Parliament: Questions and Answers – June 20

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and policies?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can the Prime Minister say it is “unadulterated rubbish” that the new Auckland regional fuel tax and national excise tax will increase costs for an average family by up to $700 a year, when it’s calculated on the Government’s own website figures of suburban Auckland families’ travel and 25c per litre, which is what the Government is legislating for?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: To begin with, to even make that calculation, given the number of people who live in Auckland, is extraordinary if that member is relying upon it. The second thing—
Hon Grant Robertson: It’s $5 a week for the average family.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes, it’s $5 a week for the average family, but here’s the real point: last night, in this House, every member over there was shouting out for a regional tax for their own region whilst opposing Auckland’s.
Hon Simon Bridges: When the Prime Minister said yesterday “every sane, sound economist” disputes that the regional fuel tax and excise tax increases will increase costs on Auckland families by hundreds of dollars, can she name one?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister—who was on fire yesterday, I might add—can I say that we’ve done the equations on the costs to families under the previous regime’s rule and under ours, and it’s a dramatic improvement for families today.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is the reality that when the Prime Minister said yesterday every “sane, sound economist” disputes the hundreds of dollars, she was talking arrant poppycock?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What we heard yesterday was an extraordinary statement. For example, what we heard yesterday was that we were going to get $1,000 per year tax cuts for New Zealanders and families, right?
Hon Simon Bridges: You voted for them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no. That’s what—
Mr SPEAKER: The member—the Deputy Prime Minister will resume his seat. I think three times yesterday, the member was subject to warnings for exactly the same thing, and it is a matter, as I’ve said, of showing some leadership in the application of the rules in the House, and I expect him to do it.
Darroch Ball: No surprises there.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Let me say—
Mr SPEAKER: No, resume your seat. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Darroch Ball: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: And the National Party get two extra supplementaries.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yesterday, there was a claim—and he made it—that $1,000 per year tax cuts equals $40 per week. That suffers from some basic arithmetic. If you, for example, divide 1,000 by 52—that’s the number of weeks in a year—you get $19.23, and not $40.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does the Prime Minister stand by her position yesterday that her Government’s policies will lower rents?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: How on earth can she say that when her own Government advisers estimate rents have already increased an average of $23 per week since she’s been in office, and when additional taxes such as the brightline test and the ban on negative gearing will inevitably be passed on to renters this term?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because for the last six months, we have been setting out policies that are now going to be rolled out and implemented that will arrest nine years of decay and neglect, and then when you compare rents, you compare it with earnings as well, and that’s why we’re able to make the claim we’re making.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why, as she said yesterday, is the New Zealand Herald at least to some extent incorrect to report that the cost of fruit and vegetables is set to rise because of higher fuel prices, increasing minimum wages, and increased costs of rent?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I just say that anticipated price rises of food are not a result of the policies and actions of this Government—a fact that was identified by the very authors of the Otago University report which the member based his false assumptions on.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, how can Retail New Zealand be wrong when it said last week in that New Zealand Herald report “There are cost pressures across the board, it’s pretty much everything that is likely to be impacted, … Fuel prices, and therefore freight and transport costs, the increase to minimum wage and rising property prices are expected to push up the cost of goods.”, and aren’t at least some of those factors absolutely because of Government policies?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Every day, every week, every month, and every year, we’ve had that for the last 50 years. The real issue is what are the Government’s policies to address them, and he put his finger on one of them when he talked about the increase in wages.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Prime Minister really seriously trying to tell us that the increases in fuel prices that are coming from taxes being passed in the House this week by the Government, that the increases in rental costs that her policies absolutely have a significant effect on, and that other cost increases such as significant minimum wage increases are having no effect on costs on hard-working Kiwi families?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, who has always been serious, can I just say that the member’s neglecting, for example, the Families Package, which will put $75 per week in the hands of 385,000 families or, for example, GP visits for 600,000 New Zealanders by up to $30 in terms of assistance, and, dare I say it, every child under 14 years of age getting free doctors visits as a result of this Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why does she believe, as she said yesterday, that GDP will be higher than forecast when the numbers are released tomorrow?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I say she’s been patient, and he should be patient and wait one more day.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can we just confirm the Prime Minister definitely thinks that the GDP figures will be higher than forecast tomorrow?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I just say, no such statement was made. And let me say it very slowly: unlike the gloom-and-doom merchants over there, the sharemarket is the highest this country has ever seen, and, dare I say it, it is the best performer in the world. Those are real indicators, not the blind jealousy and envy of people denied power rightfully.
Question No. 2—Finance
2. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the statements and policies of this Government regarding New Zealand’s economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in their appropriate context.
Hon Amy Adams: Why is he showing no concern that Treasury’s forecast average GDP growth over the next two years has dropped by now half a percent since the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update, which means $2.7 billion less in our economy, or for him is any growth figure above zero good enough?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What we are seeing is that the consensus forecasts, as released by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research at the beginning of the week, are in line with the Budget forecast. It is true that GDP levels were forecast to slow from the beginning of 2017, a period of time in which the member asking the question was in Government. They have slowed somewhat. We’ve been very open about the fact that it will take time to turn the economy around from one based on speculation, as overseen by the previous Government, to one based on productivity and sustainability, as overseen by this Government.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, given that last answer, does he stand by his statement that this Government won’t be relying on population growth for our economic growth when GDP per capita forecasts have worsened since he took office and actual GDP growth per capita flat-lined in the last quarter to just 0.1 percent?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As we’ve said from day one, it will take time to turn around nine years of basing economic growth on population growth and housing speculation. As the policies of this Government roll out—to improve investment in R & D, lift skills in the economy, and get better trade agreements—we will see growth based on productive growth, not the previous Government’s approach.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with Statistics New Zealand’s statement today that the current account deficit is, and I quote, “an important indicator of the economy’s health” when they today reported that we now have the largest current account deficit since the 2008 global financial crisis?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The current account deficit does fluctuate from time to time, and it was largely in line with expectations—2.8 percent of GDP in the year ended March 2018 compared with 2.7 percent of GDP in 2017. That’s not the kind of difference the member should be getting worried about; the kind of difference she should be getting worried about is people having $75 per week extra in their pocket, knowing that this Government is delivering to them.
Hon Amy Adams: On what date was the public-private partnership (PPP) contract to build Waikeria Prison that he referred to in question time last Thursday signed?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don’t have that specific information with me. What I am aware of is that the PPP contract for Waikeria Prison was in place and that breaking it would’ve cost significant sums of money to this Government, given that the contract had been earlier signed. Variations to the contract may well have been signed since then, but the overall break fees for the original contract signed by the previous Government would have been substantial.
Question No. 3—Finance
3. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: Will this Government’s Families Package support low- and middle-income families; if so, how?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes. The Government’s Families Package, most of which will come into effect on 1 July, will provide targeted income assistance to boost the incomes of middle and low income families, particularly by increasing the Working for Families tax credits and raising the abatement threshold, introducing a Best Start payment of $60 per week to assist families during the critical first few years of life, and increasing paid parental leave to 26 weeks. When rolled out fully, Mr Speaker, as I’m sure you’re aware, 385,000 families with children will be better off by an average of $75 per week.
Dr Duncan Webb: What specific examples can the Minister provide of families that will be better off under this package?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Once these changes begin to take effect on 1 July, a majority of Kiwi families with children will be pleased to see their incomes rise. For example, a Hamilton couple with a six-month-old and a four-year-old earning $65,000 a year will see their income rise by $63.87 a week from 1 July this year. Once the package is fully rolled out, from 1 July 2020, a family in that same situation would be $123.87 per week better off. The Families Package represents a major step in delivering meaningful improvements to the lives of New Zealanders, in particular our children.
Dr Duncan Webb: Has the Government received any feedback from people who will benefit from these changes?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: People have already begun to write in to us and to say what this package means to them. One woman who contacted the Prime Minister’s office said this: “It is more than money; it is that someone actually has validated our existence and seen that we are not victims, that life has just played a curly hand. Thank you, Jacinda and your team, for caring. It has given me such a motivation to get well and back to being a proud and productive citizen of New Zealand.”
Question No. 4—Health
4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his answer yesterday when he said “I reject the premise of that question” when asked why he allowed “his office to put pressure on the CEO of the Counties Manukau DHB not to release documents that would have contradicted his own public statements”; if so, how does he reconcile that with the Counties Manukau DHB CEO emailing board members saying “unfortunately we are under some pressure from the Minister’s office about what we can and cannot say”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and in response to the second leg of the member’s question, I’m not responsible for what the acting CEO of the Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB) does and doesn’t say.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did he damage the reputations of the Counties Manukau District Health Board chair and CEO by putting them in a position where his office pressured them not to respond when he was told in text messages and phone calls repeatedly that his public statements were wrong?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I did not damage the reputation of those people.
Jami-Lee Ross: When Rabin Rabindran texted him and said, “I take strong exception to the connection between the state of the buildings and your knowledge of them and my removal from the board, which is damaging my reputation”, why did he not publicly apologise, then, to Rabin Rabindran?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Ministers appoint the chairs of DHBs. That is the Minister’s prerogative. I appointed a chair that I believe has the right skill set to address the nine years of neglect that that DHB has suffered—the nine years in which we got rot and mould in the walls of the buildings. That will take a long time to repair, and I have the job, as Minister, to select the team that I think will best be able to address that historical legacy of underfunding in the health sector.
Jami-Lee Ross: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don’t believe the Minister did answer my question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think he did.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did his draft press release announcing the sacking of Rabin Rabindran further damage his reputation by stating the decision had come “after revelations about the state of some of Middlemore’s buildings”, when he told Rabin Rabindran privately that Middlemore Hospital’s issues had happened before Mr Rabindran’s time?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’ve been absolutely explicit that the reason for Mr Rabindran’s departure was not due to anything about his performance; it was due to the historical situation we inherited of underfunding. That is what we needed to have refreshed leadership about. The other point I’d make to the House is that that was a draft press release, not released into the public except by that member opposite.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did he have his office draft the press release after his voicemail message to Rabin Rabindran attempting to gag him from speaking publicly and, at the same time, offering to appoint him to further positions?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the idea that Mr Rabindran was ever gagged, and I would also note that the DHB fronted media regularly, both with statements and with interviews.
Jami-Lee Ross: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order, Jami-Lee Ross—with a bit of a warning.
Jami-Lee Ross: I seek leave to table a draft press release from the Hon Dr David Clark around the changes at Counties Manukau District Health Board which contains the statements that I just read out.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A draft press release that wasn’t released is not a press release.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that’s almost certainly true, but it’s also not a point of order.
Jami-Lee Ross: I seek leave to table a transcript of a voice mail message given to Rabin Rabindran by Dr David Clark on 18 April at 2.24 p.m.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to ask—I mean, I know it’s a transcript that I have seen—is it in general circulation?
Jami-Lee Ross: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, has the member released it to the media or anything like that?
Jami-Lee Ross: A transcript hasn’t been released by me to the media.
Hon Chris Hipkins: It’s been published in the paper.
Mr SPEAKER: I don’t know that that’s absolutely the case. I will put it to the House. Is there any objection to that being tabled? Yes there is.
Jami-Lee Ross: I seek leave to table the Microsoft Word document properties of that draft press release, which shows it was created on 18 April at 2.53 p.m.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled. There appears to be none. It may be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Question No. 5—Health
5. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, in the context they were made and taken.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he stand by his answer to media this morning? When asked, “Did the Ministry of Health give you an indication of what the DHBs were looking for?”, he answered, “We did.”
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’m not quite clear—I appreciate the member’s quoting back to me what his question is. Is he asking: did we get an indication from the district health boards (DHBs) of what they were after? In which case, I would answer that the work that Ministers do in setting the Budget is done with the Ministry of Health, who look at what they believe the demographics look like, where the cost pressures sit, and we prepare an answer on that basis and a Budget on that basis
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Interesting answer, but it didn’t address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I’ll get the member—because it was a little bit unclear, because it was a partial quote—to ask it again.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he stand by the answer he gave to media this morning? When asked, “Did the Ministry of Health give you an indication of what the DHBs were looking for?”, he answered, “We did.”
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: In the respect that the Ministry of Health works off demographic pressures and so on and supplied information that DHBs hold about their area, there’s ongoing conversations. But I’m not quite sure where the member’s heading with this.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m taking that as a yes, probably.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: On the basis of “yes, probably.” does he also stand by his comment “District health boards this year needed at least $650 million to stand still, but they’re over $200 million short of what they need.”,—
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the honourable member is referring to statements made a long time ago, not in my responsibility as a Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, we might get to that point. If it was a quote from before the member was a Minister, there are ways of getting it in, but the approach taken by the member so far doesn’t.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: May I rephrase the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Um—
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I didn’t get to finish it.
Mr SPEAKER: Fair enough. If the member had finished it and not got there, he would have used it up if it was ruled out, but I’ll let him have another go.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: To the Minister, are there statements he has made prior to obtaining his ministerial warrant that he no longer stands by?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is out of order. He has no responsibility for them.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: To the Minister, is he satisfied that district health boards were adequately funded in Budget 2018 when the amount of new money given to them was more than $200 million less than he himself said they needed?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the last part of the statement, and, in answer to the first, yes.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he stand by his statement that “My job as Minister of Health is to defend the interests of the patient.”, and how is pending strike action by nurses in the interests of those patients?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am here as health Minister to defend the interests of the public patient. That is my priority as Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister give us the secret of his success with respect to his negotiations with the Minister of Finance, having inherited, when he got the job as Minister of Health, nearly every district health board with a massive debt?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I can’t reveal too much about the Budget process, but I am delighted that health got such a big chunk of the Budget and the largest increase in a decade, because it was so long neglected under that Government—run down. Those people let the staff exist in a situation of underfunding where the staff were more and more stretched and the pressure went on. The health system deserves to be supported adequately so it can deliver the services that New Zealanders would expect, and I’m proud that we’ve done that in this Budget.
Question No. 6—Revenue
6. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Revenue: What recent announcements has he made in relation to cracking down on non-compliance in the tax system?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue): This coalition Government is committed to creating more fairness in the tax system. Budget 2018 gives Inland Revenue $31.3 million of operating spending over the next four years to improve tax compliance. Of this, $23.5 million will be dedicated to a targeted campaign, ensuring that outstanding company-tax returns are filed, and $3 million will be used to analyse the potential legislative opportunities. This is expected to recover approximately $183 million, or a return on investment of $6 for every $1 spent.
Hon Grant Robertson: Oh, well done.
Hon STUART NASH: Thank you.
Dr Deborah Russell: What advice has he received around the scale of non-compliance in the tax system?
Hon STUART NASH: IRD officials have informed me that companies currently have over 100,000 returns outstanding, and recent research by Inland Revenue and Victoria University estimates that the average under-reporting of self-employed and contractual work is at 20 percent on average, or around $800 million per year. This is simply not fair on all those hard-working Kiwis who comply with their tax obligations and pay their fair share of tax.
Dr Deborah Russell: What measures is the Government undertaking to support compliance, in addition to cracking down on non-compliance?
Hon STUART NASH: Hand in hand with measures to encourage compliance, the Government knows it needs to do more to simplify the tax system. The Business Transformation programme provides these opportunities to get things right from the start—for example, taxpayers now have the ability to enter into instalment arrangements online instead of calling the IRD, and, for individual taxpayers, we are also making progress to eliminate the burden of secondary tax.
Question No. 7—Housing and Urban Development
7. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by all his statements and policies regarding evicting anti-social Housing New Zealand tenants?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes. In particular, I stand by my statement that “people all over this country of different persuasions and colours and tendencies all live together in diverse communities” and “This Government is not going to engage in the kind of vile demonising of State house tenants and stereotyping … to try and stigmatise people”.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he stand by his statement that “Housing New Zealand is a landlord … they’re not the police.”?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I do.
Hon Judith Collins: If a Housing New Zealand tenant complains that their neighbouring, gang-affiliated Housing New Zealand tenant is selling methamphetamine, what action will Housing New Zealand take?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Housing New Zealand works with the police and other agencies to help make our communities safer, and if people have concerns about their safety or suspect illegal behaviour, Housing New Zealand encourages them to contact the police. The good news is that there are now more police on the beat, following years of cuts under that former Minister.
Hon Judith Collins: What obligations does he, as the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, have to keep Housing New Zealand tenants who are living within the law safe in their homes if they have intimidating behaviour from their neighbouring tenants?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: My view about this is that Housing New Zealand has an obligation to be not only a good landlord but a good neighbour, and that antisocial behaviour should not be tolerated in Housing New Zealand tenants or, in fact, in any tenants and in any neighbours. But this is a complex issue, and Housing New Zealand’s policy tries to strike a balance between being a good neighbour and sustaining tenancies. Evictions, as that member seems to advocate, should be an extreme, last resort. Our Government does not share the previous Government’s enthusiasm for throwing people out on the street.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What is the Minister’s view of Housing New Zealand’s announcement that it will help tenants with alcohol or addiction problems?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I thank the member for that question. I’m glad that Housing New Zealand is now helping those who have problems with alcohol and addiction, rather than throwing them and their children out on the street. Making tenants and their children homeless doesn’t make their problems disappear; it’s only likely to make things worse for them and society. The Prime Minister said that this Government brings kindness back, and I’m happy that Housing New Zealand is embracing that.
Hon Judith Collins: Why does he agree with his Housing New Zealand chief executive, Andrew McKenzie, who said, last week, in relation to antisocial and criminal tenants: “So our objective is to keep them in the house.”?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Housing New Zealand has a range of options for dealing with these kinds of situations, and the exchange that the member was talking about was about the idea of moving neighbours on, and I would have thought that would be an extreme, last resort. And while we should not be tolerating antisocial behaviour in public housing or anywhere else, we should also not be tolerating the kind of demonising and stereotyping that that member routinely engages with.
Mr SPEAKER: There is no question No. 8.
Question No. 9—Regional Economic Development
9. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement to the House last week, “Fonterra cannot wander around making advertisements, such as they did this year, drawing on the countryside and the personalities of country people and not expect the ‘champion of the country’ to hold them accountable”?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): In response to the question, the word “champion” is a verb and a noun, and I am delivering it by deed and by word.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Was he speaking in a personal capacity at the time he made that statement to the House?
Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat: I will remain an avid defender of the standards of accountability. Unlike that member, I will not be sucked in by this corporate-based pecuniary prattle, smooth tongue, and what I said, I owned.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I probably should have ruled the question out. I mean, it is absolutely obvious that if a member makes a statement in the House in response to a question, as a Minister, then he is speaking as a Minister.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he reconcile his response in the House with the statements of the Prime Minister, who repeatedly said that his comments regarding Fonterra were made in a personal capacity—”end of story”?
Hon SHANE JONES: Just to remind the House, those candid remarks were made to an audience organised by KPMG, where we were told it was Chatham House Rules. And then, when I returned to the House, obviously someone associated with the National Party leaked those remarks to the press gallery. And as befits a plain-speaking, forthright advocate, champion, citizen of the provinces, I own what I said.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told the House last Thursday, the day after the Prime Minister had asserted that his comments about Fonterra’s leadership were made in his personal capacity, “I stand by my remarks in terms of accountability [they] should be shown by failing corporate governance culture at the highest levels of our largest company, and if the cab doesn’t suit then shanks’s pony is just as good”, was he intentionally setting out to make the Prime Minister look weak?
Hon SHANE JONES: My style is strong and forthright; however, nothing that I have said, done, or am contemplating to do is designed to undermine the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, or indeed the Deputy Prime Minister, soon to be the Prime Minister. And I think what the member needs to understand, it was a rapidly changing narrative. It started where I was invited as the “champion of the country”, I gave the remarks to an adoring audience, and I said them to the face of the chairman of Fonterra, not behind his back, like other people on that side of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen the supportive comments of the New Zealand Herald writer Fran O’Sullivan, and why would it be that she is allowed to see the common sense of the argument about Fonterra’s lack of accountability but the National Party can’t?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! [Interruption] Well, you know I am allowed to make my own rulings. The member can answer the first part of the question but not the last.
Hon SHANE JONES: The journalist referred to is a highly respected, well-versed, leading writer about matters of governance and accountability, and I’ve got every confidence when she congratulates my call for accountability she speaks truth to power.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So have I got the sequence right? The Prime Minister told him off for attacking corporate leaders; then he did it again; then she said he was only speaking in a personal capacity, not as a Minister; then the Minister rode over that fig leaf in a steamroller and repeated those statements in the House—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m now going to ask the member to very quickly come to a question that doesn’t have the level of embellishment—even if the fig leaf embellishment he used is a small one.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, I started with the question, Mr Speaker. The question was—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member started with the question, has he finished?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, no, because I was continuing the question and I haven’t got to the end of it.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, right, get to the end quickly.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, I’ll start again if I—
Mr SPEAKER: No. No. Does the member have a further supplementary?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: No. I haven’t finished this particular question.
Mr SPEAKER: No. No. You have.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, I’ll let him answer it then.
Hon SHANE JONES: The member obviously doesn’t understand the reproductive cycle. This was a story where seeds were planted in an audience full of farmers and their grandees. It changed. At what point he missed the impregnation, I’m not sure.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I could see that throughout that question you were asking yourself whether or not it should progress or otherwise and what was right and what was wrong. You at one point said that you thought the simple question about whether he was acting in a personal or ministerial capacity was irrelevant, because, clearly if he’d spoke about it in the House, he was acting ministerially. I wonder if you might consider asking the “provincial champion” to provide some sort of timetable for when he is acting personally and when he is acting as a Minister? Because our understanding is that Ministers are at all times Ministers, and when they are invited to speak somewhere as a Minister, they are accountable as a Minister for what they say.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, there is no other authority than the member’s former leader John Key, who made the very distinction which everyone else got but Gerry didn’t.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, now the Deputy Prime Minister will stand up and address the honourable member for Ilam in the appropriate manner.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, which the honourable member for Ilam didn’t get.
Mr SPEAKER: Right, now, what—[Interruption]—no. I’m—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, hang on. We’re dealing with a point of order and someone makes a contribution on it. Everyone’s got to understand it. What circumstance is the Deputy Prime Minister referring to? Because there was a long discussion in this House where someone can be considered a party leader, and the Speaker will remember those long discussions some time back. That has been a long-held tenet in this country that if someone is doing something as a party leader, that’s separate from their other roles, but a Minister is always a Minister as long as they hold the warrant.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The former Prime Minister, Mr Key, said that he was not always acting as a Prime Minister and he gave examples such as when he was put the putting the cat out. So the very principle that that member outlaid to the House just doesn’t stand.
Mr SPEAKER: Right. I want to thank both members for their contributions. I think they have highlighted something which is an important issue and one which I think in New Zealand we haven’t quite got our heads around. I was reminded earlier today of some comments, I think, attributed to the honourable Mr Finlayson when he referred to the Roman habit of indicating whether or not senators were on duty—whether they were acting as senators—via the colour of their toga. It mightn’t have been Mr Finlayson, but in those days it was very clear whether or not people were acting as Ministers or not. [Interruption] Amy Adams—
Hon Amy Adams: Sorry.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, we have had in this House some quite long discussions, I think, without any real conclusion as to when people are Ministers and when they are members and when they are acting in private capacities. It is clear that Ministers do at times act in all three different capacities. Clearly, there are things which they do, especially those who are constituency members, which they’re not doing as Ministers; they’re doing on behalf of constituents, and that is clear. There have been a number of examples given by Mr Key—I think putting out the cat was one of them. I think there were some others which weren’t quite as repeatable in the House—and we wouldn’t want to get into them in the House—which were done in a personal capacity rather than in a ministerial capacity. So it has been accepted by the House previously that there are occasions where, effectively, the ministerial hat is taken off and people act in a personal capacity. But what I’m not certain of—and maybe we need to have a discussion at Standing Orders at some stage is to get things a bit more codified so members can better understand these things.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That process will be a good one, but it’s a long process, as you’re aware. In this case, Mr Jones was at a function, invited to speak, because he is a Minister. At no point, as far as we know, did he say, “Look, I’m happy to speak, but I’m speaking to you in a private capacity.”, and if he was speaking in a private capacity, then clearly the criticisms he could make could stand, but certainly would not have got the publicity they did as result of his making those statements. So I think some sort of interim ruling from you about what is in and what is out as far as Ministers acting would be useful for the scrutiny of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: I will see if I can get my head around the issue.
Question No. 10—Employment
10. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Employment: What recent announcements has he made about young people not engaged in education, employment, or training?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): On 1 June in Northland, I announced $4.4 million in funding to three community-led initiatives in Te Tai Tokerau that will support rangatahi into industry-related training and employment pathways that are underpinned by pastoral care. In the past few months, I have announced funding for seven He Poutama Rangatahi initiatives in Te Tai Rāwhiti, Te Tai Tokerau, and Ōpōtiki—some of the regions in New Zealand with the highest levels of young people not earning or learning. This represents a financial commitment of up to $6.75 million over the next two years.
Tamati Coffey: Why was that particular announcement significant?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: The announcement is significant as it represents a shift in the paradigm in funding in that we are partnering with communities who’ve identified the issues and establish solutions with a community-centric focus. This is dedicated funding, the first of its kind to address the gaps that our young people are facing. These regions have been clearly underfunded for the past nine years, and this is part of this Government’s commitment to show we care about the ongoing success of young New Zealanders.
Tamati Coffey: What other announcement has the Minister made or will make about young people not earning or learning?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: As part of Budget 2018, this Government announced that just under $14 million has been set aside to tackle the number of rangatahi Māori who are not earning or learning and who come from our urban centres. The news gets even better, as this Friday in the Hawke’s Bay I’ll be making even further He Poutama Rangatahi announcements to a community committed to the ongoing success of their young people, and this Government is backing them all the way.
Question No. 11—State Services
11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of State Services: What advice, if any, has he received about accommodation for Government departments?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of State Services): I have received a range of advice about accommodation for Government departments in my capacity as the Minister of State Services with functional lead for Government property. This has included updates on the Wellington accommodation project phases one and two, and other opportunities to reduce the overhead cost associated with Government departmental accommodation.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it appropriate for a Government department to share offices with a member of Parliament?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’m advised that a story in a local newspaper has made that suggestion and that that story is not true and that a correction has been requested.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was it appropriate for the Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities to state in a story that the Department of Internal Affairs’ Office of Ethnic Affairs would be shared with a Labour list MP?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think the member didn’t listen to my last answer. The story in the local paper was incorrect and a correction has been requested.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it appropriate for parliamentary under-secretaries and list MPs to misrepresent their political parliamentary office—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has given two denials and has stated in the House—and it’s on his word and his integrity’s at stake when he says that—that this matter has been corrected and that there’s going to be a media statement to that effect. Despite that, this member has kept the same line of questioning as though the denial was never made in the first place, and he should be stopped because now he’s impugning a member of this House without any grounds whatsoever.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Speaking to the point of order, it’s entirely appropriate for a member to ask questions about statements that are in quote marks from members of the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Sure.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: While I accept—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. I’m not stopping him asking that question.
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It’s a different point.
Mr SPEAKER: A different point of order.
Hon Grant Robertson: In the question that Dr Smith had begun to ask the words he used were “Is it appropriate for an under-secretary to misrepresent”. My understanding is that’s the kind of language not allowed in the House. You can’t accuse a member of doing that.
Mr SPEAKER: You certainly can.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it appropriate for a parliamentary under-secretary and other members of Parliament in the Government to represent their list office provided by Parliamentary Service as an office of a Government department to ethnic communities?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I haven’t seen the story. I have been advised that the story is incorrect and that a correction has been requested.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it appropriate that when members of the public approached this office this morning, they were told that it was part of the Office of Ethnic Communities, when, in fact, it was the office of a Labour list MP?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I haven’t seen any evidence of that.
Question No. 12—Building and Construction
12. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Building and Construction: When did she receive the peer review of Dr Tony Enright’s report on CodeMark accreditation of aluminium composite panels?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction): I have not received the report. The peer review of Dr Enright’s report has been received by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). MBIE is currently reviewing the findings and will advise me on its decision as soon as it is made. As the member will appreciate, when MBIE is assessing whether CodeMark certification should or should not be suspended, the process must be appropriate; it must be fair and robust. The safety of New Zealanders is paramount.
Andrew Bayly: When did MBIE receive the peer review report?
Hon JENNY SALESA: I can advise the member that in terms of addressing this particular report, on 1 June this year MBIE wrote to the accreditation folks about this report, to give them a chance to respond to the report. This is something that, according to our Building Act 2004, is under the chief executive of MBIE to make the decision on that. In terms of the report, as I said in my first response, I, myself, have not received this report.
Andrew Bayly: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I couldn’t have been clearer with that question, which was, “When did MBIE receive the … report?” I don’t think it’s been answered.
Mr SPEAKER: And if the report flowed directly from the primary question—if the member really wanted that date, he would’ve phrased his primary question to ask for that as well, as he could have.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think, with all due respect, that you are not allowing the member to ask a question that flows from the answer to the primary.
Mr SPEAKER: No, sorry. I let him ask the question, but what I’m saying is that if notice of it is not part of the primary question, he can’t expect an exact reply from the Minister.
Andrew Bayly: Did the peer reviewer come to a similar conclusion as Dr Tony Enright, which was that the use of aluminium composite panels (ACP) should be suspended, and that the accreditation of the product was not justified?
Mr SPEAKER: I am going to let the Minister answer the question, but can I say to members that it is probably important that they listen to primary answers. When a Minister says she hasn’t seen the report, asking for details of it of the Minister is probably not a reasonable thing to do.
Hon JENNY SALESA: MBIE has undertaken an internal validation. They’re following a robust and legally sound process. I will be advised of the chief executive’s decision on this very soon. But can I just refer the member to the Building Act of 2004, where it states clearly, in section 271(1), that suspension or revocation of a product certificate is under the product certification body and the chief executive of MBIE.
Kieran McAnulty: What steps is the Minister taking to ensure building products used in New Zealand, such as ACP, are fit for purpose?
Hon JENNY SALESA: It is very important to me to ensure our building products are robust and keep New Zealanders safe. MBIE is currently undertaking a review of our building products assurance system right now. I am listening to feedback from the sector and people in our community who want confidence in our building products assurance system, while also embracing innovation and change. All of this is in contrast to the inaction by the previous Minister in this area.
Andrew Bayly: Why has she not released the contents of the original Enright November 2017 report and the peer reviewer’s April 2018 report, both of which say the use of aluminium composite panels should be suspended?
Hon JENNY SALESA: I don’t know how much clearer I can be that this particular report is an operational matter that the MBIE has received. I myself have not received this report.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You appeared to miss quite a significant flick at the member asking that question—when the Minister said that there had been inaction by the previous Government. The Grenfell fire occurred in June of 2017. Reports were commissioned. We’re now nine months away from the time that the Government changed and we’re simply asking what has the Government done in those nine months. It’s not unreasonable to think that between June and September, there was some consideration being given to this matter, which is clearly something that the current Government has to deal with.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, I hear what the member’s saying, and if I was being absolutely strict, then I would have indicated that a Government question shouldn’t be used to flick at the Opposition. There was certainly a flick in there, which was inappropriate, but if I ruled out everything that was inappropriate today—thinking of the bench immediately to my left—there were probably about five supplementaries that wouldn’t have been allowed through. So I have been asked to try and relax and soften up and be a bit more flexible, including by people on my left, and I’m trying to do that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister to ensure that when the report is complete, she outlines who the member of Parliament was who was involved with the launch of that company’s product in New Zealand in the first place?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s not something she has responsibility for.

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