a place to learn of our experiences of military conflict, peacekeeping, and commemoration. Today junior students from the neighbouring Mt Cook School are designing their own coats of arms. Auckland’s Baradene College of the Sacred Heart students, along with French students, are exhibiting their countries’ shared World War I experiences of military discipline and the treatment of conscientious objectors. Senior Wellington College students are now able to research the stories of further pupils involved in conflicts.
Paul Foster-Bell: What other progress has been made on the development of Pukeahu National War Memorial Park?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The Pukeahu National War Memorial Park has been embraced as our premier place for commemoration, remembrance, and nationhood, thanks to the great work of my predecessor, the Hon Chris Finlayson. The Government has invited several countries to place memorials within the park. Currently, the United Kingdom, France, the US, and Turkey have designed their memorials, and Belgium and Canada will be next, to ensure that their nations’ sacrifices are commemorated at Pukeahu. This Government wants to ensure that Pukeahu provides the best possible visitor experience, providing a meaningful place of reflection for all visitors, all year round.
• Minister’s Statements—Labour Market
10. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the labour market that “if wages aren’t rising then there isn’t a shortage”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context of which a fairly particular question was asked about the construction industry. I pointed out that employment increased by over 6 percent, to 125,000 in the last year, and average weekly earnings in construction increased by nearly 6 percent, compared with inflation of just 0.4 percent. I think the question had put to me the assertion that there had been no wage inflation in the construction sector. That was incorrect; there has actually been a 6 percent increase in average weekly earnings in the construction sector.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Could the reason there was nil real wage growth in the last quarter be that the Government has issued so many work visas that the labour market is flooded, just as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) warned when it wrote that filling labour shortages through migration can result in wage suppression?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think that if the member looks at the advice, he will find that a number of agencies made statements about what they thought could be the case. The piece of work that was actually done in 2013 by MBIE showed that that effect was not occurring. I understand that piece of work is currently being updated so that we can refresh our view of what is actually happening in the market, rather than relying on assertions by officials.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Why did the immigration Minister claim that there is a shortage of workers in Te Ānau and Queenstown, when average earnings are falling in those regions, which he says indicates that there are plenty of workers already available; could it be that issuing 209,000 work visas has supressed wages?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are many questions rolled into that one. But, I must say, in Queenstown, if the member goes there, he will find that it is growing very fast. There is a question of whether enough people can turn up for the jobs there, but it is also pretty evident that a significant majority of the workforce there are non – New Zealanders, and New Zealanders do not appear to be travelling to Queenstown to take up those jobs in great numbers.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I seek leave to table a data set from the New Zealand household economic survey that indicates that earnings in the Otago and Southland regions have fallen by—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That information is available on the website of Statistics New Zealand.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the fact that average wages for sales workers fell by 6.7 percent in 2015 indicate that there is no shortage of sales workers; if so, why did the Government issue 2,700 work visas for sales workers when there are 23,000 people in New Zealand looking for sales work?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would not rely on the member trying to use his own numbers to create some kind of cause and effect. The fact is, a number of the visa categories are labour-market tested, and, I think, as the Minister has pointed out, in recent years the immigration officials have dropped something like 50 occupations off the list and put only about three or four on the list. The member should also remember that all of this is happening against the background of one of the faster-growing developed economies, where there is a high rate of job creation, where incomes are rising, and where there are good prospects for people looking for work.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Is the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment wrong, is Treasury wrong, is the Reserve Bank wrong, is the BNZ wrong, is the Auckland Chamber of Commerce wrong, and is he right when he says that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am inviting the member to ask one supplementary question. I will give him a chance to rephrase it, but in that time I think he had asked five, and he was still going strongly.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Is everyone else wrong and is he right when he says immigration is more permissive because New Zealanders are “pretty damned hopeless”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I did not say that, but I could give the member this advice: Winston Peters is much better at this stuff.
• Minister’s Statements—Sale of Housing Stock
11. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement yesterday that “the Government is very proud of the fact that it has sold hundreds of houses to State house tenants. We have seen people in their 50s and 60s enjoy, for the first time in their lives, the benefit of homeownership”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes. The tenant homeownership programme offers State house tenants the opportunity to buy the house they live in. As at 30 June 2016, over 250 State houses had been sold to tenants. Of the 134 State houses sold in the last 3 financial years, 50 percent went to people aged over 40. In fact, according to the data I have been presented, one 88-year-old New Zealander has bought their State house in the last 3 years.
Denis O’Rourke: Were any of the tenants of the 1,124 social houses in Tauranga being sold to Accessible Properties offered first to the tenants; if so, how many were sold to people in their 50s and 60s?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: All the tenants would have had the opportunity to take up the offer. I must say, though, that it is difficult for them to achieve ownership in the higher-value markets. We are finding that this scheme is working better in the lower-value, provincial markets, so it is unlikely in Tauranga that even if a tenant had attempted this, they would have been able to achieve it.
• Climate Change Policy—Carbon Credits
12. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Will she cancel carbon credits held by the Government to compensate for using what she calls “dubious” carbon credits in order to meet New Zealand’s climate commitments; if so, when?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): It is not my intention to cancel any units at this point, but there is no doubt lessons can be learnt from the Kyoto Protocol. That is why I was so pleased to announce today that the Government intends to ratify the Paris Agreement this year. Developing high-quality international carbon markets will be an important part of reaching those targets.
James Shaw: Does she accept that over a quarter of the reduction in climate emissions that her Government claims took place between 2008 and 2012 did not actually happen?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I accept that 26 percent of the units that were used by the Government were of dubious quality.
James Shaw: Does she accept that the only reason that New Zealand has a stockpile of carbon credits now is that her Government previously traded in cheap credits that did not result in any reduction in pollution and were linked to criminal activity in the Ukraine and Russia?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not agree with all of that, but I do accept that we have an excess of units. What we are waiting to look at is what we need for 2020—what that cost will be—and then further decisions will happen via the Paris negotiations after ratification as to some of those rules on carry-over. The Government will be making those decisions in due course.
James Shaw: Why should the other signatories to the Paris Agreement believe that this National Government is going to take the Paris Agreement seriously when it has falsely claimed to reduce pollution in the past and now refuses to set the record straight?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because that is not true. What we did, we did under the rules that were there for the Kyoto agreement. Other countries, like Germany, Spain, and Italy, also used those emergency response units to meet their Kyoto targets. We have a new set of rules, which are going to be set under this Paris Agreement. We cancelled the use of international units in 2015, and actually cancelled the use of those dodgy units earlier than that—in 2012, from memory. We make an absolute commitment that we will be part of making sure that any international trading is using carbon units that are of a high integrity.
James Shaw: Given that the past 10 months in a row have all set temperature records and that July was the hottest month on record ever, would not today’s announcement of the ratification of the Paris Agreement be the perfect time for her Government to restore New Zealand’s integrity and credibility by paying back those fraudulent credits?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I have said, going forward from here we are absolutely committed to ensuring that there is an international market, as there could be, and that the integrity of those is such. I think that New Zealand does have a strong reputation as far as its commitment to climate change is concerned, and that it will continue doing the great work that it is doing.