Pacific Scoop

Parliament: Questions and Answers – March 28

Press Release – Hansard

Question No. 1Housing and Urban Development 1. PAUL EAGLE (LabourRongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development : What steps is the Government taking to make renting more affordable for Kiwi families? Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of …ORAL QUESTIONS


Question No. 1—Housing and Urban Development
1. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What steps is the Government taking to make renting more affordable for Kiwi families?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): On Thursday, the Government introduced a bill to ban letting fees. Banning letting fees will save families up to $47 million per year. Letting fees are unfair and have no economic rationale. It’s a large cost on families that comes at the worst possible time, when they have to find as much as four weeks’ bond, two weeks’ rent in advance, and often the costs of moving. That is an immense burden on families. The amount charged also bears very little resemblance to the actual costs incurred in the process of letting the property. This change will make a big difference in the lives of Kiwis and will ensure that the costs of letting a property fall with those able to control those costs.
Paul Eagle: What responses has he seen on letting fees?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The response to the proposed ban on letting fees has been overwhelmingly positive. For example, Dr Lucy Telfar-Barnard has said, “Banning letting fees is a simple legislative fix to improve efficiency and competition in property management services, and to reduce the cost burden of moving house, borne unequally by our most vulnerable.” Most sensible commentators accept that the costs of a contract should lie with the parties to that contract and accept that letting fees are unfair and bad economic policy.
Paul Eagle: What else is the Government doing to make renting more affordable and secure for families?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I have committed to a review of the Residential Tenancies Act, which will get under way this year. The review will advance a range of changes to make life better for renters and will include consideration of limiting rent increases to once per year and initiatives to improve security of tenure and better allow tenants to make their house a home. The review is expected to result in legislation being introduced to Parliament by the end of the year.
David Seymour: How does the Government propose to ensure that the costs which currently underlie letting fees are not passed on to tenants in other ways, such as higher rents?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we don’t expect that banning letting fees will lead to an increase in rent. When Scotland banned letting fees, there was no evidence in Scotland that it led to an increase in rents. The UK housing advocacy group Shelter found that only 2 percent of landlords in Scotland increased their rents after letting fees were banned there, while in this country the Reserve Bank notes that rents are driven primarily by supply and demand, not landlord costs. Treasury also concluded that, and I quote, “Experience in other countries shows no clear evidence that banning letting fees will lead to increased rents.”
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: What did Clare Curran tell her about Clare Curran’s meeting with Carol Hirschfeld?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I mentioned in the House yesterday, she advised me that it was a high-level meeting, that they discussed the future of broadcasting generally and some of the ideas that were already very much in the public domain, about the role of public broadcasting in New Zealand.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was the Prime Minister advised whether funding for Radio New Zealand was discussed at the meeting; if so, what was said?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said yesterday and again today, very much what the Minister, I’m advised, discussed was what’s already in the public domain. For instance, the Labour Party’s policy in particular around RNZ Plus is free and available for everyone to see.
Hon Simon Bridges: So, to be clear, was funding and was RNZ Plus discussed at the meeting?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, the issues she discussed were already in the public domain. For the specifics, you are absolutely able to ask the Minister directly, but, again, all of it is already in the public domain.
Hon Simon Bridges: Then what is the Prime Minister’s understanding of why the meeting was hidden both by Clare Curran and by Carol Hirschfeld?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve also said in this House previously, the Minister should have absolutely disclosed, when first asked in a written question, that the meeting occurred. The fact that she did not, she has apologised for. What I do not accept, however, was that it was a secret meeting. Secret meetings are generally not held in places like Astoria, they’re not put in the diary, and they’re also not confirmed with a journalist, which she did on the day she was asked.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many meetings have Clare Curran and Carol Hirschfeld had since Ms Curran became a Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I believe that was included in her corrected written question, which the member already has.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many meetings have Ms Curran and Ms Hirschfeld had since Ms Curran became Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My recollection of the corrected written question is that she included then the breakfast meeting, and I believe she was also in attendance at a wider meeting that happened with others from RNZ at her office.
Hon Simon Bridges: Shouldn’t all meetings have been with the chief executive and chair of Radio New Zealand, not Ms Curran, as is made clear in Ms Curran’s briefing to the incoming Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister absolutely understands that her primary relationship exists with the board chair and with the chief executive. However, Ministers can—and do—meet with others who work within Crown entities. To say that they couldn’t would mean that someone who worked, for instance, for a Crown research institute, a scientist, couldn’t discuss any of their work with the Minister for research and development or that a transport Minister could never speak to anyone who worked within the New Zealand Transport Agency. The primary relationship, of course, is always with the board chair.
Hon Simon Bridges: What possible legitimate purpose is there in a meeting between the relevant Minister and a senior journalist and manager in Radio New Zealand, when it’s quite clear it should have been with the chief executive and chair only?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that’s very marginal, especially the last part of it. I’ll let it go, but I’m going to ask the Leader of the Opposition to tighten his questions going forward.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister, in holding this meeting, was not acting in breach of the Cabinet Manual. Nor is it unusual for Ministers to meet with people who work within Crown entities. She should have been transparent about the fact that it happened. That is why she has apologised, but the fact that she did not include it in a written question is the primary error, not the fact of the meeting itself.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was the discussion where the Prime Minister “sought assurances” from Tracey Martin regarding Jenny Marcroft and the provincial growth fund carried out by her in person; if not, how was it carried out?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will know from the sequence of events that I outlined that I intended to seek assurances from each member on the Tuesday morning.
Hon Simon Bridges: Intended?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, at that point, I hadn’t done that. Immediately after, I phoned each of those Ministers and spoke with them directly. Of course, the phone was a quicker way for me to be able to do that.
Hon Simon Bridges: So how long was that phone call with Tracey Martin?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Seeking an assurance from a Minister that they were not involved in a situation doesn’t take that long.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has the Prime Minister or her office done any further checks to corroborate Tracey Martin’s version of events?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I take Ministers who work within Cabinet at their word, as, I’m sure, the leader takes his members at their word. That is how Cabinet operates.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I haven’t called the member yet, and the reason that I haven’t called him is that I’m waiting for people, including a number of people on the cross benches—I’m getting a little bit of help from the National Party back bench about how many people should be standing up, and they are right. But I was waiting for members in front of that member to be quiet before I called them. I won’t name the three members concerned now.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister: if qualities of leadership and ministerial posts are important, what would she think of someone who claims to have been a Crown prosecutor although he never held a Crown prosecutor’s licence?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I’m on my feet. That is not something for which the Prime Minister has responsibility. Are we finished there? Yes.
Question No. 3—Deputy Prime Minister
3. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes, I most certainly do.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does he stand by his media statement put out as Rt Hon Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister, released on 26 March 2018?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! As I indicated yesterday, after looking at that statement, the content of that statement is not a responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister. That question is ruled out.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A simple question—why did he style himself as such?
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want to ask that question?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it does go to the heart of order though, doesn’t it, because if we now have to discern whether or not the Rt Hon Winston Peters is acting as the Deputy Prime Minister or as the leader of New Zealand First, regardless of what he puts on his letterhead, then, of course, he can obfuscate any time he likes by just choosing one hat over the other, and that’s unacceptable.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank the member for his advice. I am going to refer him to oral question No. 1 back on 5 December where I received some very good advice from the then shadow Leader of the House, one Simon Bridges, who, I think it’s fair to say, twice implored me—and I accepted and agreed with his advice—to rule out matters when the Deputy Prime Minister was asked questions as Deputy Prime Minister that were not the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister. In that case, I think it was Mr Ball asking about rail, and Mr Bridges very clearly and eloquently pointed out that that was not the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister and I ruled the questions out.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I thank you for that clarification. The bit that is perhaps not clear is the difference between asking a supplementary question in the House and a question about a release put out in the public.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, as I think I fairly clearly indicated to the member yesterday, while the release was headed “Deputy Prime Minister” actually there was nothing in the release whatsoever that was with the responsibility of the Deputy Prime Minister. As I indicated, I will take leadership from the then shadow Leader of the House as to what’s relevant and what’s not.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why did the Deputy Prime Minister put out a statement on Monday under the heading of “Deputy Prime Minister” when now we are informed that he has no responsibility for the content?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I think, with precision, I was seeking to help out my friend Mr Mitchell and make sure he was on the straight and narrow.
Hon Paula Bennett: So what does he mean, then, by saying that Mr Mitchell needs to be on the straight and narrow?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Ah yes, well, given how wide the parameters of behaviour are in that party, I know that’s a great stricture, but what I’m really trying to ensure is that he gets the correct story before he wantonly goes public with it.
Hon Paula Bennett: So the question is, then: what is the correct story when he was approached by a member of the Deputy Prime Minister’s party who informed him that he had been sent by a Minister; so is the correct story that he was sent by one of your Ministers?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I can deal with that very, very easily. The responsibility for the member of the party is not that of the Deputy Prime Minister, and responsibility for the Minister is not either. That is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, but there is no ministerial responsibility for the actions of backbench members of Parliament.
Hon Paula Bennett: What was the underlying point that he refers to frequently, and what is the message that Mr Mark needed to get on Saturday afternoon?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The underlying point would have been that this was about a conversation to do with the provincial growth fund; that because of the previous Government having thrown Warkworth and Wellsford against their wishes into the super-city, they could not qualify; but that because we are an open-minded party it would not pre-empt us trying to see our way through it in the future to help the people from Warkworth. [Interruption] But it’s what I’m saying and it’s a fact.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does he still believe that “transparency and openness” is the middle name of this Government, as he’s said previously, when both Minister Tracey Martin and MP Jenny Marcroft avoid media questions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the member cannot answer it, because he—I don’t care if he wants to. The member cannot answer it because that is not an area that he has any ministerial responsibility for.
Hon Paula Bennett: Supplementary—
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, I’m just going to ask Mr Goldsmith, I think, who made that interjection to stand, withdraw, and apologise. Was it Mr Goldsmith?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.
Hon Paula Bennett: In respect of his previous response, as part of, then, that funding going through, is it a condition that Mr Mitchell not be involved in that restoration project?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, quite the contrary. We welcome any efforts that Mr Mitchell has to make his life more meaningful, given that he’s a backbencher, and I know this project to have been around since Peter Wilkinson was there in 1975. That’s how long it’s taken National to respond to a vital issue. So here we are, in 2018, and I can see why they’re accessing the provincial growth fund to try, after 50 years, to do something for the people of Warkworth.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think we now see the problem that we have when we get outside the areas of strict responsibility.
Question No. 4—Education
4. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What recent moves has the Government made to help more teachers into classrooms?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Last week, the Acting Minister of Education announced an additional $700,000 to help more teachers into classrooms with the extension of the Teacher Education Refresh (TER) programme. Around 280 additional teachers will now have access to fully subsidised refresher courses, which I announced as part of a $9.5 million teacher supply package before Christmas.
Jan Tinetti: How does the Teacher Education Refresh programme work?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Teacher Education Refresh programme is designed to retain experienced teachers whose practising certificates are about to expire and attract teachers back into the profession who haven’t taught for a while. We’ve made subsidies available to remove the cost barrier associated with undertaking the TER course, which could be up to $4,000 per person and acted as a detriment to those who are passionate about teaching returning to the workforce.
Question No. 5—Finance
5. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Will he guarantee any new taxes resulting from the Tax Working Group will have their total nominal revenue off-set by tax reductions in other areas?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: I welcome the member’s interest in the independent Tax Working Group’s activities, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her and encourage her, along with all New Zealanders who are interested in the issue, to make a submission at to join the national conversation about the future of New Zealand’s tax system. In respect of her question, the member is getting well ahead of herself. The independent Tax Working Group will report back to Ministers in February 2019 and, for the benefit of the member, it is currently March 2018. As the Tax Working Group is independent, it would be inappropriate for Ministers to make commitments on its behalf before its recommendations are received.
Hon Amy Adams: Why is he incapable of giving taxpayers a simple reassurance that this working group is not just a Government exercise designed to tax hard-working New Zealanders even more?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Because it isn’t. It’s a responsible conversation about the future of New Zealand’s tax system.
Hon Amy Adams: Given that tax revenue is forecast to increase from $78 billion this year to $93 billion in 2021—an increase of nearly 20 percent in just three years—why is he so determined to introduce more new taxes?
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, can I—again, I’m going to let the question go, but I want to remind the member that she is not allowed to make assertions, as she did at the end, as part of the question. It’s not necessary as part of the question.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Yeah, I do, obviously, reject the premise of that question. But I can confirm that it is this Government’s plan—despite her trying to talk the economy down—for GDP to keep growing.
Hon Amy Adams: How much additional tax revenue beyond the $93 billion per year forecast for 2021 does he project he will need to fully fund all of the 51 spending commitments in the Speech from the Throne?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The operating and capital revenues set aside in the coming envelopes are sufficient to meet the promises, and some beside.
Tamati Coffey: What expert commentary has he seen recently on the tax system?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I saw one expert who asked whether the public wanted tax cuts at this point in time as opposed to more investment in health and education, specifically commenting that, “My view has always been that you have got to properly fund health and education first before considering tax cuts.” I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the Hon Jonathan Coleman, former Minister of Health.
Hon Amy Adams: Why does he believe it is appropriate to have a Government working group that is being directed to consider the introduction of new taxes at the same time he’s raising debt by billions of dollars during a period of solid economic growth, leaving himself nowhere to grow should economic growth evaporate?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This Government has a plan to see debt as a proportion of the economy drop over time. And I’d also say that I expect the tax working group will report back in line with its terms of reference, and I’m very happy to table those for the member.
Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by all his answers to Oral Question No. 10 in the House yesterday?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, in the context in which they were given.
Hon Judith Collins: When he said that “there is currently no requirement for mandatory home warranties for new residential construction”, was he aware that section 362I of the Building Act 2004 provides a 10-year warranty for new homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, because that’s an implied warranty, not a mandatory home warranty.
Hon Judith Collins: If the implied warranty is part of the Building Act 2004—in other words, the legislation—how is that not a mandatory implied warranty?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I stand by my answer to the previous question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think it was a different question, and I’ll ask the Hon Judith Collins to repeat it.
Hon Judith Collins: Well, I’ll do my best, Mr Speaker. If there is an implied warranty of 10 years in the Building Act, which is the law, how is that not a mandatory implied warranty that has the full strength of the law?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The former is an implied warranty under the Building Act. What I was talking about were insurance-backed mandatory warranties, as are provided by the likes of Master Builders and Certified Builders.
Hon Judith Collins: If he thought it was an insurance-backed warranty, then why didn’t he say it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I thought it was self-explanatory.
Hon Judith Collins: Is it his intention that the New Zealand Government will have no responsibilities under sections 90B and 90C of the Building Act 2004 for any new home warranties?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The member was asking me about the development that we’d announced at Unitec. My expectation is that the Unitec development is likely to be developed with the benefit of an urban development agency coordinating and master-planning the project, just as HLC has done at Hobsonville Point. Under that model, private sector developers will take on super lots, or aspects of development projects, and, under that approach, the Government, through KiwiBuild, will not be getting in the way of the contractual relationship between the developer, the builder, and the home buyer.
Hon Judith Collins: If he’s now telling us that he plans no Government guarantee for the mandatory implied warranties for 10 years for new homes under KiwiBuild, is he saying that New Zealand buyers of KiwiBuild homes—first-home buyers—are on their own if the developer or the builder fails in the first 10 years?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’m not saying that. But what I have said—and the way that we intend to develop the Unitec project—is that the Government, through KiwiBuild, will not be getting in the way of the existing contractual relationship between the developer, the builder, and the home buyer.
Question No. 7—Veterans
7. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Veterans: What progress, if any, has been made regarding the repatriation of the remains of New Zealand military personnel and dependants who were buried overseas after 1 January 1955?
Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence):
[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Earlier today, I was very pleased to announce that the Government has extended an offer of repatriation to the families of all service personnel and their dependants who were buried overseas after 1 January 1955. Today’s announcement expands the decision made by the previous Government, who offered repatriation for service personnel and dependants buried in Malaysia and Singapore, to now include those buried in Fiji, American Samoa, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Korea. This is the right thing to do. Can I thank Paul Thomas and Andrew Peters, who initiated the call to return our fallen from Malaysia and Singapore and who petitioned Parliament on this issue.
Darroch Ball: Why were these remains not repatriated in the past?
Hon RON MARK: Prior to 1955, it was Government policy to bury our fallen personnel overseas, close to where they died. This changed in 1955, and between 1955 and 1971 personnel could be brought home at the cost of their family. This created an inequity, because many families could not afford to bring their loved ones home, and this caused pain and heartache, which their families have lived with ever since. In 1971, the Government began picking up the bill, but it was not backdated to 1955, when the policy change occurred.
Darroch Ball: How will the Government support the families who accept the offer of repatriation?
Hon RON MARK: The Government has agreed to fund the disinterment, repatriation, and re-interment of the fallen, at no cost to families. A contribution of $1,000 will be made towards a memorial for those re-interred, in a private or a public ceremony. The New Zealand Defence Force has assigned liaison officers to the families and will also offer additional support to re-interments if families request that, such as pallbearers, a chaplain, and a bugler. If a family does not wish for their loved one to be repatriated, then the New Zealand Government will continue to care for their graves overseas.
Darroch Ball: When will the remains be returned to New Zealand?
Hon RON MARK: Four arrival ceremonies will be conducted in New Zealand between May and October of this year. All ceremonies will include senior representatives of the nation, senior defence officers and officials, and representatives from veterans’ organisations and communities. We want to make this process as dignified and as peaceful as possible for the families. On behalf of the coalition Government and the Prime Minister, I want to assure the families that the team from the New Zealand Defence Force will take care of them and their loved ones. They will be in good hands.
Question No. 8—Foreign Affairs
8. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What will New Zealand’s response be to reports that following the Salisbury nerve agent attack 150 Russian diplomats have been expelled from 26 countries plus NATO?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): The same as I hope that member’s response would be, having received advice from the New Zealand SIS (NZSIS) and acted upon it. If he can give me an alternative response to the NZSIS advice, we’d like to hear it.
Hon Todd McClay: Does he agree with the Prime Minister when she said yesterday, “We don’t have Russian undeclared intelligence officers here.”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I agree with both the Prime Minister and the NZSIS, who gave her the information. The fact is, we don’t take knee-jerk reactions on this side of the House; we get the evidence, we get the facts, and we are working close with the NZSIS on that. As to outside—
Hon Simon Bridges: Winston—they don’t need a spy; they’ve got Winston.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, you’ll have to listen.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the member to resume his seat. This is a matter of international importance, which I think just about every member of the House is interested in, and I think it ill behoves people to chip while the Minister of Foreign Affairs is replying. But I will ask him, if he can, to play as straight a bat as he can.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Not in Aussie for that, if you ask me. Ha, ha!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Stop laughing—it’s serious.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I was looking at you, Gerry. I’m advised by the NZSIS, and so has the Prime Minister been, that there is no individual here in New Zealand who fits the profile of those being expelled by other countries—that is people within the embassies in other countries. If there were, we would have taken action a long time before Salisbury. But here’s the real point: the NZSIS advises it is aware of Russian intelligence activity in New Zealand and, where it is seen appropriate, action is taken.
Hon Todd McClay: Has he seen reports on the RNZ website today with the headline “PM’s spy comments make New Zealand a ‘laughing stock’ ” or the UK’s Guardian website, which says “New Zealand says it would expel Russian spies … but it [just] can’t find any”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Having been in politics for some time, I prefer to listen to the NZSIS. I’d rather listen to people with experience than a few flighty journalists from abroad.
Hon Simon Bridges: Winston reads Investigate.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: And if they want to make the kind of noise that Simon Bridges is making right now, showing how unprepared he is for leadership because he’s prepared to react to every phone call from some foreign embassy rather than his own national interests. Now, having said that, we have been monitoring this ship in the past, and here comes the contrast: Australia, in a much bigger context, found only two, so maybe we’re on the right track here.
Hon Todd McClay: Does the Minister really believe that, as a member of Five Eyes, New Zealand is the only country without Russian spies, when Australia, the UK, the US, Canada, most of Europe, and even Albania have expelled Russian diplomats?
Mr SPEAKER: I am going to let the question go, but, I think for the third time today, I’m going to advise members of the Opposition that they should make sure, in their supplementary questions, they have Ministerial responsibility. That might be a question which is appropriate for two other members, very clearly, but it is not a question that is the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. But, because I’m being kind and generous, I will allow Mr Peters to answer it.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can advise that member that the people in Five Eyes have consulted with us on our decision, understand our decision—did so before the decision was made, I might add, because they are aware of the facts.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can they understand it before it was made?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: They understood the circumstance or priority they were applying may not apply in New Zealand. They are more aware of this country’s context than that member is.
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Is he concerned by reports that the Opposition are suggesting this Government should ignore the advice of the NZSIS, who also acted in conjunction with our Five Eyes partners in the advice that they have provided this Government, that this Government has acted on?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I want to deal with a matter first, and the first thing that I’m going to deal with is—right from the start, actually, I was hoping that the Prime Minister might be able to bring that question within the responsibilities of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She did not manage to.
Hon Todd McClay: Does the Minister agree with TVNZ political commentator John Armstrong, who said, and I quote, “[The] claim … that New Zealand has been ahead of the international pack in declaring Moscow as behind the attempted murder of Skripal was as outrageous as it was audacious as it was patently incorrect.”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I have that quote again one more time—and slowly.
Mr SPEAKER: Can the member ask the question again.
Hon Todd McClay: Does the Minister agree with TVNZ political commentator John Armstrong, who said, “[The] claim … that New Zealand has been ahead of the international pack in declaring Moscow as behind the attempted murder of Skripal was … outrageous as it was audacious as it was patently incorrect.”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: If it was true, it is all of those things. But the statement is false.
Hon Todd McClay: After three weeks of mishandling and inaction, when will he stand with our friends and allies and take action against Russia?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think what I am going to do is ask the shadow Leader of the House to do something like run a seminar with—[Interruption] Order! All right; as a result of the interjection from the Leader of the Opposition, the National Party have lost two supplementary questions, and I’m going to repeat the comment that I was making.
I think we’ve now had at least three of the supplementary questions from Mr McClay that were outside Speakers’ rulings. We’ve had one from the Prime Minister, as well. I do understand that for some members it has been a long time since they have been involved in asking a series of questions—if at all—and, therefore, it might take some practice and some tutelage.
I’m going to ask now Mr McClay to ask his question again—without penalty—and attempt to get it in an area which is Mr Peters’ responsibility.
Hon Todd McClay: When will he stand with our friends and allies and take action against Russia?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Far too late—we’ve been doing that from day one. But we want to make it very clear that what we’ve been challenged by, in terms of the Opposition and the media, is often demonstrably false. For example, 40 percent of the European Union, like New Zealand, have made no expulsions. But no, no—we hear from the media that the European Union has does this and so has everybody else. Well, in the end, Australia found two. We’re a much smaller country, and we haven’t found any yet inside the embassy in the way that, abroad, they did.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise two points of order. The first is that when you ruled that question out from the Prime Minister, you didn’t reflect on the fact that she was asking the Minister if he had seen reports about what, effectively, would be seditious activity by Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. That is exceptionally offensive and, simply, cannot be stacked up by any material that might be put in front of the House and is an unacceptable abuse of the House’s privilege often granted to a Prime Minister to say more than is acceptable or reasonable in any circumstance.
The second point is that you made the point of asking the Opposition to be a little quieter and more respectful because of the nature of this question. That situation wasn’t helped by the atmosphere created right from the start—which will be evident when you review the tapes, as I know you do later in the day—by the introduction to the answer from the Rt Hon Winston Peters. He may not think this is a serious matter, but we most certainly do.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I think if the Opposition wished to object to the implication in the Prime Minister’s question, they might like to reflect on the implication in the questions being asked by the Opposition. In fact, I think the Prime Minister’s question was simply rebutting the implication being raised by the Opposition, actually.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That is simply not the case. There is quite a difference between asking a question about a Government’s action or inaction and then, in a response or a question that’s designed to deflect from that, suggesting that the Opposition was engaged in, effectively, seditious activity against the best interests of this country. That is the problem.
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The right honourable Prime Minister—speaking to this point of order?
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Speaking to this point of order, in the answer to their primary question, the Minister of Foreign Affairs made it clear that the action the Government had taken was on the advice of the NZSIS. In a follow-up supplementary question from the Opposition member, he implied that we’d acted incorrectly in doing so. I thought it only right to therefore draw the inference that he was claiming that we were wrong to listen to the NZSIS.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I’m sorry, Mr Speaker, but the New Zealand SIS and the New Zealand GCSB do not set foreign policy for this country. The Government does, and while they might take advice from those people, I am confident there will be no documentation to say that those organisations advised the Government not to take any action in this matter.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think—[Interruption] Yes, the Prime Minister has interjected while I’m on my feet, and because she has special responsibilities that will result in three extra supplementary questions going to the National Party. Now, I think there are a couple of questions which I am dealing with at the moment. I think the first one is whether the Prime Minister went too far in her supplementary question, and I say there are a couple of points. One, I will have a look at it and come back if I think it’s necessary. There is a question of timeliness if that was a specific point that the member wanted to bring up. And I will say, on the second of his substantive points, he will have noticed that I did ask—maybe it needs some translation from some people—the right honourable gentleman to attempt to use a straight bat in these matters. The implication of that is that members should treat these materials in this area seriously.
Hon Kelvin Davis: What would happen if he didn’t take the advice of the SIS?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That’s a fascinating question. That’s a fascinating question. I suppose there are a number of answers to that, but one of them would be just to grab a couple of people and throw them out of the country without any evidence at all.
Question No. 9—Health
9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, in the context in which they were given and undertaken.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he stand by his repeated statements of perceived underfunding in the health sector of between $1.7 billion and $2 billion per annum, and his commitment to remedy that underfunding?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I stand by my statement that an independent review was conducted when Labour was in Opposition that indicated $2.4 billion worth of underfunding, and that that has led to a neglect in the system in terms of the ability for people to access the care they need and also in terms of capital projects that have been neglected under the previous Government’s watch.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did he intervene in the district health board (DHB) negotiations with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, as reported by Nursing Review on 15 November 2017, which revealed that a new deal was offered by the DHBs on 8 November after “successfully seeking sign-off from new Health Minister David Clark for additional funding”?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: That’s not my—no.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Is the Minister denying that he had conversations with the DHBs that resulted in a larger fiscal envelope being available to the DHBs for those negotiations?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have conversations with DHBs all the time. That’s a different question.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did the offer by the DHBs increase after meetings held up to and including 8 November 2017?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I think, if you look at history, the record will say yes.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Finally—well, having unsuccessfully intervened to settle the nurses’ pay round, is it not incumbent on him to further involve himself to settle the dispute using some of the $8 billion he claims the health sector is underfunded by?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: In answer to the first part of the question, I didn’t.

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