Press Release – Hansard
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, actions, and policies?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think, in her Government’s year of delivery, that the Government is delivering with KiwiBuild when, instead of 10,000 houses per year, it has so far only built 70?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member wishes to put on notice a question, as I notice that MP Judith Collins does when she usually asks these questions, then I would be happy to give the specifics of the exact numbers as they are today.
Hon Simon Bridges: With only one supplementary, is it already too hard for the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Raising leadership issues today—bold call, Mr Bridges.
Hon Simon Bridges: In that last supplementary, was it in fact competency not leadership issues I was raising?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, if the member wants the specific numbers, I would prefer to be able to give him a level of specificity, given, obviously, he’ll know that in construction these numbers change. If he wishes to put them on notice, I’m happy to give them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think the Government is delivering when the economy has slowed to just over 2 percent growth per year compared to 4 percent growth when she came to office?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, because as we’ve repeatedly said in this House, relative to what’s happening in the international environment, particularly when measured against those countries we tend to compare ourselves to, GDP for the December quarter was at 0.6 percent higher than the OECD average at 0.3 percent, in Australia at 0.2 percent, faster than Canada at 0.1 percent, the UK on 0.2 percent, the euro area on 0.2, and Japan on 0.5. If the member wishes to only compare New Zealand to China, then his Government wouldn’t have fared very well either.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think the Government is delivering when it is well behind its promise to provide 1,800 extra police?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, we have increased the number of police officers on the beat, far higher than the numbers when we came into office. Yes we have set, over the course of a term, a goal of 1,800. We’ve always been very deliberate in saying that we are striving for the 1,800 because we will not compromise the quality of those recruits. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m not sure whether it’s the new hearing aids or not, but my left ear is working a lot better than it used to, and what that now means is that I’m having trouble hearing the Prime Minister because of the racket. I know that people are a bit excited, but if they could just settle down and let the Prime Minister finish, please.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The agreement between Labour and New Zealand First was very explicit from the very outset because we never wanted to compromise the quality of recruitment over that ambition. Of course 1,800 remains our aspiration.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it now the “Year of Striving and Not Delivering”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think the Government is delivering when doctors are on strike for the entire week and when New Zealanders are missing out on important and lifesaving treatment?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member wants to talk about transformation in our health system, how about 600,000 New Zealanders getting cheaper doctors visits because of this Government?
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think her Government is delivering when not a single new road has been started under her Government?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m happy to reflect on the commencement of a number of new roads that will happen under this Government. Of course, we have got the Waipapa roundabout – State Highway 1 Loop Road, Manawatū Gorge replacement, Mount Messenger bypass, Matakana link road, Battalion Road seal extension in Wānaka, completion of Resolution Drive—look, I have a number, but the thing is, under the context of road safety issues, I think the issue I’d rather highlight is that between 2013 and 2018, the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads increased by 55 percent, and yet that Government did not change their spending plans and put them into road safety. The signals were all there, which is why we’re investing a record $1.4 billion over three years to upgrade over 1,500 kilometres of our most dangerous roads. If that member is only interested in new roads rather than safe roads, then I can’t help him.
David Seymour: Does the Prime Minister stand by her Government’s very reasonable policy of issuing a special visa category for victims and the families of victims involved in the Christchurch mosque attacks?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
David Seymour: Can applicants under the stalled parent category visa hope that the Government will move with the same alacrity any time soon, given they’ve been waiting two years now?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That’s an area of policy work for the Minister of Immigration. However, I doubt that anyone in this House would disagree that after the terrorist attack on 15 March, giving certainty to those directly affected by the attack was the least that this Government could do.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think the Government is delivering value for taxpayers’ money when the Department of Corrections, under Kelvin Davis, has spent $1 million on slushy machines in prisons?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do think it’s right that we be concerned over the health and safety—
Hon Chris Hipkins: Obsessed with crushed ice.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —of corrections officers—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m going to ask the Leader of the House to be quiet now. Could I ask the Prime Minister to start again. Thank you.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do think it’s right that corrections focus on the health and safety of their corrections officers. For those who are, of course, wearing stab-proof vests, that does present health and safety issues, and they have resolved at an operational level the best way in their mind to be able to deal with that. It is an operational decision, but do I support them to look after their workers? Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is $1 million for six-grand slushy machines good value for taxpayers’ money?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, when they were dealing with thousands of staff members, they would have assessed all of the options for dealing with the health and well-being of their staff. I’m not the one at that level assessing all of the options, and it is not a matter for me as Prime Minister. Do I support them to look after their staff? Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think the Government is delivering when the census has become a shambles, with the lowest turnout in 50 years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, bold call raising that, given that that Government was the one that said that Statistics New Zealand should move to one of the most dramatic changes in the census delivery without factoring in the risk and the potential cost that could be involved with that transition, and asked Stats New Zealand to reduce their costs by 5 percent. Look, yesterday we announced, though, that we are boosting funding to help deal with the aftermath of the census but also making sure we’re well-prepared for Census 2023. I’d also point out that that Statistics New Zealand have done a lot of work to make sure that they do have a reliable data set that can help across housing, health, and education.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Just making it up.
SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, settle.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Last week, Statistics New Zealand released overseas merchandise trade data for March, showing exports rose by $899 million to hit $5.7 billion—a record monthly high. The increase was driven by higher values and exports of milk powder, beef, and cheese. On the other hand, imports fell $174 million in March to $4.8 billion, resulting in a monthly trade surplus of $922 million—the highest since April 2011.
Kiritapu Allan: What recent reports has he seen on consumer confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Friday’s ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence report showed consumers’ confidence in the economy rose in April, with the index up 1.4 points. The proportion of households who think it’s a good time to buy a major household item rose—up eight points to a net 46 percent. In addition, more consumers are feeling better off now than a year ago, and more consumers expect to be better off this time next year. While it’s pleasing to see consumers noticing the strength of the economy, we recognise that there is uncertainty in the global growth outlook that may be weighing on confidence in New Zealand’s own outlook. That is why we are getting on with implementing our plan for a modern and more resilient economy.
Kiritapu Allan: What reports has he seen on the impact of an uncertain global economic outlook for New Zealand?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In its April forecast, the IMF revised down its expectation for global growth to 3.3 percent in 2019 from 3.5 percent forecast six months ago, and, indeed, 3.7 percent six months before that. The IMF forecast that advanced economies will grow 1.8 percent in 2019, and 1.7 percent in 2020; but within that the IMF is forecasting that New Zealand’s economy will grow 2.5 percent in 2019, and 2.9 percent in 2020; in other words, stronger than our peers in the US, the eurozone, UK, Japan, Canada, and Australia. We are all well aware that as a small, open economy, New Zealand is not immune to global economic factors, but our underlying fundamentals remain sound.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of the Government’s statements, policies, and actions in relation to the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were given, made, and undertaken, and, in the case of my friend and colleague Shane Jones, on a case by case basis.
Hon Amy Adams: When the Prime Minister said yesterday that the Government would now look for other ways to achieve fairness in the tax system, by his definition of fairness, does that include work now being done on higher tax rates or inheritance taxes?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government has ruled out higher tax rates in this term of Government.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, if he agrees with the Prime Minister that tax reforms will be about fairness, will he commit to any tax changes being revenue neutral to the Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I repeat: the Government has ruled out increasing the top tax rate. We’ve ruled out an inheritance tax. I believe the member might be referring to our party policies for the 2020 election, and they’re not my responsibility as a Minister, are they.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry, Mr Speaker, I seek your assistance for that. I asked a very simple question about a comment the Prime Minister made yesterday about looking for other ways to bring fairness into the system, and I just asked for a statement on tax neutrality. The Minister appeared to answer my first question again. I just would like an answer. He may choose not to answer, but he could at least address it to what was asked.
SPEAKER: I think the member got a very clear answer about what the Government policy was—very clear.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, if tax reforms are going to be about fairness as the Prime Minister said yesterday, why can he not commit to any of those tax changes being revenue neutral to the Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I’m pointing out the fact that the issues the member raised in her first supplementary question are not on the agenda of the Government. What we are doing is advancing, for example, a digital services tax, and making sure that we continue to close loopholes around GST issues. Those will remain important parts of the work programme for the Government, and the member will be able to see the status of all of those when the Budget’s released.
Hon Amy Adams: So by refusing to commit to revenue neutrality, is he not in fact making it clear that tax reforms will be about a tax grab for Government, not at all about fairness?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No.
Hon Amy Adams: Was associate finance Minister James Shaw correct when he was asked by Radio New Zealand if not proceeding with a capital gains tax meant that the Government was going to be borrowing more money and replied “Yes, we are.”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It is a statement of fact, that the member and I have covered a number of times in select committee, that in dollar terms the Government has been borrowing more money. But I do note that today’s accounts that have been released show that net debt is at 20.6 percent—or $60.5 billion—and that at the end of the September accounts for 2017, those numbers were 22.8 percent and $61 billion. So, actually, it’s less money at the moment.
Hon Amy Adams: So if the capital gains tax back-down is going to mean the Government borrowing more money as the associate finance Minister has confirmed, doesn’t that just show us that the Tax Working Group proposals weren’t about fairness at all, and were in fact a thinly veiled tax grab that New Zealanders saw through?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: At no point had this Government factored in any revenue from the capital gains tax, given that had it come into force, it wouldn’t have been until 2021—barking up the wrong tree.
• Question No. 4—Health
4. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: What is his best estimate of the number of elective procedures and specialist assessments that have been postponed by district health boards as a consequence of the industrial action taken by the Resident Doctors’ Association this week?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Exact figures won’t be known for some time but hospitals are reporting no unexpected issues so far. Approximately 38 percent of house officers and 72 percent of registrars have made themselves available for work this week, and district health boards (DHBs) are advising the public that if they need to attend hospital for acute or emergency medical treatment, they should do so. I am advised that preliminary planning estimates are that 1,513 elective procedures and 776 other procedures—such as elective and geography—have been deferred. People are missing out on planned care as a result of the strike, and that’s why I am urging both DHBs and the Resident Doctors’ Association to make the most of facilitation to find a resolution urgently.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: What assurance can he give that no patient whose elective surgery was postponed has died in the period since the surgery was deferred?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Elective surgery, or planned care, is that care which is deemed not to be acute. Those who have acute needs should present at the hospital as soon as they are able. Obviously, I feel sorry for anyone who has had planned care delayed because of industrial action—I can imagine how frustrating that would be—but I’m confident that DHBs are doing everything they can to minimise the impact on patients and to reschedule those procedures that have been delayed. It is why it is so important that both sides turn up this week, prepared for facilitation and ready to find a solution to this dispute.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Who will be prioritised in the period after the strikes: those patients with surgeries and assessments already scheduled for that period or those patients who missed out on surgeries and assessments because of this week’s strikes?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Patients are prioritised according to clinical need by those who have the expertise.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is he aware of any patients who have now had surgeries deferred more than once as a result of industrial action in the health sector since this Government came into office?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am made aware of incidents where people have surgeries deferred on more than one occasion. I receive an awful lot of correspondence, and that was certainly true under the last Government—I received correspondence on that too. It is really frustrating and disappointing when that happens.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Will he now accept that after a year of negotiations and four periods of industrial action, he needs to step in to ensure the dispute is resolved?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Nobody wants to see patients missing out on services, and it is disappointing that we are seeing this strike action when there is facilitation scheduled to begin this week. But, in the end, what is needed here is a resolution that will work for both the DHBs and the Resident Doctors’ Association. Let’s not forget that there is already a union that has settled with the DHBs, which has 750 members—the Specialty Trainees of New Zealand—and it’s also worth remembering that DHBs have settled pay rounds with nurses, with midwives, with Allied Health, and with clerical workers already.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he accept that if he does not intervene to ensure the dispute is settled, the responsibility for adverse patient outcomes as a consequence of industrial action rests with him and his Government?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: It is, of course, my responsibility for the overall performance of the health system. I want to see more people get quality accessible care. I also take responsibility for making doctors’ visits free or cheaper for around 600,000 New Zealanders. I take responsibility for the Mana Ake programme, which is delivering mental health and well-being support in primary and intermediate schools in Canterbury. I take responsibility for overseeing a major programme of work: fixing up our ageing hospitals, which were suffering from nine long years of neglect.
• Question No. 5—Regional Economic Development
5. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent announcements has he made regarding the Provincial Growth Fund?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Last year, I visited the deep South—Gore—and urged the community to drum up suitable proposals for consideration by the officials. I am pleased to report that with appropriate encouragement from a certain list MP, those proposals were approved and were announced by myself recently in Gore. They are the Maruawai precinct project, including the redevelopment of the Hokonui Moonshine Museum, and also a Hokonui Huanui programme—a wraparound set of support services for rangatahi, children, and NEETS.
Mark Patterson: How will these projects support regional development in Gore and Eastern Southland?
Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, the Maruawai precinct project will attract more visitors to Gore, as they need large bouts of encouragement to stay longer in Gore. This will enable Gore to attract those people that are travelling on to Queenstown and Dunedin. There are also the developments and the upside of the Hokonui Moonshine Museum, which celebrates the heritage of certain South Islanders hiding in the hills, away from the tax department, and making whiskey. That new distillery wing and the construction of a new Maruawai heritage centre will speak volumes about the heritage of a number of the South Island MPs.
Mark Patterson: How else has the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) supported the people of Southland?
Hon SHANE JONES: Despite the churlish claims driven by petty resentment from certain Opposition MPs, the PGF is spreading across the length of the country—a financial elixir: $12 million Milford highway fibre connection, Invercargill inner-city development for $1 million, and Southland hatchery and nursery feasibility project to grow aquaculture in an area screaming out for attention, neglected for nine long years under the last regime.
• Question No. 6—Social Development
6. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made about increasing job opportunities in the construction sector for people on a benefit?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Yesterday, Minister Salesa, Minister Jackson, and I announced the launch of the Kiwi Can Do pre-employment construction programme. Kiwi Can Do is the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) largest provider of pre-employment construction training, now with up to 1,200 participants per year. This new programme is a joint venture between Kiwi Can Do, MSD, Wesley Community Action, and EasyBuild. Through the Wellington programme, people on a benefit will receive placement into employment as well as in-work support for 12 months. It will provide an opportunity for training in the installation of prefabricated homes on the Wesley Rātā Village site to prepare people for employment in the construction sector.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What employment support does Kiwi Can Do provide?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Kiwi Can Do provides people with pre-employment construction experience under trade qualified mentors, helps to gain licensing and other pre-requisites for employment, and builds confidence working as part of a team and support in work for up to a year. The Kiwi Can Do instructors and mentors are made up of trade retirees, dubbed “Dad’s Army”, who have all run their own businesses, hired and trained apprentices, and are looking for an opportunity to pay forward some of their knowledge and life experiences. This approach to training and mentoring youth is unique to the Kiwi Can Do programme and has attracted the interest of a range of key industry businesses and organisations.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Why is this new pre-employment construction programme important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The Kiwi Can Do pre-employment construction programme is an example of an innovative partnership that will have a positive community and social impact. The key target for the course is 18- to 25-year-olds not in employment, education, or training, but is open to any age. The Kiwi Can Do programmes have a large percentage of Māori and Pasifika participants, where there is an enormous potential talent pool. This new initiative continues to contribute to this Government’s priorities to upskill and train young people on benefits for industries like construction and to increase the supply of community housing to low- and middle-income New Zealanders.
• Question No. 7—Regional Economic Development
7. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Āe.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told this House on 11 April that he asked the acting CEO of the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) why his prosecutors were reducing Semenoff Logging’s Filipino truck drivers to, in his words, “begin acting as pimps”, how did he think that he was not involving himself in the case?
SPEAKER: Does the member want to try and—oh, no. I’ll let the Minister answer it. I think the question was sort of slightly out of order at the beginning. I think he really meant not what he said in the House but what he did with the NZTA, which is not quite what he asked. Shane Jones.
Hon SHANE JONES: The allegations contained in the question are grossly untrue.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What parts of the question are untrue?
Hon SHANE JONES: The entirety.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think he has a right to query independent prosecutors’ methods with the agency’s CEO in the middle of a case?
Hon SHANE JONES: I refer the member to the various answers I have given. It is completely within my rights as the regional champion to draw to the attention the wisdom of using migrant labour up and down the New Zealand transport freight sector and encouraging them to act in a way that I have formerly regarded as pimps but now I call informants.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What advice has he had from the Attorney-General on his actions regarding the Semenoff case?
Hon SHANE JONES: I have had several discussions with the Attorney-General. On one particular issue pertaining to fisheries, he has advised me that such matters are best left devoid of any commentary from myself.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why did the Minister meet Daron Turner, the general manager of Semenoff Logging Ltd, on 12 August 2018, just 11 days after the NZTA briefed Ministers on its intentions to revoke Semenoff Logging Ltd’s transport services licence, and what did he say?
Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, as the first citizen of the provinces, I meet regularly with leaders of New Zealand industry. In a number of those meetings, occasionally I don a ministerial cap, and other times I’m enrobed in my New Zealand First cloak made of duck feather.
Ian McKelvie: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Everybody knows that the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General, is the first citizen of the provinces, and I think the Minister should apologise.
SPEAKER: I thought he was going to indicate that a mallard cloak was something that he shouldn’t put on.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Did he approach the Hon Iain Lees-Galloway in August last year regarding Semenoff Group’s application for accredited employer status in his regional development capacity, and if so, what was he asking for?
Hon SHANE JONES: I’d have to go back and check my records—rather than mislead the House—but for a long time I have been advocating for the New Zealand heavy freight industry not only to be given access, as a transitional measure, to migrant labour but to train our own people to drive the trucks and to be paid a fair wage.
• Question No. 8—Health
8. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Health: What progress, if any, has been made rolling out the Mana Ake programme to deliver mental health and well-being support in Canterbury schools?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health):Mana Ake started in schools just over a year ago, on 23 April 2018, delivering on a campaign promise. It puts social and mental health workers into schools for one-on-one and group sessions with children, to help them deal with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. I’m pleased to advise the House that, as of yesterday, every child in Canterbury’s primary and intermediate schools now has access to Mana Ake.
Dr Duncan Webb: Why was Canterbury chosen for the Mana Ake programme?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Mana Ake was established in response to the unique mental health needs Canterbury children experienced following the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. We wanted to support the young people of Canterbury and Kaikōura as they grew up with the legacy of those traumatic events. Mana Ake has also proved its worth following the 15 March terrorist attacks, and I know many parents and teachers will have welcomed having access to professional mental health and well-being support in recent weeks.
Dr Duncan Webb: How many children have benefited from Mana Ake support so far?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As of 31 March, Mana Ake has supported over 820 children individually and 475 in groups since the programme first commenced in schools. That’s a lot of young lives that have benefited from being listened to and supported.
• Question No. 9—Education
9. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with the Waitakere Area Principals’ Association that estimates the changes proposed by the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce could cost up to $2 billion per year?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Waitakere Area Principals’ Association’s submission doesn’t appear to detail how they arrived at those figures, aside from three substantive proposals that they have costed in more detail—two of which, I note, have been endorsed by the National Party. I’d note that the task force is currently consulting on their draft recommendations, and the Government isn’t expecting to see their final report until the end of June.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Which month of this year can we expect to see public costings, given he’s confirmed in written questions to me that he shelved his proposal to take costings to Cabinet in May?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: One of the reasons that no further proposals will be going to Cabinet in May is that the task force is not going to be reporting back until the end of June. We have extended the time frame for them to do so. I’ve been very clear that any further consideration by the Government of the task force’s final recommendations will be after more detailed costing work and consideration of the pros and cons of any of their recommendations has been completed.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very specific question, which is: which month did he expect costings to go to Cabinet? I know the time line, in terms of the proposals of June, but it is a very specific question.
SPEAKER: And if the member asked just that question without everything around the edge of it, the member might have got a specific answer, or she might not have, but certainly the member had an adequate response.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does he agree with the New Zealand Principals’ Federation that the task force hubs evoke images of bureaucratically bloated education boards—a long-rejected entity that represented powerful central control?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I have been at some pains not to express a view on the task force’s recommendations in this area until they have presented their final report. That is a matter for the task force to engage in consultation around, which is what they are doing. I think it’s really important that all New Zealanders who have a view on this have the opportunity to have their say. The Government has not considered in detail the task force’s recommendations. We made the decision not to do so until further public consultation had taken place.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Has he had any discussions with the Minister of Finance or Treasury about putting contingency funds aside to pay for changes coming out of the Tomorrow’s Schools task force; and, if not, is he confirming that no policy changes will occur from the task force before the next Budget?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In keeping with a longstanding tradition, I don’t intend to discuss what I’ve discussed with the Minister of Finance around the Budget.
Jo Luxton: When will the Government consider the recommendations of the independent task force?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I indicated, the Government’s not expecting the final report of the task force until the end of June. When we do get the final report, we will give that careful consideration, including a rigorous cost-benefit analysis of any proposals that we might consider taking forward. As we do so, we intend to continue a dialogue with those involved in education so that we can ensure that they are involved in the decision-making process, and I have every intention also of continuing the dialogue with the Opposition that we’ve had over the task force’s draft report to date.
Hon Nikki Kaye: When he backed up the PM in confirming there is no more money for the teacher pay envelope, was he guaranteeing that this Government won’t spend hundreds of millions of dollars in bureaucratic education hubs, instead of preventing more strikes?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I indicated in my answer to the primary question, two of the three elements that the Waitakere Area Principals’ Association identified in coming up with their costing were proposals that have been well supported, including the establishment of learning support coordinators and moving to an equity index for funding schools. Both of those things have been endorsed by the National Party and are things that the Government is likely to progress. Having said that, we’ll make final decisions on that once we’ve received the task force’s final recommendations.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave to table the Our schooling Futures: Stronger Together report review by the Waitakere Area Principals’ Association—
SPEAKER: Order! Isn’t that available on the web?
Hon Nikki Kaye: No, it’s not. Well, as far as I’m aware, it’s not available on the website. So actually this is—
SPEAKER: Sorry, I thought the submissions all were.
Hon Nikki Kaye: —important so that the House can see all of the costings, which include other detailed costings around the hubs.
SPEAKER: All right. Any objection? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 10—Police
10. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Does he have confidence in the security policies and systems of the New Zealand Police?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes, and where there are breaches of these operational policies I also have confidence that the Commissioner of Police will undertake the necessary actions to ensure that the 12,000-plus men and women of the New Zealand police service are complying with these policies.
Chris Bishop: Is he concerned that part of a top-secret intelligence watch-list of more than 100 people being actively monitored by police post 15 March has been leaked to media; and, if so, what does he intend to do about this appalling breach of security?
Hon STUART NASH: I have not received advice that there was a leak of top-secret information. I have seen media reports that claim material of a top-secret nature has been received by a journalist. But my expectation is that if the Commissioner of Police suspects that there has been a breach of operational protocols, he will attend and investigate it accordingly. I must also say that the unlawful possession of top-secret information is a criminal offence and it is an offence under the Policing Act to release classified information to unauthorised persons.
Chris Bishop: Will the police be conducting an inquiry into how part of a top-secret intelligence watch-list of more than 100 people being actively monitored by the police made its way out of the police into the media’s hands; and, if not, will he as the Minister of Police order an inquiry?
Hon STUART NASH: I reiterate my answer to the last question: I have not received advice that there was a leak of top-secret information.
Greg O’Connor: What evidence does the Minister have to support his confidence in the New Zealand Police’s security policies and systems?
Hon STUART NASH: From the outset, when the firearms amnesty was announced, I made it clear that the least-preferred option is for firearms owners to deliver weapons to stations, but rather to go online and fill in the required form or call 0800 311 311 and organise a time for police to collect these weapons. I have always been very clear about that, and it appears the firearms community has been listening and they understand that police stations are not designed to receive tens of thousands of weapons. At last count, 2,388 forms had been completed online, 3,200 firearms had been declared for surrender, and 403 weapons had been physically surrendered. I am keen for police and the Government to work with the community rather than create divisions, which the Opposition police spokesman has a track record of doing, even if he has deleted such information from his Facebook page.
Chris Bishop: Is it correct that the person who stole 11 firearms from the Palmerston North police station walked through an open roller door, accessed the internal part of the station, and broke through an alarmed and locked door to steal the firearms; and, if that is correct, why has he been urging New Zealanders to hand firearms in to the police?
Hon STUART NASH: I will reiterate: I have never encouraged people to go to a police station and hand in firearms. I have always urged people with firearms that are prohibited, or that they want to hand in, to go online, fill in the form, or phone the 0800 number and organise a time for police to collect these weapons but not to go into a police station and hand them in.
Chris Bishop: Why is he now saying he has never encouraged people to hand weapons in to the police when he said, not two weeks ago, “What we would urge people to do is not wait until 29 September to declare your weapon or to hand it in.”, and if that’s not encouraging people to them in to the police station, then what is?
Hon Stuart Nash: I reiterate: what we do know is that there are 13,000 registered military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) out there—13,000 registered MSSAs. We have no idea how many assault rifles are out there. There could be tens; there could be hundreds of thousands. Police stations are not designed to store 13,000 MSSAs. We are currently in the process of developing policies and procedures to collect these firearms, store them, and have them destroyed. And the number one consideration is transparency and the safety of the public and the integrity of the system.
• Question No. 11—Employment
11. MARJA LUBECK (Labour) to the Minister of Employment: What announcements has he made about increasing employment opportunities for urban rangatahi Māori?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): On 17 April 2019, I launched Pae Aronui, an initiative to enhance education and employment outcomes for urban rangatahi Māori. Pae Aronui seeks to improve education and employments outcomes for Māori 15- to 24-year-olds who are not earning, learning, caring, or volunteering.
Marja Lubeck: How does this differ from other employment programmes?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: This Government has already invested significantly in our young people in the regions. Pae Aronui will be delivered only in south and west Auckland, Hamilton, Porirua, and the Hutt Valley, as these are the metropolitan areas with the highest number of young Māori who aren’t active in the labour market. It is in our cities that we have a large number of young people who are underutilised and not engaged in our labour market. With the skills shortages we have in a number of industries, this Government is committed to ensuring all who can participate in our economy have the opportunity to do so.
Marja Lubeck: What difference will Pae Aronui make for rangatahi Māori?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Too many of our young people—our rangatahi—have already left the education system without having gained the qualifications they need to secure good jobs with long-term career options. For 2019, Pae Aronui will support 249 rangatahi to achieve enhanced education or employment outcomes. Pae Aronui supports communities, providers, and employers working together, growing the skills rangatahi need, especially to gain employment in growth industries, and will be underpinned by pastoral care to provide our young people with the best chance of success.
• Question No. 12—Statistics
12. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: Does he believe Census 2018 was a success?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): The success of the census should be measured by whether the data derived from it is fit for purpose. The Government Statistician yesterday gave a detailed picture of when key outputs of the census will be released and the extent to which they will be fit for purpose. She indicated that the general population count is likely to be more accurate than that of the 2013 census. Stats NZ has been able to create—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Of course they’re going to say that.
Hon JAMES SHAW: Would you like me to slow it down for you, Mr Brownlee? Stats NZ has been able to create a data set that includes records for 4.7 million people. This is only 58,000 people fewer than their estimated population on census night, compared to the 2013 census, which had an undercount of 103,800 people on census night.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: They’re making it up.
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, Mr Brownlee, you shouldn’t have signed off on the business case back in 2014 that moved to the use of administrative data, should you? You should have crossed the House on that one. What this means is that some of the most critical products, such as that for general and Māori electorate boundaries, or for district health board funding formulas, the output will not only be fit for purpose but be potentially more accurate than that produced by the 2013 census, which the National Party was also in charge of. New Zealanders should rest easy that the quality of data that they’ve come to expect from the census, for the highest priority purposes, will be maintained or improved on for the 2018 census. The Government Statistician has also indicated that in some areas it is unlikely that the output will be as high quality as she would like. Where this is the case, Stats NZ will work with the affected stakeholders to ensure that they have access to the best-quality data available. Clearly, there were problems during the execution—[Interruption]; I’m tempted—of the field collection phase of the census programme. The Government Statistician indicated her disappointment with this aspect of the census many months ago. There is an independent review being conducted by management consultant Murray Jack and former Canadian deputy Chief Statistician Connie Graziadei. Their report is due by July and will cover all areas of census execution as well as funding and governance issues. My assessment of the success of the census, therefore—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. No—the member did warn me that it was going to be a slightly longer answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the census questioning, was there any category for us to find out how many loud-mouth buffoons we have in New Zealand?
SPEAKER: Order! No. [Interruption] Order! Order! Members will resume their seats and they will be quiet, and I will remind the Deputy Prime Minister of his obligation as the longest-serving member of the House to provide a good example to other members. And, if he fails to again during this sitting session, he will spend some time back in his office.
Dr Jian Yang: Will Census 2018 provide reduced-quality data for issues such as unpaid work, living in temporary accommodation, and family relationships?
Hon JAMES SHAW: As the Government Statistician indicated yesterday, there will be some gaps—notably, with iwi affiliation data and with some information arising from some of the questions to do with household data. It is really important to note, of course, that the census is not the only source of data that the Government has and that we run the General Social Survey and the household economic survey. In fact, this Government increased, or tripled, the sample size for the household economic survey in order to get more accurate information, including about the kinds of questions that the member is asking about.
Dr Jian Yang: How can the success of the upcoming well-being Budget be tested if the most recent reliable baseline on things such as unpaid work, living in temporary accommodation, and family relationships is from 2013?
Hon JAMES SHAW: The member has a question about the time line of the census, and I just want to compare this to previous expectations around time lines.
SPEAKER: No. The member will resume his seat. He will answer the question.
Hon JAMES SHAW: As I understand the question, the member is suggesting that the census information will be out of date by the time it is published, and I want to correct that. In the course of a normal census, the first release of initial data is usually about six months after census day. Other data sets would then be released progressively over a period of 12 to 18 months after that first release. There has been a 12-month delay to the first release of census data from 2018, but Stats NZ will now endeavour to compress the remaining releases to approximately nine months. That means that the overall Census 2018 programme is likely to run only three to six months behind a regular census.
Kiritapu Allan: How has administrative data been used to complement the data collected for census 2018?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Thank you for asking the question, and I would encourage Mr Brownlee to listen to the answer to this one. Stats NZ have compiled a file of administrative data from sources including education, health, ACC, and Inland Revenue records. This is reliable data about real people, and is not made up, as Mr Brownlee continues to suggest. Stats NZ then compared this with the census forms to establish who was missing from the census data. By using this administrative data, Stats NZ have been able to create a data set that includes records for 4.7 million people. This is 1.2 percent lower than their estimated population for census day, compared to 2.4 percent lower in the 2013 census. Stats NZ are therefore confident that they will be able to produce a range of robust data, including the use of defining electoral boundaries, and will begin releasing census 2018 data from 23 September this year.
Dr Jian Yang: What information has he received by consultation with the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations in regard to the impact of the inability to properly count iwi affiliation on upcoming Treaty settlement claims?
Hon JAMES SHAW: There is a misperception that not releasing official counts means that there will be no information at all, and this is incorrect. While Stats NZ have said that they will not be able to produce official statistics using the iwi affiliation information they have gathered, the information that they do have can still be made available to be used in the most appropriate ways. Government agencies have actually never been great at collecting iwi affiliation data. This is a gap in our administrative data. Stats NZ will now seek to address this gap so that we do build up a much more comprehensive and accurate picture of iwi affiliation over time. While not being able to release official statistical counts for iwi is a significant loss, Stats NZ have spent time talking to iwi Māori to understand their data needs and are working with them to address any consequences of this. I also just want to emphasise that for information on Māori descent and Māori ethnicity data, the 2018 data set will actually be more comprehensive than the 2013 census.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Is the Minister aware, or has the Minister heard, where iwi are collecting their own sets of data of members registered to the tribe, that often that is more reliable in terms of how they make contact with their iwi members than what’s on the Statistics New Zealand database?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes, I have. In fact, Stats NZ have been working closely with iwi Māori to make sure that the information that we’re collecting from the census, as well as from other official surveys and administrative data, can be used to supplement the information that’s being collected by iwi about their own members and to produce more accurate data sets for iwi.
Kiritapu Allan: Will the data be ready and of good enough quality for electoral boundaries?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes, it will. As I said, the—
SPEAKER: Order! The member’s answered the question.