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Parliament: Questions and Answers – May 23

Press Release – Hansard

Question No. 1Prime Minister 1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy LeaderNational) to the Prime Minister : Does she stand by all of her Government’s policies and actions? Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister) : Yes. Hon Paula Bennett : Can she confirm …ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s policies and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Can she confirm that as a result of her delay to the implementation of the winter energy payment, superannuitants will be around $300 worse off this year than they would have been following National’s proposed tax cuts?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, the member will be aware we very deliberately cancelled those tax cuts so that we could invest in the low and middle income New Zealanders who needed that investment more than the top 10 percent of income earners, who would get $400 million worth. We have, however, identified that superannuitants experience things like winter poverty. We would have very much liked our payment to have come in earlier. It starts on 1 July and then it runs through till September. When it’s fully implemented, those superannuitants can expect to receive $700 as a couple—$450—but, again, this year it is less than that, unfortunately.
Hon Paula Bennett: How can she justify waiting till 1 July for the winter energy payment because, as she said previously, it was difficult to implement earlier, and yet she could bring in a fees-free policy on 1 January worth $2.8 billion?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the member would well know, having been the Minister for Social Development, making the largest changes to the welfare system in over a decade can be a complex exercise. We deliberately created a mini-Budget in December in order to expedite bringing in the winter energy payment, the Best Start payment, and Working for Families changes, and managed to do it in a time that I think even that side of the House would have found challenging, given their tax cut changes didn’t come in till the following year.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is the Prime Minister really leading us to believe that it would have been harder to universally give a one-off payment to all superannuitants on 1 May than it is to actually do the difficulties of different courses, 294,000 students, on 1 January for mixed payments?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with education Minister Chris Hipkins that the fees-free policy will drive a 15 percent increase in student numbers?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Taking into account that we have to reverse a trend under that last Government of declining enrolment in post-secondary education, which we are trying to reverse. Of course, the members on the other side of the House have taken an unfortunate and narrow view of the need for us to have a greater proportion of our population in post-secondary education that includes those who have never studied before, who might be factory floor works or, indeed, McDonald’s workers, to go to wānanga or polytech to retrain, boost our productivity, and transform our economy.
Hon Paula Bennett: Let me rephrase: does she agree with the education Minister that the fees-free policy will drive a 15 percent increase in student numbers, particularly as she just said and accused us of not—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The member finished her question some time ago.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The point that I was making is that we had declining enrolment numbers. In fact, we did point out that, actually, for the last year our expectations were lower than that. We know that we have to make up ground, because, as I’ve said, there was a tendency for post-secondary education to start declining, and we’re trying to reverse that trend. I would have thought the other side of the House would be a bit more ambitious about the options for New Zealanders to retrain and educate themselves.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is she concerned about the effectiveness of her flagship $2.8 billion fees-free tertiary policy given Treasury is now forecasting that there will not be a 15 percent increase, not a 5 percent—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member’s finished. She’s had two legs already.
Hon Paula Bennett: No I haven’t. Not even no increase but, instead, 900 fewer students. Actually, that is the relevant point, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the two points I’d like to make—
Hon Gerry Brownlee:I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —is that this side of—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Gerry, I’ve got this. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, that was clearly an interruption of a point of order, so, clearly, you’ll want to rule on that.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I hadn’t yet called the member.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, you had, actually. The Hansard will show you had.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if that is correct, I apologise to the member. The member now has the call. Would he like to make his point of order?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes. Your suggestion that the question is now over seems to me to fly in the face of there needing to be some verification for questions. If you want us to start writing novels before the actual question ends, we can do that, but some flexibility in being able to make a point with the question is not unreasonable given that everyone knows question time is a time when the Government defends itself and has a much greater opportunity to do that. That should be couched in terms of the information given or provided by the question, and that’s the point of verification.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I thank the member for his advice. I will listen carefully in the future. It would probably be easier to judge and less complicated if there weren’t addendums before the question started as well as unnecessary information for the purpose of the question during it.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The point I was making was actually that the member is reinforcing the issue that we had. We had a declining number of people engaging in post-secondary education, regardless of whether they were school leavers or those already on the factory floor. The OECD said we needed to do something about it; the IMF said we needed to do something about it—this Government is. It may take time, but it will be worth it.
Hon Paula Bennett: In November, when her education Minister made his statement that it would increase by 15 percent, did he know it was declining, or is she just using that as an excuse now to break her promise?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We all knew it was declining, we all knew we had to do something about it, and we all know that we’ve got a productivity challenge in New Zealand. This side of the House is willing to take that challenge on; that side would rather see barriers to education continue.
Hon Paula Bennett: So why was a $2.8 billion bribe for tertiary students more important than her promises around health, education, and police that she’s promised?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. I’m going to require the deputy leader of the National Party to rephrase that question in a way that she knows is within Standing Orders, and she’s not getting an extra question for doing it; this will be a new supplementary.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why was a $2.8 billion payment for tertiary students more important than her promises around health, education, and police?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, a narrow view of the policy given this will have a greater potential impact for those workers who have never ever engaged in post-secondary education. But my second question: if it’s a bribe, will you reverse it?
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You ruled out a word that I wasn’t to use, and yet then the Prime Minister is free to use it in her answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Prime Minister could well have been reflecting the inappropriate comment of the member. [Interruption] Order! Order! If members can’t see a description of someone’s own policy as being different from a description of another person’s policy—picking up the words inappropriately used I think is not out of order. What I thought the member was going to object to was the Prime Minister’s reference to the second person, and I want to remind her that she should keep me out of the debate and out of the questions.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, all things considered, then, do we get that question back?
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why was $900 million—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Opposition just lost five questions. Gerry Brownlee will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, your job is to keep order in this House, not to prevent the Opposition from challenging the Government on their programmes. Your repeated recall of questions from us does that, and I think that is most inappropriate and bad for our democracy.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank the member for his advice, but I will not have senior members referring to me in the way that he did by way of interjection. I do regard what he has just done as grossly disorderly, and I will contemplate what will happen. I think members know that, in the past, anyone who made that comment would’ve been tossed out of the House, and I don’t want it to be my practice to do that—especially to a senior member of the House—but the member should know better, and I will contemplate what I will do as question time goes on.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the point I do want to pick up is that I think the use of taking away and gaining supplementary questions does question our ability as the Opposition to actually put the Government on notice, to actually ask the questions that we have a right to do as part of our democracy. My colleague may not have made that point as clearly as he wanted to, but that’s certainly how this side of the House feels.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I now regard that member as being grossly disorderly. She has again relitigated the point that I’ve been ruling on. The member knows well that supplementary questions are at my discretion. Any supplementary questions are at my discretion. I’ve chosen to use this approach. As a result of it, to date, the National Party have had 22 more supplementaries than they would’ve had according to the numbers given by the Clerk. They have done very well out of the process, mainly as a result of disorderly behaviour by Mr Jones and a couple of his colleagues. But the National Party is ahead on it, and I absolutely reject any suggestion that the National Party have not been able to ask the number of questions over this Parliament that they would’ve been able to otherwise. That’s just not true.
Hon Paula Bennett: Speaking to the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, there’s no point of order. If the member wants a further supplementary, she can take it. If not, we’ll move on.
Hon Paula Bennett: No, I’m leaving. What a waste of time.
Mr SPEAKER: For how long?
Hon Paula Bennett: Oh, just for today.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.
Question No. 2—Finance
2. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, in the context in which they were given and undertaken.
Hon Amy Adams: If he stands by his statement that each of the decisions he made as part of Budget 2018 will improve the well-being of New Zealanders, does he think that an Auckland family paying $700 a year more to fill up their car because of his Government’s new taxes when the price of petrol is already rising helps to take the pressure off the squeezed middle?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Whilst I don’t necessarily accept the arithmetic, I would make the point that that family is likely to be receiving significant help through the Families Package, the Best Start package, the spending on transport infrastructure, and many other initiatives in the Budget.
Hon Amy Adams: At what price per litre might he ask transport Minister, Phil Twyford, to reconsider implementing fuel excise tax increases and regional fuel taxes, as petrol is now heading towards $3 a litre?
Mr SPEAKER: I’m just going to halt the member while I contemplate the ministerial responsibility for it. No, I will let the question go. But it is right at the edge—and possibly over—the Minister of Finance’s responsibility.
Hon DAVID PARKER: That’s speculative. It’s a matter for the responsibility of the Minister of Transport, and I’m sure he’d be happy to answer that question, but I would also make the point that if petrol prices become more expensive because of the cost of imported petrol, it’s all the more important that we have an efficient transport system in Auckland.
Hon Amy Adams: Is it in the best interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders for a full-time worker on the average wage to be hit by the highest marginal tax rate, as they are forecast to do in just a few years?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Again, that’s a hypothetical question. We have a number of Budgets coming. We’ve got a tax review coming. The member will have to wait and see how that unfolds, but, unlike the member just last week, we’ve never promised a thousand dollars a week for every working New Zealander. Early estimates put that at a cost of $136 billion, doubling Government expenditure and breaking the bank.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have noticed that Amy Adams has a penchant for asking questions and then intervening five or six times—[Interruption]—just like now. In the last answer given by my colleague she intervened six times, and that’s simply not acceptable. If she wants an answer, then have the decency to keep quiet and hear it.
Mr SPEAKER: I’ve got a lot of hope for politeness in the House, I want to tell the right honourable gentleman—not quite that much.
Hon Amy Adams: How much extra tax will New Zealanders have to pay before he considers the Government has enough to meet all of its promises? Is it the $20 billion a year more that’s already forecast or even more than that?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Even excluding the Christchurch earthquake expenditure by the last Government, this Government’s projected expenditure as a percentage of GDP is lower than it was under her Government.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very much around the Government’s tax revenue; how much tax comes in. Government expenditure is an entirely different category. He didn’t come near to talking about the projections—
Mr SPEAKER: I’ll let the member ask the question again.
Hon Amy Adams: How much extra tax will New Zealand have to pay before he considers the Government has enough to meet all of its promises; the $20 billion a year more that is already forecast to be paid or is it even more than that?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Budget forecasts are in the Budget for everyone to read. I would make the point that the taxes collected by the last Government increased by $20 billion—under her Government—which is the same number she complains is forecast for this one.
Hon Amy Adams: When he said in question time yesterday, “Well, the previous Government also had some residual cash deficits in their forecasts.”, was he aware that the previous Government’s forecasts showed 13 residual cash surpluses and just one deficit over the next 14 years, while this Government’s showed 13 deficits and just one surplus?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I reject that. We’re forecasting surpluses throughout the forecast period, which matches the nine surpluses in a row we ran when last in Government. It wasn’t us that increased Government debt by $49 billion in the last year; it was the last Government.
Question No. 3—Trade and Export Growth
3. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: What announcements has the Government made regarding trade and export growth?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Trade and Export Growth): Last night, the European Union and the New Zealand Government announced we’ve agreed a start to free-trade agreement negotiations. The European Union is already our third-largest trading partner with two-way trade worth more than $20 billion. A free-trade agreement should increase trade even further, offering significant economic gains for New Zealand and the European Union. It’s critical to our interests that New Zealand works together with like-minded countries to combat the rising tide of protectionism around the world, and that’s what this coalition Government is doing.
Dr Duncan Webb: What has this coalition Government done to get negotiations with the EU started?
Hon DAVID PARKER: At the same time as this coalition Government has been rebuilding public support and confidence in trade at home, we’ve been getting on with trying to see the launch of negotiations. In that regard, much of the credit belongs to the Prime Minister, who on her recent visit with President Macron and Chancellor Merkel reintegrated the values this Government shares with the EU. I have no doubt that her advocacy for New Zealand, particularly with France, helped get their support for the launch of negotiations.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Promote that man!
Hon DAVID PARKER: I would think that even the Hon Gerry Brownlee will thank the Prime Minister for her exemplary leadership.
Dr Duncan Webb: How will a potential EU – New Zealand free-trade agreement benefit the New Zealand environment, economy, and workers?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The exact shape of the free-trade agreement with the European Union will be determined over the coming negotiating rounds, but we expect a high-quality agreement that gives greater market access for New Zealand’s exports in both goods and services; high standards on labour, the environment, and climate change; and the EU forecast itself that the agreement could add more than $2 billion a year to the New Zealand economy, which they predict, and I agree, will flow through to increases in wages and jobs for New Zealand workers. The launch of these negotiations is yet another example of this Government building the foundations for a sustainable, high-wage, high-value economy and a fairer society.
Hon Todd McClay: Did he ask the Prime Minister whether she sought a commitment from the French President to significantly improve New Zealand’s dairy and meat exports to level the playing field with other countries we compete against in the EU market?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That is the point of the negotiation, and the Prime Minister at the time, in response to media questions, recognised that that point of tension will be one of the very issues that our negotiators will be working hard on.
Hon Todd McClay: Can the Minister confirm that he will not protest this trade agreement, or will he need to add the words “comprehensive and progressive” to its name to support it?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that there will be no need for any such protest because this will be a much better-quality deal than that that was served up in respect of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development
4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Are there income limits that prospective KiwiBuild buyers will need to meet; if so, what are they?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Criteria for prospective buyers in the KiwiBuild scheme are still being developed. However, KiwiBuild homes are modest starter homes for first-home owner-occupiers. Cabinet is yet to decide whether there will be any income requirements, and, if so, what they may be.
Hon Judith Collins: Since he has previously told the media that there are no limits, would that mean that a returning New Zealand – born couple who have spent their working lives offshore and have, say, a $300,000 deposit could be eligible for a KiwiBuild house, even though they’ve never worked or paid taxes in New Zealand?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I was correct in saying that there are no income limits, because the decision has not been made yet. There are no income limits, but on this side of the House, we know how hard it is, even for young Kiwis who have good jobs, to buy their first home. A generation of young New Zealanders with good jobs like—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister has answered the question.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Would it be fair if a New Zealand – born couple who had worked all their working lives in New Zealand cannot fund the deposit for a KiwiBuild home, yet their taxes are being used to subsidise those who are wealthy enough to buy one?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We’ve always seen KiwiBuild as an aspirational, affordable homeownership policy. That member should realise that people with jobs like teachers, journalists, and builders who are doing well and earning good money—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am going to interrupt the Minister and ask him—I don’t think he’s actually addressed the question asked yet. He will start by doing that.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: KiwiBuild homes are not subsidised. With KiwiBuild, we are choosing to build houses in the lower quartile; we’re choosing to build the affordable homes that the private market is currently not building. There is no subsidy.
Marja Lubeck: How will the Government assist first-home buyers to be eligible for, and buy, KiwiBuild homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We have an ambitious plan to ensure that young Kiwi families can own their own homes. We’ve begun to tackle student loans with our first years’ free tertiary education. We’re increasing the supply of houses to stem the rises in rents and house prices. We’re building a more productive and high-wage economy. Our Families Package will put more money in the pockets of families, and we’re backing higher wages through fairer employment laws—the list just goes on and on.
Hon Judith Collins: Will KiwiBuild homeowners be allowed to rent out rooms for profit in their KiwiBuild home?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: As I said, the rules around eligibility and income testing, they are yet to be made, but there’s only a few more sleeps before we can give the answer to that question.
Hon Judith Collins: Is he aware that Auckland Council is considering adding $50,000 to the development cost for each new housing section, and will this extra $50,000 per section mean that KiwiBuild buyers will need extra income in order to fund their purchase?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I am aware that Auckland Council are considering taking that action, and I consider it a legacy of nine years of the former Government failing to do anything to reform infrastructure financing. The lack of finance for new infrastructure for development is the main roadblock to our cities growing. It is the main cause of expensive housing in Auckland. That Government failed to do anything about it for nine years.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he agree with his Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment officials that first-home KiwiBuild buyers will need an income of $114,000 a year, or does he still maintain that he was right when he said $60,000 a year will do it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I would note—let me see the source. I would note that some half of first-home buyers and renters who are earning more than $170,000 can buy their homes in the Auckland housing market. There is a wide range of people who are going to be able to buy KiwiBuild houses. I’m surprised that that member is suggesting there should be income limits.
Question No. 5—Transport
5. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Is the price of fuel a factor that he will be taking into consideration when he makes future decisions on fuel taxes; if so, will he drop his proposals for increased fuel taxes if the price of fuel reaches $3 per litre?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): International oil price fluctuations have a far greater influence on petrol prices than the policy of the previous Government and this one of regular small increases in the petrol excise. When setting petrol taxes, we must balance affordability and the infrastructure that New Zealand needs. Petrol taxes are what enable us to invest in regional roads, safety improvements, transport, and rail.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now the member will stand and answer the second part of the question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It’s a hypothetical, Mr Speaker.
Jami-Lee Ross: Will he drop his proposals to increase fuel taxes if the price of petrol reaches $3 a litre?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That is a hypothetical.
Jami-Lee Ross: Has he seen reports that the price of fuel could reach $3 a litre, or are those commentators just like the “kids at Treasury”—disconnected from reality?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I have seen reports that between January and June 2015, petrol prices increased by 40c a litre. The then Minister Simon Bridges went ahead with an excise increase in July.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he remain committed to higher fuel prices, as he is proposing with his fuel tax increases?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’m not committed to higher fuel prices, but I am committed to making the investments that this country needs to deliver a 21st century transport system and invest in the growth in our country’s biggest city, which is currently crippled by nine years of under-investment and neglect.
Jami-Lee Ross: If he’s not committed to increasing fuel prices through increased taxation, will he drop his proposals for increased fuel taxes in the face of record high fuel prices that we’re now looking at?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Our Government is committed to making the investments that our country needs in a 21st century transport system. When that party was in Government, they increased the fuel excise six times in nine years, by 17c a litre, at a time when petrol prices were going through the roof.
Dr Deborah Russell: What alternatives are there to excise increases?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The reality is pretty simple. If we’re going to have less revenue to pay for transport projects, we would have to run more debt, cancel more projects, or both. The Opposition is asking us simultaneously to have less revenue, run less debt, and spend more. The maths just don’t add up, and all those demands came from the same party. That member, Jami-Lee Ross, needs to come clean and tell New Zealanders what projects he would cut.
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Has the Minister seen reports that between January and June 2015, petrol prices increased by 40c a litre, but then Minister Simon Bridges went ahead with an excise increase in July?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I have seen reports that showed that petrol went up by 40c a litre during that period—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Thank you.
Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development
6. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How will Budget 2018 start the rebuilding of public housing in New Zealand?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Through Budget 2018, the Government will add a net additional 6,400 public homes—that is, homes provided by Housing New Zealand and community housing providers—for families in need, and will also expand the Housing First programme. As at 31 March this year, there were 66,582 public housing places. In four years’ time, that number will increase to over 73,000 homes. Budget 2018 is the first step in rebuilding public housing.
Paul Eagle: How does this increase compare to recent years?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The number of public houses decreased by 1,500 and the number of State houses decreased by 6,000 over the last decade. It’s going to take a long time to catch up on a decade of neglect, but Budget 2018 is the first step in ensuring that every Kiwi family has a warm, dry, and secure roof over their heads.
Paul Eagle: Where will these public houses be built?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we need to build more public houses in every community—yes, even in Epsom. Around 3,500 houses will be in Auckland, with the balance being in parts of New Zealand where the need is greatest, such as Hastings, which recently saw an increase in the housing wait-list of 86 percent. These families will enhance the communities that they move into, and I’m proud of this Government’s commitment to rebuilding public housing.
Question No. 7—Education
7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his promises in education; if so, does he stand by his statement in February 2018 regarding ending school donations, “As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point”?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes, and yes.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Why did he say, in January, to the Nelson Mail that a school donations proposal was working its way through Cabinet and “This restricts me from making any comment further at this stage.”, and when did that schools donations Cabinet paper go through?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because it was working its way through the process. It was called the Budget process.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he reimburse schools and parents who are contacting electorate offices saying they relied on his broken promise to end school donations in the first Budget, and how will they find funding from somewhere else?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has been very clear that we have three Budgets in which to deliver the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. We have, thus far, delivered one of the three Budgets.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he promise that funding will be provided in Budget 2019 to end school donations?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: All of the commitments in the Speech from the Throne are subject to further Budget consideration if they weren’t funded in this year’s Budget. There are two further Budgets that the Government will be delivering over this term of Government.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How does he justify breaking his explicit promise to parents to scrap the school donations in his first Budget when his Government is budgeting a surplus of $3.1 billion, the tax take is up by $1 billion, and the Government can afford to give millions to wealthy students, Swedish diplomats—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: To be clear, the Government was never going to be able to deliver all of the commitments we made in our first Budget, and we’ve always been very clear that we weren’t going to be able to deliver those things in our first Budget. That’s why we have a three-year term, and three Budgets on which to deliver on them.
Question No. 8—Social Development
8. ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What changes can New Zealanders expect on 1 July as part of the Families Package?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Significant changes will occur beginning 1 July. We are boosting the incomes of low to middle income families by increasing the family tax credit and raising the abatement threshold, reinstating the independent earner tax credit, and introducing the new Best Start and winter energy payments. We prioritised work in these areas as part of our 100-day plan because far too many New Zealanders were in need of support. This Government is committed to action.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: Why is this important? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! This will be a short reply.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: We know that over the last 10 years, people have been increasingly doing it tough. Our Families Package measures address the needs of low to middle income New Zealanders, working New Zealanders, those out of work, children, and our superannuitants. We aren’t placing our hopes on the trickle-down theory, because, clearly, it hasn’t worked.
Anahila Kanongata’a-Suisuiki: Why should all superannuitants be eligible for the winter energy payment?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: We’re seeing growing poverty amongst our senior citizens. Fewer are going into retirement owning their own homes, and more are presenting at Work and Income offices across the country with hardship needs. In 2016-17, almost 10,000 seniors suffered from pneumonia, and that doesn’t take into account other respiratory conditions. I’ve been told on numerous occasions of senior citizens staying in bed all day to keep warm. That’s not right, and this Government is committed to doing it better.
Question No. 9—Energy and Resources
9. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What is she doing to promote informed investment decisions about minerals exploration and production, as required by the Crown Minerals Act—[Member resumed seat]
Mr SPEAKER: Can the member finish the question, please?
Jonathan Young: —1991. Sorry, sir.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Since becoming Minister, I have been engaging with a range of stakeholders where mineral exploration and production have been discussed. For example, next week I’ll be attending the minerals forum in Queenstown, where I’ll give a ministerial address to delegates and attend a stakeholder dinner. I have met with the industry peak body group and worker representatives to discuss Government direction and policies, and I have visited Oceania’s goldmine in Waihī. I also note that in March this year my officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment participated in a large international showcase in Canada to promote investment in New Zealand’s mineral potential.
Jonathan Young: Did she intend her decision to end new offshore exploration to be a signal to the international investors and bankers to avoid New Zealand exploration—as that has been the outcome?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I reject the premise in that question. What I would point out to the member is that, actually, the largest drop-off in surrenders in permits peaked in August last year, prior to the general election. I don’t know if that was the intention of the Government that member was a member of.
Jonathan Young: Will she repeat her commitment that Kiwi barbecues and businesses will not run short of gas because of the Government’s decision, as the Taranaki petroleum basin is now being described as mature and at a new low of reserves?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I would note that that question is far away from the primary question that was put down that was around minerals, but, yes, I will give that member an assurance that his barbecue will have gas.
Jonathan Young: How does she expect to meet the gas shortages which are expected to be upon New Zealanders by the end of next year?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Again, I point out that that question is so far from the primary question, but I would point that member—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will answer the question without reflecting on my judgment.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Sorry. I would like to point that member to the figures released this week of what the gas reserves for New Zealand are, and that is good news. It is 10.5 years—that is pretty much the same as it has been for the last 20 years. It certainly isn’t the lowest projection of gas reserves that we have had, so that member should stop his scaremongering.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister confirm, just in case she’s wrong that there is an emergency, that she could hook up to the National Party?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Jonathan Young: Did the Minister comply with the Crown Minerals Act, which requires any changes to the minerals programme for petroleum to be publicly notified with opportunity for submissions, when the industry and other affected people were only informed the night before her 12 April decision was announced?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I’d like to point out to that member that the block offer process is not an instrument of the Crown Minerals Act.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure what to do about that answer, which had significant inaccuracy to it, because the minerals programme for petroleum is attached to the Crown Minerals Act, as an empowering piece—
Mr SPEAKER: If the member thinks that the answer is inaccurate and that it is a deliberate inaccuracy, he will write to me, and that is the appropriate thing to do. If he thinks it’s an accidental inaccuracy, then he will write to the Minister. If it is inaccurate, I am absolutely certain the Minister will be back to correct it. But I’m not in a position, it being more than a decade since I had responsibility for the area, to answer the question.
Jonathan Young: Will she and the Prime Minister be holding any public meetings with the Taranaki community this coming Friday when they visit New Plymouth?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The Prime Minister and I have a very full diary on Friday when we visit New Plymouth. We will be meeting with many members of the public from Taranaki, and we intend to hold a range of meetings. There are not public meetings scheduled.
Jonathan Young: What is her response to Transpower’s advice that New Zealand will need to more than double its electricity generation by 2050—the equivalent of 22 more Clyde Dams—and their caution that this represents a concentration of risk because substantially growing demand being met by increasingly intermittent energy sources is a concern?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: My response to that is that is exactly why this Government has started doing the necessary work to plan for that transition and that increase in capacity that will be required. It is precisely the reason why the transition to 100 percent renewable electricity is one of the first two tasks that the interim independent Climate Commission has started charting out the pathway on.
Hon James Shaw: Has New Zealand ever doubled its electricity generation in its history, and does she have faith in the electricity markets to be able to do that?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes.
Question No. 10—Māori Development
10. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister for Māori Development: Does she agree with all of the decisions made regarding Vote Māori Development in Budget 2018?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister for Māori Development): Yes, alongside the broader context of priorities set by the coalition Government for Budget 2018, from which Māori whānau will undoubtedly benefit.
Nuk Korako: Can the Minister advise why she cut funding for Māori development?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Funding for Māori development hasn’t been cut. In fact, what’s happened is that we’ve reprioritised and focused on areas which—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I can hear the member, and the public can hear the member even if there’s a racket. So I advise the Minister just to keep going.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Overall, the Vote Māori Development budget has not reduced. The Māori-specific initiatives more specifically focus on the areas that will ensure that young people will benefit, that whānau are able to develop their whenua, and that there will be a specific emphasis on papakāinga development, but, overall, the Budget gains for Māori will be seen in building up the public service in health, in education, and in a housing strategy that won’t see people sleeping in cars.
Nuk Korako: Is it the Minister’s intention to assimilate more Vote Māori Development funding into mainstream non – Māori-specific funding?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: No, but it is my intention to ensure that a Māori development strategy will lift well-being across a number of domains. I’m really proud of a Budget that sets a foundation that commits to investment in public health services, where people get responded to when they need it most, and education, but more importantly, in housing, because we know when people have a secure home they’re going to lead better lives.
Rino Tirikatene: What was the largest capital expenditure in Vote Māori Development prior to Budget 2018?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Well, one would have thought—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member has no responsibility for that.
Nuk Korako: How, then, does the Minister explain the forecast reduction in the Vote Māori Development budget of between $6 million and $8 million every year for the next four years?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Quite easily. The previous Government had set aside funds that were not actually spent or committed, and I’ll give you one example: the Māori Land Service, where money was set aside but not spent, because they tried to push through legislation which Māori didn’t like—quite simple.
Nuk Korako: So is the Minister saying she will assimilate more Māori-specific funding into mainstream non-Māori funding?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: No, and we also won’t contract out Māori aspiration. But what we will do is ensure, across the whole of the Government’s priorities, in the areas where Māori will benefit in health, in education, and in housing, as well as in Māori aspiration—we’ll make a big impact. This is the first Budget; two more to go. We will assess the gains at election time.
Hon Shane Jones: Can the Minister confirm that elements of her budget, when joined with the billion trees and the billion dollars, will lead to inordinately large positive outcomes for the Government in terms of Māori development?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Absolutely, and I’m so pleased that that Minister is keen to ensure that land development and the way in which it can link into the regional development aspirations and planting of a billion trees will see huge gains for Māori.
Hon Kelvin Davis: What reports has the Minister seen on the largest capital expenditure pre – Budget 2018 in Vote Māori Development?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Well, you would have thought that the previous—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the Minister repeat the question, please.
Hon Kelvin Davis: What reports has the Minister seen on the largest capital expenditure pre – Budget 2018 in Vote Māori Development?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Well, you would have thought, with the housing crisis, housing might have been the biggest issue, but no. On closer investigation, the largest capital expenditure for Māori development prior to 2018 was not on young people, not on homes, not on land, but on renewing a vehicle fleet.
Nuk Korako: In light of the funding cuts to her ministry, Te Puni Kōkiri, in this Budget, does the Minister have full confidence in her ministry, particularly her CEO Michelle Hippolite?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I’m working with the ministry to reset priorities based on this Government’s priorities and an agenda that seeks to reduce inequality and poverty. We’re proud of this first Budget. It will make a difference. There’s two more to go.
Nuk Korako: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did ask, actually, a specific question. I don’t believe that I got the answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I will ask the Minister to approach the second leg of it.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Yes.
Question No. 11—Veterans’ Affairs
MARK PATTERSON (NZ First): To the Minister for Veterans: what progress, if any—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We seem to have an increasing problem in the House of people not fully reading the questions. “Veterans’ Affairs”, I think the member means.
MARK PATTERSON: Sorry, it’s written differently on my sheet.
Mr SPEAKER: Start again, please.
11. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs: What progress, if any, has been made on the review of the operation of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014?
Hon RON MARK (Minister for Veterans): I thank the member for the question. This morning I tabled in the House the report produced by the review of the operations of the Veterans’ Support Act 2014 carried out by Professor Ron Paterson of Auckland University. The review, a legislative requirement, began in June 2017, and due to high interest from the veterans’ community, with 700 personal submissions, 200 written submissions, and 13 public meetings, the review was extended by three months to the end of March 2018. It is a high-quality report with much for the Government to consider. How we support our veterans goes to the core of who we are as a country, and I encourage all veterans’ support communities, the veterans themselves, and families to read that report.
Mark Patterson: What will be the Government’s response to the review?
Hon RON MARK: The report makes a total of 64 recommendations. Some of these are low-hanging fruit: technical fixes that can be dealt with relatively easily and quickly, and we will. I have asked officials to begin work on these immediately. Some changes have already progressed, with Veterans’ Affairs working on five of the seven main recommendations as we speak. Other recommendations are more substantial and complex, so I’ve instructed Veterans’ Affairs to work through these. We’ll have a fully developed set of options and a plan for follow-up action by the end of this year. We’ll give all—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That’s enough. [Interruption] That is enough. That is enough.
Hon Maggie Barry: What specific initiatives is the Minister intending to introduce for contemporary veterans who are suffering now from mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder?
Hon RON MARK: Some may have missed it, but we actually initiated a change last year when this Government announced a contribution of $25,000 to No Duff in recognition of the sterling work that they’re doing as first responders to contemporary veterans who are suffering the effects of post-traumatic stress injury. This year, in the Budget, we announced another $25,000 per year for the next four years. That is on top of the $250,000 per year to the RSA that that Government quashed in its time and that this Government has put back in place to assist with that very same—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Maggie Barry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was specifically around—
Mr SPEAKER: And the question was certainly addressed—far too long.
Hon Maggie Barry: Not accurately.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We’ve had—sorry, would the member resume his seat. I probably should have stood up to rule on the matter, and the fact that I didn’t has probably saved the member from a similar punishment that went to Mr Brownlee. But I will not have comments of that sort on my rulings.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What is the Minister’s view of the foul rumours that this review is all the work of the National Party and not this Government?
Hon RON MARK: Great question. There are some who believe that this is all the work of the National Party. It is appropriate to remind the House that this work commenced under a Labour – New Zealand First coalition Government back in September 2007 when the Government gave direction to the Law Commission to commence a review of the then outdated War Pensions Act. That review—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That’s certainly not only addressed but answered the question.
Clayton Mitchell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Through the question that was just asked by the Rt Hon—
Mr SPEAKER: It’s all right. I’m going to deal with that matter when I’ve worked out how I’m going to deal with it at the end of this question.
Mark Patterson: Will he consider the question of who should be defined as a veteran, which has been raised in this report?
Hon RON MARK: This is an interesting recommendation from Professor Paterson. The current Act does not take into consideration the concerns expressed by a lot of veterans that the definition of who is a veteran is outdated and out of place. That question falls outside of the review, but given the seriousness and given the number of submissions and given the strength of the feeling, we will commence work on this, and we will have some recommendations back to the Government on this matter before the end of the year.
Hon Maggie Barry: Will the Minister commit to merging the Veterans’ Health Advisory Panel into a new Veterans’ Advisory Board, as recommended in the review?
Hon RON MARK: If the member reads the report, which was just tabled this morning, you’ll see that that’s one of the recommendations. I will say this—
Hon Amy Adams: She just said that—she just said that.
Hon RON MARK: Settle petal—settle.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member’s just sort of evened it up for Mr Brownlee, and it’s made my task slightly easier. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise. I just want to make it clear that that sort of sexist remark is not going to be accepted in the House. Stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon RON MARK: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Todd McClay: No, you didn’t mean that.
Hon RON MARK: The question is a good question, and—.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. [Pause in proceedings] Well, is the member going to do it or do I have to tell him?
Hon Todd McClay: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon RON MARK: The question is a good question. It’s one of the 64 recommendations that we’ll be working our way through, and I don’t anticipate that we will agree with all of the recommendations, but I will just leave the member with this: I do not intend for this report to sit in the bottom of my draw and gather dust. Every recommendation will be taken seriously—just watch and see.
Hon Maggie Barry: So regarding the treatment and rehabilitation provisions of the Act, which are referred to constantly through the warrant of fitness report, it would become apparent that a number of people are—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!—
Hon Maggie Barry: —not having regular check-ups.
Mr SPEAKER: Question.
Hon Maggie Barry: What will the Minister do about that?
Mr SPEAKER: No. Sorry, I probably overrode the member. Can the member ask a question, starting probably with a question word.
Hon Maggie Barry: So what will the Minister do about the difficulties around the provisions of regular check-ups no longer being dealt with for veterans? And their conditions have worsened as a result of that, so what will the Minister do now about it?
Hon RON MARK: That’s a really good question. I just wish the last Government had actually thought about it when it had the chance to do so. Can I take the opportunity to introduce the member to this new report, which has also been announced today, which is The Veteran Rehabilitation Strategy. Can I recommend it to the member for reading, because it deals with that very issue.
Hon Maggie Barry: So why was it that the Minister released this report, the warrant of fitness, which has been long awaited and potentially very contentious, on the same day as the report that he is about to launch in about three hours’ time? It’s confusing.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I’ll get the Minister to answer the first part of the question. He’s got no responsibility for the second.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Let him answer the question first.
Hon RON MARK: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can only say to the member that we’re pretty busy. We’re churning out a lot of work. Both these reports—I got this report on Monday, and I felt it was a good idea to get out as soon as we could. This report is ready to go, and it’s good timing to have both reports on the Table so that people can read them together. That’s a good idea, really, isn’t it?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that members of this Government will continue their proud record of caring for veterans in this country, and not just be fast on the lip and slow on the hip?
Mr SPEAKER: The member can answer the first part of the question.
Hon RON MARK: Can I phrase it this way: this coalition Government takes seriously its duty of care and responsibility to veterans—the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. We also will be looking very closely at something that the previous Government would not touch, and that is a covenant between the Crown—the Government—and the men and women who serve in its forces to recognise the exceptional service they give, and a social contract between the Government and veterans.
Hon Maggie Barry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I waited until the questions had been asked before I raised this point of order, and I would like to clarify any confusion that might have arisen from the interjection that the Speaker held me up on earlier, which was not commenting on—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. Order! The member will resume her seat. Thank you.
Question No. 12—Housing and Urban Development
12. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Has Housing New Zealand performed to his expectations in relation to the Banff Avenue housing development?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I have full confidence in Housing New Zealand, which I expect to ramp up its building of public housing to help address the national housing crisis. Housing New Zealand has applied to Auckland Council for resource consent to redevelop their property at Banff Avenue. The biggest of the two 1970s buildings on the site is a fire risk and has been empty for some time. Housing New Zealand would like to replace the two buildings with 25 warm, dry, modern homes, including five units for tenants with accessibility needs.
David Seymour: How, then, is it possible that the Minister’s own officials, at a public meeting in Banff Ave just last Wednesday, admitted that they had performed poorly in consulting the community and building a stronger community there and apologised for their performance? Was the Minister even aware of that?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the organisation had advised me that it first wrote to neighbours in Banff Avenue on 18 January to inform them that the site was being investigated for redevelopment. Neighbours were informed on 10 May that a resource consent had been applied for. A feasibility study into the redevelopment was carried out between last October and April. During this time, architects, engineers, landscape architects, traffic engineers, and urban planners were engaged to make sure that this development is of top quality.
David Seymour: Given the Minister clearly has no idea what is happening on his watch, will he accept my invitation to come to the next public meeting at Banff Ave and learn more about his department and how it is performing in this project?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No one can begin a question in the way that member did. It was a critical statement—totally false. He began by saying something that no one else has ever begun a question on in this House, and he should be stopped from doing so.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s absolutely right. The first part of the question was out of order. Because I’m in a generous mood, I will allow David Seymour to rephrase his supplementary in a way that is within the Standing Orders.
David Seymour: In light of the considerable disenchantment with Housing New Zealand’s performance in Banff Ave, will the Minister accept my invitation to come to the next public meeting and understand better how his own department has performed in this area so that we may build stronger communities together?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I’m going to get the member at some stage to come and get a tutorial on the asking of questions. I’m happy to give it to him, but, to save the House’s time, Phil Twyford will answer it.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’m not going to be part of that member’s campaign of stigmatisation of people with mental health issues—pandering to the worst kind of nimbyism and people’s prejudices. He should show some leadership in his electorate.
Michael Wood: What statements has he seen about future tenants at the Banff Ave Housing New Zealand development?
Mr SPEAKER: And I’m going to give the Minister warning—because I think I know what might be coming—that he cannot use patsy questions from the Government to attack an Opposition member.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: One statement that I have seen is from the Mental Health Foundation, which has said that it is appalled by what it describes as a stigmatising letter from Epsom MP, David Seymour—
Mr SPEAKER: OK, that’s enough. Thank you. The member will sit down.
Michael Wood: What efforts does Housing New Zealand make to ensure tenants in their new developments feel welcomed by the local community?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Many Housing New Zealand tenants have been through tough times, are elderly, or have disabilities, which means they need help with their accommodation. That is what State housing is for, and for these people, a new State house is a much-needed new start in life. Housing New Zealand works hard with local communities to make sure that they are comfortable with a new development and that their new tenants feel welcome. This often involves events like holding neighbourhood BBQs. I’m disappointed that Epsom MP, David Seymour, is creating a divisive—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. He will apologise to the House now for breaching my direct instruction to him two supplementary questions ago, and tomorrow the National Party will benefit from an un-named extra supplementary as a result of his deliberate breach.
Hon Phil Twyford: I apologise.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wonder if the Leader of the House would like to indulge in his occasional custom of giving the ACT Party an extra supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: I see no movement in that direction.

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