Parliament: Questions and Answers – Dec 19

Press Release – Hansard

1. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance : What reaction has he seen to the package of measures contained in the Families Package (Income Tax and Benefits) Bill that passed through the House last week? Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister …ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Finance

1. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reaction has he seen to the package of measures contained in the Families Package (Income Tax and Benefits) Bill that passed through the House last week?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I’m pleased to say that the reaction from a broad range of groups has been very positive. UNICEF New Zealand said that the package, “feels like a Christmas present for every family across New Zealand.” A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said our Best Start payment “is a terrific payment and I think it will make a real difference.” The Auckland City Mission said the package will have a significant impact on the lives of many of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people: our children. Finally, the Child Poverty Action Group said, “today is the day to celebrate that at last children’s needs are being taken seriously.” It’s clear that social sector organisations are excited to finally see a Government that is willing to tackle issues such as child poverty head on.
Angie Warren-Clark: What reaction has the Minister seen from commentators and financial markets about the impact of the Families Package on the Government’s finances?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Commentators such as Audrey Young from the New Zealand Herald describe the package as having a stunning impact. Moody’s New Zealand said that the Government can “fund higher spending on families and other social benefits, infrastructure, affordable housing, and education while maintaining fiscal surpluses.” Moody’s went on to say that “this supports our assessment of the sovereign’s very high fiscal strength.” Moody’s also noted that with Government debt at moderate levels and prospects for it to continue to decline, New Zealand has higher fiscal headroom than many other similarly rated high-income sovereigns to counter negative shocks. I’m pleased to see the markets recognise that this Government can deliver in its election promises while paying down debt and maintaining surpluses.
Angie Warren-Clark: What reactions have there been to the Families Package from organisations that deal directly with children?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Plunket said, “It is encouraging to see that the Government is taking action in its first 100 days to help make the difference of a lifetime in our tamarikis’ first 1,000 days.” Barnados also said, that the Best Start payment sends a strong message that all children are valued and their potential is invested in equally. I have also, sadly, seen another organisation—this House—that had to deal with a child-like tantrum about the Families Package, but I’m sure that if, in the future, Jami-Lee Ross has his juice box—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that the net saving over the forecast period from cancelling the tax threshold changes in his package is $2.8 billion; and can he also confirm that the cost of phase one of the tertiary education package over the forecast period is also $2.8 billion?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm the first of those questions.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm then he’ll also stop telling single people, couples with no children, and parents with grown-up children that he cancelled the tax changes to invest in health and education services when he actually spent them on a year’s free tertiary education for 18-year-olds?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government’s Budget, taken as a whole, will provide huge benefits to the groups of people that the member—
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a fairly specific question in regard to whether he’d stop saying that.
Mr SPEAKER: One thing that the member will learn is he has to wait until the member stops, and I’m the one who stops him.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government’s Budget taken as a whole will deliver huge benefits to the people the member mentions in his question by reducing the cost of them going to the doctor, by improving the range of housing services available. The member well knows it is not possible to hypothecate individual parts of the Government’s Budget against any particular spending.
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Obviously, I was guilty of anticipation, but it was a very straightforward question: can he confirm he’ll stop telling single people, a couple with no children, and parents with grown-up children that he’s going to cancel the tax changes to invest in health and education services. The reason for that is that the money has gone directly to tertiary education. He can either confirm that he is going to stop that, or he can’t; that’s something that he can do.
Mr SPEAKER: I’ll remind the member, as he was wont do once or twice in the past, that questioners cannot insist on a yes or no answer.
David Seymour: In all of this receipt of reports, has the Minister consulted with the poor elves who must pay for all this largesse sans tax cuts?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I believe what the member is referring to as the “poor elves” are the New Zealand people. The consultation happened at the election, and three parties formed an excellent Government.
David Seymour: Can I clarify for the Minister that the poor elves are the taxpayers, almost none of whom voted for his Government. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There wasn’t a question there—but it’s been used.
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s policies?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does she stand by her policy to deliver 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years, over and above what the private market or former Government were going to deliver, and does that mean that the KiwiBuild homes announced by Phil Twyford at Asquith Avenue in her electorate, which were already being delivered by the previous Government, don’t actually count as part of the 100,000?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If they’d already been delivered, people would be living in them.
Rt Hon Bill English: So can the Prime Minister therefore confirm that the 100,000 affordable homes are over and above the existing programme of 35,000 new builds by Housing New Zealand, and therefore she will need to make sure the Government builds 135,000 homes in order to meet the target?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m happy to speak to some of the specific examples in my electorate, where that building programme had not been delivered because some of the houses were meant to be at market value. The interest wasn’t there, and they weren’t built. What we’ve committed to doing is building 100,000 affordable homes that would not be otherwise built without the Government’s intervention.
Rt Hon Bill English: So can the Prime Minister confirm that she intends to count as part of the 100,000 houses all of those houses that had been begun or were planned by Housing New Zealand, and, in fact, that she’s not building 100,000 in addition to what the former Government were going to deliver?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, KiwiBuild homes are affordable homes that would otherwise not have been built had it not been for the intervention of the Government.
Rt Hon Bill English: Does she stand by her Government’s policy that superannuitants will be no worse off as a result of the cancellation of National’s tax reductions, and, if so, how does she explain to a superannuitant couple that they will receive $290 less next year because of the delayed introduction of the Winter Energy Payment?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I acknowledge that the Winter Energy Payment does come in in July. That simply was a matter of us being able to make sure we could implement what is a significant programme. There will, from memory, be 13 weeks of Winter Energy Payment next year, and then it extends to the full payment from May to September in the following year.
Rt Hon Bill English: So why did the Prime Minister not then tell superannuitants that next year they will be $290 worse off than if they had received the tax reductions, and it’s not until the following year that they will be in the same position as they would have been?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we take as a whole the benefits of this Government to older New Zealanders, it’s not just the fact that they will receive the Winter Energy Payment. We also have plans to bring down primary health costs, and there’s access to cheaper doctors services. There are a number of other plans that we have in train that will all benefit superannuitants. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Nick Smith.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is possible that the Prime Minister’s having difficulty answering this question, given that Mr Joyce says one thing and his leader says something else? Mr English says that it will be affordable two years from now, in balancing out the loss of the tax cut, and Mr Joyce says it never will be balanced out.
Mr SPEAKER: While I’m sure the Prime Minister wishes to comment, I’m not going to let her.
Rt Hon Bill English: So can the Prime Minister confirm that the winter payment next year to superannuitants is $290 less than the tax reduction that they would have achieved?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again reiterating, as we have done in the House continuously: that was a tax cut they never actually received. It wasn’t in place. But the Winter Energy Payment does start in July; it runs till September, then runs in full from the following year. But, of course, as we say, we have a focus on improving services overall for our superannuitants.
Rt Hon Bill English: When the Prime Minister said superannuitants would be no worse off than if they had received National’s tax reduction, why did she not tell them that next year they will be $290 a week worse off against the benchmark that she set?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said several times, yes, it begins in July. Some of that, in part, was just the implementation of what will be the largest payment introduced in our system that we have seen in some considerable time. By the following year it will be, for a couple, a full $700 payment, and $450 for singles. And, as I say, there will be a number of other benefits for superannuitants, particularly when it comes to accessing healthcare, which had declined dramatically under that last Government.
Question No. 3—Foreign Affairs
3. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What reports has he received about increased international opposition to whaling in the Southern Ocean?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): A joint communique was issued yesterday with a group of nations expressing opposition to Japanese whaling, which resumed in the Southern Ocean this summer. This statement was co-signed by New Zealand and 11 other nations, along with the 28 members of the European Union, and states our opposition to so-called scientific whaling by Japan.
Jenny Marcroft: Does the New Zealand Government see any legal basis for Japan’s whaling in the Southern Ocean?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No. The New Zealand Government supports the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Japan’s decision to resume whaling in the Southern Ocean this summer is contrary to the commission’s requests. The international statement issued yesterday, which New Zealand co-signed, says Japan has not given due regard to the International Court of Justice ruling from March 2014, which called into question Japan’s so-called scientific research.
Jenny Marcroft: What actions will he be taking in response to Japanese whaling?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: New Zealand will be undoubtedly a strong voice and will work with other countries to maintain international pressure. We’ll continue to raise our concerns through diplomatic channels, and New Zealand will continue to remain an active member of the International Whaling Commission and support the approach taken by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission.
Jenny Marcroft: Why does the Government feel strongly about protecting species in the Southern Ocean?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because, amongst other things, it’s the right thing to do. We’re a member of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). As a CCAMLR member we support a precautionary and science-based approach, which ensures the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources. New Zealand is also a key proponent of the marine protection area in the Ross Sea, which came into effect on 1 December this year—a decisive action taken by this energetic new Government.
Question No. 4—Finance
4. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: How many new specific fiscal risks are in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update released last Thursday?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): As in all economic and fiscal updates, there are specific risks, which can be positive or negative. In the half-yearly update, Treasury has noted 29 new specific fiscal risks. They comprise 21 as a consequence of policy changes, 17 of which relate to the change in Government; four are departmental cost pressures; and four are cross-portfolio specific fiscal risks.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that actually in fact 24 out of the 29 new fiscal risks relate to new Government policies—for example, the cross-portfolio risks he refers to relate to things such as paying a living wage, and so on, which are all as a result of new Government policies?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I can’t confirm that, but I can confirm that there are a further 39 specific fiscal risks that the Government inherited from the previous Government.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he recall his statement on 9 November, and I quote, “When the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update and Budget Policy Statement are released before the end of the year, there will be significant certainty about our spending plans.”, and does only publishing costings for the 100-day plan policies, while including 29 new unquantified specific fiscal risks, meet his definition of significant savings?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes, it does. The 100-day plan represents some major programmes for this Government that will transform the lives of many New Zealanders.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm he gave a speech on 11 December in Auckland where he committed to investing $15 billion in light rail over the next 10 years, and can he explain why that isn’t included as a specific fiscal risk in the half-yearly update?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm I gave that speech; I don’t believe I put a number beside it.
Hon Steven Joyce: Couldn’t hear the answer, sorry.
Kiritapu Allan: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no—order! I will ask Mr Robertson to answer a bit more slowly and into the mike.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that I gave that speech; I cannot confirm I put a specific number beside it.
Hon Steven Joyce: Can he also confirm that the Government and the Minister of Health have committed to a $1.4 billion rebuild of Dunedin Hospital, which is no longer being a public-private partnership, and can he explain why that large sum of money doesn’t appear as a specific fiscal risk in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The specific fiscal risks are Treasury’s work; they’re not political work. Treasury make their assessment of what they believe that should go in there.
Hon Steven Joyce: So is the Minister saying that he takes no responsibility for the non-disclosure of a $15 billion specific risk in relation to Auckland light rail and no responsibility for a $1.4 billion specific fiscal risk not appearing in relation to Dunedin Hospital, and is he not the Minister of Finance in charge of Treasury?
Mr SPEAKER: Any one of the three.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I’m not confirming that.
Kiritapu Allan: How do the specific fiscal risks in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update compare to previous economic and fiscal updates?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I said earlier, specific fiscal risks are a regular part of these updates. To give a relevant comparison, the first economic and fiscal update after the 2008 election noted 62 new specific fiscal risks, 32 of which had an unquantified fiscal impact on the then Government’s books.
Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development
5. ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What recent policy decisions has the Government made regarding housing?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yesterday, Cabinet approved papers laying the groundwork for the KiwiBuild programme and the Housing Commission, which will be the Government’s urban development authority. This ticks off yet another of this Government’s “first 100 days” promises.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What will happen next? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I’m sort of saying that—let’s take a narrow view on that.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The KiwiBuild programme is beginning to gear up. A unit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is being created so that we can hit the ground running and start building houses as soon as possible, in both Government and private developments. Next year, I will bring to the House legislation to enable the Housing Commission to begin its work on large-scale development to deliver KiwiBuild homes, State houses, and market houses at the pace and scale that we need.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What indications of interest has he received from the building industry in KiwiBuild and the Housing Commission?
Mr SPEAKER: Just before the member answers, I am going to just tell Michael Woodhouse that I think I heard him, but I might not have—all right.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: My office has been overwhelmed by builders and experts seeking meetings, coming forward with their ideas, and putting their hands up to make our ambitious housing agenda a reality. I want to acknowledge all those firms and individuals, including those that I haven’t been able to meet with yet. We’re all going to need to work together on this to get the job done, and it’s great to see so much positive support.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: What other housing policy decisions has the Government made recently?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’ve decided not to apply for new funding for the Auckland relocation grant. The figure of $2.3 million was spent on the Auckland relocation grant, paying people to leave town. This panicked reaction on the eve of the last Budget just shifted people to other places that had their own housing problems. The money could have been better used building better affordable homes. This Labour-led Government isn’t about sweeping the problem under the carpet; we’re about building homes for families to live in.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: In light of his decision around the Auckland relocation grant, did he perceive the Minister of Finance to be mildly miffed or seriously annoyed that his desperate call for savings achieved just $2.5 million from the housing portfolio?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I think the member is confused, because there’s no savings to be made by this decision, because there was no money left in the appropriation.
Question No. 6—Regional Economic Development
6. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all his statements on the Regional Development (Provincial Growth) Fund?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes, in the context with which they were given and my ability to recall them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he stand by his statement to this House on 9 November that “the full content, structure, and character of the fund will be dealt with conclusively in the Budget [Policy Statement].”?
Hon SHANE JONES: Given that the meaning of the word “character” refers to the nature of a thing, yes, I do.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, how can he when it barely rates a mention in the Budget Policy Statement (BPS)—certainly in no detail—and in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) it is stated only as a specific fiscal risk, given that no decisions have been made?
Hon SHANE JONES: I direct the member’s attention to page 13, and he can read the answer himself.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he agree with Grant Robertson’s statement to the House on 9 November that “when the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update and Budget Policy Statement are released before the end of the year, there will be significant certainty about our spending plans. If the member can’t wait, I’ll make up a special advent calendar for him so that he can count down to the half yearly update.”; if not, where’s my advent calendar?
Hon SHANE JONES: I have been tempted to offer the Minister of Finance an almanac; however, I can confirm that we’re both working on the full extent of the fund, and I direct the Opposition to read page 13—an ominous number for them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can he continue to confirm, as he preciously has, that the fund will be “new money”?
Hon SHANE JONES: I can confirm that I have described it as not being a “fiscal hand-me-down”.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does the fact that the fund is not detailed in the BPS or the HYEFU mean that initiatives that he’s been eager to get on with won’t be able to start as soon as he would like, because the money isn’t flowing yet?
Hon SHANE JONES: I can confirm that I have become a victim of my own political ardour.
Question No. 7—Health
7. Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the Minister of Health: What measurable outcomes, if any, will his policies deliver?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Better health for New Zealanders.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: How much money is he allowing for the specific fiscal risks listed in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update of primary care services funding, in which he’s promised $8 and $2 GP consultations as well as settling the pay equity claims of mental health workers—another Labour Party promise?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member knows that the specific fiscal risks are the responsibility of Treasury.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: How will he deliver his promise of a $1.4 billion Dunedin Hospital, $200 million for the Hawke’s Bay Hospital rebuild, plus over $100 million to complete the Christchurch Hospital rebuild, when there’s only $500 million for all 20 district health boards (DHBs) allocated in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update over the next five years?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I can confirm that this Government has taken a far more responsible attitude towards capital spending. Indeed, I’ve seen a report from a member of the public expressing concern that the $1.4 billion spend could not be contained within the unallocated capital spending of $10.2 billion. The maths, for me, just doesn’t add up, and I can only assume that member of the public has been getting his advice from Steven Joyce on the numbers—because it was the former Minister of Health.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: What will Vote Health be in four years’ time to the nearest billion dollars if it’s over $16 billion today and he’s promised an extra $8 billion for Vote Health over the next four years?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member will have to wait and see in the Budget.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: How can the Government’s fiscal plan be correct if the $846 million allowed for health in 2018 has, in his words, been “pretty much spent” on primary care promises and DHB pressures, yet he’s promised an uncosted mental health worker pay equity settlement, a $10 million cancer agency, more palliative care, and operations for everyone, as well as the fact that he has a massive shortfall for DHB capital?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don’t accept the premise of the member’s question.
Dr Liz Craig: What concerns, if any, does he have about capital spending pressures in the health system and their ability to deliver better health outcomes for New Zealanders?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Finally, a searching question. I have a number of concerns about capital spending pressures in health, including the sequencing of asset replacements required to ensure the delivery of better health outcomes for New Zealanders. In particular, I am concerned that DHBs have signalled a required capital spend of $14 billion over the next 10 years, higher than at any time since the DHBs were established. This is a legacy of a failure to Budget for future needs during nine long years of neglect of the health system.
Question No. 8—Finance
KIERAN McANULTY (Labour): I ask this question on behalf of Priyanca Radhakrishnan. She’s a bit crook, sir.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We don’t need the details, and I think the member can leave his Wairarapa habits at home.
8. KIERAN McANULTY (Labour) on behalf of PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Finance: How is the Government preserving the right of New Zealanders to own New Zealand homes?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): This afternoon, Parliament will debate the first reading of the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill. This bill recognises and reaffirms that it is a privilege to own a home in New Zealand. Only New Zealand and Australian citizens, and permanent residents who reside here, will be able to buy an existing home in New Zealand without going through screening by the Overseas Investment Office. This is another example of an active Government delivering on its promises and working in the interests of New Zealanders.
Kieran McAnulty: What are the objectives behind the Government’s ban on overseas buyers of New Zealand homes?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Neither Labour, New Zealand First, nor the Greens believes that New Zealand homes are commodities to be traded on international markets. This is a clear difference between this Government and the past Government. This Government continues to welcome foreign investment, which brings benefits to New Zealand, including our businesses and communities. We particularly want to encourage foreign investment where it adds to our economy. Investment in existing homes by those who have no right to reside here and no intention to live here does not achieve that objective.
Kieran McAnulty: How is the ban on overseas buyers compatible with New Zealand’s free-trade agreements?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The ban is compatible with almost all of our existing trade arrangements, but has to be in law before the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement comes into effect. The past Government said it was impossible to ban overseas buyers, but we’re doing it. They said we had to choose between trade agreements and controlling our housing market, and we’ve shown that was wrong. They told New Zealanders before the election, trying to wedge us between our belief in open trading arrangements and our desire to keep New Zealand homes in a New Zealand market. We’ve shown them to be wrong, and they were either incompetent or disingenuous.
Hon Members: Or both.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Probably both.
Question No. 9—Justice
9. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Justice: Will the Government be seeking to advance the Electoral Integrity Amendment Bill today; if so, is it his intention to move that it be referred to select committee for the standard six-month period of consideration?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): The Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill currently sits at No. 4 on today’s Order Paper, so whether we get to it today will depend on the progress the House makes on other matters. The bill will be subject to the normal select committee process.
Hon Amy Adams: Has he read the report of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the impact of such legislation, which concludes that MPs’ having a free parliamentary mandate is an essential cornerstone of democracy, and views laws like the one he is proposing as both unacceptable political party dictatorship and a breach of fundamental human rights?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I reject those assertions. The fundamental principle of our electoral system is proportionality of parties in Parliament. The electorate gets to speak every general election. That is the numbers, or the proportion of parliamentary representation in Parliament, cast in stone, and it would be anti-democratic for any member during the course of the Parliament to abandon the banner under which they stood and distort parliamentary proportionality.
Hon Amy Adams: Is he aware that if the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill passes into law, New Zealand will join a unique group of nations including Serbia, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Namibia, and Papua New Guinea, who all have such party-hopping laws?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I re-emphasise the important principle of MMP politics as the party proportionality in Parliament. The electorate, every general election, gets to speak and decide the proportion, or the share, of seats in Parliament for each party. It would be wrong and anti-democratic and in breach of fundamental democratic principle for any member to arrogate to themselves the right to distort that parliamentary proportionality, and this bill seeks to enshrine that important democratic principle.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with constitutional scholar Andrew Geddis, who said “using the law to try and quash internal party disagreement and ensure the governing arrangement lasts the full distance comes at a cost to our wider system of parliamentary democracy.”, and if not, why not?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Sometimes I agree with Andrew Geddis, and sometimes I don’t. But what I do agree with is that the basic MMP principle of the proportionality of parties in Parliament is sacrosanct and must be protected, and it will be enshrined in this bill.
Hon Amy Adams: So—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Mr Bishop, you just lost your team a supplementary question.
Hon Amy Adams: So what specific issues have arisen in recent months that in his view make this legislation necessary, given that none of the parties in Government campaigned on implementing the law and some are on record actively opposing such a law?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: We have had legislation like this in our country before and it had a sunset clause, and it is a matter of the sacrosanct nature of MMP politics and the proportionality of Parliament. I think it is very good that that member should show a very close interest in the right of parties and their leaders to exercise their powers under this legislation, because I think she secretly harbours a wish to be in the position to exercise those powers one day.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order, sir, is, very simply, that I asked him a very straight and direct question about what events have happened to make it necessary, given that no one campaigned on it. He didn’t come near to that in his answer. He just had a swipe at me.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, I think he approached it. [Interruption] Well, I mean, the fact that the member didn’t confirm a negative should make it clear.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister advise us as to whether he’s had any reports of the incongruity of the arguments being put to him now, given that the National Party expelled that virtue of freedom and democracy—namely, yours truly?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think it’s fair to say there’s no responsibility there.
Hon Phil Twyford: Can the Minister confirm whether he’s received any advice about parties in the current Parliament who may want a coalition partner, encouraging breakaway parties before the “waka-jumping” legislation comes into effect?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I have seen reports of at least one party who is desperately looking for a partner—they are desperate and dateless. They are looking at setting up what can only be described as the political equivalent of a Potemkin village to achieve it.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, I was actually interested in the answer to that question. He was asked specifically about advice, and he went on some sort of rant about reports he had seen. They’re quite different things.
Mr SPEAKER: That’s probably a fair comment, and as a result of that I will give a couple of extra supplementaries to the National Party.
Hon Amy Adams: How does he reconcile—
Hon Paula Bennett: Do it again.
Mr SPEAKER: Minus one, Paula Bennett.
Hon Amy Adams: How does he reconcile his party’s policy of “strengthen[ing] parliament and the parliamentary processes to ensure it … can be a democratic forum for the public on legislation and policy issues and that it can act as an effective protector of human rights”, when the very intent and effect of the bill he is proposing will remove that democratic forum and will remove the protection of fundamental human rights?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Because the most important rights in a parliamentary democracy are the rights of the voters. I do not elevate the self-interested rights of some members in this Parliament to want to distort parliamentary proportionality under the MMP system.
Question No. 10—Climate Change
10. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change: Why has he announced that he will be consulting with New Zealanders on a Zero Carbon Act, setting new targets and plans to reduce climate pollution?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change): That is because we are embarking on what will be a significant and far-reaching piece of legislation to guide New Zealand’s economic transformation over the next 30 years. We need to make sure that we bring all New Zealanders along with us, especially people who work in industries and in communities that might change over the next few decades, and also because we want to achieve as broad political support as possible. We want this to be a just and effective transition, which is why we’ve agreed that it will be guided by principles like predictability for business, ambition when it comes to setting goals, being evidence led, and creating enduring institutional arrangements.
Gareth Hughes: Why is an independent climate commission important?
Hon JAMES SHAW: It’s because we are talking about a long-term economic—
Hon Simon Bridges: Because James won’t make the hard decisions.
Hon JAMES SHAW: I’m sorry, Simon?
Hon Simon Bridges: I said, because you won’t make the hard decisions.
Hon JAMES SHAW: It is because we are talking about a long-term economic transition—30 years—and we need to be able to main a level of consistency around policy and actions that will survive changes in Government and shifts in the economy that can’t be predicted today. An independent climate commission helps to achieve that. The United Kingdom pioneered the independent commission model, and it’s now been implemented in about half a dozen other jurisdictions around the world.
Gareth Hughes: What steps will he take to give local government, Māori, business, farmers, unions, and other communities the opportunity to have all input into the Government’s climate change policies?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I took the first step this morning, meeting with business representatives from a number of sectors across the economy: Māori business interests and environmental campaigners over coffee and Christmas mince pies to discuss yesterday’s announcement and the Government’s plans. The next step will be to gather some very robust economic research so we can make fully informed decisions. Then in May next year, the Government intends to hold a very broad and inclusive public consultation around the country. We’ll be engaging with specific sectors, such as unions, iwi and Māori, businesses, farmers, local government, and communities. Everyone needs to play their part, and we are all in this together.
Todd Muller: If the independent climate change commissioner recommends that agriculture is not to be brought into the emissions trading scheme (ETS), will the Minister accept that recommendation?
Hon JAMES SHAW: We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Todd Muller: How many countries include agriculture in their emissions trading scheme or equivalent?
Hon JAMES SHAW: At the present, there are none. There are a number of countries that are moving in that direction. So one of the things that I’ve observed at the Bonn climate conference is that the vast—Mr Speaker, I’m just waiting to see if his colleagues would like him to hear the answer to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I shouldn’t really give the member advice, but he could be waiting a long time. So have a go anyway.
Hon JAMES SHAW: Mr Muller, one of the things that I noticed at the Bonn conference is that the vast majority of our trading partners in OECD countries are at present dealing with transport and energy emissions, which in those countries form the bulk of their emissions profile, but, as they deal with them, agriculture will become a much larger portion of their emissions, and they are interested in dealing with those in time. So we are all moving in that direction, and I can see that New Zealand has an incredible opportunity to play the lead role.
Todd Muller: Is the Minister aware of any possible way to produce—through farming—dairy, beef, and lamb products without resulting in methane emissions, either under current technologies or technologies in development?
Hon JAMES SHAW: In gross terms, no. By definition, anything that has ruminant animals will have methane emissions associated with it. However, as the member will probably well know, in fact gross emissions from that sector are actually falling at the moment, and as farmers become more productive—and New Zealand farmers are amongst the most productive in the world—emissions per unit can come down, meaning that over time we can get to a situation where we do have a net zero emissions economy, including agriculture in that. I think that that means that New Zealand has a tremendous leadership role to play for the rest of the world and that it represents the single greatest economic opportunity for us in at least a generation.
Gareth Hughes: What advice has the Minister received about the impacts that climate change is already having on New Zealand?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I’ve been advised that climate change is already affecting our coastal communities and our farmers, Mr Muller, and it is not too late to do anything about it.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hughes.
Hon JAMES SHAW: The climate change adaptation technical working group’s updated assessment, which I released last Friday, along with the coastal hazards guidance for local government laid out what I see as grim reading and some big-picture challenges to address the risks and impacts of climate change. But forewarned is forearmed, and these documents, together with the information that we will gather from consultation over the zero carbon Act, are important to meet those challenges around future infrastructure, resilience, local government planning decisions, and also to help businesses, communities, and farmers to build resilience and to adapt.
Gareth Hughes: What reports has the Minister seen about the economic opportunities to be gained from transitioning New Zealand to a low-carbon economy?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I have seen recently that the Sustainable Business Council’s members “see climate change, and the clean technologies and solutions required, as a real opportunity for innovation and investment.” I’ve seen reports that in countries like the United States, jobs in the solar energy industry are growing 17 times faster than the entire rest of the economy. I’ve seen reports that the global clean energy investment this year will be almost US$300 billion, which is up 40 percent on last year alone, and I’d like to see a bit more of that in New Zealand. I’m looking forward to the Productivity Commission’s report next year about the opportunities that a low-carbon economy will have for New Zealand. Our transition to a net zero economy by the year 2050 will be a great economic transformation that sets up New Zealanders and our communities to prosper for decades to come.
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn): I apologise to the House. I meant to raise this at the end of my question, but I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of that one. I seek leave to table the 2011 report of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, The impact of political party control over the exercise of parliamentary mandate.
Mr SPEAKER: Is that available on the web?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I can’t confirm that. I didn’t get it on the web. It was supplied to me, so I can’t confirm whether it’s there, but I don’t think it’s freely available to members, given that it’s not a New Zealand organisation.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, well, we’ll put the leave. Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There appears to be none. It will be so tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Question No. 11—Housing and Urban Development
11. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he agree with all reported statements made by Hon Phil Twyford in relation to housing; if so, on what date did he realise that Housing New Zealand was already “moving in the right direction”?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, I mostly agree with what Phil Twyford says. Recently, I dealt with a case of Robert Erueti. Under the previous Government’s policies, Housing New Zealand evicted this man due to a very low methamphetamine reading in his State house, which there was no suggestion that he personally was responsible for. The previous Government then spent $44,000 putting him in motels for over a year and he eventually became homeless. When I asked Housing New Zealand about this, they told me they wanted to change this failed policy. With better meth testing and sensible policy, Mr Erueti would not have been evicted. I have apologised to Mr Erueti for how he was treated, and Housing New Zealand has now found him a house. I was also shocked to learn that Housing New Zealand—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! [Interruption] Order! It’s been too long already.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Will he also apologise to the hard-working staff of Housing New Zealand, given his new-found view that they were providing outstanding care, having previously accused them of staggering incompetence?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I was shocked to learn that Housing New Zealand staff have been doing pastoral care of tenants in their own time, and I’ve been assured that this work is now going to happen as part of Housing New Zealand’s core business in paid staff time, and is not something that staff have to do for free. Housing New Zealand want to become a world-class public housing landlord and to work with me on building more State houses, and they are happy with the direction that’s being taken under this coalition Government.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he agree that he made a strong case to Guyon Espiner on Morning Report this morning that Housing New Zealand’s building arm, which he described as having “developed impressive capacity,” should be merged with his “big delivery vehicle” for housing building, the urban development authority, which is the policy he took into the election; and, if so, will he take the proposition back to Cabinet and have another go?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The member will just have to wait and see. There will be more decisions on this in the new year. But he can be assured that under this Government, our priority is building more State houses, not selling them off.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: What further flip-flops and backtracks should the New Zealand public expect on housing, given that every drum-beating—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That question’s finished. If the member wants to try another one, he can.
Dr Deborah Russell: Has the Government inherited any vacant Housing New Zealand land, and how is he working to get that issue moving in the right direction?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes. Incredibly, nearly 70 hectares of Housing New Zealand land is vacant nationwide, including 25 hectares where there were no plans for redevelopment. Much of this land sat unused for year after year under the last Government. Housing New Zealand couldn’t afford to develop it because they were being milked for dividends by the National Government. I’m working with Housing New Zealand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Twyford, it is very important for the order of this House that you at least glance in the Chair’s direction, and the member should know that his mike is turned off at the point I stand up, so he does look a bit foolish on the television, mouthing with no sound.
Question No. 12—Conservation
12. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Conservation: Will access agreements on conservation land be possible for existing mining permits in the future, as is currently the case?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Conservation): This Government and this Minister act in accordance with the law, and applications for access arrangements will be dealt with under the law as it stands at the time.
Jonathan Young: Does she agree with the Minister for Rural Communities, Damien O’Connor, who said, regarding mining on conservation land, “that current mines would not be closed down.”?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Yes.
Hon Maggie Barry: Can the Minister confirm her response to the Prime Minister’s statement that there’d be no new mines on conservation land, when she’s quoted as saying, “the policy only related to new mines,” and that existing mines like Te Kuha would not be affected?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I’m not aware of Te Kuha being an existing mine.
Marama Davidson: Why is the Minister committed to this Government’s policy of no new mining on conservation land?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Public conservation lands are set aside for the preservation and protection of natural resources. We have a biodiversity crisis, with 4,000 species threatened or at risk of extinction. This Government is committed to protecting the places they live, and there is strong public support for that.
Hon Maggie Barry: Can the Minister confirm that the Te Kuha application is now dead?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: That member should be aware that until the Minister has considered an access application and made a decision on it, the Minister will not comment on that to avoid prejudging it. But there is no—[Interruption]
Jonathan Young: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m afraid the member’s supplementary has just been used by the Hon Maggie Barry.
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the spirit of Christmas, and acknowledging also the Hon Simon Bridges’ recent further entry into fatherhood, I seek leave of the House to table this most excellent Advent calendar, which, unfortunately, he and Mr Joyce will have to share, and we know they’re not very good at that.
Mr SPEAKER: The question is that the calendar be tabled—at least for a short time. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none, and it’s my expectation that, soon after the tabling, someone who wants it will take it away.

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