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Parliament: Questions and Answers – June 25

Press Release – Hansard

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: What is a better reflection of New Zealanders’ living standards: GDP or GDP per capita?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: GDP per capita, obviously, is something that has sat around the 0.9 percent to 1 percent mark for some time, and is a reflection, actually, of poor productivity. That is something that has been persistent. He would know it well because it sat about the same rate under his Government, as well. It’s an area where, unlike his Government, we have a plan: investment in R & D, making sure that we are investing in the skills of New Zealanders, including things like fees-free and apprenticeships. All will make a difference, ultimately, to our productivity.

Hon Simon Bridges: What was annual GDP per person growth for the previous 12 months, and how does that compare to other countries in the OECD?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: While I don’t have the comparison for other countries with me in the House now, the increase in the last quarter, of course—we are sitting at about 0.9 percent. When you compare that to the 10-year rolling average, that sits at about 1.2 percent, from memory. And, again, actually, the member may do well to reflect on the fact that we’ve actually had an issue with our productivity for some time over the last 10 years. Unlike the last Government, our view is that we do need to address that by investing in our people. That’s something that’s been raised continually by the likes of the OECD.

David Seymour: How does the fees-free policy increase productivity?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Ultimately, our goal has to be to lift the skills and education level of all New Zealanders. If there is a barrier to that, then that needs to be addressed. I reflect, for instance, the last time I was up North I had someone, a teacher, explicitly tell me the difference it was making to the number of students who were entering into post-secondary education because of a removal of that barrier—the cost of study. If we can encourage that for more and more New Zealanders, hopefully, we can, of course, make a difference to things like our NEET numbers.

David Seymour: How can the Prime Minister say that the fees-free policy has increased the skills of New Zealanders when participation in tertiary education under the policy has gone down nationwide?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is incorrect to assume that this is solely about those who enter into tertiary education. Our focus, of course, is lifting those who engage in industry-based training; those who enter into, for instance, apprenticeships in construction; vocational pathways—an area that we encourage with fees-free. In fact, an apprenticeship is free for two years not just one year, and that’s the exact reason why.

Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her previous answer, isn’t the reality that GDP per capita in the last year has been a paltry 0.7 percent, and, given her reference to the previous Government, wasn’t it much higher at an average of 1.6 percent in the last five years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It was 0.9 percent in the year to March. Again, the member, though, is raising an issue that—again, I think he’d be hard-pressed to refute—has been something that we’ve been dealing with since successive Governments; the difference is that we have a plan to deal with it.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she aware that New Zealand’s GDP per capita growth in the last year was the seventh worst in the OECD?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I say, the member would do well to remember that average GDP per capita growth under his Government was 0.9 percent. GDP per capita grew at 0.9 percent over the last year; that’s the same as the year through to December 2018. Unlike the member, I’m actually recognising an issue that we have and we are seeking to resolve it. There was no plan, however, when the last Government was in office.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why, in the last three quarters, has GDP per capita only grown at 0 percent, 0.2 percent, and 0.1 percent when the terms of trade are at historical highs and exports are rising?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, if the member wants to talk solely about individual quarters, that is his prerogative. I noted that when his Government was in office, that was the reason that it was us that tended to talk about quarterly GDP per capita numbers rather than GDP numbers as a whole, because, of course, on that measure the member wouldn’t want to discuss it because the OECD has pointed out, as it well should, that our GDP numbers, our growth numbers, our inflation numbers, our employment numbers, our surplus demonstrate that our economy is in good shape. You don’t need to listen to me; just ask the OECD.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister tell us how many GDP per capita growth policies her Government inherited?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As far as I can tell, there was no plan to address that issue. The last Government’s economic policy, as far as I can tell, was based on immigration and an inflated housing market.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why is GDP growth slowing when the terms of trade and exports are rising?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We had this discussion the last time the House sat. Again, I have pointed out that when you look at our GDP growth within the international environment, we compare pretty well. If the member wants to talk about, though, our issue with trade, the growth we have actually seen—relative, though, however, to services—he’ll see that the issue we have raised continually about the international environment is playing out in that number as well. Tourism numbers declining while our export growth continues—that points to the international environment we are operating in.

SPEAKER: Before I go to question No. 2, I’m going to ask the Hon Jenny Salesa to move the box that she has to her left. Thank you.

Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): This will surprise the member: yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her statement from January, when asked if Phil Twyford would keep his job at the mid-year reshuffle: “Yes.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I expressed then confidence in the Minister and I continue to express confidence in the Minister—in particular, because we are now a Government that is building more houses than any Government since the mid-1970s. We have 2,000 additional public housing places. We have expanded Housing First and our work on homelessness across the country. We are building more State houses. I am proud of our record. We have tried something in KiwiBuild that has never been tried before, and it’s an ambition that we are not stepping away from.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did Phil Twyford say in January that a KiwiBuild reset would be “a couple of weeks away”, then signalled it would be in April, and then, in May, stated it would be “probably mid-June”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, we are absolutely focused on making sure that we do the reset once and do it right. Houses continue to be built in the meantime, and I’ll continue to point out that that includes State houses as well, of which I’m very, very proud of the fact that we have quadrupled the number that are under construction. We’re now at 2,700 State houses under construction. The member would do well to remember that we’ve actually had to pick up the pieces on housing across every single area: transitional, State, the public housing places, and the homelessness—every single corner you turned in housing, we have had to fix.

Hon Simon Bridges: When will the KiwiBuild reset be announced?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When we’re ready to announce it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister, are the answers to Mr Bridges’ second primary question the same as her answers to his first primary question because the questions are the same?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: One could make that assumption.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the KiwiBuild name survive the housing reset?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, the most important thing is whether or not we are continuing to build houses, and the answer is yes. The member, I know he may not be inclined to look at polls, but there was a poll on KiwiBuild where 60 percent of New Zealanders want us to keep going, and the reason for that was that they accept—even if the member does not—that we have a crisis, that it requires intervention, and that we cannot give up on ensuring that we have affordable housing in New Zealand.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the name KiwiBuild survive the reset?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I say, I see that as the least of the issues—what something is called. The most material thing is whether or not we are going to keep building houses, and the answer is yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: When was the last time she said “KiwiBuild”, and can she say it today?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m pretty sure I actually might have said it in this House, but KiwiBuild.

Hon Simon Bridges: How many KiwiBuild houses has her Government built?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we have said before, currently, and I said just this morning—if the member chose to listen—we’ve got around 480 that are currently under construction, 10,000 that are currently contracted—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The members’ leader asked a question. I think there were about four members there who need to turn down the volume and, in some cases, the frequency and, in some cases, the repetitive nature of their interjections.

Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the difficulty is I’ve asked how many KiwiBuild houses have been built and the Prime Minister is not answering that question.

SPEAKER: Well, given—

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To be fair, I didn’t actually complete my answer and I’d be happy to do so if the member would give me the opportunity.

SPEAKER: That’s what I was attempting with my intervention. The Rt Hon Prime Minister, completing the answer.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said, 10,000 homes are currently under contract to go under construction; 480 are currently under construction; 141 have been completed; 2,700 State houses are currently under construction; 1,200 State homes, since we took office, have been completed; 2,000 more homes have families living in them, public housing, because of us; and, of course, we have the additional investment in Housing First. The reason I mention that, for the benefit of members, is because, as I’ve said, every single area of housing we have had a crisis that we have been addressing, and we will continue to address.

Hon Simon Bridges: Of all the houses she’s mentioned, KiwiBuild and otherwise, how many of them were not already consented or under construction at the election; and isn’t the answer “Stuff all, if any.”?

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No, that is not an appropriate question. Does the member have a further question?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would it be reasonable for you to perhaps explain what was inappropriate about that, given the series of answers that we’d had from the Prime Minister?

SPEAKER: Well, I think it’s fair to say that the answers we’ve had from the Prime Minister may have been fuller than necessary but, whether or not that is the case, it is not a reason for the Leader of the Opposition to use inappropriate language as part of his question.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] Are you now ruling—

SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee has the floor; Ms Bennett will be quiet.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Are you now ruling that the use of the word “stuff” associated with the word “all” is inappropriate parliamentary language?

SPEAKER: Yes.

Question No. 3—Finance

3. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent announcements has he made about the review of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act 1989?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): It’s a topic of great interest to the House. The coalition Government has been reviewing the 30-year-old Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act to make sure it is fit for purpose for the 21st century. Last year, we delivered on phase 1 of the review by updating our monetary policy settings so that the Reserve Bank takes employment outcomes into account alongside price stability. Phase 2 of the review focuses on the financial policy and prudential regulation side of the Reserve Bank’s operations. Yesterday, I announced a number of in principle decisions that Cabinet has made. These include that the Government will introduce a deposit protection regime in New Zealand to bring us in line with the rest of the OECD. I also announced further—

SPEAKER: Order! That’s enough and could well be going beyond the question.

Kiritapu Allan: Why did the Government decide to implement a depositor protection regime?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: New Zealand is an outlier in the OECD in not having a formal deposit protection regime to support Kiwi depositors in the unlikely event a bank were to fail. We know that depositor confidence can help support a strong banking system. The Government has listened to advice of the OECD, the IMF, past Reserve Bank Governors, and sector experts to introduce depositor protection in New Zealand. The proposal being discussed is for a regime with a $30,000 to $50,000 limit, which would cover 90 percent of the deposit accounts in New Zealand. This is an initial suggestion based on advice, and we welcome New Zealanders’ views on this range during the phase 2 consultation process.

Kiritapu Allan: How is the Government looking to strengthen the Reserve Bank’s enforcement powers?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: A number of countries around the world, including the UK and Australia, have strengthened their accountability regimes, including for bank executives, to make sure that they are fit for purpose and include the right balance of measures to hold banks to account. Cabinet has now decided that now is the right time to look at whether the Reserve Bank supervisory regime is sufficiently strong. That includes the enforcement tools the Reserve Bank has, including whether penalties are tough enough to discourage certain types of behaviour. The review will look at elements of overseas frameworks, with final decisions being announced in 2020.

Question No. 4—Transport

4. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: What estimates has he seen on the cost of light rail from Auckland City centre to Māngere?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Light rail will be able to carry 11,000 commuters per hour, the equivalent of four lanes of motorway, through the middle of one of the most built-up parts of Auckland and connect commuters to two of the biggest concentrations of jobs in the country. The most recent cost estimate that I’ve seen is around $4 billion. However, it’s important to note that the business case and final design will provide more certainty on the final cost.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree with his colleague the Minister for Infrastructure’s comment last week in the select committee in relation to the Auckland light rail project, “I’m told, Mr Goldsmith, that it could cost $3.8 billion to put a new harbour bridge over Waitematā; let’s just say that.”, and then “I’m also told that a light rail project could be double that.”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think that might have been lost in translation. I almost always agree with my colleague the Minister for Infrastructure, and I’m sure if we had a correct account of what he’d said in the context, I would agree with it.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree with this statement from the same Minister in relation to the project, “But as to where the money will come from, I haven’t been, to date, a part of any detailed discussions in that regard and I think we’re quite some way off that.”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we are indeed quite some way off it. There’s a business case process that’s under way, there’s a procurement process that’s under way, and we’ve always made it clear that there’s $1.8 billion in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project, in the National Land Transport Fund, essentially as seed finance, but it’s our full expectation that the light rail project will be subject to some kind of private financing arrangement.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: What success does he think he’ll have in persuading Kiwis that light rail halfway down Dominion Road is the right priority for spending billions of dollars, if he hasn’t yet persuaded his coalition partners?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think we have persuaded coalition partners. It’s the Government’s policy to build this project and, as for persuading Kiwis, Aucklanders don’t need any persuading that our city needs a modern rapid transit network that provides 21st century public transport across the city and allows people to move around on a daily basis and get access to the things that they need, whether it’s work or education. They understand that simply adding more lanes to the existing motorway network, which was the policy of the former Government, won’t cut it.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How many Aucklanders has he met who have agreed with his proposition that a slight improvement to the public transport offering down Dominion Road is the No. 1 transport priority in Auckland?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It’s one of a number of priorities. I know the member likes to caricature the light rail project as a slow tram down Dominion Road, but it is about building a rapid transit network that joins together with the heavy rail network and the rapid transit Northern Busway to move tens of thousands of people around the city at peak hour in a way that the road network can never do.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Just how fast is this rapid transit?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That is actually something that is going to be considered as part of the business case and design process, but I’ll say this to the member: speed in rapid transit is important because if you want commuters to choose public transport and leave their car at home, you have to provide a fast and efficient service. That is the priority outcome of the business case and design process.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: What is his definition of “rapid”?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, when we talk about rapid transit, we’re talking about public transit that doesn’t compete with cars and moves a lot faster than the current motorway network in Auckland, which we’ve inherited, which is jam-packed at peak hour and condemns Aucklanders to daily gridlock.

Question No. 5—Health

5. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: How is the wellbeing of cancer patients in New Zealand affected by the Government’s policies and actions in health?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): This Government has prioritised the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders, including those living with cancer, since day one. The Wellbeing Budget included a $2.8 billion uplift in funding for district health boards (DHBs)—the largest in at least the last decade. That will support DHBs to continue to deliver the full range of cancer treatments and interventions, including screening programmes, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. We’re also moving to make those services better and more consistent through the interim cancer action plan, which is currently being finalised. The Budget also included specific funding of $36 million to extend the bowel screening programme to a further four DHBs, which, when rolled out, will benefit an additional 70,000 New Zealanders per annum. And $1.7 billion in capital spending was included for health in the Budget, some of which will support better and more advanced cancer treatment.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen comments from former Dunedin-based cancer patient Claudine Johnstone, “To me, this isn’t about politics; this is about people’s lives.”? And does he believe her wellbeing has been improved by the Government’s policies and actions?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I haven’t seen those comments.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he support Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark’s advocacy for Dunedin resident Stuart Neil’s wellbeing after his file was misplaced, resulting in urgent surgery for advanced bladder cancer?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have not got that detail in front of me.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he believe Dr Clark’s holding up in this House of the photo of a 79-year-old cancer patient who waited for an extended period at Auckland Hospital is appropriate and tasteful advocacy for the wellbeing of cancer patients?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I think members do need to be very careful in this House as to how they use individual cases, if that’s the point the member’s making.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it the Government’s intention to make sure all Kiwis get world-class cancer treatment; and, if so, in which Government document, speech, or statement is this commitment contained?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I’ve said many times—in fact, in many question times over the past week, I have reinforced this Government’s focus on the importance of the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders, including those living with cancer. I also think the fact that we are investing in our health system, which was neglected for nine long years under that Government, speaks louder than any kind of pledges.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, it’s actually a lie.

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I actually think that what matters is we continue to deliver the cancer care—

SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: I’m going to warn the member that there can’t be an excuse for what he just did.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it’s not; it’s a question. What is the remedy for anyone sitting in this House listening to comment delivered supposedly in the public interest that is, if not questionable, certainly very, very debatable?

SPEAKER: I would have thought the answer to that was obvious: at the end of question time, there’s a debate. Debate it.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen comments from the Cancer Society’s Shayne Nahu, whose society was disappointed to see cancer not being made a priority and—quote—”For a long time now, we have been advocating for a cancer agency, but we have seen no commitment from the Government for this.”? And is that a sign that he won’t deliver on his promise of world-class cancer treatment?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This Government is focused on delivering an interim cancer action plan in coming weeks. That is what we said would be in place when the Director-General pledged to have an interim cancer action plan in place by the middle of this year. That’s not news—that’s not news to the member. That was announced at the time, just to be clear, so that the sector and others can have an opportunity to provide feedback on that interim plan so that we do have a plan that those working in the sector will stand behind. Lett’s acknowledge that while this Government is determined to put a lot more money into health than the previous Government did, because we do believe in making sure we have an adequately funded public health system, we are also dependent on the clinicians and the cancer experts who get up every day and go to work and provide that quality cancer care. And I want to salute them for the hard work they did previously in an underfunded environment, and I also want to thank them for the work that they will do to improve cancer outcomes with the new cancer action plan when it is in place.

Question No. 6—Transport

6. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Transport: Will the boost to rail in the Wellbeing Budget benefit New Zealanders; if so, how?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes, rail has huge benefits for New Zealanders’ wellbeing, including unlocking regional economic growth, reducing emissions and traffic congestion, and preventing deaths and injuries. Also our Government is helping create 40 new jobs at the KiwiRail Hutt workshops through our investments in rail, including the Hamilton to Auckland commuter service, which will start next year.

SPEAKER: Question No. 7.

Paul Eagle: Supplementary.

SPEAKER: Well, the member needs to stand up, rather than talk to the person beside him if he wants a supplementary.

Paul Eagle: Sorry, Mr Speaker. What investments has Budget 2019 made in KiwiRail’s business?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, rail Ministers—myself, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Robertson, and the first citizen of the regions Shane Jones—announced this morning that KiwiRail will kick off the process of getting more than 100 new locomotives and 900 new container wagons as part of the Wellbeing Budget’s $1 billion investment in making sure that New Zealand has a reliable and sustainable rail network.

Paul Eagle: Where will these investments be made?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The benefits will be felt throughout the country. The new container wagons will be used in the busiest corridors, including Auckland-Tauranga, Auckland-Christchurch, and all lines serving the ports. This will allow the worst of the 900 existing wagons to be retired, with a small portion of those being repurposed to carry logs. Part of the funding package will go towards replacing the tired and worn out old—

Hon Shane Jones: Tired.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: —50-year-old locomotives in the South Island—

SPEAKER: Order! Mr Jones, turn it down.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: —which will mean more reliable services and lower maintenance costs. After the chaos that Auckland commuters faced last week, it’s also important to reassure New Zealanders that we are investing in tracks, bridges, tunnels, signals, and control systems around the country to make train services more reliable.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister tell the House and the country how the regions and provinces are receiving these visionary policies?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the response from regional New Zealand has been tumultuous, particularly with the recent reopening of the Wairoa to Napier rail line, which has long been a symbol of the regional neglect and the running down of those economies.

Question No. 7—Education

7. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his statements and actions around the review of vocational education?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes, in the context in which they were made.

Dr Shane Reti: Have 80 percent of submissions to the review not supported the idea of a single New Zealand institute of skills and technology?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I understand that the Minister is yet to receive a full breakdown of the submissions. There are parts of the discussion document that they support and there are parts that they have concerns around, but we are looking forward to receiving that breakdown from officials shortly.

Dr Shane Reti: Under the review, will the organising of apprentices that currently sits with industry training organisations be transferred to providers such as polytechnics, as per the leaked Cabinet paper?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Firstly, there has been no leaked Cabinet paper because there has been no actual Cabinet paper. If the member is talking about a draft document that he has seen, then those decisions are yet to be made, so I cannot confirm nor deny.

Dr Shane Reti: Under the review, will the New Zealand institute of skills and technology hold the cash and other assets currently owned by polytechnics?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: At this stage Cabinet has made no decisions about the submissions made, the discussion document, and Cabinet has not seen any Cabinet papers. So I’m, unfortunately, unable to confirm or deny.

Dr Shane Reti: Under the review, will polytechnics still be able to have campuses and provide services outside of their region?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Unfortunately there have been no Cabinet papers go to Cabinet. Cabinet has made no decisions, so at this stage there is no way to actually answer the member’s question—because there has been no decision made.

Question No. 8—Workplace Relations and Safety

8. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Has he seen the findings in the literature review released today by BERL that sector bargaining through fair pay agreements could increase wages for some of the lowest-paid workers in New Zealand, while fostering sustainable productivity growth; if so, what is his response to those findings?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): Yes, both the Business and Economic Research Ltd (BERL) and OECD reports released today say that the reduction in sector and collective bargaining after the Employment Contracts Act of 1991 led to a growing inequality in wages and worsening conditions for hard-working New Zealanders. The research out today also makes it clear that sector and enterprise collective bargaining contributes to better pay and conditions for workers. That’s why we’re working on fair pay agreements to build a modern economy fit for the 21st century.

Jan Logie: Is he concerned that over the past 30 years, wages for cleaners, security guards, and retail workers have stagnated, despite significant productivity growth in these sectors?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I am concerned that previous policies to reduce sector-level bargaining have meant some of our hardest working New Zealanders have not benefited from productivity gains. We are working on fair pay agreements to address this inequity. Sector-level bargaining is proposed by both the OECD and BERL in order to reduce inequality in wages and conditions for working New Zealanders.

Jan Logie: Does he agree that Australia’s modern award system is delivering a better deal to comparable workers in Australia, and does he believe fair pay agreements here could help redress this imbalance?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I am aware that Australia has sector-level bargaining which has helped them maintain higher wages than New Zealand, especially for those in lower income roles like the security guards that I spoke with a few weeks ago. They told me how their employers were competing for contracts by keeping their wages low and not providing training or decent health and safety. They work long hours in order to pay the bills and don’t get to see enough of their families. This Government is building a sustainable, productive, and inclusive society that supports everyone so more New Zealanders have decent wages and conditions.

Jan Logie: Does the Minister think it fair that workers doing exactly the same commercial cleaning job are paid a different rate depending on whether they’re employed directly or employed through a contracting company, and how would fair pay agreements help to fix this?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. Fair pay agreements would set minimum pay and conditions for those doing the same work. What is also unfair is that people working two cleaning jobs and doing well over 40 hours a week can’t pay the bills and spend a reasonable amount of time with their children. New Zealanders need good wages, decent conditions, and the ability to train and learn on the job, and that’s why this Government is working on fair pay agreements.

Jan Logie: Will he commit to implementing the OECD economic survey of New Zealand recommendation to adopt a combined model of sector- and enterprise- level bargaining to promote higher employment and more equal distribution of wages?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The coalition Government is working on a form of sector-level bargaining through fair pay agreements, because we want to bring the human face of capitalism to New Zealand.

Hon Scott Simpson: Can the Minister tell the House and the country when we can expect to hear the Government’s response to the Bolger working group report on fair pay agreements?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As soon as the Government has completed the detailed design work that the working group said was still required. When that design work is done and there are proposals ready to go out for consultation, the member will be amongst the first to know.

Question No. 9—Police

9. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions in relation to the Government’s firearms buy-back scheme?

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes, and I would expect all MPs to support police in their work to implement legislation that nearly every member voted for. It is disappointing that the Opposition spokesperson feels a need to constantly undermine our police at public meetings, when I think they do a fantastic job of keeping our communities safe.

Chris Bishop: Is it correct, as a member of the Firearms Community Advisory Forum and an expert involved in helping KPMG devise the pricing scheme for the buy-back says, that the experts had just five hours to devise the pricing scheme, and is this really a fair way to treat the thousands of licensed firearm owners who’ll be potentially thousands of dollars out of pocket?

Hon STUART NASH: Well, I have seen reports that a large gun owner said that he is encouraging people to comply with the law, I’ve seen another gun owner say that he thinks the price is reasonable, and I think we have landed at the right place.

Chris Bishop: Point of order.

SPEAKER: No, I don’t need a point of order. I’m going to ask the Minister to at least address the question.

Hon STUART NASH: Mr Speaker, yes.

Chris Bishop: Why are accessories only being compensated at up to 70 percent of the value when the experts involved in the pricing process and KPMG agreed they should be compulsorily acquired at full retail value?

Hon STUART NASH: Because we think we’ve got the value right at 70 percent if they’re in near-new condition.

Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement, “You know, this is not about ripping people off. This is about paying fair market value for these firearms”, and why are thousands of licensed firearm owners saying that the price list for the compulsory acquisition of their firearms does indeed rip them off?

Hon STUART NASH: Well, that’s interesting, because I have seen reports where a large gun dealer has said he will encourage gun owners to comply, I’ve seen a spokesperson for the gun lobby say that her organisation would be encouraging people to follow the law, and I’ve seen the owner of The Gunshack in Blenheim say, quote, “In reality, the price is fair.”

Ginny Andersen: To the Minister: what reports has the Minister seen about inquiries to the police website and the 0800 number from firearms owners?

Hon STUART NASH: Thousands of gun owners are already playing their part to make the country a safer place and have handed in their weapon or have notified police that they intend to. This amounts to more than 5,000 weapons. Since March, police have also seized around 700 unlawful weapons during the ordinary course of policing. There have been almost 800 calls since the buy-back details were announced. Of the phone calls received, on average, around 80 percent of calls were positive and only 5 percent of calls have been negative. Police have had over 32,000 views to the dedicated firearms page on their website and have announced the community collection points for the first three months.

Chris Bishop: Why is there no pricing information for Bushmaster AR-15 rifles, of which there are thousands in New Zealand?

Hon STUART NASH: We have always been clear that if there is a weapon that is now prohibited that is not on the list, the commissioner has the ability to amend that list.

Chris Bishop: Why is no compensation being offered for now prohibited ammunition made illegal by Order in Council and for safes that people have spent thousands of dollars investing in for firearms they are no longer allowed to own?

Hon STUART NASH: Well, as the Minister of Finance alluded to, there were no tanks in the Wellbeing Budget, so I don’t see why Kiwis need armour-piercing bullets.

Question No. 10—Police

10. GREG O’CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister of Police: Will the extension of video victim statements in Budget 2019 help victims of family violence; if so, how?

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Budget 2019 provided a major boost of $41.8 million to police’s raft of family harm initiatives, and, more specifically, $5.86 million was earmarked for victim video statements. Victim video statements provide police the ability to take online statements from victims of family violence. By using video victim statements, police are helping reduce the trauma for up to 30,000 victims of family violence every year. This funding directly provides victims of sexual violence with the ability to provide evidence in court in alternative ways to help reduce the risk of experiencing further trauma. Breaking the cycle of family and sexual violence and better supporting survivors is a major feature of the Wellbeing Budget.

Greg O’Connor: What reports has he seen on recent evaluations about victim video statements?

Hon STUART NASH: In 2018, an evaluation was carried out by the University of Canterbury and the New Zealand Police on the use of video victim statements. The report described that there were often multiple complex reasons for victims’ retractions of their statements, including, in some cases, direct pressure by the offender on the victim to recant, victims not wanting to end their relationship with a violent partner, and, most frequently, fear of retaliation. The results showed a 50 percent increase in early guilty pleas as well as an increase in overall guilty pleas of 77 percent. These results indicate that video victim statements be used to reduce demand pressures on the criminal justice system due to a reduction in cases proceeding through the court system, saving both time and resources. In addition, witnesses do not have to appear in court, reducing the chance of additional trauma.

Question No. 11—Fisheries

11. JAMI-LEE ROSS (MP—Botany) to the Minister of Fisheries: Why is Cockle Bay subject to a season ban, when Eastern Beach, Ngunguru, and Whangateau are closed for the taking of cockles, despite having a higher cockle density, and is he confident that the season ban at Cockle Bay is sufficient to protect the cockle fishery from over-harvesting?

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Fisheries): Because in the other bays, there is actually evidence that shows there is a downward trend in terms of cockle numbers. However, the evidence in Cockle Bay does not show such a trend. However, if the scientific evidence does begin to show such a downward trend, then we will take the appropriate sustainability measures.

SPEAKER: I’m just going to ask Mr Nash: next time, when he answers a question, can he make sure he’s talking to the mike. Thank you.

Jami-Lee Ross: Will he review the partial closure at Cockle Bay given that the beach has been depleted so much that it now has fewer cockles than those comparable beaches where complete bans on harvesting are in place?

Hon STUART NASH: What we will do, and what we always do with fisheries, is take an evidence-based approach, and if the evidence does show a downward decline, like it does in the other beaches mentioned by the Minister, then we absolutely will look at sustainability measures, but at this point the evidence does not point to a downward trend. But we are monitoring this if not every year then at least once every two years.

Jami-Lee Ross: How does he account for his belief that there has not been a downward trend at Cockle Bay given the number of cockles in 2011 has been declining since that year and, all of a sudden, in one year it doubled in 2018?

Hon STUART NASH: When I talk about taking an evidence-based approach, in terms of density—that’s cockles per square metre—in 2014 there were 212 per square metre, in 2016 there were 136 per square metre, and in 2019 there were 275 per square metre. As mentioned, if that trend continues downwards, then we will have a look at sustainability measures.

Question No. 12—Corrections

12. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he agree with the decision by the Department of Corrections to not notify local schools after two child sex offenders were placed in the Waimakariri electorate; if yes, why?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Acting Minister of Corrections): On behalf of the Minister, I do not accept that schools in the Waimakariri electorate were not advised that sex offenders are placed in that community. Corrections has regular contact with schools, early childhood centres, and other community organisations about the presence and management of offenders, including sex offenders, in Waimakariri. In relation to the two offenders the member is referring to, one is an adult sex offender and the other a familial child sex offender. One was first released into the Canterbury region under an extended supervision order in 2015. The other was released into Canterbury in 2016. From November 2018, both were housed in Waimakariri. This was notified to that member in December 2018. Both continue to be electronically monitored. In all the time they have been monitored, no black spots have been evident in the monitoring. Both have been under daily supervision, and apart from one incident when one of the offenders refused an instruction in 2016 to get into a car, both have been fully compliant with their conditions since released three and four years ago respectively.

Matt Doocey: Following that answer, if the Minister’s saying corrections notified the school, why did corrections write to me in May saying they placed two child sex offenders and did not make notifications?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, the corrections advice to me is that they routinely speak to schools and other relevant community organisations about the placement and management of offenders, and that advice to those organisations includes words to the effect that there will be offenders, including sex offenders, placed in this community.

Matt Doocey: I seek leave to table a letter from the Department of Corrections informing me they placed two child sex offenders without notification—

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member knows that he does not go into that detail. The member’s asking for the House to agree, in an unusual way, for a letter to be tabled to him from corrections relating to sex offenders. Is there any objection? There is none.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Matt Doocey: Does the Minister believe that parents should know whether two child sex offenders have been housed near their children’s school?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, I am confident that corrections is doing their job appropriately in maintaining regular contact with schools and other relevant organisations about the placement and management of sex offenders in Waimakariri and the wider Canterbury region, as indeed that member was notified as part of their routine engagement with relevant people in the community. This is always a difficult area, when offenders—particularly sex offenders—come to the end of their sentence and have to be released. Corrections takes a very, very clear approach with community safety first and manages offenders appropriately and properly. That member also has a duty to his constituents to advocate for community safety, but in all his public commentary on this issue he has not identified a community at risk.

Matt Doocey: What does the Minister say to parents of students at the four schools in the town of Kaiapoi, in Waimakariri, who recently received an email from school principals warning them that a child had been approached by an adult male in the community just days after it was revealed that corrections failed to notify schools about the placement of two child sex offenders in the area?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, I would say to all the parents and all of those schools and to that member who represents them as their local MP, that corrections’ track record on working with schools, notifying schools, as well as placing offenders and managing the risks associated with them is a very good one. Those schools are told, as part of the routine advice from corrections, that if they have any concern whatsoever, they must notify corrections. I go back to the track record in relation to these two offenders who have been released, respectively, for three and four years: with the exception of one breach of conditions that releated to failure to comply with instruction to get into a car by a correction officer, they have been fully compliant with all conditions.

Matt Doocey: Does he agree with former Labour corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis, who said in 2016, in relation to the placement of two sex offenders in the community: “Personally, if I was the Minister I would’ve said, ‘That’s just not good enough and I’ll look into it,’ instead of just doing the old Pontius Pilot and wiping her hands of it and putting it on to everyone else.”?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, I stand by the assurances that I have given on behalf of corrections in relation to their engagement with that member and his community and the schools and education institutions within it, and the management of these two offenders.

Matt Doocey: Does he agree with Māngere Labour MP Aupito William Sio, who was reported in 2016 as saying there needed to be changes in the law to stop sex offenders being placed near schools; what changes have occurred?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, I refer to my earlier answer, in which I acknowledged that this is a difficult issue, especially for corrections, who do not make the decision on length of sentence, but when an offender comes to the end of their sentence, then corrections has to manage that offender. They have access to the device of extended supervision orders. That applies to both of these offenders, who have been in the community now for three and four years, respectively, and with the exception of one minor breach unrelated to any issue to do with community safety, they have been fully compliant. It’s because, in addition to the daily supervision that they are subject to, they are subject to electronic monitoring. Corrections has managed these two offenders appropriately and properly.

Question No. 7 to Minister—Amended Answer

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: I seek leave to make a personal statement, to correct an answer to a supplementary question to oral question No. 7.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I have been subsequently informed that the Minister has seen a summary of submissions around the review of vocational education. I have also been informed that it is not correct that 80 percent of the substantive submissions oppose the full reforms.

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