Questions and Answers – Nov 15

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

Education, Skills and Employment : How many Modern Apprenticeships were being undertaken as at December 2011, and what percentage increase or decrease is this compared with December 2008?
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Modern Apprentices—December 2011 Numbers Compared with December 2008

1. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary

Education, Skills and Employment: How many Modern Apprenticeships were being undertaken as at December 2011, and what percentage increase or decrease is this compared with December 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Tertiary

Education, Skills and Employment: In December 2011, 10,434 people were enrolled in the Modern Apprenticeships programme. This represents a 14 percent decrease from December 2008. However, enrolments in full-time tertiary education are up, and that is what you would expect in a recession when there are fewer jobs. In addition to that, there are 10,000 in Youth Guarantee and trades academies. Young New Zealanders have more choices for pathways to skills than they have ever had.

Grant Robertson: Is it correct that the number of Modern Apprentices peaked at 12,933 in June 2010 and that it has now fallen to 10,434—a drop of 19.3 percent in the number of Modern Apprentices under this Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That question shows the problems that bedevilled—

Hon Members: Answer the question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The way that question was asked about those numbers illustrates the problem with the system we inherited. The number of Modern Apprentices might have dropped, but the number getting qualifications has gone up. In fact—

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question. It asked whether that statement was correct.

Mr SPEAKER: I did not actually hear the Minister answer it. He got straight into how the question demonstrated—but I think if the Minister could answer it, and then he can put it in context.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I agree with the numbers about how many people are enrolled, but in fact the number getting a qualification has gone up. To illustrate the scale of the mess that we inherited, in 2008, 96,000 registered trainees did not get a single credit—96,000 of them. Completion rates have gone up from 35 percent to 71 percent. Twice the proportion are achieving qualifications, even if there are a few less in the scheme.

Grant Robertson: How is it contributing to meeting the skill and training needs of New Zealand to have 2,500 fewer young New Zealanders undertaking apprenticeships now than 3 years ago?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because the skills and training needs of young New Zealanders are much broader than Labour’s branding exercise with Modern Apprenticeships. It was 10 percent of all trade training. The number of people getting trades and skills qualifications has gone up, not down, despite a recession, and there are more pathways for younger people—better organised and

better funded—than there ever were in the past. It has been a major step forward under this Government, cleaning up the shambles that Labour left behind.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that is sufficient.

Grant Robertson: Does he think it is the Government’s role to provide opportunities for young New Zealanders to take on training; if so, why is he walking away from apprenticeship schemes when youth unemployment is over 20 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is wrong. What—[Interruption] Just let me explain the numbers. There are 10,000 Modern Apprenticeships places. There are 235,000 tertiary education places. There are over 100,000 Training Opportunities Programme places. There are 10,000 Youth Guarantee and trades academy places. Labour insists on saying that Modern Apprenticeships, which is a fraction of the total training opportunities, is the only opportunity. It is time that member did some work and understood—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Grant Robertson: Is it correct that since December 2008 there has been a 38 percent reduction in the number of building and construction trainees?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That may be correct because there has been a lot less building and construction. This member is showing how lazy and ignorant he is on these issues.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not think the question justified quite that.

Dr Megan Woods: Why has the Government wasted the opportunity offered by the Canterbury rebuild to upskill young New Zealanders, given that the figures show there has been a 43 percent decline in the number of building and construction trainees in Canterbury since it took office?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is using specious figures related to the fact that there was an earthquake in Christchurch, so there were no construction jobs in Christchurch, so you could not train people on the job in Christchurch. On “Planet Labour” not only was there no recession, there was no earthquake.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table statistics from the Tertiary Education Commission that show a drop in the number of Modern Apprentices since 2009 of 19.3 percent.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table figures from the Tertiary Education Commission that show a 38 percent drop in the number of building and construction trainees since December 2008.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that—[Interruption] Order! This is a point of order. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Grant Robertson: I seek the leave of the House to table information from the Tertiary Education Commission that shows a 37 percent drop overall in the number of industry trainees under this Government.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Diabetes—Equitable Treatment for Patients

2. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Health: Does the Government believe that it is acceptable that two out of three Māori and Pacific Island diabetics die from diabetic complications, compared to one in three Pakeha diabetics; and what actions has he taken to reduce the inequities in light of fresh predictions that by 2020 one in six Māori and Pasifika adults will have diabetes?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Acting Minister of Health): No. No, the Government does not believe that it is acceptable, which is why improving diabetes care in primary care is a Government priority and has been included as one of the Government’s six health targets since 2008.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What specific long-term measures are being devised to reduce diabetes rates for Māori and Pacific people, and those living in deprived neighbourhoods, in light of the projections that the incidence of, and the mortality rates for, type 2 diabetes are expected to increase over the next 20 years, with the biggest impact being on these groups?

Hon JO GOODHEW: The Māori population is at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes. The ministry’s current project, with a focus on gestational diabetes and health literacy particularly in regard to Māori, may help Māori women and others to be better informed about screening for, and management of, gestational diabetes. This will be a long-term project, and has had $121,000 spent on it. The final report on this is due on 7 December and will be published by the end of January. With regard to Pacific peoples and the Pacific Innovation Fund, $6 million was announced as part of the Budget this year to establish that fund and to administer it over 4 years. That will invest in long-term health initiatives that demonstrate innovation through application of new strategies, models, and methods of service delivery, and, in particular, will look at things that are affecting Pacific people’s health like obesity and smoking.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with Te Rōpū Rangahau Hauora a Eru Pōmare that screening for signs of pre-diabetes and insulin resistance related to obesity and management of these conditions is important; and what new programmes will be invested in to replace successful diabetes prevention programmes such as “Get Checked”, Healthy Eating – Healthy Action, and nutrition guidelines for school tuck shops, all of which are programmes that have been scrapped by the Government?

Hon JO GOODHEW: Yes, screening is important. We have been working with the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Adviser, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, who suggests that pre-conditions for obesity are set really early and that the best intervention point is maternal and newborn nutrition. I do want to acknowledge that the member has maintained that “Get Checked” was a successful programme, and to disagree with the member. A 2011 review of recent studies on the “Get Checked” programme showed that it did not systematically result in improved management or outcomes for people with diabetes, so we ring-fenced the budget, approximately $8 million, and asked district health boards and primary care to work together to design localised responses to best support people with diabetes. This Government is trying to work with programmes that are effective, that do work, and that are a good return on the investment of the taxpayer funding.

Household Savings and Debt—Reports

3. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on progress in lifting New Zealanders’ household savings and reducing household debt?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Treasury advises that after 10 years of households spending more than they earned, savings turned positive last year, with a modest savings rate of 0.2 percent of household disposable income. This is expected to steadily increase over the next 3 years to around 3 percent of disposable income being saved by 2015. This process may be assisted by the increase in KiwiSaver contribution rates on 1 April 2013. As a result of better savings behaviour, household debt has fallen to 90 percent of GDP this year from a peak of 97 percent in 2010.

David Bennett: How have increases in household disposable income contributed to the lift in savings and the reduction in debt?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Household disposable income measures all income received in households after tax and less interest on housing loans, so the recent figures take into account three rounds of tax changes as well as a significant fall in mortgage interest rates. Treasury advises that between March 2007 and March this year household disposable income increased by about a third. That means that households are making prudent decisions to focus on repaying debt at a time when they have higher disposable income. In the short term, debt reduction is reducing demand and

consumption, but in the long run it will give households, the Government, and business more choices.

David Bennett: What forecasts does he have of reductions in Crown net debt?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Crown net debt is rising at the moment because the Government is running significant deficits, but as we target a surplus in 2014-15 Crown net debt as a proportion of GDP will then start reducing. The economic and fiscal update in December 2008 showed that on the Government spending trajectory at that time, net debt would reach 50 percent of GDP in 2020. Under the decisions made over the last 4 years in Budgets, Crown net debt in 2020 is now expected to be less than 20 percent. In dollar terms this means that instead of the Crown having debt of $150 billion, as forecast in 2008, it will be debt of $58 billion.

David Bennett: What economic policies are helping to keep inflation low and assisting households to save more?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Households have done a very good job of saving in the face of reasonably difficult circumstances. A number of policies the Government has put in place are helping them to continue with their saving: first, responsible fiscal policy, which is helping to keep their interest rates lower than they otherwise would be; sensible monetary policy, which gives them certainty about the future, and helps to keep the cost of living low; tax changes that reward work and savings, and discourage consumption, borrowing, and excessive property speculation; and policies aimed at giving businesses the confidence to invest, and grow, and employ more people.

Hon David Parker: Did he really say at the Finance and Expenditure Committee yesterday that “Our problem is one of success.”; if so, given that unemployment is at the highest rate since he was last the Minister of Finance, and our current account deficit is the second worst in the world and set to get worse, how much worse does it have to get before he will admit failure?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We simply disagree with the member’s diagnosis of the issues. The fact is that in the face of a sharp recession and difficult global conditions, New Zealand is on a track to 2 to 3 percent growth. The member’s attempts to sell snake oil on economic policy are not being bought by anyone. Most New Zealanders know that we need to stick to a pretty careful plan around increasing savings, careful management of our spending, avoiding unnecessary borrowing, and doing everything we can to get people into jobs. If we stick to that plan we will do well.

Hon David Parker: Why does he believe that implementing the same economic polices as he did the last time he was the Minister of Finance, in 1999—the last time employment was this high—will produce different results this time? Or will he be happy with the same outcome as last time—a change of Government?

Hon Bill English: The member should be grateful for the hard work done by the Governments of the 1990s, including by the former Treasurer, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, who left the economy in such good shape that a reckless Labour Government was able to enjoy the benefit of reducing debt and rising surpluses, but, unfortunately, it squandered that decade and now we have got to fix it all up again.

Economy, Sustainable—Pure Advantage Green Growth Report

4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic

Development: Has the Government changed its position in relation to the recommendations of the Pure Advantage green growth reports given its rejection of Pure Advantage’s first report?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Economic

Development: No. The first report advocated shifting significant resources away from existing productive areas of the economy to subsidise the development of a small number of so-called green growth industries. I am happy to advise the member that the second report underscores the importance of a significant number of Government initiatives already under way, and tends to reinforce the Government’s position that we need to pursue all our opportunities in a way that balances economic and environmental objectives.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Government now concur with Pure Advantage and with London School of Economics professor and world climate change expert Lord Nicholas Stern, who say that there will be a $3 trillion clean-technology market by 2050; if he does, why does the Government put open-cast mining ahead of forestry, carbon sinks, new renewables, and negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the fact is that we need both, and under this Government tree planting increased quite significantly after the chainsaw massacre that occurred because Labour messed up the Kyoto policy. It is a bit rich for the member to be saying that he is against open-cast mining at the same time as crying crocodile tears for coalminers who lost their jobs on the West Coast and who could get jobs in the open-cast coalmine if he and his fellow travellers would let it happen.

Hon David Cunliffe: In light of the thorough analysis from leading economists including Vivid Economics, the University of Auckland, and Lord Stern, which confirms the earlier findings of Pure Advantage, will he now apologise to Sir George Fistonich, Rob Fyfe, Chris Liddell, Phillip Mills, Jeremy Moon, Rob Morrison, Geoff Ross, Justine Smyth, Mark Solomon, Sir Stephen Tindall, Joan Withers, and Duncan Stewart for abusing their important contributions to the economic debate?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, but the ongoing discussion after the first report has, I think, shown some benefits for the second report. But I might point out to the member that green growth is not just about groups of people getting together to write reports. It is about, for instance, this Government grappling with an issue that the previous Government completely failed to deal with, and that is reform of the way we use water, our most fundamental resource in this country. A 3-year collaborative process has yielded the Land and Water Forum report, and over the next 6 months we will make some of the most important decisions in a decade about the balance of environmental and economic growth in this country.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister assure the House that he has read in full the latest Pure Advantage report; if so, in what chapter does the forward estimate of the $3 trillion export market reside?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would say that the Minister probably has; I would have to say I have not. But I would have to say that if I did read it, I would be very sceptical about consultants’ estimates of massive new industries that currently do not exist. The fact is that businesses are not stupid. Where they see opportunities in improved environmental management techniques or running their own businesses in a way that is more energy-efficient, they will take those opportunities. I find that businesses in New Zealand, because of our clean, green image, have a high degree of awareness of those issues.

Hon David Cunliffe: How does Tim Groser dumping New Zealand squarely in the camp of climate science denying countries by refusing to even negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol enhance our clean, green image?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because the clean, green image is about what you do day by day, week by week in the farms and workplaces of New Zealand, and that is where our focus is. I do not think the Labour Party would benefit from a change from the moderate and sensible statements that we get from its current leader to extravagant, exaggerated statements from the pretend leader.

Child Abuse and Neglect—Child Protect Line

5. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister for Social Development: How will the new Child Protect Line, discussed in the Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children, better protect New Zealand’s children?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): As part of the Government’s white paper, we will be introducing the new Child Protect line. It will provide a single point of contact to report any concerns people have about children and young people. Those with concerns for children who are not sure whether it is serious enough to ring Child, Youth and Family will be

able to ring this line with those concerns and seek advice. This is something that people really said that they wanted through the submission process.

Mark Mitchell: Who will be operating the phone line and answering these calls?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Child Protect line will have trained professionals answering the phone line, just like we have now for 111 calls. As well as being able to report suspected child abuse or neglect, people can seek help and referrals to a comprehensive range of social and parenting services. The new Child Protect line will also be able to escalate calls as necessary.

Mark Mitchell: How will calls be managed through the Child Protect line?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: This will make a real difference for children. At the moment for the calls that Child, Youth and Family cannot deal with, it tries to escalate them down to nongovernmental organisations. The difference here is that you will have a line that is able to escalate up, and, as a consequence, get the right people working with the right children.

Visitor Visas—China Southern Airlines Frequent Flyer Scheme

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What assurances can he give that international criminals will not be entering New Zealand through the China Southern Airlines frequent flyer scheme?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Immigration): I am confident that Immigration New Zealand can manage this scheme well, because we have put a number of safeguards in place on top of the normal screening requirements. Visitors must still apply for a visa and meet the goodcharacter and health checks. Any criminal conviction is likely to rule someone out. Applicants will have to show proof of having a return ticket to China. It will not be available to anyone who has not travelled overseas before. This also means that the programme will be closely monitored and reviewed monthly, and it can be suspended at any time if there are concerns.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly give that assurance, given the serious concerns raised by somebody who might know—the head of Immigration New Zealand’s intelligence, risk, and integrity division—that the fast-tracking of China Southern Airlines frequent flyers sets “a dangerous precedent” because international criminals belong to such clubs?

Hon NATHAN GUY: As I mentioned in the primary answer, I am satisfied that Immigration New Zealand has robust processes in place to manage the risk that the member is talking about.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he as Minister learnt nothing from his department’s conducting a random recent check of 1,800 student visa applicants from China, only to find as many as 15 percent of them to be fraudulent—and still not found yet at this point in time? Has he learnt nothing to the extent that his department is now a tumultuous mess on these matters?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I do not agree with the latter part of that question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: So he has learnt nothing. Given that the New Zealand Police lists common Asian crime syndicate offences as “extortion, drug trafficking, identity fraud and people smuggling.”, why would anyone accept the assurance of the Minister or his Government that members of Chinese gangs such as Triads and other criminal syndicates will not be able to exploit the China Southern Airlines frequent flyer scheme to get into New Zealand, which is exactly what the officials are now warning? How can he give that assurance in the light of that?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I believe I have given that assurance. Since that internal email was discussed amongst immigration officials they have advised me they have a very robust system in place, and I am satisfied with their assurances that this will work as it is intended.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that Skycity Casino in Auckland has been pushing for this fast-track scheme for years and that its high rollers already operate under these new rules, which means that a casino and a communist Government airline have under his deal with them now acquired privileges for their customers not available to any other group of people anywhere else in the world?

Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I do not agree with those stupid assertions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: Is this a supplementary question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker, it is not an assertion. I said—

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, is it a point of order?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking whether it is a fact that Skycity Casino has been involved in these negotiations.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! But the member then added a view towards the end of the question and the Minister was responding to that. He disagreed with that. Given the fairly provocative, I guess, language of some of the questions, I cannot rule him out from being a bit provocative in answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was nothing provocative in that question other than the facts. I asked whether Skycity Casino was involved in respect of these new rules. Were their high rollers now taking advantage of these new rules already—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: There is nothing provocative in a few facts in this House.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Actually, question time is not a time to lodge facts with the House; it is a time to ask questions.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is new.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, for some members it might be. The member may recollect he made an assertion that this was a unique situation in the world, and the Minister disagreed with that. The Minister is entitled to answer—so long as he answers—how he sees fit. It is not up to the Speaker to judge whether his answer is right or wrong. He did answer the question, but whether it was right or wrong is another matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have got only five supplementary questions in any given day. The Minister put out a press statement yesterday saying that it was not available to any other people in the world.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order; it is not helpful. The member knows that is not remotely a point of order. The member is trying to interject debating material into the Chamber by way of point of order, and that is totally outside Standing Orders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the Minister put out a press statement just yesterday saying that this privilege was available only to China Southern Airlines customers, and no one else, and why would anyone put trust in a Minister who seems not to understand that the China Southern Airlines casino deal is a recipe for illegal activity, including money-laundering, warned of by the Department of Internal Affairs, despite the fact that his department has on six occasions fined this airline since 1 July—in the last 4½ months? What does that say about his undermining of issues of border security?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I did bring in in July the airline carrier infringement regime. That has been extremely successful because it said to the airlines that they need to make sure that every passenger on board has the correct documentation. There have been over 300 infringements. China Southern Airlines has incurred eight infringements so far. When you think about the travel frequency between China and New Zealand I consider that to be not too bad—when you think about the over 300 infringements that have occurred across the rest of the airlines.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek to table a statement saying the waiver will not be available to non-Chinese nationals or to those who have never travelled overseas before—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a press statement?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is the Minister’s statement.

Mr SPEAKER: No, we do not table Ministers’ statements.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: He just said it was an assertion.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, we do not do that.

Darien Fenton: Is the announcement yesterday by China Southern Airlines that it will be bringing 250 travel agents to New Zealand from China in December a payback for the secret deal the Minister has done, and will they qualify for fast tracking under the gold and silver visa deal?

Mr SPEAKER: Did the Minister hear the question?

Hon NATHAN GUY: I did not.

Mr SPEAKER: Can I ask the member please—and for the House to be a little more quiet for the Minister—to repeat her question so the Minister hears it accurately? I thank Darien Fenton.

Darien Fenton: Is the announcement yesterday by China Southern Airlines that it will be bringing in 250 travel agents to New Zealand from China for an event in December a payback for the secret deal the Minister has done, and will they qualify for fast tracking under his gold and silver visa deal?

Hon NATHAN GUY: No, not at all. I refute any allegation of a payback. What I can say is we should all be embracing the fact that 250 high-level travel agents are coming into New Zealand to explore the wonderful opportunities in this country. We should all be embracing that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Was Skycity involved in consultations or negotiations on this arrangement?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Not as far as I am aware, no.

Teachers and Support Staff—Problems with Novopay Payment System

7. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does he take ministerial responsibility for the problems with the Novopay system; if not, why not?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Associate Minister of Education): Yes, in relation to my education delegation of having oversight of major information technology projects on a case by case basis.

Chris Hipkins: Has he issued instruction for any additional transitional support measures to be put in place for those affected by the problems with Novopay; if so, what was the nature of that instruction?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: As I understand the question, I cannot issue instruction—the contract is with the Ministry of Education. But if there is a demand of me for more resources, accurate pay, on time, as expected by the sector, then the answer there is yes.

Chris Hipkins: Has he issued any instruction to the Ministry of Education—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. Order! I say to the National front benches that I cannot hear the question with that level of interjection. [Interruption] Order! I might have to get the Attorney-General to look after the member again, if the interjections keep going.

Chris Hipkins: Has he issued any instruction to the Ministry of Education, for which he has ministerial responsibility, to ensure that additional transitional measures are put in place to support those affected by the problems with Novopay; if not, why not?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: As I said yesterday, if any individuals are suffering economically because of a missed pay or an underpay, or they have not been paid, yes, the ministry has put in mechanisms for them to be paid via the school operations grant. They must contact the school payroll officer or the ministry, and it will be addressed, and their suffering economically will be made good.

Chris Hipkins: Has he given instruction for any additional support to be provided to the schools that are now being asked to compensate for the problems with Novopay; if he has not done that, why has he not done that?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: Again, I do not issue instruction, but the ministry is. The Novopay team is putting extra resources, as requested—as demanded—from me, into going around schools, particularly those that are having difficulties, particularly with workshops around the end-of-year process, which are extra resources and facilitation to help the implementation of Novopay.

Chris Hipkins: In light of his delegation as Associate Minister, if he is not giving instructions to the Ministry of Education to fix these problems, who is?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: There are three parties to this: there is Talent2, the Novopay engine itself, and the ministry. I have responsibility for oversight of major technological projects within the ministry.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very direct question—maybe slightly pressuring but direct. It was not answered.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not disagree. The member asked “If the Minister is not giving instructions to the ministry to make good some of the underpayments in this system, then who is giving the instructions?”, and the Minister did not answer that.

Hon CRAIG FOSS: I misinterpreted “instructions”. I have demanded of the ministry that it gets this right, on time, and accurately, and that Talent2 get it right, on time, and accurately. It has not been delivered as expected. It is not satisfactory. It will be delivered, I am assured by those in the ministry and at Novopay.

Community Environment Fund—Regional Environment Centres

8. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent announcements has she made in relation to the Community Environment Fund?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): This week I was pleased to announce that 12 regional environment centres from around New Zealand will receive more than $1.4 million from the Government’s Community Environment Fund to provide practical ways of caring for their environment at a local level, including courses on composting, and growing vegetables; working with children; and community planting days. Environment centres play an important role in promoting environmental action in their communities, and I am proud to say that this Government has nearly doubled their funding from that received under the previous Labour-Green Government.

Chris Auchinvole: What are some examples of work the environmental centres do?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Environment centres provide advice and information, and a wide range of services to their communities, particularly around awareness raising, waste reduction, and recycling. One example is the environment centre in Nelson, which I visited recently. It runs a waste education service programme delivering education to schools and early education centres. Another is the environment centre on Auckland’s North Shore, with its Kaipatiki Project growing about 20,000 new native plants every year, and with 600 volunteers contributing. I am very pleased that the National-led Government has now contributed over $2.8 million to these centres and their work.

Economy, Sustainable—Pure Advantage Green Growth Report

9. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Pure Advantage report released today that “green growth represents a huge opportunity for all Kiwis to prosper”; if so, what will he do to put New Zealand on a green growth pathway?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): As the Prime Minister said yesterday, there are a number of aspects of the latest Pure Advantage report that the Government is interested in looking at because it may agree with them. The report underscores the importance of a significant number of existing Government initiatives already under way, for example the focus on energy efficiency, water reform, and investment in research and development. These are all elements of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. But I might also point out to the member that many New Zealand businesses are already on a green growth pathway because they invest large amounts of capital and considerable expertise, week by week, in changing their business in a way to make it more efficient or to deal with the environmental impact of their business. We do not discredit them. We give them credit for that. This is owned not just by people sitting around in groups, coming up with strategies.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the first line of the Pure Advantage report, that “Earth’s resources are finite”; if so, what does he think this means for economic policy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, what it means for economic policy is that we need to acknowledge scarcity, and that is why we have things like prices, and that is why the Greens advocated the emissions trading system, as they did, which was a system with the logic that dealt with scarcity by setting prices. I am not quite sure why the member then went on to advocate printing money, which is exactly the opposite.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree, therefore, that the challenge of achieving prosperity within these global resource limits, or the scarcity that he refers to, is what is leading to a boom in green industries such as renewable energy, and that this in turn creates the opportunity to grow a lot of jobs in New Zealand and we should embrace that?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The fact is New Zealanders do embrace any viable green industry. The Greens carry on as if this is something that they thought of, but actually every day thousands of New Zealanders are acting as environmental managers, making decisions that trade off the prospect of income growth, or reduced costs, against environmental impacts. I would put in that category farmers, people who drive trucks who worry about their stock effluent, local councils making rules about putting underpasses under roads, and businesses that are trying to reduce their energy bill. This concept is not owned by the Greens or the Pure Advantage group. It is inherent in the New Zealand character, and the Greens should show more respect for that.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree that this is not a question about the Greens or Pure Advantage, rather it is a question about Government leadership, and does he agree with Pure Advantage when it says that there is an absence of a cohesive, long-term, green growth policy from his central government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, and a couple of examples I would point to are the fact that New Zealand’s proportion of renewable energy is now higher than ever because we made the electricity market more competitive and stopped semi-subsidised programmes that were going ahead. The second is the example I used earlier, and that is water reform, which is probably the single most important environmental reform of the decade. Alongside that, I would actually put the regulation of the exclusive economic zone, which the Labour Government had a decade to do, did nothing, and in fact opposed it. It has been the responsibility of this Government to express what every New Zealander would like to see expressed, and that is their sense of stewardship for the oceans. In fact, I would say this Government has a much better record on this than either the Greens or Labour ever had.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with Pure Advantage, which has identified our natural biodiversity as one of the main competitive advantages of our $20 billion, jobs-rich tourist industry, and why, therefore, is the Government cutting funding to the Department of Conservation, which is the prime protector of that biodiversity?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Funding is not being cut to the Department of Conservation. It is getting pretty much the same revenue as it has had, and it is being treated in exactly the same way as most other public services. But, again, I point out to the member that although the Department of Conservation has a role in biodiversity protection, a whole lot of other New Zealanders do. In fact, the Department of Conservation is getting ahead of that member’s perception, because it has understood that in order to protect the most biodiversity possible, it needs to work with those thousands of New Zealanders who have the same values and want to participate, want to protect biodiversity, and have plenty of skills to do so. It, like the Greens, does not have a monopoly and a sort of moralistic superiority about green stuff. Every New Zealander is interested in it, and more of them would like you to show respect for it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister could just be a little careful. The Speaker should not be brought into the answer like that.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he accept that this is not an issue about anyone not having respect for what ordinary New Zealanders are doing, and that the issue is about Government leadership, and the problem with the Government leadership is that it has been promoting mining extraction and

motorways, and those kinds of priorities for the Government are completely at odds with the green growth agenda?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the Government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, has shown a fine sense of balance in its leadership. Yes, we have advocated responsible mining. We are advocating roads of national significance. Alongside that, we are bringing in wide-ranging reform of the way we use water in New Zealand. We are regulating our exclusive economic zone, and any other number of environmental initiatives, including the home insulation scheme, to which we committed $300 million. Compare that with the record of the Labour-Green Government that preceded us, and its record is pathetic.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he accept the findings of the Pure Advantage report that shows that New Zealand’s environmental performance is declining and that we slip from first to 14th place in the recent Yale Environmental Performance Index, so why does his Government keep promoting policies that are not only leading to record high unemployment but also degrading the environment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said before, the Government has a very balanced approach to these issues. It is actually the Greens and Labour who promote policies that destroy jobs. We promote policies that create them. But, alongside that, we are promoting policies that underpin the sustainability of those jobs—for instance, the water reforms that we are talking about will underpin the sustainability of our whole primary production sector, and therefore the sustainability of the jobs in that sector. In that sense, the Government is taking a balanced approach, and, actually, many New Zealanders support that.

Dr Russel Norman: Given his previous commitment to the use of pricing around scarcity, firstly, why has the Government changed the emissions trading scheme to effectively completely undercut a price on carbon, and hence remove that price signal through the economy; and, secondly, will he commit to putting a price on the use of water, so that we are able to use price signals to drive efficiency in the commercial use of water in irrigation?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The biggest influence on the price for carbon units has been a recession, which has led to a significant reduction in the growth rates of carbon emissions. The Greens should regard that as success, not failure. I know that the Greens would like us all to suffer for environmental advancement, but sometimes it is reasonably easy, and in that case it is. In respect of a price on water, we are interested in that discussion. I think the whole policy establishment has learnt a lot from the Greens’ advocacy of the emissions trading system. The Land and Water Forum has shown some interest in the issue but not come to conclusions. I would expect that over the next 6 to 9 months we will have the support of the Green Party in advancing water reform, which may include developments in the pricing area.

Julie Anne Genter: Does he agree with Pure Advantage that there is a huge economic opportunity to invest more in passenger transport, walking, and cycling; if so, why is his Government spending 85 percent of the budget available for new capital projects on a few State highway projects and less than 5 percent on making it easier and safer for people to walk, cycle, and take better buses and trains?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I suppose the main reason is because on our planet there are people, and most of those people—in fact, over 85 percent of passenger trips—are in cars. They need roads, so we are going to make sure that the road network is more efficient. The Government has actually invested a large amount in cycling, in public transport—

Hon Nathan Guy: KiwiRail.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: —and, in fact, as the member has pointed out, $750 million into KiwiRail for all the reasons that the Greens would advocate. So, again, I think our record is coherent and balanced—

Hon Nathan Guy: Sensible.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: —and sensible. If the member has got some good ideas rather than some fluffy ones—

Hon Nathan Guy: Mad ones.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: —and mad ones, then we would welcome hearing from her.

Julie Anne Genter: Does not the fact that State highway traffic volumes have not grown for the better part of the last decade while passenger transport volumes have been increasing at nearly 10 percent a year indicate that New Zealanders do want smart, green transport options, and is it not time to revisit this Government’s decision to prioritise billions on a few very low-value State highway projects such as the Kapiti Expressway, the costs of which are five times greater than its economic benefits?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I think if you actually look at what has happened with investment, the Government has continued with the large-scale public transport investments that the previous Government initiated, which is very evident in the Auckland public transport network. But not everyone goes on public transport. If New Zealanders want green transport options, they will get on the trains and the buses. More of them are doing so, and the investment will tend to follow that. But, actually, 90 percent of them do not get on a bus or a train, they get in the car. We are not willing to ignore those people. We think that as citizens they have a right to the public investment as well.

Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the latest Pure Advantage report “A Race has Begun. And we are in it”.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this internal report on the MacKays to Peka Peka Expressway, which shows that the benefits—

Mr SPEAKER: The source of the report? The member said—[Interruption] Order! The member said that it is an internal report.

Julie Anne Genter: It is an internal report to the New Zealand Transport Agency showing the benefits—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection?

Hon Member: Who wrote it?

Mr SPEAKER: I gather the Transport Agency wrote it.

Julie Anne Genter: It is a report to the Transport Agency by some consultants who were working for the Transport Agency.

Mr SPEAKER: By whom?

Julie Anne Genter: The Beca Group.

Mr SPEAKER: It is a report by the Beca Group to the Transport Agency. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table the State highway traffic volumes from the New Zealand Transport Agency that show that the volumes have not grown in over a decade on the route of the Kapiti Expressway.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Hospices—Funding

10. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Associate Minister of Health: What is the Government doing to ensure the ongoing provision of hospice services in our communities?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister of Health): Yesterday I announced that the Boost Hospice Care funding will be rolled over for a further 2 years. The current $15 million per year funding boost will now continue until 2015 to secure this vital service for our communities.

Hospices provide terminally ill people and their families with the services and support they need. In many communities, hospices provide palliative care in people’s homes as well as at in-patient facilities.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What is the Boost Hospice Care funding?

Hon JO GOODHEW: The Boost Hospice Care funding was introduced in 2009 and gave hospices an additional $60 million over the 4 years to June 2013 to help them expand care and services and meet financial challenges. This increased the proportion of average hospice funding provided by the Government from 50 percent to 70 percent. The funding rollover I announced yesterday will therefore bring this Government’s total additional investment in palliative care to $90 million.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Is she aware that the Ministry of Health plans to cease funding the national coordination office of Liverpool Care Pathway, based at Arohanui Hospice, which ensures consistency of palliative care in hospices and the over 300 other settings, including hospitals and rest homes, in which palliative care is delivered; and will she work with the ministry to reverse that decision?

Hon JO GOODHEW: From memory I am aware that the roll-out of the Liverpool Care Pathway was over a predetermined number of years. I am aware that the funding is coming to a close and that there has been a very clear signal sent to the group that actually coordinates this centrally that this funding will come to a close. Nevertheless, I do want to take this opportunity to say that it has done a sterling job and that its success has shown that this Liverpool Care Pathway is, in fact, working very, very well around the country, and that is where it needs to be—around the country, rather than in head office.

Manufacturing Sector—Minister’s Statements

11. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Economic

Development: Does he stand by all his statements about manufacturing in New Zealand?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Economic

Development: Yes.

Clare Curran: Does he stand by his statement on 3 May 2010 regarding the future of Hillside: “There will be lots of work for these guys, there’s no doubt about that, because they do a lot of things well and there’s a big rolling stock replenishment and replacement exercise that’s coming down the pipeline”; if so, what does he have to say today to the 90 Hillside workers who have lost their jobs because of his Government’s directives to the KiwiRail board?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The job losses are not the result of the Government directives. In fact, this Government has already invested three-quarters of a billion dollars in KiwiRail. The only directive to its board is to ensure that we have a sustainable rail system. So it has taken a decision recently around the Hillside works. It is very unfortunate for those workers who have lost their jobs, but, as it has turned out, those jobs were not sustainable, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that other Dunedin businesses can take those workers on so that they can get another job.

Clare Curran: Why did he not support the recent proposal for Hillside to produce 100 rail wagons at the Dunedin factory, in the light of the serious flaws and faults revealed in the Chinese wagons?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because those decisions are correctly made by the people who understand the procurement of railway equipment and the board to which they are accountable.

Clare Curran: What action has he taken to give Government leadership in procuring New Zealand – made goods where that would lead to more jobs, less unemployment, and a reduced Government deficit?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As has been Government procurement policy for some time now, we generally expect Government agencies to achieve best value for money. We do expect them to look very carefully, of course, at the local options for achieving that. That has been the policy for some

time and remains the policy. As I have said, we have invested three-quarters of a billion dollars in this entity to ensure that we have a sustainable rail system that does continue to employ thousands of people. KiwiRail is doing a competent job of executing a turn-round in that organisation.

Dr David Clark: Was the bar set lower for this Government to intervene on behalf of casinos and Hollywood than on behalf of local manufacturers like the Hillside workshops; and was that because the Hillside workers do not have highly paid private lobbyists acting on their behalf?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, that is not the case. The fact is we subsidise both industries fairly extensively. At the same time as putting three-quarters of a billion dollars already into KiwiRail, in fact, over the last 3 years we put three quarters of a billion dollars into the screen industry—when you look at all the Government subsidies across New Zealand On Air, etc. So, in fact, the member is wrong. The Government subsidises both industries to about the same level.

Clare Curran: I seek leave to table the document released today by KiwiRail titled Hillside Workshops Consultation Document, which outlines how the 90 jobs, nearly 80 percent of the Hillside workforce—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Question No. 6 to Minister

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): In the light of answers given by Mr Guy, the Minister of Immigration, today to question 6, I seek leave to table Wednesday, 31 August 2011—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! What is the document?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It is traveltrade, and it is an article confirming that China Southern Airlines—

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please tell the House the source of the document.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes. Traveltrade is a magazine, exclusive to the industry—I will give you the date; Wednesday, 31 August 2011—confirming that Skycity is in conversation with China Southern Airlines, and the casino is in talks about making the visa process easier.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Vehicle Licensing Reform Project—Progress

SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel): My question is to the Associate Minister of Transport and asks: what progress can he report on the Government’s Vehicle Licensing— [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member asking the question. Could the benches on my left, on this occasion, please be a little more reasonable with their interjections. Scott Simpson, question No. 12.

SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel): Thank you. Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The senior Opposition whip should know better than that.

12. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Associate Minister of Transport: What progress can he report on the Government’s Vehicle Licensing Reform Project?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister of Transport): There has been a fantastic response to the public consultation on vehicle licensing reform. Over the 6-week consultation period some 4,600 submissions have been received. I want to thank the public for those, and assure them that they are being carefully considered and that they will go into the mix in the final decision that the Government makes in due course.

Scott Simpson: Why would the vehicle licensing systems in New Zealand benefit from reform?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, the current system is many decades old. A huge amount has changed technologically. We have one of the most—if not the most—frequent vehicle inspection regimes in the world, and I am confident that for Kiwis we can save them time and money, while also maintaining, and perhaps even improving, safety outcomes.
ENDS

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