Parliament: Questions and Answers – June 13

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Regional Economic Development
1. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent announcements has he made regarding regional economies?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): With a suitable level of modesty, I can report to the House that an investment package for Northland, announced on 1 June, was not only robust but new levels of bandwidth have been required and I’m assured by the local media that litres of ink have been ordered. Not only is the $46 million going to give arms and feet to the promises made by the last regime, this time round a party with heart is delivering the fiscal fuel.
Clayton Mitchell: What reports has he seen recently regarding regional economies?
Hon SHANE JONES: To the House I can report—I was not expecting it so soon—that the ASB regional economic scorecard gives Northland top marks. I can assure you that not only has that region achieved top marks but another surge region which enjoys my focus and attention—the Bay of Plenty. Key indicators show that those regions are warming, the investors are confident, and the populations see no longer vacuous language but genuine action. And as befits the regent of the regions, I’ll take what’s coming my way.
Clayton Mitchell: Is this Government’s Provincial Growth Fund biased towards Northland?
Hon SHANE JONES: Right. Look, there’s been some tawdry attempts to characterise these announcements as some sort of political gratuity. These announcements are based on the longstanding promises that were made to a region that has been neglected. As a consequence of the arrival of this Government, Northland, led, I must say—I never thought I would say it—by two fine, former MPs, has put forward proposals. And I’ve encouraged other regions to emulate the qualities, certainly in terms of advocacy, of Mr Carter and Mr McCully—not all qualities where the latter is concerned.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: To the Minister, when he announced to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee, “There’s rule No. 1 in politics: to the winner goes the booty.”, in what way was he thinking that the tax New Zealanders pay is his booty?
Hon SHANE JONES: Well, obviously, the fund was created with the development of the first genuine MMP coalition Government. As a key personality in one of those parties, whose mission is to show heart out in the regions, I would remind the member that the word “booty” has multiple meanings, and it reflects the fact that key regions around the country who have given up waiting over the last nine years realise this time round that not only is the rhetoric robust but the purse is rich.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why is he, of all people, talking about booty?
Hon SHANE JONES: Part of my whakapapa is belonging to a pirate.
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, with the possible exception of the last one. Ha, ha!
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the three-strikes law be reviewed by her Government before the next election?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, we are putting together a package of justice reforms. It is clear that, at this time, one partner in the coalition Government does not want to see the three strikes as part of that, but that package of reforms will come forward in the short term.
Hon Paula Bennett: So will the package of reforms come forward without the three-strikes law being reformed?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It is quite clear that the three-strikes law does not have the support of one of the members of the coalition Government at this time. The full package of reforms that will be put forward as we come towards the summit in August will be about the wide range of issues that are needing to be addressed to improve our criminal justice system. The three-strikes law is a very, very small part of a wider picture where most New Zealanders understand we need to do far, far better than we have in recent years.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does her Government expect her coalition partner to change their mind before the next election and the three-strikes law to be reviewed?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That’s a matter for the coalition partner.
Hon Paula Bennett: What did she mean yesterday when she said, “Of course that law will be looked at.”, and how does this reconcile with Mr Peters’ view that there will be no changes to the three-strikes law?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It’s the job of any responsible Government to continually monitor how laws are being implemented.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has she considered making Mr Peters the Minister of Justice, as he seems to be the only one that knows what’s going on?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Minister of Justice, the Hon Andrew Little, is doing an excellent job in finally addressing the complete failure that has been left by the previous Government that allowed the prison population to grow, had no plan to address the underlying causes of crime, and no vision for a future in New Zealand, when we’re actually more safe and secure, not just building American-style mega-prisons.
Hon Paula Bennett: So does she stand by her Minister of Justice, who on Radio New Zealand said in the context of a question in regards to the Prime Minister that—she talked about it being pushed back a few years, so that’s not off the table; and, if so, is that because you’re hoping for a new coalition partner who might vote for it?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I’m very confident of is that on this side of the House, we have a coalition Government that shares one very important thing: we can do so much better than the last lot.
Hon Paula Bennett: So how many reviews, working groups, inquiries, special summits, teams, reference groups, advisory groups, expert advisory groups, independent expert advisory groups, lived experience task forces, and other loose gatherings of paid contractors has the Government established to date?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The number of reviews being undertaken by the Government at this point in our time is very similar to the number of reviews that were undertaken by the previous Government in their first days. But what I would add to that is to say that, actually, when you come in and see so much to be done, so many areas underfunded, so many programmes not delivered on, you do need to get some help to do that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just both sides—can they just wind it back a bit.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with her Minister for Regional Economic Development, who said in a speech at Fieldays this morning, “I agree with Mike Hosking that this Government is setting up too many working groups.”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I haven’t seen those comments from the Minister for Regional Economic Development, but what I do know is that working closely with him and with other partners in this Government we are starting to address the issues that were left behind by the previous Government. If the member doesn’t think that it’s important to understand what a shambles she made of meth testing, then perhaps she does have to have another think.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked quite a straight question about whether or not she agreed with the comments of the Minister for Regional Economic Development. That was answered in the first part, and I don’t believe that the second part was necessary at all.
Mr SPEAKER: I do agree with the Hon Paula Bennett. It wasn’t necessary and the Minister should remember he’s answering for the Prime Minister, who told us of her kind approach.
Question No. 3—Housing and Urban Development
3. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by all his statements and actions on KiwiBuild?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I stand by our actions in building modest homes for New Zealanders, with our first homes under construction. And I stand by my statements.
Hon Judith Collins: What assurances can he give new KiwiBuild buyers that if a neighbouring Housing New Zealand tenant undertakes antisocial behaviour, that Housing New Zealand tenant will be evicted?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, people all over this country of different persuasions and colours and tendencies all live together in diverse communities around this country. This Government is not going to engage in the kind of vile demonising of State house tenants and stereotyping State house tenants to try and stigmatise people who need the benefit and the security of tenure that only public housing provides.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don’t believe that the Minister addressed the question to the point of antisocial behaviour. I did not raise issues of ethnicity or diversity. I raised a point about antisocial behaviour.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I think buried in the rhetoric was an answer.
Hon Judith Collins: When he discussed with banks about changing their lending criteria to make it easier for property developers and buyers of KiwiBuild to borrow, what was the response of the banks?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We haven’t had discussions with banks over changing lending practices for KiwiBuild, but we have had a number of very constructive discussions with the financial community about improving lending practices to support off-site manufacturing and, in fact, lending for multi-unit developments—apartment developments. Those stations are ongoing and constructive.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: Tēnā koe e Te Mana whakawā. Does the housing affordability measure released today impact KiwiBuild?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The housing affordability measure out today shows that more and more Kiwi families are locked out of homeownership. The affordability of a first home worsened in Auckland, Wellington, Tauranga, Christchurch, and Hamilton, and Wellington was one of the worst—up 4.7 percent. This is why we need a massive Government intervention like KiwiBuild to turn this around and build modern, affordable starter homes for young families. It will take time—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!!
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: How will KiwiBuild make housing more affordable?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, through KiwiBuild we’re building modest starter homes for families who are locked out of homeownership across New Zealand. We don’t accept that that is a situation that should be allowed to continue. By increasing the number of affordable starter homes we will provide young families with the first step on the ladder and the security that homeownership brings.
Hon Judith Collins: When he says that the Crown will partner with property developers and “share the risk”, how is the risk shared, and what risk is the taxpayer taking on?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: A very good illustration of this approach is the buying off the plans initiative, which I’m pleased to say has over the last month drawn nearly 100 formal submissions from developers who want to partner with the Government through KiwiBuild. There is every likelihood that this initiative will yield several thousand KiwiBuild homes over the next few years. By buying off the plan or underwriting these homes, we will not only speed up developments that are currently stalled because of a lack of liquidity but also we will guarantee the supply of affordable housing that the market has so patently failed to deliver.
Hon Judith Collins: When he told the Social Services Committee this morning that he would “happily buy off struggling developers”, does it mean that he will take on the risk of any future issues such as leaky homes or building faults?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We’re not providing a blank cheque to failing developers, but we are incentivising the construction of affordable homes, that that party absolutely refused to do. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Now the member will answer the question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We’re not providing a blank cheque to developers for leaky homes or any other thing, but I will note that Bindi Norwell of the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand this morning welcomed the success of the buying off the plans initiative. She said this is exactly the kind of initiative we need to increase the supply of housing. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Judith Collins: How does he propose limiting the Crown’s shared risk with property development companies if in the future the property development company either goes broke or is in some other way wound up?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That’s an entirely hypothetical question, but we will be exercising sound commercial judgment because this Government is not prepared to stand by and see the housing market fail young Kiwi families. We’re willing to roll up our sleeves to work with the private sector and build houses. It’s as simple as that.
Question No. 4—Finance
4. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Families Package help New Zealanders meet the cost of living; if so, how?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, through the Families Package the Government will introduce a winter energy payment to help New Zealanders on fixed incomes meet the extra cost of heating their homes through the winter months. The winter energy payment amounts to $450 a year for single people and $700 per year for couples with dependent children when fully rolled out. After 1 July, everyone receiving superannuation, a main benefit, or a veterans pension will start receiving this assistance—approximately 1 million people.
Willow-Jean Prime: Why is the winter energy payment necessary?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We can see why the payment is needed in recent research and statistics. According to research by the University of Otago, about 1,600 additional people die each winter mostly from respiratory and circulatory problems, and, in many cases, because of cold housing. The research shows that the risk of dying in winter is increased for those who have low incomes and are living in rented accommodation. What’s more, according to Statistics New Zealand’s latest household living-costs price index, since June 2008 the increase in the cost of living for beneficiaries has been 61 percent higher than for the top 20 percent of earners, and for superannuitants the increase has been 75 percent higher. The winter energy payment is necessary because this Government does not accept that in a country like New Zealand people are sick and dying because they live in cold, damp houses.
Willow-Jean Prime: And what other announcements has the Government made that complement the winter energy payment?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The winter energy payment is just one of the Government’s policies that will help people who are living in cold and damp homes. As part of our 100-day plan, the Government passed the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, enabling the Government to set minimum standards for the quality of rental housing. We’re currently consulting with the public on the healthy homes standards, which will cover heating, insulation, ventilation, draught-stopping, drainage, and moisture. For too long, too many Kiwis have had to deal with substandard housing that damages their health. This Government believes that every New Zealander deserves a warm, dry, healthy home to live in, and we are acting to make that a reality.
Question No. 5—Transport
5. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Is he satisfied that the capital programme and the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax proposal cannot reasonably be fully funded from sources other than a regional fuel tax; if so, why?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The capital programme in Auckland Council’s proposal for the regional fuel tax includes essential projects like Mill Road, Penlink, 200 kilometres of bus priority improvements, the Eastern Busway in the Botany electorate, and a number of new park and rides. I’m satisfied that we need to take urgent action to deal with the transport infrastructure deficit that we’ve inherited, and the regional fuel tax is the most immediate and efficient way of funding the local share of these projects. Given the second reading of the bill passed unanimously in this House last night, I’m glad that the member has finally come round.
Jami-Lee Ross: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question used the words “cannot reasonably be fully funded”. Those words are lifted from the bill. There’s a test in there that he’ll have to apply at some point, as Minister. He didn’t answer the question and answer the question using those words.
Mr SPEAKER: I was listening carefully. I think, towards the end, he did use an expression about it being the most efficient and XY approach to it. It’s not for me to judge the quality of the answer, but there was one in there.
Jami-Lee Ross: When did he ask the Mayor of Auckland if the mayor would keep his promise to find 3 to 6 percent savings in his own budget, so that $150 million could be raised without needing a regional fuel tax?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, interestingly, I have had those conversations with the mayor, and I’m happy to advise the member that including the cost savings that he refers to, Auckland Council’s core operating costs have grown over the last 10 years at an average of 2 percent—more slowly than Auckland’s population. By contrast, infrastructure investment—that is, mostly building more roads—has increased by 7.8 percent on average per year. The member cannot be seriously asking Auckland Council to cut roads to pay for other roads.
Jami-Lee Ross: Did he ask his former colleague, now the Mayor of Auckland, to find $150 million within his own budget, or was the first port of call a new tax?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I think I’ve answered that question. The member is suggesting that the funding, the $150 million a year, could be found by Auckland Council cutting its costs. The increase that he has regularly pointed to in Auckland Council’s expenditure is infrastructure investment expenditure. It makes no sense to cut infrastructure to pay for more infrastructure.
Jami-Lee Ross: Has he seen reports of the Mayor of Auckland’s promise to find 3 to 6 percent savings in his own budget, and, if so, why does he not expect the mayor to keep his promise, rather than using a fuel tax instead?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I think I’ve answered that question, but I am going to say this: we are the party of investment in growth. We want to see Auckland growing. We’re prepared to make the big decisions, to get ahead of the growth, finally, and put behind us the years of neglect that held back Auckland’s growth and prosperity and led to the population of Auckland spending hundreds of hours, every year, sitting in gridlock because that party did nothing.
Dr Deborah Russell: What effect will the capital programme and the regional fuel tax proposal have on congestion?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The projects in the capital programme for the regional fuel tax are a subset of the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, which is the largest civil construction programme in New Zealand’s history. The Auckland Transport Alignment Project is projected to keep congestion at 2016 levels, despite an increase of 300,000 people in Auckland. It will also make a massive difference to public transport travel times, incentivising more people to take advantage of more efficient and reliable services.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reports has he seen on the benefits that the projects funded by the regional fuel tax will have for the people of Botany?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, like all of Auckland, the people of the Botany electorate will benefit immensely from the projects funded by the regional fuel tax. The fuel tax allows the building of the Eastern Busway between Panmure and Botany, with stations at Pakuranga and Botany; plus, we’re building the Reeves Road flyover at the Pakuranga town centre. The Eastern Busway will more than double public transport ridership in the Botany electorate, and there are also safety improvements on Botany Road – Ti Rakau Drive, more buses between Botany and the airport, a Botany bus station, and park and ride.
Jami-Lee Ross: Is he now telling the House that he supports the Reeves Road flyover that he told Generation Zero he wouldn’t support?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I don’t believe I ever told Generation Zero that I didn’t support the road fly-over, but I will tell you this: we are supporting Mill Road and Penlink, as a result of this regional fuel tax—roading projects that that party asked for and campaigned for for nine years, and never did a damned thing about it.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why should Aucklanders have to pay through their back pockets because this Minister won’t stand up to the Mayor of Auckland and expect the mayor to keep his promises at the election? He’s looking at fuel taxes but doesn’t expect the mayor to do anything.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We are committed to investing in Auckland’s growth and prosperity, and we’re not going to engage in the kinds of white-anting and political game playing that delayed the City Rail Link by six years while that Government refused to make investments and refused to invest in Auckland’s growth.
Question No. 6—Justice
6. 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): As with yesterday, yes.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister’s comments that we are filling our prisons with low-level criminals?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Yes.
Hon Mark Mitchell: What is a low-level criminal?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: As we know, with the rapid rise in the prison population under that Government—that member’s Government; a party that did absolutely nothing to address the problem—we know that the growth in the—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Answer the question!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to interrupt the member. I actually agree with the interjection, but we should give the member a chance to do so, all right?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Sorry, Mr Speaker; do you want me to start again?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, you haven’t really started answering, so you might as well.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I thought the preface was important, Mr Speaker. We know that our prisons more recently have been filled with those not committing violent crimes but with those committing what I would describe as “street crimes”, and, in particular, with younger offenders, young male offenders, those with mental health issues, those with addiction issues, those with literacy problems—all people who have problems that, with a little bit of effort and a little bit of political will, could be fixed, and we could make them productive citizens again. That’s what this Government will do.
Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very direct question. I don’t know if the House does, or if you do, but I still have no clear idea around what a low-level of criminal is.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I heard quite a long list of groups which fell into that category.
Hon Mark Mitchell: So, taking just part of the criteria that he’s just laid out for the House, does he realise that only 2 percent of the current prison population will fit inside his own criteria that he’s just given us?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That is complete nonsense, and that member would have to provide some evidence or some back-up to that assertion. The reality is that the bulk of the growth of the prison population are those who are not committing violent offences but those who are committing offences, often consecutive convictions, but who have a bunch of problems, and a prison system that is doing its job of correcting people—because we call it a corrections system—can actually turn those people out to lower reoffending and, therefore, reduce the number of victims of crime; something that Government failed to do anything about.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Mr Speaker, I’ll provide that evidence to the Minister. Supplementary?
Mr SPEAKER: Well—[Interruption]
Hon Mark Mitchell: No, he asked for the evidence.
Mr SPEAKER: No, but you know that you don’t reply, don’t you?
Hon Mark Mitchell: I apologise, Mr Speaker. Is someone like Jade Wilson, who was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for brutally beating his girlfriend after she made a “rubbish” breakfast one of the low-level criminals he said would be placed on home detention rather than in prison?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No. That’s not correct. We know that the temptation for members opposite, because of their failure in Government, will be to try to characterise any effort to take people who are in prisons, who can be helped—[Interruption] They will try and label them at the violent end of the offending spectrum. The reality is this: our approach to criminal justice is to take those people—that chunk of the prison population whose offending is driven by a range of factors, and who, with a bit of effort, can actually be fixed. They can be changed. They can be turned into productive citizens, and, more importantly, we can reduce reoffending and have fewer victims of crime. I am stunned that members opposite are not interested in reducing reoffending and having fewer victims of crime—but they can defend themselves.
Hon Mark Mitchell: What is the percentage currently in prison of low-level criminals?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Well, I don’t have that figure, but what I do know, and what is driving all parties in this Government, is that we have a reoffending rate in our prison system of 60 percent. Now, members opposite are clearly prepared to tolerate that level of failure, but, within that 60 percent of reoffending of current inmates are more victims of crime. My objective, and my heart, goes with those people who would be the victims of those reoffending. I want to stop that happening. This Government wants to stop that happen, and we are going to do it.
Hon Mark Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very clear question. I just simply asked how many low-level criminals are currently in our prison system, and he started waffling about just about everything else but that.
Hon Grant Robertson: That question is the responsibility of the Minister of Corrections, not the Minister of Justice.
Mr SPEAKER: I will deal with that part first. This is the Minister who, I understand, is in charge of a criminal reform package which involves making decisions around a range of areas including bail and sentencing levels, and, if that is the case, he is certainly responsible for having some knowledge in the area. But, when there’s such a very specific supplementary question based on a general question, I think members can’t insist on a specific answer. So I think what I’m saying is that both members are wrong. Further supplementary Mark Mitchell?
Hon Mark Mitchell: I’m happy to take another supplementary, Mr Speaker. What plans does the Minister have in coming to this House and clearly identifying for us what a low-level criminal is?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Well, what I can say is we know that 43 percent of those in our prisons have not been convicted of crimes associated with violence. We know that many more have been convicted of crimes that have, for example, the word “assault” in their title but their conduct is not one that you would characterise as one of violence. What we do know is that we have a lot of people in prison who have mental health issues. They have addiction issues, and they have a range of other problems, and if we actually put the time and effort into it, we can actually change those people for the good, turn them out to be productive citizens, lower our reoffending rate, and have fewer victims of crime. That’s this Government’s priority.
Question No. 7—Housing and Urban Development
7. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What has been the reaction of the construction sector to the KiwiBuild Invitation to Participate?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): There has been an overwhelming response to the KiwiBuild “buying off the plans” tender. There’s no shortage of stalled developments—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! One member answering at a time.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There’s been an overwhelming response to the KiwiBuild “buying off the plans” tender. There’s clearly no shortage of stalled developments looking to build homes for first-home buyers. Almost 100 proposals have now been received from developers, which could result in the building of several thousand KiwiBuild homes. That is a bigger response than we’d hoped for and a vote of confidence in KiwiBuild.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: How will these proposals build affordable homes for Kiwi families?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, KiwiBuild will allow homes that otherwise would not be built or would be delayed to be built and built faster. It also guarantees the supply of houses young families starting out can afford. At the moment, only 5 percent of new homes are affordable for first-home buyers; KiwiBuild will underwrite or buy off the plans affordable homes that otherwise would very likely not be built.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: How will KiwiBuild address the current slow-down in building activity in Auckland?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: A recent report by Colliers said that the Auckland housing market was in a hiatus because of slowing pre-sales, rising construction costs, and high land costs. I note that Colliers said they considered a fully operative KiwiBuild is needed to really change the game.
Question No. 8—Justice
8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Justice: Does he agree with the statements by Professor Janet McLean in respect of his Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill that “The foundational principle of New Zealand’s constitution is that the government of the day may continue in office for only as long as it continues to enjoy the support of the House of Representatives” and “This bill gives a Parliamentary leader of a party (including the Prime Minister) the power to sanction MPs who by their actions indicate they intend to cross the floor of the House including in a possible vote of no confidence. This would be a serious change to the New Zealand constitution and undermine one of its central democracy-protecting mechanisms”?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): In respect of the first quote, yes. In respect of the second quote of my very good friend Professor Janet McLean, no, because the fundamental premise in that statement that a leader has those powers is wrong.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister cite any constitutional law expert who disputes Professor McLean’s key point that his bill undermines New Zealand’s parliamentary democracy and key constitutional conventions?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No, I can’t, principally because every academic and constitutional expert who has submitted on the bill has submitted on a fundamentally flawed premise that the leader has the power to remove a member of Parliament. That is not what the bill provides for, and, I hate to say it, but they are all wrong.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is the Minister so keen to quote university academics in respect of his criminal law reforms but so keen to dismiss them with respect to his electoral law changes?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I’m not quite sure what that member is referring to, but he is the one who has quoted, at length, academics on the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. But I stand by the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister have the parliamentary support for this bill, given his recent failings in coalition management over the three-strikes law?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: A sad reflection on that member—I wonder why it is that he is so concerned about MPs being kicked out of his party, but, then, that’s a matter for him and his future prospects. But no—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made no attempt to answer my question and simply chose to try and have some cheap shot at me. My question was very simple: does the Minister have the parliamentary support for the bill?
Mr SPEAKER: That wasn’t what the member asked. He had a cheap shot himself. He got one back, but the Minister will now answer the question.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The answer to the principal question is yes.
Question No. 9—Health
9. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his decisions and actions regarding the National Oracle Solution programme?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes, in their context.
Dr Shane Reti: What conflict of interest information did independent reviewers Deloitte not want the public to know when they emailed the ministry about their conflict of interest on 5 April this year, stating, “Our preference is that this information is not made public.”?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s not an area for which the Minister has responsibility.
Dr Shane Reti: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member can repeat the question or revise the question if he wants to, but right at the beginning, the Minister is not responsible for a Deloitte’s email.
Dr Shane Reti: If was from—in reply—Deloitte’s to the Ministry of Health, specifically responding to a request from the Ministry of Health around conflict of interests.
Mr SPEAKER: Can the member read it again.
Dr Shane Reti: Certainly.
Mr SPEAKER: I’ll listen to it again.
Dr Shane Reti: What conflict of interest information did independent reviewers Deloitte not want the public to know when they emailed the ministry in response to their request about their conflicts of interest on 5 April this year, stating, “Our preference is that this information is not made public.”?
Mr SPEAKER: OK, well, we’ll go to the “this information” bit.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I’m sure that I can’t speak for what Deloitte did or did not want people to know, so I’m not really sure what answer he’s looking for from me.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was no question about what Deloitte was responsible for. What is in question here is information that was to be released by the Ministry of Health that Deloitte requested should not be released, and that is something the Minister does have responsibility for.
Mr SPEAKER: I mean, that is right, but I’m not sure that’s what was asked. I’m going to ask Dr Reti to ask the question again so that we can be very focused on this, because it is an important one.
Dr Shane Reti: What conflict of interest information did independent reviewers Deloitte not want the public to know when they emailed the ministry about their conflict of interest on 5 April this year in response to the ministry’s request, stating, “Our preference is that this information is not made public.”?
Mr SPEAKER: I’m now going to say that I accept the earlier answer. There is no indication in that question and no evidence that we’re talking about a specific group of official information. That has not been established.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The purpose of this line of questioning is to build on answers that the Minister of Health has already given to the House in previous oral questions, and that is that because Deloitte declared a conflict of interest, there is no problem. Now, the member is trying to drill into why it is, in that circumstance, that certain information which would establish the clarity of the conflict has not been released. I think, to the degree that the Minister has already answered in that way, it is within the Standing Orders to continue to probe that line of questioning.
Mr SPEAKER: What I am saying is that in the second of the three attempts, the Minister did address the question, and in any of the attempts, previously or now, no one has established, to my knowledge, anything to do with an Official Information Act request—well, something that the ministry wanted to release, which has been alleged by Dr Reti or Mr Brownlee—being turned down. That has not been established in the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What you’ve just suggested may well be a question; I accept that. But the point here is that Dr Reti has in his possession an email from Deloitte and he is simply asking the question of the Minister: “What were they requesting should not be released?” Now, you don’t have to have official information about that. If we had that, we’d already know. It’s the purpose of coming to the House and asking a Minister a question. The Minister of Health has previously stood here and said, “Nothing to see, nothing to look at—no problem here.” There is quite clearly a problem now that this email has come to light.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I don’t want to get into the substance of the answer, which I think the member’s inviting me to do, and I think he might know that it is a standard practice when information from private companies is to be released that there’s notice given of it. But what the Minister responsible has told us is that she doesn’t know what the member’s talking about, and that’s the problem. Further supplementary, Dr Shane Reti.
Dr Shane Reti: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: You’ve only used one so far with all of this.
Dr Shane Reti: Thank you. Will the Minister endeavour to find out exactly what information Deloitte did not want to make public in the email of 5 April this year?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: It is of interest to this Government that there isn’t a conflict of interest or that any conflict of interest, real or perceived, is managed appropriately. The Ministry of Health is aware that there could be a perceived conflict of interest that could’ve been managed better, but the real issue here is that this Government had to commission an independent report as quickly as possible because the last Government mismanaged an IT project of over $100 million of taxpayer money. That is—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, you’ve been very quick to stop questions when they start to stray into political territory. You’ve been quite firm on Mr Twyford today and, indeed, Mr Little as well. That member is resorting to just straight out political attack because there apparently is no answer to the question “Will she endeavour”—or “Will he”, in this case; the Minister—”endeavour to find out what the information is that Deloitte did not want released?” It was a simple question, and it could be answered yes or no. I know we can’t expect a yes or no answer; we certainly didn’t expect that tirade at the end of her in-explanation.
Hon Julie Anne Genter: There is no way that the public would not be interested in the reason why we commissioned an independent report of Deloitte, and trying to draw a bow of some imagined conflict of interest is pretty ridiculous. Let’s just shoot it home to the real reason we’re doing the report.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m not sure that that was that helpful. But I will say to Mr Brownlee that if his colleagues weren’t interjecting I think it’s quite possible that the Minister wouldn’t have been diverted onto such a long response. [Interruption] Order! Order! Paula Bennett will stand, withdraw and apologise.
Hon Paula Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.
Dr Shane Reti: If it is an imaginary conflict of interest, when the Minister replied in written question No. 6360 saying that, “none of the reviewers have had any involvement in the National Oracle Solution programme”, how does he explain Deloitte’s Thorsten Engel being an independent reviewer when Deloitte reveals in Official Information Act (OIA) documents that Thorsten Engel also organised workshops on the programme in 2011?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The project didn’t exist in 2011, and that is why we can say with confidence that none of the reviewers had any involvement in the National Oracle Solutions programme or even the preceding one. Yes it is the case that Thorsten Engel ran some workshops in 2011 for the Health Benefits Ltd which no longer exists, but that is not really a substantive input into the National Oracle Solutions programme, obviously.
Hon Grant Robertson: Can the Minister inform us how much money has been spent on the National Oracle Solution programme and what has that delivered?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The cost of the National Oracle Solution programme blew out to over $100 million under the previous Government. Thus far it hasn’t delivered any results, and that is why this Government has commissioned an independent review to try and get some oversight over the project.
Dr Shane Reti: How can Deloitte be independent reviewers and not reviewing their own work when OIA documents show part of the independent review contract was, “assess the solution is designed and built”, and yet in 2013 Deloitte was paid for, “design and build support”?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: As I understand it, Deloitte was very clear, and the member should well know this because we’ve released the consultancy services order to him. They were very clear about any potential conflict of interest and they explained how they would manage it. But the real issue here is we’re waiting for a final report on an independent review of a project that was $100 million of taxpayer money that hasn’t delivered any results.
Question No. 10—Small Business
10. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister for Small Business: What recent announcements has he made in relation to e-invoicing?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister for Small Business): As part of Budget 2018 I announced new operating funding of $5.8 million over two years to support the e-invoicing project. E-invoicing is the ability to directly exchange an invoice document between a supplier’s and a buyer’s online accounting software. E-invoicing is a significant modernisation of the way we do business which is a priority for this Government.
Tamati Coffey: How does e-invoicing advance the trans-Tasman single economic market agenda?
Hon STUART NASH: Good question. In March of this year, our Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Australia committed to advancing work on a common approach as to e-invoicing as part of the trans-Tasman single economic market agenda. I’ve been working with Australian Ministers—the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services; the Hon Craig Laundy, Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace\ and Deregulation; and the New South Wales Minister of Finance, the Hon Victor Dominello—to progress this work. The commitment by the Australian Government and our Government confirms that we are on track to fundamentally change the way Government to business and business to business connections are made.
Hon Members: Good work!
Hon STUART NASH: Thank you.
Tamati Coffey: So what advice has the Minister seen on the benefits of e-invoicing?
Hon STUART NASH: Another good question. E-invoicing creates economic benefits through faster payments and reduced transaction costs. My officials advise me, based on comparable Australian research, that they estimate that a 15 percent uptake of e-invoicing by New Zealand businesses and Government agencies could save up to $500 million a year—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: How much?
Hon STUART NASH: —$500 million, Mr Brownlee. It’s a lot of money—it’s a lot of money. E-invoicing can deliver significant productivity improvements and savings from fewer invoice errors and less time spent resolving errors.
Hon Shane Jones: Can the Minister explain how long this has been in gestation and why does he think it never happened prior to his arrival?
Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered.
Hon STUART NASH: Well, what I can say is this is the first Government to fund this initiative, and the reason we have funded it is because it’s vitally important that we drive business productivity right across the sector.
Question No. 11—Land Information
11. Hon DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister for Land Information: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister for Land Information): Yes, in the context in which my statements were made and my actions were taken.
Hon David Bennett: What were the compelling factors in convincing her to allow the purchase of land near Whakatāne by a Chinese water bottling plant, and can we expect that future applications will be similarly granted by the Minister?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The factors are set out in sections 16 and 17 of the Overseas Investment Act. They are things like increased export receipts and things like increased jobs. Cresswell NZ Ltd was proposing an additional 60 jobs in Whakatāne and $42.5 million in investment.
Hon David Bennett: Has she taken to Cabinet any proposals to change the criteria that left her with no choice but to support that application?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: As the member will be aware, this Government is changing the Overseas Investment Act to make it fairer for New Zealanders. We are doing that to prevent overseas speculators buying our houses, and Mr Parker, who is leading the policy on that, has on the agenda other changes and a review of the Act.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very straight and simple question: has she taken to Cabinet any proposals? We did not get that addressed at all.
Mr SPEAKER: It was certainly addressed and it was made very clear the Minister in charge has it as an agenda item.
Hon David Bennett: What is the Minister’s timeline for taking proposals to Cabinet that could see bottles of New Zealand’s highest-quality water subject to some royalty on their product?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: That is not an area I have ministerial responsibility for. Minister Parker is leading that work as environment Minister.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Once again, she refused to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I’m slightly flabbergasted. It was a very clear response: I am not the Minister responsible for this; Mr Parker is. I don’t think that could be much clearer.
Hon David Bennett: Has the Minister discussed with the Minister of Trade and Export Growth how the overseas investment criteria could be changed to implement core Green Party policy to impose an immediate moratorium on new bottling?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I am confident that the Minister who has responsibility for that issue of water bottling is looking at all the issues, and we will have discussions.
Marama Davidson: Was the Minister able to consider the environmental impacts of taking the water when she made this decision?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: That is not a matter that the Minister for Land Information can take into account under the Overseas Investment Act; it is a matter that is considered under the Resource Management Act. The Bay of Plenty Regional Council notified its application.
Marama Davidson: Was she able to take into account Te Tiriti concerns and the opposition of mana whenua when making this decision?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The application concerned the purchase of sensitive land under the Overseas Investment Act. That Act limits the issues that can be considered. I considered those issues, and I wasn’t able to take those concerns into account.
Hon David Bennett: I’d just like to table a document from the—
Mr SPEAKER: You mean you want to seek leave.
Hon David Bennett: I seek leave to table a document from the Green Party co-leader, saying “We don’t like this decision.”
Mr SPEAKER: What document, Mr Bennett?
Hon David Bennett: It’s a news report.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, Mr Bennett. I have indicated to members previously that attempts to table documents which they know Speakers have repeatedly stopped even taking the leave of the House for was disorderly. This is the final warning for members on that issue.
Questions No. 6 to Minister
Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought we were finished for the day with question time, but can I take a point of order. I’m actually seeking leave to table a copy of an answer provided by the corrections Minister’s office on 22 March—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It’s not an answer to a parliamentary question, is it?
Hon MARK MITCHELL: Yes, it is.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, sit down.
Question No. 12—Housing and Urban Development
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 14—question no. 12. It just feels like 14.
12. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What steps is the Ministry of Social Development taking to ensure community housing providers, including marae, are able to access funding for transitional and emergency housing for people who are homeless this winter?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has announced a $100 million investment to tackle homelessness. The Ministry of Social Development is proactively reaching out to the housing sector, to community organisations, to marae, and to the general public, encouraging them to approach the ministry with any opportunities to provide more housing for people in need this winter. One hundred and sixty-four people have come forward since the Prime Minister made that call, and now 44 households have a place to stay over winter that is warm, dry, and safe that otherwise would not have. That includes three seasonal worker accommodation facilities in Hawke’s Bay that were empty during winter and are now providing accommodation for 27 families.
Marama Davidson: Given we know there are still too many people struggling to find affordable, warm, safe housing this winter—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot start a question with a statement. So the member must start with a question, which generally means a question word, and without a statement. Thank you.
Marama Davidson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Is he confident that the funding is sufficient to provide adequate housing for those who need it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We’re doing everything possible to ensure that everyone has a roof over their heads. The $100 million investment package that was announced will fully fund programmes that were promised under the former Government but not properly funded. It will extend emergency and transitional housing and extend the Housing First programme for dealing with chronic homelessness. We are doing everything we can to ensure that no one this winter needs to be sleeping in a car.
Marama Davidson: Is the Minister on track to meet the target of 1,500 extra transitional public and Housing First places by the end of this winter?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Since the start of this year, the Government’s been doing everything we possibly can to bring on more housing supply. Since the start of the year, an additional 542 transitional and public housing places have been brought on board, and I want to note the special contribution made by iwi and marae. They have come forward since early May, and of the more than 160 contacts that we’ve had, there have been six from iwi groups and marae who have offered accommodation.

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