Questions and Answers – June 7

Press Release – Hansard

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (LeaderNZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he still have confidence in all his Ministers; if so, why?
ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS Ministers—Confidence

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he still have confidence in all his Ministers; if so, why?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes; because they are competent and hard-working. Despite that member’s extensive efforts over 9 years, he has not been able to persuade me otherwise. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no, we do not need that first part.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If he has confidence in his last two housing Ministers, who both made the same announcement 2 years apart regarding “34,000 new houses for Auckland”, did Nick Smith jump the gun in 2015 or did Amy Adams not find anything else new to say last month?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: They were of course different announcements. The Government has made so many announcements about new houses that I am not surprised that the member, who is not known for his grasp of detail, is a bit confused.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Of course, he knew all about the BNZ and the wine box, did he not?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. That is the second supplementary question—on both occasions, the member has taken a chance to make some comment that is unnecessary when he stands to take a supplementary question. I asked him the first time not to do it. I do not want to have to ask the member not to do it again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was the Prime Minister who thought he could attack me on a matter of detail, and I was putting him in his place.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. He will abide by the rules of this House. The member asked a very political question, and he got a relatively political answer back.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If his Government believes families can live in a consent, can he enlighten us as to just how many houses were both physically built in Auckland in the first 10 months of 2016 and issued a code of compliance certificate confirming that the house had been built according to its consent?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not have all those details in front of me, but the member can be assured that there is more building of housing and infrastructure than there has been for a generation, and, because of a strong economy and a growing population and Kiwis staying at home, that building programme is going to continue for at least the next 4 or 5 years. In fact, in Auckland we have a 10-year $24 billion programme just for transport.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request on code compliance certificates issued by Auckland Council, dated 27 January 2017, which shows 4,472 certificates were issued from January to October 2016.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular Official Information Act advice. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in Ministers of housing when meeting the “housing challenge”—those are John Key’s words, last year—will supposedly deliver 12,421 new houses, at 11 houses a day, at a cost of $2.23 billion; is he really telling Aucklanders that the average cost is just over $185,000?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have every confidence in the announcement made recently that the Government plans to build 34,000 houses in Auckland. There will be revolving funding relevant to that, and we are working right now with Auckland Council on the infrastructure of roads and water pipes that will be required to support those houses. It is a realistic plan and it will be executed.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If ANZ economists advised Treasury late last year that there is a shortage of 60,000 houses nationwide and Auckland is lagging behind the 13,000 homes required to meet population growth per annum, why does he not just put Nick Smith out of his misery and save him the embarrassment of constantly being ridiculed about his failing housing policy?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would rather put that member out of his misery, because he is constantly ridiculed for not turning up in his electorate in Northland—but it is really up to the voters to do that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: We are not going to stand by while the Prime Minister and his colleagues repeat a falsehood in this House—in their case, knowingly. We are not going to put up with that at all.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have dealt with this matter before. Can I refer the member to Standing Order 359 if he feels there has been a case of misrepresentation. He may well have a case. If he writes to me we will investigate it from there.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If Minister Simon Bridges, who announced—

Hon Simon Bridges: Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, woe is you, all right. Ha, ha! If Minister Simon Bridges announced $69 million for 10 bridges during the Northland by-election in March 2015, why has the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) already allocated $62 million of that $69 million to just four bridges, with the remaining six in limbo, and how can he still have confidence in a Minister called “Simple Simon” who simply cannot count?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I am pleased to hear progress on the bridges, because the member has been saying up until quite recently that none of them would be built. Now he seems to be complaining that four of them are going to be built properly. I have every confidence in NZTA to meet the undertakings made by the Government.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the interest of detail I seek leave to table a question for written answer, not publicly available yet, dated 7 June 2017, which shows over $62 million will be spent on just four of the 10 bridges—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has described it enough. Leave is sought to table the answer to a written question that is not yet published. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House. Finance, Minister—Reports on Exporters

2. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the success of New Zealand’s exporters?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): The exporters are doing well on the world stage. Last Friday figures were released showing that our exporters sold $70.4 billion of goods and services in the last 12 months, which is a $3 billion surplus for the year to March. Also, our terms of trade are out now and they are the strongest they have been for 44 years. The figures released record a 5.1 percent increase in the March quarter and are up 7.8 percent on a year ago. That is good news because the terms of trade are, of course, the price that we achieve for our exports. There is a strong and broad upswing in export prices and also export opportunities for New Zealand firms.

Joanne Hayes: What is New Zealand’s current account deficit, and how does this compare with the normal economic cycle?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealand’s current account deficit is currently $1.6 billion for the latest quarter. It is a $420 million improvement over the previous result. This means we have the lowest current account deficit since March 2014. The services component alone recorded a $1.2 billion surplus. This is partly driven by New Zealand’s increasingly successful tourism industry, alongside the education sector and business services. Given that New Zealand’s economy has grown in all but one quarter over the last 6 years, these results show the contribution our exporters are making to increase this country’s wealth.

Joanne Hayes: How is the Government improving the ability of New Zealand’s exporters to sell their goods and services overseas?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Under the Government’s strong economic leadership, New Zealand is shaping globalisation to its advantage. We have embraced increased trade, new technologies, innovation, and investment. For example, Minister McClay is ensuring work on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 11 continues. It stands to improve access for New Zealand exporters and lower tariffs around the Asia-Pacific region, including in Japan—the world’s third-largest economy. Successfully implementing TPP 11 would generate tariff savings of $222 million to New Zealand goods exporters each year, once the agreement is fully in force.

Joanne Hayes: What else is the Government doing to assist growing and exporting companies?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Earlier this year the Prime Minister launched our Trade Agenda 2030 strategy. It aims to get 90 percent of our exports covered by free-trade agreements by 2030. We are increasing our focus on services and investment, digital innovation, and tackling non-tariff barriers. We have backed this up with a new $91 million investment in trade policy. Under this Government’s consistent economic plan our exporters are expanding, hiring more staff, and successfully taking on the world. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the interchange between Dr David Clark and the Hon Steven Joyce cease immediately. If they want to have a discussion or a friendly chat, go to the lobbies to do so. Auckland—Teacher Supply, Housing Costs and Conditions, and Traffic Congestion

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Has his Government done all it needs to for Auckland, given schools are struggling to find teachers who can afford the city’s housing costs, congestion is the worst in Australasia, and people are living in squalid illegal boarding houses?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes. The Government has done an awful lot, working with the Auckland Council—for instance, a 10-year transport plan, which will cost $24 billion, of which $20 billion is funded, and that is after the $1.4 billion Waterview Connection, widening the Northwestern Motorway, more lanes on the Southwestern Motorway, extending the airport motorway link, and funding a large part of the City Rail Link, as well as a major building programme. Auckland is a strong economy, generating thousands of jobs, and we believe we can deal with the challenges of growth, while that member believes you should shut growth down because it is all too hard.

Andrew Little: Moving beyond the Prime Minister’s world of fantasy, after 9 years of the National Government—[Interruption] Oh, you cannot take it—no, you cannot take it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just continue with the question.

Andrew Little: After 9 years——[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have asked for an assistance to my right, on one occasion. I do not want to have to do it again. We will now have the question—repeat it.

Andrew Little: After 9 years of the National Government, why is there a growing relief-teacher shortage in Auckland, meaning that families now face the prospect of being forced to keep their kids at home this winter when their regular teachers get sick?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Some of those teachers in Auckland, I am sure, would have welcomed the opportunity to move into a house in the Three Kings development, which the Labour Party has held up for 5 years. It means that thousands of affordable houses have not yet been able to be built because the Labour Party in that community is stopping the development happening.

Andrew Little: Putting aside the fact that the entirety of Auckland’s teacher population does not live in Point England, why did his Government cut New Zealand Transport Agency’s Auckland funding by $3 million last year, while at the same time Auckland’s gridlock worsened by 800 cars a week, and is it not time for a fresh approach?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: In fact, the Government has been topping up the standard transport formula in Auckland with billions of dollars of taxpayer funding from the rest of New Zealand, through large projects like the central rail link, which is half taxpayer-funded, and through the Housing Infrastructure Fund, which is a billion dollars of taxpayers’ funding from all of New Zealand, the largest part of which will be spent in Auckland.

Andrew Little: After 9 years in Government, does he take any responsibility for the worsening housing crisis and infrastructure deficit in our largest city; if not, whose fault has it all been these last 9 years?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are quite happy to take responsibility for the growing economy, the growing population, and the 40,000 Kiwis who used to leave every year who are staying at home. We are quite happy to take responsibility for the massive investment in schools and in roads, the 34,000 houses the Government is going to build, and the massive investment in broadband. These are all great things in a country that is going somewhere on the back of a growing economy.

Andrew Little: After deciding at the end of his 9 years to spend $2 billion a year on tax cuts, how much infrastructure, like light rail, could be built to get Auckland moving and how many State and affordable houses could be built for Auckland families with that money?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is up to the old Opposition trick of comparing whatever you do with whatever is on his mind that day. Last week the $2 billion of support for families was meant to go on health and education; this week he wants to spend it all on infrastructure. The fact is that this Government is overseeing strong economic growth, which gives us the opportunity to invest in infrastructure, support family incomes, and lift our public services—all positive choices for a growing New Zealand.

Andrew Little: Given his accomplished former housing Minister, Nick Smith, said in 2014 that “Where there are rat-infested, mouldy dives that are unfit for human habitation, I want them eliminated.”, why, 3 years later, do we have toddlers like 18-month-old Julia Alatina living in these Auckland slums with rats and cockroaches and violence?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: If someone is living in those circumstances, the council has the legal capacity—

Hon Members: Oh!

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: OK. So if the Opposition does not want the solutions—they would prefer to have the misery go on so that they can feed off it. But, in fact, the council has the power to shut down residences that are dangerous to the health of the occupants of them. I would suggest the member take that case to the council and tell them they should shut it down. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Again, there is too much interjection from both front benches.

Andrew Little: How can the Prime Minister give himself a tax cut, while children like little Julia are forced to live in slums? After 9 years, how can he possibly be proud of that?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Little Julia and her family, if they have very high housing costs, will receive one of the biggest single boosts in family incomes that has occurred in 30 or 40 years. She will be eligible for higher Working for Families payments, the impact of the cuts in the tax thresholds, and the very significant uplift in the accommodation supplement. I hope that that family gets along and finds out their entitlement, because it could be over a hundred dollars a week if they are in extreme circumstances. Conservation, Minister—Confidence

4. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in his Minister of Conservation?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes. Our Minister of Conservation is a vigorous advocate of conservation, and I am particularly pleased with the work that has been done on Predator Free New Zealand, a visionary target that goes to the heart of what it means to be Kiwi, and engages thousands of New Zealanders in creating a better environment in this country.

James Shaw: How can he have confidence in her oversight of the Department of Conservation (DOC) when it failed to oppose plans for an open-cast coalmine on Mount Te Kuha, which is a habitat for the endangered great spotted kiwi?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: You would have to address the detail of that to the Department of Conservation, but it is not obliged to oppose everything. There are actually, I understand, over 40 mining sites on the conservation estate, many of which operate quite successfully, and I am sure that if there is any real risk, rather than alleged risk, to the great spotted kiwi, that, of course, would be a central consideration in the process of considering consent for that mine.

James Shaw: Does he not think it is strange for DOC to be neutral on the matter of a coalmine in a kiwi habitat on conservation land?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, I would want to check the facts that the member is alleging. Secondly, of course it is part of the capacity of Government to take a whole-of-Government view, to take a view that something is a good thing that can happen with the trade-offs that are related to it. If the member is correct that there is some danger to the great spotted kiwi, then, as I said, I am sure that will be a central consideration. The Department of Conservation is not obliged to oppose everything that the Greens are opposed to.

James Shaw: To be clear, is the Prime Minister saying that it is perfectly normal for nature’s statutory defender to not be particularly bothered by a proposal that will knock the top off a mountain, cut down 700-year-old rimu, pollute the Camp and West Creeks with mining run-off, and discharge toxic dust and 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? Is that not strange?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: As is sometimes the case with the Greens, they exaggerate to create a sense of catastrophe.

Chris Bishop: Sometimes? Sometimes? That’s very generous.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, sometimes they do not—let us put it that way. Of course, if that was the activity, then it would never get a consent, but you cannot stop people making applications under our legal processes. The Greens might regard that as morally reprehensible—for people to be able to apply to do things—but people can apply. They will be treated according to the law, with due process. DOC happened to be part of that process, and I am sure the issues will be dealt with.

James Shaw: Given that answer, what has changed between 1996 and 2001, when DOC strongly opposed this mine, and 2017, when it did not?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: One thing that has not changed is that the Greens are still in Opposition, as it was then. Otherwise, I cannot answer the member’s question, because I do not know what the application or DOC’s attitude to it was in 1996.

James Shaw: Did any of his Ministers give direction to DOC officials about the content of their submission on the Mount Te Kuha coalmine application?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a question for the Minister, but if the member is asking whether DOC is completely independent, the answer is no, it is not completely independent. It does not have some kind of divine right to hold an opinion with no scrutiny at all from executive Government, or the Parliament, for that matter. That is part of the process. Its submissions will be considered within the Government, as well as according to due process of law, which is where its submission is relevant.

James Shaw: Would he fire any of his Ministers if they were found to have put a muzzle on what DOC can say about coalmining on the conservation estate?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. DOC has some statutory roles, but, as I said, it is not a nation unto itself. It is funded by the taxpayer, accountable to the executive and to Parliament, and that means its activities are open to scrutiny. And it may surprise the member, but sometimes DOC disagrees with the Greens. It is not a statutory version of the Green Party. Finance, Minister—Statements

5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): Yes, I do stand by all my statements, particularly in relation to Budget 2017 and the Budget debate last night, when I said I found it the strangest thing that the party of Michael Joseph Savage, the New Zealand Labour Party, managed to vote against lifting the incomes of low-income working people and low-income struggling people.

Grant Robertson: If he stands by his statement that productivity improvements mean that it is not necessary for his Government to increase social spending in line with population growth and inflation to stand still, what is the percentage contribution of productivity to meeting this goal?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not convinced that the member is quoting my statement correctly. What I said to the member at the committee before lunch today was that the Government is increasing its social sector spending but also expects productivity improvements alongside those increases.

Grant Robertson: What is the percentage contribution of productivity to meeting the goal of standing still in terms of social spending?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it does not meet the goal because, actually, we are not standing still. We are increasing our public sector spending and investment in public services by $7 billion over the next 4 years. The productivity improvements will come on top of that, and that is what we are seeking, as we always have, on behalf of the public of New Zealand: to increase the investment but also increase productivity, so we get more from that investment that we are making.

Grant Robertson: Why is giving a tax cut worth an average of $34 a week for a household earning more than $150,000 a higher priority than funding the health sector so that the Waikato District Health Board does not have to turn people away from the emergency department, so that Wellington Hospital can actually provide beds for patients having surgery the next day, or so that the Canterbury District Health Board could actually see young people for their mental health needs within a month of being referred?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, the member is just wrong. We are investing $3.9 billion more—

Dr David Clark: Those are all facts!

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —and that is the fact—in New Zealand’s health services in Budget 2017, which I know, through some sort of convoluted spreadsheet, that the member thinks is somehow a cut, but it is not. Actually, this Government stands proudly on the side of Kiwi workers of all incomes, especially low and middle income earners, and I invite him to go out and say that he will campaign to remove the income increases that they are getting through this Budget through Working for Families, through the accommodation supplement, and also through the tax system.

Grant Robertson: Why is giving himself a tax cut of more than a thousand dollars a year a higher priority than funding GPs properly so that they do not have to increase their fees, or are the GPs wrong when they say that they have not received capitation funding, and so therefore they will have to increase their fees?

Mr SPEAKER: There are two supplementary questions there. The Minister can address one or both.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is investing more in primary care, it is investing more in the ambulance system, it is investing more in the district health boards, it is investing more in mental health, and it is investing $3.9 billion more over the next 4 years. I appreciate that Mr Robertson has never seen a time, and will never see a time, when any Kiwis should actually keep more of their incomes. This Government has a different view, particularly in the case of low and middle income New Zealanders.

Grant Robertson: Everyone else is wrong.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That is pathetic.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! You can score the performance later on. Health Services—Funding Levels

6. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Health: What will the $888 million invested into Vote Health in Budget 2017, the biggest increase in 11 years, deliver for New Zealanders?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Health remains the Government’s No. 1 funding priority in Budget 2017, and this increase in spending will allow us to continue to deliver better health services for a growing population. As in previous years, the largest chunk of this funding is allocated to the district health boards, with $439 million going to investment in services and improved access for New Zealanders. In total, district health boards will benefit from an extra $1.76 billion over 4 years.

Simon O’Connor: What other new initiatives are funded in Budget 2017?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Budget 2017 also includes extra funding for a range of new initiatives, including $1.54 billion for wage increases for 55,000 care and disability support workers as part of the pay equity settlement. There is also $205 million for disability support services, which includes $27 million going to the Enabling Good Lives programme. The sum of $100 million dollars, through the Budget’s social investment package, has been set aside for innovative new mental health services, and $38.5 million is allocated to continue the roll-out of the bowel screening programme. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the steady management of the economy, which has allowed us maintain sustainable investment into health services. Building and Construction, Minister—Statements

7. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Does he stand by his statement that this is a “golden era” for the building industry; if so, why?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Construction): Yes, and I thank the member for enabling me, again, to highlight that the industry is experiencing its longest and strongest boom ever. Investment is at an all-time high of $20 billion per year in the year to April, and the latest household labour force survey showed, in March, 233,000 people working in construction—that is the highest number ever.

Phil Twyford: Does he accept the estimated shortfall of 30,000 homes in Auckland included in his own Auckland Housing Accord—a document he signed?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Auckland Housing Accord was signed a bit over 4 years ago. It provided for the special housing areas. It has seen, since, the level of home construction in Auckland go from 4,000 homes to 10,000 homes being built per year in that city. That accord sets out a goal of getting to 13,000 homes. I will be continuing to push for new home construction until that target is met.

Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I listened very carefully to the Minister’s answer. I asked about whether he accepted a figure that was included—

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion, I will invite the member to repeat his supplementary question.

Phil Twyford: Thank you. Does he accept the estimated shortfall of 30,000 homes in Auckland included in his own Auckland Housing Accord—a document he signed?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In the time it was set, which is now nearly 4 years ago.

Phil Twyford: Does he accept the estimate of the Auckland Council’s Independent Hearings Panel, made during the preparation of the unitary plan, that Auckland has an estimated shortfall of 40,000 dwellings?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Any estimates on the housing shortfall are very dependent on the assumption of how many people there are per home. A small change and a difference—[Interruption] I am saying that if you vary the assumption by just 0.1 person per household, that can vary that estimate by 10,000 or 20,000. It will always be an estimate. I am simply focused on getting more houses built, and the record of the last 4 years shows very strong growth and the progress that we are making.

Phil Twyford: Does he accept the estimate made by his own officials in a joint Treasury – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment(MBIE) paper in April 2016 that the shortfall of dwellings is now more than 30,000, and, on current trends, will not be eliminated until after 2030?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, the member misrepresents that report. I would also point out that the best indication as to whether housing supply and demand are in balance is price, and I welcome the fact that over the last 8 months, house prices in Auckland have been static. Equally so in Christchurch, where supply is well in control in respect of demand. We have actually seen house prices and rents fall, showing the importance of growing supply.

Phil Twyford: What does he think is stronger evidence of denial: denying there is a housing crisis; denying Auckland Council’s estimate of the shortfall of housing; denying his own officials’ estimate of the shortfall; or denying that his officials even gave him that advice, as he did this morning at the select committee?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The worst denial I have seen is when the household labour force survey (HLFS) shows a record number of people working in construction, when the building consent data shows the strongest level of building construction in more than a decade, when the GDP figures show that there is a housing boom, and when the member opposite says that no houses are being built.

Phil Twyford: I seek the leave of the House to table a Treasury-MBIE document that sets out the estimate of a 30,000-plus shortfall of houses in Auckland.

Mr SPEAKER: I just need to check; is that not freely available to members?

Phil Twyford: Well, it was received by my office under the Official Information Act.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Over a year ago.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! On that basis I will put the leave, and the House will decide. Leave is sought to table the Treasury-MBIE document. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! Climate Change—Leadership

8. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does she agree that New Zealand has a special responsibility to provide leadership on climate change in support of our Pacific Island neighbours, whose very existence is threatened by it and who have done almost nothing to cause the problem?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): I certainly agree that New Zealand needs to play our part in the global effort to reduce climate change. I think the leadership depends on context within that. I think we have a very special relationship with the Pacific Islands. It is why we provide so much aid there. It is why we have committed more than $200 million towards contributing to helping our Pacific cousins.

Marama Davidson: Will the Government, then, show real leadership to support small Pacific Island nations by following many Pacific leaders in condemning President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think we have made it very clear that we are disappointed with the decision of President Trump. I think there are more important things that we can do for the Pacific Islands at the moment, and that is in our aid programme. It is in things like the borrow pits and filling them in, in Tuvalu. It is in things like the contribution that we are making in Kiribati, as far as getting adaptation for them so that people can live better lives. I think that makes more of a difference than words of condemnation.

Marama Davidson: When the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, himself is saying: “I think this is a very destructive, obstructive statement from a leader of perhaps the biggest polluter on earth …” and the president of the Assembly of French Polynesia, Marcel Tuihani, is going as far as saying: “We regret that the President of the United States has no more consideration for the peoples of Pacific Islands states …”, why does the Government refuse to show any leadership by condemning Trump’s decision?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think I have made it pretty clear that we are more interested in the actions that we take, and I am proud of them. Those island States are welcome to make whatever comments they like. It is called democracy. If those are the comments that they want to make on what President Trump has said, well, good on them. But at the end of the day, we are a part of a high-ambition coalition. We have joined with the Marshall Islands and other countries in a statement with them, and we stand by where we are at and what we are doing.

Marama Davidson: If the Government is really providing so much support to the Pacific Islands on climate change, as the Minister claims, will she then show real leadership by reversing the $13 million per year cut to climate-related aid in the Pacific and, instead, increase it?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Certainly from what I have seen we are providing more—for example, we recently committed another $1.3 million to Fiji to help them with their presidency of the 23rd session of the conference of the parties, which we saw as very important. As I say, there are a number of very successful projects, like the $44.6 million in climate related support that has gone in just 1 year alone. Another $3 million has gone into getting the Green Climate Fund operational in helping countries so that those Pacific countries can actually submit applications for that. I would say we work very well with those Pacific countries and want to continue to do so. Budget 2017—Support for Children with Additional Learning Needs

9. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Education: What extra help for children with additional learning needs was provided in Budget 2017?

Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister of Education): Budget 2017 provided an additional $63.3 million over the next 4 years to support students with additional learning needs. This included $15 million to extend teacher aide support to an extra 625 students per year. This investment fulfils the Government’s commitment to roll out in-class support for 4,000 students. I am also pleased to advise the House that this funding also included $4.2 million in funding for further support for parents and teachers of children with autism.

Dr Jian Yang: How does this commitment build on the Government’s existing funding for learning support?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: The Government has significantly increased funding for children with additional learning needs by around 33 percent since 2009, to $630 million per year. In addition to what I have already outlined, $34.7 million of new funding will provide specialist behaviour services for an extra 1,000 children, and $6 million will also be invested to support young children with difficulties talking and listening. This Government is committed to providing support at the earliest opportunity to give children the best start to their education and the best chance in life.

Chris Hipkins: Why was the additional funding for the ongoing resourcing scheme (ORS) allocated in this year’s Budget less than the Ministry of Education advised her was necessary to meet cost pressures?

Hon NIKKI KAYE: I would have to go and have a look at the statement that he has made. But what I can tell the member is that, in 2016, there was a significant additional investment in ORS. That is on top of the money that we have put in, in terms of behavioural services, on top of the money in terms of communication services, and on top of the money in terms of early intervention. Children, Minister—Accuracy of Responses to Inquiries about Care and Protection of Children

10. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Children: Does she have confidence in the accuracy of the assurances in each letter she has signed and provided to the public and members of Parliament regarding individual cases of care and protection of children?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Children): Yes, because of the level of detail involved. Letters I receive in relation to an individual child’s care and protection are referred to the chief executive of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. The chief executive’s comments, feedback, and assurances are then passed on to the member of the public or the MP in my response. It goes without saying that I would expect any processes or undertakings she makes are followed and adhered to. If the member has concerns regarding the safety and care of individual children, he should raise this with me or the ministry through more appropriate channels, rather than waiting for question time.

Darroch Ball: How can she have confidence in her ministry’s procedural integrity, given the drafting of one of her signed letters of assurance that a thorough investigation had taken place included emails from and to her office stating “The Minister’s office asked for the response to be revised.”, “We have a bit of an issue with ministerial correspondence. Hope it doesn’t set a standard.”, and “I have tried to keep it factual without putting spin on it, but happy to change it as you see fit.”?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: What that shows is that I am determined to ensure that whatever responses I give on behalf of the chief executive are made knowing that I can give the member of the public or the MP the assurance that whatever has been said will be followed and adhered to.

Darroch Ball: I seek leave to table two internal emails, dated 4 March 2015 and 25 February 2015, which detail all those quotes that I mentioned in my previous—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two particular emails. Is there any objection to them being tabled? There is not. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Darroch Ball: Is she concerned with her ministry’s procedural integrity, given a ministry executive who drafted one of her letters of assurance was, in fact, originally implicated in the very complaint addressed in the letter they drafted stating that “a very thorough investigation was conducted”, when, in fact, there was no investigation conducted at all?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am aware of the details of that particular case that the member is raising. I am not going to discuss it in this House, but I can tell the member that I have spoken at length with the chief executive about how that can happen. It should not happen, and we are determined that it does not happen ever again, but I would remind the member that the two occasions that he is quoting from in the House here happened under Child, Youth and Family, under the Ministry of Social Development.

Darroch Ball: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just in relation to the last answer from the Minister, I asked whether she was concerned that a ministry executive who was involved in that—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no, no—I listened very carefully to the answer, and the Minister, effectively, invoked Speaker’s ruling 193/3, from memory, that she was not prepared to give any further details in the House, and that is because of public interest.

Darroch Ball: Will the Minister investigate every letter she has signed that gave assurances of the safety of children under her watch, given that it is clear that the process by which she gains her advice about all of those cases is flawed and she cannot guarantee any such assurances at all?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I dispute that member’s assertion. I do take the care and protection of children very seriously, I do seek information from the chief executive, and I do seek assurances that the information that I am passing on is correct. In some cases, I follow up with the chief executive to ensure that the assurances I have been given about what the procedures are to follow have actually been carried out. Fisheries—Transparency and Management

11. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister for Primary Industries: How is the Government supporting the transparency and management of our fisheries through Budget 2017?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): A Budget boost of $30.5 million of operating funding over the next 4 years will help to upgrade and modernise our fisheries management system. The funding will help introduce the Integrated Electronic Monitoring and Reporting System, commonly called IEMRS, which will give us the most transparent and accountable commercial fishery anywhere in the world. The funding will also support more detailed scientific research to improve our knowledge of the marine environment, enabling management of fish stocks as well as the ecosystems that support them.

Ian McKelvie: How will this technology help support the compliance of the commercial fishing activities?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Vessel position monitoring and electronic catch reporting will begin on 1 October this year. This will be followed by cameras on every vessel, phased in from 1 October next year. This means that every fishing vessel can be monitored at all times, no matter where they are, and any illegal activity can be dealt with. Through the future of our fisheries programme, the Government is also refreshing the rules around landing and discarding of fish to ensure that our policies complement this new technology.

Ian McKelvie: How will this investment create more information about the health of our fish stocks?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Good question. The IEMRS system will also allow for finer-scale management of our fish stocks by giving the Ministry for Primary Industries more information to focus on smaller geographic areas, such as specific bays. The new investment will also support more detailed scientific research to improve our knowledge of the marine environment, enabling management of fish stocks as well as the ecosystems that support them. New approaches will also develop new information about the state of our fisheries using biological indicators of stock status. Health, Minister—Statements

12. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement, “there is always financial pressure in the health sector, that’s nothing new”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, and the best example of the long-standing nature of the issue is that when Labour departed office in 2008, it left a growing district health board (DHB) deficit of over $150 million, with Capital and Coast DHB running deficits of $40 million in 2007, $66 million in 2009, and on track to grow rapidly.

Dr David Clark: Is he concerned that cash-strapped Wellington Regional Hospital has been over 95 percent occupancy for nearly half of last year; and is putting patients up in motels the night before surgery because there is a shortage of beds the new normal?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have had a look into that patients staying in motels issue. I would not overdramatise it—12 patients who were booked for elective surgery over the past financial year have been placed in motel beds the night before. They are only patients who do not need a hospital bed. So they are going in for routine elective surgery—and, you know, sometimes that has to happen. They are not patients who are needing hospital care, so the member should not mischaracterise the situation.

Dr David Clark: Is he concerned that last year the following hospitals reported being full more often than in previous years; if not, what would it take for him to be concerned? Those hospitals are Auckland, Buller, Dunedin, Invercargill, Middlemore, North Shore, Rotorua, Taranaki, Wairarapa, Waitakere, Wellington—

Mr SPEAKER: Bring the question to a conclusion quickly.

Dr David Clark: —Whakatāne, Whanganui, and Whangarei.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As usual, I would have to go off and check what the member is actually saying. I mean, it sounds like those hospitals are working at capacity. But the key thing is that there is more money going to the health system and more people are getting more services than ever before. The member could not, I think, name a single service that is not better than 8 years ago, because out of hundreds of services, they have all improved and are delivering more.

Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did ask what it would take, what level it would get to, before he was concerned about the situation.

Mr SPEAKER: That might have been part of the second part of the question that was asked. The first part was about whether he was concerned about a list of hospitals that were more full this year than last year. The question was definitely addressed.

Dr David Clark: Does he think that it is business as usual for Waikato, Palmerston North, and Wellington hospitals to be reporting full occupancy within the last 2 weeks while struggling to clear their emergency department (ED) backlog; how many hospitals reporting full occupancy or over-capacity over the next month will it take for him to realise that there is a problem?

Mr SPEAKER: Again, There are two supplementary questions there. The Minister can address either.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Full hospitals are not a new phenomenon. I would note that he mentioned ED backlogs. One of the things we did bring in was the ED waiting time target, so that everyone would be in and out of the ED within 6 hours. That has saved 700 lives per year—very different from the days when Labour was running the health system.

Dr David Clark: Is he aware that in the past week, beds in Ōāmaru Hospital have been full and ambulances and GPs have been told to take patients elsewhere, and that during that period Dunedin Hospital was also full at points, forcing care out of the DHB?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Once again, I would have to check that member’s claims, but the fact is that in winter, in busy times, our hospitals are often full. That has always been the case, but the key thing is that people are getting the care that they need.

Dr David Clark: Why did he say to the Health Committee this morning that he was not aware of the Ministry of Health’s survey figures, frequently reported in the media, that show an estimated half a million people missed out on a GP visit due to costs in the last 12 months alone?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I honestly would have to go and check the transcript of that conversation, because I am not sure that he is not misrepresenting my remarks.

Dr David Clark: Is the reason he will not lower adult GP fees for those who cannot afford them due to this Government’s $2.3 billion shortfall in health funding and the fact that there is no money available to stop fee increases for other patients?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: There are a couple of things here. GPs set their own fees in consultation with the DHBs, so they have got certain parameters. The member completely overlooks the fact of free visits for under-13s, a policy that Labour could have delivered but never did. When it comes to funding, basically, we have put $5 billion more into the system. They have got a wish list of $7.3 billion, and that is the difference. But this member continues to misrepresent health funding as a cut. Actually, it has gone up by $5 billion.

Dr David Clark: Supplementary.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has now used all of his supplementary questions.

ENDS

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