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Parliament: Questions and Answers – September 6

Press Release – Hansard

Question No. 1Housing and Urban Development 1. PAUL EAGLE (LabourRongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development : What progress has he made towards the Government’s target of building 1,000 affordable KiwiBuild homes in 2018/19, …ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Housing and Urban Development

1. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What progress has he made towards the Government’s target of building 1,000 affordable KiwiBuild homes in 2018/19, 5,000 in 2019/20, and 10,000 in 2020/21?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Malo e laumalie. On Sunday, I announced that the first KiwiBuild homes have been completed. [Applause]

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Can I just make it clear to members on both sides that we’re here to listen to answers and not to act like a performing seals circus.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The 18 warm, modern, and architecturally designed stand-alone homes made up of 12 three-bedroom homes selling for $579,000 and six four-bedroom homes selling for $649,000 will go on sale next week. A generation of young Kiwis with good jobs are priced out of homeownership. They made good choices, but they still cannot afford the security of their own home. KiwiBuild is providing—

SPEAKER: Order! The member has completed his answer.

Paul Eagle: What other announcements did the Government make about the McLennan development?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I also announced that a further 12 properties are under construction at the McLennan development and will be completed before Christmas, including seven terraced two-bedroom homes and five four-bedroom homes, and next year another 58 KiwiBuild homes will be built at McLennan, the majority of which will be three-bedroom homes.

Paul Eagle: How will an interested family purchase a KiwiBuild home at McLennan?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, a ballot opens next week, and families will have four weeks to decide whether they want to enter into the ballot. Families can come and have a look, and when the show home opens on Saturday, this weekend, they can talk to the agents and get an idea of whether it would work for them and their family.

Paul Eagle: What other KiwiBuild developments are getting under way?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The buying off the plans initiative, which will provide the majority of houses in the first few years of KiwiBuild, is making great progress, and I’ll be making more announcements on houses to be built under this scheme this year very soon. We’re also preparing to ramp up building with large-scale developments, including Unitec, Northcote, and Māngere, and today the KiwiBuild unit has called for expressions of interest on the establishment of a large-scale offsite manufacturing industry in New Zealand.

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Undoubtedly, particularly in their efforts to save taxpayer money on unnecessary VIP travel and accommodation, in contrast to their predecessors.

Hon Paula Bennett: Is Clare Curran the benchmark standard that she expects her Ministers to perform to?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Prime Minister has made it very public that she did not think that a certain standard had been met, and that’s why she took action. That’s been known for some considerable time.

Hon Paula Bennett: So does the quality of answers by Clare Curran in the House yesterday meet the standard that she expects from a Minister of communications?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, the Prime Minister has to confess that she wasn’t in the House yesterday. But we all have an off-day—and no one would understand that better than the member asking the question.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Did she take the time on the flight back from Nauru with Winston Peters to write a list of what he wants so she can try and avoid future embarrassments, like the recent “number of refugees” fiasco?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Prime Minister, in a press conference in Nauru yesterday, was at pains to point out that the statement from various Ministers and herself and Winston Peters were all on the same page. For example, when a media airhead puts it to the Deputy Prime Minister that the refugee quota is 1,500, and he says, “No it’s not; that has not gone through Cabinet yet.”, then he might have been right. But no, no, that member and the Opposition keep on thinking that this is wedge politics. The reality is that we’re a coalition that gets on with consultation and ensures that on the big economic and social issues of the day, we make progress.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why didn’t she know before the media and the public did that Winston Peters didn’t support her or her party’s policy on refugees?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because we have had, since a referendum in 1993, the beginnings, in 1996, of an MMP environment. Parties have their own manifestos, but the beauty of a coalition is that you agree on what parts of your collective manifesto’s going to be progressed, and this is a work in progress.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he doesn’t seem to respect her enough to give her a heads-up before he publicly challenges what was an important policy to her?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am far too clever to be misled by a stupid, false media question, which went like this: “The Government’s refugee quota is 1,500.”, to which I said, “Well, no, it’s not.” That wasn’t starting an argument; it was putting the facts out there. And the member should know, after all this time, the big difference: words matter.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think it’s helpful that her Minister of Foreign Affairs treats the media and the public like they’re stupid?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I know full well the admiration that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has for the media—particularly, some of them—and he’s made no conceit or deceit about that. He’s always said that they could perform far better if their ownership gave them greater resources and greater time to do their job properly.

Hon Shane Jones: To the Prime Minister, on the matter of standards, what does it mean by “comparable ministerial costs”?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, curiously—and that’s a very good question, actually, for which we are thoroughly prepared. In the second quarter of 2015, under the previous administration, costs were $2.33 million. In 2016, in the second quarter, under the previous administration, costs were $2.25 million. In the second quarter of 2017, $2.2 million, and in 2018, the quarter for which this Government is responsible, $1.49 million.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she have confidence in her ability to manage her Government when she has Clare Curran twice misleading the House, allegations swirling in regard to Meka Whaitiri, and she can’t even tell us what policy her Government will be implementing without first asking the permission of Winston Peters?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say that, on behalf with the Prime Minister, being the epitome of consultation and wise Government, I consult with all of my colleagues in Cabinet and outside, and amongst the three caucuses involved. That’s what MMP looks like under reformed visionary Government.

Question No. 3—Finance

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm the results of the latest ANZ business outlook survey show employment and investment intentions are at their lowest levels since 2009; if so, what effect does he think this will have on the New Zealand economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I can confirm I have seen reports about the survey that indicate that is what it says. The reports I am seeing about actual business activity give me confidence that there are more people being hired and more investment in productive assets taking place and that that will have a greater effect on the economy than any particular survey.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is he aware that economists at the ANZ have stated that actually “investment intentions from the survey provide a very good … directional signal for GDP growth”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There are different views from different economists on the merits of the survey. What I am working on is the actual facts of what is happening in New Zealand. We saw, for example, in the terms of trade data, that capital goods import volumes were up 13 percent. That means people are importing machinery and equipment that they are investing in to improve productivity. That’s what is actually happening in the economy.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, is he aware that there has been a halving of new job growth, a halving of job ads, since he became the Minister of Finance, and also now a sharp drop in employment intentions of New Zealand businesses?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On the matter of job ads, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s latest job ads data shows that over the past year online vacancies in fact increased by 7.1 percent—7.1 percent.

Hon Amy Adams: Will he acknowledge that Government policies such as a 27 percent increase in the minimum wage, stronger union powers, and new and increased taxes are all contributing to an environment that makes businesses less likely to invest or to hire new staff?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premises in that question from the member. What we’re doing with increasing the minimum wage is making sure that the lowest-paid people in New Zealand finally get a fair go after nine years of being neglected by that former Government.

Hon Amy Adams: Does he know enough about actually running a business to understand that the more than doubling of costs for businesses under this Government, compared to the last one, is part of the reason the businesses are now saying they are less likely to hire staff and less likely to invest?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject virtually all of the premises in that question. What this Government is focused on is making sure that right across New Zealand, in the cities and the regions of New Zealand, there are opportunities for people to have good jobs that pay good wages, so they can look after their families. I would hope the member would support that.

Hon Amy Adams: Point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a document compiled by my office that pulls together all of the producer cost index data from quarter four 2008 to quarter two 2018, that has been compiled and analysed by my office.

SPEAKER: It’s not been the practice of my recent predecessors to allow documents produced by members or their offices to be put for tabling and I’m going to continue with that precedent.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the finance Minister aware that the first two quarters of 2017 were down, and that before the last election the ANZ economist was saying that forecast GDP growth would be 2.6 percent—way below what it is now?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Indeed, the trends that we’re seeing now did indeed begin at the beginning of 2017. I can reassure the member though, however, that the forecasters continue to tell us that over the next three years we will have, on average, 3 percent growth in advance of what we inherited and in advance of where we are now.

Question No. 4—Health

4. ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has he made about investing in Auckland District Health Board’s hospital infrastructure?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): On Thursday, 23 August, I accompanied the Prime Minister on a visit to Auckland City Hospital, where we announced a $305 million investment in the District Health Board’s (DHB’s) essential infrastructure. The funding will be used to repair, replace, and upgrade everything from lifts, water systems, ICT cabling, to new fire protection systems and new electrical substations. The project will also improve energy efficiency and help reduce operating costs.

Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What difference will patients at Auckland City Hospital, Starship, and Greenlane see as a result of this work?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: In the short term, patients, whānau, and staff will not see a lot of difference, and everything will be done to minimise disruption to ongoing work. Ultimately, they will experience fewer operational failures, greater efficiency and responsiveness, and improved safety and resilience. This work will also provide a solid foundation for the DHB to plan for the future healthcare needs of its communities, and it’s necessary as a precursor for any future development of the Auckland City Hospital and Greenlane Clinical Centre sites.

Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: Why was such a large investment needed?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We have great staff in our public hospitals. We deliver great care that people expect and indeed deserve in facilities they can rely on. Unfortunately, a lot of the infrastructure at Auckland City Hospital and Greenlane is approaching the end of its life or is at capacity. We’re addressing a legacy of deferred maintenance and an ageing infrastructure after nine long years of under-investment.

Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development

5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many houses owned or managed by Housing New Zealand were vacant on 31 August 2018?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): There were 722 long-term vacant State houses in August. Of these, 285 are undergoing major repairs or upgrades, and 215 homes are being redeveloped as part of the Government’s build programme. Additionally, there are 382 State houses vacant because they are in between tenancies or being repaired. There are a further 169 where their leases have expired or they are about to be demolished for redevelopment or are beyond repair. We’re committed to keeping the number of vacant homes as low as possible while we build a net additional 6,400 public houses. The vacancy rate was as high as 3,540 or one in 20 homes under the previous Government. It’s now down to one in 50.

Hon Judith Collins: How many families are on the Housing New Zealand waiting list for those houses?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There are approximately 8,500 people currently on the waiting list, but the turnaround time to get families into State houses has been steadily decreasing. At the end of June 2016, the average turnaround time was 38 days, at the end of June 2017, it was 34 days, and at the end of June 2018, it was down to 19 days.

Hon Judith Collins: How many of those families on the waiting list of around 8,500 families for a vacant Housing New Zealand house are living in temporary housing such as motels?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: If the member wants to put that question down in writing, I’d be happy to answer it. I don’t have the numbers in front of me.

Hon Judith Collins: Why are there around 1,400 empty State houses when there is a waiting list of, he says, 8,500 Kiwi families for those houses?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, after inheriting a housing crisis after nine years of neglect and the sell-off of 5,000 State houses, we’ve got a lot of ground to make up. But I’ll say this: our Government will not sit around and leave as many as 400 State houses boarded up and lying vacant due to bogus methamphetamine standards.

Hon Judith Collins: Why, since he has been the Minister for around a year, are there people still having to sleep in cars when there are 1,400 empty State houses?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we are investing $4 billion in building 6,400 extra State houses. We stopped the mass sell-off of State houses. We’ve actually funded and built nearly 2,400 emergency housing places around this country, and rolled out Housing First to half a dozen new centres. It took nine years of neglect to allow the housing crisis to spin out of control; after nine months, I think we’ve done pretty well. [Applause]

SPEAKER: Order! Can I just remind people in the gallery that you’ve got to stay out of it.

Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don’t believe that the Minister addressed the question which is: why, when he’s been the Minister for almost a year, there are still 1,400 empty State houses and people having to sleep in cars rather than those State houses? We got a long diatribe.

SPEAKER: Well, I think that the answer certainly addressed and probably came close to answering the question.

Hon Judith Collins: Why are there 1,400 empty State houses when he says that there were empty State houses under National and he has stated previously they should not have been empty, and why is it OK for them to be empty now?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, not only do we have a lot to catch up on after nine years of neglect, but we have reduced the number of vacant State houses from one in 20 under that Government to one in 50 in nine months.

Question No. 6—Employment

6. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Yes, in the context of course in which they were made.

Hon Paula Bennett: Was the unemployment rate, as it stood when he was sworn in on 26 October 2017, 4.6 percent?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: As I said on Tuesday, when I was sworn in as Minister of Employment, the official annual rate of unemployment was 5 percent. That changed in June of this year to 4.5 percent. For the assistance of the member who’s asking the question, 26 October is correct—when I was sworn in. On 1 November, a new household labour force survey was released, at which point the quarterly figure became 4.6 percent. Now, if the member is trying to assert that when I was sworn in the rate of unemployment was 4.6 percent, based on quarterly figures, she’s also incorrect: it was 4.8 percent on 26 October.

Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you, sir. I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library outlining the unemployment rates for October 2017.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is.

Hon Paula Bennett: Was the unemployment rate in October last year 4.9 percent, as he said on Newshub Nation; 5 percent, as he said yesterday; 4.6 percent, according to Statistics New Zealand; or 4.8 percent, as he just told the House?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: As I said on Tuesday, the annual unemployment rate was 5 percent. However, the quarterly rate at that particular time, when the member was asking, was 4.8 percent. So the member is wrong on both counts.

Hon Paula Bennett: So from here on, will he be using annualised employment figures, as he did on Newshub Nation, or quarterly employment figures, as he does in his press releases; or doesn’t it matter, because, as the members says, “there’s statistics, and then there’s statistics.”

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I think the member is accusing me of cherry-picking, in terms of statistics. We can talk about statistics until we’re blue in the face. Make no mistake, though: my focus is on the people. I’ve been clear on this since accepting the employment portfolio, which is why I’ve been out across the country, rolling out programmes, concentrating on the people and communities at the very core. We can go on about “4.6 percent”, “4.5 percent”, and the 0.1 percent difference, but the 0.1 percent difference equates to 4,000 more people who are now in paid employment.

Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Actually, with my question, it was whether he is going to use annualised or quarterly, because it will determine other questions I can ask, sir, and I’d really like him to address it. It’s quite a serious question: is he going to be using annualised or is he going to be using quarterly?

SPEAKER: The member’s been here for quite a long time, and she knows that she can’t get, effectively, a yes/no or a binary answer to a question. That’s a longstanding Speakers’ ruling.

Jo Luxton: What other statement does the Minister of Employment also stand by?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: What an excellent question. I stated on Newshub Nation on Saturday, 1 September that my desire as the Minister of Employment was to continue to have high aspirations for Māori and Pasifika communities and our disabled community. Our goal should absolutely be to reduce the constant deficit between the unemployment rate of the general population to that experienced particularly by Māori and Pasifika. I listed programmes like He Poutama Rangatahi – Youth Employment Pathways that are successfully targeting the regions where the need exists, and, already, positive change is happening—2,300 people being transitioned into employment or training. I clearly have higher aspirations for our people than some of the members opposite, who have the audacity—

SPEAKER: Right, thank you. The member probably finished answering the question about a minute ago.

Hon Paula Bennett: What is the employment rate for students that leave charter schools?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Put that question to my office and I’ll come back to you.

Question No. 7—Agriculture

7. KIERAN McANULTY (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture: How is this Government helping our vital primary sectors get more value for the products they produce?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): I recently launched the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) programme. The SFFF fund will make $40 million a year available for funding requests to help our vital food and fibre industries. The primary sector is the backbone of the New Zealand economy, delivering more than $42 billion in export revenue last year, and we are committed as a Government to getting more sustainable value for the great products our farmers and our growers produce.

Kieran McAnulty: What are the key goals of the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: The new SFFF fund will provide greater strategic focus for research, and move away from just focusing on volume to achieving higher sustainable value for our primary exporters. The SFFF fund provides a single gateway for farmers and growers to apply for investment in a greater range of products that deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits that flow through to all Kiwis.

Kieran McAnulty: What programmes alongside the SFFF will help farmers get the most from their hard work?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I recently also launched the Extension Service Model, which will be rolled out over four years by the Ministry for Primary Industries, with $3 million of funding. We’re not starting from zero. There are a range of good extension programmes under way, but there is opportunity for us to play a stronger role in partnering with industry to support better coordination and targeting of services that focus on sustainable and profitable farming. The extension service programme sits alongside our investment in tools like OVERSEER that will help farmers make good on-farm decisions.

Hon Nathan Guy: Does he agree with his $100,000 review that has confirmed National’s Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) is delivering new jobs, increased exports, higher-value products, and higher on-farm incomes?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: One would hope that the expenditure of $350 million of taxpayer funding would deliver some benefits for the country. However, the review found three things. Firstly, the report noted that since 2009, the PGP fund was underspent by $150 million, as the last Government raided it for other things. Secondly, the independent report said that PGP did not have a clear and agreed long-term strategy. And, thirdly, the report noted that PGP needed to focus on becoming more transformational.

Question No. 8—Immigration

8. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: When he said of the refugee quota, “We are very firm in our commitment to increase that quota and our commitment before the election was to do that during the first term in Government, and that is still my plan”, was he speaking in his ministerial capacity or as an individual with “a personal commitment to increasing the refugee quota,” as described by the Prime Minister?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Both.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: OK. In that case, when he advised officials on 15 November 2017 that he “would like a plan for increasing the annual refugee quota to 1,500 places to be developed by the middle of 2018”, was he speaking as Minister of Immigration or as an individual with “a personal commitment to increasing the refugee quota,”?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As Minister of Immigration, I am continuing to advocate for an increase in the quota to 1,500, and I am preparing myself so that I can seek the agreement of my Cabinet colleagues through the usual Cabinet processes.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: When, following a 29 March briefing to him entitled “Options for staging the increase in the refugee quota”, he directed officials to draft a paper to be taken to Cabinet in June “seeking agreement to permanently increase the annual refugee quota to 1,500 places”, did he do so as Minister of Immigration or as an individual with “a personal commitment to increasing the refugee quota,”?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I did so as Minister of Immigration. And as a sensible Minister of Immigration, I have looked at some of the capacity issues that we inherited from the previous Government—not least the appalling housing crisis that the country is facing—and I know that before we increase the quota, the sensible thing to do is to address those capacity issues.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: When he received a document titled “Increasing the refugee quota: options for staging the increase to 1,500 places annually by June 2020”, did he do so as Minister of Immigration or as an individual with “a personal commitment to increasing the refugee quota,”?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I did it as a Minister with a personal commitment to increasing the refugee quota.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he agree with Newshub that the Prime Minister has thrown him under a bus on this issue by backing down on the Government’s plan to increase the number of refugees after the policy already received funding in the latest Budget?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: In relation to the last part of that question, the funding that the member refers to was funding for the expansion of the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre, which, as I said yesterday, is necessary regardless of whether there is an increase to the quota or not. In regards to any bus, I haven’t seen a bus, and I think an articulation of normal Government processes, which I would’ve thought that member would be aware of, doesn’t constitute any form of bus.

Hon James Shaw: Given the renewed level of concern about the plight of refugees on Nauru and around the world, would the Minister be prepared to test whether there is now a parliamentary majority in favour of increasing the refugee quota to 1,500?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Were there an opportunity to do so I’d certainly be interested to see how the Opposition would vote on that.

Question No. 9—Police

9. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Has a formal complaint of alleged bullying been made against Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha, and has an employment investigation commenced?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Police: The police advise that they have received two formal complaints in relation to bullying allegations against Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha. These have been notified to the Independent Police Conduct Authority in accordance with the usual process for these complaints.

CHRIS BISHOP: What does the Minister’s diary indicate he is doing between 2 and 3 o’clock on Thursday, 6 September?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, I cannot answer that question because I do not have that detail in front of me.

Question No. 10—Health

10. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements and actions around the National Oracle Solution and the Audit New Zealand report on Deloitte’s appointment as reviewers?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, in the context they were made and taken. In particular, I stand by my statement that it was the ministry that commissioned the Deloitte report—using the same all-of-Government processes used by the previous Government—and not me that commissioned the report, as Dr Reti continues to incorrectly assert in the media.

Dr Shane Reti: Will he then take any responsibility for the Audit New Zealand report showing that Deloitte’s conflict of interest was not fully considered, was poorly managed, and that there was significant failure in the engagement process?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Ministry of Health invited Audit New Zealand to review their processes, and they have received a number of recommendations, and I’m pleased to see that they are implementing them.

Dr Shane Reti: Is he aware of evidence that the ministry did not pursue Deloitte’s conflict of interest after Deloitte warned them that they did not want their conflicts made public?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have seen evidence in the Audit New Zealand report that the conflicts of interests—perceived, real, or otherwise—were declared in accordance with the all-of-Government processes set in place by the previous Government, and, also, commentary from Audit New Zealand that they could have been more thoroughly examined consequently, and that they recommend putting processes in place that make the contracting process in future better than the one that was operating under the previous Government.

Dr Shane Reti: How does he respond to allegations that he and his team tried to bury the report, when the Auditor General’s office this Monday said that if Clark didn’t release the report by noon that day, they would release it, which they proceeded to do at 1.28 p.m.?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Far from burying any reports on the previous National Government’s failures in respect of the National Oracle Solution, I, in fact, issued a press statement welcoming the release.

Dr Shane Reti: How will he explain to taxpayers the spending of $150,000 on a report which, through his incompetence, is no longer credible?

SPEAKER: Order! No.

Hon Grant Robertson: Supplementary question?

SPEAKER: No, well, I’m just going to indicate to the member that there’s a degree of judgment in that question—a degree of assertion which goes beyond what’s allowed in a question.

Hon Grant Robertson: What does the Minister consider worse: issues relating to an Audit New Zealand report on a review of a programme, or the programme itself blowing out to a $90 million cost for which New Zealanders get virtually no benefit?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: That is actually the relevant question here. I think it is shameful that people are prosecuting a small report which found grievous failures between 2012 and 2017, when $90 million of taxpayer money was wasted, with very little to show for it. That side of the House needs to look themselves in the mirror on this one.

Question No. 11—Crown-Māori Relations

11. Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National) to the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister for Crown/Māori Relations): Yes, in the context they were made and taken.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: What specific steps has he taken to ensure that State-owned enterprises, Crown research institutes, and Crown entities are aware of their obligation to foster a positive Crown-Māori relationship, given that he said to Cabinet in his paper entitled Initial Scope of Crown/Māori Relations portfolio that the quality of Crown-Māori engagement “varies across public sector agencies”?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Crown/Māori relations is a new way of thinking, working, and behaving as a Government. We are encouraging everyone to work with Māori in partnership rather than doing what the previous Government did and seeing Māori as a handbrake when they are, in fact, the accelerator.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: What specific steps has he taken to progress the development of the central register of commitments, given that he said in this Cabinet paper entitled Initial Scope of Crown/Māori Relations portfolio that one of his responsibilities is to “ensure Treaty … commitments are met to maintain trust and confidence;”?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: There are some 7,000 Treaty settlement commitments. Funding for this was secured in Budget 2018. Work is under way for a settlement portal to go live in June 2019.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Has he finished work and reported to Cabinet on the scope of his portfolio, given that he said in his Cabinet paper entitled Initial Scope of Crown/Māori Relations portfolio that he would return to Cabinet in July 2018 to seek agreement on the final scope of the portfolio?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: When I became the Minister, I didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past, when Governments decided that they knew what was best for Māori. They sat here in Wellington, and they wrote up a strategy and then went out to iwi and hapū and whānau and told them what the Government has decided will be in their best interests. That approach has never worked. Instead, I wanted to take my time to go around the country and ask Māori what they thought we needed to do to strengthen the relationship and what they wanted my priorities as a Minister to be, and that is what I did. The process has shaped the proposals that will be considered by Cabinet very shortly.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Didn’t he say in his Cabinet paper entitled Initial Scope of Crown/Māori Relations portfolio that hui were to be one part of his work in 2018, and, if so, apart from hui what else has he been doing in the 10 months since he’s held the portfolio?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I answered this yesterday. There have been a number of things that were done. First and foremost is we’ve been fixing up the stuff-ups of the previous Government.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: What exactly did he mean when he said in his Cabinet paper entitled Initial Scope of Crown/Māori Relations portfolio that one of his priorities was to take the lead on resetting Crown/Māori relationships on hard issues;?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: There are a number of hard issues that the previous Government failed to make any progress on. Kōhanga reo is one. The freshwater issues is another one. So they’re just a couple of examples of the issues that we need to reset the relationship with, and we to progress them because the previous Government failed to do that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister’s saying that he doesn’t want to have a reproduction of the glacial speed made by the previous Government on, for example, the Ngāpuhi settlement?

SPEAKER: Order! No. That is a responsibility of another Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not saying that the Ngāpuhi settlement is not the province of another Minister. I am talking about the rate of progress of this Minister on issues associated with Māori, that being one of them—that’s the distinction.

SPEAKER: I can understand the distinction, but the Minister has responsibility neither for the settlement now nor for—and I’m not going to repeat the phrase the member used—actions of the previous Government.

Question No. 12 to Minister

MELISSA LEE (National): I seek leave to have this question held over till next question time when the Hon Clare Curran is available to answer questions—as an extra question.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is. Does the member want to proceed?

MELISSA LEE: I shall try.

SPEAKER: Question No. 12, Melissa Lee.

Question No. 12—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she stand by all her answers to oral and written questions?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Yes.

Melissa Lee: What Government business has she conducted via Gmail apart from arranging a meeting with Derek Handley when she was Government digital services Minister?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I don’t have that information to hand. If the member would like to put that question in writing, it will be answered.

Melissa Lee: What is the Minister scheduled to be doing between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Thursday, 6 September 2018?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I don’t have that information to hand. If the member would like to put that question in writing, it will be answered.

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