Parliament: Questions and Answers – June 12

Press Release – Hansard

Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Justice and all of her Government’s justice policies and decisions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, and yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was the proposed repeal of three strikes discussed at a Cabinet committee before the justice Minister announced it was his intention to take it to yesterday’s full Cabinet?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that a number of proposals to do with serious reform of our justice system have been presented to Cabinet committees. The answer to that is that a number of those proposals are going to be taken forward, all the way to August, and a serious—
Hon Simon Bridges: So it went to Cabinet committee?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, it is—you wait and see, all right? It’s not a yes; it’s not a no. It’s time for you to be patient.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked, I think, a simple question about whether the repeal of three strikes went to a Cabinet committee before full Cabinet consideration, and I just want an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought I heard an answer—the question was more than just addressed.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with the justice Minister that New Zealand First Ministers “were around the Cabinet table when Cabinet made the decision to authorise me to develop a package that has a number of aspects in it, including looking at the three strikes law. [It was] a Cabinet decision.”?
Hon Simon Bridges: When the Justice Minister announced a proposed repeal of the three-strikes law, did he breach clause 5.16 of the Cabinet Manual, which states “Ministers are responsible for ensuring that consultation is undertaken in accordance with any coalition or support agreements entered into between political parties”?
Hon Simon Bridges: So did Andrew Little follow good consultation processes, or, as he put it, “In order to get a proposal ready to go to Cabinet you go through a variety of hoops”, and New Zealand First Ministers simply changed their minds on the repeal of three strikes?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say that Minister Little is a reforming Minister—probably the most reformist Minister we’ve had in decades. And because he has been putting all these ideas out for the public, there’s no reason for him to swing from any of his statements at all. It looks like—and it is—an open Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is the position quite clear, then, from the Prime Minister’s perspective, that this went through good Cabinet processes and consultation with support parties, and they simply changed their mind?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is, in this Government, when people have heard all the facts, they do sometimes change their mind—what does that member do?
Hon Simon Bridges: Why was a Cabinet paper of proposed criminal justice reforms, including a repeal of three strikes, pulled from yesterday’s Cabinet?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say that it was pulled because the visionary Minister of Justice decided that he wanted it pulled, and we agreed with him.
Mr SPEAKER: And the Prime Minister being the “we”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yeah—me and her.
Hon Simon Bridges: What, then, was decided when the Minister of Justice and the Deputy Prime Minister met yesterday morning to discuss the three-strikes repeal law?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister I can’t answer that question, for very obvious reasons. I simply wasn’t there, and therefore I am not at liberty, like some members of Parliament, to take a wild guess.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was Andrew Little correct when he told Radio New Zealand this morning, regarding the three-strikes repeal law, “It’s still going to be considered. We are doing a comprehensive reform package for criminal justice reform, and all elements will be on the table.”
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I say on behalf of the Prime Minister that it is the mark of wise government that you consider every possibility and every possibility’s merits. That’s what sound judicial reform looks like. It’s not coming along with a bigoted, neo-liberal view of the world and seeking to implant that upon everybody, whether they want it or not.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is the Government’s position that the three strikes repeal legislation is still on, ultimately, the table?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Prime Minister made it very clear on Morning Report, to which the member was part of the audience, what the Government’s position is, and it is that this is a matter that’s off the table for now. But—
Hon Members: Oh!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —hang on—this is a Government in for the long term, and I can quite envisage that downstream, as serious reforms do begin to work and we don’t have the prisons being a moral and fiscal failure, which was Bill English’s view, that we will look eventually at all aspects of reform.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Prime Minister’s position that the three-strikes repeal law is not off the table for all time?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: With the greatest respect, I answered that question with great clarity—with great clarity—and I do hate repeating myself.
Hon Simon Bridges: So Andrew Little was incorrect on Radio New Zealand this morning when he said, of the three-strikes repeal law, “It’s still going to be considered.”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I didn’t hear the transcript about which that member speaks—
Hon Paula Bennett: But you’re part of the audience.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I said he was, not me. Again, you’ve got a listening problem, haven’t you?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: But, mind you, it’s only one of your minor problems at the moment.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’ve asked the Prime Minister a straight question about reported comments by the justice Minister, and he’s saying he didn’t hear them. That’s simply not addressing what I’ve asked him in a specific quote.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point of order would have had some merit if the answer had not been diverted by the person sitting on his right. I am ruling that the question was addressed. I might have been more supportive, but Ms Bennett interjected and Mr Peters responded to that, and it meant that the answer was possibly not as good as the member might have wanted.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Does that ruling preclude the question being asked again and your taking a different approach to the answer to the question?
Mr SPEAKER: It doesn’t preclude the question being asked again, and if it’s heard without that sort of interjection, then there’ll be a higher standard for the reply.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the three-strikes repeal law still going to be considered, as the justice Minister has said this morning?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It is the benchmark of wise government that all laws are constantly reviewed as to their veracity, as to their validity, and as to their soundness. In that sense, of course that law will be looked at.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree the three-strikes law is the “high-water mark of policy stupidity”?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I just say on behalf of the Prime Minister that every member of this Parliament’s entitled to their view. It’s the hallmark of a democracy, and a party and a coalition that are capable of listening to different views.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why is the Government having another advisory panel and summit on criminal justice, rather than having Cabinet consider options and get on with what’s required in this area?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because, on behalf of the Prime Minister we’ve seen a massive increase in our numbers in prison. We faced building a mega-prison to accommodate between 2,000 and 3,000 people if we had not prepared to reform our laws to ensure they work. We’re in danger of duplicating the American experience of massive incarceration per population. This is a reforming Government that knows we can do far better for the victims, the taxpayers, and, indeed, the country.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of that answer, why then isn’t the Government repealing the three-strikes legislation that the Minister of Justice thinks is such stupid law?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, this is no way to act as a Crown prosecutor—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —bearing in mind he never ever held a warrant and is misclaiming that all the time. He never held a warrant. He never held a warrant because of some Crown prosecutor—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The question will be asked again.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of the previous answer, why then is the Government not seeking or moving to repeal the three-strikes legislation?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It was made very clear by the Prime Minister and others that at this time it’s not a priority. That was very clearly set out.
Hon Simon Bridges: Which Cabinet process was better: the one around the three-strikes repeal proposal or the decision to ban offshore oil and gas exploration?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Apart from that being way off the mark of the primary question—I’ll answer it. The reality is both of those decisions were typical of this Government—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. When I call for order—Mr Bennett, Mr Bridges—and most of his colleagues heard it and obeyed it, those members will as well. I’ll remind people that not being orderly when called to order is grossly disorderly.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: We don’t need to hear more answer—it’s all right, you’ve answered it.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I want to complete it. No, no, the completed answer is this is typical of this Government, which has seen a serious rise in the Government’s polling position, has seen a massive restoration, out of a Victoria University study, in the confidence in the Government. For the first time, we’re above 50 percent; in fact, we’re above 60 percent. Now, I don’t want to take all the credit for that, or the Prime Minister as the Prime Minister; it’s down to my colleagues.
Question No. 2—Finance
2. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government’s Families Package assist low- and middle-income families; if so, how?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes. Low and middle income families can look forward to a significant boost to their incomes through the targeted assistance provided by this Government’s Families Package, much of which will come into effect on 1 July. Among other things, the package will increase Working for Families tax credits and raise the abatement threshold, introduce a Best Start payment to assist families during the critical early years of a child’s life, and increase paid parental leave to 26 weeks. When the package is fully rolled out in 2021, 385,000 families with children will be better off by an average of $75 a week.
Dr Deborah Russell: What specific examples can the Minister provide of the impact the Families Package will have on Kiwi families?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Families all around the country experiencing a range of living circumstances can expect further assistance come 1 July. From that date forward, a couple living in the Selwyn electorate with a four-year-old and a newborn on a single income of $55,000 will be better off by $129 a week than they are now. A sole parent with a newborn living in Wellington, not in work, who receives sole parent support will be better off by $112 a week through the winter months, and $80 a week better off for the rest of the year. I would encourage all middle and low income families to be on the look-out for that date,1 July, when paying the bills will get easier.
Dr Deborah Russell: How will the Government fund the changes made through the Families Package?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: By reversing the previous Government’s poorly targeted tax cuts—which would have disproportionately benefited the wealthy—which will save around $8.36 billion over the next four years. The investment we’re making through the Families Package is estimated to be around $5.5 million over the same period. This means we can afford to provide significant assistance to children and families, with further money left over to invest in critical public services such as health, housing, and education.
Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What are the current levels of the Business Confidence Index and Own Activity Index according to the 31 May 2018 ANZ Business Outlook Survey, and how do these compare to the previous month?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The survey referred to in the member’s question does not measure current levels of business confidence, as it is retrospective; however, to be helpful, the May ANZ Business Outlook survey showed a drop in headline business confidence and in firms’ own expectations of 4 percentage points. I note that firms’ expectations of their own activity, which is, historically, more closely related to GDP growth, remained positive with a net 14 percent of firms expecting a coming lift in activity.
Hon Amy Adams: Is he worried that the separate Auckland business confidence survey has also fallen markedly, from just 8 percent of respondents who thought that the economy would deteriorate, in June last year, to the now 44 percent who expect the economy to get worse now?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Those are indeed the headlines of that survey, but when you look a little lower, the results are significantly varied, and the survey does show that 56 percent of people think the situation will improve or remain the same.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister of Finance as to whether or not, as an indicator of confidence, our share market is today at an all-time record high?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Indeed. In fact, firms all around the country, as I’ve travelled around since the Budget, have been indicating that they’re pleased with the Budget and that they see a good path ahead of them. I also note today the Victoria University study that says that trust in Government has increased from 48 percent in 2016 to 65 percent today.
Willow-Jean Prime: Has the Minister seen any data related to business confidence released today?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In addition to what I said in the last answer, the ANZ Truckometer was released today, with a rise in both the heavy traffic index and, indeed, the light traffic index. This saw the bank say that, in light of less upbeat signals from other data, “the recent improvement is an encouraging sign that the economy will push through.”?
Hon Amy Adams: Does he consider that it is the actions of this Government, such as the lack of a proper Cabinet process and the lack of economic analysis before the announcement that was made to end oil and gas exploration, which has contributed to these very low levels of business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. In fact, I can take my lead from OMV, the company involved in gas exploration, who said the following: “This has no impact at all. It has no impact on existing licences, neither on production licences nor on exploration licences. We are in a very good position in New Zealand.” That’s what OMV said. Perhaps the member should cheer up a little.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, does he think that the dismissive attitude that Government Ministers have expressed towards small business, such as claiming that large minimum-wage increases would be good for small business or that if they can’t handle large minimum-wage increases, then they don’t sound that resilient, has at all contributed to the declining levels of business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. On this side of the House, we’re extremely supportive of small businesses. It’s one of the reasons why we actually picked up the excellent work of the Hon Judith Collins and moved on with the “Amazon tax”. Well done, Judith.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, does he agree with Westpac’s analysis yesterday, stating that business confidence is now so low that it will need to lower GDP growth, meaning that our economy has gone from a “rock star” to a mere “support act”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We all know that, under the last Government, the so-called “rock star” economy was a “roadie” economy, where people had to stand alongside looking at others who were benefiting. On this side of the House, we’re going to make sure that all New Zealanders get a say in an economy that is productive, sustainable, and inclusive.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, given that GDP per capita growth has dropped to only 0.1 percent in the last quarter, is he now prepared to accept that strong economic growth is not a continuous cash machine and can’t be taken for granted?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I remind that member of her former colleague’s statement—Steven Joyce said it—”It pays not to look at quarter-by-quarter analysis when it comes to GDP per capita growth.” What I know is that the forecasts are for ongoing, solid growth in the New Zealand economy of around 3 percent. Do you know what? This side of the House isn’t satisfied with that; we want all New Zealanders to actually share in prosperity, not just be satisfied that we’re generating those levels of growth.
Question No. 4—Prime Minister
4. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she agree with the statement made by the Ministry of Social Development that “The Ministry works hard to protect the integrity of the welfare system to ensure it remains fair for all New Zealanders, which can include prosecution where clear evidence of fraud exists”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
David Seymour: Would an example of such fraud be signing multiple false declarations that one’s living arrangements had not changed in respect to receiving superannuation when, in fact, they had?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That statement verges on, and it is, subject to the sub judice rule. Just because he doesn’t understand the law, it’s no reason for him to think he’s going to challenge it in this House, and besides which, it’s based on a lie.
David Seymour: Is the Prime Minister saying that so long as somebody takes court proceedings, they can get away with it for ever?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can handle it.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I have no—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: He’s about to get it.
Mr SPEAKER: I have no doubt the right honourable gentleman can, but it’s not an area of the Prime Minister’s responsibility.
David Seymour: Is the message that it is OK to make false statements and claim too much on one’s superannuation so long as you have the connections to get away with it?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That’s also not a matter of the Prime Minister’s responsibility.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely, the Prime Minister has responsibility for what is the largest-spending department in his Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member has been making reference to matters which are sub judice. He knows that they are. He is asking the Prime Minister to comment on them, and I’m not going to allow it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, I hope you’re not going to relitigate this ruling that I’ve just made, because—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No.
Mr SPEAKER: —it’s been very clear.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: But it would be quite reasonable to ask a question about which bit of the Hansard record will show any mention of a case currently sub judice.
Mr SPEAKER: And none will, and we all know what the member was referring to.
Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development
5. VIRGINIA ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Why did he commission a review by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, into meth contamination standards?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I have been sceptical of the methamphetamine contamination panic for several years, and on 7 December it was reported that a Housing New Zealand tenant, Robert Erueti, had been evicted based on a minuscule meth reading, even though it was known that he was not a meth user himself. The former Government spent $44,000 putting Mr Erueti into motels for over a year as a result. I apologised to Mr Erueti and we found him a home, and that same day, I met with Sir Peter Gluckman and then sent him a letter commissioning this review.
Virginia Andersen: Why did he apologise to the people evicted and blacklisted from State houses based on the flawed meth standard?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: This Government is not to blame for what happened before we took office, but we are responsible for fixing the problem and we are accountable to the people who were treated unfairly. Even though we didn’t create this problem, I felt it was still important that the public see that this Government is willing to front up, admit when things have gone wrong, and fix it for the future.
Virginia Andersen: What actions is the Government now going to take in light of Sir Peter Gluckman’s report?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: First, Housing New Zealand has changed its policy and adopted the standard recommended by the Gluckman report. Secondly, Minister Kris Faafoi has commissioned a review of Standards New Zealand’s process used in the setting of standard NZS 1805. Third, I’ve commissioned a comprehensive report from Housing New Zealand on the whole sorry saga, and I will release that report publicly.
Marama Davidson: Given Housing New Zealand knew concerns were being raised about these standards as far back as 2016, what steps is the Minister taking to ensure compensation for tenants who were forced to pay for meth tests and forced out of their homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’ve commissioned a comprehensive report which will include a case-by-case account of every property that was meth-tested and all of the consequences that followed. I want to know who knew what when in the chronology of policy development both from the Ministry of Health, Housing New Zealand, and the Government of the day. When we’ve got the facts on the table, then we can decide what the appropriate course of action is.
Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many KiwiBuild houses has the Government built to date?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The 10-year KiwiBuild programme officially kicks off on 1 July with a target of 1,000 houses in the first year, 5,000 in the second, and 10,000 in the third. But we haven’t waited until July to get started on that work; we’re actually ahead of schedule with the first KiwiBuild homes currently being built in the member’s electorate. Families will be able to buy them and move into them later this year. The Prime Minister also announced the purchase of land from Unitec that will accommodate more than 3,000 homes. We are working on more developments on Government land and have had very strong interest from private developers, and I will make more announcements in due course. Right.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to ask the member to ask the question again.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. How many KiwiBuild houses has the Government built to date?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There are 18 houses being constructed in the member’s electorate as we speak.
Hon Judith Collins: How many houses has the private sector built in the time that he has been a Minister?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’m happy to get the precise number. If the member wants me to get that for her, she can put it down as a written question.
Paul Eagle: Mr Chair—no?
Mr SPEAKER: It’s the normal practice to give two to the asker of question first.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you. Are Westpac and ANZ banks both wrong when they say that there has been a decrease in building activity in the months that he has been the Minister?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Actually, the latest consent numbers show that the building numbers in Auckland are up. But, look, we’ve always been very clear that we would take three years to ramp up the KiwiBuild programme. That has always been our policy. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We said that we will build a thousand in the first year, 5,000 in the second, and 10,000 in the third. We inherited a housing crisis that took nine years to develop. The member knows you cannot build—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Paul Eagle: Does the Government expect to meet its target of 1,000 KiwiBuild homes in 2018-19, 5,000 in 2019-20, and 10,000 in 2020-21?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We’re under no illusions that this is a big task, and we are working hard every day to achieve these targets. This is an aspirational Government. We’ve set our aims high and we’re working hard to achieve them, because we believe in the Kiwi dream of affordable homeownership for all New Zealanders. I remain committed to these targets, and we will keep the public updated on progress through KiwiBuild’s first year and into the future.
Hon Judith Collins: Will KiwiBuild prop up failed developments and failing developers?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, but KiwiBuild will incentivise the building of the very affordable homes that the market is spectacularly failing to deliver at present. Around 5 percent of new builds are currently in the lower quartile and considered affordable, and our buying off the plans initiative for KiwiBuild will incentivise the building of affordable homes that are currently not being built.
Hon Judith Collins: How does he plan to get houses built that are extra to those being built by the private sector, without competing with the private sector for tradespeople to actually do the building?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I draw the member’s attention to the case in her own electorate where at the McLennan development in Papakura there was a private sector development that had fallen over. Investors were not willing to build in it and the builder who is currently building the KiwiBuild homes in that member’s electorate thanked us for the work and said that they were glad to have it.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I will ask the member to ask the question again.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. How does he plan to get houses built that are extra to those being built by the private sector, without competing with the private sector for tradespeople to actually build the houses?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We’re not denying that there is a problem with workforce capacity. We inherited, after nine years of that Government, a total failure to build the local workforce. We’re committed to developing that workforce, and the Hon Jenny Salesa has led an initiative to develop the workforce for KiwiBuild both by recruiting skilled personnel from overseas and developing the local workforce by giving young New Zealanders the opportunities that they deserve.
Question No. 4 to Minister
DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order, David Seymour.
DAVID SEYMOUR: That’s surprising. I would like to raise a matter and ask you to reflect on it and perhaps make a ruling, because I think it’s quite important. It is in regards to the events of question No. 4 earlier today.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member will resume his seat. Members are aware that points of order are to be taken at the time. It’s a longstanding Speaker’s ruling. It is Speaker’s ruling 23, I think, and the member should know that. If the member has an issue that he thinks needs to be drawn to my attention—if he wants me to go back and look at something or do something similar to that, he’s welcome to take it up with me after question time, in my office.
DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I just want to make sure that the member’s not going to relitigate that, because if the member is going to relitigate it I will regard that very seriously.
DAVID SEYMOUR: Well, Mr Speaker, the point I wish to make is that sometimes there are ongoing issues that do require the House’s attention, and I think we should be able to raise them in this open forum, not simply in your office.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I’m very pleased that that’s what the member thinks.
Question No. 7—Transport
7. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Will the proposed Auckland regional fuel tax increase the cost of living for Aucklanders?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): I am committed to striking a balance between affordability and taking urgent action on the transport infrastructure deficit that we inherited. The combined effect of the Auckland regional fuel tax and the proposed increases to fuel excise duty will cost an average family $5 per week. This is dwarfed by the $75 a week on average that low and middle income families will receive as part of the Families Package.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he agree with the Minister of Transport that the regressive nature of the proposed regional fuel tax “could result in lower income households contributing a higher proportion of their income to the tax compared to higher income households”?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think most people would agree with that statement but it’s also true that congestion costs are highly regressive. The effect on low-income families of not having decent public transport means that they are forced into the most expensive option, which is dependence on every adult in a household who works having to run a car to get to and from work. The regional fuel tax will generate or free up $4.5 billion of investment in public transport that will make life better for low-income workers. It generates $1.5 billion and frees up another $3 billion. And if that member wants to abolish the regional fuel tax, as he says he does, he needs to tell Aucklanders which projects he’s going to cancel.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he agree with Manurewa-Papakura councillor Daniel Newman, who described the tax as a “wholesale redistribution of wealth from some of the poorest blue collar workers who have the least transport choice to fund much of the infrastructure to serve those people who enjoy the greatest wealth.”?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before the member answers, I’m going to indicate that the Opposition has a further three supplementary questions as a result of the interjection during that supplementary. I’ll take the time to indicate to the House that the Opposition has a choice of using them today or tomorrow.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think I’ve pointed out to the member that we are building a modern public transport system that will give all Aucklanders choices. It will tackle the current cost of congestion in Auckland, which is $1.3 billion, and, actually, far worse than the regressive effect of a regional fuel tax is the punishing effect on low-income people of not having access to decent public transport. On top of that, our Government has done more than that former Government ever did to put money in the pockets of low-income families—$75 a week for 384,000 low and middle income families.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he agree with Labour councillor for Manukau, Efeso Collins, who wrote an article which described the impact of the regional fuel tax as “Taxing the poor, to transport the rich”?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I did see that article, but I would note that a clear majority of councillors on Auckland Council, including a number of National Party – aligned councillors, voted to put Auckland first ahead of the petty politicking from that side of the House.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he agree with the submission of transport economist Sam Warburton that this tax will see poorer and more at-risk households over-taxed and subsidising rich households?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I agree with Sam Warburton, and, in fact, the former transport Minister, the Hon Simon Bridges, who courageously initiated work on congestion pricing and road pricing in Auckland—work that this Government is carrying on because we believe that, in the long term, that provides better options for the Auckland transport system than a regional fuel tax. But we’re not prepared as a Government to wait around and do nothing while the gridlock gets worse and worse, as that Government did.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he agree that his continued attempts to tax Aucklanders more in the face of growing public opposition was one of the biggest contributing factors behind Dan Bidois winning on Saturday?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It’s not an area he has responsibility for.
Marja Lubeck: What projects will the regional fuel tax fund?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The regional fuel tax enables the biggest civil infrastructure programme in New Zealand’s history. The regional fuel tax funds bus priority improvements and infrastructure in the central city; the eastern busway; park-and-rides in the Hibiscus Coast, Westgate, Kūmeu, Drury, and Paerata; more electric trains; redevelopment of the downtown ferry, a road safety programme, Penlink, Mill Road, and many other projects across Auckland.
Marja Lubeck: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 8, Mark Patterson. [Interruption] Oh, sorry—I apologise. Marja Lubeck—further supplementary.
Marja Lubeck: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What alternatives are there to going ahead with the regional fuel tax?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the reality is pretty simple: if we’re going to have less revenue to pay for transport projects—and I underline the fact that the regional fuel tax is responsible for freeing up $4.5 billion out of the $28 billion programme. If we don’t have that, we’ll have to run more debt, cancel projects, or both. The Opposition is asking us simultaneously—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Question No. 8—Internal Affairs
8. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What services has the Department of Internal Affairs provided to assist new parents?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): The Department of Internal Affairs has developed and supports a website called SmartStart, and as of 28 February this year, there’ve been nearly 300,000 visitors to the site. They are able to access information about support services both during their pregnancy and after the birth of their child, and while this is a good start, we would like more people to access the service so that they can get information about local support for themselves, for their children, and also about possible financial support.
Mark Patterson: How does the site help expectant parents and parents of newborns?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: The website provides expectant parents information such as lead maternity providers and family services in their area, and once the baby’s born, parents are able to register their birth online and then share that digital birth record with other agencies, which, in just one instance, can save $33 for a family when they’re sharing that information with the Ministry of Social Development. Currently, 95 percent of the parents who access this site are sharing information with the Inland Revenue Department, and this is important because in the Government’s new Families Package, all families with babies born after 1 July are entitled to receive $60 a week for the child’s first year, and those in a particular income bracket will get more support for the next two years. If their baby was due on or after 1 July but they had a premature baby, they may also be eligible, and so we’d like them to go to the SmartStart site and sign up so that we can make sure that they get the support from this Government that we have provided for their children, to add to their children’s well-being.
Question No. 9—Justice
9. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by all his Government’s justice policies and decisions?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he stand by his statement that the three-strikes law is an “absolutely absurd law, the high-water mark of policy stupidity”?
Hon Mark Mitchell: What is his view of the statement made by New Zealand First justice spokesperson, Darroch Ball, who said in relation to the three strikes reform, “The law provides a firm framework to deter recidivism”—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is not responsible, Mr Speaker, for Mr Ball’s views at all.
Mr SPEAKER: That’s a fair comment. I apologise for letting the question go. I’ll let the member rephrase it.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Has the justice Minister seen any reports or press releases from New Zealand First justice spokesperson Darroch Ball, who has said in relation to the three-strikes reform, “The law provides a firm framework to deter recidivism, and sends a clear message to our most serious offenders”?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the question was closer, but the Minister has no responsibility for press releases issued by another political party.
Mr SPEAKER: But the question wasn’t that; it was whether he’d seen it or not. And we’ve had a number of instances today where supplementary questions have asked ministers if they’ve seen reports. I am just going to take the opportunity to say—and I’ll say it in particular and draw the attention of Amy Adams. There’s been a little bit of a growing habit, which I’ve been slack about, about asking Ministers to comment, without asking if they’ve seen reports. The wording, which I let through for her question number three today, and a number of supplementaries, is going to be slightly tightened up on going forward. And I’d be happy to discuss it with the Clerk’s office. I’d be happy discuss it with people responsible for lodging questions. We are going to be tighter about ministerial responsibility, especially for primary questions. Now, if the member can remember the question?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Yes, I have seen that report.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Maybe I should have included the first part of the question—
Mr SPEAKER: No. You had a chance to rephrase it; you’ve rephrased, and you’ve had a full answer, not just addressing the question but a full answer.
Hon Mark Mitchell: What’s his view of the report?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister may have seen it; it doesn’t mean he has responsibility for it, and therefore being asked his view on it is outside of his ministerial responsibility.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: In the previous question there was a question to the transport Minister asking him what the alternatives would be if there was not a fuel tax, and the Minister chose to answer that. So presumably he’d read some information that gave him the information he needed to answer that. The question here to Mr Little is, simply, now that there’s been an acknowledgment that he has seen the report—presumably he’s read it—does he have a view on it? Now, that’s not unreasonable.
Mr SPEAKER: Absolutely. The idea that a Minister can’t have an opinion on something in his portfolio that he’s read would be protecting the Minister too much.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My view is that that is Mr Ball’s genuinely held view.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Did he advance his Cabinet paper, which included the repeal of three-strikes legislation, through the correct process including Cabinet committee, with the support of New Zealand First?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The position that we got to last week was that I made the decision to withdraw the paper, and any further reference to the full Cabinet. The reality is, when it comes to Government policy, it is the final decision of Cabinet that matters, and that is what has happened in the last few days.
Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order Mr Speaker. If I could seek your guidance on this, that was a very clear question—short and concise. I don’t think the Minister has actually answered it.
Mr SPEAKER: Ask it again and I’ll make—
Hon Mark Mitchell: Did he advance his Cabinet paper, which included the repeal of the three-strikes legislation, through the correct process, including Cabinet committee, with the support of New Zealand First?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The paper went through all relevant stages until last week when I made the judgment to withdraw the paper from final Cabinet consideration, because that is the way Government decision-making works.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Is he relieved to hear in the House today the Deputy Prime Minister state on behalf of the Prime Minister that three strikes is still on the table?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: It’s not a question of relief.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m just going to cut the member down now, and ask the member to start again. The answer was the Prime Minister stating, all right, and I’ll get the member to rephrase it. It’s important that we get these things right, because we’re about to have a change.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Is he relieved to hear in the House today the Prime Minister state that three strikes is still on the table?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: It’s not a question of being relieved about anything that the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister standing in for the Prime Minister has said or believes. The Deputy Prime Minister is a man of considerable and astute wisdom, and he has brought that to bear in his answers to the House today, and he is right.
Question No. 10—Education
10. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What opportunities do New Zealanders have to give their views on how NCEA can better prepare students for life after school?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I recently released, as part of the national education conversation, a discussion document on the review of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). We want to ensure that we are helping students leave school with qualifications that truly reflect their abilities and prepare them for a rapidly changing world. New Zealanders have the opportunity to provide their thoughts on the six big opportunities identified on the future of the NCEA via online surveys and submission forms. They can also attend workshops being held around the country over the next two months.
Jo Luxton: How can younger New Zealanders take part and share their views on the future of the NCEA?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: We believe it’s very important that young New Zealanders whose futures are at stake have the opportunity to have their say on the future of the NCEA. New Zealanders between the ages of five and 20 can share their vision on the future of education by participating in the Make Your Mark competition. Students can participate in a variety of ways in conveying their vision for the future of education: artworks, creative storytelling, leading a workshop, research papers, and media projects. There are grants, scholarships, laptops, and other prizes up for grabs. We want to hear how the NCEA can better support our young people in preparing them for further study, work, and life.
Jo Luxton: Why is the coalition Government looking at updating the NCEA as part of the national education conversation?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The NCEA is a trusted and respected qualification internationally, but employers are telling us that students are coming out of school not always with the right skills, and we need more flexibility in what they are being taught. We also need to see less assessment and a greater focus on learning. The NCEA was introduced in 2002. It’s now time to have a look at it and to see what we can do better to support young New Zealanders’ pathways that reflect their learning needs and their strengths.
Question No. 11—Police
11. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Can he confirm he sought operational funding of $515.3 million over 4 years to deliver his preferred model of 1,800 new police in 3 years, and alternatively sought $346.4 million over 4 years to deliver them in 4 years; if so, why did Budget 2018 only appropriate $298.8 million in operational funding?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes, no, and Budget 2018 is the first of three this term.
Chris Bishop: Why doesn’t he just admit to the House and New Zealand that his 1,800 new police are funded over five years, not three, given his own draft Cabinet papers make that clear as well as the appropriations in the Budget?
Hon STUART NASH: Because that would be a lie.
Chris Bishop: Does he agree that in order to reach an additional 1,800 new police, an extra 1,000 officers will be needed because of police attrition, and why does the Cabinet paper he prepared not take account of attrition when calculating the extra 1,800 cops?
Hon STUART NASH: Yes, I do, and, yes, it does.
Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the extra 1,800 police, “I want to make it very clear, I want to make it very clear, we have the money assigned to it.”; and if so, why is he now saying he will have to go back to Cabinet to get more money to deliver on his promises?
Hon STUART NASH: The way the Budget works is Mr Grant Robertson has given me enough money to deliver this year. He has also assured me if I go back next year he will top me up, and the following year he will also top me up.
Chris Bishop: Why did the Prime Minister say the cost of the extra 1,800 sworn police was $40 million when the actual cost is well over 10 times that amount?
Hon STUART NASH: I didn’t hear the Prime Minister say that at all.
Question No. 12—Tourism
12. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Tourism: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Tourism): The statements I’ve made and the actions I’ve taken regarding the tourism portfolio I stand by, but I do not stand by the comments I made to the member in select committee last week, and I hope the member has accepted my apology.
Hon Jacqui Dean: How did he prepare for the estimates examination of his tourism portfolio?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: As any Minister does. Through the experience of being the Minister you actually learn quite a lot about the portfolio. The opening address I gave was substantive. I gave a number of substantive answers to the questions that were in scope. Those questions that were out of scope, I don’t think they should expect substantive answers.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Has he seen any reports describing his performance and inability to answer questions as “vacant”, “complacent”, and “the worst performance of any Minister ever”?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I believe those came from a member of her own party and, like I say, where the questions were in scope of the tourism portfolio I gave substantive answers. Where those questions were out of scope, they shouldn’t expect substantive answers.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Would the Minister support being recalled to the select committee to answer questions?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I read the transcript of the estimates today and I was actually really proud of the answers I gave.
Hon Jacqui Dean: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister didn’t answer my question. I asked him whether he would support being recalled to the select committee to answer questions.
Mr SPEAKER: And I probably should have—I was, I think, being a bit kind to the member. I probably should have ruled it out, because whether or not he is recalled is actually not a matter for him, it’s a matter for the committee
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister: were the questions at the select committee spoken of somewhat akin and similar to the questions being asked in the House today? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has no responsibility for either set of questions.

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