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Questions and Answers – May 22
Posted By admin On May 22, 2014 @ 5:17 pm In Pacific Press Releases | Comments Disabled
Press Release – Office of the Clerk
1. SIMON OCONNOR (NationalTmaki) to the Minister of Finance : How does Budget 2014 contribute to building a more productive and competitive economy through the Governments Business Growth Agenda?
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Budget 2014—Business Growth Agenda
1. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Finance: How does Budget 2014 contribute to building a more productive and competitive economy through the Government’s Business Growth Agenda?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Budget 2014 contains a range of initiatives across the *Business Growth Agenda. As everyone now knows, we have entered a period of significant growth for the New Zealand economy that is lifting job numbers and incomes. The challenge for the Business Growth Agenda is to keep reducing some of the longer-term capacity constraints in areas like skills and innovation, so that the New Zealand economy can continue to grow at a faster rate than it has in the past, for an extended period. One important area is building our international markets. Budget 2014 provides funding of $69 million over the next 4 years for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise* to boost its presence in China, South America, and the Middle East, and to lift the number of companies it works with intensively from 500 to 700.
Simon O’Connor: How does Budget 2014 contribute to lifting research and innovation in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Budget continues this Government’s long and extensive initiatives in the research and development area. This Budget contains an additional $58.6 million over 3 years for additional contestable science and innovation funding, which will take the total annual Government investment to $1.5 billion by 2015-16*. High-quality scientific research is, of course, critical to increasing innovation and economic growth. The Budget also contains two tax measures to benefit businesses investing in research and development. Loss-making start-up companies will be able to cash out all or part of their tax losses from research and development expenditure, while all businesses will be allowed tax deductibility for research and development black hole expenditure, which is currently neither deductible nor able to be depreciated. These tax changes will help us meet our goal of increasing business research and development to 1 percent of GDP*.
Simon O’Connor: How does Budget 2014 contribute to lifting the skill levels of the New Zealand workforce?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Budget contains additionally nearly $200 million of initiatives over the next 4 years. Tuition subsidies for science, agriculture, and selected health sciences will be lifted, which comes on top of funding increases for engineering and science in previous Budgets. Additional funding also means the Government will be funding 10 centres of research excellence from 2016-17, up from the six that were recently selected through the competitive process. The Government will also spend an additional $20 million expanding the very successful apprenticeship reboot* programme by an additional 6,000 places, bringing the number of places to 20,000.
Simon O’Connor: How is the Government’s successful share offer programme helping to pay for new infrastructure investment, as part of the *Business Growth Agenda?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government’s successful share offer programme raised around $4.7 billion, which is being invested in new priority public assets and infrastructure, without taxpayers having to borrow this money from overseas lenders. Budget 2014 allocated another $1 billion for these investments, which will be made through the *Future Investment Fund. That brings allocations from the fund so far to almost $3 billion, leaving nearly $1.7 billion in the fund for spending on more new assets in the next two Budgets. Future Investment Fund allocations in this Budget included $67 million for the new *Grey Base Hospital on the West Coast, $172 million for the upgrading and building of new schools, including the Pegasus Bay school in North Canterbury, $75 million for Christchurch housing, $40 million for **Crown Irrigation Investments, and $30 million for the Hobsonville housing development. All of these things would not have been possible unless we had had the programme of the mixed-ownership model.
Hon David Parker: If, as he claims, the economy will become more competitive and productive, why is it that imports are forecast to grow far faster than exports for the next 4 years, increasing our external deficit to $16 billion by 2017?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member needs to look at the progress that this Government has already made, despite various prognostications by certain commentators, including Treasury. This year the balance of payments deficit is down to about 3.5 percent of GDP and forecast to go lower. If the member thinks that it is as good as it gets, well, it is a heck of a lot better than the 8 percent when he was in charge.
2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes. He particularly stands by his statement, which was originally made by the Prime Minister, in fact, that Budget 2014 is a confident Budget for a confident country.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by his statement in this House on 14 May last year that *“It is important for New Zealand … that it is regarded as a good credit risk.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That sounds like a very good statement that the Minister of Finance would make.
Dr Russel Norman: Given his acknowledgment that a good credit rating is important for New Zealand, is he concerned by the warning from *Standard and Poor’s last week that New Zealand’s sovereign credit rating is at risk due to climate change?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, and the reason for that is that the Government’s books, which are the primary concern of the Standard and Poor’s organisation, are moving positively into the black. We will have the opportunity to repay debt, and we will reduce our debt as a percentage of GDP to 20 percent by 2019-20, on schedule. In relation to any concerns about climate change, this Government is undertaking a very strong programme to mitigate the effects of climate change and become a less carbon-intense economy over time, while not jeopardising our ability to raise moneys and pay off debt.
Dr Russel Norman: Is he aware that **Moritz Kraemer, *Standard and Poor’s chief sovereign risk analyst, has identified climate change as one of the century’s two defining *macroeconomic trends that are likely to put downward pressure on countries’ sovereign credit ratings?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That would depend on how the countries respond to those risks. Countries always have risks. If the member wants to go and look at some of the more recent data, he will see that New Zealand’s carbon intensity is continuing to decline. In other words, the amount of carbon we produce as our economy grows is reducing as a percentage of GDP*. That is a good thing and suggests that we are doing a good job as a country in mitigating the risk identified.
Dr Russel Norman: Given the Minister’s answer, can we assume that he is not aware that Standard and Poor’s has listed New Zealand’s credit rating as particularly vulnerable to climate change, because of the proportion of our population living on the coast and because of agriculture’s role in our economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The answer to the first part of his question is that, no, we cannot assume that. Secondly, if the member is suggesting that New Zealand knock the agricultural economy on the head to meet the needs of climate change, I imagine that Standard and Poor’s would have a view of that and it would not be positive.
Dr Russel Norman: Will he now finally acknowledge the seriousness of climate change for New Zealand when not only are the world’s leading climate scientists saying that our environment and our communities are at risk, but one of the world’s largest rating agencies is also saying that our credit rating could suffer as a result of climate change?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I reject the implicit arrogance in the member’s question that the Government does not understand the importance of the risks of climate change. Actually, this Government is focused on meeting all the fiscal risks that New Zealand faces, and if he goes and has a look at the data, he will see the reducing intensity of New Zealand’s carbon emissions as a percentage of our GDP. That is something to be celebrated and I am confident it will continue under this Government.
Dr Russel Norman: Has the Minister gone to look at the data, for example, the *Ministry for the Environment’s most recent data, which shows that the projections for New Zealand’s net emissions is that they will increase by 50 percent over the next decade under current settings of this Government; and does he believe that that is a responsible projection for New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We discussed in the previous question the issue of projections. What I can tell the member is that what has occurred under this Government is a decreasing intensity of carbon emissions as our economy grows. The member may not like to know that, but that is true. We also have an increasing percentage of, for example, our electricity generation in renewables, and this Government’s record on the environment—again, not something the Greens want to talk about—is very good and compares favourably with the previous Government.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of official reports from his Government showing a big increase in projected emissions ahead, will he take advice as to what should be the response of the Government to the Standard and Poor’s report, which has identified New Zealand as vulnerable due to the number of New Zealanders likely to be impacted by sea level rise and due to the large contribution agriculture makes to our economy, and that agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate change?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, this Government takes advice on those sorts of risks every day and we have, for example, in the *Business Growth Agenda, a group of Ministers in the natural resources area who grapple with these issues on an ongoing basis and actually make decisions every day that mitigate those risks, and we will continue to do so. But if the member is suggesting, as I believe he may be, that we quickly shut down the agricultural industry so as to avoid that risk, I suspect that is not something we will agree about.
Regional Economies—Job Losses in Wood Processing Industry
3. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary
Education, Skills and Employment: Does he agree with the Mayor of Clutha district that the loss of the 180 jobs in the wood processing industry is a “hammer blow” to the region?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): No. I understand the mayor being concerned at the loss of an employer in his district, but, despite the tendency of a number of people to talk down the Otago economy, the region is doing very well. The latest *household labour force survey shows a net increase in Otago of 8,000 jobs in the last year— 8,000 jobs in the last year. Unemployment in the Otago region is one of the lowest in New Zealand, at 4.6 percent compared with the national average of 6 percent. The *ANZ Regional Trends report
released on Tuesday said that Otago has the highest level of business confidence and one of the fastest economic growth rates in the whole of New Zealand. That is not the Opposition’s spin but actually what is happening under this Government.
Hon David Parker: Has he not read the ANZ Regional Trends report, which, for the adjacent province of Southland, shows that “Southland recorded the largest decrease in employment, dropping 4.0 percent in the quarter to hit a 10-year low. The region’s unemployment rate deteriorated, hitting a 10-year high …”, or is that just because its local MPs are Bill English and Eric Roy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would have thought that Mr Parker, as a former resident of the Otago region, would know that the Clutha district is in the Otago region and not in the Southland region, but, unfortunately, Mr Parker is not aware of that, which is probably why he was never able to hold on to the seat of Otago—because he never even went there.
Hon David Parker: Why has he refused to set any targets for regional development growth in his department’s annual statement of intent?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Firstly, again, the member may not be aware, but I would have thought he has been around long enough to know that that is developed by the agency, not by the Minister. The good news is that every region in the New Zealand economy is growing, and every region, if he looks at the ANZ Regional Trends, is growing strongly. That is the reality. Mr Parker may obsess about writing down a number, but the real question, and where the rubber meets the road, is job growth and GDP growth in the regions. The reality is that we are seeing in Otago very strong growth, which is very good for that region, and I am very pleased for it. I think it is probably time the Opposition declared an Otago crisis.
Hon David Parker: Why has his Government deserted the wood-processing industry nationwide, with net job losses of around 3,000 since 2008, when those job losses show that the sector so seriously needs an economic upgrade?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It “so seriously needs an economic upgrade” that an investor went out 2 weeks ago and spent *a billion dollars purchasing assets in the forestry processing industry. Of course, they see a strong future in that industry, and it is ridiculous for the member to suggest that that is otherwise. Yes, individual companies have difficulties from time to time, and the company that was the subject of this question has had financial difficulties for some time. Mr Parker may be of the view that the Government should rescue every investor from the challenges that they may or may not operate in, but this Government knows that the job is actually encouraging investment across New Zealand industries and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question is now answered.
Hon David Parker: Why is real wage growth forecast to average less than 1 percent—
Hon Steven Joyce: Oh, rubbish.
Hon David Parker: —for the next 3 years, according to his own Budget—it is not rubbish— which is lower than increases in GDP per capita, and is this because under National the benefits of economic growth can never be expected to flow through to working New Zealanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is absolutely wrong. The way you build incomes for New Zealand families is to encourage investment and growth across New Zealand. That is what this Government is doing. We can see that in the growth figures, in the export figures, and in the employment figures. We can see it in the balance of payment figures. We can see it in New Zealand’s net international liability figures. We can see it across every measure of the New Zealand economy. The Opposition may not like it, but actually we are growing incomes for Kiwi families.
Clare Curran: What specific actions has he planned to increase the economic value from the volume of the timber and wood-processing industry in Otago and Southland, given that his own department says growth in the region “will depend on the application of capital and technology to natural sources.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There is a range of things. I know the member has not read it, but we have 350 serious initiatives in the *Business Growth Agenda. For example, one growing—
Hon David Parker: They’re not working.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: They are working—4.6 percent growth in Otago. Oh yes, they are working. And the reality is that we have—
Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, my question was regarding specific actions his department would undertake for a specific industry—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member asked what specific actions, and the Minister rose to his feet and said there were 350 of them and talked about the Business Growth Agenda and its application. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. On this occasion the Minister has addressed the question.
Budget 2014—Health Outcomes for Children
4. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Health: What investment is the Government making in Budget 2014 to improve health outcomes for children?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The Government is investing $90 million over 3 years from 1 July 2015 so primary school – aged children can go to the doctor for free at any time of the day or night and get their prescriptions for free as well. This builds on the success of the free *general practitioners visits and prescriptions for children under 6, including free after-hours visits. Thanks to our prudent management of the health budget, we can now extend this policy to all children under 13, and that is what careful financial management of the country’s finances can deliver for Kiwi families.
Dr Jian Yang: What recent reports has he received on the new policy to provide free general practitioners visits and prescriptions for *under-13s?
Hon TONY RYALL: This policy has been widely welcomed in the health sector, including by the *Medical Association, the *Paediatric Society, the *College of General Practitioners, and the *New Zealander of the Year, *Kaitāia general practitioner *Lance O’Sullivan. I have also seen a report that somewhat begrudgingly described the extension of free general practitioners visits and prescriptions as an “attractive policy”. That was from the *Leader of the Opposition, David Cunliffe.
Barbara Stewart: What will the Government do to improve the effectiveness of the rheumatic fever campaign, given that a recent study has shown that fewer than one in three children prescribed antibiotics for rheumatic fever had taken the full course?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government is investing $20 million in expanding the rheumatic fever programme in this year’s Budget. One of the items that that money will be invested in is improving adherence and looking at new and innovative ways that we can encourage that.
Dr Jian Yang: What other initiatives announced in the Budget will support the good health of New Zealand children?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is more good news for Kiwi families in this year’s Budget. Very positive announcements—the $20 million for the *Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme extension, which I talked about earlier; $6.3 million to provide bilateral cochlear implants for children; and $40 million for the new **Healthy Families NZ anti-obesity programme, to help encourage more New Zealanders to eat healthier and exercise more.
Barbara Stewart: What is the Ministry of Health doing to ensure that general practitioners consistently prescribe adequate courses of antibiotics for rheumatic fever—for example, 10 days, rather than a lesser amount, which is sometimes the case?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Ministry of Health is working very actively with the general practice community in order to improve services for kids who present with sore throats. One of the things we are funding out of this $5 million a year—$20 million over 4 years—in this year’s Budget is the expansion of drop-in sore throat clinics. Most of these are based in general practice. They are free,
which is designed to encourage people to present and then get the various antibiotics and medications that might be required after that.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, the Hon Annette King.
Hon Simon Bridges: A blast from the past.
Hon Annette King: Sit down, sonny.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is the sort of disorder that is created by an interjection from my right-hand side, and it will cease.
Hon Annette King: In light of the New Zealand Medical Association saying that it needs more detail of the policy, how many consultations per child per year, on average, did he base his announcement of $30 million a year to pay general practitioners for free doctors visits for children under 13 years of age?
Hon TONY RYALL: As the member knows, we will be entering negotiations with general practice on that, so that information would be commercially sensitive at this stage. But what I have got to tell that member is that I do not know why she is so opposed to this policy, because when I was meeting with general practitioners in her electorate at lunchtime, they were very supportive.
GCSB—2011 Briefings and Appointment of Director
5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Prime Minister: Was a staff member from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet present at the briefing on Operation Debut held on 14 December 2011; if so, was that same person present at his meeting with Simon Murdoch and Ian Fletcher on the 12th of December 2011?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Prime
Minister: I am advised that the answer to the first part of the question is no; it then follows that the answer to the second part of the question is also no.
Grant Robertson: Is it correct that the Government paid the cost for *Ian Fletcher to come to New Zealand for the meeting on 12 December?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have that particular piece of information to hand this afternoon.
Grant Robertson: I seek the leave of the House to table a **screenshot of a Queensland Department of State travel expense form, which shows a $1,060 contribution from the New Zealand Government to Ian Fletcher’s travel.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this something that has been freely broadcast to all New Zealanders?
Grant Robertson: He doesn’t know about it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not the question I asked. Is this something that has been screened on public TV to all New Zealanders?
Grant Robertson: It has.
Mr SPEAKER: Then that information is freely available.
Grant Robertson: In light of the fact that the New Zealand Government did pay $1,060 to Ian Fletcher for him to come to New Zealand on 12 December, why did the Prime Minister say yesterday that Ian Fletcher “happened to be in New Zealand” for the meeting?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate *Perry Mason’s efforts in this regard. What I can tell the member—
Hon Tony Ryall: “CSI Karori”.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —“CSI Karori”—is that the 12 December 2011 meeting occurred between the Prime Minister, Mr Ferguson*, and **Mr Murdoch, the then Acting Director of the *Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).
Hon Annette King: You’re struggling.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not struggling at all, thank you very much. That information is *well known.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In Mr Joyce’s attempts to answer that question, he did not address the question I asked, which was about why the Prime Minister yesterday said—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is making a reasonable point. There was too much noise throughout the question and the answer. I invite the member to ask the question again.
Hon Tony Ryall: Have another go, **Grissom.
Grant Robertson: We will come to you, too.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just ask the question.
Grant Robertson: In light of the fact that the New Zealand Government did pay $1,060 for *Ian Fletcher to come to New Zealand on 12 December, why did the Prime Minister say yesterday that Ian Fletcher “happened to be in New Zealand” for the meeting?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Because he did happen to be in New Zealand for the meeting.
Grant Robertson: How can any of the Prime Minister’s claims about Ian Fletcher’s appointment be taken with any credibility when he claimed in this House that his only role in appointing Ian Fletcher was to accept the recommendation of the *State Services Commissioner, when, in fact, he organised a meeting with Ian Fletcher 3 days after he approved the appointment panel for the GCSB job, he personally called Ian Fletcher and told him to contact a member of the appointment panel, and Ian Fletcher was the only person interviewed for the job; is it not about time that he stopped telling lies to New Zealanders—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That question is out of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Every member has a right to raise a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.
Hon Trevor Mallard: My understanding of the precedent of the use of the word “liar” is that in the past it has always been with regard to statements in the House. There was not a suggestion that the statement that the Prime Minister made was one made in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need no more assistance. That sort of question will lead to disorder in this House, and on that basis it was ruled out of—[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to add to his record of leaving the House by talking when I am talking to a point of order, we will ensure that that happens.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, this is a point of order. It will be heard in silence.
Grant Robertson: I draw your attention to the answers that Mr Joyce gave on behalf of the Prime Minister, which deliberately avoided answering the question. We had to force him to answer another question. All of his answers were, in fact, out of order. They all began with an insult to me as a questioner. So if you are looking for where disorder starts in the House, it starts with Mr Joyce—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! In my opinion the Minister addressed every question apart from one. I gave the member the opportunity to then ask that question again, to which, to my satisfaction, the Minister then addressed that question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: If it is a relitigation of this matter, I will take that very seriously.
Hon Trevor Mallard: While Grant Robertson made his point of order, Mr Joyce interjected five times and was not reprimanded.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I called for silence throughout that point of order. If the Hon Steven Joyce did interject through that point of order, then I now require him to leave the Chamber. I did not hear the interjection, so I leave it for the member to confirm whether he did interject. Hon Steven Joyce withdrew from the Chamber.
6. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Education: How will Budget 2014 continue to support schools?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Budget 2014 continues to support schools through new investments big and small. Over and above the $359 million flagship initiative investing in teachers and school leaders, we are investing a further $284 million into building new schools and classrooms, on top of the $1.1 billion into Greater Christchurch. Operational grants will be increased by a further 2 percent at a cost of $85 million, and $4.7 million is being invested for children with high health needs to safely attend school, learn, and achieve.
Colin King: How do operational grants support schools to be successful?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Operational grants are about 20 percent of total Government funding to schools. The operational grants support schools to be successful by giving them choice and flexibility in how they deliver the curriculum programme they have decided upon together with their parent communities. This means that we will be spending $1.23 billion on school operational grants alone over the next year to support schools like Ongaonga* from the central Hawke’s Bay, which is in the gallery today.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: How is it fair that the Budget gives additional funding for charter schools, meaning that for at least one charter school its per student funding will be more than $40,000 a student, whereas State schools have to struggle by with an increase that barely meets the cost of inflation?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Partnership schools, of which there are five out of over 2,500 schools, are receiving funding that amounts to two-tenths of 0.1 percent of the $10 billion.
Grant Robertson: How is it fair?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: How it is fair is because our system has been failing a certain cohort of our population for many a long year. If we continue to do all the same things we have always done, we will get the same results we have always got. This Government is not prepared to accept that. It wants five out five children being successful.
Health and Safety, Workplace—Bullying and Discrimination
7. BRENDAN HORAN (Independent) to the Minister of Labour: What measures is the Government taking to address the problems of bullying, discrimination, and harassment occurring in New Zealand workplaces?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Labour): Bullying in the workplace is unacceptable. This difficult issue can adversely affect people’s personal health and can seriously impact business productivity. Our employment health and safety law provides explicit protection for employees from bullying, discrimination, and harassment. Additionally, in February this year WorkSafe New Zealand*, in conjunction with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment*, issued bestpractice* guidelines on workplace bullying. The guidelines seek to support those involved in responding to situations before they get out of hand.
Brendan Horan: Would those guidelines provide protections to ensure that a member of Parliament or a party leader cannot bully—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a question to the Minister of Labour. Further supplementary questions that the member asks must relate to a ministerial responsibility of the Minister as Minister of Labour. I invite him to ask his question.
Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am referring to workplace bullying.
Mr SPEAKER: I will listen very carefully to the question, but the member is at risk. If I consider he is asking a question that does not have direct ministerial responsibility, I have two courses of action: either to leave it to the Minister to answer it that way, or I have the option to rule it out of order.
Brendan Horan: Would those guidelines provide protections to ensure that a member of Parliament or a party leader cannot bully or intimidate a Parliamentary Service employee into conducting unlawful activities, for example, accessing the emails of another member without that member’s permission?
Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe this question is out of order. I draw your attention to Standing Order* *375(b), relating to the responsibility of the Minister, and also to Standing Orders 377(1)(a)* and 377(1)(c)*, which state, respectively, that statements given as fact must be able to be authenticated, and that statements must not contain discreditable references to any member of Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: On the occasion I am going to invite the Minister to answer it. He needs to answer it very carefully in line with his ministerial responsibility.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is difficult to answer such a question in the abstract and I do not comment, of course, on specific cases. I suspect the matter the member refers to, if it were made out, is one for the Parliamentary Service.
Brendan Horan: Would those guidelines mean that an employee who made a complaint to her employer about abusive emails and text messages from her boss should be able to respond to that person’s public denials without fear of legal action; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility—Hon Simon Bridges.
Richard Prosser: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Referring back again to Standing Order *375(b) and the matters of administration for which the Minister is responsible, I believe that the Minister, as the Minister of Labour, is one of a number of Ministers responsible for the *Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and, therefore, *WorkSafe New Zealand, but he is not specifically solely responsible, and the question should have been directed to a Minister in his or her capacity as the Minister responsible for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not accept that part. We allowed the first question through marginally on the question around guidelines. This is a further explanation or request for an explanation from the Minister about those guidelines. The question stands.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Effectively, my answer to the earlier supplementary question still stands. I am sure that *Parliamentary Service is aware of *best-practice guidelines on bullying and is incorporating them as appropriate. As a general statement of principle, bullying is unacceptable no matter where or when it occurs.
Brendan Horan: Does the Minister believe that an employee locked out of her office by her boss should be allowed to challenge that boss’s public denials and the denials of his colleagues without fear of legal action?
Mr SPEAKER: That is an opinion question, and again, in so far as there is ministerial responsibility, I call the Hon Simon Bridges.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think that is a matter of opinion and, indeed, one that requires a legal opinion. I will repeat, really, all that I have said. Bullying is unacceptable no matter where or when it occurs.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—Jacinda Ardern. [Interruption] Oh, sorry—Brendon Horan. It is actually not that easy a mistake to make but I still managed to do it. [Interruption] If the member wants to ask his question, he better get on with it.
Brendan Horan: Would those guidelines mean that MPs might have to take responsibility for their treatment of staff, rather than hiding behind Parliamentary Service and gagging clauses—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That question is definitely out of order. Any issues regarding Parliamentary Service are addressed to the Speaker as the appropriate Minister.
8. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by her statement in relation to Budget 2014 that “The Police’s core operating spending is being maintained”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Police: Yes.
Jacinda Ardern: Was the Police Association correct when it stated that “police are receiving around $40 million less to do the job than they spent last year. We are no longer frozen, we are going backwards,”; if not, what is the difference in output expenses between the two Budgets?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The association is correct that there is $40 million, which was a result of one-off funding delivered by the Government for certain things. Those matters that it was funded for were from the *Justice Sector Fund to enable a restructuring of human resources and finance; the retention of a road policing underspend, which helped deliver the lowest road toll in 60 years; the completion of the police’s deployment to the *Solomon Islands; and one-off funding for the police to implement the *Criminal Procedure Act. The core operating spending is actually being maintained at $1.46 billion, and there has been no cut at all in the core operating spending or funding.
Richard Prosser: Will she adopt the New Zealand First policy of minimum double staffing of patrol cars at night, which will see a significant reduction in assaults on our police, or do flat and reducing Budgets prevent this?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, I do not believe that the Minister would be adopting that, because that would be an operational matter for police, but I can tell the member—and I hope this will assist—that when this has previously been looked at under a previous Minister, it was rejected by the police for very sound reasons. It would have meant, in fact, that there would be a lot of police unable to service areas because of shift requirements, holiday requirements, and others.
Jacinda Ardern: Was the extra funding from the Justice Sector Fund that the Minister referred to, which is to pay for basic human resources, proof that she has significantly underfunded the police in 2013 and has done so again?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am sorry, but the member has misheard. I said that the funding from the Justice Sector Fund was to enable a restructure of human resources and finance. That is not actually basic human resources work.
Jami-Lee Ross: What additional resources has this Government provided to police to fight crime and keep our communities safer?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: This Government has funded police to recruit an additional 600 police officers, and we have rolled out *smartphones and tablets to all front-line officers. This new technology has freed police up from paperwork, and got them out on to the street delivering the equivalent of 354 additional officers—
Hon Member: How many?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: —354 additional officers. We have also implemented a new policing model, which is focused on preventing crime rather than simply reacting to it, and the results speak for themselves. Over the last 4 years crime has fallen by over 20 percent, and the recorded crime rate is the lowest that it has been in a generation. Under the previous Government, crime was increasing.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she believe that responding to crime quickly, good resolution rates, and crime prevention have a role to play in keeping crime down; if so, how does Budget 2014 support those initiatives?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, clearly they do.
Richard Prosser: Can she confirm that the police have cut back on the amount of live ammunition allocated to each police officer’s annual firearms training to no more than 30 rounds per officer per year because of cost cutting due to flat Budgets, and does she believe this level will provide police with an adequate degree of competency in the use of firearms?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I really would not know about that.
Jacinda Ardern: In light of her previous answer, can she confirm that this Budget includes a $3.5 million cut to general crime prevention, a $7 million cut to investigations, a $7 million cut to
primary response, and a $10 million cut to road policing, and is she seriously telling the public it can expect the same level of service from the police with cuts like that?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: As I have already said to the member, this Government is about results. The police have shown that by using technology, and by having a Minister who backs the police and does not consistently deride them—as that member would, should she ever have the opportunity—the police can in fact produce results, which means that the crime rate itself is now down to the lowest it has been since 1978, before that member was even born.
Jacinda Ardern: In the wake of such significant cuts to the police budget and the risk of increasing operational failures that will affect the public, is she content that in contrast to that, the *Diplomatic Protection Squad’s funding has increased by 63 percent since she took office?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am sure the member is aware that the way in which the police allocate their funding is an operational decision for the *Commissioner of Police, and is not something undertaken by the Minister. That member shakes her head, but, unfortunately, I am right and she is not.
9. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister of Tourism: What recent investments has this Government made to grow the tourism sector in New Zealand?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of
Tourism: Just this week we announced that the Government’s *Tourism Growth Partnership is investing $3.84 million in six innovative tourism projects that will create jobs in New Zealand. This is in addition to the $23 million in co-funding for the applicants, making a total of $26.84 million of new investment in the tourism industry. The six projects are Rotorua’s **Skyline Gravity Park, *Auckland Airport’s food and wine cluster project, **New Zealand Ski’s virtual guest services platform, **The Orange Group’s project to target Chinese visitors, the **Christchurch Adventure Park, and **Bachcare’s online holiday rental project. These projects represent a potential industry investment of $6 for every $1 invested by the Government. This is a great return.
Joanne Hayes: When the Minister made this announcement at Trenz*, New Zealand’s largest tourism trade show, this week, what was the mood of the industry?
Mr SPEAKER: In as far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Todd McClay.
Hon TODD McCLAY: The mood of the industry is purely a ministerial responsibility. The industry is in good heart. This year 250 New Zealand tourism businesses exhibited at Trenz and 250 buyers from around the world attended. The industry is benefiting from having a high-profile Minister who is promoting New Zealand tourism around the world, and a Government that has invested heavily in targeted markets. Recently, as Associate Minister, I met with a number of key representatives of the British travel industry in London. Many of them expressed a real sense of optimism in having New Zealand as a tourism destination and lauded *Tourism New Zealand’s outstanding overseas promotional work.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called, so the normal rules apply.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I would just like you to point out to the Minister that he was answering on behalf of the *Minister of Tourism, and the activities of the Associate Minister should not be taken into account in that answer, unless he says “on behalf of the Minister, the Associate Minister did something”. He has got the wrong person.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the point that the member is making. Ministers should recall that when they are answering on behalf of a Minister, they need to initiate their answer with that comment. But I am sure, on my interpretation of that answer, he was actually interpreting the actions of the Minister, rather than those of the Associate Minister.
Joanne Hayes: When the Minister was at Trenz last year, he committed an additional $158 million towards tourism over the next 4 years. What progress is he seeing?
Hon TODD McCLAY: We are seeing great progress. There were 2.78 million visitor arrivals in New Zealand in the year to April 2014, which is 6 percent higher than in 2013. This includes growth from Australia of 5.5 percent; from Asia, which is up by 8.3 percent; from Europe, which is up by 6.8 percent; and from the Americas, which is up by 8.8 percent. This Government’s support for a far more proactive and coordinated tourism strategy is really starting to pay dividends. In the most recent international visitor survey, the total visitor spend in New Zealand was up by 9 percent, to almost $7 billion. A recent New Zealand Institute of Economic Research* report showed that within five of our major tourism markets, the promotion of New Zealand was found to have had considerable impact on the choice of people—more good news for the New Zealand tourism sector.
Darien Fenton: Has he not broken his promise that he made to grieving families to clean up safety in the adventure tourism industry when progress on the safety audits has stalled because of his Government’s failure to properly resource safety audit providers?
Hon TODD McCLAY: No, that is not correct. The Prime Minister and Ministers have worked very hard in this area. Indeed, the Government is committed to assisting the adventure activities sector to meet its obligation and deadline of 1 November to register under the *Health and Safety in Employment Regulations. Approximately 460 adventure tourism activity operators are subject to these regulations, and *WorkSafe New Zealand, which administers the regulations, has developed solutions to help these operators meet this deadline of 1 November.
10. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister for ACC: Why did Cabinet not approve ACC’s recommended levy reductions for 2014/15?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): As *paragraph 5.21 of the *Cabinet Manual states, discussion at Cabinet and in Cabinet committees is confidential. This reflects a *longstanding convention, from which I do not intend to depart. However, to assist the House, if the member would like to consult my *Cabinet paper, which has been publicly released, that paper reflects considerations provided to Cabinet.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Can she confirm that according to the Cabinet paper she prepared on ACC levies she warned Cabinet that “reductions to ACC levies impact on the Government’s fiscal strategy to balance the books.”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, of course, because under *section 300 of the *Accident Compensation Act 2001 the Minister must have regard to the public interest in making these recommendations.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Can she confirm that under ACC’s proposed levy reductions, which her Government rejected, vehicle owners would have saved $50 per vehicle this year?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think that is evident. It has already been released publicly.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Can she confirm that the employers’ and employees’ accounts are already over 130 percent funded, and that even under ACC’s proposed levy reductions the *motor vehicle account would still have been fully funded by the end of the 2014-15 financial year?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is in fact forecast, but, having said that, this Government inherited a very difficult situation with ACC, and it is very important for businesses and for *levy payers that in fact the levies are continuing to go down, not going up and down as they did under the previous Government.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Why does the 2014-15 Budget predict only $480 million in levy reductions in the following financial year, when ACC has determined that $650 million worth of reductions can be made without impacting on the sustainability of the corporation?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Presumably that would be because the ACC board does not have to take into account the same matters that the *Minister for ACC does.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Is not the real reason that Kiwi workers, business people, and families are handing too much of their hard-earned money to ACC that her Government has failed to reach a surplus by growing the economy and getting people into work?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Although it is very flattering to be told it is my Government, it is actually not my Government. I am a member of the Government.
Environmental Policy—Product Stewardship
11. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Why is she continuing to consult on product stewardship schemes instead of implementing mandatory schemes now?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): Among other reasons, because I am required to do so by law.
Denise Roche: Why is she consulting again, now, when the ministry has already consulted on this issue in 2009 and there was an industry-backed *e-waste scheme ready to go in 2008?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Because that is not correct, and because I am required to do so by law.
Denise Roche: Will the Minister act on the results of the latest consultation, given her predecessors ignored the results of consultation in 2009 and 2005?
Hon AMY ADAMS: We are carrying out a discussion document because we want to create a discussion. We want to hear the results of that discussion, and, of course, I would be very interested to hear the results that come from it.
Denise Roche: Would she agree that if her Government had funded the TV TakeBack* scheme properly, and done the work on product stewardship for TVs when it first had the opportunity, we would not have thousands of TVs sitting around waiting to be recycled now?
Hon AMY ADAMS: No.
Denise Roche: When will this Government stop wasting time and money and endless consultations and actually use the tools of the Green Party’s Waste Minimisation Act* to implement positive solutions that are supported by industry, will create jobs, and will help the environment and save taxpayers’ money?
Hon AMY ADAMS: It is not the Green Party’s Act.
Canterbury, Recovery—Protection of Migrant Workers
12. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: What recent announcements has he made to help combat the exploitation of migrant workers helping on the Canterbury rebuild?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Yesterday the Minister of Labour*, Simon Bridges, and I announced more than $7 million over the next 4 years from Budget 2014 to boost the number of labour inspectors and immigration officers dealing with the Canterbury rebuild. The money will be used to fund an additional six labour inspectors and seven immigration staff, including three compliance officers and two investigators. This will result in much greater capacity to educate about, to prevent, and then to prosecute *exploitative practices.
Chris Auchinvole: Why is this extra funding necessary at this time?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The Canterbury rebuild is one of the Government’s top priorities, and as the rebuild gathers momentum it is very important that we provide the tools needed to stamp out unlawful practices and provide assurances that maintain our international reputation. These extra inspectors augment the law changes announced last year that introduced tough new penalties for migrant exploitation by employers, but I note with interest that the Labour Party and the Greens have said that they will vote against the bill currently before the House that would implement these changes.
Darien Fenton: How will this announcement help *Filipino migrants **Carlos Claveron and **Emmanuel Francisco, who paid $15,000 to an immigration adviser in return for a job paying $18
an hour, but then had their pay cut by $3 a hour when they arrived in New Zealand, yet months later the labour inspector is telling them there is nothing they can do?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: It will help people like those Filipino workers in a number of ways. Firstly, by ensuring that they have appropriate information—both them and their employers—on what is appropriate practice in New Zealand, and that where employers fall below that standard there are appropriate avenues of inquiry, including the actions that the member has taken. I also imagine that there would be a part to play for trade unions in supporting workers like them through that process, and I am quite sure that the member would be referring workers to them.
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