Press Release – Hansard
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No.1—Prime Minister
1. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, in their context.
Hon Judith Collins: When she said in Parliament yesterday, “The Minister of Foreign Affairs made it clear that the action the Government has taken was on the advice of the NZSIS”, “who also acted in conjunction with our “Five Eyes” partners in the advice they provided this Government.”, which particular “Five Eyes” partners advised the New Zealand SIS (NZSIS) on this matter?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, the statement that we reacted on the advice of the NZSIS is totally correct; that the NZSIS at the time and Foreign Affairs, too, had intimated that “Five Eyes” partners understood New Zealand’s situation as being possibly different to their own because of the character, shape, and size of the Russian embassy in this country—that was as clear as daylight. So those statements are totally correct.
Hon Judith Collins: When she told Radio New Zealand yesterday that, following SIS advice, there were “no Russians who qualified for expulsion”, but then said, “I’ve now asked MFAT … to advise me on whether there are people who should be the subject of visa exclusions for New Zealand”, how does she reconcile that with the statement of her Foreign Affairs Minister yesterday, “we don’t take knee-jerk reactions on this side of the House;”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Very, very, very easily. The reality is, and if I can go through this very slowly, the NZSIS statement was as to those within the Russian embassy, but the NZSIS went on to say that of course there are possible intelligence agents outside of that embassy—in effect, that’s what they were saying—and we have taken action against them in the past and will continue to do so. That’s a clear distinction that is not being understood by that member.
Hon Judith Collins: Which criteria will be used to determine which Russian citizens should be subject to travel sanctions?
Mr SPEAKER: “Criterion”, but go on.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, not the same perhaps criteria that was in place in 2014, where there was a visa ban against certain Russians, but they were never told. So, in short, if they were coming out of Siberia—if Ivan decided to come out of Siberia to New Zealand, he only found that he was on the list when he made an application for a visa. How would that help anybody—but just be a tokenistic measure?
Hon Judith Collins: When she was provided advice that there were no Russian “undeclared intelligence officers” operating in New Zealand, what criteria was followed in reaching that determination?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, first of all, as any Minister in charge of our security services would know, there are certain actions and protocols and procedures which we cannot disclose as Ministers—otherwise we subvert the very security that we seek to enhance in our country. I’d ask that member and her colleagues for the first time for a long time to show some responsibility.
Hon Judith Collins: Does she really believe that there are no Russian spies gathering intelligence in New Zealand?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I think the Prime Minister and her Foreign Minister made it very clear yesterday that we admitted the possibility to the second category and that’s why we said so, with of course the authority of the NZSIS. But then again we don’t lose our diary or geographical maps on the way to —
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What does Treasury’s 2018 Investment Statement say about the condition of the public health estate?
Mr SPEAKER: Just before the question is answered, I am going to add two extra questions to the National Party as a result of two members of the Labour Party interjecting during that question.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The 2018 Investment Statement shows that district health boards (DHBs) are reporting that around 19 percent of assets are in poor or very poor condition. Further, Treasury said that there is a risk of an emerging health infrastructure deficit because of a need to rebuild a large number of hospitals, build major new hospitals, and repair existing infrastructure. Treasury also noted that depreciation reserves will not be sufficient to cover these investments, requiring additional funding from Government.
Dr Liz Craig: Did the Investment Statement say how the health estate had fallen into such a state of disrepair?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, according to the Investment Statement, Treasury found that a number of DHBs who were reporting underspends in maintenance also had net deficits, suggesting that some DHBs may be deferring repairs in maintenance to redirect expenditure into other operational areas. It is not good enough that public hospitals have had to delay vital maintenance just to pay their staff and keep the lights on. This reflects the consistent, year-on-year underfunding of the health system, which, based on work by independent economic agency Infometrics, is estimated to have been $2.4 billion over the last nine years.
Dr Liz Craig: So what will the Government do to address this?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, Budget 2018 will reflect the different priorities of this Government, focusing on getting the basics right, such as in health and education. Our priorities are to make investments we need to bring our public services back up to the standard that New Zealanders expect and deserve. This will be a large and important job and it will take more than one Budget to make up for nine years of neglect.
• Question No. 3—Foreign Affairs
3. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Yes, in their context.
Hon Todd McClay: For how long has he been aware of Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Since I was a young boy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! [Interruption] Order! While the member has a long parliamentary experience and a lot of experience as Minister of Foreign Affairs, it doesn’t stretch back that far. The question relates to his responsibility as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the answer will reflect that.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, you would expect anyone who was Minister of Foreign Affairs—or a member of Parliament, for that matter—to have come to this House with some experience; he’s entitled to recite it. And it’s well-known, in the fifties—the Molotov and other conflicts—and expulsions in Australia and elsewhere, and also expulsions from New Zealand, were something known for decades. That’s why I answered that way.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I understand why the member answered that way, and I think it’s fair to say that the question was loose. But I just want to reinforce to people on both sides that we are asking and answering questions with respect to ministerial responsibility held. Now, I will ask the Rt Hon Winston Peters to answer the question—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I just hope, Mr Parker, you’re not going to dispute my ruling.
Hon David Parker: Well, point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order, Mr Parker.
Hon David Parker: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would suggest that it is in order for a Minister to explain his understandings in order to answer a question, and that’s what the Prime Minister did.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the first point is, the Prime Minister is not in the House, and this is a question to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. And if the Minister of Foreign Affairs had answered, “I had some early briefings on this matter when I was first the Minister of Foreign Affairs in year X, and that confirmed my understandings from my youth.”, then that would’ve been in order.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I’m actually wondering whether I should get a share of the member’s pay.
Hon Todd McClay: Given this is such an important issue, who are the individuals undertaking Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand, as was referred to in his speeches to media yesterday, and are any of them stationed in the Russian embassy?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That goes to the core of the capability and modus operandi of our intelligence services, so I’m not going to compromise them, nor would any other Foreign Minister or Prime Minister have ever done that in the past.
Hon Todd McClay: When he told the House yesterday, “There are no individuals here in New Zealand who fit the profiles of those being expelled by other countries.”, what are the profiles of those being expelled from other countries?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The number one profile of those being expelled in other countries, but not 40 percent of the countries in the European Union, were that they were operating within the Russian embassies in those countries. That relates to this country, where we, in our advice from the intelligence service and also with the understanding of our Five Eyes partners, did not find one that fit that profile.
Hon Todd McClay: Has he asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for advice on the exact profiles of the 17 Russian diplomats stationed in New Zealand?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Not to that extent, but what I do know—
Hon David Bennett: What do you know?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, what I do know, in the converse, is they do not fit the profile of the expulsions in other countries. The New Zealand SIS has said that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What profile?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The New Zealand SIS has specified that. Now, I know the briefly previous Minister of Foreign Affairs wouldn’t know it, but bombast and noise doesn’t pass for foreign policy.
Hon Todd McClay: As Minister of Foreign Affairs, has he received sufficient evidence that Russia is responsible for the Salisbury nerve agent attack on British soil?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: To the best of anyone’s investigations thus far, the product looks like it was manufactured in Russia, that it was sourced out of Russia, but as to who were the perpetrators of that violent terrorist crime, that is still a matter of substantial investigation in the UK. But, can I just say, this sound advice that I have received thus far came via Sam Sachdeva on 26 March, when he quoted this person saying, “They need to take this very, very seriously, they need to keep in touch with these countries that have expelled Russian diplomats, and they need to make a decision that is in the best interests of New Zealand.” I can assure Mr McClay, who made that statement, that long before he offered that gratuitous advice, we’d already done that and had acted 48 hours before our friends in Australia did.
• Question No. 4—NZ Security Intelligence Service
4. Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister responsible for the NZ Security Intelligence Service: Does he agree with Rt Hon Winston Peters who said in the House yesterday that “NZSIS advises it is aware of Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand and, where it is seen appropriate, action is taken”; if so, what is that action?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs) on behalf of the Minister responsible for the NZ Security Intelligence Service: On behalf of the Minister for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS), yes. The member is well aware of the longstanding precedent in this House that we do not discuss intelligence operational matters. It is not in the public interest to more fully address the member’s question, except to say that I have confidence in the NZ SIS, and the Government has a range of powers at its disposal to protect our country and its people, and we will use them when it’s appropriate to do so.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the answer to that question was a perfectly reasonable statement if you were wanting to make clarification about something, but the question was: if there are spies known to be in New Zealand, what action is being taken? Now, simply saying we’re not going to tell the country what the SIS do is unacceptable. If they’re being deported, we need to know they’re being deported. Otherwise, we should release the profile so that the general public can assist the SIS—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The Minister quite clearly indicated that it was not in the public interest to make any further comment on it, and the question was addressed. And I think that member knows better than any other that more specific answers, especially in this area, cannot be insisted on.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: When he said—that’s the Minister for the Security Intelligence Service—Mr Peters is almost certainly correct, what does the word “almost” suggest Mr Peters has missed out?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It’s just the precaution of a well-trained lawyer, not behaving in the absolutist way that is the penchant of that member, and by putting that caveat on that he is almost certainly correct, knowing that later on in the day he could have the discussion and reassure himself of not having any doubt at all about being correct.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if we might be permitted to get that answer again, because it’s not sure which person was speaking to who—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I thought it was quite clear. The Minister speaking was the Minister in charge of the SIS.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Right, so, presumably, he had the discussion with Mr Peters and was elucidated and would therefore today be able to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it is absolutely clear to me that the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the SIS indicated that he had a meeting with Mr Peters yesterday.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Does the SIS or the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), or both, have access to a measurable profile against which other countries have identified the types of spies or diplomats suitable for expulsion?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The NZ SIS made it very clear to the Government that they had specifically looked, as other countries have, at the personnel of the Russian Embassy, and that no one there, in their judgment and the judgment of Five Eyes partners as well, as being a likelihood, fitted the profile. That being the case, we decided not to go down town, grab a couple Russian names, and throw them out of the country.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Shame they weren’t Chinese-sounding names—they might have gone. [Interruption] Supplementary?
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Brownlee has prefaced every question he’s attempted to ask today with an out of order remark. You are very strict on both sides of the House around this matter, and I just ask for the continuation of that.
Mr SPEAKER: I will be watching Mr Brownlee. Mr Brownlee gets a little bit of leniency as a result of being the shadow Leader of the House, but he should not abuse it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Is the reason he declined to define Russian intelligence activity on the grounds it might “potentially disclose the way our agencies operate.”, because our agencies are asleep and oblivious to what the rest of the free world appears to know?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I regard that as an absolute affront to an agency that he had some connection with just five months ago. If this country was the subject of that sort of intelligence activity, why on earth didn’t he and the foreign Minister take charge of it back then, rather than making the story up now? Can I just say this here, for example—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! What I’m not prepared to have is members accusing other members of making stories up in the House. What that is is an indication that members are not telling the truth and are doing it deliberately, and that is a breach of the Standing Orders. You will withdraw, thank you.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise. But can I just say this: when a member of Parliament says “but he didn’t criticise Russia as almost every New Zealand friend or ally around the world did”—that’s on 29 March—and yet on 30 March this statement went out, in my name: “How this military grade nerve agent was transported from Russia and released abroad is the key issue here and warrants urgent international investigation.” That went out 48 hours before the Australians reacted. So let’s have an end to that humbug.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If the New Zealand SIS had been able to inform the Government that there is Russian espionage carried out on New Zealand soil, why haven’t those spies been apprehended and deported?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, the New Zealand SIS has made it very clear that they have in the past found such activity and taken action. But the real question that people will be asking now is: how is it that on 23 October 2017 people that hitherto had not operated in this country or for which there was no evidence at all, according to the GCSB and the SIS, were all of a sudden all around this country? That member should ask himself why it is he’s making an allegation now that this has all happened since the last election. That’s a humbug, it’s not true, and I wish you would stop doing that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that there was action taken post the event he refers to—he referred to it today, in fact, in one of his supplementary question answers—and can he further confirm that it was post the poisoning in Salisbury that the rest of the world has taken strong steps to show their disapproval of the way the Russians have been operating, but New Zealand is clearly out of step with that?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Much as I’m sure the Minister would like to answer that, the member questioning is asking about the actions of a previous Government or the actions that took place during the tenure of a previous Government—something that yesterday they were objecting to Ministers commenting on.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order. He asked the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, well there is an extra point and I am going to allow the member to contribute. The core of the question goes to the activities of foreign Governments, and is a question about whether the Minister in charge of the SIS is responsible for that. What I’m going to do is I’m going to ask Mr Brownlee to rephrase his question in an attempt to get it within the Standing Orders.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister responsible for the NZ Security and Intelligence Service received any congratulatory messages from our “Five Eyes” partners on the stance this Government’s taken over Russia?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say, on behalf of the Minister—
Brett Hudson: Is that a no?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I haven’t answered the question yet—and why doesn’t a hopeless nincompoop like you keep quiet for a second. Can I say, on behalf of the Minister, that he and his Cabinet colleagues and the Prime Minister have been the recipients of enormous praise from our “Five Eyes” partners, and people all over the world—including a conversation I had with the UK High Commissioner this morning; as recent as that. So let’s have an end to this attack on a very responsible Government, doing its duty in a very principled way.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m just going to ask—because I’ve picked up something in the middle of that question. I’m going to ask the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the SIS to indicate which Minister it was who met with the High Commissioner this morning.
Mr Speaker, you’ll recall I said—well, the Minister was me, but I did say that the Minister in charge of the SIS and his Cabinet colleagues have been the recipient of a whole lot of accolades from abroad, one of which was as late as this morning. That’s how I connected it within Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: And it was “he met”, not “I met”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yeah, precisely.
Mr SPEAKER: Right. Thank you.
• Question No. 5—Transport
5. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by all his statements on transport priorities for this Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes, in the context in which they were given.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he stand by his statement that “no existing and funded roading project other than the East-West Link has been altered by the Government”?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why, then, has the procurement process for the Tauranga Northern Link been axed just this month?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: If the member wants to put that question down, I’m happy to get a specific response for him, but I stand by my statement: no existing roading project has been altered since the Government took office.
Jami-Lee Ross: Is the Minister saying he knows nothing about the Tauranga Northern Link procurement process, where construction funding was granted in April 2016 for that project and the procurement process has now stopped; is he saying he knows nothing about that and he’s—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member finished his question some time ago.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The member should know that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is responsible for administering hundreds of transport projects simultaneously around the country. If the member wants to put down a detailed question on a specific transport project, I’ll be happy to get him that information.
Todd Muller: Will the Minister commit to joining me to drive this road and see the danger and congestion as my community sees it, or will he continue to not reply to the community’s expectation to see him?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Transport priorities are being reviewed in order to place greater emphasis on safety and value for money. The Tauranga eastern expressway, for example, cost $455 million and carries less than 20,000 vehicles on average daily. Yet across town, on State Highway 2 between Tauranga and Waihi, there were 63 deaths and 196 serious injuries over the past eight years. Our priorities will rebalance spending away from a few hand-picked, low-value, over-engineered expressways towards practical solutions that save lives.
Michael Wood: Why is the Government reviewing transport priorities?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Thank you for that question. The reason is this: because we can make some very deliberate choices in the way we spend our transport budget. For example, for about half the cost of National’s East-West Link, we could install median safety barriers on every single kilometre of the State highway network.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why is this Minister able to make disparaging comments about the previous Government’s roading priorities—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to give the member a chance to rephrase his question. If he follows a similar vein, he will lose it.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why is this Minister making disparaging comments about projects like the Tauranga Northern Link when NZTA themselves say that an outcome of that project would be a reduction by 50 percent in serious injuries and deaths on that road?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I repeat, for the member’s benefit, that the Tauranga eastern expressway cost $455 million, carries less—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I don’t think anything is gained by the Minister repeating the statement. He was asked something about another road, and he should address that.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Could the member repeat the question?
Jami-Lee Ross: Why is he able to make disparaging comments about roads like the Tauranga Northern Link, which NZTA themselves say would reduce deaths and serious injuries on that road by 50 percent?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I didn’t make disparaging statements about the Tauranga Northern Link.
• Question No. 6—Health
6. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his answers to Oral Question No 9 yesterday?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Absolutely.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: When he challenged the first part of supplementary question No. 5, was he denying that he had intervened in the nurses’ pay dispute or denying that his intervention was unsuccessful?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. For clarity, I did not intervene in the negotiations.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: If giving the District Health Boards (DHBs) additional funding to increase the offer to nurses doesn’t constitute intervening, what, in his view, does?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’ll take your advice on this, but it seems to me that’s a hypothetical question.
Mr SPEAKER: The members are allowed to ask hypothetical—
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: With an assertion in it.
Mr SPEAKER: I think it was a reasonable question. If the member thinks it’s too hypothetical or rejects the assertion, she can say so.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I reject the assertion implied in the first part of that question.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It’s very difficult for the Minister to reject an assertion that the Minister himself has made, and that is an admission in question No 9 yesterday that they had increased funding but that that didn’t constitute an intervention in a pay dispute. My question was, if that didn’t constitute intervening, what would. The assertion about not intervening is being challenged—I can’t see how that could be the case. [Interjection]
Mr SPEAKER: Are you speaking to the point of order?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: No.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want to have a—I think there are two—no, I want to be careful about coaching. There’s a—
Hon Grant Robertson: I think it’s completely legitimate for two people to have different understandings of the word “intervention”. One can be quite a pejorative one; one can be a less pejorative one.
Mr SPEAKER: I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, it’s very well put, and for that reason I’d seek leave for this question to be held over until the Minister of Health is able to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to this question being held over—is the member asking for it to be an additional question?—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes, of course.
Mr SPEAKER: —as an additional question next time the Minister’s available? Is there any objection to that? There is objection.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Just to clarify, before I ask a supplementary question, are you saying that that question has been addressed?
Mr SPEAKER: It has been, as much as a hypothetical question has to be addressed. They can be asked, but Ministers don’t have to respond. Speaker’s ruling 165/1, I think, is the appropriate Speaker’s ruling.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Thank you. Is he planning to further not intervene by providing additional funding that he claims is needed in the sector in order to prevent the industrial action by nurses?
Mr SPEAKER: No. Irony—an absolutely ironic question. The member can rephrase it if he wants to.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is he planning to increase funding to DHBs that he claims is needed in the sector in order to prevent industrial action by nurses?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: On behalf of the Minister, it’s pretty clear, after nine years of horrific underfunding of the health system, that we need to increase funding to the health system, and that’s unrelated to negotiations around pay.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was pretty clear: is he planning to increase funding to settle the dispute? I don’t believe that was addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think it was addressed. I think it was a very—[Interruption] You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that if a Minister says there’s been severe underfunding, they’ll be in severe trouble if it’s not in some way remedied over the next couple of months.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Aren’t his refusal to meet the Otago branch of the New Zealand College of Midwives about their funding concern, his refusal to speak to Radio Live this morning about nurses’ pay and bullying, and a number of other examples of failure to engage the health sector better examples of his strategy of non-intervention?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: On behalf of the Minister, I reject all the assertions in that question.
• Question No. 7—Biosecurity
7. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Does he stand by all his statements and actions in relation to Mycoplasma bovis?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Minister for Biosecurity): Yes.
Hon Nathan Guy: How can his Government claim to be open and transparent, when he received the technical advisory group (TAG) report in December, and only released it yesterday, some four months after he got it?
Mr SPEAKER: No. I just want to really reinforce to members that supplementary questions have to relate to the primary question, and the member did not make a link. There was nothing in there about a Minister’s action or statements.
Hon Nathan Guy: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, have a go.
Hon Nathan Guy: The Minister is responsible for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). He would have received the report in December, and yesterday it was released.
Mr SPEAKER: That’s right.
Hon Nathan Guy: And so therefore I’m questioning the Minister on why he hasn’t released the report sooner, when there is a huge amount of public interest in the tracing of this terrible cattle disease.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just ask the member whose report it was and who released it, and which action of the Minister he is referring to.
Hon Nathan Guy: Well, it’s MPI’s report. The Minister would have seen it.
Mr SPEAKER: No. Did the Minister release it?
Hon Nathan Guy: MPI released the report. OK—supplementary question to the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: A new supplementary question—Nathan Guy.
Hon Nathan Guy: When did the Minister receive the tracing pathway technical advisory group’s report?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I received an initial report at the end of last year, and can I say that the report to the ministry gave advice to officials on how best to attack and control, and hopefully eradicate, a disease that came into this country under that member’s watch because of a National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system that failed. The technical advisory group report was a report to give good guidance to officials, and has been updated and amended—
Mr SPEAKER: OK. The member has answered, I think, when he got it.
Hon Nathan Guy: What assurances can he give to the 22 herd owners that compensation will be fair and fast, given that Kerry Dwyer said he has not seen any money from MPI six months after sending his calves to slaughter, and had struggled to get a clear answer about what he was eligible for compensation for?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I’m not prepared to talk about individual applications at all in the House, other than to say that those applications and payment for compensation rely on robust information, fair process, and timely information, and until all of those things are carried through, the Crown’s not in a position to pay compensation. I have insisted that we have sufficient resource to pay out as quickly as we can to all of those people claiming compensation when all the information is provided to MPI.
Kieran McAnulty: Why does the Minister consider there was no earlier action taken on the animal tracing system NAIT?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: There are numerous reports from officials, the technical advisory group being one group of them, that say the failure of the NAIT system has led to complications, an extension of time, and real challenges in trying to get ahead of this. That member oversaw a system that completely failed, and that Government did nothing about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Hon Nathan Guy: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled numerous times in the House that Ministers can’t use a supplementary question to attack the former Government. That is what we’ve just seen now.
Mr SPEAKER: And three-quarters of the answer was completely in order. The last bit wasn’t, and I sat the member down. And if the member had been listening and looking in the right direction, he would’ve seen so.
Hon Nathan Guy: When the Minister said, “We’re going to make sure they’ve got the resources to do the job properly.”, why did the TAG group only last month raise uncertainty about the Ministry for Primary Industries’ capacity to ensure all tracing visits are completed?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I have to admit that this is a new challenge for the Ministry for Primary Industries. Never before have we had such an incursion in this country, and it’s a sad indictment on a system overseen by a Government that had failed—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Hon Nathan Guy: Will the Minister commit today to full eradication of M. bovis cattle disease in New Zealand?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: This Government has committed $85 million to the initial stages of the control and eradication of this disease. If that person had done more, we would’ve been in a better position to do it, and it would’ve cost us a hell of a lot less.
Kieran McAnulty: What does the Minister consider the key findings of the Mycoplasma bovis TAG report’s release yesterday?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: The technical advisory report makes a number of recommendations, but the latest update to the report notes the failures in the NAIT—the National Animal Identity and Tracing system—and problems it has caused for the tracking of this disease. The previous Government and that member, of course, were asleep at the wheel, and that’s half the reason we’ve got—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want to say that I had indicated a loss of supplementary questions to the National Party as a result of interjections when the previous question had been asked by Mr McAnulty. I’ve just reversed that because, for the third time, the Minister breached Speakers’ rulings.
• Question No. 8—Police
8. VIRGINIA ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Police: What recent announcements has he made about community iwi panels?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Earlier this week, I was given the honour of announcing the collective name gifted to our Government for iwi community panels, Te Pae Oranga. I also confirmed the extension of this initiative to Gisborne, Hutt Valley, Manukau, Hamilton, Rotorua, Auckland City, and Invercargill, and look forward to this initiative being rolled out to five more districts in the next few months. This new name also symbolises the permanence for this justice initiative.
Virginia Andersen: How do iwi panels hold offenders to account?
Hon STUART NASH: In order to appear before a panel, the offender has to plead guilty. The panel has a summary of the facts, and the offender is asked to explain why they offended. The offender has to take part in the plan of action drawn up by the panel. And this is the main point: the offender has to take accountability and responsibility and set out a plan of action around how they will change.
Virginia Andersen: What feedback has the Minister received from Māori leaders about the extension of iwi panels?
Hon STUART NASH: The response and feedback from Māori leaders has been overwhelmingly positive. The presence of Kīngi Tuheitia and a number of Māori leaders at the formal ceremony here in Parliament on Tuesday was recognition of the importance and high-level commitment to making this initiative work. I’ve also seen another report from an iwi health provider who has said the system has to change and, I quote, “We can’t keep putting them in jail and throwing away the key. It is not working.”
• Question No. 9—Climate Change
9. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister for Climate Change: Has he received advice from officials relating to the expected contribution to a 2050 climate change target from a programme to plant a billion trees over the next decade?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change): Yes, I have.
Todd Muller: By 2050, what percentage of New Zealand’s present greenhouse gas emissions can be offset by planting one billion trees over the next decade?
Hon JAMES SHAW: The one billion trees programme is a 10-year programme. It’ll contribute up to an additional 35 million tonnes over the 2020s, which will help us, in particular, with our 2030 target. Current estimates are that the programme could contribute up to an additional two million tonnes in the year 2050. This estimate, I have to say, assumes no additional planting above business as usual after 2030, because the billion trees programme is a 10-year programme. So I would anticipate that successive Governments would see value in continuing to stimulate further tree planting beyond that initial 10-year programme.
Todd Muller: In order to achieve a 2050 zero emissions goal, will a further one billion trees be required to be planted by 2040, another billion trees by 2050, and at what point does New Zealand just become one giant pine plantation?
Hon Carmel Sepuloni: Why do you hate trees?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Ha, ha! I’ll answer the last part of the question first. Not all of the trees will be pine plantation trees, and we’re currently awaiting some further advice modelling the mix between rotation pine and permanent native forestry. The billion trees strategy is about having the right tree in the right place at the right time—if I may channel my colleague—so while carbon sequestration is an important part of the programme, it also has to achieve jobs in the regions, biodiversity, erosion control, and water quality outcomes, as well.
Mr SPEAKER: I see the problem the member has with patsy supplementaries.
Todd Muller: Thank you for your contribution, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Not as much as I’m sure Mr Shaw will.
Todd Muller: So if we have a billion trees planted every decade for the next three decades, 100 percent renewable electricity and renewable transport, will we achieve a zero emissions goal, or, if not, what further measures will be needed?
Hon JAMES SHAW: What we’re doing with the Zero Carbon Act is setting up the institutions that will help to answer some of the questions that Mr Muller raises. The intention of the Zero Carbon Act is to put in place the 2050 target and some of the specifics around that. It will also set up the independent climate commission, the job of which is to set up carbon budgets that help us to get to that net zero target by 2050. That may include sector-specific sub-targets or gas-specific sub-targets as well. It’s actually not up to me to say, sector by sector, where you’re going to get the emissions.
Todd Muller: Is an all-sectors, all-gases zero emission goal achievable for New Zealand without turning all pastoral farming into pine and native plantations?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.
• Question No. 10—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media
10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Who from her office contacted Radio New Zealand on two occasions to raise the issue of the inconsistencies in Carol Hirschfeld’s account of the circumstances of their meeting?
Hon CLARE CURRAN (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media): Immediately following the Radio New Zealand (RNZ) annual review in select committee on 1 March, a member of my staff alerted RNZ to inconsistencies. That was further reinforced with RNZ last week. It is not my practice to name individual staff members. I take full responsibility for my staff acting on my behalf.
Melissa Lee: Who at Radio New Zealand did her office contact on those two occasions?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: My understanding was it was the communications manager at RNZ.
Melissa Lee: How did the member of her office contact Radio New Zealand on those two occasions?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: By telephone.
Melissa Lee: Did she or anyone from her office contact Carol Hirschfeld to inform her that the circumstances of their breakfast meeting had been misinterpreted to the select committee?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: No.
Melissa Lee: When she found out on 1 March that the circumstances of their meeting had been misrepresented to the select committee, why didn’t she bring that to the attention of the select committee?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just would like to receive some reassurance. There is a very clear Speaker’s ruling that if a matter is the subject of a breach of privilege complaint, it cannot be raised in the House. If a breach of privilege complaint has been raised about this then it cannot be the subject of questions.
Mr SPEAKER: I can deal with that without referring to whether one has been or not. One can’t refer to a breach of privilege complaint, but the matters which might be contained in the complaint can still be the subject of questioning. Ask the question again, please.
Melissa Lee: When she found out on 1 March that the circumstances of their meeting had been misrepresented to the select committee, why didn’t she bring that to the attention of the select committee?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: I think it was appropriate for my staff to inform RNZ of an accurate account of events.
Melissa Lee: How many text messages has she exchanged with Carol Hirschfeld since the Astoria meeting?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want to ask the member to have a—oh no, I’ll let the member answer because I was probably slack earlier in letting her ask about Carol Hirschfeld when she wasn’t the subject of the question. Could you repeat the question? Thank you.
Melissa Lee: How many text messages has she exchanged with Carol Hirschfeld since the Astoria meeting?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: None.
• Question No. 11—Workplace Relations and Safety
11. MARJA LUBECK (Labour) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: What announcements has he made about the minimum wage?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): This Easter, the adult minimum wage will increase by 75c an hour to $16.50. This reflects the Government’s commitment to ensuring all New Zealanders get a fair share of this country’s prosperity.
Marja Lubeck: How much extra money will end up in the pockets of working New Zealanders?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The increase will put $129 million into the pockets of working people, which will circulate back into the economy. People on lower incomes are more likely to spend their wages on essential items like doctors visits, keeping on top of the bills, and buying more healthy food—things that too many Kiwis struggle to afford.
Marja Lubeck: Why is the Government doing this now?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, the best time to raise the minimum wage is while the labour market is strong and tightening. Now is that time. The Government forecasts unemployment will keep falling towards 4 percent over the next three years, while average wages will rise by about 3 percent a year over that time due to a tight labour market.
Hon Willie Jackson: What will the impact of the minimum wage increase be on Māori workers?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: A very, very good question. Twenty-eight thousand Māori workers and their whānau will benefit from the increase on 1 April. More than half of those getting an increase will be rangatahi, with 15,500 Māori aged 16 to 24 set to be better off.
David Seymour: Why has the Government ignored official advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) that 3,000 jobs would be lost as a result of this increase?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: If the member spent a little bit less time dancing and more time actually reading the documents—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: —he would know that that’s not what MBIE advised at all. In fact, what they advised is there is a potential but contested loss in job growth. That means that instead of 57,000 new jobs in the next financial year, there might be 54,000 new jobs—all jobs that those young people will be able to take up.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m reflecting on the way that the member started his answer, and if Mr Seymour would like another supplementary question, he can have one.
David Seymour: So will the Minister continue to seek advice from MBIE, given that in this case he’s just ignored it?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Absolutely I’ll continue to seek advice, just as the Hon Michael Woodhouse sought advice when he was the Minister and increased the minimum wage. He was told that it would cost 2,500 jobs and, despite being told that, he increased the minimum wage and—what do you know—GDP kept growing and jobs kept growing too.
• Question No. 12—Greater Christchurch Regeneration
12. Hon NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration: Does she stand by all her answers to Oral Question No. 10 on 22 March?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration): Yes.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Why do the people of Christchurch have to wait till Budget 2018 to see if their $300 million in promised funding is available, when Shane Jones has already spent more than $61 million from the provincial growth fund without going through the Budget process?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Governments spend money when money has been appropriated. The $300 million is a current Budget bid. The Minister of Finance in his wisdom will read that Budget on 17 May and whether or not that bid has been successful will be revealed then. I do note, to the second part of the member’s question, that the provincial growth fund also requires appropriation.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Why does Christchurch have to wait till Budget 2018 to see if their $300 million in promised funding is available, when David Parker can spend $114 million in Auckland on the America’s Cup without going through the Budget process?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I do also note that the people of Christchurch have been waiting years for stalled anchor projects that the previous Government failed to deliver, including that member who was the responsible Minister. In order for any of the money to be spent in the three areas that it was identified that it would be available for—that being the stadium, the residential red zone, and any remaining liabilities for the Crown in land drainage—the plans will not be drawn up before 17 May, so the money could not even be spent.
Hon Grant Robertson: Can the Minister what steps she is taking to secure funding for Christchurch in Budget 2018?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I have prepared a Budget bid, which I have presented to the very wise, fair, and reasonable Minister of Finance, who is currently considering—
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s lucky you are allowed irony in answers.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: —that bid alongside the other priorities of the Government. This is the way in which Governments appropriate money on which they can deliver on election promises.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Why does Christchurch have to wait till Budget 2018 to see if their $300 million in promised funding is available, when Phil Twyford can spend up to $117 million in Auckland to purchase land at Unitec without going through the Budget process? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: And as a result of interjections from two Labour and one New Zealand First MP, there will be three additional supplementaries to the National Party.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The money that my colleague the Minister of Housing and Urban Development has been able to spend, although I do not have responsibility for what my colleague the Minister of Housing and Urban Development does—the money that he has been able to spend was able to be re-appropriated. I’d like to remind that member, who was the former Minister, she only left great big funding gaps, not money that was waiting around that could be re-appropriated to fund the gaps in funding that that Government left for Canterbury.
Hon Nicky Wagner: Why does Christchurch have to keep waiting?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I’d like to thank that member for her Easter present. Christchurch has to keep waiting because for seven long years the previous Government let the people of Canterbury down. The Metro Sports Facility that should be open now and be able to be enjoyed by the people of Canterbury over Easter is one of many stalled and failed anchor projects. This Government is cleaning up the mess left behind by the previous Government, including that member in her time as Minister.
Hon James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you’re going to admonish Mr Muller for patsy supplementary questions, perhaps you could also admonish Nicky Wagner as well.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think I was more admonishing the Minister for his reply.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, while we’re handing around admonishments, I accept the admonishment that the Hon Megan Woods just handed out, but would ask the question, will the Metro Sports centre and the stadium receive Government funding in the 2017 Budget or are they lines in her Budget bid she expects to be rejected?
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat and the member might want to rephrase his question and get it into this year.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes, I know. Sorry, you’re right, Mr Speaker. So I’ll ask the question again, if I may?
Mr SPEAKER: Sure.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Will the Minister confirm that there will be funding in the 2018 Budget for the Metro Sports centre and the new stadium, or they two line items in her Budget bid she expects to be struck out?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The money for the Metro Sports centre is already there. What I have not been prepared to do is to keep throwing money into a stalled and overblown Budget process like the previous Government was prepared to do. The money is there and the Budget bid for the $300 million from which the stadium funding can be chosen to be drawn on by the Christchurch City Council is the subject of a Budget bid. I remind the former Minister that it is only a few more sleeps till we can hear Grant Robertson’s verdict.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: May I ask the Minister, in answering these questions, has she seen someone stand on a rake and have the handle hit them in the chin?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m trying to work out whether it would be a punishment to give—who it would be a punishment to if I gave further supplementaries. I think I’ll just leave it where it is.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, I would certainly take them, but I think it was—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member can have another one, then.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, thank you, because it was very odd that the Rt Hon Winston Peters should stand up and talk about his own answers in the House today.
Mr SPEAKER: And—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: We just lost it.
Mr SPEAKER: Yeah, at that point—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I know, yeah.
Mr SPEAKER: —the member just lost it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Thank you. It was worth a shot. Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! And he just lost another one.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the member’s lost them all now.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What? No, you gave us an extra three—
Mr SPEAKER: I did.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: —and I’ve only used one.
Mr SPEAKER: And Nicky Wagner used one, as well.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Oh well, that’s just outrageous. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That concludes oral questions.