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Parliament: Questions and Answers – May 24

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS Question No. 1Finance 1. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance : What reports has he seen on the strength of the Government’s finances? Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) : In addition …ORAL QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he seen on the strength of the Government’s finances?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): In addition to the positive reviews from bank economists earlier this week, yesterday Moody’s Investors Service said that Budget 2018 preserved New Zealand’s strong public finances and underscored the Government’s “very high fiscal strength”. Moody’s noted how this Government was able to boost expenditure on families, health, education, housing, and infrastructure while maintaining the fiscal capacity to buffer the economy from any future shocks.
Willow-Jean Prime: Why is it important for the Government to maintain fiscal discipline?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It is every Government’s responsibility to look out for future generations whilst also making the essential investments needed now, to ensure that New Zealanders can access critical public services. In its report, Moody’s notes that our budgetary prudence gives us significant policy flexibility, to such an extent that we can fund higher spending while keeping the broad direction of fiscal policy unchanged. This comes from taking a responsible approach to debt repayment—more responsible than the previous Government—by the fact that we are ensuring a level tax playing field and by the fact that the Government’s policies will stimulate economic growth, rather than just relying on the housing market and population growth to drive activity.
Willow-Jean Prime: What does Moody’s say about the Government’s plan to invest a net $42 billion in capital over the next five years?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Moody’s notes that this stronger infrastructure investment—$10 billion more than the previous Government had planned—will improve the supply capacity of the economy and bolster productivity in the long run. In terms of specific projects, Moody’s notes that a recent pick-up in new building permits points to strengthening residential construction, supported by development related to KiwiBuild. They do caution about labour constraints, which highlights why our policy of free post-secondary training and education for apprentices and those undertaking trades training is so important to making our economy more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive.
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s policies and actions?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah! The real Prime Minister.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Gerry; on behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: As petrol prices rise, at what price per litre will her Government reconsider their plans to hike petrol excise taxes and impose a new Auckland regional fuel tax?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The decisions that we’ve made around funding future transport projects are very much in line with what previous Governments have done when they’ve needed to see more investment—for example, between January and June 2015, petrol prices increased by 40c a litre and the then Minister went ahead with an excise increase in July.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am going to ask the Minister to answer the question.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It is the belief—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I don’t need the support of the backbench down there.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It is the belief of this Government that we need to make significant investments in our transport infrastructure. We will be funding that through the National Land Transport Fund and through the levy increases associated with that, as previous Governments have done.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was quite clear: at what price per litre will her Government reconsider their plans, and that still wasn’t answered.
Mr SPEAKER: I think it was certainly addressed, even if the member is not satisfied with the answer.
Hon Paula Bennett: As petrol prices rise, at what price per litre will her Government reconsider their plans to hike petrol excise taxes?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We have a plan to invest in transport infrastructure, funded as it is normally done through the fuel excise levy. We have no plans to change that.
Hon Paula Bennett: How much will families’ cost of living go up thanks to this Government’s increases to fuel excise taxes, GST on online goods, additional tax on mum and dad rental owners, and the new regional fuel tax?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don’t have that information to hand, but what I do know is that under our Families Package, 384,000 families will be better off by $75 per week.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is it fair for an Auckland family to pay $700 per year more to fill up their car because of this Government’s new taxes?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premises in the member’s question. We know from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s estimates that they’re talking about maybe an extra $250 a year on a family. We know that for many of those families they will be far better off under the Labour-led Government’s Families Package. I would also say to the member that the issues that have arisen around transport in New Zealand didn’t just happen in the last seven months; they happened over the last nine years.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe that prisoners who commit three serious, violent offences should receive the maximum sentence without parole for their third offence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The three-strikes law that the member is referring to is under consideration by this Government. When it was passed, the previous Government was warned that gimmicky policies like that don’t actually help reduce the crime rate.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did her Minister of Justice take a paper to Cabinet suggesting repealing the three-strikes regime and that the whole Cabinet, including her New Zealand First Ministers, agreed to progress the work?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don’t have that information to hand. If the member chooses to put down a question in writing, I’ll be able to answer that.
Hon Paula Bennett: So who was right, then: her Minister of Justice, who said that New Zealand First were there when Cabinet made the decision to work on repealing three strikes, and that “it’s a Cabinet decision”, or her Deputy Prime Minister, who said they were “yet to discuss the issue”?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I said in my previous answer, I don’t have the specific details of that. What I do know is that on this side of the House, we’re committed to making sure that while New Zealanders stay safe, we don’t continue to fill up our prisons ever more and more. We can do better than that when it comes to justice.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, for consistency, why didn’t you stop the member answering once he said he had no information on the question?
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr Brownlee. Is there a further question?
Hon Paula Bennett: So what percentage of the prison population is made up of gang members?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That’s a matter of very specific detail. I invite the member to put the question down to the Minister of Corrections or the Minister of Justice.
Hon Paula Bennett: So does the Prime Minister expect an increase in the number of gang members imprisoned given her Government announced 700 new police, supposedly to combat gangs, and how does that reconcile with trying to lower the prison population?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What that is about is a mixture of policing. We want to make sure that we have community policing that is preventing crime, and we want to make sure that we crack down on gangs. I’m really interested that the previous Government’s party doesn’t actually seem to have a plan to reduce the prison population. On this side of the House, we don’t think it works. And I remind the member of her former colleague Bill English, who said that prisons are a moral and fiscal failure. Perhaps she’d like to call him back in.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why did Budget 2018 not provide any funding for universities in New Zealand to even keep up with inflation for the first time in two decades?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In this Budget, the priority for this side of the House in education was early childhood education, which got the first universal funding increase in a decade, and our priority was schools. We continue to support the tertiary sector.
Hon Paula Bennett: How many redundancies is she expecting from universities in light of them getting a zero increase in funding for the first time in over a decade?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The balance sheets of our universities are excellent. They are all in surplus bar one, and I’m sure they’ll be able to continue to operate at a very high level.
Question No. 3—Economic Development
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question that I had down has been chopped in half, and the section “how does it compare with the level of June 2017?” taken out. I just wonder what Speaker’s ruling was the basis—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The question that the member has is the question that I approved, and it actually involved no change from the time that it left the Clerk’s Office. So the member can’t appeal now to have something changed back when I had not been involved in any discussion around the question. If the member doesn’t want to ask it in its current form, that’s his call.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point here is that there were three questions allowed by the Clerk’s Office, asked by Government members, that made similarly backward-looking recommendations, yet when we get something that is as simple as the question being asked by Mr Goldsmith, there is quite a kerfuffle about the way in which—in fact, requiring the people lodging the question to take that part of it out. If the Government is able to look retrospectively at things—we’ve heard plenty of that today from Mr Robertson in the last series of questions—then why can’t the Opposition?
Mr SPEAKER: All members can ask questions which are Minister’s responsibilities which look back, where they are the Minister’s responsibilities. If this question had something about the business confidence in a period that was pre-Government, that has no responsibility. If it was a report from a department on something that was pre-change, then there would be responsibility for that report. It is a question of the source, and, as the member well knows, the ANZ bank is not an agency of the Government.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Just speaking to that point of order, could I just—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I have ruled on it, and it’s not going to change. The member can either ask the question or he can sit down.
3. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: What level is business confidence now, according to the latest ANZ Business Outlook survey?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Economic Development): The level of business confidence now is not shown in the latest ANZ Business Outlook survey.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that business confidence levels have fallen in the last eight months?
Hon DAVID PARKER: What I know is that according to—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That’s too much. This supplementary answer will be heard in silence, and it will be short.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have two points to make. The first is from Interest.co.nz, and I quote: “the ANZ business confidence survey has only 0.2 [percent] correlation with GDP growth based on leading by three quarters (… akin to a 20% [pass] mark)”, and a comment from the ANZ’s former chief economist Cameron Bagrie, who recently said of these surveys, “Those surveys are very poor barometers; you should throw them out.”
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does the Minister accept that investment decisions about creating new businesses, hiring new staff, and buying new equipment are affected by falling levels of business confidence?
Hon DAVID PARKER: No. I know that the member thinks it’s to his political advantage to talk the economy down, but there’s far too much good news for that. Investment intentions are more determined by factors like rising profits in the kiwifruit sector, increasing dairy payouts, significant trade negotiations with the EU, and a Budget showing lowering unemployment, increasing growth, increasing surpluses, and rising wages.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that businesses collectively have genuine concerns about the direction of travel indicated by the Government?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I meet regularly with businesses, and one of the points businesses have made to me is that they are delighted that there is a $1 billion effective tax cut for businesses who invest in research and development over the next four years—one of the things that they know will arrest the decline in exports that occurred under the trickle-down theory of the last Government.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think his colleague Shane Jones’ suggestion that firms struggling to find workers should simply invest in automation is the sort of thing that’s driving down business confidence?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I’m very supportive of bringing forward technologies that improve productivity, export competitiveness, and, indeed, are business centres in their own right. One of the areas that I and the Minister for Regional Economic Development agree the Provincial Growth Fund should be investing in is bringing forward on-farm and horticultural robotics to improve the profitability of this economy. I would note there would be more jobs per hectare than on a dairy farm.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he aware that not every business can go down to Mitre 10 and buy in equipment to automate their production—such as kiwifruit growers?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I am, and I’m also aware that you can’t yet get a robot to ask a decent primary question.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think his colleague Iain Lees-Galloway’s suggestion that firms worried about increased labour costs are just demonstrating poor resilience is the sort of thing that’s driving down business confidence?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker. I didn’t hear that question. Could I ask for it to be repeated?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it’s sort of counting—you might as well have it.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think his colleague Iain Lees-Galloway’s suggestion that firms worried about increased labour costs are demonstrating poor resilience—is that the sort of thing that’s driving down business confidence?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I believe that increasing labour productivity, and increasing wages that follow increases in labour productivity, is one of the primary ambitions of a Labour Government, and it will make us a wealthier, more prosperous, cleaner, and fairer society.
Question No. 4—Transport
4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Does he remain committed to his proposals for new and increased fuel taxes in light of recent reports of petrol prices reaching record highs; if so, what consideration, if any, will he give to the increased cost of living his fuel tax proposals will have on New Zealand families?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): I am committed to striking—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I ask—Ms Bennett, can you just wait at least until the Minister’s started answering before you start your interjections.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I am committed to striking a balance between affordability and taking urgent action on the transport infrastructure deficit that we inherited. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimates that the changes to fuel taxes will see an average family in Auckland pay an extra $5 per week. By contrast, our Government’s Families Package will put $75 a week into the pockets of 384,000 low to middle income families. In terms of considering the impact of taxes on fuel prices, I intend to follow the same process as the Hon Simon Bridges did in 2015.
Jami-Lee Ross: If petrol prices continue to increase, will he revisit his proposals to increase fuel taxes, which will raise petrol prices even higher?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: International oil price fluctuations have a far greater influence on petrol prices than the policy of the previous Government and this Government of regular, small excise increases. As successive Governments have shown, it makes no sense to make major infrastructure investment decisions based on highly volatile oil price fluctuations. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m just going to ask Mr Hudson and Mr Stuart Smith just to turn their volume down a little bit.
Marja Lubeck: What reports has he seen of past Governments varying the amount of fuel tax levied to match variations in the global oil prices?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: None.
Jami-Lee Ross: Is he concerned that the rising cost of petrol will increase even further if he is successful in increasing fuel taxes by up to 25c a litre?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as I’ve tried to make abundantly clear to the member, the increase in fuel excise is a very, very small increase compared to oil price fluctuations. And I would point out to the member that instead of paying $400 million to the wealthiest 10 percent, this Government’s putting—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Jami-Lee Ross: Is he saying that his proposal to increase fuel taxes in Auckland by up to 25c a litre—as he’s announced—is small?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, what I would point out is that 25c is the maximum rate that was consulted on in the draft Government policy statement. It’s not necessarily the rate that we’re going to settle on. It applies only in Auckland, where the regional fuel tax is in place, not to the rest of the country. The reason that we are investing in our transport system is because we’ve inherited a legacy of an infrastructure deficit after nine years of totally unbalanced transport policies. We’re committed to doing the right thing for this country and the right thing for the economy.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question earlier was ruled out because we were referring to 2017, yet the Minister seems to be able to make comment about the last nine years as he wishes to, and I’m just asking for some clarification.
Mr SPEAKER: I have a feeling the member’s trying to relitigate a ruling I made quite some time ago. I think I will ignore it.
Hon David Bennett: Oh, you can’t do that. You just ignore things.
Marja Lubeck: What lessons will the Minister take from past increases of fuel excise while international petrol prices were high?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: In 2015, the fuel excise was increased after petrol prices increased by 40c per litre. Prices later stabilised and returned to $1.70 per litre by the end of that year, 2015. I’ve learnt from that experience that you cannot make infrastructure investment decisions based on international oil price fluctuations. They’re simply too volatile. I learnt also from the former transport Minister that those fluctuations dwarf the changes in the fuel excise.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! David Bennett will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon David Bennett: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member knows absolutely that he interjected an unparliamentary remark in my direction during the asking of the supplementary question.
Hon David Bennett: And what for? Why do I withdraw and apologise?
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry?
Hon David Bennett: Why do I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: Why?
Hon David Bennett: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Because the member made an unparliamentary remark and it was exacerbated by the fact that it was done during the asking of a supplementary question.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was the unparliamentary remark?
Mr SPEAKER: I’m not going to repeat what the member said about me. Withdraw and apologise.
Hon David Bennett: Mr Speaker, I need an explanation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will withdraw and apologise now or I will take more serious action than has happened in the House for quite some time. Is the member going to withdraw and apologise?
Hon Paula Bennett: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not having a point of order. I am waiting for Mr Bennett to decide whether he will comply with my instruction to withdraw and apologise for reflecting on the Chair while a supplementary question was being asked. Is the member going to withdraw and apologise?
Hon David Bennett: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not having a point of order, Mr Bennett. You’re either going to withdraw and apologise or I will name you. [Interruption] Order!
Hon David Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry, sir, but it is in reflection to me yesterday having to withdraw and apologise. I genuinely do not know what it was for. I did not make a comment as I left, and this is leading to this kind of disorder, when we don’t know what the actual line is as to what you find offensive and what you don’t. I’ve looked at Hansard. I know what I said as I left. I made no disparaging remarks about you last night, and this leads to my colleagues in a position now where—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. The member will resume her seat. If she wants an explanation for how she breached Standing Orders yesterday, I suggest she watches the TV, either on Parliament TV or on at least one of the news channels to see herself interjecting on her feet as she left.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a new point of order, Mr Brownlee—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: —or is it a relitigation?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it’s a new point of order. People might like to look at the TVNZ clip that’s currently running, of a member challenging the Speaker on frequent occasions and ultimately being required to leave the House, and being quite messy all the way through. On none of those occasions was the member named. My question simply is: why do we go suddenly from a position where the Speaker does not want to, apparently, make people leave the House, does not explain what an offence might be, but then simply requires people to accept the arbitrary decision of the Chair or be named, which everyone knows is quite an extreme step for anyone in this House? It seems the step that—we’ve gone from a very, very simple straightforward position of how you deal with these things to one that is quite Draconian. And I think that is the problem we’ve got with the inconsistency of the way the Chair’s operating at the present time.
Mr SPEAKER: I note the member’s comments but, as the member knows well, naming is—I think Standing Order 90—the punishment for being grossly disorderly. And refusing to withdraw and apologise for quite an extended period of time is grossly disorderly.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: If it’s the same matter, Ms Bennett, you’re running a serious risk of losing a number of supplementary questions from your team from the first Tuesday back.
Hon Paula Bennett: So, to be clear, Mr Speaker, what I wish to be is actually not unruly in this House. So I need clarification that it was yesterday when I said “It’s a waste of time” that you took such offence to that I had to come back and—well, when I come back you insisted that I withdraw—
Mr SPEAKER: That’s exactly right. If the member had not said that she was leaving the House, I would have required her to withdraw and apologise then. But seeing as she was self-banishing herself, I thought that that was the best way of dealing with it and we could get on with business. I did reflect to the member later on that on a previous occasion, when I had done exactly the same thing—made a comment as I was self-banishing—the Speaker sent for me and made me come back and apologise, and then booted me out again. The member was treated pretty leniently.
Hon David Bennett: Yeah, didn’t get named though.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the member will resume her seat. Mr Bennett will withdraw and apologise again.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will withdraw and apologise.
Hon David Bennett: I just want to table a withdrawal, because I might as well be using it all the time, the way the House is going at the moment.
Mr SPEAKER: So the member’s declining to withdraw and apologise?
Hon David Bennett: No, I’m seeking your guidance—
Mr SPEAKER: No, you’re not seeking my guidance; you’re going to withdraw and apologise.
Hon David Bennett: Mr Speaker, what for? I just—I need to know what I did wrong.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Bennett, you reflected on the Chair, on my ruling—again. I mean, the member understands what he does. He is not an unintelligent member. It’s not something that happens accidentally. But the member should be able to remember sort of 30 seconds after he made a comment that he did. The member will withdraw and apologise.
Hon David Bennett: [Member pauses] I withdraw and apologise, sir.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is the Chair immune from the provisions of Standing Order 120?
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, can the member say that a little bit more loudly?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes—is the Chair immune from the provisions of Standing Order 120?
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Then isn’t simply requiring members to withdraw and apologise, without some explanation of the reason for that, impugning improper motives against a member?
Mr SPEAKER: For goodness’ sake! Mr Brownlee, this has got to the point of being ridiculous, the member is—[Interruption] Paula Bennett will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] The member will leave the Chamber.
Hon Paula Bennett withdrew from the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: Now, I’ve lost where we were at.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I’m next up, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—David Bennett.
Hon David Bennett: No, primary question.
Question No. 5—Corrections
5. Hon DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by all his statements, actions, and policies regarding his Corrections portfolio?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Corrections: On behalf of the Minister, yes.
Hon David Bennett: Why, when he has taken numerous papers to Cabinet regarding Waikeria Prison, has his Government not made a decision regarding Waikeria?
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On four occasions the member Louise Upston queried the absence of a member. She knows she must not do that.
Mr SPEAKER: I didn’t pick it up. The Hon Louise Upston is—[Interruption] Order! Sorry, I should have stood up and that might have stopped Louise Upston from interjecting while I was ruling. The member is a senior member. She knows what the rules are. She must not do it, and she will not do it again.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Sorry, Mr Speaker. I don’t want to cause the honourable member David Bennett to have more exercise today, but I can’t quite recall the detail of the question.
Hon David Bennett: Thank you, Mr Speaker. We all have memory lapses in this House, apparently. Why, when has taken numerous papers to Cabinet regarding Waikeria Prison, has his Government not made a decision regarding Waikeria Prison?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, this Government inherited the tail end of a decision from the previous Government to invest a billion dollars into a mega prison, and the new Government sought to review the details of that proposal so that a good decision could be made about the long-term future of the prison.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There’s never been any mention of a mega prison in any Government documents. That member is misleading the House with that comment.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, has the member got a point of order?
Hon David Bennett: Yes, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. He’s going to make very clear which Standing Order or Speaker’s ruling he’s referring to if he’s going to take a point of order, because at the moment he sounds like he’s trying to usurp my role where I take responsibility for making sure that the answers are in order. So far, this answer was certainly in order.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing Order 380(1)(b). The member mentioned a mega prison. There has never been, in any official documents—
Mr SPEAKER: For goodness’ sake! The member will resume his seat. Does the member want to have another supplementary?
Hon David Bennett: I have got two more; yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, away you go.
Hon David Bennett: Given that serious crime has increased by 4 percent in the last quarter but the prison population has risen only by 2 percent, does he expect more or fewer serious criminal offenders to be imprisoned?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, I think that member trivialises the reality of criminal offending statistics in this country because—
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will let the Minister finish the question. If he has a point of order by the end of it, I will hear it.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: What the figures show is that over an extended period of time, a number of years, serious criminal offending has gone up. We know that there is serious pressure on the prison population, and this Government, with its long-term objective of reducing the prison population, has to manage very carefully the short-term pressures on the prison system and the long-term wish to reform our criminal justice system so that it is safe and effective.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took offence when the Minister said that I trivialise these matters. I would ask him to withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: You can, but I’m not going to require him to.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That surely has to be a breach of Standing Order 120.
Mr SPEAKER: Why?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Saying that a person is trivialising something as important as—
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, for goodness’ sake! I’m vaguely tempted to repeat Ron Mark’s offence yesterday. Members need to be able to take a little bit of cut and thrust at question time, and being offended by saying that—[Interruption] Being offended by saying that someone is trivialising an issue is a level of sensitivity which any member of Parliament should be able to handle. Matt King will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, Matt King will withdraw and apologise.
Matt King: I’ve done nothing. I’ve said nothing. I did nothing. I said nothing. What did I say?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member interjected while I was on—[Interruption] Yes the member did; I saw him. He was loud. I heard him. He mightn’t have used words, but he certainly interrupted. Matt King.
Hon David Bennett: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, Matt King is going to withdraw and apologise.
Matt King: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: For not saying anything.
Mr SPEAKER: He made a very loud noise. He’s not a small man, and he made a—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’d like you to please reflect on the advice you just gave the House about members being overly sensitive, because we’ve seen plenty of examples of that today.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and—[Interruption] No, the member will resume his seat. What I’m saying is making noises which are not words in English but noises that might be more commonly heard in a barnyard are not appropriate.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How is, effectively, accusing a member of this House of making a barnyard noise not a personal reflection?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I should probably have called it a loud guffaw of the type certainly not heard normally in this place.
Hon David Bennett: Why is he removing the performance measures of the number of prison escapes, the number of prisoner on prisoner assaults that are serious, and the number of prisoner on staff assaults that are serious from being made public when this trivial and incompetent Government is supposed to be an open and transparent Government?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, that question requires a level of detail that is not foreshadowed in the primary question. I simply do not have that information.
Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was in the Budget last week. That member cannot say that it’s something that he does not know about; he signed off on that Budget. He would have read it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Question No. 6—Tamati Coffey.
Barbara Kuriger: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, sorry—Barbara Kuriger. Sorry, I didn’t realise there were further supplementaries.
Barbara Kuriger: Thank you, Mr Speaker. When will the Minister make a decision on Waikeria Prison to provide clarity for the Ōtorohanga and Waipā communities?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, we expect a decision in a matter of weeks, specifically in relation to Waikeria. I make no apology for the delay in making a decision, because it has been a difficult one, and it is a long-term one. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: One reason for which we are not making the decision is, as the member who asked the question wanted, an economic development initiative by building another prison.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When is the Hon Paula Bennett able to come back into the House?
Mr SPEAKER: At a time I decide, and I will inform her when that is.
Question No. 6—Research, Science and Innovation
6. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: What initiatives in Budget 2018 will help drive more research and development and why is it important that we lift our investment into R&D?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): Budget 2018 includes the largest ever appropriation for research, science, and innovation. This Government understands that innovation is the driving force behind economic development. That’s why we invested $1.1 billion of new funding over four years to support a more innovative economy and help raise R & D spending to 2 percent of GDP over 10 years. The Government’s most significant investment is in the R & D tax incentive, $1.02 billion over four years, which will incentivise faster growth in business R & D. This package, which includes three other initiatives, lays the foundations for an inclusive, adaptive, and resilient economy underpinned by science and innovation.
Tamati Coffey: Why is R & D as a percentage of GDP important, and how does this Budget support the Government’s aim of achieving 2 percent over 10 years?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Lifting New Zealand’s R & D expenditure to 2 percent of GDP will drive the diversification of the economy by encouraging new industries and companies, new jobs, and new ways of doing business. Based on our current modelling, Budget 2018 puts us on track to achieve 2 percent of GDP on R & D over the decade, but further public investment in the future will be needed if we are going to use research, science, and innovation to transform the economy and solve our critical social and environmental challenges.
Tamati Coffey: What are the details of the R & D tax incentive that she announced funding for?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The details of the tax incentive are still out for consultation. The Government has proposed a rate of 12.5 percent for businesses spending over $100,000 per year. Consultation closes on Friday, 1 June, and I encourage stakeholders from across the spectrum of research institutions, businesses, and science to have their say on the design of the tax credit, including the rate; at what point it kicks in; and exactly how it is that we assist companies in the pre-profit stage. We’re aware that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s enough.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What growth in R & D spending as a percentage of GDP is expected to be seen through the R & D tax credit policy by 2020?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: We are on track to grow our expenditure, over a decade, to 2 percent of GDP on R & D. Currently, before the Budget, we sat at 1.3 percent expenditure. This Budget has lifted that to 1.5 percent, which puts us on track over the decade to reach the 2 percent target, something the previous Government did not do.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about reaching—to 2020, not in 10 years. So what is the percentage growth of R & D spending by 2020—not in 10 years?
Mr SPEAKER: My view is that the question was certainly addressed.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: How can the sector have confidence in her policy if she’s unable to give any such forecast for 2020?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The sector can have confidence because they’ve just received an over-a-billion-dollar tax incentive to further incentivise spending on R & D. I did answer the member. The forecast is a lift to 1.5 percent expenditure of GDP over that period of time, something the previous Government failed to address.
Question No. 7—Police
7. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said, “We’ve put $300 million into Police and over 900 new police officers as a result, and we’ve got another two years to finish it off”; if so, why did his Budget press release say that the $298.8 million was over the next 4 years and there was a further $159.7 million in 2022-23?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes, I agree with the Prime Minister. The press release reflects Treasury’s appropriations, which always stretch into the future.
Chris Bishop: Has he seen the comments from Treasury that Budgets were usually only set out for four years but it appears that the Minister of Police’s office wanted to highlight the point that the funding will increase further over time, and isn’t that a confirmation the new police will be delivered over five years, not three?
Hon STUART NASH: No.
Chris Bishop: Why does his Budget press release explicitly not say that the 1,800 police will be delivered over three years, and why is it the only Budget press release, out of 52 issued by the executive, to explicitly mention funding over five years?
Mr SPEAKER: No. Order! I’m going to ask Mr Bishop to rephrase the beginning of his question, because I don’t think it was quite—I don’t think you can explicitly not say something.
Chris Bishop: Sorry, Mr Speaker. Just repeat that. Sorry.
Mr SPEAKER: Well—sorry; I am trying to help the member. I don’t think that any press statement can explicitly not say something. It can not say something, but if it’s explicit, it’s got to be there, doesn’t it?
Chris Bishop: I’ll reword it, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.
Chris Bishop: Why does his Budget press release not mention that the 1,800 police will be delivered over three years, and is the only Budget press release out of 52 issued by the executive to explicitly mention funding over five years?
Hon STUART NASH: I think I’ve said about a million times that I’m going to deliver 1,800 over three years, but what I would say is when a Government increases the police service by 1,800 front-line police over three years and 485 back-office support staff, we have to plan for an increase in operational costs.
Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement that the extra funding in 2022-23 is to account for police pay rises, when public sector wage rounds are a specific tagged contingency separately accounted for in the Budget?
Hon STUART NASH: It’s an increase in operational cost. We’re planning for the future, Mr Bishop.
Chris Bishop: Does he realise that if his story is true and that the 2022-23 funding is for police pay rises, that works out to a pay increase of $88,000 for each of his new officers?
Hon STUART NASH: The interesting thing is that we’re going to increase police by 1,800 to around about 10,500. We’re not going to increase the pay of just those 1,800.
Question No. 8—Energy and Resources
8. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by all of her policies and actions in relation to the energy sector?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes.
Jonathan Young: Have the initial findings of her review of petrol prices indicated that the biggest driver of fuel price increases will be the new petrol taxes imposed by Phil Twyford and Phil Goff?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: In order to carry out the review into fuel margins, we require the Commerce Commission to have the powers to carry out market studies. We have started that piece of work by having that bill on the floor of this House. This, I note, was the same approach the previous Government was going to take; only I’m very pleased to report we were able to get that legislation on to the floor of the House within the first six months of our term. We look forward to the Commerce Commission having those market study powers.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’d make the point that most of what the Government did in its first six months was from the previous Government’s efforts.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, no, the member knows that that’s not a point of order. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If Ministers are going to make outrageous claims like that—and we saw it from Grant Robertson today, effectively, saying that everything that’s good in the economy was to do with him—then surely we should be able to point out that they are just that: outrageous claims and nothing to do with them.
Mr SPEAKER: This, again, the member knows absolutely, is not a point of order. I’m sort of slightly loath to take things much further with the member at the moment, but I would ask the member, as one of the most senior members on that side of the House and one of the most senior members in the Chamber, if he can help his team—because he has some memory of being in Opposition and the way questions, especially aggressive questions, are asked and answered from that side—if he could share that with them rather than providing an example that reminds me more of myself in the past than being positive.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand what the Minister is saying in terms of the market studies and the Commerce Commission bill going through the House at the moment, but my question was regarding the initial findings of her review, and the Minister did say at the end of last year that, pending that legislation going through, she had instructed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to look at mechanisms by which she could address the price increases of petrol, and I believe that she has not addressed that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, my view is that the member did address the question. If the member is not satisfied with the answer, he can ask further supplementaries.
Jonathan Young: I’ll go on. What is she doing to ensure electricity costs will stay down when many commentators are saying that her 100 percent renewable goal will in fact drive them up?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The price of retail electricity is of vital concern to this Government and, in fact, was part of our confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First—informing that the Government was to have a review into retail electricity prices. I’m pleased to report to that member that we have begun that review. The panel is in place, the terms of reference have been out, and phase one is well under way. We are determined to look at what the drivers are that are leading New Zealand to have some of the sharpest rises in retail electricity prices in the OECD over the last decade, but not only that; to look at what the coming pressures of future technologies will be.
Jonathan Young: When she described ending new offshore permits as a “planned, measured and careful transition … towards renewable energy”, did she actually tell anyone in the petroleum industry her plan to ban new offshore permits, prior to 12 April?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: This is a question that has been asked in this House and responded to in this House previously. What we have been very clear on is that both the Prime Minister and myself made very clear comments around the future of offshore drilling prior to 12 April. Indeed, two weeks before making that announcement, I went to the Petroleum Conference and gave a speech reassuring the sector that the changes coming would not affect their existing permits.
Jonathan Young: Did she actually tell anyone in the petroleum industry prior to 12 April that she was planning to ban new offshore permits?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I just answered in the previous question, there were very strong signals. But we made an announcement; that was the point at which we told people in the petroleum sector. As that member knows, members of the sector received phone calls from myself, several colleagues, and officials the night before the announcement was made.
Hon Shane Jones: Can the Minister confirm that production in terms of gas in Taranaki has been in decline for over eight years with absolutely no substantial or even small new discoveries?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes, I can. It has gone from a $300 million industry to a $10 million industry over the last few years. I also note that there was no summer drilling activity for the last two previous summers. But the local member will probably be very pleased to hear that even after the Government’s announcement, over the next 18 to 36 months there are over 20 wells planned to be drilled in the summer programme.
Question No. 9—Education
9. JAMIE STRANGE (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What is the coalition Government doing to help the education system to understand and respond to the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on student achievement?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The coalition Government is expanding the risk index announced by the previous Government to be further developed as an equity index. The index does give valuable insights into the impact of disadvantage across early childhood education and schooling. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the member resume his seat. The Hon Louise Upston will not interject further during this answer. She is a long way away, but she’s drowning out the Minister.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The decision that the Government has taken is to expand the new equity index beyond its narrow application as a tool to inform an allocation of only 3 percent of school funding so that it can also be used to and inform improvements at a system level and other sources of school funding so that we can ensure those students who have disadvantage are properly supported through the education system.
Jamie Strange: Will the equity index be used to replace school deciles?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The school deciles will probably go eventually, but not immediately. The decision to remove school deciles and impose the new equity index and to do so on a “no losers” basis—meaning no schools lost funding—would have, effectively, meant that both systems would have to operate together. So decile funding would have continued to operate even if we had gone ahead with the implementation of the equity index in its previous form. I’ve been advised that the cost of doing that could be up to $100 million, none of which would was previously budgeted.
Question No. 10—Māori Development
10. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister for Māori Development: Is Vote Māori Development for 2018/19 lower than in the current year (2017/18)?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Associate Minister for Māori Development) on behalf of the Minister for Māori Development: No. Budget 2018 Vote Māori development is not lower when things such as the one-off payment of $9 million to Parihaka is taken into account. That was a one-off expenditure, and, in fact, if you include contingency funds, the Budget 2018 is higher. So well done, Minister Mahuta and the Māori Labour caucus.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m just going to remind the member that when he is answering this question, he is actually answering as Nanaia Mahuta. I’m pretty sure that while the Minister might be proud, she wouldn’t address it in that way.
Nuk Korako: Does the total annual and permanent appropriations and multi-year appropriation forecasts show a reduction from $328,112,000 in 2017/18 to $316,421,000 in 2018/19?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: No. No. The member has got his figures wrong.
Nuk Korako: Does she agree with John Tamihere, who said, “For the first time in decades Budget 2018 took money away from Māori.”?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I’m not sure if she agrees with John Tamihere—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Nuk Korako: Does she agree with John Tamihere, who said, “No amount of spin by Labour’s 13-strong Māori caucus, five of whom are in the Cabinet, can hide the fact that budget for Māori has been cut.”?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Can I say on behalf of the Minister that she does agree with John Tamihere on some things, but he’s got it sadly wrong, and, obviously, was on the whisky when he was doing some of his grafts for the New Zealand Herald.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. That is a reflection on someone outside the House and an inappropriate one, and the member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Willie Jackson: I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker.
Hon Shane Jones: Can the Minister confirm that elements of Vote Māori Development will better prepare communities to gain access to the billion trees strategy, the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, focus on better land use outcomes, water storage, and the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Shane Jones: Was it too long, or was it too loud?
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s had enough. Probably if it was in a—
Hon Member: Sit down.
Mr SPEAKER: Who said that?
Hon Member: I did.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Member: I do withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you. The question’s been asked; we’ll have an answer.
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Sorry, you’ll have an answer? Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker. I can confirm that Māori in particular will benefit greatly from the $1 billion scheme that Minister Jones is appropriating. I can also add to that that Māori have never been better off in terms of this Budget—$1.2 billion going to Māori, more than any other Government in the history of the New Zealand Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to remind the member he’s answering on behalf of Nanaia Mahuta.
Question No. 11—Research, Science and Innovation
11. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: Does she stand by all her policies, statements, and actions in relation to Budget 2018?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): Yes.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Given that Australia is repeatedly reviewing their R & D tax credit scheme because of rorting; how will she ensure that her tax credit scheme will not be subject to rorting because of businesses simply reclassifying existing spending instead of actually increasing R & D?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The design elements of the R & D tax credit are currently out for consultation and are open till 1 June. I encourage people to submit. But the issue around what penalties there are for people who do not comply with a rules-based system are something we are consulting on. I also note that I discussed this when I had a face-to-face meeting with the Australian Minister of science, and officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have worked very closely with their Australian counterparts so we can understand the learnings from the Australian review of their system. I note the Australian system is an incredibly complex system, and this has led to a lot of the problems they have had with misclassification—something we are avoiding in our own scheme.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Why has she then recklessly promised over $1 billion of taxpayer money to a policy she has yet to finalise the details of?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: On this side of the House, we don’t call supporting businesses to carry out more R & D reckless. We call it good economic management. We are currently consulting on some of the detailed design elements which are critical for us getting this scheme fit for purpose so we can lift our spend on R & D by businesses here in New Zealand away from languishing at the bottom of the OECD table.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member’s run out of supplementaries.
Question No. 12—Justice
12. RAYMOND HUO (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: How does Budget 2018 support community law centres?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Community law centres received almost $2.2 million extra operating funding in Budget 2018 for the 2018-19 financial year. The dollar figure may be small, but the proportion of increase is huge—nearly 20 percent. This is the most amount of Government support community law centres have received since the last progressive Minister of Justice, Simon Power.
Raymond Huo: Why is it important to ensure that community law centres are resourced to provide their services?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Community law is important as it means that all New Zealanders have access to high-quality legal help. Community law centres across the country provide easy-to-understand information, community workshops, one-on-one legal help, represent people in court, and assist people with restorative justice programmes. Every Kiwi deserves access to justice and equality, and community law centres help to provide that.
Raymond Huo: What feedback has the Minister received regarding the funding increase?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I have had overwhelmingly positive feedback from a number of sources, but the chief executive of Community Law Centres o Aotearoa, Elizabeth Tennet, said, “We are so grateful for this top-up you have provided to community law. Thank you very much.” I’m also conscious of the statement they made publicly, which said that “the funding boost will enable us to provide more services to more people in need. Access to justice is so important for New Zealanders, and we thank the government for assisting more people.”

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