Parliament: Questions and Answers – Dec 6

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I fail to understand what it could be, but have a go.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I want to raise two related matters. Firstly, Speaker’s ruling 155/3, which states, “Members are able to ask Ministers whether they agree with the views of other people, as long as the view that is being expressed is about a matter that is very much the Minister’s responsibility.” And, of course, I’m referring to this situation yesterday—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member will now resume his seat. The member knows well that if he had a point of order in relation to yesterday, then yesterday was the time to raise it—not today. Does the member have another point of order?
Hon Simon Bridges: Yes, I do.
Mr SPEAKER: A separate point of order?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga): Yes, Mr Speaker. It’s in relation to a related but different matter, and it’s in relation to 186. And, of course, the situation here is a matter that Mr Speaker has referred to quite a number of times, and it’s in relation to, effectively, the requirement that a report be received and that it be an official report—and I do want guidance on this.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can resume his seat. The beginning of question time is not the time for a tutorial for members on Speaker’s rulings or on the Standing Orders. If the member is uncertain as to interpretations, then the member can raise them at the time they occur. I have indicated to members, and several members have taken up my invitation, to discuss the fine points of Speaker’s rulings in my office, over a cup of tea, if necessary. But what I am not prepared to do is to have question time, which is a time of members, disrupted by dated points of order that are clearly out of order.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do think you need to be a bit clearer about what your thinking is—in what guidance you’re giving the House—because while you’ve said this can’t be raised today because of something that happened yesterday, the reality is that we’ve got a book that goes back for decades, giving us guidance as to how the House might be able to deal with particular issues or moments—
Mr SPEAKER: Right. The member will resume his seat. He’ll have a good look at the book and especially Speakers’ ruling 20/3.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was the point of order that you just sat me down on?
Mr SPEAKER: It was your invitation to me to refer to—[Interruption] Mr Brownlee, you know very well, even if you don’t know the number, what Speakers’ ruling 20/3 indicates. That is one of the fundamental Speakers’ rulings, and that is that matters must be taken up at the time. Disrupting the House and, I believe, now trifling with the Chair-
Hon Simon Bridges: Oh, rubbish!
Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You’ve now raised what is, I think, a change of practice in the House. An event occurred yesterday; there was some discussion about it. You made a ruling. Now if a member has a view that that ruling is wrong, then I think you’re indicating that that is not to be discussed in the House. That would be a major change in the way the House operates. It’s not regular, but often I’ve seen it—those who’ve been here for a while will remember long discussions with the Hon Richard Prebble, which were exactly a tutorial to the rest of the House about exactly this issue. So I’d be keen to know whether it is now your ruling that once the Speaker has given a ruling, that cannot then be contested in House unless similar circumstances arise—that they can be discussed only in the privacy of your office.
Mr SPEAKER: What I am indicating to the member is that if he thinks that I have made a mistake on my ruling, if I’ve got things wrong, then the first thing that is appropriate is to raise it at the time; if that does not occur, to raise it privately. And, clearly, if a ruling has not made it into Speakers’ rulings, the next time that particular issue arises, if the member is not satisfied with the ruling again, then that would be the time to bring it up.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are two matters in relation to this discussion that aren’t—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will now resume his seat—the member will resume his seat. There is not a discussion. I have ruled. Question number one—the Rt Hon Bill English.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: If this is the same matter, Mr Brownlee, then—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, no. It’s quite different.
Mr SPEAKER: I will take the member’s word.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Absolutely; as you should, as the man who protects parliamentary privilege, Mr Speaker. But I say, Mr Speaker, I do raise this, mindful of Standing Order 15(1), and take some comfort, though, that there are Standing Orders on the subsequent page that make it clear that there are some bounds to where we do take things in discussions with the Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I’ve just looked at Standing Order 15(1), and it does go to the Clerk running the election.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, no. Here it is here—Speakers’ orders—
Mr SPEAKER: Speakers’ rulings, not the Standing Orders. Right? I’ll go to that, then.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, forgive me, please, Mr Speaker. I throw myself at your mercy once again. I raise this point: we notice that, in the last two days, at least, you have done a video preamble to the House business on each day, which is a new initiative that you have—
Mr SPEAKER: No, not at all. It’s a continuation of a previous initiative of my predecessor.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Is that right?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Right, well, I just would like you to perhaps give us some indication of what are the bounds for what you will be talking about each day in that regard, particularly if you consider it under that 15/1, which talks about the role of the Speaker particularly being Parliament’s man. There’s some concern that the popularity of this video may eventually lead to commentary on what the House is likely to do, which would be, of course, completely out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will be aware, of course—and I’m reluctant to get into this discussion, because it is totally out of order—that the Order Paper has been published, and I base my comments on that. I base my comments on other things that are publicly available at the time or have been provided to all parties—for example, today, I referred to the fact that we would be having a ministerial statement, because that had been indicated to the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. I did not disclose the fact that Mr Goldsmith had made an application for an urgent debate, because that would have given the Government—if any of them were amongst the very few people who had looked at it—an indication of something—[Interruption] Order!—that I should not have done. So that is the basis of it. If members want to look at it and go back, look through the old ones, I am trying to style myself on my predecessor, but I’m afraid I don’t quite have his pleasant face.
JAMI-LEE ROSS (Senior Whip—National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, Jami-Lee Ross.
JAMI-LEE ROSS: You invited us to raise things at the time with you; I now wish to. Can I invite you to have a read of Speaker’s ruling 25. Speaker’s ruling 25 provides commentary from the Standing Orders Committee that says a retrospective issue can be dealt with by the Speaker if it is of such importance. I submit to you that the point of order from Simon Bridges was in relation to questions that we can ask. It is a very important matter that we get clarified around whether we can ask particular questions—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and it makes it absolutely clear that the Standing Orders Committee made it clear at that time that if there was a request for retrospective rulings—and I think it generally would have been where members had not been present and something had been drawn to their attention—that was to be brought up with the Speaker in the Speaker’s office and the Speaker—[Interruption] Well, the member will lose his head if he keeps shaking it like that, Mr Bridges. That was the basis of doing it, and it was very clear at the Standing Orders Committee.
Hon Simon Bridges: Point of order!
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Bridges, I am now, probably for the first time since I’ve become Speaker, beginning to lose my patience, and I want an assurance that this is a new and different point of order. I want to warn the member that if he is trifling with the Chair, I have called question number one and we are in the area of loss of questions for the National Party.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise this at the first available opportunity. I’ve noticed in all of the points of order that have been raised, you have expressed, really, annoyance that the points of order have been raised and I do want to raise—
Mr SPEAKER: Right, the member will resume his seat. He will read Speakers’ rulings 17/6 and 18/1, and I will call the Rt Hon—
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don’t normally raise points of order. I do, however, think it is not helpful when words such as “that member will lose his head” are used in the House, and, Mr Speaker, I’d like you to reflect on that.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, the member will resume her seat. It was an inappropriate comment for me to make, but I will remind members of the appropriate way, if they do wish to disagree with the Speaker, to have a good look at the Standing Orders for working that out.
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement in the House yesterday in relation to her Government’s “ready for work” scheme that “sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, and that won’t change”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, and, to recap, my full statement was, “When I was discussing the way that we would roll out this programme, we were acknowledging that there’s a range of ways in which we could encourage the uptake of the opportunity for employment.” I have also acknowledged that sanctions have long been a part of our benefit system and that won’t change. Ultimately, though, this is a Government focused on getting young people into work.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does she stand by her other statement with respect to the work schemes that “Our view was that you couldn’t compel” people to take up a job?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The quote that I just used was my exact response to that exact same question yesterday. I was talking about how effective some of those measures are. We’ve said that when we look at our sanctions regime we’ll consider that, but sanctions will always be part of our benefit system, and we’re not proposing to change that principle.
Rt Hon Bill English: So if a young person is offered, say, several jobs planting trees in Northland and doesn’t take them, does she believe that young person has any obligation to take a job offered, subsidised by the taxpayer, and if they don’t take it, should they be sanctioned?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Mr English is referring to the status quo, but as we said yesterday, these proposals are going before a full Cabinet meeting, and the focus for us is not neglecting the 70,000 young people not in employment, education, or training. We want to focus on giving them jobs and hope.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does she believe—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Right, well, that’s—Mr Jones and Mr Brownlee, you probably evened each other out.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does she believe New Zealand First’s proposed job schemes will work, if there are no sanctions for young people who refuse to take up a job?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve repeatedly said, sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, and we’re not proposing that that will change.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does she believe that New Zealand First’s job schemes will work, if there are no sanctions for young people who refuse—[Interruption]—to take up a job?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I ask the Prime Minister to respond, I am going to indicate to New Zealand First that they have lost a supplementary as a result of Mr Jones’ latest interjection.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve answered that question a number of times in a number of different ways, but, again, sanction regimes have long been a part of our benefit system. That won’t change. Proposals are coming to Cabinet, but I can tell you what won’t work. What won’t work is trying to explain to this country how you can continue to use excessive sanctions when there are no jobs, which was the case under that Government.
Rt Hon Bill English: How can young people know what is expected of them if the Prime Minister has at least two, and I think three, different positions on whether sanctions would be applied if they refuse a job, and if those positions are directly contradicted by a senior Minister, who said that young people will be compelled to work? If I was a young person wanting to see what expectations there were of me, whom should I listen to?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m happy to say that the programmes we are proposing are about real jobs with real wages and a future, and in industries and regions where we have massive gaps and where there has been massive regional neglect under that Government. We are totally united behind that goal.
Rt Hon Bill English: So when Government does consider these proposals next week, will it consider those proposals alongside the existing effective schemes, T500 in the North and Project 1000 in Hawke’s Bay, which link young unemployed people directly with employers who are providing real jobs? Why aren’t those schemes better than the one proposed by New Zealand First?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Probably only the previous Prime Minister can answer why those schemes didn’t help the 76,000 young people not in employment, education, or training.
Rt Hon Bill English: When will we know whether the Prime Minister has backed the Greens, who want to remove all sanctions and will certainly oppose the introduction of more sanctions, or New Zealand First, who believe their scheme, rightly, will only work if there are sanctions on young people who refuse to take the opportunities given to them?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m sorry that that member is so confused. The welfare system has long had sanctions. There is no doubt, however, that under the last Government there was excessive use of those sanctions, and that is what we are proposing to review, alongside our proposal of actually saying it is not enough to say that young people are hopeless; you need to give them hope and opportunity, too.
Question No. 2—Child Poverty Reduction
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction: How many children will her Government move out of poverty by 1 July 2019?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Minister for Child Poverty Reduction): Exact details of the impact of our families package will be released when the legislation is introduced, which we have committed to doing within our first 100 days. In the meantime, the member will note that in the Speech from the Throne, this Government noted our expectation that we would be more ambitious than the last Government’s goal of 50,000 children being lifted out of poverty, which was announced just a few weeks out from the last election.
Hon Paula Bennett: If it is still the Minister’s goal to, and I quote, “eradicate child poverty in New Zealand,” what targets has she set to achieve this in her first six weeks in Government, given she wanted to see urgent progress in this area?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m delighted to have the opportunity to be able to talk about the legislation we’re intending to introduce in our first 100 days, which sets measures and requires the Government to set targets. That will be introduced within 100 days, and I’ll be seeking support unanimously across the House for that legislation. At the time when we put that out, we’ll talk then about the targets we’ll be setting.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does the Minister now accept that a range of measures will be needed to measure child poverty, as we’ve been using, and you can’t just pick one, as she has repeatedly said in the past?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Had the member ever bothered to read my member’s bill, which was on the Table for more than six years, she would have seen that I always advocated that a range of measures be put into law—six years that sat on the Table and was available to read.
Hon Paula Bennett: Who will be responsible for determining whether a child is in poverty or not?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It’s fair to say that if you’re a child that is experiencing deprivation and you don’t have the basic necessities of life, you could be determined to be living in poverty. But what we’re doing, as the last Government did, is looking at ways that we can take accountability through measures and demonstrate to the public what we’re doing about poverty, and you’ll see exactly how within 100 days.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the Minister be able to determine which children are in poverty—street by street, household by household—or will she scatter money around, hoping it hits the actual children that really need it?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The legislation that I’m proposing will be based at a level across household incomes. That’s the same kind of rationale that the Government sporadically used, but refused to ever set targets around.
Hon Paula Bennett: So does the Minister now recognise that social investment has the ability to target resources at the right children and also ascertain if that intervention is working?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have long recognised that child poverty is a stain on this country—it’s an indictment—but this is a Government that’s actually willing to acknowledge that and do something about it.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Prime Minister to have another go. Do you want to repeat the question?
Hon Paula Bennett: Does the Minister now recognise that social investment has the ability to target resources at the right children and ascertain if that intervention is working?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We of course will be analysing whether our interventions are working. That’s the whole point of publicly reporting as part of the Public Finance Act, which is what we’re committing to do.
Question No. 3—Women
3. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister for Women: What recent reports has she received on women in leadership and the impact it is having on the New Zealand economy?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Minister for Women): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou e Te Whare. A survey of 500 businesses, released this week by Westpac, found women make up 49 percent of the workforce in New Zealand but only 29 percent of the leadership roles. The report found that having equal female and male leadership could lead to better economic outcomes. For example, if there was an even split of men and women in management, there’d be a potential $881 million boost each year to the economy and a positive impact on businesses themselves.
Jan Logie: How does having more women in decision-making roles benefit workers, companies, and society as a whole?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The evidence showed that having more women in leadership roles, acting as role models, creates a virtuous cycle whereby both men and women see a greater potential for women to take up leadership opportunities. The biggest reported boost came from an increased flexibility in the workplace, which increases productivity. Women leaders are more supportive of flexible working arrangements, which makes it easier for primary caregivers to be in the workforce, increasing labour force participation overall.
Jan Logie: What did the report say was the biggest barrier to gender equality in leadership?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The top barrier cited was a perception of a lack of available female talent. This is a myth and reflects a clear bias against women that needs to change. Every day, I meet exceptional women who are delivering value to businesses and to their community. Women are now earning tertiary qualifications at a higher rate than men. Businesses that remain male-dominated are missing out on a significant business opportunity as well as denying women a fair shot.
Jan Logie: What advice does she have for how businesses can lift their game?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The research showed that only 40 percent of businesses had a gender parity strategy, and only 26 percent were actually measuring themselves against it. Businesses need to set themselves a gender target, measure it, and make it part of their managers’ key performance indicators. The Ministry for Women has a database that can help identify suitable women for governance roles. This Government has already demonstrated that closing the gender pay gap and increasing female representation, both in the public and private sector, is a major priority, and I will be investigating strategies to achieve that.
Question No. 4—Finance
4. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Is it his intention that from 1 April 2018 an individual on the average wage with no children will pay $1,060 more in personal income tax than they would do from that date under the law as it currently stands?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): It is my intention that no one, including an individual on the average wage with no children, will be paying more personal income tax on 1 April 2018 than they are today.
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a question on notice laid down very clearly, in which I asked the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I think the Minister will have another go.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s not going to dispute my ruling?
Hon Chris Hipkins: The question asks for the Minister’s intention; he gave his intention.
Mr SPEAKER: No, it was his intention on a specific matter with a specific question on notice.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It is my intention that no one, including an individual on the average wage with no children, will be paying more personal income tax on 1 April 2018 than they are today. The Government is going to reverse the previous Government’s proposed tax cuts that have not yet come into force, in order to pay for a fairer, more targeted package that will lift the incomes of many thousands of New Zealanders.
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I listened to that answer very clearly and carefully, and it didn’t refer to the law as it currently stands. It referred to a range of other things. It is, however, a specific question that is about the law as it currently stands.
Mr SPEAKER: I think any reasonable member listening to the answer will understand the response.
Jo Luxton: Can the Minister tell the House, under the tax package due to come into force on 1 April, what proportion of the benefits go to the top 10 percent of earners?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The top 10 percent of earners would benefit to the tune of $440 million a year, out of the $2.5 billion package—in percentage terms, nearly 20 percent going to the top 10 percent. This is unfair, and it’s why the Government will reverse those tax cuts and replace them with a fairer package.
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that the Minister found it much easier to refer to the actual law as it currently stands to the supplementary question than he was able to to the primary question. Could I ask you again—and perhaps I could repeat the primary question—to get him to respond to the law as it currently stands, as he proved able to in his supplementary answer?
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the point here is, of course, Speaker’s ruling 166—
Mr SPEAKER: Simon Bridges—would the member like the floor? Well, the member will call for a point of order, and he will get recognised.
Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Speaking to the matter, I think Speaker’s ruling 166/4 is the point here, which makes very clear that “the Speaker will back members absolutely … when [it’s] a primary question that seeks information.” I think the point Mr Joyce makes is absolutely right, that—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now resume his seat. As the member will be absolutely aware, we are well past that. Actually, all I’m doing now is asking, because we’ve had the primary, we’ve had two attempts at the answer—the second one which I found a satisfactory addressing of the question. We’ve had another supplementary question and an answer. So we’re not going to go back and relitigate the primary again. If Mr Joyce would like to ask another supplementary he can—the Hon Steven Joyce.
Hon Steven Joyce: Mr Speaker, thank you. In light of the answer to that supplementary question, can I ask the Minister again: is it his intention that from 1 April 2018 an individual on the average wage with no children will pay $1,060 more in personal income tax than they would do from that date under the law as it currently stands?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We intend to reverse the tax cuts that are in the law as it currently stands.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that 1.2 million people are better off from 1 April next year under the law as it currently stands and was supported by three of the five parties in Parliament—National, the Greens, and New Zealand First—and those people would benefit, and they won’t benefit if the tax changes were reversed?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that single people with no children, families with grown-up children, and young couples with no children, starting out, will all be worse off under his proposals for personal taxation?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I can’t confirm that. What I can confirm to the member is that on this side of the House we don’t think that he and I should get $1,000 a year extra when there are children growing up in cars and garages.
Hon Steven Joyce: Leaving aside the talking points, does he consider people on the average wage—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. What we’re going to do, and we have had a bit of a discussion about this, is we’re not going to have the prefaces. I’m trying to stop Ministers making gratuitous comments at the beginning of their answers, and I think I’m having quite a lot of success in comparison, but also that’s based on the Opposition doing the same.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleague Steven Joyce asked a very specific question about the tax income impacts on people that didn’t have children. The Minister chose not to answer that, and instead to have a cheap shot at the personal circumstances of two members in the House, but did not answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member should know by now what the rules are around questions and addressing them. Is there a further supplementary—Mr Joyce?
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he consider people on the average wage should be paying a marginal tax rate of 30c in the dollar?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: People on the average wage will pay no more personal income tax on 1 April than they do today.
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m sorry to prolong things, but, again, that question I don’t believe was even addressed. I raised the question of whether he thinks people on the average wage should be paying a marginal tax rate of 30c in the dollar and he didn’t respond to that question at all.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, that is a fair point of order.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: People on the average wage will be paying the same effective marginal tax rate on 1 April as they are today. So if the Minister thinks that that’s unfair, it’s unfair under him as it’s unfair under me.
Mr SPEAKER: I will remind you of the fact that Mr Robertson, you are the Minister and he is the member.
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m sorry but the Minister just repeated the previous answer. You ruled that it was—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will resume his seat. The member did much better this time than he did the previous time.
Hon Julie Anne Genter: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Can the Minister confirm that all New Zealanders will be better off if we properly fund infrastructure and public services, unlike the previous Government?
Mr SPEAKER: Right. Any further supplementaries?
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that his legislation to take $1,060 from 1 April next year off New Zealand workers on the average wage is being dealt with under urgency as closely as possible to Christmas in the vain hope that those workers won’t notice the $1,060 disappearing?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can’t confirm anything in the member’s question, other than to say that during the election campaign, this issue was covered very, very thoroughly indeed, and New Zealanders will know that from 1 April, they will be paying the same personal income tax they do today but that they’ve got a Government that actually cares about lifting kids out of poverty.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Speaker’s ruling 179/8—”Replies should be concise, which means not only short in terms of the number of words”—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now resume his seat. That was a very political question, it was quite long, and it got a response that I thought was medium-length and had about the same degree of politicisation.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Would you like me to carry on?
Mr SPEAKER: I’ve had enough of the member carrying on.
Question No. 5—Finance
5. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What factors has he taken into account in developing the priorities within the Budget Policy Statement?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The starting point for identifying priorities is the need to build a strong, inclusive economy, be fiscally responsible, and reduce debt. A major factor we have taken into account is the number of New Zealanders who have not benefited from growth in the economy—for example, the 126,000 people out of work and the disproportionate number of Māori who are unemployed, which is nearly three times the rate of New Zealand European unemployment; the 76,000 15- to 24-year-olds not in education, employment, or training; and the 135,000 children living in material deprivation. The focus of this Government is on ensuring all New Zealanders get a fair share in prosperity.
Willow-Jean Prime: What economic factors has he taken into account in developing the priorities of the Budget Policy Statement?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have considered factors such as the absence of any labour productivity growth in the New Zealand economy for the last five years, and that our country’s spend on research and development is just one-third of the OECD average. I also considered that GDP per capita growth was just 0.6 percent in real terms in the last years. The priorities in the Budget Policy Statement will reflect a Government that knows that growing the economy requires more than just an increasing population and an overheated housing market.
Willow-Jean Prime: And what environmental factors has he taken into account in developing the priorities of the Budget Policy Statement?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I’ve considered the importance of the environment and the economy as being seen as one and the same—in particular, the need to dramatically improve our water quality and give resources to improve conservation funding, which has been so drastically underfunded in recent years, and to once again be a leader in the world on addressing the major issues of our time, in particular climate change.
Question No. 6—Transport
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Transport: Which specific and identifiable roading projects are a priority for the Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Thank you, Mr Speaker. This Government is focused on getting better value for money from our transport investment and, as such, stopping the wasteful $2 billion option for the East-West Link and finding a more cost-effective alternative has been a priority. Another priority—
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question is very clear: which specific and identifiable roading projects are a priority for the Government? Not what isn’t a priority for the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I was living in hope that the Minister might get to it.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The East-West Link is a priority for this Government, just not the wasteful $2 billion option that was proposed by the—
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a very straight question. It does not require—and indeed more than that—any sort of a whack with a political connotation that the Minister’s doing.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought that, once we asked for the intervention and had it, it was a very straight answer. It was an indication of what was a priority, and the fact that it’s going to be slightly adjusted is something that is quite appropriate to say. I do want to remind the member that the general debate starts, hopefully, this afternoon—although at this rate it may be this evening.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he support the current level of funding for roading projects?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The Government is currently in the process of putting together a new Government policy statement (GPS) on transport. The GPS will focus on getting the best value for money in transport investment. We will assess options on a level playing field, whether that’s roads, public transport, rail, or coastal shipping. What we won’t be doing is promising 10 projects worth $10.5 billion in a press release without a shred of economic analysis, which is what the members on that side of the House did before the election.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was: “Does he support the current level of funding?” There was no addressing whatsoever in relation to funding.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened carefully to the answer, and it certainly did address the question. Maybe not in the yes/no way that the member wants, but the member will know that yes/noes cannot be asked for.
Hon Judith Collins: Is the Redoubt Road – Mill Road corridor project from Manukau and Flatbush to Papakura and Drury a priority for the Government, and does he support its funding from the National Land Transport Fund? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! This might happen on morning television; it’s not happening in here.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The Mill Road project is currently being considered by the Government in discussions with Auckland Council as part of the consideration of the first 10 years of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. We’re giving it serious consideration. We’re very aware of the fact that Mill Road addresses a critical bottleneck in the southern corridor. It’s one of many projects that we are currently considering.
Marja Lubeck: Has he received any correspondence regarding unfunded roading projects?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Actually, yes. I have received a number of queries from local communities about the Government’s attitude towards $10.5 billion of unfunded roading projects promised by other parties. Let me be clear. The Government has not altered any existing funded project, with the exception of the East-West Link, where we’re looking for a more cost effective option. But we will not be bound by the rash, uncosted, pork-barrel promises from that side of the House.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It’s quite clear, from Speaker’s ruling 159/5, that questions from one’s own side should not be used to attack the Opposition. He made quite clear that was what he was doing when he mentioned a political party and referred then to the pork-barrel politics of a certain political party.
Mr SPEAKER: I understand the point, and I’ll ask Ministers to take that into account in the tone of their replies when they are answering areas for which they are responsible, including finding funding for projects.
Hon David Bennett: Is the extension of the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to the Kaimai Range a priority for the Government, and does he support its funding from the National Land Transport Fund?
Mr SPEAKER: And New Zealand First have lost another supplementary question, Mr Ball.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: All projects are currently under consideration.
Alastair Scott: Is the Manawatū Gorge road project a priority for the Government, and does he support its funding from the National Land Transport Fund?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The replacement route on the Manawatū Gorge is a priority. It will be funded out of the National Land Transport Programme, and we will do it. We will expedite it. We won’t sit around for six years—like the former Government did—doing nothing.
Andrew Falloon: Is the Christchurch to Ashburton road project a priority for the Government, and does he support its funding from the National Land Transport Fund?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It’s under consideration.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister, would he not think it’s natural that if someone was concerned about the Manawatū Gorge and was the local MP, he’d actually turn up to the meeting when people were protesting about it?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, it’s not a matter for which the Minister has responsibility.
Question No. 7—Health
7. Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the Minister of Health: What measurable outcomes, if any, will his policies deliver?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Better health for New Zealanders.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: What does he say in response to the New Zealand Herald report of 3 December that despite campaigning on a real target for obesity reduction, he is now “non-committal on whether the Government will set a target, let alone what it will be.”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’d say that it is an inaccurate report.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: What does he say in reply to Newsroom.co.nz’s statement of 4 December that the “Labour-led Government’s response to New Zealand’s surgical mesh problems is not what it campaigned on.”, given that he promised to immediately begin work on a surgical mesh registry if elected?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’m delighted to update the member. He will know that when he was the Minister, there was a great deal of discontent over the time it was taking to respond to the Government’s select committee inquiry. One of the demands from that inquiry—the select committee recommendations—was that a registry be put in place. I will update the member shortly on even more promising progress.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What reports has the Minister received about the Ministry of Health’s capacity to deliver measurable health outcomes?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Today, the State Services Commission released the performance improvement framework review of the Ministry of Health. It paints a picture of a ministry that needs support to provide stronger leadership and governance of the health sector. There are many committed and hard-working people at the Ministry of Health and in the sector working to improve the health of New Zealanders. This Government will deliver it.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: What does the Minister say in response to the Dominion Post report of 6 December, which states: “He’s faced pressure in the House over the direction of the new Government’s health policy, unable to detail any planned changes or areas pegged for change.”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I haven’t read that report, but it looks to me to be an inaccurate one, given that in the House I’ve outlined our plans to reduce the cost of access to primary care.
Question No. 8—Education
8. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Education: How will the Government’s fees-free policy benefit workers and employers?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Fees-free will be available to school-leavers and those who have not undertaken substantial previous study or training to become a New Zealand Apprentice or have not undertaken another substantial programme of industry training whilst on the job. That means that they will not have to pay fees for any training and assessment, either to industry training organisations or directly to training and assessment providers. What’s more, their employers will not have to pay any such fee either, so small businesses will be better off as a result of this policy, as well.
Angie Warren-Clark: What sort of financial difference will fees-free make for trainees and their employers?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The latest estimate I have is that around 6,000 apprentices and trainees will be eligible for fees-free next year. The estimate is that they and their employers will save around $2,000 in fees, on average, in 2018, but there is a range within that. Some of those fees being covered could be $3,000, $4,000, or even higher.
Angie Warren-Clark: How long can trainees receive fees-free?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There’s very good news here. The fees-free entitlement for those in provider-based training is for one year. However, for those in on-job training, the entitlement will be extended to two years, so those who are doing on-job apprenticeships or training will be able to get two years of fees-free support.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How much of this new spending on free fees does he expect to go to students from disadvantaged backgrounds?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It will go to students from all backgrounds.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he confident that completion and progression rates will continue to improve across the tertiary sector?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. And, unlike that member, I don’t think that people who are taking up education and training for the first time because of fees-free are somehow destined to fail. I think he should have more faith in New Zealanders than that.
Question No. 9—Education (Māori Education)
Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just before I ask my question, I just want to raise a matter with you that I’d like you to look into. One of the reasons that we on this side of the House haven’t been able to ask questions of Kelvin Davis in the area of associate education previously is because the delegations haven’t been up on the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet website. I had a question answered by the Prime Minister, who said the delegations were signed off on 23 November, and it’s taken all of the time until yesterday to have them—
Mr SPEAKER: Can the member tell us what the current point of order is?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: Well, can the Speaker please look into the time that it has taken to have those delegations in a position where we can ask questions, because I think it’s useful for the House to—
Mr SPEAKER: The short answer to that is no. It is not the Speaker’s role to look into or to audit the Prime Minister’s office.
9. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education: What plans does he have to strengthen the capability of the education system to respond to the identity, language, and culture of children and young people to raise educational achievement, and how does he plan to lead work to grow the quality and quantity of Te Reo Māori in the education system?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education): To answer the second part of the question first, I will lead this work from the front. To answer the first part of her question, I’m very keen, now that I have had my delegations confirmed, to hear from Māori as to what they want and to work with teachers to determine what they need, because we all have a shared goal of raising educational achievement, both in our official Te Reo Māori language and through the use of the official Te Reo Māori language.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Given that Te Kāpehu Whetū and Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Teranga Parāoa are both providing bilingual education services that if closed would decrease the number of young people learning Te Reo, will he resign if these two Whangarei partnership schools close?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The Minister of Education has actually said that he’ll be working with each of the kura hourua to sort out their situation, and we don’t expect any of them to actually close.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very simple question, which—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member will resume her seat. It wasn’t a simple question. She started it with a given, and that was something that the Minister addressed—the given. If the member has two parts to her question or a phrase that starts it and the Minister answers the phrase rather than the bit she wants, then it is her fault.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Look, I think a number of members in this House have raised that this is a bit of a change in the way that the Speakers have managed Parliament. In not allowing this statement at the beginning of the question, I would asked him to—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat. It is a longstanding practice of this House that members do not start with an assertion. Again, I was probably kind to the member in allowing the question to be asked, but what I’m trying to do is stand back a little bit, and if the Minister takes advantage of a poorly worded question to give an answer that the member is not happy with, then that is the member’s responsibility.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he resign if these two Whangarei partnership schools, which are providing bilingual education, close?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Really, I just need to repeat what I’ve just said: that the Minister of Education will work with each of these schools and we don’t expect that they will close. We’ll just see over the coming months how it all pans out.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Speaker’s Rulings 177/3, which says, “where a question is clear, I think New Zealanders expect Ministers to answer”—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and plenty of Speakers’ rulings have said—we’ve actually changed, because a hypothetical question can be asked, but there’s no requirement to answer it.
Rino Tirikatene: What other reports has he seen on the importance of ensuring identity, language, and culture as part of our education system?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Kia ora, what a fantastic question. I’ve seen evidence of what happens when identity, language, and culture is not part of someone’s education. Some people tend to see the language as pointless, complain about being forced to listen to 10 Māori words on Radio New Zealand every morning, and want to limit the use of Te Reo to Māori language – only broadcasters. And by people, I mean Don Brash, former leader of the National Party. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Nikki Kaye. [Interruption] Order! I have called Nikki Kaye. I think that if I took questions off for every person who interjected after I called Nikki Kaye, the National Party would have none and New Zealand First would have none for the rest of the week.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does he think it’s acceptable for 50 young Māori enrolled at the Te Rangihakahaka partnership school to be in a situation where they don’t know if their school is opening next year, and will he step up and advocate to the Minister of Education to sort this mess out?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Those students aren’t in the situation that she describes.
David Seymour: Does the Minister understand that a third partnership school / kura hourua also resides in his electorate—that being Vanguard Military School—and does he treat it the same as the two in Whangarei?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Partnership schools aren’t actually a part of my delegation, so I have no responsibility to answer your question.
Question No. 10—Health
10. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What plans does the Government have to improve access to primary care?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Our Government is not satisfied that an estimated half a million Kiwis are not able to visit a GP for reasons of cost in any given year. We know that treating sickness early improves individual health outcomes, costs our health system less, and frees up emergency departments for the most serious cases. That’s why we will lower the costs of GP visits for New Zealanders by $10.
Kiritapu Allan: When will all New Zealanders be able to access cheaper GP visits?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This policy will go through a robust Budget process, and we expect that New Zealanders will be able to access cheaper GP visits from July next year.
Kiritapu Allan: What other future changes will the Government make to primary care?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Improving access to primary care will require changes in the primary-care sector and how we deliver services in our community. I will progress a review on primary care to ensure that New Zealanders have affordable access to quality primary health services.
Mr SPEAKER: Just for the National Party whips, they have lost another supplementary—thank you to Dr Coleman.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: I punished him. I reprimanded him.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, was it—
Hon Christopher Finlayson: No, I reprimanded him. I tried to help you.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it’s a double punishment, then—whipped by Mr Finlayson and losing a question as well.
Question No. 11—Employment
11. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by all his statements on fixing unemployment?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Generally, in the context that they were made—yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: That’s a new one. Why did he say on Politik, “You don’t fix unemployment by following Jonesy’s idea and chucking a few Maori out there cutting scrub for a few months”?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I said that on Politik because I was being interviewed at the time. So, generally, you answer the question. But I support the sentiment of Minister Jones—the passion, the flair, and he quoted Shakespeare yesterday. So that’s something that’s missing in the Opposition at this time. We totally support the sentiment, the passion, and the Māori flair of Minister Jones.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he said on Radio New Zealand this morning that he is on the same waka as Shane Jones, isn’t it true that he is paddling in the opposite direction? [Interruption]
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member can sit down. It would be a marginal question for the Minister for sport. It’s not one for him.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Will he commit to a target of more than 245,000 jobs created over the next two years, given his comments that the previous Government was just paying lip service to job creation?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: This Government is committed to our communities. They are communities that have been suffering. After nine years of neglect from this Opposition, we are committed to turning the tide and addressing the crisis that the Opposition created in nine long miserable years.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said he was committed to turning the tide, but I asked him whether he was committed to a target of 245,000 jobs.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I think it’s the third time today that I’ve explained to members on my left that members cannot require a yes or no answer. The question was addressed.
Paul Eagle: What are some of the challenges facing young people wanting to be employed?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: What a wonderful question. Some of the challenges facing our young people—well, there are multiple challenges for our young people, but especially there are challenges for Māori, because Māori have unemployment at triple the amount of Europeans, sadly, at the moment, created by the previous Government’s nine years of neglect of Māori at the community base. Shocking—
Mr SPEAKER: No, one of the things that the member must remember, and I think he used to remember, is that when I stand up he sits down. And as he sits down he shuts his mouth.
Question No. 12—State Services (Open Government)
12. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Associate Minister of State Services: Does she stand by her statements about open and transparent Government?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of State Services) on behalf of the Associate Minister of State Services: [Interruption] I am happy to see you too.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: On behalf of the Associate Minister of State Services with responsibility for open government, yes, in the context in which they were given.
Brett Hudson: Does she agree that written questions Nos 1486, 1484, and 1477, asked by Clare Curran in 2016, would warrant full answers under the auspices of how she would advocate for an open and transparent Government to respond?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the Minister is a seriously bright man, but to ask a Minister to recall the answers to a question like that shows how insincere and nonsensical the attitude of that member is.
Brett Hudson: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, there isn’t one—the Hon Chris Hipkins.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Rt Hon Winston Peters often asked exactly that question of Ministers when he was in Opposition—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member will resume his seat and let the Minister answer it.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I can’t recall exactly what those questions were.
Brett Hudson: How can she claim to be an advocate for open and transparent government in word and action when she refuses to answer questions similar to those that Clare Curran asked in 2016 and that were answered in full by the then Government?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Similar is not the same.

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