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Parliament: Questions and Answers – Feb 14

Press Release – Hansard

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS Question No. 1Prime Minister 1. 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 : In light …ORAL QUESTIONS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. 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: In light of her statement that, “we want to say hand on heart we want to be a society judged on how we look after our vulnerable”, is she aware that many of the children in partnership schools are vulnerable, so why is she moving to close those schools?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said yesterday, we are working as closely as we can with those schools to transition them, to make sure that those children have the best quality education, and that includes making sure they have registered teachers and they’re being taught the curriculum.
Rt Hon Bill English: When the Prime Minister uses the word “transition”, is she aware that the legislation her Government introduces certainly closes the partnership schools—it makes their closure absolutely certain because legislation will be passed to achieve it—but there is no guarantee those schools will be able to reopen?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It ends the model. It stops future contracts. But it still allows this Government to negotiate with those schools to try and keep them open if they are willing to have registered teachers and to teach the curriculum.
Rt Hon Bill English: What guarantee can she give to the students and parents of the partnership schools, which she is legislating to close, that they will be allowed to reopen with some other status?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we’ve said, we’re stopping any opening in the future. With those who are currently operating, we’ve said we want to work constructively with them. There is the ability for them to operate as special character schools or even, perhaps, as alternative education operators and providers, and that’s the work that the Ministry of Education is undertaking with them, as we speak. What I would like to give them is the assurance that we are working diligently on this. I know that some of the rhetoric coming from the Opposition isn’t helping with their security, but that’s what we’re doing.
Rt Hon Bill English: Can I ask the question again. What guarantee can the Prime Minister give that a partnership school will be able to reopen, a guarantee that is necessary for the peace of mind of the students, and the parents, who attend those schools and may not be familiar with the legal niceties she’s referring to?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we’ve said, I can assure those parents, if the school in which their child is attending is willing to have registered teachers to teach to the curriculum and to operate with the same kind of funding parameters, generally speaking, as State schools, then that is exactly what we are seeking from those schools. Ultimately, those parents will want to probably have those same assurances from those current providers because a lot of this decision sits in their hands too.
Rt Hon Bill English: Is it now the case that if the schools close, it’s the schools’ fault not the Government’s and that she won’t actually offer a guarantee that schools will be able to reopen and, therefore, parents and students should be told the truth now rather than be misled through months of complex legal negotiations?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If these schools have at their heart the best education for their kids, then I imagine they should be able to transition.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Is the Prime Minister aware that existing partnership schools are being urged to close rather than negotiate with the Ministry of Education in good faith, and that that urging is coming from Opposition members of Parliament?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I’m going to disallow that supplementary. I think the Leader of the House has a special standard, and he’s going to stick with it.
Rt Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to visit Pacific Advance Senior School, as I did on Monday, talk to the staff and the students, hear the stories of the way that school has changed the lives of those 13-, 14-year-old girls, and 16-, 17-year-old boys, of whom, as the Government says, there’s only 1,000, so it won’t matter much—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Bill English: Will she visit a school, look them in the eye, hear the stories, and reassure them that the Government guarantees the continuation of that school?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to let the Prime Minister answer it, but I am also going to remind the father of the House that in the last couple of weeks I’d like him to set a very good example, which involves succinct questions, and just to warn people, especially sitting very close to him, if they ask one that long, it will be ruled out.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That assumes that I haven’t met and spoken to students from charter schools and those who teach there before—I have. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone who works in a charter school where they said they were absolutely confident that because they have registered teachers and teach the curriculum, they could transition and will.
Rt Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that as part of this shambles, education officials told a select committee this morning that the closures could cost up to $15 million?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the constant framing from the Opposition around closures when this Government is working—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It’s your law. It’s your bill.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Let me explain to Mr Smith, if he listens closely: we will not enter into any future contracts. We will negotiate with existing schools to try and transition them. It is that side of the House that is scaremongering and trying to cost the taxpayer money.
Rt Hon Bill English: So is the Prime Minister unaware, first, that her legislation guarantees the closure—legislates the closure—of the schools and, secondly, that the Government will have contractual obligations of up to a million dollars per school if the schools are closed as partnership schools, regardless of the nature of a transition?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I know that the member understands this. We’re ending the model. That doesn’t stop the ability of a school to start operating as a school of special character.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point—was Nikki Kaye’s a point of order or a question?
Hon Nikki Kaye: A point of order. The Prime Minister did not answer the question by the Leader of the Opposition. There were twofold points there, and she should answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think she addressed the question, which is the requirement.
David Seymour: I seek your guidance: at what point—
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will sit down. It’s not the Speaker’s role to do tutorials here; I’m willing to give the member one in my office later.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m not seeking your guidance. I want to know: at what point is the Prime Minister misleading the House when she introduces legislation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat, and he’s lost his supplementaries for this week. He knows well that to accuse a member of misleading the House in the House in that manner is disorderly. If he’s got any supplementaries left for this week, he doesn’t anymore.
Question No. 2—Finance
2. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the health of the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): International credit ratings agency Moody’s published their latest credit rating opinion for the New Zealand Government this week. It assessed New Zealand’s economic strength as very high and maintained the Government’s Aaa credit rating. Moody’s expects New Zealand’s economy to remain among the fastest-growing Aaa-rated economies in coming years. It also says that in the longer term, New Zealand’s potential GDP growth is higher than that of many Aaa-rated countries.
Tamati Coffey: What contributing factors to the Aaa credit rating did Moody’s identify in its assessment?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Moody’s pointed to this Government’s commitment to preserving fiscal surpluses and reducing Government debt as a percentage of GDP over the next five years. They also noted the Government’s priorities of strengthening the economy and employment and the focus on improving living standards. I’m pleased to see that another international ratings agency recognises this Government’s progressive economic plan and our fiscal responsibility.
Tamati Coffey: What other reports has he seen on the health of the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: While headline growth indicators for the economy are positive, another report released this morning, the Salvation Army’s 2018 State of the Nation Report, is a salutary reminder that success in the economy must translate to the lives of all New Zealanders. The report states: “it is clear that the benefits of this recent strong economic growth have not been shared across the board, or trickled down, as the theory would have it.” The Government is committed to generating inclusive economic growth and taking a more active approach through initiatives like the Families Package to ensure that all New Zealanders share in prosperity.
Hon James Shaw: Did the Minister see in any of these reports any mention of an $11.6 billion hole in the Government accounts?
Mr SPEAKER: No. Order! Order!
Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the analysis from Infometrics showing economic growth will slow to 2.6 percent in 2019, and that the reason for this includes “labour capacity constraints in the residential construction sector” and “changes in central government’s infrastructure priorities”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): No.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he agree with the Reserve Bank’s forecast in last week’s Monetary Policy Statement, and I quote, “Residential investment is assumed to increase—
Mr SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. It’s very important that the member realises that supplementaries must flow from an answer. The member asked about a very specific report and he got a very specific answer, and the start of his question is not close to either the primary question or does not flow from the answer. So the member has lost one supplementary.
Hon Steven Joyce: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I mean, he’s used it.
Hon Steven Joyce: Given that answer, does he have any concern along the lines expressed by Infometrics that the infrastructure sector is slowing down, as indicated by a number of concerns about different organisations in the construction industry?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have heard some concerns from those in the construction industry, but I can reassure them and the member that this Government is ambitious to make sure that we invest in infrastructure through programmes like KiwiBuild, through investing in regional roads and rail, and in making sure we make up for the underinvestment of the previous Government.
Hon Steven Joyce: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given his reference to KiwiBuild, is he aware that last week’s Monetary Policy Statement by the Reserve Bank indicated that they didn’t expect to see any benefit out of KiwiBuild policies until late 2019, and even then that would possibly displace private sector investment, and that the Reserve Bank expects residential investment to increase more slowly, over the next couple of years, than in previous years?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This material was covered in the House yesterday in a question to Mr Twyford. The Government is confident that we will see the impact of KiwiBuild, starting in this term: $5.4 billion of additional investment in the residential building sector over and above the normal investment by the private sector. We are taking an active role in making sure that we have a decent, affordable housing stock, unlike the previous Government.
Hon Steven Joyce: Has the Minister had any meetings or been part of any meeting with representatives of the construction industry or the contracting industry where they’ve raised concerns about the effects of Government building and infrastructure policies on the industry that may lead to difficulties and a reduction in staff?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I informed the member in the select committee this morning, in fact, in a public forum issues were raised by members of the infrastructure community, seeking an assurance that this Government was committed to investing in infrastructure. I made that commitment because I believe in the policies that we have to ensure we do invest in housing, we do invest in roads, we do invest in rail. That’s what a good Government does. It’s just a pity the previous Government didn’t do it.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does he appreciate the concerns of the construction industry are, right now, that they had a long-term pipeline of work that is now being stopped by this incoming Government, they have no idea what will happen next, and they are very concerned for the future of their workforces over the next couple of years?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise in the member’s question. We have a pipeline of work coming through. It seems that the former Minister seems to believe that one specific project that was going to cost $327 million per kilometre, the most expensive road in the world, somehow was the be-all and end-all of infrastructure and investment. We have a much wider ambition than that.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does the Minister perhaps appreciate that it’s not me but it’s the construction sector, it’s Infometrics, and it’s the Reserve Bank that are raising these flags, and will he take any steps, beyond just talking, as Minister of Finance to do anything about the looming slow-down in the construction and infrastructure sector?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We have, as I’ve said before, an ambitious programme of investment in infrastructure that the construction sector will be a part of. The member needs to stop talking down the New Zealand economy and realise that there are great and ambitious plans on this side of the House.
Question No. 10 to Minister, 13 February
Mr SPEAKER: Before we come to question No. 4 from the Hon Gerry Brownlee, I said yesterday that I would look at the content of a particular supplementary question to question No. 10. Upon reflection, having looked at it, I should have ruled out a question from the Deputy Prime Minister, and I apologise for not acting on it at the time.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What about giving us one of our supps back?
Mr SPEAKER: Or taking one away for commenting on the ruling.
Question No. 4—Foreign Affairs
4. Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he stand by all of his statements?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Yes.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: When he said in the House yesterday “that’s why we’re getting our funding up to do our role.”, was he confirming a very large increase in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) funding in the 2018 Budget?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: From 2008 to beyond 2016, there was no increase in MFAT’s funding at all and a huge decline in overseas aid. Luckily, help’s been on its way and we’re going to turn that around.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: When he said to the House yesterday that one of his priorities is “improving the character and quality of … foreign policy engagement”, was that an indication that he’s dissatisfied with our current high commissioners and ambassadors?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Quite the contrary. This is a superb group of civil servants—perhaps without any peer in the world, given the lack of funding they’ve been suffering under, to the extent that a hundred senior diplomats left the job, and all of them from every mission around the world signed a complaint against the previous Government. We hear them and we’re going to fix things up.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Does he stand by all his stated concerns over foreign ownership of New Zealand assets; and, if so, has his department told him that under the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership the threshold for Official Information Act approval for a New Zealand asset purchase will rise by 100 percent from $100 million to $200 million?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that the present Government is working on a number of issues about which the question is focused, but here’s the real point: when you are talking to international countries, the art of diplomacy is to jump into troubled waters without making a splash; not belly flops like some members prefer.
Hon David Parker: Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that the investment limit from Australia is already $500 million, that the $200 million under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is 40 percent of that amount, and that Australia already represents 80 percent of New Zealand’s foreign direct investment from TPP countries?
Mr SPEAKER: Answering as the Minister of Foreign Affairs—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Answering as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I can confirm that, but it should not be our job to educate the Opposition.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Has his department advised him that in bilateral meetings with other countries he can say that the ability for foreign investors to purchase assets including land will remain open, even with the passing of the Government’s Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, as indicated to the select committee this morning by Treasury?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that there is ongoing work until the signing of certain documents in March, and I’ve got every confidence in my colleague the Hon Mr Parker, who understands exactly what the coalition Government’s policy is about. We’re not going to leave ourselves open to the vagaries of international unbridled capitalism; we’re going to take control of our own destiny.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In my last two questions, I’ve been very careful to align those questions with the Minister’s responsibilities and his engagement with his ministry. Now he can, you know, flannel his way through all these things with a series of insults against the previous Government and, indeed, personal insults as well, but it doesn’t take away his responsibility to answer as a Minister for his department. Now I asked a question, “Has his department told him …”, and he told me that, no, he trusts Mr Parker. Well, is the wool over the eyes or not?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: To the very contrary, I said I did trust Mr Parker, not that I didn’t trust him. And the second thing is—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That’s what we said.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I wasn’t at the select committee this morning, about which there will be a report back. But the big picture is that we’re working on a number of issues that were seriously neglected in terms of sovereignty by the previous Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Right. I won’t count that as a question, but I think the member more or less asked a question in his point of order, and certainly got a reply to it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No. With all due respects—
Mr SPEAKER: Now—is the member asking me to rule on his point of order now?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, I’m asking—I’m taking a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: A new one?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, it’ll have to be, because you’ve more or less just ruled on the other one, just like you said I’d more or less asked a question. The fact is, I didn’t ask a question, “more or less”; I pointed out the Minister was not answering the question, which was “Has his department advised him …”.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and he addressed the question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister tell us what will be the most visible manifestation of his ambition for an enlightened improvement in his relationship with Australia?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We have for some time—as is evidenced by the complaints that New Zealanders have of the way the changed law has been applying in Australia, even as far back as 2002—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: There’s no change.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I finish—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No change in their law.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, if you don’t want to hear the answer, why, oh why, did you ask the question? Look, could I just say, Mr Brownlee, this is a very serious issue. The reality is there’s never been a time since 1946 when Australia has needed New Zealand more, and vice versa, given the problems and concerns we have in the Pacific. Now, we believe that we can have a far better-understanding relationship with the Australian political system and that the natural justice rules that we apply in our country will better apply to certain people there who are suffering from the application of—not the application of them, but of rigid immigration rules, for example.
Question No. 5—Statistics
5. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister of Statistics: What steps are being taken by Statistics New Zealand to ensure better collection of information about the rainbow community?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): I’ve written to the Government Statistician to make clear that work on collecting information on sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation is a priority for me as Minister of Statistics and have requested that Statistics New Zealand’s work programme in this area be progressed at pace. I note that, while it is a priority and work will be progressed, future decisions on how these topics are collected is the sole responsibility of the Government Statistician. But I do hope that the 2018 Census will be the last that fails to give New Zealanders the chance to identify themselves based on gender or sexual identity.
Jan Logie: Why were these options not included in this year’s census?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Despite rigorous testing, Statistics New Zealand have not yet been able to develop a statistically robust way to collect information on gender and sexual identity, as well as sexual orientation, in a self-completed questionnaire format such as the census. It’s possible that interview-based surveys like the General Social Survey may prove to be a far more robust way to gather this information. That’s why Statistics New Zealand have included a question on sexual orientation in the 2018 General Social Survey. That will enable Statistics New Zealand to test the methods and questions employed in collecting this information and will help to develop a statistically robust set of questions for the census in 2023, as well as all other social surveys in the future.
Jan Logie: What options are there in this year’s census for the intersex people who cannot accurately assign themselves biologically to male or female?
Hon JAMES SHAW: As an interim option, in this year’s census, people who want to indicate their biological sex is neither male nor female will be able to request a paper form and mark both male and female. More information is available on the Statistics website.
Jan Logie: Why is this work an area of priority for the Minister?
Hon JAMES SHAW: This is about helping to bring down the walls of discrimination, bullying, and stigma. People in the rainbow community have been feeling marginalised by the absence of this kind of data gathering, and we need it so that everyone can feel represented in New Zealand’s data. But, also, we need this information for the Government to make informed public policy and funding decisions based on good data. We need good data in order to be able to serve the rainbow community and population effectively.
Question No. 6—Education (Māori Education)
6. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education: Has he received any reports indicating challenges in Māori education achievement?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education): Yes, I have. Most importantly, I’ve heard from Māori parents and teachers who are ecstatic that this Government has removed national standards—a barrier to Māori educational achievement the National Government put in place.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just before the member asks her question, I do want to make it very clear that in answering “Yes” to that question, the Minister is saying that he has received official reports in that area. If that’s not the case, he should make it clear now.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No, Mr Speaker, not official reports, but certainly reports from parents.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very interesting point that you laid out for the House, and probably very instructional for the Government, but is that an appropriate role for the Speaker—to ask for someone to correct an answer in the House? That’s not what we understand the normal procedure to be.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and the problem that I had, Mr Brownlee, was that the answer was, effectively, out of order because it said “Yes” at the beginning and then indicated that the report that had been received was not an official report. I just wanted to clarify with the member in order to assist members with their supplementaries. It is something that I have done at least twice previously, once with a Government supplementary involving Mr Robertson and once with an Opposition supplementary previously. I know that there’s not a high level of understanding within members of the House as to what receiving means as opposed to seeing, and the difference it means for ministerial responsibility.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Has he received communications or had discussions with partnership schools about the impact and challenges to young Māori of getting rid of the partnership schools model?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I’ve had communications with some current charter schools. They’re mainly concerned about the scaremongering that’s been propagated by members of the Opposition, in particular members such as herself, who are doing their best Chicken Little impersonation, telling them the sky is going to fall down on their heads. However, I am comforted by the old Ngāpuhi saying that says, loosely translated, “A chicken is just a grown-up egg.”
Hon Nikki Kaye: When the Prime Minister said he had discussions with several partnership schools, can he confirm he was not acting in his capacity as Associate Minister of Education?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The charter schools in the north contacted me as their local member of Parliament because they were scared about the scaremongering that’s been propagated by the Opposition MPs around charter schools.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he cooperate fully with the formal complaint that has been lodged against him by a partnership school that he is giving preferential treatment by responding only0020to partnership schools that he has links with?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: This is a great opportunity for me to explain. I am aware of that complaint she’s mentioned. Let me say that on 12 February, I actually tried to ring one of the members of another charter school in west Auckland. They didn’t pick up the phone. But, again—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do get the idea that members on my left would like this series of questions to continue. If they do, they’re going to listen to the answers.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I just want to say to the member, though, that there’s been no favouritism. I was approached by He Puna Mārama Trust because of the scaremongering and the false information being propagated. So I responded to them and talked them through the publicly available information that the Minister—the fantastic, the best education Minister in 10 years—proactively released just last week.
Hon Nikki Kaye: In light of the Radio New Zealand story a number of minutes ago that says, “Labour Māori MPs, including Kelvin Davis, have given their word that Māori charter schools will not shut down.”—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don’t think it does this Parliament any service to see a member reading the question out from a telephone, which is something I’ve never seen before. It lowers the dignity of this Parliament—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to ask the right honourable Deputy Prime Minister to repeat his point of order, and I will not have any interjection during points of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is about the dignity of this House. It is not enhanced when someone is reading their question out from their cellphone, which is what I saw. If you want to look at the parliamentary record, it’ll show that as well. That’s what I’m raising as a matter of public order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I don’t need the member’s assistance. I think members these days get their information in the House in a variety of manners, and Radio New Zealand is available on the cellphones. If the member is quoting from that, it is something that I have seen done previously. If the member was being supplied by a person outside with particular questions to be asked, that would be a different matter. But I think it’s an unreasonable assumption to make.
Hon Nikki Kaye: In light of the Radio New Zealand story a number of minutes ago that says that “Labour Māori MPs, including Kelvin Davis, have given their word that Māori charter schools will not shut down.”, will he fully cooperate with the inquiry, where people are saying he’s given preferential treatment in a complex legal process?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as he has ministerial responsibility, which I haven’t yet seen.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Mr Speaker, I’ll cooperate with whatever the complaint process is. But let me say that I’m happy to get in touch with other charter schools. I’m happy to speak to them if they too are confused by the scaremongering and misinformation of the Opposition parties.
Question No. 7—Social Development
7. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Will the Families Package address the challenges faced by many families of growing living costs and food poverty, as highlighted in the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation Report, released today?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Yes, the Government’s Families Package is designed to directly address the challenges faced by low-income New Zealanders. It increases the incomes of thousands of Kiwi families facing rising living costs and food instability, in particular by increasing the accommodation supplement and changes to Working for Families. Together, these initiatives will support families struggling to get by.
Jo Luxton: What specific measures will the Families Package deliver to ensure families can meet rising living costs?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Rising house prices and rents are a major driver of hardship, as highlighted in the State of the Nation Report. Our Families Package will provide targeted assistance to help address this. It includes increases to the accommodation supplement and accommodation benefit, which mean that 135,000 families will gain an average of $35 per week. This increase sits alongside this Government’s other commitments to building more affordable homes, expanding the social housing stock, and making New Zealand homes warmer and drier.
Jo Luxton: What other living costs will the Families Package help New Zealanders to meet?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Winter can be really hard on the health of our elderly and children. As part of our Families Package, our winter energy payment will help superannuitants and beneficiaries to afford the heating they need to keep themselves warm and healthy. When fully implemented, a single person receiving superannuation or who is on a benefit with no dependent children will receive $450, and couples and singles with children will receive an additional $700 over a five-month period.
Question No. 9—Agriculture
9. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by all of his statements?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Yes, in the context in which they were made.
Hon Nathan Guy: How does he reconcile his statement in relation to M. bovis from July last year, and I quote, “All the cows and any with possible contact with another cow should all be destroyed.” with how he’s now stopped any culling of the herds?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: At the time of first discovery, there was one farm and one farming operation involved. Culling did begin, but, unfortunately, we then discovered that there was a second infected property in Southland. That led us to believe that there were possibly hundreds of properties that could have been infected, and the issue of whether it’s possible to eradicate or whether we were faced with an ongoing management regime for Mycoplasma bovis is the dilemma that we still face. Officials have, for a number of reasons, stopped culling at this point.
Hon Nathan Guy: What financial advice has the Minister received to manage or eradicate M. bovis from his officials, and how much?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: Officials, thankfully, are not affected by the disease, but there are an increasing number of affected animals throughout this country, for a whole lot of reasons. Obviously, inadequate biosecurity import health standards, initially, which have allowed this disease into this country, have led us to a very sad and challenging situation where, through money appropriated through the Ministry of Primary Industries, we have been able to conduct the process thus far of tracing, of some extermination of some animals and removing them, and of ongoing testing and monitoring. To date, the number of confirmed infected properties is 23, the number of properties under restricted place notice are 38, the number of trace properties is over 1,500—this is a huge operation, and we cannot at this point say the total cost of this operation.
Hon Nathan Guy: Has the Government asked industry to contribute to the costs of eradication or management of M. bovis; and, if so, how much money has been requested from the Government to industry?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: There has been no—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Did the member want to rephrase it, because I think there was an inconsistency between the beginning and the end. It’s a question of who was asking whom for money.
Hon Nathan Guy: Has the Government requested any contribution from industry to either contain or eradicate M. bovis; and, if so, how much money has been requested from the industry?
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: No such request has gone to industry at this point. Both the director-general and myself—[Interruption].
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Nathan Guy, I think the member—
Hon Member: Animal noises.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that was the point I was going to make. He used to be the Minister in charge of animal welfare, and it sounds like an animal is being tortured at the moment.
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I’ll attempt to put him at ease.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I think the member’s answered it.
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’d like to answer more fully, to put the member at ease.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I think, given the response, that is almost impossible. The member will resume his seat.
Hon Nathan Guy: He’ll be back to correct that one. Why did the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member just lost that supplementary.
Question No. 10—Workplace Relations and Safety
10. MARJA LUBECK (Labour) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: What actions has the Government taken recently to tackle migrant worker exploitation?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): The Government is working on a number of fronts to tackle migrant exploitation. Recently, a couple who owned an Auckland-based restaurant were sentenced on charges relating to exploitation of their workers, resulting in 26 months’ imprisonment for one and eight months’ home detention for the other. This is the first custodial sentence for migrant exploitation in New Zealand, sending a strong message that migrant exploitation will not be tolerated.
Marja Lubeck: What are the Government’s further plans to address migrant worker exploitation?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I note that of the labour inspectorate’s investigations of the current financial year, more than half involve migrant workers. That’s why we are committed to increasing the resourcing for, and doubling the number of, labour inspectors. We will soon initiate an inquiry into migrant exploitation, and we are working on a number of fronts to stamp out the shameful exploitation of international students.
Marja Lubeck: And why is the Government tackling migrant worker exploitation?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Exploitation is a source of human misery and is simply not acceptable in New Zealand. We need to be known as a nation that upholds workers’ rights and a great place for migrants to live and work. The good employers should not be undermined by rogues who exploit their workers.
Question No. 11—Employment
11. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by all of his statements?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Sometimes you make statements that make perfect sense at the time. Look at the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill English. In October, he—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member didn’t start well when he involved me in the answer, and he was going to continue in an out-of-order way. The member will now stand and answer the question.
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: At the time of making them, yes, in context.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Supplementary—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: So that’s one down.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Was he serious with his answer to my question yesterday on why he thinks New Zealand has the lowest unemployment rate in 10 years: that the current Government has done a great job in the past few months?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I was absolutely serious with my answer yesterday. This Government has done fantastic work in the last few months, and it’s getting better by the day.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his admission on Radio New Zealand National last week that Māori unemployment had indeed fallen 20 percent in 2017, and, if so, how does he explain that fall?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Yes, I do stand by my statement on Radio New Zealand National that, obviously, unemployment has dropped by 20 percent. There’s no problem with admitting that. The figures that the member refers to above relate to a drop in unemployment when comparing Māori with Māori annually. What the member appears to be missing is that my emphasis was that the Māori unemployment rate, when compared to the general population, has dropped by only 2.9 percent, and sits at 9 percent—double the rate of unemployment for the general population.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is the Minister happy with the trend this year in the unemployment rate in Northland?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: We’ve got some programmes in Northland. Things are getting better, but there’s a lot of work to be done. We’re going to get certain programmes in there targeting youth, and we’re going to get resourcing and funding out that the previous Government refused to support.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a simple question—was he happy with something—and he made no effort at all to answer that.
Mr SPEAKER: I think he did, right at the beginning. He addressed it.
Rino Tirikatene: Why do young people continue to be at the forefront of the Government’s employment strategy?
Mr SPEAKER: No. I’m happy to listen to the Minister explain to me how that relates to his previous answer. If he can relate it to his previous answer, he can answer it.
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Sorry, Mr Speaker, what was the previous answer? Can I just clarify what the previous answer was—in terms of Māori youth?
Mr SPEAKER: No. I think we’ll just—[Interruption] Order! I think we’re just going to scrub this one. We’re going to scrub this one now, because I don’t think Mr Tirikatene’s question related to a particular statement that the Minister had made.
Rino Tirikatene: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m willing to hear from the member.
Rino Tirikatene: My question related to young people, in particular in the context of young Māori people, which has been part of the interchange on this question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Speaking to the point of order—you’re going to support him, are you, Mr Brownlee?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, I’m not, but I would support a continuation of questions going to the Minister. The primary question says, “Does he stand by all his statements?” Now, it would be very easy for the vast machinery of the Government to have come up with a supplementary question today that would have met the requirements of question time relating to the primary question. I think you’ve been very generous in saying, “Can you relate it to the previous question?”, but it’s a bit hard when the previous question was answered by the Minister with a series of stats that we’re quite sure, on this side of the House, did not relate to the question. But that’s for another day.
Mr SPEAKER: It was a lovely speech, but I’m not quite sure how I should rule on it. I think I’m going to rule on it by going on to question No. 12.
Question No. 12—Youth
12. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister for Youth: What steps has he taken to ensure maximum opportunities for the positive engagement and contribution of Māori youth?
Hon PEENI HENARE (Minister for Youth): For New Zealand to thrive now and in the future, all young Kiwis need to have the capacity, capability, and resilience to be the best they can be. As Minister for Youth, maximising opportunities for all of New Zealand’s young people, including Māori youth, is a key priority for me.
Chris Bishop: What conversations—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Both those interjections—each of them—result in an extra supplementary for the National Party.
Chris Bishop: What conversations or discussions has he had with partnership schools?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister for Youth has no ministerial responsibility for conversations with partnership schools.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I’m willing to let the question go forward. It may be that the Minister for Youth in that portfolio has had a discussion with a charter school. We know that it wouldn’t be his direct ministerial responsibility, but it might have happened as part of his portfolio and if it hasn’t happened, it’s very easy for him to answer.
Chris Bishop: Has he visited a partnership school?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think that that one can now—given the fact that the Minister has clearly said he’s had no discussions, I don’t think he would visit one and not talk to anyone, and, therefore, that—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There could well be quite a difference, despite your immediate reaction to that, and I think that the problem here is that we’ve got a Minister for Youth who has a very broad responsibility for representation of youth and also a very big responsibility to know what youth issues are. He stated in his primary answer that his concern is particularly for the development of Māori youth, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable, then, to ask the question: has he visited a partnership school? He may not have talked to staff.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, on the basis that the Minister might have visited a school and spoken to no one, the Minister can answer the question.
Hon PEENI HENARE: Not in my capacity as the Minister for Youth.
Chris Bishop: Can he confirm that the Prime Minister gave him a stern talking-to for allowing her to appear in a photo at the Prime Minister’s own Youth Awards with a student at a partnership school?
Hon PEENI HENARE: We are very proud of all of the young people who receive awards at the Prime Minister’s awards. Look, we don’t have the background of every member who received a certificate, and I can tell this House that it was over 160 young people who walked across that stage. It is impossible for us to know the background and the school of each student.
Chris Bishop: Is he saying, then, further to that answer, that if the Minister and his office and his department had known that a student who was going to receive a Prime Minister’s youth award was from a partnership school, they would not have received the award?
Hon PEENI HENARE: We were there to celebrate youth, and that is the kaupapa; as each one walked across that stage, they received a warm handshake and congratulations.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hipkins?
Hon Chris Hipkins: Normally, you would say that that brings to the end questions for oral answer; that’s what I was waiting for.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, it does.

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