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Parliament: Questions and Answers – March 21

Press Release – Hansard

Question No. 1Finance 1. VIRGINIA ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance : What recent advice has he received on the impact of the Government’s Families Package? Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) : Last week, Treasury corrected the coding …ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Finance
1. VIRGINIA ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent advice has he received on the impact of the Government’s Families Package?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Last week, Treasury corrected the coding error that they had made which affected the projections of the number of children that would be lifted out of poverty by this Government’s Families Package and by the previous Government’s proposed Family Incomes Package. Treasury have urged caution about the underlying data used for these projections, and work is ongoing to improve that data, but Treasury continue to indicate that the Government’s Families Package will still lift twice as many children out of poverty as the previous Government’s package.
Virginia Andersen: Does Treasury’s coding error affect the impact this package will have on New Zealanders?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. The coding error and Treasury’s subsequent revisions do not affect the number of families assisted by the Government’s package—384,000 families with children will still be better off by an average of $75 per week when the package is fully rolled out. There will still be a Best Start payment of $60 per week for all children in their first year, and many thousands of children up to the age of three. There will still be a winter energy payment to help superannuitants and low-income earners pay their power bills, and there will still be significant boosts to Working for Families and the accommodation supplement.
Virginia Andersen: How does the Families Package support the Government’s child poverty reduction targets?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government’s target to reduce the proportion of children living in poverty from 15 percent now to 5 percent within 10 years remains unchanged. This Government’s goal is for New Zealand to be the best place in the world for children. The Families Package will make a significant contribution to this goal. This Government will not neglect children living in poverty.
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can she have confidence in the Rt Hon Winston Peters when his statement on Tuesday last week on the Russian nerve agent attack carefully avoided any mention of the Russian Government and also didn’t mention the proposed free-trade deal with Russia?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I stated in the House yesterday, we were one of the earliest countries to come out to condemn the use of that nerve agent, before even the UK came out with further advice and evidence, which was following. We have since been updated, of course, and given all of the evidence that then emerged and have the exact same position as our partners the UK, the US, France, and Germany.
Hon Simon Bridges: Could she really have confidence in the Rt Hon Winston Peters when he goes on TV and says things like there’s “no evidence” Russia was involved in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, and “We have a lot of allegations, but we do not have the facts laid out clearly on whether Russia interfered with the 2016 US election.” when there’s a wealth of evidence to support both?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I pointed out yesterday, in that same interview he pointed out that the missile certainly was Russian and that there is an international investigation going on into the downing of that plane as we speak. The point that I would make is, if we are so out of step with our international partners, why did Theresa May thank us for our statement and for the solidarity that we’ve shown? To continually misrepresent New Zealand’s position does us a disservice.
Hon Simon Bridges: Who directed the amendment of the statement issued last Friday evening clarifying the Government’s position on the Salisbury attack so that the version subsequently posted on the Beehive website reduced its word count from 214 to 197 words by removing all the quotes directly attributed to the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I notice, again, the obsession with word count abounds. That statement always had, on the top of the header, that it was a joint statement by myself, as Prime Minister, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it her policy that Ministers can continue to meet with Russian diplomats in the wake of the events in Salisbury?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we have made clear, Salisbury has changed things. We have continued what has been the suspension of the free-trade talks which were enacted in 2014—they have not resumed—and we have said it is too early to say if or when they would given the situation we are now in. I would ask the member: does he take a different view than this Government on Russia, because we have been very clear. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I suggest, first of all, to the Prime Minister that she shouldn’t, even in that form, ask the Opposition questions, because she’s likely to get the response that she did. But can I also say to the Leader of the Opposition that this is a matter of international affairs and is something which is of a lot of concern to a lot of people, and constant chirping from both members on his bench during the answer is not helpful either.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would you prefer that I address the question again? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: If the Prime Minister—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I’ve had “Go on.” from the member’s leader, so I’m just about to rule that the Prime Minister can answer it again. Does the member have a different view?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes, but—whatever.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, can I ask the Opposition, between the leader and the shadow Leader of the House: whose advice should I take?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, of course the leader of the National Party calls the shots for us. My point was about the fact that, firstly, it is not for the Speaker to determine the importance of a question—which you just did. For you to then determine, because it’s important, that you should take a different attitude to the way it’s answered, I think, is inappropriate. Now, whether the Prime Minister answers again or not is a different matter entirely.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank the—the Hon Gerry Brownlee. I nearly repeated my mistake. I want to thank the Hon Gerry Brownlee for his view, but it has been a long tradition in this House that matters of international affairs where nuance around diplomacy are important, are treated with more respect than a run-of-the-mill political question, and that’s why I did ask to have less interjection, both during the question and afterwards, from the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy. The Prime Minister—replying to the question again.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding is that no member of this Government has met with any representatives from Russia since Salisbury, and the insinuation that he’s made suggests that that’s not the case.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can she have confidence in trade Minister David Parker when he failed to convince the US Government that New Zealand deserves an exemption from US steel tariffs, so that she had to resort to the rarely used step for a Prime Minister of personally writing to the President, seeking the exemption herself?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition is that we shouldn’t do everything we can as a Government to stand up for New Zealand exporters, frankly, I’m shocked by that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she support the Hon Shane Jones in his call for the chair of the board of Air New Zealand to resign?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I expressed yesterday, there will be many New Zealanders who will have sympathy with the opinion that was expressed. I’ve made similar statements around regional access in the past. However, as I’ve said today, calling for the resignation of the chair was a step too far, and I’ve shared that with Minister Jones.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, didn’t he do it in his ministerial capacity, as a Cabinet Minister with collective responsibility?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: He has no ministerial responsibility for Air New Zealand.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will she discipline the Hon Shane Jones for threatening the chief executive, the chair, and, indeed, the board of a publicly listed New Zealand company?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve shared my view with Minister Jones, but, just as this isn’t a sacking offence for Air New Zealand, it’s not a sacking offence for Shane Jones, either.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, is her Government boosting business confidence in New Zealand by floating the possibility the Government will make entire sectors, like oil and gas, disappear; attacking business leaders by name; and instigating wholesale reviews, creating a lot of uncertainty, into infrastructure like electricity and ports?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Most of that question was incorrect.
Question No. 3—Education
3. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Education: Does he believe his Government has handled the issue of charter schools well?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes.
David Seymour: Will the Minister then be surprised to find recent opinion polling that shows 60 percent of New Zealanders disagree and disapprove of the Government’s handling, and 57 percent believe they should be allowed to stay open?
Hon JENNY SALESA: On behalf of the Minister of Education, I have not seen this poll that the member is speaking of, but I can assure the member that this Government is focused on and committed to ensuring that all of our students have access to excellent public education.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order, the Hon—sorry, David Seymour. I’m not promoting anyone.
David Seymour: I turned that down. I seek leave to table a document which is a report from Curia Market Research on polling undertaken from 26 February—
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a private report, or is it one that’s been published on a website?
David Seymour: It’s not available anywhere else except on this piece of paper right now.
Mr SPEAKER: It’s not available anywhere else other than on that piece of paper?
David Seymour: That’s right.
Mr SPEAKER: On that assurance from the member, I will put it to the House. Is there any objection to that unique piece of paper being tabled? It appears there is. Right, it won’t be tabled. Is there a further supplementary?
David Seymour: We take cyber-security very seriously. Will the Minister, after she has read the polling, reverse the Government’s position and allow those 1,500 students to continue in the school of their choice on those schools’ terms?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the member answers, I’m just going to do the adjustment to make it “he”, to make it in order, rather than “she”.
Hon JENNY SALESA: I cannot comment on a report that I have not yet seen; so it would not be appropriate for me to say that I will reverse a decision, given that I have not seen that piece of paper.
Question No. 4—Disability Issues
4. GREG O’CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister for Disability Issues: What events has she recently hosted regarding the employment of people with disabilities?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Disability Issues): This morning, Minister Jackson and I hosted the launch of the new disability employment support practice guidelines, a best-practice guide that details how to ensure any disabled person who wants to work has opportunities to receive skilled support to get work. I want to acknowledge the vision and commitment of the New Zealand Disability Support Network, who brought the sector together to develop these guidelines, and those groups from across the sector that took part in developing the guidelines. The views, experiences, and aspirations of disabled people have been included as it’s often said, “Nothing about me without me.”
Greg O’Connor: Why are the employment practice support guidelines important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: New Zealand is missing out on the economic and cultural contribution that disabled people can make. Only 25 percent of disabled people are in employment, yet 74 percent of nonworking disabled people want to work. Even more concerning, the number of disabled young not in any kind of employment, education, or training is about four times higher than their nondisabled peers. We need to accept we have a problem, when we were told today at the launch that disabled university graduates have the same employment outcomes as nondisabled high school graduates. While there are some disabled people who can’t work, this gap is too wide. This is why improving the employment experience of disabled people is key.
Greg O’Connor: What are the employment practice support guidelines?
Hon Tim Macindoe: Are you going to ask her what she had for breakfast?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The guidelines outline best practice for employment support services working alongside both disabled people and employers to tailor work opportunities to address their respective needs. By setting clear expectations, the guidelines will help improve disabled people’s employment outcomes. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry—I’m going to ask the member to resume his seat. I think Mr Macindoe, Mr Hudson, and Mr Robertson could all show—all show—some respect for this question. I’d ask the Minister to restart her supplementary answer.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The guidelines outline best practice for employment support services working alongside both disabled people and employers to tailor work opportunities to address their respective needs. By setting clear expectations, the guidelines will help improve disabled people’s employment outcomes. The guidelines make absolute sense. It is a great tool, but it is only part of what needs to happen. I can assure the disability sector and New Zealand that there will be more work in this space, and I’m sure the general public will take it more seriously than what Tim Macindoe is doing right now.
Hon Tim Macindoe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take great offence at that comment and would ask the Minister to identify whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing.
Hon Grant Robertson: I can easily identify for Mr Macindoe—he suggested that the questioner should ask the Minister what she had for breakfast. That’s disrespectful to people with disabilities, Mr Macindoe.
Hon Tim Macindoe: The Minister of Finance is picking up on an interjection that happened some time before the Minister made her gratuitous comment. The two are not related, and I continue to take offence at it.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Speaking to the point of order, the member was also inferring that this was a waste of space, in terms of being asked in this House.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Mr Speaker, I attended that breakfast this morning in my capacity as the ACC spokesperson for the Opposition. I take the issue very, very seriously, and I continue to take offence at the suggestion.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m not prepared to require a withdrawal from the Minister. There was an interjection from the member and the member in front of him during the answer. I did not hear the detail of it but it clearly did cause offence. The interjection caused offence, and the fact that the Minister was a supplementary late in responding to it was probably inappropriate, but not to the point where I’m going to require its withdrawal. Everything—everything—as part of this exchange is on the record.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The longstanding convention in this House has been that if a member takes offence, then that should be accepted and the person causing the offence should do something about it. Now, for a Minister who—we know it’s not an equal contest in here; it always is. We get to ask the questions and then the answers can range across a broad range of topics etc., etc. For a gratuitous flick like that at the end of a question, I think it’s completely out of order and a gross misuse of the opportunity to stand with the microphone in front of the full House and anyone who happens to be watching.
Hon Grant Robertson: In the last Parliament, rulings made by the previous Speaker indicated that it is no longer the case that it is automatic that offence, if it’s taken, requires a withdrawal and apology. That ruling was made by the previous Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: And in my experience, for the vast majority of my career, it’s not been automatic. We’re not, you know, petals. People need to be a little bit robust when these things are occurring, and I think especially when people are involved in interjecting, the fact that there is something which comes back in their direction is part of the ebb and flow of this House. The Hon Tim Macindoe, I think, wants to add further.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The point I was making is that in her comment, the Minister was suggesting that I was doing something now. At that point—and, in fact, at least for a minute beforehand—I had said nothing, there was certainly nothing about my body language that could have caused her any concern. Members of the public watching this exchange on the television will only have seen the Minister speaking and would, presumably, come to the conclusion that I was doing something that was offensive. The point I’m making is that I certainly wasn’t, and I was asking the Minister to explain what it was that was offensive, and because I found it an offensive suggestion, I asked her to withdraw it.
Mr SPEAKER: OK. Right, well, I—
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Speaking to the point of order, can I just—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I don’t think there is one.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: OK.
Hon Louise Upston: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: It’s not related to this matter, is it? Because I have ruled on that. I’ve been fairly liberal with Mr Macindoe, and Mr Brownlee afterwards, and the member’s not going to continue—is she?
Hon Louise Upston: No, it’s a separate point of order. In question No. 4 and question No. 5 yesterday, as well as this question now, a Minister in their answer has used their answer to an oral question for a gratuitous statement. In Opposition questions to Ministers, you are very clear about stopping a member from asking anything additional and including anything in the answer that doesn’t need to be there. I’m interested, Mr Speaker, if you are creating a new ruling that allows Ministers to have gratuitous flicks at this side of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: My view is that the member has just, in absolute contradiction to the assurance that she gave me at the beginning of her question, raised the very same matter, and as a result of that the Opposition will lose two supplementary questions.
Hon Louise Upston: The point of order that I understood immediately before me was around the issue of a member taking offence in this House and the Speaker ruling on a matter of offence, so I apologise, sir, but I see that as a different point of order that I was raising on a different matter.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, well, I’ll accept the member’s apology.
Question No. 5—Prime Minister
5. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reported statement when personally receiving a petition from Greenpeace on Monday to end oil and gas exploration that the Government was “actively considering” the issue?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. I was flanked on that day by our Minister for Climate Change and our Minister of Energy and Resources, and I stand by that statement. We’re currently considering the block offer for 2018, and all options are on the table for that.
Hon Simon Bridges: When she said on Tuesday that “we’re considering everything” in regards to oil and gas exploration, had she consulted the Deputy Prime Minister, who also said on Tuesday “we know exactly where this is going” and “We will not compromise on what we’ve agreed”, which is “to support the extractive industries while ensuring core conservation values”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: He also referred to the fact that there was a decision-making process under way, and that’s exactly what’s happening.
Hon Simon Bridges: So, to be clear, is the Government “actively considering” everything in relation to oil and gas exploration or simply changes, say, to the block offer and the like, with ongoing exploration allowed?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said, the Deputy Prime Minister referenced the fact that we were in the middle of a decision-making process, which we are. As I’ve said, that decision-making process will be forward looking. It’s about block offers in the future and, as I assured the House yesterday and have continually done so since, this is not a retrospective act. Everything that is currently in place remains.
Hon Simon Bridges: It is she aware that oil and gas exploration supports over 8,000 jobs in Taranaki alone and that she’s put those jobs at risk or at least created great uncertainty for all of the businesses involved there, and does that concern her?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely dispute that. My understanding, actually, is that oil and gas exploration, based on, as the member will know, older reports, is that there are about 4,500 people directly employed in the sector. None of those employees will be affected because, as I’ve said, this decision is about the future, and everything that is currently in place will remain in place. I would, however, also like to point out that the Leader of the Opposition did say that “National emphasises the environment, and under me I think we’ll emphasise it a little more”. So I’d really like to hear the Opposition’s plan for dealing with this issue as well.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Prime Minister with respect to her last quote, or the one that she borrowed from the leader of the National Party, was that going to be a small transition or a big transition or a political transition?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, according to the same interview, my recollection was that it was meant to be a just transition, but I’m yet to hear the Opposition’s plan for that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Speaking of the environment, what would be the cost to the climate if Fonterra were no longer able to use natural gas for most of their processing plants and had to revert back to coal in order to continue production and safeguard international food security?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Even Fonterra has acknowledged that they need to tackle this issue head on, even if the Opposition hasn’t. I’m sure I don’t need to educate that member that there are already gas reserves that can run as far as 2046 and that the decisions around exploration permits this year would run for 14 years plus an extra 20 on top of that. This is about decisions that will affect the next 30 years. This is a Government willing to have that debate even if that last one wasn’t.
Hon James Shaw: Is the Prime Minister aware of Fonterra’s plan to be carbon neutral by 2050 and to phase out coal use entirely?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. They share our ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050—again, something that the Opposition clearly does not.
Hon James Shaw: Is looking for new fossil fuels the same thing as shutting down existing operations, and what year are the existing operations currently scheduled to wind down?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I acknowledged, we’ve not said that we would be altering current operations, and a number of those fields actually have a shelf life that goes out as far as, potentially, 2046.
Question No. 6—Finance
6. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: When he set the capital allowance for Budget 2018 at $3.4 billion in his Budget Policy Statement, was it his intention to fully fund all capital projects announced to date within this allowance?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): My intention when I set the capital allowance for Budget 2018 was for it to fund the capital projects that will be announced in Budget 2018.
Hon Amy Adams: Given his statement that “We don’t believe PPPs have a place in schools and hospitals,”, can he now confirm all new schools and the up to $1.6 billion Dunedin Hospital rebuild will be fully funded within Budget 2018’s capital allowance?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The former Minister may have some particular figures in mind for those things. I don’t know that those are the figures. What I can say is that on this side of the House, we don’t favour the privatisation of health and education.
Hon Amy Adams: Given his repeated refusals to commit to funding the Defence Capability Plan, is it his intention, then, to fund additional capital promises by cutting back on the defence budget?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I have said is that we want to undertake, as we have agreed through our coalition agreement, a review of defence procurement. When we do that, we’ll be able to understand what the costs are for making sure that we have effective capability and capacity in our Defence Force. What we won’t be doing is writing out a ghost cheque for $20 billion.
Hon Amy Adams: In his answer to question No. 3 in the House yesterday, when he claimed that the previous National Government was spending $30.5 billion on capital over the next five years, why did he deliberately use different time periods to compare the capital spending intentions of the previous and current Governments?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I did was use the figures that are available in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU).
Hon Amy Adams: What, in fact, is the correct forecast of capital spending from 2018 to 2022 from the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update that he referenced yesterday?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I referenced figures from the HYEFU yesterday.
Hon Amy Adams: No, no, no, no, no. No, you didn’t. Be very careful, Grant.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I did.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think both supplementaries and answers have finished.
Question No. 7—Environment
7. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: What announcements has the Government made regarding aluminium waste in Southland and Central Otago?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): The coalition Government has reached an agreement in principle for the removal of stockpiles of partly treated aluminium dross, a by-product from aluminium production from sites mainly across Southland. This dross produces harmful gases when in contact with water, and while details are still to be finalised and a formal agreement signed, I’m encouraged the parties have agreed to share the multimillion-dollar cost of its removal. Thanks are due to the local community, the Gore district CEO and mayor, Tracy Hicks, who worked with local MPs Liz Craig and Mark Patterson, the smelter, and landlords to develop a solution.
Dr Liz Craig: So why has the Government chosen this approach?
Hon DAVID PARKER: This problem has a history going back many, many years. The coalition, however, is an active Government that gets things done, so we’ve taken a pragmatic approach to resolve it. Although polluters should be responsible for their own pollution, not taxpayers or ratepayers—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, you banned ironic expression in questions. Surely you’ll abandon it in answers from Ministers.
Mr SPEAKER: I’m tempted, Mr Brownlee. Continue, Mr Parker.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The coalition Government has adopted a pragmatic approach to resolution of the problem. Although polluters should be responsible for their own pollution, not taxpayers or ratepayers, the Crown and the council have agreed to share the $4 million cost with the smelter and landlords to avoid protracted and costly legal action and get the dross cleaned up.
Dr Liz Craig: What will the Government do should this situation reoccur?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We need to take care to avoid the moral hazard of stepping in. I believe primary responsibility for the by-product from the smelter should rest with the smelter. While we’re pushing forward with this solution in this instance, we’ve made it clear that if this issue arises again, I will be expecting the Crown to sue those responsible.
Question No. 8—Child Poverty Reduction
8. Hon ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction: Does she stand by her statement that “There shouldn’t be politics in child poverty”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Minister for Child Poverty Reduction): Yes.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: When she said, “we will do a bit of consultation with the Opposition and see if we can get some support from them,” why hasn’t she responded to the letters from the Hon Paula Bennett seeking support and consideration of our Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) on the Child Poverty Reduction Bill?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, usually the time in which we would have the ability to discuss those is when we come back to the House, but I’d like to extend to the member that if he’d like to sit down in person and discuss those SOPs, I’d be very happy to do that.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: Given that she has had a month to consider the proposals put forward by the Opposition, has she decided whether the Government will support our SOPs, having been given their three invitations to discuss them as well?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, as I understand, the original letter, as I recall, set out what the SOPs were intended to do but without the actual SOPs. I received the SOPs today. That gives me a good starting point to know what you’d like to discuss; so I’m happy, now that we have the full substance, that we can sit down and discuss them. In fact, the concepts would have been premature, because I see that you’ve actually proposed a specific target for, for instance, material hardship that wasn’t contained in the letter. In fact, it’s a target that last year, when suggested by the Children’s Commissioner, you rejected.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m just going to remind the Prime Minister that I’m not Mr Ngaro.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: So would she then be supportive of extending the submission date to allow the public to have their say on the three Supplementary Order Papers I tabled today, in the spirit of taking politics out of child poverty?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That would be an unusual practice. I do think there’s still ability for the public to be made aware of the suggestions that you’re making, but, obviously, the practice of this House is that we debate SOPs collectively when bills return to the House.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: So, just to clarify, will she meet with the Leader of the Opposition and myself to discuss our Supplementary Order Papers on the Child Poverty Reduction Bill, in the spirit of taking politics out of child poverty?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Question No. 9—Transport
9. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: What actions is he taking to ensure the reliability of transport links for the South Island?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): The Government has an ambitious agenda for investment in transport in the South Island, after a decade of neglect and poor-quality spending that has cost—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. I’m going to require the member to start again and to address the question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The Government has an ambitious agenda for investment in transport in the South Island. The soon to be released Government Policy Statement on Land Transport will see a shift in priorities towards safety, regional roads, local roads, road maintenance, and other investments that will benefit the South Island.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why is he staying silent as hard-working New Zealanders are having their livelihoods disrupted by ongoing strike action at Lyttelton Port?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, workplace relations are matters for my colleague the Hon Iain Lees-Galloway. However, I am advised that the dispute at Lyttelton Port is occurring under the current employment law settings passed by the former Government and that indications of a resolution of the dispute are hopeful.
Jami-Lee Ross: Can we take it from his silence in this matter that, after six strikes and six no-shows from this Minister, he actually supports the strike action at Lyttelton Port?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I don’t want to see—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Sorry, I’m going to ask the member to repeat the question. I’m just trying to work out whether the Minister actually has responsibility.
Jami-Lee Ross: Well, it flows from the supplementary answer.
Mr SPEAKER: No, whether he has responsibility. Just because it flows from his answer, it doesn’t mean he’s got responsibility.
Jami-Lee Ross: Can we take it from his silence as Minister of Transport that, after six strikes and six no-shows from this Minister in regards to strikes in his portfolio, he actually supports the strike action at Lyttelton Port?
Mr SPEAKER: Only just.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I don’t want to see industrial action disrupting the transport system, especially when, under our policy, we’re about to invest more than ever in a modern transport system, and I urge the parties to reach an amicable settlement and build a modern and collaborate approach to industrial relations.
Jami-Lee Ross: If the Minister feels that way, will he speak to the parties involved to try and find a quick solution, or will he continue to allow millions of dollars of goods to be held to ransom by this union?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Transport sector unions and employers are well aware of my views on this. I don’t believe it’s my role as transport Minister to wade into the middle of every industrial dispute, and I think it’s odd that the member seems to be advocating something like that, particularly after the Ports of Auckland dispute, which went on for two years, and that Government never lifted a finger.
Question No. 10—Justice
10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Justice: Will he be advising the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this week that his first bill as Minister of Justice amends the Electoral Act 1993 to allow party leaders to dismiss an MP from Parliament, and that in the view of twenty legal experts from the Universities of Auckland, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago, it breaches the Bill of Rights; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Acting Minister of Justice): No; because I will be telling the international community how the coalition Government is resetting the human rights agenda in New Zealand by committing to tackling child poverty, to making tertiary education accessible again through fees-free, through confronting climate change and energy poverty, through funding and supporting the family reunification scheme for refugees, through speaking up for the elimination of nuclear weapons, through repealing the cruel year-and-a-day rule that has so hurt the CTV families in Canterbury, and by fixing the national—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That’s enough, thank you.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just because some members don’t like the answer is no reason for them to be braying like a bunch of donkeys and trying to shout down good common sense. And I’d ask you to ask them to desist.
Mr SPEAKER: Well—[Interruption] no. The member will resume his seat. I’m contemplating what to do. I’m listening to a point of order, which I think was right at the margins. But I actually had trouble hearing it—notwithstanding my deaf ear being my left ear—over the noise that was coming from left when there are to be no interjections during points of order. So I think what we’ll say is “1-all.”, and we’ll go on to Dr Smith.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the analysis of the Inter-Parliamentary Union that the only countries with similar electoral provisions to those he is proposing is Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Central African Republic, and are these the countries that New Zealand should be modelling its electoral laws and human rights on?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: There will be a full select committee process where everybody, including the body the member has suggested, can make their views known, and they will be heard.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister name a country with high standards of democracy and a respect for human rights that has the sort of rules where a party leader can dismiss a member of Parliament, like what he is proposing for New Zealand?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: New Zealand. But I do find it a bit rich to take lectures on democracy from the member who cancelled democracy at Environment Canterbury in Canterbury.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question to the Minister was whether the Minister could name another country. Another would not—
Mr SPEAKER: No. I think the member said “a country”.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It was “another country”.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, sorry. I will go back and have a look at it. I was under the impression that the member said “a country”. I’m getting some support on my right for that point of view. If the member gives me an absolute—and I will go back and look at it. If the member gives me an absolute assurance—[Rt Hon Winston Peters stands], I’ll take the point of order soon—that he said “another country”, then I will ask the Minister to answer the question. The member has given me assurance, so that is at a very high standard. The member has given me assurance.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What’s wrong with that question is not the point that’s being made by Mr Smith but, rather, than it’s palpably, demonstrably false. The process that that bill encompasses—it is long, it is arduous, it’s required to be within the party’s constitution, and it is not at the behest of a party leader. It’s just plain false.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I’m going to say to the right honourable gentleman, that could well have been part of the answer to either the primary question or one of the supplementaries, but not to this one. I’m now—[Hon Dr Nick Smith stands] No. I want the member to resume his seat, because, at the point of interruption, I was asking Megan Woods to answer the question in the form that Dr Smith has assured the House it was in.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Mr Speaker, it’s been some time. Can I please request that the member re-asks the question.
Mr SPEAKER: As long as I have an assurance from Dr Smith that it’s going to be re-asked in exactly the form that he did previously.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yes, indeed. Can the Minister name another country with high standards of democracy and respect for human rights that has the same sort of laws that enable a party leader to dismiss an MP, like he is proposing for New Zealand?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I reject the premise of that question.
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it’s the first time, in the time I’ve been in the House anyway, where we’ve had the issue around the question of whether or not the wording of the question was correct. I want to understand, on this side of the House, what is the penalty or what is the remedy if Dr Smith in fact—
Mr SPEAKER: It’s actually a very simple matter. There has been an assurance to the House by Dr Smith. If that assurance is incorrect, it’s a matter of privilege, but that will not be raised here, now.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question that was asked of the Minister was a very straightforward and clear question. To simply answer by saying, “I reject the premise of that question.”, when all that was asked was can they name another country, we either take that as a no, in which case it should have been given to the House, or the Minister should be asked to answer the question again. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Before Iain Lees-Galloway speaks, I’m going to indicate that the National Party has gained an additional supplementary, as a result of the interjection during that point of order. Iain Lees-Galloway, speaking to the point of order.
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The member asking the question characterised a proposed piece of legislation in a particular way, and the Minister rejected the premise that the legislation did what the member says it does.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Well—
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It’s an important point, Mr Speaker. The Clerk’s Office accepted the primary question. The primary question says that the law allows a party leader to dismiss a member of Parliament. It is now not possible—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. There is no responsibility on the Clerk’s Office for assertions that are made within a question. Will he be advising X, does not mean that X is true. It’s an assertion made by the member. It was a marginal acceptance on my behalf—not by the Clerk, but on my behalf—of the question. I decided, given our long-term friendship, that I should be looser on the member than I might have been on other members.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In respect of the ruling that you have just given, if there was an assertion in the primary question, the Minister would have been obliged to challenge the assertion when she answered that question. That not having been done, it’s well within order for the member to ask a supplementary question with the same description and expect it to be more clearly addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: The member might want Speakers to start judging questions and answers more intensely than Speakers have in the past, but all of my predecessors have made it clear that we will not take responsibility for answers. I have ruled that that question was addressed.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister aware that the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) struck down near identical laws in 2010 to what he is proposing for New Zealand, on the basis that they breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and if these laws are unacceptable to PNG, why would they be acceptable in a democracy in New Zealand?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As that member knows full well, the New Zealand Attorney-General, acting as the law officer, without the constraints of Cabinet collective responsibility, has reviewed this bill and found that the limitations in the bill are justified in a free and democratic society and are consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that an almost identical piece of legislation was passed by the Clark Labour Government and it was highly successful and only failed because of the fact that in the end it had a sunset clause, but that it was used by the ACT Party to successfully get a rid of a member of their own caucus?
Mr SPEAKER: No, there was too much in there that this Government has no responsibility for.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister aware that Germany, the home of MMP, with 70 years’ experience with the system, has no such provisions, and that the German constitution or basic law developed with the Allies in 1940s to prevent a repeat of World War II atrocities specifically prohibits the sort of law that he is now proposing for New Zealand?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will let the member answer it, but I will ask the member to have a look at Speaker’s ruling 174/1, which goes to the length of questions and related, unnecessary phrases, for the sense of the question.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I repeat my answer to the last question: as the member well knows, the Attorney-General, acting as the law officer, without the constraints of Cabinet collective responsibility, has reviewed the bill and found the limitations in the bill are justified in a free and democratic society. If that member wants to use hyperbole like that, he is welcome to it. I encourage him to submit at the free, open, and democratic select committee process, and I ask him to reflect on the fact that he denied democracy to Canterbury for nine long years.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the decision of the Supreme Court of the country of Papua New Guinea declaring that these sorts of laws—
Mr SPEAKER: All right, that’s enough. Thank you. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is no objection. It will be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’ve just received advice that in asking one of his supplementary questions, Dr Smith definitely said “a country” not “another country”, and I put it to you that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I made very clear before that this is a matter of privilege, and matters of privilege are not raised in the House. They are raised by way of letter to me.
Question No. 11—Defence
11. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Defence: Does he remain committed to supporting the 2016 Defence Capability Plan?
Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Yes. My answer is yes. As detailed in the coalition agreement, we will be re-examining the defence procurement programme within the context of the 2016 Defence Capability Plan.
Hon Mark Mitchell: When does the Minister intend to announce the purchase of the P-8 Poseidon aircraft?
Hon RON MARK: It’s a very good question. The first point I would make is that we’re in the throes of going through a Budget round right now. The Budget will become very clear to that member in good time. But it does, I guess, raise some question as to why the member would be concerned about the P-3 decision, given that he didn’t make it when he was the Minister.
Hon Mark Mitchell: It’s actually the P-8, but, to the Minister, has he been able to achieve Cabinet support for the purchase of the P-8 Poseidon?
Hon RON MARK: The member will know in good time exactly where we stand on that decision. At the moment, my focus—as has been explained already by the Minister of Finance—is to review the capability plan within the context of the 2016 announcement to ensure that what we are looking at is what we should be looking at, that the proposals that have been put on my table do stack up, and that I’ve had an opportunity to run due diligence over all of the assessment and evaluation processes that have taken place. It would be inappropriate for me, this Government, to simply rubber-stamp the work that was done by the previous Government, particularly given—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It’s getting quite long.
Hon RON MARK: —that they didn’t make a decision.
Hon Mark Mitchell: So when the Minister is sure of what he’s looking at, does he think that he will want to support the purchase of the P-8 Poseidon for our New Zealand Defence Forces?
Hon RON MARK: That really is a wait-and-see question. When I have finished reviewing the information, when we have looked at what is available, and when we have finished our discussions we will announce that decision.
Question No. 12—Research, Science and Innovation
12. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: How much new money has the Government announced as part of her “formal” launch of MBIE’s Innovative Partnership Programme last week?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): No new money for the programme was announced as part of the formal launch last week. Companies are not offered any direct funding, grants, or financial incentives to come to New Zealand through this programme.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Did she really stand up and formally launch a programme which has been in place for more than two years now?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The programme was never formally launched by the previous Government. In 2015, it was initiated as a trial. Under National, I note, the focus of the programme was the attraction of multinational companies and the programme within Government was known as the multinational corporations attraction programme. This Government decided to do things a bit differently. We’ve called it Innovative Partnerships and have shifted the focus dramatically. The programme no longer specifically focuses on multinational corporations; rather, this Government’s programme now includes a much wider range of innovative companies developing new technologies that will help us grow a more sustainable and diversified economy that will benefit all New Zealanders.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What is the significance of the word “formal” in the context of this announcement? Does it mean re-announcement of the previous Government’s programme?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I think I answered that question in my last answer, but I am happy to go through it again. We did—
Mr SPEAKER: No. I agree with the member and we’re not happy.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What evidence can she provide to back up her statement “This Government is committed to developing New Zealand as a hub for high-value knowledge-intensive businesses that create value through innovation and R & D”, beyond re-announcing existing National Government programmes?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: When I became the Minister, I found there was a very small amount of funding that was to go to helping companies come to New Zealand and develop R & D. I am not so close-minded that I would cancel that scheme. In fact, in my experience, much of science and research policy is reasonably non-partisan, and I encourage that member to look at a good idea and celebrate it when she sees it, rather than her constant negativity.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No. No good. The National Party’s run out of supplementaries. I apologise to the member.

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