Parliament: Questions and Answers – Jan 31

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s policies?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I will just ask the Deputy Prime Minister to answer in the normal form—on behalf of.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Ha, ha! I am delighted to answer on behalf of the Prime Minister by saying, as she would say, yes.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement that she will abolish targets that were focused on better public services for families with complex social problems?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes. The Government is committed to genuine change to tackle poverty and help ensure New Zealand becomes the best place in the world to be a child.
Rt Hon Bill English: So, if as a result of the Prime Minister’s statement, the target to reduce long-term welfare dependency is abolished, what will be the Government’s approach to reducing long-term welfare dependency?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This Government is very much aware that last year, the concentration of wealth in this country in the hands of 1 percent was, in fact, 28 percent of the growth in real wealth. That leads to poverty. This Government seeks to build an enduring political consensus to act to reduce poverty among our children, and improve well-being—[Interruption] You’re not interested in the answer? So why did you ask the question in the first place, then?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I’d like you answer the question on welfare dependency. The question was welfare dependency.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, there’s another leader leading from the rear. There’s probably eight of them up against the grindstone as we speak. But if I could finish the answer, the Government is seeking to build an enduring political consensus to deal with the improvement of well-being by requiring Governments to set their own specific targets, and we’re going to work hard to make sure we meet them.
Rt Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that a target to reduce the number of children under a particular income level, which will be reported in 2 years’ time, is not the same thing as reducing the number of people who, for instance, have been on welfare for 15 years, and would prefer to work, but the Government hasn’t done anything to assist them in that desire?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The great difference between this Government and the previous one on this issue is we came to Government very conscious of the problem we had to face. That Government took nine years to discover it.
Rt Hon Bill English: So if, as a result of the Prime Minister’s statement, the target is removed that focused on reducing the reoffending of prisoners who were released from prison, then what will the Public Service focus on with respect to reoffending?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: With the greatest of respect, the previous Government’s so-called efficiency targets in the Public Service were all talk. What we did see was all the figures getting worse, and that’s the reason why they’re sitting over there and we’re over here.
Rt Hon Bill English: If, as a result of the Prime Minister’s statement, the 30 percent reduction in youth crime is no longer, and the further reduction in youth crime is no longer a focus for the Government, then what is the Government’s approach to dealing with young people committing crime?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This Government does not believe in fictitious policies such as telling the police that when they catch someone offending, warn them and don’t charge them. That was the reason why the crime figures fell, and it was discovered around the country, and every provincial criminal lawyer will tell you about that.
Rt Hon Bill English: Is it now the Government’s policy that there will be no warnings from police to teenagers they suspect of having committed a crime, and that in fact from now the Government is going to instruct the police to arrest and charge all young people whom it suspects of committing a crime?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This Government’s policy is not “catch and release”, which was the previous Government’s policy when it comes to an offence. If someone has committed a crime, then the police will do their job. We’re going to ensure the police have the firepower, the man and woman power, and the resources to keep the law in this country.
Rt Hon Bill English: Well, can I ask the same question again, then: is it now the Government’s policy, as articulated by the Prime Minister in this House, altering 20 or 30 years of practice in New Zealand, that there will be no warnings from the police for a young person they believe may be an offender, and that in fact if the police believe someone is an offender, they won’t be “catching and releasing” but they now will be catching, charging, and seeking to prosecute?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It has definitely not been the policy of successive Governments for 30 years to just catch an offender and warn them. For the last 30 years, until the National Government changed it in the last administration to “catch and release”, that was the sound policy, followed all around the Western World. If you commit an offence, then you should be charged for it.
Rt Hon Bill English: So how does the Prime Minister’s policy of charging all potential youth offenders and setting out to prosecute them fit with the announcements made by the Minister of Corrections—that he wants to cut the prison population by 30 percent?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is a total misrepresentation of the Prime Minister’s statement. The second thing is that it is astonishing for this country to be witnessing a so-called law and order party believing that crime should pay. We don’t have that view.
Question No. 2—Finance
2. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Has he seen any recent reports on the Government’s sovereign credit rating?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yesterday, Standard and Poor’s released its latest global ratings for New Zealand, reaffirming our AA and AA+ credit ratings on New Zealand, having incorporated this Government’s policies in their economic and financial assumptions. Standard and Poor’s said, “The stable outlook reflects our expectation that New Zealand’s fiscal performance will remain sound, with a slowly improving net debt ratio during the next few years.” This is another endorsement that this Government can afford to tackle the big problems that we have inherited, such as child poverty and the housing crisis, while also being responsible with the Government’s books.
Kiritapu Allan: What does Standard and Poor’s say about New Zealand’s economic outlook?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Standard and Poor’s states that the composition of New Zealand’s growth will likely change as a result of the new Government’s policies. The Government’s policies will transition our economic growth platform towards the productive sector and growth in the regions as we build an economy that is more productive, sustainable, and inclusive.
Kiritapu Allan: What did Standard and Poor’s say about specific Government policies?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Standard and Poor’s noted that the new Government’s policies will not materially weaken the Budget outlook, and will be expansionary. On specific policies, Standard and Poor’s noted the Government’s KiwiBuild programme will underpin residential investment growth and help alleviate housing supply pressures. The Government is committed to tackling the social and infrastructure deficits that built up under the last Government, and to managing our finances responsibly.
Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement yesterday that “the ANZ Business Outlook Survey showed that a net 38 percent of businesses have a negative view about the year ahead”; and considering the net 39 percent negative view recorded in November, what will he do to improve business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, I stand by that statement, and we will be working with businesses as we roll out the Government’s programme, which is projected to lift growth to an average of 3 percent while lowering unemployment to 4 percent and lifting wages by 3 percent over the next four years.
Hon Steven Joyce: Rather than what he’s going to say, what will he actually do to improve business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Business confidence about its own activity is extremely positive at the moment—
Hon Steven Joyce: No, it’s not.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It is, actually, Mr Joyce, if you read the surveys. In fact, business confidence is indeed a measure that is undertaken in a number of different ways. One of those is the overall economic indicators, but, in terms of businesses’ own activity, they’re confident. Consumer confidence is up. Employee confidence is up. The member should just cheer up.
Hon Steven Joyce: Further to that answer, does he accept that firms’ own activity confidence has actually halved in the last few months, and can he also advise whether he stands by his statement yesterday where he said that that had improved, and could he identify the survey he was referring to?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that business confidence in its own activity has increased in recent surveys. It has gone down over a period of time, beginning, as I said yesterday, a trend that started in December 2016, when that member became the Minister of Finance.
Willow-Jean Prime: What is the correlation between the ANZ Business Outlook survey’s headline business confidence measure and GDP growth?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Since 2002, the correlation between the ANZ headline business confidence survey and GDP growth has been 0.2 according to former Reserve Bank economist Rodney Dickens—that is, there is only a 20 percent chance that the survey’s readings actually relate to future economic activity. There is, however, a far greater correlation in business confidence surveys between businesses’ own activity and GDP growth, which is net positive in all recent surveys.
Hon Steven Joyce: Further to that last answer, what does he think has changed within the New Zealand economy over the last five months that has led businesses to report that their own activity outlook is now less than half what it was in August of last year?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I said in my earlier answer, that is a trend that began in December 2016. What we’re seeing now is that businesses have a positive sentiment about their own activity. They can see—as Standard and Poor’s have— that the activity that this Government is going to undertake is going to be positive. I can understand why the member is feeling a little bit dark and negative today, but he should cheer up and stop talking the economy down.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does the member now have with him the current level of small business confidence—as in the ANZ Business Micro Scope survey—and how long has it been since the level of small business confidence has been this low?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I’m sorry to report to the member that I don’t have that material, but if he puts it down as a question—a primary question—we might be able to get to the bottom of that.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he understand how small businesses might be concerned at his interest in them when, for two days in a row now, he has come to the House on a question on business confidence and has shown absolutely no interest in the level of confidence, or otherwise, of New Zealand small businesses?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to invite the member to rephrase it without the assertion in the middle.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he understand how small businesses may be concerned at a lack of interest from the Government in their situation when the finance Minister has now come to the House two days in a row and failed to be able to answer questions around small business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We’re working extremely closely with the small business sector. That was evident in the decisions that were made around the 90-day trials. The Minister for Small Business has been at a large small business conference today, where he’s been talking about the plans for the Government. What it is an indication of is that this side of the House is committed to growing the economy sustainably, seeing wages grow, and making sure that there’s a fair share in prosperity. I really do encourage the member to cast off the negativity that’s all around him, cheer up, and support me in talking up the New Zealand economy. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m very tempted to take the question off the member. I won’t this time, because, again, it’s early in the year and it’s a new thing for the member. All right?
Hon Steven Joyce: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that. What steps will the Minister actually take—actual concrete steps—to reassure small and medium sized businesses and improve their confidence given that this week the Government he is a Minister of has introduced an employment relations bill that advantages union officials and undercuts business confidence to grow and invest in our jobs?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Small businesses have reacted very positively to the Government’s decision around the 90-day trials. We remain committed to making sure that there’s fairness in the workplace and actually making sure that working people in New Zealand get a fair share in prosperity. That Government had nine years to do it; it completely failed. We’re getting on with the job.
Question No. 4—Trade and Export Growth
4. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: Will this House debate and vote on the revised TPP Agreement before it is signed; if not, why not?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Trade and Export Growth): The member will be aware that the process for the parliamentary examination of treaties is set out in Standing Orders 397-400. The final text of the agreement, together with its national interest analysis, goes to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. I expect the committee to call for public submissions. The committee then reports to the House. In addition, the Government will introduce enabling legislation needed for the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. This will provide several opportunities for parliamentary debates and votes. In addition, this Government is willing to hold a parliamentary debate prior to signing—something that the National Government never did—but I do understand that the Opposition may have trouble deciding who will lead the debate for them.
Hon Todd McClay: Why didn’t he instruct negotiators to strengthen the Treaty of Waitangi clause in the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) as promised?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We didn’t promise to change the text of the Treaty of Waitangi clause. The most important—[Interruption]—the Labour Party—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Nick Smith will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m going to issue a general warning. This is a question that is very important to many New Zealanders, and I think the House deserves to be able to hear the answer.
Hon DAVID PARKER: As I was saying, we had five bottom lines; we met 4½ out of five. We thought 90 percent was a decent pass mark, and for us the most important issue was protecting the right of a future New Zealand Government and this New Zealand Government to ban foreign buyers of New Zealand homes.
Hon Todd McClay: Why didn’t he instruct negotiators to improve the labour and environment chapters in the revised TPP as claimed?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The labour protections in respect of the revised TPP are the best that we have had in any prior agreement, and they include enforcement mechanisms. The only change that has been made in recent times was one to enable Vietnam to have a transitional period to meet the rules.
Hon Todd McClay: Why didn’t he instruct negotiators to improve the market access chapter in the recently concluded TPP negotiations, as promised?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We made no such promise. What I would say is that in our negotiations we parried attempts that would have been detrimental to New Zealand’s interests very effectively.
Hon Todd McClay: So is the Minister saying that the market access, Treaty of Waitangi protection, and environment and labour provisions are the same as negotiated by the last Government in the Trans-Pacific Partnership 12 agreement—some of the highest standards ever negotiated in a New Zealand free-trade agreement?
Hon DAVID PARKER: What I’m saying is that we’re not North Korea. We don’t need to have a revisionist history. The last Labour Government had a parliamentary debate on the China free-trade agreement. The last National Government refused to debate its trade agreements in this Parliament. This Government is going to have a debate on the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The Opposition is in no position to either lecture or hector us on fair process.
Question No. 5—Forestry
5. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister of Forestry: What is being done to secure land for the Government’s tree-planting programme?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry): The Government has a robust campaign to attract land from iwi, where possible from the public sector, and from substantial numbers of people from the private sector, who are responding on a daily basis.
Mark Patterson: How can I, as an individual farmer, get involved in this important programme?
Hon SHANE JONES: Well, rather than using the pronoun, let me talk about the figurative farmer. There are already schemes that are available, such as the Afforestation Grants Scheme, which was poorly managed under the last regime, and the Erosion Control Funding Programme, but, most importantly, please get in contact with Crown forestry, which will morph into a separate Crown agency with a budget to begin planting millions of trees this winter.
Question No. 6—Corrections
Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave for this question to be held over until the Minister of Corrections is available to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is.
6. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Corrections: Yes, in the context in which they were made.
Hon Amy Adams: If he stands by his statement that the Government will reduce the prison population by 30 percent over 15 years, and prisons are nearing full capacity, what have been his specific instructions to the Department of Corrections regarding short-term measures to reduce the prison population?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government is still working through short-term measures as to how we will reduce the prison population as part of a wider programme of work to reduce the overall level of offending and reoffending. I want to endorse the comments made by the current Leader of the Opposition that the prison rate in New Zealand is a moral and fiscal failure—a failure of that member’s party in Government.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he intend to keep the former Government’s Better Public Services (BPS) target of reducing reoffending, given his own statement that removing BPS targets would mean that “There is no longer … accountability to the taxpayer for Corrections’ failures.”?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: We are reviewing the previous Government’s failure to meet their own Better Public Services target of a 25 percent reduction in reoffending. They didn’t even manage a quarter of that.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I didn’t ask him to comment on the previous Government; I asked him whether he intended to keep the previous Government’s target, given that he had indicated himself that he thought removing them was a failure of accountability to taxpayers. He didn’t address that; he simply attacked the previous Government’s record.
Mr SPEAKER: Ask the question again.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he intend to keep the former Government’s Better Public Services target of reducing reoffending, given his own statement that removing BPS targets would mean that “There is no longer … accountability to the taxpayer for Correction’s failures.”?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I indicated, in light of the previous Government’s failure to meet that target, or even get quarter of the way there, it is something that is under review.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister advise whether or not prison reforms and changes that this Government is making are likely to be fertile ground for potential leaders of the National Party?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’m very happy to comment on that matter.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I can’t believe the Minister was seriously going to answer it.
Hon Amy Adams: We feel that way lots of the time. How does he reconcile his target of reducing the prison population by 30 percent with his decision to remove the BPS target, given now, in his own words, there will no longer be any accountability for failures by the Department of Corrections to the New Zealand taxpayer?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I’ve indicated—that is, that the target is under review as part of a wider range of work that this Government is initiating to reduce offending and reoffending and the imprisonment of New Zealanders within the prison system.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he stand by the statement that removing BPS targets is the equivalent of the Wallabies deciding not to keep track of the score so that no one could accuse them of losing—that statement being made by Kelvin Davis?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I indicated in my answer to the primary question, the Minister stands by all of the statements he has made in the context that he had made them.
Question No. 7—Crown/Māori Relations
TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Crown—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! It is the third offence, Mr English, and I will take one supplementary from your team as a result of your joint offending with Amy Adams.
7. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI (Associate Minister for Crown/Māori Relations) on behalf of the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations: E Te Māngai o Te Whare, tēnā koe, otirā, e ngā mema o Te Whare nei, ngā mihi o Te Tau Hou, tēnā tātau. On behalf of the Minister, yes, within the context in which they were given.
Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement where he said, “If Government was to honour its relationships and obligations to Māori, it would consult properly and in good faith with iwi.”?
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: The creation of the Crown/Māori relations portfolio confirms the Government is committed to healthy Crown/Māori relations. Myself, along with my colleague the associate Minister, are looking at new ways of working with Māori. This includes, of course, working with the iwi chairs in the future.
Todd Muller: So does he believe the Government is acting in good faith, when the Minister for Regional Economic Development states, “Halley’s Comet will be back before I meet with the Iwi Leaders Forum.”, and “Who are the Māori they are talking for? There is no upside in bluster and threats that carry no mandate.”? [Interruption]
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: As much as I’d like to say I have responsibility for the comments of the Hon Shane Jones, unfortunately I have no ministerial responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: But Mr Muller’s team has two extra questions as a result of Mr Jones’ interventions.
Todd Muller: Does the Minister believe that the Government is consulting properly with iwi, when the Minister of Employment states in regards to iwi leadership, “I’m not interested in their strategies. They’ve never spoken for my constituency in Auckland so I don’t need to be advocating for anything that I’ve been involved with.”?
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: I stand by the comments of a hard-working Minister of Employment, the Hon Willie Jackson, but unfortunately I have no ministerial responsibility, again, for his actions.
Question No. 8—Social Development
8. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Will the Families Package help the Government achieve its goal of lifting children out of poverty; if so, how?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Absolutely. The Families Package will make an estimated 385,000 families with children better off by an average of $75 a week in 2020-21 when the package is fully implemented. This Government recognises that for too long, too many New Zealand children have lived with the burden of poverty. Under the Families Package, there will be a winter energy payment to help people on a benefit or superannuation, including sole parent families; a Best Start payment that gives families with a baby born or due on or after 1 July 2018 $60 a week until their first birthday, and up to age three for lower-income families; a boost in Working for Families; family tax credit payments; and increases to the accommodation supplement. This package recognises that caring for children is one of the most important things families can do. It helps families provide for their children.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wanted to get some clarification. Yesterday—and just check that we’re not being misled in the House—I asked questions because Treasury have had to redo the numbers of children that are going to be lifted out of poverty—
Mr SPEAKER: And if you—[Interruption] no, the member will resume her seat. If she thinks I’m being misled, as I’ve advised other members—or the House is being misled—there’s a very definite process for dealing with that, and it doesn’t involve bringing it up in this way. There are other points of course: if the member is convinced there’s an inaccuracy in the answer, she can take it up with the Minister, and the Minister can come back and correct it. The difference between the two is whether it is accidental or deliberate, as I think the experienced member knows.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What feedback has the Government received on the impact that the Families Package will have on poverty?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The Families Package has been widely welcomed by organisations who work with, and for, families and children on a daily basis. UNICEF told media that they were thrilled, that it felt like a Christmas present for every family across New Zealand. Major Campbell Roberts of the Salvation Army said that the $60 grant “is a terrific payment and I think it will make a real difference.”, while his colleague Ian Hutson said the package was exactly what was needed to deal with the poverty they were seeing every day. The Child Poverty Action Group called the package a sea change for children, saying the Prime Minister is to be applauded for prioritising child poverty reduction with this package. When the very same people who have been fighting to improve the well-being of our children for years support our initiatives, I am confident that we are on the right path.
Hon Paula Bennett: In light of Treasury having to redo the numbers for both last year’s Budget and the mini-Budget under this currently, can the Minister please tell us what the numbers are that will be reduced, of children in poverty, because of the mini-Budget package last year?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Treasury have made it very clear that the error that they have cited will have no impact on the actual numbers of people receiving extra benefits in the package or their amounts of extra income, and that’s what I alluded to in my answer to the initial question.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What other action is the Government taking that will complement the Families Package in respect of lifting children out of poverty?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: New Zealand has the opportunity and the moral obligation to ensure children are free from the burden of poverty. Our Families Package will increase the incomes of many families by meaningful amounts, and children will be much better off through our commitment to restore funding in education and health while also growing the economy. Just yesterday, the Prime Minister announced the Child Poverty Reduction Bill, which will drive a significant and sustained reduction in child poverty that lasts beyond successive Governments.
Hon Louise Upston: Did the Minister cancel her plans on sanctions that remove the father’s financial responsibility from the Families Package because the cost is estimated at over $100 million, or has she just realised it’s a bad idea?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: We have made a commitment to removing section 70A of the Social Security Act, but at no time have we set a time frame for doing that.
Question No. 9—Local Government
9. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Local Government: Does she stand by all her answers to written questions?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Local Government): Yes, especially when those questions are coherent, well-thought-out—and even those that have been disguised as spam, as with the questions I’ve received from that member.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does she stand by her answer to written question No. 15106, where she said she had received no correspondence from the Whakatāne District Council between 26 October and 28 November 2017?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Yes.
Jami-Lee Ross: How, then, can it be that she responded to correspondence from the Whakatāne District Council from her own BlackBerry work device on 16 November 2017?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Before Christmas, I attended a rural provincial zone meeting and had a number of conversations. A number of conversations can drive responses to questions.
Jami-Lee Ross: How does the Minister reconcile her answer given today with the fact that she responded to written correspondence from her BlackBerry work device to the Whakatāne District Council on 16 November 2017?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: If I recall the conversation that I had, which may have preceded any correspondence, it was an invitation to a zone meeting in Whakatāne.
Jami-Lee Ross: If the Whakatāne District Council can’t have confidence in her, then how can any other council trust a word she says?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I have not received any correspondence from the Whakatāne council expressing their lack of confidence in any engagement that they have had with me.
Jami-Lee Ross: I seek leave to table correspondence from the mayor’s office of the Whakatāne District Council and a reply from the Hon Nanaia Mahuta on 16 November, signed off by her BlackBerry work device, authorised by Nanaia Mahuta, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to those documents being tabled? There appears to be none. They will be tabled.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Raymond Huo: What action has the Minister taken after advice given in relation to written question No. 20456?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: In relation to that written question, it is evident from the engagements that I’ve had with the local government sector that they are pressured with existing costs that they are facing. On that basis and as a matter of course in relation to our coalition agreement, I will be leading an inquiry into the funding of local government and it will cover a number of matters. I intend that that matter will be considered by Cabinet in March, and then we can engage with local government about a way forward on matters that have been vexing them over the past nine years, when that Opposition did nothing about it.
Raymond Huo: When will the funding inquiry get under way?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: As I said previously, I propose to consult with coalition partners and take a paper to Cabinet so that a decision can be made on how we approach the inquiry, the substantial terms of reference, and the matters that will be considered, and then we will engage with the local government sector on some very serious issues.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table the ANZ Business Outlook December 2017, which confirms that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat right now. That’s a widely published document.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—a separate point of order. Can I just seek your advice—
Mr SPEAKER: No. I just want to make it very, very clear here. If the member has a point of order, I’m not going to require him to quote the Standing Order or the Speaker’s ruling that it relates to, but I do want the member to use some sort of precedent rather than using the Chair as an advisory service during question time.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a very simple matter. A Minister answering a question today relied on for his answer some statistical information in that report and then misrepresented it to the House. Now, when a similar thing occurred last year and a case was put before you, your ruling was that it was not of sufficient substance or importance for it to be considered a breach of the House’s privilege.
Well, that might be all right, but if you’re saying that there is a tolerance now for Ministers being incorrect in the answers they give to the House, then we would like to know what the bounds of that is. All Mr Joyce was attempting to do was table a document, immediately this afternoon, so that everybody could see that what Mr Robertson was saying earlier was wrong.
Mr SPEAKER: The precedents on this are long standing, and I’m sure that the member, as a very experienced Minister, knows the proper approach. And that is that the member draws to the Minister’s attention, not through the tabling of a document, the fact that there is inaccuracy, and if in fact there is an inaccuracy that will be corrected by the Minister.
Question No. 10—Regional Economic Development
10. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he believe the Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund is proving a success?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: To date, how many trees have been planted under the fund’s billion tree – planting programme?
Hon SHANE JONES: Trees are planted when mother Nature opens the natural window. That window will open at the end of autumn and in winter.
Hon Simon Bridges: Departing from the script, does that make him mother Nature?
Hon SHANE JONES: Mr Speaker, obviously you’re going to allow that question. I was recently married. Kia ora tātou.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he accept, as indicated to Duncan Garner on The AM Show on 19 January, that rather than coming anywhere near the hundred million trees a year target in the coalition agreement and the Government’s Speech from the Throne, the forestry industry will actually plant little more—in fact, about the same as the status quo this year?
Hon SHANE JONES: You see, the member touches on a serious point. The industry currently plant over 50 million trees. The Government has a vigorous campaign to attract land to substantially grow that over a three-year period. The industry are incredibly impressed with the Government’s narrative about forestry, and here’s the proof. [Holds up bulletin] Thank you very much.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is all of this why he described the planting programme to Duncan Garner on that AM Show on 19 January as “aspirational”, despite the Prime Minister in the Speech from the Throne describing it as a “commitment”?
Hon SHANE JONES: I know the member is itching to get all the details. However, the figure is a very serious figure. We’ve all moved towards New Zealand planting 100 million trees per year. Over a 10-year period that will allow us to capture the figure of one billion. But these things, like mother Nature, take time.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, is there still a commitment to plant one billion trees in a decade?
Hon SHANE JONES: Yes. The regional development strategy does include a one billion tree target. A significant number of those trees may prove to be native trees, not all exotics. After all, a tree is a tree, including a lemon tree. Thank you.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, isn’t his tree-planting programme, like his “work for the dole” pledge, a case of big talk but absolutely no real action?
Hon SHANE JONES: The tree planting ambitions will be realised. The Budget figures will reveal to the member the full extent not only of our ambition but our ability to execute such a figure. The industry is solidly in support, including private sector, Māori sector, public sector, and they point out that in the former regime the nurseries creating pine trees were ploughing them in the ground.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister confirm for the public interest that his plans are on target and that this is not going to be another case of all Brylcreem and no socks? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Question No. 11, Paul Eagle.
Question No. 11—Civil Defence
11. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Civil Defence: What approach is the Government taking in order to form a response to the recommendations contained in the technical advisory group’s review into the Civil Defence response system?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Civil Defence): I have been engaging with various interested parties on this review since it was made available to me as the Minister of Civil Defence. We have identified that we work in particular with local councils, as they largely deliver civil defence emergency management to communities. It’s also a high priority for me to work with iwi on their participation in emergency management before, during, and after an event. I’m also keen to work with my old friends in the media, recognising that media have a critical role to play in how we educate and inform our communities about emergency planning and in the middle of an event. I am aiming to discuss a draft Government response with Cabinet around the middle of this year.
Paul Eagle: How will the Minister ensure cross-party involvement in the engagement process?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Today, I met with a cross-parliamentary reference group. Representatives from all of New Zealand’s political parties in Parliament were invited to attend, and I thank those parties for attending. Given its significance to New Zealand, I believe the public would be disappointed if politics got in the way of keeping New Zealanders safe in emergencies. I acknowledge the previous Government also had a cross-party group. I hope that through this forum, any legislative changes will have broad support across the House.
Paul Eagle: What does the technical advisory group (TAG) review recommend in regards to working with iwi to prepare for responding to emergencies?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: The TAG recommends changes to legislation to provide for iwi to work with councils. Iwi are often at the centre of responding to welfare needs, given their role at the heart of many communities. They are also able—as we’ve seen in Kaikōura and other locations—to activate marae and to host and care for large numbers of people. The recommendation is about how iwi and hapū can be better recognised and supported to undertake their traditional manaakitanga role in times of need. I look forward to engaging with iwi groups on their response to the TAG report.
Question No. 12—Social Development
12. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: How many children are currently living in material hardship, and how many children were living in material hardship in 2008?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): In 2008, there were 170,000 children living in material hardship. In 2011, that soared to 220,000. In 2016, which is the most recent date for our most recent figures, it had dropped again to 135,000. What I do need to say is the same report that those figures are in warn that the figures are likely to underestimate the true figures for a number of reasons, including the fact that the household economic survey is light on sole parent households and on beneficiary households with children.
Hon Louise Upston: How many of the children currently living in material hardship are living in benefit-dependent homes?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I don’t have the figure off the top of my head, but what I do need to say is that, currently, around 40 percent of children living in material hardship are living in working households and 60 percent of children living in material hardship are living in beneficiary households.
Hon Louise Upston: Does the Minister accept that children are materially better off living in homes where a parent works and that don’t depend on a benefit for income?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: What I would agree with the Opposition spokesperson on is that we need to support New Zealanders into work. However, there has been a growing number of New Zealanders who are categorised as working poor, and a growing number of New Zealand children who are living in poverty but living in households where there are parents, or a parent, that are working.
Dr Liz Craig: So what does the Government intend to do to reduce the number of children in material hardship?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: We’re already making progress by passing laws to ensure families can live in warm, dry homes, and the Government’s Families Package will reduce inequality and reduce child poverty. Plus we’re freeing up more than $2 billion over four years to contribute to our investments in housing, health, and education.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Question No. 1 to Member—Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill
1. Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Member in charge of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill: Is the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill modelled on any overseas examples?
CHLÖE SWARBRICK (Member in charge of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill): Tēnā koutou e Te Whare. I thank the member—and the Minister, indeed—for her question and, of course, the bill that I have inherited from her. Yes, this bill is. It’s very similar to Canada and very much in the mainstream when it is compared to what other countries are doing—allowing production of cannabis of medicinal purposes—whereas the Government’s bill, which the House voted through unanimously yesterday, is incredibly restrictive on the freedoms of those in chronic pain and suffering, compared to jurisdictions who’ve moved—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member needs to be quite tight in her answers to these questions. I could’ve stopped her when she said “Yes.”
Hon Julie Anne Genter: What feedback has she received from the public on her Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill?
CHLÖE SWARBRICK: It’s proven to have wide public support. This bill has support from former Prime Minister Helen Clark and from Grey Power, who want to see this bill get to select committee so that we can have an open, mature conversation about the best legislative medicinal cannabis framework for our country, and, of course, it has support from Dylan Kelly, the late Helen Kelly’s son, whose mother experienced and subsequently campaigned against the effects of our current restrictions. And today’s Newshub poll is tracking at 81 percent support for the intention of my bill.
Mr SPEAKER: I just wanted to check now with Julie Anne Genter. She just asked question No. 2 as a supplementary question. Does she still want to ask the question? You are allowed to, if you want to. [Interruption] OK.
Hon Julie Anne Genter: What is the intention—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Question No. 2—not a supplementary. You’ve still got to ask the question.
Question No. 2 to Member
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green): What is the intention of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill?
CHLÖE SWARBRICK (Green): This bill’s intention is to make medicinal—
Mr SPEAKER: No. Order! Order! Let’s go right back. It’s a question about feedback that is question No. 2 on the Order Paper. The member did ask it.
Hon Julie Anne Genter: I already asked it.
Chlöe Swarbrick: And I’ve answered it—I’ve answered it, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: That’s dead right. If Chle Swarbrick sits down, I will indicate to Julie Anne Genter that if she wants to ask a supplementary question, she’s got to ask that question again to put herself in the position to ask a supplementary question to it. She might just want to count her losses. Right.
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier in question time, Jami-Lee Ross was granted leave by the House to table a document that he had described as correspondence to the Minister of Local Government. Under Speaker’s ruling 150/4, he has until the end of the day to table that document. My question to you is with relation to Speaker’s ruling 150/6, which is that if the member has tabled a document that does not meet the description that they used when they sought leave to table it, do we have to wait until the end of the day to see whether they table another document before a complaint for contempt can be lodged?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes.

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