Press Release – Hansard
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Regional Economic Development
1. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent Provincial Growth Fund announcements have been made?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Hawke’s Bay has been the region that has most recently felt the fiscal love from the Provincial Growth Fund. My colleague Under-Secretary Fletcher Tabuteau reflected that we believe in water storage. We realise that in order to effect a change in land use patterns, it is important that we futureproof land in areas in Central Hawke’s Bay through water banking. We have provided capital via the regional council, not to breathe life into the failed Ruataniwha double-demon kaupapa of the last Government but to improve the spread of horticulture and get better returns on land in the Hawke’s Bay, because they are screaming out for practical assistance in relation to things which reflect common sense, such as water storage.
Clayton Mitchell: Well said.
SPEAKER: Order! Which of the members—was that the Deputy Prime Minister, was it? The “Well said.”
Clayton Mitchell: No, that was me, sir.
SPEAKER: Well, the member just lost his ability to ask any more than one supplementary question, because he knows that he cannot comment through his open mike in that way.
Clayton Mitchell: What other projects were announced in Hawke’s Bay last week?
Hon SHANE JONES: Early in the life of the Provincial Growth Fund, we responded to the requests from the regional council of Hawke’s Bay and a host of other stakeholders in that region to provide approximately $6.5 million to upgrade the rail track and re-establish rail between Ahuriri-Napier and Wairoa. We also were able to bring all of the leaders together, put them on the train, and they safely made it to Wairoa. I have said that we are open to proposals, subject to due diligence from KiwiRail, up to Gisborne.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What feedback has he received regarding these announcements?
Hon SHANE JONES: The Hawke’s Bay people, not normally known for being verbose, were totally talkative from the point at which the train left Ahuriri, and three hours later they had still not stopped talking when it got to Wairoa. Let me recount some of the things they were saying. At long last, Hawke’s Bay is seeing fiscal assistance, not just political rhetoric, which has littered their neighbourhood over the last nine years. From the humble areas of the marae, where they’re seeing digital connectivity, land use is changing, and what they saw was the first citizen of the provinces plant the last tree of the million trees, and the Deputy Prime Minister planted the first mānuka tree of the next million trees.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister another question?
SPEAKER: The member can have a crack, yeah.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I’m asking for your permission. Having regard to that very, very positive set of announcements, what feedback has he received regarding these announcements where it comes to Lake Waikaremoana’s road upgrade package?
Hon SHANE JONES: Lake Waikaremoana, under the last regime, fell into the joint ownership of Tūhoe, a tribe belonging to Te Urewera, formerly identified by Elsdon Best as the “children of the mist”. We are very keen to see that State Highway 38 proceeded with. There are some minor ruffles with the people of Tūhoe, the children of the mist. I have warned them that if they don’t agree, missed will be m-i-s-s-e-d, not mist. Thank you very much.
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with Labour Party finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, who said in September 2017, “There will be no new taxes or levies introduced in our first term of Government.”?
SPEAKER: Sorry, can I ask the member to repeat the question?
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with Labour Party finance spokesperson Grant Robertson, who said in September 2017, “There will be no new taxes or levies introduced in our first term of Government.”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, the member is reflecting the Labour Party tax policy, which, of course, did include reference, however, to those existing and the general praxis of excise increases—increases that apply to, for instance, cigarettes, and excise around fuel. Of course, the member will also be aware that we did campaign on things like a levy at the border in order to be able to, through a tourism levy, fund critical investment in conservation and tourism infrastructure, which had been severely under-resourced under the last Government. Those were all things included in our tax policy.
Hon Simon Bridges: How much additional tax will New Zealanders have to pay as a result of the four new taxes her Government imposed in Budget 2019?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I reject the premise of the question.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she dispute that at the Budget we saw petrol tax increases, tourist tax, GST on overseas roaming, and WorkSafe levies?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Excise is not a new tax. New Zealanders don’t pay the tourism levy. Again, the idea that we just simply remove any equity around roaming—I can’t see that this is necessarily the biggest issue that New Zealanders are facing.
Hon Simon Bridges: How much will the petrol tax increases, tourist tax, GST on overseas roaming, and WorkSafe levies raise?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, if the member wants to put a question on notice, I can provide that additional detail. Again, though, if the member wishes to now argue that he doesn’t support petrol excise, I can tell him that under his Government, it raised $4.9 billion when he was in office, because they increased excise more often than we have.
Hon Simon Bridges: Doesn’t she think she should know how much extra tax she is imposing on New Zealand families before she does it?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is wrong; he is quoting, of course, levies that do not apply to New Zealanders.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does $1.7 billion this term in additional petrol taxes and road-user charges not apply to ordinary New Zealanders?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member was speaking solely about petrol, I have seen some of the numbers that he has raised, and I question some of his estimates around the $1.5 billion or thereabouts as inaccurate. However, again, I would make the point that the member raises issues like road safety. The member, presumably, also wants to invest in alternatives to high-emissions transport and give cheaper, more reliable options in congested Auckland for people to get around their city. If the member chooses not to fund that through excise, which is exactly where excise goes, I would like to hear his alternative, because he left a funding gap in his transport plans.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that the performance of manufacturing index last week dropped to its lowest level since 2012, something Hamish Rutherford described yesterday as “stoking concern—
SPEAKER: Order! The member will ask a question. He doesn’t need a description from an outside commentator or a commentary to ask a question.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that the performance of manufacturing index last week dropped to its lowest level since 2012, and what does she think that says about the state of the New Zealand economy?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I also acknowledge that, at the same time, exports are up. We’re seeing some record increased figures—for instance, our lamb exporters; 600,000 pallets due to be exported from our kiwi fruit producers. So a very different story there. Overall, though, we have to acknowledge that we are operating in an international environment where there is a degree of uncertainty. That’s reflected in some of even Treasury’s forecasts around our GDP projections, and it’s reflected in, for instance, the forecasts for both Australia and China—our partners who we tend to compare ourselves to economically—seeing a slowdown in their growth.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she aware that even a small drop in GDP relative to Treasury forecasts will mean her Government will miss its debt target unless it cuts spending or raises tax?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I thank the member for acknowledging that we are meeting our debt target; it’s taken him a while to get to that place, and we are. I would also acknowledge we just rely on the Treasury forecasts in the same way the last Government did.
Hon Simon Bridges: What are the GDP figures—and I’ll be clear; I mean GDP figures, not Crown account figures—going to say this Thursday?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member well knows we all have to wait for them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she understand that more taxes, costs, and debt won’t help turn a weakening economy around?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: What I understand is that, when you’re facing a downturn, one of the best things that you can do as a Government is—counter to what that Government did—is invest. We know that there is stimulus going into our economy—that’s reflected by some of the GDP growth estimates that are being made—because we are investing in our people, we are investing in our building environment, we’re making sure that despite a downturn we’re keeping the houses being built, we’re putting money back into families’ pockets through the Families Package, and wages as a result are going up. These are all things that make a difference at a time when we’re experiencing global slowdown.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it, then, the Prime Minister is against inheriting the Government debt figure and then increasing it by over 800 percent?
SPEAKER: Order! That is not something she has responsibility for or has any indication that it’s part of her planning.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I am asking the Prime Minister for a fundamental principles statement as the leading administrator—the Prime Minister of this country; the principal Minister of this country—on a question of national debt. There can surely be few things as important as that.
SPEAKER: Is the member seriously suggesting that there is a proposal to increase debt by 800 percent, which would be the responsibility of the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I, in terms of clarity, say this: well, the Prime Minister can clear that up and let us all know so that we can go on more comfortably assured that fiscal management is in the right hands. That’s all I’m asking.
SPEAKER: I can accept that, but the danger is that if I accept that question, any ridiculous proposition can be put to the House by any member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect, you might say it’s a ridiculous proposition, but that’s precisely what happened under a previous administration.
SPEAKER: And that’s exactly what I thought we would get to, for which the Prime Minister has no responsibility.
David Seymour: Can the Prime Minister tell the House what portion of all income tax is paid by the top 5 percent of income tax payers?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’d want to make sure I was giving the member a precise figure based on the last tax receipts and income from IRD—if the member wishes to put it on notice. I would, however, acknowledge, of course, the member has recently announced his own tax policy, and, look, whilst it’s good to have a wide-ranging debate on these issues, we’re simply of the perspective that, when it comes to those on the lowest incomes, we do not wish to see them paying more tax.
David Seymour: Does the Prime Minister think it is fair that 5 percent of taxpayers pay a third of all income tax?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, that’s proportionate to the income that they receive.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You’ve previously banned party branding from boxes that sit on the desks in front of us in the Chamber. I think previous Speakers have also banned party branding that is worn in the Chamber. Is that a ruling that you continue to uphold?
SPEAKER: Yes. I’m looking round—
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Well, that is not to the point where I think it is—
David Seymour: I would like clarity. Is he referring to this?
SPEAKER: To what?
Hon Grant Robertson: His badge.
SPEAKER: Oh, no. Sit down, Mr Seymour. There’s been a habit over a number of years for people on this side of the House who have had Labour Party life memberships to wear those badges in the House. That’s never been restricted, and something so small that I can’t tell what it is from this distance is not something I’m going to object to.
• Question No. 3—Prime Minister
3. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Again, I still do, yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her statement that the Northland meningitis vaccination campaign was “successful” when a seven-month-old baby subsequently contracted meningitis?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I did refer to that case when asked in my stand-up yesterday about Northland and the outbreak there, of course. We simply responded to the clinical advice that was received at the time, which was based on two factors—
Hon Paula Bennett: Were there options?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —first, trying to make sure that those who are most vulnerable were protected, and that included vaccinating children.
Hon Paula Bennett: Were there three options?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve also referred to the fact that children of a—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Sorry, I’m just going to interrupt the Prime Minister. A baby has died. The Prime Minister’s answering the question, and I think she should have the politeness of being able to finish the answer without inane interjections.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I will just clarify—
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I certainly was not inane, and I certainly think it’s fair that the Opposition ask questions. If there’s to be silence in every answer that the Prime Minister is giving, that is a new rule and one that I think would take away from the robustness of the debate in this House.
SPEAKER: I am not proposing such a new rule. What I am proposing is that we have a degree of respect for families where there has been a death of an infant. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take immense offence that you would think I am not giving that degree of respect. It is us that have actually raised this very serious issue, and I have nothing but respect for those families. I think it’s offensive for you to actually infer otherwise.
SPEAKER: Well, I think the member would’ve made her position more obvious if she hadn’t started chipping the Prime Minister partway through her answer.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Happy to continue with the answer. One thing I would like to clarify is that I am advised by the Ministry of Health (MOH)—and I know the whole House will be pleased to hear this—that the baby involved was released from hospital and did not pass, but, having said that, that’s not to trivialise a baby contracting the illness in the first place, which of course we all take very seriously. However, the guidance that I’m advised was received is around targeting those infants who are able to be immunised and, again, also targeting those young people who are most likely to spread the disease. We were given advice in November that those are the two target groups that should be focused on with an immunisation campaign. I believe roughly 25,000 forms of the vaccine were able to be accessed. The Ministry of Health worked very quickly to roll that out. Given that school was to break very quickly, they moved as quickly as they could, and I think the outcome does speak for itself in that regard.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can it speak for itself in that regard and be a successful campaign when people still contracted meningitis?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said, we rely on clinical advice. The clinical advice at the time was to target those aged nine months to four years—I believe that’s because, as with other immunisations, they have to be repeated if it’s a baby of a particular age, but you’re best to ask probably the Minister of Health that particular question—and those aged 13 to 19. There have been outbreaks in other areas, I believe. Other jurisdictions have followed similar guidance.
Hon Simon Bridges: When was the Government made aware there were enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone under the age of 20 in Northland?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m advised that in May—keeping in mind—
Hon Simon Bridges: November.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That was Ministers, in May, or at least the Minister of Health. Keeping in mind the outbreak was in November, and I do want to clarify that my understanding is: I’m advised that Pharmac on 9 November was told that a drug company could potentially provide up to 33,000 doses. However, this was not available for a few weeks, and also there were other jurisdictions seeking the vaccination as well. So I’m not sure it’s fair to characterise that as a guaranteed amount. Again, they were able to secure a total of 20,000 doses; a bit more than that for the Northland campaign.
Hon Simon Bridges: Given that one of the options presented to the Government by the Ministry of Health back in November last year was to fully vaccinate all under-20-year-olds and that her own Minister of Health has said, in relation to back in November, that then he was made aware by the Director-General of Health that additional vaccine was available if a wider vaccination programme was later required or there was an outbreak elsewhere, why didn’t the Government pursue that course of action?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I think the member’s actually answered the question himself by reading that quote, “if there was an outbreak that later required it elsewhere”. We had an outbreak in Northland. Actions were taken to secure as much vaccine—then those 20,000 doses to follow that clinical guidance. I haven’t seen the full advice the member’s speaking of, but, of course, if there were an outbreak somewhere else, then you would, of course, require that additional vaccination. Again, it is important to point out, of course, that it wasn’t guaranteed that the additional vaccine that was spoken of was available, let alone available immediately, and the MOH was working very quickly at that point.
Hon Simon Bridges: Wasn’t the vaccine clearly available from November, according to the Ministry of Health, to the drug companies, and to the knowledge of her Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, it’s Pharmac that would’ve been involved. I’m advised that the drug company advised Pharmac, as I’ve said, on 9 November that it could potentially provide up to 33,000 doses. However, it was not available for a few weeks, and that, at that time, was not an option. They did need to move quickly; the school year was ending and they needed to roll it out quickly. Again, I would point out that even then, the immunisation campaign wasn’t focused on children under one at that point, I believe also because of clinical advice. So, ultimately, yes, one baby was affected, and of course no one wants to see that, but otherwise that campaign, where targeted, has made a difference.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with the Director-General of Health, who said the vaccinations were “over twice the price, and, of course, cost is an important element”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve said, my understanding is the decision was made on clinical advice.
Hon Dr David Clark: Is the Prime Minister aware that the targeted approach that was taken followed suit from similar approaches that were taken when meningococcal W outbreaks happened in Australia and in the UK?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, that’s certainly my understanding, that we are not the only ones that have experienced those outbreaks, and they did take a similar approach to New Zealand, or, indeed, we took a similar approach to them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn’t they vaccinate all under-20s if it wasn’t about cost, if it wasn’t about international supply—as she inferred in a letter to Shane Reti in February—and if the drug companies and, indeed, the Minister knew that the drugs were available from November last year?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I refute the premise of that question.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn’t they, rather than rationing the drug, have blanket coverage to under-20s last year?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, those who are most at risk of spreading the disease are 13- to 19-year-olds, first of all. Those at most risk if they contract the disease are nine months to four-year-olds. We have a limited capacity to get those groups immunised quickly. If we had a blanket process, we may have then sacrificed those groups being targeted first and quickly, and that was key.
• Question No. 4—Finance
4. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What reactions has he seen to Budget 2019?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I’ve been contacted by many New Zealanders who have expressed support for the approach we have taken with the Wellbeing Budget. They understand that we can’t fix all New Zealand’s problems with one Budget but that Budget 2019 represents a new way of doing things and is an important step in the right direction. For example, one resident from Raglan emailed to say that the Government and all who have contributed to the Budget are to be congratulated. He said that “Although some would have wished for more, the Budget lays the foundation for a sustainable economic future in which the whole of New Zealand will receive a share.”
Dr Deborah Russell: What reactions has he seen to Budget 2019 from the business sector?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I’ve seen warm reactions to the Budget from various business groups. According to Deloitte, “wherever you sit in the conversation of how innovative the … Budget is, there is little doubt that cross-agency allocations for issues like climate change, family violence, homelessness, child wellbeing, reducing Māori offending and addressing mental health are essential.” Deloitte partner David Lovatt said that where the well-being approach really shines is “Compelling agencies to work together by funding them in ways that reward collaboration, measuring the impacts they are having, and then ultimately holding them publicly accountable are precursors to being able to achieve progress on these perennial issues.” The New Zealand head of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Peter Vial, said that—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s enough.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reactions has he seen from Māori and Pasifika groups to the Wellbeing Budget?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yesterday, with my colleagues Ministers Sio and Salesa, I met with around 150 leaders from the Pasifika community in Porirua. There was resounding support for the measures being taken to enhance the well-being of Pacific peoples—in particular, investing in Pasifika economic opportunities, supporting Pacific languages and communities, and boosting funding for Pacific health. This is a Budget based on evidence, and the evidence suggests that the status quo has not worked for Māori and Pasifika peoples. Through this Budget, we are giving them more scope to lift their own well-being and achieve their aspirations.
• Question No. 5—Finance
5. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of the Government’s decisions, statements, and actions in relation to his portfolio?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were made and undertaken.
Hon Amy Adams: Why, when Budget 2019 allocated $15.2 billion of new operating spending over four years, couldn’t he find enough funding in the Budget to ensure that Pharmac’s funding at least kept pace with inflation?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As has been traversed in the House last week, Pharmac did receive an increase in funding. In this Budget, in the health area, based on the evidence, mental health received a massive injection of funding after being neglected for many, many years. The overall health budget has received a significant increase. On this side of the House—as I said in answer to the last question—we can’t make up for nine years of neglect in one year or even two years, but we’re making a good start.
Hon Amy Adams: How can he say that he’s used “evidence and expert advice to tell us where we could make the greatest difference to the well-being of New Zealanders”, when the Government has chosen to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into fees-free tertiary at the expense of giving Pharmac enough money to keep pace with inflation?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The premise of that member’s question is incorrect. Money that supports education, money that supports health, and money that supports housing are all part of the Budget; one is not at the expense of the other. What we’re doing is actually making up for the enormous under-investment of the previous Government.
Hon Amy Adams: How does he think the refusal to even keep Pharmac funding in line with population growth has affected the well-being of New Zealanders like 14-year-old Stella Beswick, two-year-old Otis Porter, or Bella Guybay’s four-year-old daughter, who are all waiting desperately for the funding of lifesaving medicines that are funded in almost every other OECD country?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the member well knows, and as with the time she was in Government, Pharmac make those decisions. We now spend nearly a billion dollars on the Pharmac budget, and we will continue to invest in that. But we will also continue to invest in the areas which the last Government completely ignored—such as mental health—because that is what New Zealanders asked us to do.
Hon Amy Adams: How does he respond, then, to Troy Elliott, whose wife is suffering from serious breast cancer, and has said that New Zealand’s medicines funding is starting to make us look like a Third World country and that “this Government has to wake up; we’re going backwards.”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I understand that for any family that is going through a situation where they have a family member with cancer, that is traumatic. What we know in this country is that Pharmac makes the decisions about what drugs it invests in. In terms of the latter part of that quote, I respectfully say that New Zealand is actually now going forward positively as a country, to make sure that everybody shares in prosperity.
Hon Amy Adams: Why was spending $7 million on Artists in Schools a higher well-being priority than the mere $6.5 million needed to reinstate cochlear implant funding that his Government cut in last year’s Budget?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Again, the member is not reflecting the Budget process that she knows well. These things are not trade-offs against one another. We are creating an environment in which we’re investing in well-being across all sectors of the economy. In the health sector, this Government has a record that is far superior to that Government.
• Question No. 6—Health
6. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions around Vote Health in Budget 2019?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and in particular I stand by my statement that with the Wellbeing Budget, this Government is taking mental health seriously and, at the same time, investing $1.7 billion in hospitals and other health facilities.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, isn’t it true that in order to fund his Government’s mental health initiatives, large parts of Vote Health have been neglected, and the best example of that is the effective decrease in Pharmac funding?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, how can he stand by that statement and that a 1.1 percent funding increase for Pharmac is sufficient when the 1.8 percent increase in population in the last 12 months means Pharmac funding has materially dropped on a per capita basis?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Pharmac model enables more people to have more medicines every year. In the last financial year, 331,000 more patients got access to medicines because of the Pharmac model. There were 13 new drugs approved, and 39 medicine classes had broadened access. This year, there will be more people that get access to more medicines again. We invested $40 million as a part of a health budget that invested $1 billion a year in health to address the neglect of nine long years of health underfunding by that former Government.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given that answer, why did he not correct his answer to oral questions on Wednesday last week, when he said “I do stand by the statement that last year over 100,000 New Zealanders gained further access to medicines”, and isn’t the discrepancy just because he’s not very good with numbers?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Because over 100,000 people did get access to medicines. I would like to give the member a short lesson, in that the number 331,000 is more than 100,000.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has he just changed the number from 100,000 to 330,000, and does that show he’s just making it up as he goes along?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! We had that statement in the House last week, and it resulted in someone withdrawing and apologising. The member will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he agree with his Director-General of Health, who described his own ministry’s and Treasury’s projected district health board (DHB) deficits of $390 million in Budget 2019 as “speculation”, and is that what Budget 2019 has become?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Budget 2019, the Wellbeing Budget, invests $1.9 billion in mental health because that is what New Zealanders are concerned about. That Budget invests heavily across a range of areas in health. It addresses underfunding in the DHB sector that’s gone on for years and years and years, with $2.8 billion going into DHBs this time round. Of course, we can’t address nine years of underfunding in one or two Budgets, but we can make a good start.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: When is he going to make that good start?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We’ve already made it. There’s good news for that member, because, once again, it’s a record Budget. Last year, we put more money in than had been put in for a decade, and this year we topped it—again, more money than in a decade. They neglected health for nine long years—$2.3 billion in underfunding. We are addressing that: 1,300 more nurses, 440 more doctors, and over 300 more allied health workers. We have been growing our public health system, unlike that lot, who were prepared to let it shrivel and die.
• Question No. 7—Education
7. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What recent investments has the Government made in school property to meet population growth?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Wellbeing Budget makes the largest investment in school property by a New Zealand Government, with a whopping $1.2 billion to fund new schools, kura, specialist schools, and additional classrooms to meet roll growth. The $1.2 billion investment will be delivered in four waves, allowing us to work closely with the construction sector to get the right mix of large, medium, and small projects across the region where growth is occurring. It’ll also allow us to deliver at scale, using local suppliers in the regions, where appropriate.
Jan Tinetti: What planning has the coalition Government done to support this large investment in school property?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The coalition Government will be releasing the national education growth plan shortly. It identifies the number of student spaces required around New Zealand by 2030, as the school-age population continues to grow. The growth plan is a first for New Zealand, representing a step change in the way we plan for and manage growth in the school-age population, school redevelopments, and school builds. Instead of reacting to population issues school by school, we’ll be taking a longer-term view across schools.
Jan Tinetti: How does the Government’s $1.2 billion investment in school property support a longer-term approach to planning and building for school property.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The $1.2 billion is a multi-year commitment to build new schools and classrooms, setting aside funding for the first four waves of a 10-year school property programme. Previously, investment decisions were made annually, which made strategic planning quite difficult. The growth plan and the upfront investment allows officials to plan over a longer time frame, giving schools and communities greater confidence about their projects. The groundbreaking programme will give certainty to schools, to their communities, and, of course, to the construction sector. It’ll streamline the procurement processes and give taxpayers better value for money with less disruption.
• Question No. 8—Health
8. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statements and actions around the Northland meningococcal outbreak and vaccination campaign?
SPEAKER: Well, close enough, anyway.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): In particular, I stand by my statements that the targeted meningococcal vaccination programme in Northland followed international practice and has proved successful in its aim of preventing the spread of meningococcal W in Northland, with only one case recorded since the campaign was rolled out, that being of a child who was too young to receive the vaccine. So the answer to the member’s question is yes.
Dr Shane Reti: Did the Minister say yesterday “Around the time Pharmac secured the vaccine for the targeted vaccination programme”—which was in November last year—”I was made aware by the Director-General of Health that an additional vaccine was available”, in direct contrast to what he said to TV ONE on Friday?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member will probably know that the Director-General advised me that he was able to source additional vaccines for the targeted programme. He didn’t specify a number.
Dr Shane Reti: Do the minutes of the expert meeting on 8 November also recommend possibly vaccinating all under-20-year-olds in Northland?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have gone back and looked at those expert recommendations from medical experts. They recommend, first and foremost, a targeted campaign, but they do list that possibility.
Dr Shane Reti: If the experts met and made their recommendations on 8 November but Pharmac only confirmed the 30,000 extra vaccines on 9 November, was the expert group ever reconvened and told that 30,000 extra vaccines were available?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am reliant on the expert advice that I receive. The advice I’ve received is that the Director-General took the decision to have a targeted campaign because one of the factors involved was making sure that there were sufficient people clinically trained to deliver the vaccinations and that one of the most important things to do was to disrupt the spread. That meant focusing, nearly and squarely, on the teenagers who were the most likely to be the vectors of the disease and then, secondarily, focusing on infants and young children who are most likely to be affected by the disease. By all accounts to date, it has been a very successful campaign, and I guess that is why it’s important to rely on expert medical advice.
Dr Shane Reti: Isn’t it true that we don’t know if the extra 30,000 Pfizer vaccines would’ve protected the seven-month-old child who caught meningitis a few months ago, but didn’t she at least deserve a chance?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: At the time the campaign rolled out that vaccine, I’m advised, was not approved for vaccination of children of that age. That only happened subsequently.
Dr Shane Reti: See you tomorrow—we’ll correct that.
Hon Dr David Clark: It’s true.
Dr Shane Reti: No, it’s not. They use it in Australia.
• Question No. 9—State Services
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National): Does he—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Both members will stand and apologise.
Hon Dr David Clark: I withdraw and apologise.
Dr Shane Reti: I withdraw and apologise.
9. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of State Services: Does he have confidence in the State Services Commission investigation into statements made and actions taken by the Secretary to the Treasury?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of State Services): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is the Treasury secretary’s leadership and integrity going to be looked into as part of the inquiry?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The terms of reference for the investigation being undertaken by the Deputy State Services Commissioner have been released, as have the terms of reference for the inquiry being undertaken separately to the State Services Commission. It’s very clear what is being investigated. That is a matter of public record.
Hon Paula Bennett: Are the calls and decisions the Treasury secretary made under pressure part of his leadership, and, as such, is it appropriate for the State Services Commissioner to praise his “Strong leadership and…integrity” last week?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Makhlouf, has been in that job for eight years. He has helped Governments to deliver eight Budgets during that time. He’s contributed to the rebuild of Christchurch following the Christchurch earthquake, he was acknowledged for helping the Government to get the books back into surplus—those two latter achievements were under the tenure of the previous National Government. I think it would have been petty and churlish for him not to have been acknowledged for his contributions to the public of New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Petty and ruthless.
Hon Simon Bridges: Oh, he’d know.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does the State Services Commissioner choose his words—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Look, I know there was a just-in-time interjection which caused the Leader of the Opposition to intervene, but we have two of the most senior members of the House again causing disruption, and it would be good if both of them stopped it.
Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does the State Services Commissioner choose his words carefully when his agency is investigating serious issues involving a senior public servant, and, if so, should he have said that Mr Makhlouf has brought strong leadership and a great deal of personal integrity, and that he is authentic and straight up, while in the middle of an inquiry being led by the said commissioner?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The inquiry is not being led by the said commissioner; it’s being led by the Deputy State Services Commissioner, who will report to the commissioner. I think it’s important to reflect on what the State Services Commissioner actually said in his contribution when he made specific reference to the investigation in question, which is to do with a specific set of actions by Mr Makhlouf, not to do with his overall performance in the job, and I think it’s important to recognise that. The only reference the State Services Commissioner made to that matter was to acknowledge that it was a difficult time for Mr Makhlouf and his family and for those who worked for him, and that he had approached the investigation openly, honestly, and professionally.
• Question No. 10—Justice
10. GINNY ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What recent reports has the Minister received on the family justice system?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): On Sunday, I received and welcomed the release of the independent panel’s review of the 2014 family justice system reforms. From the report, it’s clear that those reforms, championed by Judith Collins, haven’t worked as intended. The report showed there’s been considerable dissatisfaction in the current family justice system. The panel, in putting together its report, attended over 100 meetings held in 15 locations around the country and received over 500 submissions, so their findings are authoritative.
Ginny Andersen: What is the independent panel’s assessment of the changes made in 2014 to the family justice system?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The 2014 reforms, championed by Judith Collins, made significant changes to the family justice system, including introducing family dispute resolution and removing lawyers from the early stages of many Family Court proceedings. These changes were meant to make things easier for families at a difficult time in their lives, but they’ve had the opposite effect. Cases are taking longer to resolve, and many family members involved in the court processes say they are not well supported. The 2014 reforms saw an instant increase in without-notice applications, with children now being left to wait for years for their care arrangements to be decided, and the entirety of the family justice system being bogged down.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Typical Tories.
Ginny Andersen: What will happen with the independent panel’s report?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Who said that?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The report makes 70 recommendations—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: How does that get away with it?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: —which propose wide-ranging changes—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Sorry, I gather there’s a sitting-down point of order from the Hon Gerry Brownlee. If he stands up and draws my attention to something out of order, I will consider it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Throughout the afternoon, you’ve been very quick to point to various members on this side for comments they were making. You’ve singled out the Deputy Prime Minister for being “just in time” with a particular comment. None of those comments were particularly offensive, but the comment that you appeared to miss from the other side of the House, in the context it was given, was extremely offensive. The member knows who he was who made it, and he should be made to withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: If a member made a comment which might reasonably be considered offensive, that member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.
SPEAKER: Now, I’m actually going to—and I’m not sure if he’s fixed up yet. The member will just withdraw and apologise while he is standing.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I just withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: No. No, that—
Hon Damien O’Connor: I withdraw and apologise. Sorry.
SPEAKER: I do, better than the member, understand the current problem.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The report makes 70 recommendations, which propose wide-ranging changes to the family justice system. The principal recommendation calls for the development of a joined-up family justice service, Te Korowai Ture a-Whānau. Having taken the time to listen to the people affected by the failed 2014 reforms, the Government will now carefully consider the recommendations, with a view to making family justice services more effective and responsive.
SPEAKER: Right—the trouble I have now is that I have been advised of the comment that the member made, and, frankly, it is a matter which, in the past, might’ve been regarded by one side of the House with pride rather than being an offensive term. I’m not going to let it go any further now, but I will just put on the record, indicating that someone is a Tory is not something which is offensive in this House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! I’m about to take a point of order, and members will be quiet.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: There was no offence taken at the use of the word “Tory”. It was the context in which it was offered that was offensive. There’s never been any attempt by anybody that I know in the previous Government’s ministry to frustrate the processes of the Family Court, and, I think for the member to have interjected the way he did was to make that suggestion. Given the pain that so many families suffer as a result of their various breakdowns and difficulties in resolving those problems, it was a very offensive comment.
Hon David Parker: Can I support you in your finding. The phrase “typical Tory” isn’t offensive. It’s been made often in this House while I’ve been here, and I think it would be setting a new standard for interjections like that to be ruled out of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I agree—totally agree, but context is important. You lefties are too soft.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m now on my feet, I’ve heard that, and I’ve made my point about the interjection and the fact that, you know, it could well have been regarded, until recently at least, as a matter of pride rather than being something which is offensive. I was listening carefully to the Minister when he was making his answer to the supplementary question. I did not find anything offensive in that, and, if I had, I would’ve interrupted, and I’m absolutely certain that the learned member Judith Collins, seeing as she was being referred to, would have herself if, in fact, there was something offensive said.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Oh, the member is not going to be allowed to withdraw his apology.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I did wonder if I could withdraw.
SPEAKER: No—the member just better be careful or he’ll get another smart response from me.
• Question No. 11—Education
11. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Is he confident that the Government’s school donations policy is delivering on its commitment to break down financial barriers to participate in education at all levels?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Absolutely, yes.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How many children does he estimate are living in benefit-dependent households who attend decile eight to 10 schools, and did he adequately consider these children when he made the policy?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: With regard to the specific number, I don’t have that number with me, but I’m happy to supply it to the member. With regard to the second part of the question, yes, we did consider that. I looked, for example, at the level of locally raised funds that schools are able to generate, and it shows that decile eight schools raise, on average, per student, $836.10 per student in locally raised funds, moving up to $937.19 being the average locally raised funds amount for decile 10 schools. That’s significantly more than the locally raised funds for lower decile schools.
Hon Nikki Kaye: What does he say to principal Lorraine Taylor, who has said “The donations policy is devastating news, because it will mean parents will take their kids elsewhere”, and has he adequately considered potential donation flight, and is he considering the principals who are criticising his policy?
SPEAKER: Any one of the three.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think it will be the first time ever that a high-decile school has complained about parents potentially sending their children to a low-decile school, and, frankly, that would be a nice problem to have, because the evidence clearly suggests that, actually, most of the flight goes the other way.
Hon Tracey Martin: Can the Minister confirm that it was a previous National Party Minister who introduced the decile system, directly to reflect the socioeconomic disadvantage in schools across New Zealand, and so, therefore, it has already been recognised historically that decile 8, 9, and 10 schools are able to better support their students, as opposed to decile 1, 1a, 1b, etc.?
SPEAKER: No, there’s no responsibility for the Minister for that.
Hon Nikki Kaye: What does he say to Whakarongo School, who have said the following about him and the donations policy: “You publicly stated that if you introduced this scheme it would be for all schools; to not honour that intent is disgraceful and another example of yet another electoral broken promise.”?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, we never made that promise. In fact, we were quite clear that the costings—and I’ve had this discussion with the member at select committee last week. The policy was costed based on decile 1 to 7 schools taking the policy up. I have not ruled out extending it in the future to decile 8, 9, and 10 schools.
Hon Grant Robertson: What does the Minister say to the school board of trustees member who messaged the Government to say that their school, a decile 2 school, had previously been able to generate about $2,000 a year in school donations, and, as a result of the Government’s policy, would be getting $70,000 dollars a year?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: That is exactly what the Government is intending to achieve through this policy. We know that higher decile schools are able to generate significant amounts of funding in their local community—not actually just through parental donations but through the other fundraisers that they do—that lower decile and mid-decile schools are not. This helps to level the playing field.
Jan Tinetti: What does the school donations scheme mean for a rural school like Katikati Primary School, who only receive around $9,000 a year in donations?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I do happen to have that information in front of me. What it means for Katikati Primary School is that, if they sign up to the scheme, they will receive around $85,000 next year in additional operations funding. It is going to make a huge difference for schools like that, who receive very little in parental donations and who aren’t able to fundraise significant amounts of money, as other schools have been able to.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave to table submissions from, for instance, Linton Camp School, who are destined—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Now, what I want the member to do is to properly describe the document, not the contents—and, if it’s a submission, it’s a submission to whom?
Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave to table a submission to the Education and Workforce Committee from Linton Camp School, which—
SPEAKER: So it’s a submission that’s gone to a select committee. Is it publicly available yet?
Hon Nikki Kaye: Not at the moment.
SPEAKER: The question is that that document be tabled. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 12—Conservation
12. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Is she satisfied that the proposals for an updated threat management plan will better protect Hector’s and Māui dolphins; if so, why?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Conservation): Yes. The options for Hector’s dolphins include extending the Banks Peninsula marine mammal sanctuary from 4 to 20 nautical miles offshore; expanding the areas closed to set netting by 6,500 square kilometres and the areas closed to trawling by 6,300 square kilometres, to protect Hector’s dolphins from the risk of by-kill in fishing nets; and also doubling the size of the Banks Peninsula marine mammal sanctuary. The options proposed for Māui dolphin include more than doubling the area closed to set netting and trawling, to protect Māui from bycatch in set nets and trawl nets, and extending the West Coast marine mammal sanctuary.
Gareth Hughes: What changes to existing marine mammal sanctuaries are proposed? [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Who interjected from my left?
Jonathan Young: I did.
SPEAKER: Right. Well, because of previous good behaviour, consider himself warned.
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Five marine mammal sanctuaries are in place to protect both Māui and Hector’s dolphins. The West Coast North Island marine mammal sanctuary was established specifically to protect Māui dolphins. The discussion document proposes to extend it from New Plymouth south to Wellington, and it proposes to extend the Banks Peninsula sanctuary to protect Hector’s dolphins north to Kaikōura, south to Timaru, and from 4 nautical miles out to 20 nautical miles from the coast. It also proposes improved protection against seismic surveys and seabed mining.
SPEAKER: Before we go to that, I should just explain it’s not just because I know and respect the member’s parents that I was soft on him; there was a provocative—just in time—interjection from the Hon Shane Jones which stimulated the inappropriate reply.
Hon Tracey Martin: Can she confirm that the document is merely a discussion document and that no decisions have been made by the Government at this stage, and that the Government looks forward to receiving all submissions?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The document is a discussion document. It is informed by the best available science and an international peer review, and I and the Minister of Fisheries look forward to receiving public submissions.
Gareth Hughes: What is the threat posed by seismic surveys?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Seismic surveys are used by the oil, gas, and mining industry to look for mineral deposits, and by scientific researchers to survey seabed features. The acoustic noise involved in those surveys has the potential to cause hearing damage to dolphins and to disturb their breeding, feeding, and resting behaviours.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Have a look at Western Australia. They go mad for it.
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: So currently, under the regime we’ve inherited, dolphins have got less protection—
SPEAKER: Order! I am going to interrupt the member and say that there might be some debate around the science of the effect of loud noises on dolphins; there’s not much on me at the moment. It’s getting too loud, and I don’t want to, sort of, require the member to be quiet, because it’s a bit too optimistic, even for me.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, I just want to acknowledge that loud noise can annoy a lot of people, and I particularly want to make it clear that I certainly would not want to see a man of your recently acquired age being subjected to the same, would you say, rigours and responsibilities as the dolphin population, which has massively expanded as a result of the seismic work in Western Australia.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: Well, I will—before calling the member—thank him for the card which I received in the mail.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, you’re welcome. Can I just say to that, just as a precaution, we in this House might have crossed the divide politically but we’ll always be concerned with noises made by endangered species. I think you’ve been rather harsh there.
SPEAKER: There are times when I regret thanking the member. We’ll go back to Eugenie Sage, who has been probably a bit more loquacious than she needs to be in this answer.
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Currently, dolphins have got less protection in the sanctuaries from seismic surveys than in the exclusive economic zone, so the options include applying the code of acoustic disturbance in the sanctuaries, to prohibiting seismic surveys within the sanctuaries.
Gareth Hughes: What is the threat to the dolphins posed by seabed mining?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Seabed mining’s got the potential to impact on the dolphins through a combination of noise, major changes to their habitat, and sedimentation effects, and that’s why the document proposes options from prohibiting mining within the sanctuaries to an expanded buffer area beside the sanctuaries.