Questions & Answers – 30 June 2016

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Mental Health—Reports

1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What reports, if any, has he received on the impact of homelessness, inequality, and natural disasters on the mental health of New Zealanders?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I have received a range of reports on the mental health of New Zealanders. There are a wide range of complex determinants that affect an individual’s mental health and well-being. This Government has made significant investments, from strengthening the economy, warmer housing, and lifting benefits, as well as increases to the health budget, to a record $16.1 billion in 2016.

Hon Annette King: If he is aware of the impact of natural disasters on the mental health of New Zealanders, as he claimed several weeks ago, why has he underfunded mental health services in Canterbury by $22.8 million, according to information released by the district health board (DHB) dated 24 June 2016?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That member knows that the funding has increased in the Canterbury District Health Board region by $44 million in the last Budget. That member also knows that we increased the funding for mental health services in March, for the next 3 years, as part of a package of initiatives to boost current mental health services in Canterbury.

Hon Annette King: Is he aware that the additional $5.48 million per year he allocated to the Canterbury DHB and requires to be spent on top of its mental health ring-fenced expenditure leaves it with a $22.8 million shortfall, according to information released by the district health board dated 24 June 2016?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Again, I have to reiterate to that member that the Government has increased funding to the Canterbury District Health Board, it has increased mental health funding, and it is ring-fenced. But the Canterbury District Health Board, like every district health board in the country, needs to allocate that funding to the needs of those in their communities.

Hon Annette King: Has the Canterbury DHB informed him that it is going to have to take funds from other health services, such as personal health and the health of older people, to make up for the underfunding in mental health, according to the information released by the DHB dated 24 June 2016?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Again, I say to that member that the funding has increased in the Canterbury District Health Board region. There are an extra 27 fulltime-equivalent primary-care and community-based mental health workers, as well as further funding for current programmes, such as Telehealth, in the area.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table an Official Information Act (OIA) request dated 24 June 2016 from the Canterbury District Health Board—information within which as outlined in my questions to the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular OIA information. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Annette King: Has the increasing pressure and stress faced by many people living in the most deprived areas in New Zealand and the growing inequality in New Zealand, as outlined by Statistics New Zealand’s report yesterday, led to the 30,000 additional visits to emergency departments of hospitals around New Zealand by mental health users since 2011; if not, what is the reason?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! One of those supplementary questions.

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: There are a number of reasons why people present in emergency departments across the country. But what I can say about mental health services in this country is that there has been an increase in the demand for mental health services, which that member will acknowledge. But in terms of the access to mental health services, there are now over 22,000 adults—new mental health clients—of which 84 percent of them are seen within 3 weeks and 95 percent of them are seen within 8 weeks. So although there is an increased demand in mental health services, there has also been increased access for those who need that demand.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Is he alarmed at the recently released figures that show big rises in crisis – mental health referrals—almost 300 percent over the last 5 years—a situation that mental health professionals are now calling dangerous, and, as Professor Max Abbott said, clearly the cracks are showing?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That member knows that this Government has increased mental health spending from $1.1 billion in 2008, when that member was in Government, to over $1.4 billion in the latest Budget. That is $300 million in increased spending to meet those services that are demanded by New Zealanders.

Hon Annette King: In light of the huge increase in emergency department presentations, crisis call-outs, and referrals in mental health, why will the Government not stump up with funding to keep Lifeline Aotearoa going—a respected and long-time suicide helpline in New Zealand that is often the only service that suicidal people contact?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That member knows that after-hours telephone health services were part of this Government’s manifesto in 2011. I am advised that the successful bidder to that tender for those services—7 months on, these services are performing above expectations and the collective benefits of the Healthline integration to one provider are now being seen.

• KiwiSaver—Fees

2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the September 2015 Treasury report that KiwiSaver fees are in the upper third of comparable countries in the OECD; if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): No, I do not agree with that statement. I understand—in fact, I have been told—that Treasury is having second thoughts about that statement as well. That is because New Zealand is ranked, in that particular report, at 10th out of 26 in the OECD—that number may be many things, but it is not a third. The good news for the member is that data is from 2011, and since then, through the appointment of default providers, the lowered fees on the medium balanced account for KiwiSaver has dropped by nearly 20 percent. So in the next figures we would expect to see a better result again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: So is the Financial Markets Authority wrong about cash cows and raking in dollars in fees a year? And does he think that it is fair that ordinary New Zealanders are paying $300 million each year in fees to private KiwiSaver providers, compared with $4.1 million towards our State-run, world-class Superannuation Fund?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I could just repeat the answer that I gave the member to the primary question, and that is that since that information has been released, the Government has gone through a process of reappointment of default providers, and that appointment of default providers in 2014 has lowered the fees on a medium KiwiSaver balanced account from $69 a year to $56 a year, which is a saving of nearly 20 percent. The Government will continue to look for further opportunities to ensure that costs stay down through competition in the KiwiSaver sector.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If those dates are relevant, why is the Treasury report dated September 2015? And what action has he taken to ensure that private KiwiSaver providers with low-level returns are not ripping off the New Zealand people and treating them like cash cows, as warned by the Chief Executive of the Financial Markets Authority, Rob Everett?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The report may have come out in 2015, but it clearly states that it uses 2011 data.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just making it up as you go along.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is absolutely correct, Mr Peters. And it says that we are 10th out of 26 in the OECD, as at 2011. As I have just pointed out to the member, since that time default providers have lowered their fees through a competitive process with the Government. I appreciate his question; he has given us the opportunity to talk about the progress being made.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that the Financial Markets Authority’s report is dated 18 May 2016—that is this year, last month—and if this Government wants to offer New Zealanders a State-run saving scheme with minimal fees and guaranteed returns of capital, why will it not just support New Zealand First’s world-leading, low-fees KiwiFund policy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are many things that could describe the member, but world-leading is not necessarily one of them. In terms of the KiwiSaver funding, in relation to the report that the member raised in his primary question, I have pointed out to him the issues with that report in terms of its age and the accuracy of the comment, and, again, I can tell him that the good news is that the appointment of default providers in 2014 has lowered the fees. Also, to help the member, the Government is helping to improve the knowledge of consumers to help them sort which fund to belong to, and that provides a better opportunity to make a more accurate comparison between funds. If he would like to have a look at that website, it is . It is on the internet.

David Seymour: How long have Government agencies been carrying out this conspiracy of issuing reports using data collected before the report’s issue date?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I thank the member for his question, because I am quite concerned about that. It appears that all the data that is being used to produce these reports has been collected before the reports are produced, and that is possibly a significant problem in terms of the quality of the reports.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a comparison of the returns: KiwiSaver against the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and against the Australian Government Future Fund, which shows how appalling—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need the last part. I need the source of the information.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I prepared it myself.

Mr SPEAKER: I remind the member that it must be from a more than authentic source. I do not intend to put the leave.

• Economic Programme—Support for Families

3. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister of Finance: What new Government policies to support New Zealand families will take effect from 1 July?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): A strong economy and improving public finances are allowing the Government to invest more in priority public services to ensure New Zealanders benefit from this country’s progress. A number of measures take effect from tomorrow. Thousands of New Zealanders will benefit from the extra $124 million over 4 years invested into Pharmac, which starts tomorrow. New Zealanders suffering from advanced melanoma will have access to the life-saving drug Opdivo, and people living with hepatitis C will have access to two new drugs that have a 90 percent cure rate. In addition, in the ACC area, the ACC motor vehicle levy will reduce from tomorrow to around $130 annually—that is a $200 reduction since 2014-15.

Nuk Korako: What changes to paid parental leave are coming into force from 1 July?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The maximum weekly rate for paid parental leave will increase from $516.85 to $527.72 per week. In addition, the Government has recently extended paid parental leave from 14 to 18 weeks and increased eligibility. Parental leave in New Zealand is now slightly more than the OECD average. More workers are now eligible for parental leave payments. Eligible parents of pre-term babies are entitled to a longer period of payments, and workers can take parental leave more flexibly if it works for them and their employer. Last year we increased the parental tax credit in Working for Families from $150 a week to $220 a week, and increased that entitlement from 8 weeks to 10 weeks.

Nuk Korako: What other policies came into effect this year to support New Zealand families, particularly those living in hardship?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Budget 2015 included a number of measures in a $790 million package of support for children living in hardship, and this came into force earlier this year. It included increased work expectations for parents on a benefit. Benefit rates for families with children rose by $25 a week after tax. This is the first time core benefit rates have increased, apart from inflation, since 1972. There is extra support for low-income working families, with the minimum family tax credit and the base rate of the in-work tax credit both increasing, and childcare assistance for low-income families has increased, reducing barriers for parents moving off welfare and into work. That package targets around 160,000 families, with 300,000 children, with incomes of less than $36,350 a year.

James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave of the House for the Minister to simply table his speech notes. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the point he is making is that the answer was relatively long, I accept that. But it is question No 3, it is the first Government question of the day, it is an issue that is important—at least to the Government—and I took that into mind as I considered the length of the answer.

Nuk Korako: How is the Government’s economic programme helping families by supporting more jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Many members of the House will find this part quite important: one of the most important things we can do for vulnerable families is help parents into work. Two hundred thousand jobs were created in the last 3 years in New Zealand and a further 170,000 are expected by 2020. The average wage is expected to reach over $63,000 a year in that time. Statistics New Zealand yesterday provisionally revised the unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent, which compares exactly with 5.7 percent in Australia, and New Zealand now has the third-highest employment rate in the OECD.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I realise that many members opposite—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will resume his seat. I have a point of order.

Hon David Parker: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My point of order is if the Minister wants to cover 10 different matters in an answer, he should be asked 10 different supplementary questions.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. No.

Hon David Parker: And my second point is—

Mr SPEAKER: Then I will hear the second point.

Hon David Parker: —at the start of that question we had a couple of sentences where the Minister just gave irrelevancies in advance of his answer instead of answering the question, again lengthening the answer of his turgid prose.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Hon Steven Joyce.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The subject of income distribution and wealth distribution has been discussed in this House—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —and I would argue that the information contained in those questions will be of interest not just to members of the House but to New Zealanders. And I think the Government has a right, through the questions, to actually explain what it is doing to help on some of the issues of the day.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept that point. As I mentioned earlier, it is question No. 3, it is the first Government question of the day, and I am aware of a number of policies that come into effect on 1 July. As I mentioned yesterday, I am the sole determinant of the length of an answer. If it goes for what I consider is too long then I will curtail the answer, and that is what I did yesterday on a number of occasions. That one, I felt, was still giving information that I thought would have been important to members of this Parliament. If some members of Parliament do not find that information of relevance to them, then at least offer the courtesy of letting the others hear the answer.

• Inequality, Economic and Social—Income Gap

4. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement in the House yesterday that “there is no evidence that inequality in New Zealand is increasing”; if so, how does he explain Statistics New Zealand’s statement this week, “between 2003 and 2010, the Survey of Family, Income and Employment found that the top 10 percent had an average 55 percent of total net worth over this time. For the year ended June 2015, the top 10 percent owned around 60 percent of total net worth.”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes; Statistics New Zealand’s latest estimate is that around 50 percent of total household net worth is held by 10 percent of households, and that is the same as reported in 2003-04 in Statistics New Zealand’s Survey of Family, Income, and Employment (SoFIE). I would also add that Statistics New Zealand makes the point that comparing the two surveys should be done very carefully because they are very different.

Grant Robertson: Can he confirm that the Statistics New Zealand report released this week says, at the bottom of page 4, “the top 10 percent of individuals accounted for around 60 percent of net worth, compared with the average of around 55 percent … between 2003 and 2010.”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I can confirm two things for the member: he is trying to talk about individual wealth distribution; I am talking about household net worth. That was the basis on which the Minister of Finance made his comments on the radio this morning. The member is right, but he is also right to note that household wealth distribution has not changed over that 12 or 13-year period.

Grant Robertson: It has; I just read it out.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Not households; it has not. That is individuals, Grant.

Jami-Lee Ross: What else does Statistics New Zealand say about comparing the latest data on wealth distribution, which is collected as part of the household economic survey (HES), with old data—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Bring the question to a conclusion.

Jami-Lee Ross: —on wealth distribution, which is collected as part of the Survey of Family, Income, and Employment survey?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In the same report, Statistics New Zealand said “Methodological differences between HSS, SoFIE, and HES (Net worth), mean the three surveys are not directly comparable. Differences include questionnaire structure, subject population, and the breadth and depth of questions. We advise caution in any comparison customers make between the surveys.”, and that is possibly advice for the member opposite.

Grant Robertson: Is he saying that a report prepared by Statistics New Zealand that says, in bold on page 4, “Individual net worth is more concentrated” is statistically invalid?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not saying it; Statistics New Zealand is advising caution. I just read out what it said in the same report about comparing the two surveys. The member may not like it, but he cannot selectively quote a report and not be prepared to read the rest of it. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will just wait until we get a bit of assistance.

Grant Robertson: Is the Government doing all it can to support low-income people?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is doing everything it can to assist low-income people, and on top of that it is addressing the issue of wealth distribution in the most important way in which you can do that, which is by providing more opportunities for New Zealanders to succeed, to get higher-value jobs, and to bring up their families, which is why we are focused on building skills in New Zealand, on—

Mr SPEAKER: Just bring the answer to a conclusion.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —providing new access to markets for our companies, and also on encouraging investment in New Zealand. That provides—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question was answered at the start.

Grant Robertson: What was the Minister of Finance referring to in his interview on Morning Report this morning when he used the term “confiscating people’s assets” in relation to addressing inequality?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sorry; I am not privy to exactly what the context was of that particular quote.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was going to take the opportunity to raise this point of order at the end of question time today, but given that answer by the Minister, I am going to raise it now. For eight of the 12 questions that are set down today, the Ministers are not present to answer. I think we have a problem with the integrity of question time. Ministers should be prioritising their attendance at question time, and when we have eight of 12 questions unable to be answered by the Minister, we are going to get answers like that one.

Mr SPEAKER: For a long time it has been the practice in this Parliament, and I recall it when I was an Opposition member on that side, that particularly on a Thursday, Ministers may be away. I note the member refers to eight questions not being able to be addressed by the appropriate Minister. A number of those are addressed particularly to one Minister—the Minister of Finance. It is just not possible for a Government to insist that every Minister is available for every question time, and I think the convention, for as long as I have been in the House, would acknowledge that.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to ask you to give some consideration to making a Speaker’s ruling that would apply for the remainder of the Parliament, which would require the Government, by 9 o’clock on any given morning that the House is sitting, to furnish the Opposition with a list of Ministers who will be available for question time, because—[Interruption] I think this a fair point—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a—

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: No, this is a point of order that is to be heard, and it will be heard in silence.

Chris Hipkins: —because then the Opposition would be in a position to decide whether to ask a question of a Minister they knew was not going to be present, and then not be able to get an answer, or whether to ask questions of the Ministers who are going to be here.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not—[Interruption] No, I do not need assistance on it, and I do not think it would be appropriate to consider doing that via a Speaker’s ruling. The appropriate course of action for that would be to bring it forward as an alteration to the Standing Orders, and that process, the member will be aware, is about to kick off shortly, where he will have an opportunity—I think the member may well be on the committee. If there was a general consensus around Parliament to do that, then we would build that into the Standing Orders.

Grant Robertson: Given that this week, in respect of inequality, the Government has been through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, when will he move to the fifth stage of grief—acceptance of the problem—and actually do something about inequality?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That sounded particularly autobiographical. The member is the one who has been in denial. The member is the one who has been angry. The members are the ones being grumpy. Actually, the facts of the matter say that wealth distribution of families has not changed in households, wealth distribution for households has not changed, and the Government is, in any event, moving to help families with any number of initiatives, including a number that are starting tomorrow, which the members opposite did not want to hear—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The question has been answered. Is this a—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am just trying to get some assistance from my left.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: When, under National, the top 10 percent own 60 percent of the country’s wealth and the bottom 40 percent own 3 percent of this country’s wealth, why does he not admit what abysmal, hopeless economic managers they are?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member might be wrong with his figures, but the key point is that wealth distribution in New Zealand is actually very similar to the OECD, but in terms of how you actually address that, it is about creating opportunities for New Zealanders. And that means encouraging investment, which the member hates; it means doing deals to get free-trade agreements, which the member does not like; it is encouraging New Zealanders to be connected with the world, which the member—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Now the answer is getting to be too long.

David Seymour: Can the Minister confirm that 3 percent of income tax payers pay a quarter of all income tax, that 11 percent of income tax payers pay half of all income tax, and that the Government spends over $80 billion a year, $17,000 per citizen, or $85,000—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Bring the question to a conclusion.

David Seymour: —to a family of five every single year?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Address the first part of the question. It was too long.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, people who have greater income and wealth at their disposal do pay more tax, and, actually, I believe that it is only fair that they do. But, in fact, this Government, through that tax collection, provides a huge amount of support for those who need it—as we should—and, importantly, we focus on creating the opportunities for people to work and bring up their families in this country through the sorts of economic policies that encourage the growth of jobs and investment. And I know the Opposition—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Bring the answer to a conclusion.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —does not want to focus on that, but that is what is important.

David Seymour: Does the Minister know whether John Key still regards Working for Families as “communism by stealth”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have not taken that matter up with the Prime Minister in many years.

• Housing, Rental—Smoke Alarms and Insulation

5. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister for Building and Housing: What estimates has he received on the number of lives that will be saved as a consequence of the new smoke alarm and insulation requirements that take effect tomorrow?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): I am advised that these measures taking effect tomorrow will save a thousand lives over the next 10 years. These estimates are based on 120,000 homes having smoke alarms installed and 180,000 homes being insulated. To achieve those, we need to ensure that there is both compliance and an information campaign, and that is why in this year’s Budget there were substantial contributions to ensure that we do achieve those gains.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What steps has the Government taken to ensure improved compliance with the minimum housing standards?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The new law taking effect tomorrow provides for improved enforcement. It will enable the ministry for the first time to directly prosecute landlords for properties that pose a health and safety risk. A new tenancy compliance and investigation team of 10 people has been established and begins its work tomorrow. They will be focusing on the most vulnerable tenants, and landlords with multiple substandard properties. Tenants still have the right to, and should, take cases directly to the Tenancy Tribunal on substandard cases, and the new law that takes effect tomorrow strengthens their protections to ensure that there are not retaliatory eviction notices from landlords, where they do stand for those rights of properly standard buildings.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What steps is the Government taking to ensure that tenants and landlords are aware of these changes, in noting they are the most significant reforms in 30 years to a tenancy law and affect over—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Budget provided for $3 million for an information campaign. I would encourage all MPs, particularly in their constituency work, to draw to the attention of both tenants and landlords their additional responsibilities and rights with the new law. The Budget also provided for $14 million for the new compliance and investigation team at the ministry. That Budget also provided $18 million for the Warm Up New Zealand insulation programme, which is providing a carrot for landlords to get support to get the insulation done, and which sits aligned, effectively, to the stick that is provided in the regulatory requirements.

• Finance, Minister—Statements

JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green): My question is to the ghost Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That will lead to—[Interruption] No, I am dealing with this. That will lead to disorder. Would the member ask question No. 6 without that embellishment.

6. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement on Radio NZ this morning that “those people deserve as much support as we can give them”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): On behalf of the Minister of Finance, whom I have acted on behalf of—I do not know—several hundred times in the last 8 years—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! And we will have the answer, please.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes. This year alone taxpayers will provide $10.4 billion of welfare support to vulnerable New Zealanders, and that excludes superannuation. So that is $10.4 billion of welfare support. For example, this is the first Government in over 40 years to increase benefits for families with children, by $25 a week—that is the first Government in over 40 years. It is increasing Working for Families to very low-income working families by over $24 a week, and to other families by up to $12.50 a week. It is increasing childcare assistance for low-income working families, providing free GP visits and prescriptions for under-13s, providing breakfasts in schools to all schools that want it, putting social workers in place in low-decile primary schools, insulating over 300,000—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to have to curtail the answer. The question simply asked whether the member stood by a statement he made, and that was answered almost immediately.

James Shaw: How many families does the Government project will be lifted out of poverty by the recent $25 benefit increase, and by when?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not believe that that particular figure has been calculated, and, in any event, the important ways of lifting the income wealth of families is actually by having a growing economy that delivers more jobs for families. That is the bit that makes the real difference. This helps it in the short term, but in the medium to longer term it is providing them with work opportunities and the opportunities to succeed with their families and to provide their incomes for their families. That is the bit that actually lifts the income distribution of New Zealanders.

James Shaw: Why does the Minister still believe that job growth will solve poverty when so many of the people who are living in cars and garages already have jobs?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Because jobs and higher incomes—growing wages—are very, very important to growing the opportunities for families to succeed. The member can say that the level of wages is not important or the level of job opportunities is not important, but I think most New Zealanders would realise that is exactly what is important.

James Shaw: By what percentage have incomes for the bottom 10 percent of income earners risen or fallen relative to household costs, over the last 10 years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That is a very detailed question, and I would invite the member to put it down in writing and he will get an accurate answer for his supplementary question. But can I tell the member that, actually, under this Government the number of people dependent on their benefit for an income has reduced, and the number of people whose children are dependent on a benefit income has significantly reduced. That is because more than 200,000 new jobs have been created in the last 3 years, which provide people with the opportunity to succeed.

James Shaw: Does the Government think that all of the 80,000 kids who go to school hungry every day should depend on Lorde for their lunch?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No—and in actual fact most New Zealand children go to school with lunches able to be supplied by their families. In terms of the support that the New Zealand Government supplies, we work with providers to ensure that there is breakfast in schools available and that children have a meal with those schools that need to have that extra support. But importantly, we are increasing the benefits for families with children. We are keeping the cost of living under control, inflation is currently around about 0 percent, food prices have been dropping, and fuel prices have been dropping. All those things help make the important things in life that the member refers to more affordable for families.

• State and Social Housing—Emergency Housing

7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she stand by her statement on Radio NZ, on why she decided to fund emergency housing places in the latest Budget, that “I just knew that it was worse than it had been and I couldn’t see it getting better in a hurry”; if so, how did she know it was worse than it had been?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes, I do stand by that statement. I knew because I regularly engage with emergency providers and understand the pressures that they are under. I knew because I commissioned a review last year that told me that there were people in need, and who were struggling to find houses in Auckland. I knew because I live in Auckland and I understand the pressures that the housing market is under. That is why I addressed it, with $2.5 million going in last year and another $41 million going into emergency housing this year.

Phil Twyford: Why did she advise the Prime Minister to say that homeless people should just go to Work and Income New Zealand, when it is taking her 155 days on average to house the homeless?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, because the figure of 155 days is not accurate.

Hon Annette King: Table it.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is fine.

Phil Twyford: Can she confirm that even if the first 7 days are covered by Work and Income New Zealand, 155 days in a motel will rack up debts of between $25,000 and $35,000 per family, and who is going to pay for that?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: On average, it is for 7 days that people have been requiring those special-needs grants; in exceptional circumstances it will go longer. I am thrilled to announce that that will be starting tomorrow.

Phil Twyford: Given that she says “We’ve got more people in need than I have got houses to put them in right now”, does she accept that it would not be such a big problem if her Government had not sold down the stock of State houses by nearly 3,000 since 2011?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Since the 1990s there had already been a 25 percent increase in State houses in the Auckland market. We have a pipeline that is bringing—[Interruption]. I am sorry, Mr Speaker, I cannot even hear myself. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have a pipeline of houses that are coming through of more than 1,000 social houses in the Auckland market. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point in trying to answer the question. Order! Can I just ask that if we are going to have another supplementary question from Mr Twyford, can his colleagues please allow Mr Twyford and myself to hear the answer?

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Disorder will be caused in the House when Mr Twyford asks a question, albeit one with some politics in it, with a specific number—about the number of State houses that have been sold off by this Government—and when the answer given by the Minister referred to what had happened to State housing since the 1990s. That is what caused the disorder—it was the answer that the Minister gave.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, it will not cause disorder, and if I need to deal with it by asking members to leave—that was a satisfactory answer that addressed the question. I admit it was not the answer that Mr Twyford wanted. Can I just warn Mr Robertson that if that is the cause of the disorder then I will deal with it by asking members whom I consider to be disorderly to be leaving question time.

Phil Twyford: When children as young as 11 are living under bushes in South Auckland, is her $41 million over 4 years for emergency housing enough, when she herself admits that it will largely only fund existing services?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is why we actually have the highest number of building consents that we have seen in many years. That is why we are seeing an increase in the number of social houses, particularly in Auckland, that are coming through, including the 18 that I went to see just earlier this week, where we had knocked down five houses to actually then rebuild another 18 homes. That is making a huge difference for those New Zealanders who need it. There are literally thousands of new houses that are in—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are now getting back to where we were. If we cannot hear the answers, there is little point in Mr Twyford continuing with his line of questioning. I will invite the member to ask his supplementary question, but if I do not get cooperation from the left-hand side throughout the answer, I am just going to move to the next question.

Phil Twyford: Does she think that homelessness might be getting worse because instead of focusing on fixing the problem she spends her time pretending that flying squads have talked to people who did not need help and having her office smear the people who are actually giving help, like Te Puea Marae?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have a lot of respect for Te Puea Marae and what it is doing there, and always have. I actually think that between the Government, community, and councils what we are doing is making a difference. Yes, there is a lot that is happening. There is a lot in the pipeline—[Interruption]. There is just no point, Mr Speaker.

• Accident Compensation Corporation—Levies

8. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister for ACC: What reports has she received regarding reductions to ACC levies?

Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister for ACC): I am advised that from tomorrow about 3.4 million motor vehicle owners will benefit this coming year from significant levy cuts. The average ACC motor vehicle levy will reduce again, from around $195 to around $130. The 33 percent reduction means levies are now at historically low levels. I can also confirm that the annual ACC licence fee component for every single petrol car will be less than $100. The Government has also reduced the motorcycle safety levy from $30 to $25. Since 2014 this Government has saved New Zealanders an average of $200 from their ACC motor vehicle levy. That is more money in the pockets of hard-working Kiwis. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am now getting too much noise from the New Zealand First quarter.

Jonathan Young: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What reports has she seen regarding the impact of other ACC levy reductions?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: I am advised that an estimated 400,000 businesses have started benefiting from the over $171 million in levy reductions this year. I am also advised that approximately 2.1 million Kiwi earners during this levy year have received and will continue to receive a reduction in their levies. Approximately 300,000 self-employed New Zealanders will also see a levy reduction in their invoices this year. I am also pleased to advise the House that the feedback that I have received from these levy cuts has been hugely positive. In my view, the recent improvements in public confidence in ACC are in part because of the more than $2.1 billion worth of levy cuts under this Government.

Jonathan Young: Why are these reductions possible?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: These reductions are possible because of good financial management and a good National Government. I am advised that assets and investments in ACC have grown from $10 billion in 2009 to $35 billion this month. Under the levy reforms announced last year, we were able to better demonstrate to New Zealanders that we are collecting just enough to be able to support injured people for their lifetime and withstand economic shocks that occur.

• Capital and Coast District Health Board—Confidence

9. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does he have confidence in the Capital and Coast District Health Board?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes.

Kevin Hague: How does the district health board (DHB) retain his confidence when a recent Crimes of Torture Act report found the treatment of Ashley Peacock to be “cruel, inhuman [and] degrading” and recommended urgent action for the third time, something that has still not occurred?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I seek leave to table the Ombudsman’s report, the Crimes of Torture Act report, which includes appendix 5—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. No, no. It will be easily available if members want it. I suspect it may well have already been presented in report. Would the member please address the question.

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: There has been an addition to the report that the member may not be aware of.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Then the member can get it. It will be publicly available on the Ombudsman’s website. Would the Minister answer the question.

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The report has an appendix 5, which states quite clearly that the client “has some of the highest and most complex needs of any client that we have managed in our mental health services.” I repeat: the DHB is working with the Ministry of Health to find a resolution for this person. In terms of seclusion, which that member has constantly referred to, I repeat that “In 2014 the client in question had 68.25 hours in seclusion”, and in 2015 that was 360 hours.

Kevin Hague: Does the Minister take ministerial responsibility for the performance of the Capital and Coast District Health Board in the care of Sam Fischer, who killed himself while in the DHB’s care?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Certainly my thoughts and sympathies go to the family of Mr Fischer. That member will know that the district health board has commissioned an external panel of experts to do a review of some of the incidents within the district health board. The ministry has consulted on the terms of reference of that review, and the report is expected within the next few weeks.

Kevin Hague: Does he take ministerial responsibility for the action of DHB chief executive Debbie Chin, who emailed more than 3,000 DHB staff, after Sam Fischer killed himself, including detailed personal information that breached the confidentiality of both Sam and his mother?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I have not seen the contents of that email, so I cannot make any comment as to its veracity or what was in the email.

Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that the Associate Minister is in a tricky position answering questions—

Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

Kevin Hague: The point of order is that both this supplementary question and the previous one commenced with asking whether or not the Minister took ministerial responsibility. In neither case has he addressed that point.

Mr SPEAKER: I considered both of those questions very carefully. I acknowledge they are difficult issues and difficult questions. On this occasion I think the Minister addressed both those questions to my satisfaction. [Interruption] Order! If I hear one more interjection today from the Hon Ruth Dyson, I will be asking her to leave the Chamber. It has been constant throughout question time—once more and that will be it.

Kevin Hague: How can the Minister retain confidence in Capital and Coast DHB, when the latest figures show that 40 percent of children and young people needing mental health services were unable to get an appointment within 3 weeks, and 80 did not even get seen within 8 weeks?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That member knows that the funding for mental health services has gone up by over $300 million across New Zealand, and that there is a ring-fencing of funding that goes to the district health board in order for the district health board to meet the mental health needs of that community.

Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer did not address the question—

Mr SPEAKER: I am afraid I think it did. The question asked how the Minister can retain confidence in the particular district health board. It gives the Minister a very wide ambit in answering the question. The member might not agree with it; I might not agree with it. I am not responsible for the answer, but the question was certainly addressed.

Kevin Hague: With five major independent reports on mental health failings in the last year, ongoing issues with seclusion, ombudsmen reports, privacy complaints, unreasonably long waiting times for young people, and the largest number of suicides on record, what possible excuse can the Minister now have for still blocking a nationwide urgent inquiry into mental health services?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: There are issues, certainly, within the Capital and Coast District Health Board. There are reviews that are going on. There are expectations set out for that district health board to report on its performance, particularly in the area of mental health services, but that should not result in a nationwide inquiry into mental health services.

• Schools, Private—Funding and Fees

10. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does the Government monitor or place any restrictions on the fees charged by private schools; if not, why not?

Hon NIKKI KAYE (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: No; because it is a choice made by parents. No parent is compelled to send their child to an independent school. I am proud to be part of a Government that backs the diverse range of choices in education for New Zealand parents.

Chris Hipkins: Does she think that private schooling is a realistic option for the parents of kids who are most at risk of not achieving in the school system, when some are charging over $20,000 a year in tuition fees; if so, why?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: I can confirm that the Government does also provide a component around the Aspire Scholarship, which is specifically focused on disadvantaged students.

Chris Hipkins: What proportion of kids attending private schools meet the Government’s criteria indicating that they are most at risk of not achieving in the school system?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: As I have said previously, there is a consultation out currently around the funding review. Some of those issues are being worked through. I know there are a range of independent papers that are actually on the internet that the member can look at.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I will just invite the member to repeat the question.

Chris Hipkins: What proportion of kids attending private schools meet the Government’s criteria indicating that they are most at risk of not achieving in the school system?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: I will answer the question a different way. The whole purpose of the funding review is to work through a range of those issues. I cannot answer that question, in part because there are 26,900 students, and some of those considerations are being worked through as part of the funding review.

Chris Hipkins: Does she propose to place any restrictions on the fees that private schools can charge, in exchange for any additional funding they receive as a result of the new funding model?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: As per my previous answer, I can tell you what happens now, but the whole purpose of the funding review—in which there are a range of representatives from the sector—is to discuss a range of issues. All I can say to you is that at the moment we do not place restrictions and we do not monitor, and that is because we do value the choice of parents. But I do not want to get ahead of a process whereby a whole lot of stakeholders are being involved in this funding review.

Chris Hipkins: If she does not know how much parents are currently paying, does not know how much funding private schools currently get, and does not know how many kids at private schools are at risk of not achieving, why is she proposing to give them more money?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: I disagree with a number of assumptions that the member made in that question. Firstly, we do know how much we provide independent schools—that is about $45 million per year. As I said in my previous answers, we have said, on average, we see that as about $1,700 per student. So the member is wrong in terms of his question.

• Whnau Ora—Evidence of Outcomes

11. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Whānau Ora: What evidence, if any, does he have that Whānau Ora is making any meaningful impact for Māori whatsoever other than anecdotal evidence and conversations he has had?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Minister for Whānau Ora): Actually, it is good to go and meet with the people who are actually benefiting from Whānau Ora, but I can advise the House that the evidence comes from at least 10 publicly available reports that all speak of the benefits and the outcomes achieved by the Whānau Ora approach. In phase one of Whānau Ora at least 9,400 whānau received whānau-centred services until June 2014. Since Whānau Ora commissioning agencies have been established, Whānau Ora commissioning agencies reporting on engagement and achievement as at March 2016 show that over 8,500 whānau have been supported through Whānau Ora in all sorts of ways, such as health outcomes, financial literacy, education, and economic security. There is plenty out there. I would table it, but I know that is against the Standing Orders.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has become clear that there is a misunderstanding of the Standing Orders. The Minister can, of course, table any paper that he wants, at any stage—he is a Minister. Even if it is a public document, any Minister can table it. In fact, many of the documents Ministers do table are public. They do not require the consent of the House the way other members do.

Mr SPEAKER: And if the member seeks the leave, I have a discretion.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have got a list of 12 of those reports. I am happy to read all of them out in order to achieve—

Mr SPEAKER: No. No, I want the point of order.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: The point of order is: I wish to table these documents.

Mr SPEAKER: Are they publicly available?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: They are publicly available.

Mr SPEAKER: Then I am not going to put that leave.

Darroch Ball: Why has he not commissioned or released one single independent report or economic analysis on Whānau Ora since July 2014, instead of relying upon anecdotal evidence to measure progress and outputs?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I will start by saying that a number of reports have been commissioned and are available publicly. Let us start with the Productivity Commission. I will quote the Productivity Commission, which said in its report: “The Commission finds that Whānau Ora shows much promise to tackle long-standing issues for improving Māori wellbeing. Its kaupapa Māori approach is especially important to Māori wellbeing. It has many of the characteristics required for a devolved model to promote integrated services for families with multiple, complex needs and aspirations.” I have got another one—Office of the Auditor-General. I have got Ministry of Health—I have got them all.

Joanne Hayes: What announcements has the Minister made recently to support the economic outcomes for Māori?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I have more good news. Whānau Ora is committed to empowering whānau to achieve—one of its goals is better economic outcomes. Today, along with my colleague the Hon Peter Goldsmith, I was pleased to announce the allocation of $900,000—

Hon Members: Ha, ha! Paul!

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: Sorry, Mr Speaker. Sorry, Paul.

Mr SPEAKER: Carry on, quickly.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Firstly, I offer my apologies to my colleague Paul Goldsmith.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. [Interruption] That is not a point of order. Now quickly bring the answer to a conclusion.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I am just pleased to announce $900,000 to improve the financial capability—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How much?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: —amongst Māori. It is more than you have got, Mr Peters, for Māori communities—$900,000 more.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Point of order on two grounds: first of all, he cannot bring you into the debate; the second thing is I got $239 million—not like he got.

Mr SPEAKER: I am not interested in the second part of the—[Interruption] Order! I am not interested in the second part of the point of order, and for the first part I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 31/3. If I am brought into the debate—and often it is accidental—I will intervene if I need to. It is my determination, not the Rt Hon Winston Peters’.

Darroch Ball: I seek leave to table a document that has been obtained through the Official Information Act and is dated 13 August 2015. The source is Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK), and it states there are no independent reports or economic analysis commissioned by TPK.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Darroch Ball: What evidence has he presented to the Minister of Finance for Whānau Ora funding when the Government’s social investment approach demands measurable data and measurable outcomes before continuing to spend taxpayers’ money?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: The Minister of Finance is available on the Whānau Ora Partnership Group and receives all of the reports from commissioning agencies on a quarterly basis. He receives those reports. Secondly, all of the reports from commissioning agencies are available online on the website and are public documents. Anyone can read them and there is plenty of evidence out there.

Joanne Hayes: How does the announcement support the Government’s national strategy on financial capability?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: Last year the Government signalled that improving the financial well-being of all New Zealanders was a priority. The upscaling of these pioneering Māori pilot programmes reinforces our ongoing commitment to this goal. We know that the Government needs to provide three things in order to steer people away from getting trapped in the cycle of debt and poor financial decisions. The three things are effective legislation, proper enforcement, and improved education. This will certainly contribute to that.

Darroch Ball: When is going to realise that Whānau Ora is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money while it is not working for ordinary Māori when, for example, the number of homeless Māori in Auckland has increased by 10 percent this year alone, more than half of all homeless—

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, next week is Māori Language Week. My ears are little bit sore with “Maari”—I would ask the member to pronounce it properly as Māori.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is starting to trifle with the Chamber. The question is a provocative question, it is likely to get a provocative answer, but it has been asked.

Darroch Ball: I have not finished my question.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member better hurry up and finish it. To be fair to the member, I invite him to start the question again as he has now lost his continuity.

Darroch Ball: When is he going to realise that Whānau Ora is a complete waste of taxpayer money while it is not working for ordinary Māori when, for example, the number of homeless Māori in Auckland has increased by 10 percent in this year alone, more than half of all homeless in Wellington are Māori, and 40 percent of those of all those on social housing waiting lists are Māori—

Mr SPEAKER: The question is too long.

Darroch Ball: —and Māori youth—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has been asked.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I will help the member. On reflection, I have a quote from a chief executive officer of at least one Whānau Ora provider from Northland who told the media in 2015: “Whānau Ora has made a substantive and positive difference to the way we are able to work with”—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister was asked “when is he”. It was not asked whether he could go somewhere else and seek refuge. It asked him for a personal answer, and he is not giving it.

Mr SPEAKER: The question, effectively, was “When is the Minister going to realise it is a complete waste of money?”. That gives a very wide ambit for the Minister to then answer the question. Members may not like the answer they are getting; I suggest they reconsider the type of questions they ask. The Hon Te Uruora Flavell—bring the answer to a conclusion.

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: Firstly, I say again I reject that allegation in the first instance. Secondly, I say again—

Darroch Ball: Where’s the evidence?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I will give you the evidence right now—from somebody involved in Whānau Ora. It is the chief executive officer of Whānau Ora, and they said: “Whānau Ora has made a substantive and positive difference to the way we are able to work with and align services to meet the needs of the people,” That person was Lynette Stewart, the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ sister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am just waiting until I can hear it in silence because I am sure it is going to be interesting.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Every family has a member who loses their way.

Mr SPEAKER: And some families have more than others.

Joanne Hayes: What further reports has he had in relation to Whānau Ora’s success in Northland?

Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL: I have pretty much given the evidence. As the honourable member just said, there is evidence around, and the evidence is the statement I just gave to the House—that the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ sister was a chief executive officer of a provider of Whānau Ora.

• Tourism—Growth

12. MAUREEN PUGH (National) to the Minister of Tourism: What reports has he received about increasing numbers of tourists visiting New Zealand in the shoulder seasons?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of Tourism: Recent figures show a nearly 20 percent increase in the number of tourists visiting in autumn 2016 compared with the same time last year. Our spring and autumn shoulder seasons are growing faster than our peak summer season. Budget 2016, of course, also included $12 million to help some of our smaller regions pay for new tourism infrastructure.

MAUREEN PUGH: Which markets are the increasing numbers of tourists coming from?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: An increasing number of visitors from our key markets, such as China, the United States, and Australia, are choosing to visit New Zealand at different times of the year rather than just in summer. In May this year visitor arrivals from China were up 27.4 percent, and arrivals from the US were up 10.5 percent.

MAUREEN PUGH: What has the Government been doing to increase shoulder season tourists?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Tourism New Zealand has put a huge amount of effort into attracting tourists who want to visit outside the summer season, and its work is really paying off. It has been targeting interest groups such as skiers, cyclists, and golfers, who can enjoy New Zealand at different times of the year. Also, the extra $8 million that was included in Budget 2016 is extra funding for Tourism New Zealand to particularly target those from the Indian and also the US markets, who, of course, do travel outside of our summer season.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
Original url