Community Scoop

Parliament: Questions and Answers – May 10

Press Release – Hansard

Question No. 1Finance 1. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance : Why will he borrow more money and increase taxes and levies? Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) : The acting Leader of the Opposition is wrong. Using the measure …ORAL QUESTIONS


Question No. 1—Finance
1. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Why will he borrow more money and increase taxes and levies?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The acting Leader of the Opposition is wrong. Using the measure preferred by the previous Government for debt, we will reduce net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years of taking office. The taxes and levies he is, presumably, referring to include one that the Government he was a part of increased six times, by a total of 40 percent. However, for the benefit of the member, the Government will need to spend more in this Budget because we have inherited enormous challenges after nine years of under-investment and neglect. Let me spell it out for him: the Department of Conservation has had staff cuts and has not been sufficiently resourced to effectively protect at-risk species. In education, we have aged buildings and funding shortfalls to cater for school roll growth. Early childhood education centres have seen their funding decline year after year in real terms. In health, 90 percent of DHB assets are in poor condition, and our medical staff are stretched and stressed. And the biggest scandal of all: the number of children living in poverty has not declined, with children living in cars and garages, doing their homework by torchlight. In the middle of a housing crisis, that member’s Government didn’t even bother to have a housing Minister. In the justice sector, we have leaky courtrooms that need replacing. Eight years into the rebuilding of Christchurch, we’re uncovering added rebuild costs as a result of that member’s Government penny-pinching across the board. I could go on and on, but I welcome more patsy questions from the member.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he saying that New Zealand is currently falling apart?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: New Zealand is a wonderful country, but it’s one whose public services have been underfunded for nine years. That now stops.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he justify to Kiwis who face difficult spending decisions, week in, week out, that he needs to take more money out of their pockets and borrow more for future generations to pay when the economy is generating very large surpluses?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I utterly reject the premise of that question. What this Government did was reverse tax cuts that had not come into force, and redirect that money to a Families Package that, when it’s fully rolled out, will improve the incomes of 384,000 families by an average of $75 per week. What I think New Zealanders think is that it’s time, after nine years of neglect, to do something about rebuilding the social foundations of our country.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: If, as he says, there is such a need for spending, why did he think that this was the moment to massively increase spending on diplomats and foreign aid?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What we have done in this Budget is rebuild the capacity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade—undermined by the Government he was part of—so that we actually have people out there representing us and negotiating trade deals, and we’re going to play our part in the Pacific region to make sure that the neighbourhood that we are part of is secure and develops well. I actually think New Zealanders will be quite pleased by that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Minister, is the Government, in fact, borrowing—as the questioner asked—more money, when the previous Government set an all-comers’ record of borrowing, taking Government debt from $10 billion to over $78 billion?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, it’s a very good question, because the previous Government did inherit very low levels of debt. That increased by tens of billions of dollars. Using the measure that the Government prefers—that the previous Government prefers and this Government prefers—in terms of net core Crown debt as a percentage of GDP, we will reduce that over five years. But it will take a little bit longer than the previous Government took, because we actually want to build some houses and improve some hospitals.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Good luck with that. Isn’t it true that we’ve heard a lot about spending more, about borrowing more, and about taxing more, but we haven’t heard much about how New Zealand will earn more to pay for it all, and does he just take that for granted?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, absolutely not, and what we have heard about is the excellent idea promoted by my colleague Megan Woods for a research and development tax incentive, that will actually mean that we’ll start to lift our innovation and see businesses improve and move up the value chain. The member is clearly anxious here, as he prepares himself for his future campaign in Epsom, to up his profile. What I can say is he’ll hear all about it next Thursday.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he reconcile his statement in the pre-Budget speech today that “To transform our economy, we have to work smarter and get more out of every hour worked.” with his rejection earlier in the speech of the previous Government’s challenge to the public sector to deliver more for each dollar invested?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I said in the earlier part of the speech is while it, superficially, might sound good to ask a Government department to do more with less, what actually ended up happening under that Government was that they did less with less.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So productivity gains—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I gave the nod over here. I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the member in time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I can’t imagine why.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, look the—I heard that member first and I gave him the nod. I—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, he’s a loud mouth, but anyway.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the right honourable gentleman. I will give him the next supplementary.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So productivity gains are only something for the private sector—is that what he’s saying?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Absolutely not. What we’re saying is that when public services are underfunded year on year on year, that means New Zealanders don’t get the services that they need and deserve. That’s what this Government’s going to turn around.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that the Minister for Trade and Export Growth is going to get far more resources under this Government, because if the issue of earning more was important, how come it was that trade fell in the last nine years, under the previous Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, that’s right. There was a big game talked by the previous Government on trade, but the reality didn’t match that. What our Minister of trade has been able to do already is conclude a Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership that will create more investment and more jobs in New Zealand—far better than what happened under the last Government. We’re also looking at trade deals with the EU and the rest of the world. What this Government recognises is we actually have to invest in the people who will help that happen, rather than undermine them, as the previous Government did.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m trying desperately to follow your up and down finger signals, but at the moment I can’t quite follow where you’ve actually got us at. So we start each day with 38. I think you gave us one, and then you’ve taken how many off?
Mr SPEAKER: My advice is—one of us stands up. My advice is that the member’s team has gained two and lost three, and, therefore, is back to 37.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps for the next session of Parliament, during the two-week recess, it may be possible for Building Facilities to put some kind of digital signal up here, which would mean you’d just have to click instead of fingering.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I will consider the matter, and I’ll further consider, as I was asked by Jami-Lee Ross, to name the people in the National Party who are involved in losing the questions—[Interruption] Order! That’s just got them back to par—interjections from my right while I’m on my feet. But I will say to the member, there is a certain amount of up and down. For example, on Tuesday, as a result of interventions and inappropriate behaviour on the part of the Government, the National Party gained eight supplementary questions. Unfortunately, because of the interventions of the deputy leader over a period of time, they lost six of them. So it is a matter of net.
Question No. 2—Housing and Urban Development
2. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is the KiwiBuild: Buying off the Plans document correct where it says “there is insufficient funding for the Crown to deliver all 100,000 KiwiBuild dwellings by itself”?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction) on behalf of the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: KiwiBuild is an ambitious plan to build 100,000 homes over 10 years, starting from 1 July 2018. We’d always intended for KiwiBuild to be a partnership between the Crown and developers, the Crown and iwi, builders, and other participants. We expect the capital to be recycled across the programme and be sufficient for the Government to build 100,000 affordable homes over a period of 10 years.
Hon Judith Collins: What did he mean when he told the media yesterday “the $2 billion will be spent many, many times over—over—the next decade”?
Hon JENNY SALESA: On behalf of the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, what I meant when I made that quote was that as we build KiwiBuild homes, affordable homes, it will be recycled. You sell off homes and then you reinvest that money over and over again to build more affordable KiwiBuild homes, something that we are committed to doing, something that, over nine years, the member and her Government didn’t do, which was to build affordable homes.
Hon Judith Collins: If that is correct, then why do his officials state that there is insufficient funding to deliver on his promise for the Government to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes?
Hon JENNY SALESA: On behalf of the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, what that statement means is that the $2 billion on its own will have to be recycled over and over again, and we will be partnering with iwi, we will be partnering with private developers, to ensure that we build affordable homes. We are in a national housing crisis right now that was built over nine years of that Government. We are very committed to building houses and to housing New Zealanders.
Hon Judith Collins: Which is correct: the KiwiBuild: Buying off the Plans document, which says there is not enough Crown funding for him to build the promise of KiwiBuild homes, or himself, who yesterday said to the media, “I have no reason to think it won’t be enough.”?
Hon JENNY SALESA: We are committed to building affordable homes. We will be building 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years. While that member watched housing become more and more unaffordable and did nothing, we’re focused on making sure—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I think we’ve had that.
Hon Judith Collins: Why did he tell media yesterday that the Government “will build” the KiwiBuild dwellings, but his own officials’ document, released the day before, states that the Government will now only “facilitate” private investors to build the KiwiBuild houses?
Hon JENNY SALESA: On behalf of the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, this Government is committed and will be building 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years. We will be partnering with developers to ensure that that happens. This Government will be partnering with iwi, and we will make sure that houses are built.
Marja Lubeck: How many homes were built in Auckland last year?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! That might be an interesting question but it doesn’t flow from either the primary question or any of the supplementaries.
Hon Judith Collins: When he said to the media yesterday that the Government is going to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes, did he really mean that the Government is going to subsidise private investors to build the homes that the Government has promised but can’t deliver? [Interruption]
Hon JENNY SALESA: We will be partnering with developers to ensure that this happens. We always said—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. Mr Goldsmith, that may or may not be true, but it’s not appropriate for you to address me in that way. You will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker.
Hon JENNY SALESA: On behalf of the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, in terms of price points, the prices that we are looking at are maximum prices. If I can give an example from the member’s own electorate, the example of a KiwiBuild home, in terms of McLennan, we have said that we will be building a house that will cost around about $579,000 for a 3-bedroom house. In Auckland, over the last year or so—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Nice try. Any further supplementaries?
Question No. 3—Finance
3. VIRGINIA ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What capital investment needs has he been made aware of ahead of Budget 2018?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): In the build-up to Budget 2018, I’ve been made aware of the scale of capital investment needs we’ve inherited. Treasury reports that our district health boards will require $10 billion worth of Crown investment over the next 10 years. We’ve also inherited issues in the education portfolio, where a further $1.1 billion is needed over the next four years to pay for school roll growth. We’ve also had to make up for the $9.7 billion shortfall in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. Fortunately, as I announced in a speech this morning, the Government’s net capital spending will total $42 billion over the next five years—that is $10 billion more than the five-year forecast by the previous Government before the election. We are committed to fixing the foundations of our communities, country, and economy.
Virginia Andersen: What has the Government done so far to address capital investment needs?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We’ve already made a significant difference with our 100-day plan. As part of last year’s mini-Budget, we allocated major capital investments that will make a long-term difference to the lives of New Zealanders. This included the $2 billion for our KiwiBuild project, and we have also restarted contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund after nine years of no Government contributions. This is crucial for us to safeguard superannuation for future generations.
Virginia Andersen: How is the Government funding these investments?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We’ve taken a number of actions to ensure that we can afford all of our much-needed capital commitments. Firstly, we reversed the previous Government’s poorly targeted tax cuts, which would have disproportionately benefited the wealthiest. We’re also taking a more responsible debt repayment track, giving ourselves headroom to make these essential investments. And we have been able to reprioritise around $700 million of funding over the next four years by repurposing spending that does not fit with our Government’s plans or does not represent value for money. We also have a growing economy that is contributing to our resources. These actions have allowed us to free up resources so we can correct the social and infrastructure deficits we’ve inherited. You will see this reflected in the Budget when it is announced a week today.
Question No. 4—Immigration
4. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he agree with the Prime Minister when she said this week that the Government’s current immigration policy is “exactly the same one we campaigned on”?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, and by way of example for the member, I’ll read the first line of the Labour Party election manifesto: “Labour will: Ensure that businesses are able to get genuinely skilled migrants when they need them.”
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Which position on the campaign commitments is correct—that the 20,000 to 30,000 reduction was an estimate, or the Labour leader’s response, when asked last year, “Will you cut tens of thousands of immigrants coming into the country?”, replied, “Yes; it has to be.”?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Again, let me quote from the Labour Party manifesto: “Our approach will be to focus on the skills and people we need to make New Zealand more prosperous. We will make it easier for regions that have room to grow to attract the people they need while reducing pressure on Auckland and other regions that are feeling the strain of population growth. Under Labour, our immigration system will deliver for everyone who lives in New Zealand regardless of whether you were born here or have chosen to make New Zealand your home. In total, our changes are estimated to reduce net migration by 20,000 to 30,000.”
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did he advise Independent Tertiary Education New Zealand that he no longer intended to implement the policy of restricting visas for so-called low-level sub-degree courses, which were estimated to reduce migration by 6,000 to 10,000?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The member will be aware that student visas, in-study work visas, and post-study work visas are an area of priority for this Government. We will have proposals available for public consultation in the very near future, and the member can look forward to that.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister replied to the question, referring to post-study work visas. The question was about work visas for low-level sub-degree courses.
Mr SPEAKER: My understanding is that the Minister actually referred to three groups, not only the post-study group. He did refer to the group the member’s talking about. I’m just going to check that—yes.
Kieran McAnulty: What have the regions said about the Government’s immigration policy?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I have been up and down the country, and I’ve talked to employers in all of our major industries. Many of them have expressed concerns about the hastily rushed through changes that were implemented last year, but they also expressed extremely strong support for this Government’s plan to take a more regional approach to immigration, and they understand that this will take a little bit of time to get it right.
Hon Dr Megan Woods: Has he or the Minister of Housing and Urban Development discussed with officials putting a pause on deporting individuals unlawfully in New Zealand who have construction skills?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: That is not a policy that this Government is pursuing.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not, “Was that Government policy?”, but “Did he or the Minister of Housing and Urban Development have a conversation with his officials about that?”
Mr SPEAKER: I’m going to ask the Minister to address the question.
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As the member will know, as a former Minister, ideas come up from all the over place. Ideas get considered. But that is not a policy that this Government is pursuing.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given that all but two of the 28 campaign pledges made by the Labour Party in 2017 do not require legislation, do not require appropriation, why on earth has he not pursued and implemented more than one of those other 26 policies?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I can understand why the member is eager to see some good immigration policy, after nine long years of waiting in the wilderness for something decent to happen. I understand why he’s hungry for it. But he will also understand that this Government has excellent officials working to support us to turn our manifesto commitments into policy that can be implemented, and the member will see the fruition of that work in the very near future.
Question No. 5—Biosecurity
5. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Does he stand by all his statements and actions in relation to Mycoplasma bovis?
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI (Associate Minister of Agriculture): on behalf of the Minister for Biosecurity: Yes, in the context in which they were said and made.
Hon Nathan Guy: When he said on Radio New Zealand he hadn’t thrown out the biosecurity Government-industry agreements (GIAs) but all decisions had to be fair, does he still support GIAs in the existing agreements signed by 16 organisations?
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: For the members, the GIA has not being signed by the New Zealand Dairy Board or Beef and Lamb New Zealand—
Hon Nathan Guy: It has.
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: It has not. I’ve been advised it has not been signed by the two industry players. All taxpayers and farmers believe that the cost should be shared in this response. It’s a reasonable expectation, and we want to make sure that it’s fair for all the players, including farmers.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, I’ve lost the members name.
Hon Members: Andrew Falloon.
Mr SPEAKER: Falloon. I’ve got Falloon. Andrew Falloon, thank you.
Andrew Falloon: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does his 80 percent compensation target of yesterday include requests from farms where culling has begun but has not been completed, as is the case with a mid-Canterbury farmer who tested positive in January—culling is being carried over several weeks, but not a cent of compensation has been paid despite loss of income, crippling costs, and enormous stress?
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: I’m advised that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are working very hard with the industries. Obviously, as the Minister, I can’t get involved with the individual farmers, but I can report to that member that they are working very hard on that information that they’ve received through the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) system and that for those that they do not have it, MPI officials are sitting at the kitchen tables with farmers to identify where those cattle are. We are addressing all the proposals that are received in a timely manner. Like the Minister said, 80 percent of claims that are fully applied are being addressed.
Hon Nathan Guy: Is he aware that five to six farms are on the brink of bankruptcy and one farmer has reportedly asked, “What is it going to take—me stringing myself up from a tree?”.
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: As I’ve said, officials are working actively as we speak to address the response from using the NAIT system, that that member introduced when he was in office, that hasn’t been working. We are working very hard. We have 250 officials working with farmers as we speak to address this response that that Government left—the mess when they were in Government last.
Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sir, I want to raise a matter for your attention—
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a point of order?
Hon Shane Jones: I’m making a point of order. The matter pertains to the content of the last question. You are very judicious in terms of how you judge the appropriateness of that question. Suggesting that the current Minister is responsible for that sort of death is totally unacceptable.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the tone of the point of order was not helpful. But I think that members do need to take a lot of care in the House when they are referring to matters like that. I think that members making that sort of suggestion will be seen my many mental health experts as being irresponsible, and members should contemplate carefully—should contemplate carefully—that sort of public approach. But, having said that, Mr Jones, it is, in the end, in this case, a matter of taste and judgment, and I don’t have responsibility for that at that level of question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just ask the member—it would be really good if this issue did not become quite a big public issue, for the very reason that I’ve made my comments.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: And I accept that, but we have just taken that advice from you and I’m sure we’ll follow it, but I would point out to Mr Jones that during his sabbatical from this place, it was regular practice for the Opposition to start questions saying, “Is the Minister aware of”, and then give a first name and outline some very dire circumstances that the alleged person was in. Now, I think that was bad practice. The reality is today’s was a quote, and Mr Jones might also reflect on why one of his colleagues shot back across the House a completely unacceptable interjection about what the questioner should do with himself in regards to that activity.
Hon Nathan Guy: If he’s so concerned about NAIT compliance, why will it take him 60 days after seeing the published report before he gets any advice from his officials? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I ask members on both sides—this is a very serious matter. It’s very important for lots of farming families around, and I would prefer—in fact, I’m going to rule—that this answer is going to be heard in silence.
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The main problem that is faced, as that member well knows, is that the modelling is trying to account for the animal movements that weren’t recorded in the national animal tracing system. However, the hard-working, diligent, proactive Minister for Biosecurity, Minister O’Connor, has tasked officials to work quickly on options for improving the NAIT system, including the reports that he’s receiving. We will make sure farmers are involved and understand the importance of that work. Unlike the previous Government, we are not going to muck around and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That’s enough.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister as to whether the Government would consider the possibility of a farm debt mediation bill—something which the Labour Party and New Zealand First have supported in the past, but which the National Party opposed?
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: Absolutely. We are a coalition Government of action and doing the right things by farmers throughout New Zealand, and they’re seeing it as we speak.
Hon Nathan Guy: Why are M. bovis cattle being trucked to Gore for slaughtering and ending up in Ōamaru’s general landfill when there is no food safety issues with the meat? Surely this seems wasteful.
Hon MEKA WHAITIRI: As I said, if we had the NAIT system properly implemented, then we would have had clear records on the movements of animals. We are looking at the NAIT to improve it so the tracking system is better than what we’ve actually inherited.
Hon Nathan Guy: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question—nothing to do with animal tracing movements. It was why—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member actually did ask: “How come dead animals were being taken to some place other than where they were slaughtered?” That is a matter of where animals—you know, it’s not up to me to make a judgment about the quality of the answer, and I have no idea when tracing stops, and the member’s not going to sort that out by point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Look, I know you can’t seek leave on someone else’s behalf, but I would like to use this point of order to indicate to the Rt Hon Winston Peters that we’d be most interested to see an urgent farm debt management bill brought to the House so that these poor guys who are suffering can be paid out—nothing will happen.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Speaking to the point of order, despite the belated sense of responsibility of that questioner, that was not a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think we could say the same about both of them. Thank you—we’ll move on to the next question.
Question No. 6—Defence
6. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister of Defence: What progress, if any, has been made regarding aircrew training capability for the Royal New Zealand Air Force?
Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Thank you, Mr Speaker—great question. Today, I announced that the first of four leased Beechcraft King Air 350 (KA350) aircraft has been certified for use by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), marking a step-change in the future of aircrew training. The new aircraft will replace the Beechcraft King Air 200 fleet, which provides RNZAF multi-engine pilot training and light airlift drop operation, such as transport and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The new fleet will also enable specialist crew training, such as navigation, flight training, mission management, and communications to be brought back to New Zealand after more than two decades of being based in Australia. In an additional boost to air force capability, two of the aircraft will be configured to assist in the important maritime surveillance task across our exclusive economic zone. A contract worth over $10 million per year for 10 years will be delivered with no increase in operating costs for the Defence Force. The remaining three aircraft will be delivered progressively over the next year.
Darroch Ball: What is the benefit to the air force of having the KA350 capability in New Zealand?
Hon RON MARK: Great question.
Hon Mark Mitchell: You can get to the Wairarapa quicker.
Hon RON MARK: We’ll get to that. We’ll get to that shortly, I’m sure. Aircrew training of New Zealand defence personnel has taken place in Australia since 1993, where the students were based for one year at a time. This brings that training home by having the KA350 capability in New Zealand. New Zealand Defence Force personnel required to undergo aircrew training will no longer need to travel offshore for long periods. This reduces the inefficiencies related to remote training both in relation to timing and cost. Additionally, it will mean that the extensive bridging training will no longer be required, and it will provide flexibility by having crew ready and accessible for other tasks here at home in New Zealand.
Darroch Ball: How does the lease of four KA350s affect local industry and jobs in New Zealand?
Hon RON MARK: More good news. The prime contractor for the KA350s is Hawker Pacific New Zealand Ltd. With 18 full-time employees working at Ōhākea, Hawker Pacific employ local and New Zealand – wide businesses to provide services and equipment—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: How’re we going with the P-8s?
Hon RON MARK: —including flight interiors—put the question—national aircraft interiors, trade tools, Wormald, and NZ Safety. Mr Mitchell might remember that the lease also supports Marops, an award-winning and rapidly growing Auckland-based software company, which is working alongside of Hawker Pacific to integrate the training mission systems with the aircraft and the sensor suite.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: P-8s are dead.
Hon RON MARK: Ask the question.
Darroch Ball: How successful have recent pilot training capabilities projects been overall?
Hon RON MARK: Another great question. The arrival of the KA350s completes the full revitalisation of pilot and aircrew training activities for the New Zealand Air Force, bringing them—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Plenty of pilots, no planes.
Hon RON MARK: —right up to date to the highest performance in safety standards, Mr Brownlee. Basic training is now undertaken on the 11 new Beechcraft T-6C Texan aircraft, supported by simulators and other advanced ground-based training systems, which have also, thankfully, and spectacularly allowed the regeneration of our air force aerobatic team the Black Falcons. Fantastic news, isn’t it? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Well, does the member want a question?
Hon RON MARK: Yeah, he does.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I’m very tempted to ask him if they can land at Masterton, or if they can go to Carterton.
Hon RON MARK: Mr Speaker, probably, yes. We’ll soon find out. Pop over, we’ll give you flight. But one thing I can tell you, Mr Speaker, they will not be able to take Mark Mitchell from his home, 20 minutes down the road from Whenuapai—
Mr SPEAKER: OK. That’s enough. [Interruption] Order! All right, that’s enough. Thank you.
Question No. 7—Education
7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his reported comments that he only found out in October last year that the $1.13 billion Christchurch Schools Rebuild programme was funded over successive years?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I stand by my actual statement that combined with the need to fund roll growth, urgent repair work, and there being no money left in the kitty to finish the Christchurch Schools Rebuild programme, we’re facing a whopping $1.1 billion hole over the next four years, and that is what I was alerted to upon becoming a Minister.
Hon Nikki Kaye: When did he know about the existing Canterbury school rebuild programme being appropriated on a yearly basis, and why didn’t he include it in Labour’s fiscal costings before the election?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The member didn’t listen to my first answer. I knew about that when the Government announced it at the time, because I criticised their decision not to appropriate the funding for their commitment at the time, and it was included in our pre-election plans.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Is he saying that the Christchurch Press was wrong when they reported him and his press statement saying that it was a hole, when he is now saying that he did know about the Canterbury school rebuild and the existing funding that was to be appropriated? Who’s wrong: the Christchurch Press or him?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The member clearly didn’t listen to my answer to the primary question. It was a reported comment, not a direct quote.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Has he seen any reports recently in relation to Christchurch schools; and, if so, what did they say?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes, indeed, I have. Just this week, I’ve seen a report that advised of the excellent decision by the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration to use the special powers of her portfolio to fast track the return of Redcliffs School to its community. The school’s been operating out of its community since June 2011 and were threatened with closure previously. It’s great news that it’s now returning to Redcliffs, and I am reliably informed that the school is ready to return.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Why won’t he admit that he is classifying business-as-usual property spend and existing programmes like the rebuild for Canterbury as holes to cover up his negligence for either not including them in his costings or justifying why he won’t be able to deliver his education promises?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: What was negligent was leaving a $1.1 billion capital deficit in the education budget—17,000 additional students who wouldn’t have a classroom or a school to go to if this Government didn’t pick up the pieces left behind by the previous administration.
Question No. 8—Employment
8. LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by his statement in the House on Tuesday that “we won’t be punishing everybody who mucks up”?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): I come from a background where giving people a second, third, and fourth chance is the norm. Forgiveness means everything in our communities, and not giving up on people has been part of our lifelong philosophy. Of course I stand by my statement.
Lawrence Yule: Is an unemployed New Zealander “mucking up” if they refuse to pick fruit while receiving the job seeker’s benefit?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: There are a lot of circumstances around different individuals. It’s not just black and white. It’s easy to make that assessment to start off with, but we have to look at what’s happening in the family, and I’m disappointed that that man from Ngati Kahungunu is talking in this manner.
Lawrence Yule: Should unemployed New Zealanders turn down fruit picking because they don’t believe it is dignified work?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Again, a lot of circumstances come in to play. This Government is committed to people having dignified work. Doing what the member said in terms of getting out there—
Hon Mark Mitchell: Picking fruit—say it.
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Well, no, absolutely—picking fruit is dignified work. There’s no shame in picking fruit. However, a lot of circumstances come in to play, and that member should know that. It’s not easy, sometimes, to move 50 kilometres. It’s not easy, sometimes, to walk away from your family. It’s not easy for people to give up everything just to pick fruit.
Tamati Coffey: Has the Minister made any other statements recently about supporting people that make mistakes?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I’ve made multiple statements as the Minister of Employment around—
Hon Member: Multiple mistakes?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I’ve made multiple statements, I should say, as the Minister of Employment—
Hon Member: You were right the first time.
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: —I did say that, yeah—around encouraging our communities and our employers to not give up on people who need greater support, to keep them connected to the workforce. I’ve encouraged them to provide pastoral care—something the National Party has no idea of—so that they will look at all avenues that are barriers to employment and help our communities work through that, whether that’s through their travel, accommodation, childcare, or community commitments, or health. The Government’s intention is to lift people up, not keep them down. Punitive measures are not the answer here.
Lawrence Yule: Is it the Government’s policy to use refugees to fill labour shortages, as proposed by Iain Lees-Galloway in a recent visit to Hawke’s Bay?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: We know we have a crisis at the moment. We’ll work through short-term solutions to achieve our goal. We know there’s a gap there—there’s a hole. We’ll do what the National Party was doing for nine years and fill the gap for a short while, but we’re committed to local labour and we’re committed to a comprehensive strategy in terms of employment down there in the Bay of Plenty, and we’re committed to employing New Zealanders first.
Lawrence Yule: If it is good enough for refugees to pick fruit, why is it not good enough for unemployed New Zealanders to pick fruit?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Can I just say I’m stunned that the former Mayor of Hastings and a Kahungunu man is asking such stupid questions. The reality is because, as he well knows, people have big families, people have commitments, people can’t just move at the drop of a hat like that person, who has an uncaring and insensitive attitude to his local people. He should be ashamed of himself, and I hope Ngāti Kahungunu totally dismisses him. Some Ngati Porou are in the House, and I’m sure they’re shocked at his questions too.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m going to remind the Minister—and it’s a ruling that hasn’t been pulled out for a while—that it is not appropriate to refer to people in the gallery. I think we allow it more than we used to, but calling individuals or groups of individuals into matters which are not directly related is certainly outside previous Speakers’ rulings, thank you.
Lawrence Yule: When he said on Tuesday, “We won’t go down the easy route and just hire foreigners all the time”, why did he think it is easier to hire foreigners than encourage unemployed New Zealanders into gainful employment?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: We have a shortfall at the moment, and we’ll do what we do. We’ll do what we have to do right now, but we have a strategy that we’re going to roll out. We’re working with the growers, we’re working with the employers, and we’re working with the unions. The reality is we have a bit of a crisis going on. You have to do what you have to do to get through the problems, as that member should know.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I’ll wait to the end of the question, because it may get worse yet.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! Can the member resume his seat. I’m going to ask Mr Brownlee to stand, withdraw, and apologise for his misuse of the point of order system.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister give an assurance to whoever might pick the fruit, local or from outside of the Hawke’s Bay, that when they get down to Hastings as part of their employment contract they will not be poisoned by the water?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member does not have responsibility. [Interruption] I think the member has—[Interruption] Order! I’m ruling that, like Ms Salesa’s approach earlier, it’s in the category of a nice try and might even have made his point, but it’s not an area of responsibility for employment contracts.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’d disagree with you that it was a nice try. There was nothing nice about that at all, and the whole tenor of the answer from the Minister who was being questioned quite legitimately—if you look at the questions that were asked, there were no political barbs in them, no innuendo in them, just straight questions about matters that relate to his portfolio and what he has been saying publicly. Yet throughout, he resorted to very personal attacks on my colleague. Now, while that doesn’t particularly bother us, it does, I think, reflect poorly on the Parliament, and I think Ministers who resort to that need to have it called to their attention that that style of answer does very little for either their own prestige, the prestige of the Government, or, in fact, the elucidation of Parliament itself.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I’m just going to reiterate a comment that I made earlier that both in questions and in answers I can’t be—unless something is outrageous—an arbiter of taste. I think the member is correct in his characterisation of the replies, but we are talking about an area where there is, I think it’s fair to say, a fierce contest of philosophies, and that was playing out both in the questions and in the answers. But I think members have all heard what Mr Brownlee said, and wise Ministers would take it on board.
Question No. 9—Social Development
9. GREG O’CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister for Social Development: What data-related announcements has she recently made?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): On Monday, the Government announced that we will be undertaking broad consultation with the social sector, seeking New Zealanders’ views on social well-being and how to best promote and use people’s personal information. From May to August, the Social Investment Agency will be engaging with the social sector in 28 locations across the country. This initiative is the start of building a systematic approach to the way we work with data and wider evidence to improve how Government makes decisions and delivers services.
Greg O’Connor: What else is being done to ensure improved practices around data use?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has developed a framework that it is putting into use that ensures privacy, human rights, and ethics are built into the way they develop new services. It is a set of smart tools that will help those designing services to pause right from the start and ask the vital question: just because we have the information, is it right to use it?
Greg O’Connor: Why is this work important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Data and analytics have a valuable role to play in designing and delivering services that work for people. However, they must be used responsibly and carefully. It’s important that the public trusts how Government uses data and is part of ensuring the rules that govern it—a concept that the previous Government failed miserably to understand. As a Government, we are taking tangible steps to build a culture of treating people with dignity and respect. This includes respecting people’s privacy, human rights, and maintaining high ethical standards when it comes to their information. The fact that MSD’s work has been welcomed and endorsed by the Privacy Commissioner speaks volumes.
Question No. 11—State Services
11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government): Does she stand by her statement that this Government will be “the most open, most transparent Government that New Zealand has ever had”?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of State Services) on behalf of the Associate Minister of State Services (Open Government): Yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why has the Minister re-dated or blocked nearly all—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member meant “redacted”.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Redacted—why has she redacted or blocked nearly all of the report on the open Government strategy recently released under the Official Information Act, and does the Minister see an irony in reports on the open Government strategy being kept secret?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In answer to the second part of the question, no. In answer to the rest of the question, the clue was in the middle bit of his question—that it was released in accordance with the Official Information Act and the criteria set out in the Official Information Act.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister telling the House that by re-dating—
Mr SPEAKER: Redacting.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: —redacting all of the open Government strategy—
Mr SPEAKER: Can the member start again, please?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister advise the House of why it is acceptable to block out all of the Government’s open Government strategy in the name of being the most open and transparent Government ever?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Redacting is part of the Official Information Act. I encourage the member to read the Act.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is it necessary for reports to her on the open Government strategy to be kept secret?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because they were released in accordance with the Official Information Act.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is it consistent with the Government’s commitment to be the most open and transparent Government ever for the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media to refuse to release a key letter between the Radio New Zealand chair and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment chief executive, when the document has already been made public by the select committee?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’m unfamiliar with the details of that particular case. If the document’s already in the public domain, then there’s no need to release it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain as to why she would give the reason for not releasing the document as the importance of confidentiality, when the select committee has released that very letter?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It could well be an issue of timing. I’m not familiar with the exact details of that issue.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why does making the Government’s open Government strategy secret somehow comply with the Government’s ambition to be the most open and transparent Government ever?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government is doing a number of things in this area, but I’d encourage the member to read the Official Information Act.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the Official Information Act request provided to my office in which the Government’s open Government strategy is kept secret.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just check: is the member seeking to table the request or the response?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I am seeking to table the document that’s been provided to my office, under the Official Information Act, where the bulk of it has been kept secret.
Mr SPEAKER: The response. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none. The document can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

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