Community Scoop
Network

Parliament: Questions and Answers May 28 2020

Press Release – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS Question No. 6 to Minister, 27 MayAmended Answer Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport . I’d like to correct an answer from yesterday in response to questions from Chris Bishop. I said that my officials have …

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 6 to Minister, 27 May—Amended Answer

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport. I’d like to correct an answer from yesterday in response to questions from Chris Bishop. I said that my officials have not recommended a process for Auckland Light Rail that would have allowed all—

SPEAKER: Order! I presume the member is seeking leave?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I beg your pardon. I’m seeking leave to make a correction.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none. Can I just recommend to members that they don’t do it at lunchtime—Mr Twyford.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’d like to correct an answer from yesterday in response to questions from Chris Bishop. I said that my officials have not recommended a process for Auckland Light Rail that would have allowed all market participants the opportunity to bid for the delivery of the project. One of the options presented to Cabinet would have allowed that, but it’s not in the public interest to release any further details until the commercial process has concluded.

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon NIKKI KAYE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she agree with the Rt Hon Winston Peters that New Zealand has been in lockdown for “far too long” and needs to be at level 1 now with a trans-Tasman bubble already operating, as reported by the NZ Herald; if so, what steps will she take to advance that?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First): on behalf of the Prime Minister: I—

Hon Member: This’ll be good.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Beg your pardon?

Hon Member: I said, “This’ll be good.”

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, it always has been. That’s not going to change. In fact, we’re only going to get better and better, unlike certain people in this House. Now, back to answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. I first would like to congratulate the member for her elevation to the deputy leadership of the National Party. Now, I do agree with the Deputy Prime Minister, as I said on Tuesday, there were “different opinions, particularly expressed by the likes of members of New Zealand First around the pace of moving into level 1.” The coalition has always been in lock step on the direction of travel ever since COVID-19 hit our shores, but it’s fair to say that the Deputy Prime Minister is very keen to see us move to alert level 1 and establish a trans-Tasman bubble as of yesterday. The Deputy Prime Minister’s comments reflect the views of many people on both sides of the Tasman and our ability to have serious debates and differ but have a consensus at the end of it.

Hon Amy Adams: Does she agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that the country should be in level 1 right now?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I think I made it very clear to Jane Patterson of RNZ on Tuesday, and other journalists who cared to have regard to what I’ve said, she said, when she set the parameters out there, “at the latest,” and gave that date, which means it could be before that date. And then she said also, there’s going to be a review two weeks after the announcement. That means that the Prime Minister and others envisage the possibility of it being—

Hon Member: Nonsense.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —sooner rather than later. No, nonsense is your specialty. I’m dealing with facts and words, because words matter.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Does she agree with the Deputy Prime Minister that the country should be in level 1 right now?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I think she made it very, very clear she doesn’t agree with the Deputy Prime Minister. But it coming as soon as possible is the Prime Minister’s aspiration, as it is for the rest of the Cabinet and the coalition. That’s why she put these two dates out there which suggest, first, a review and the outside date being the latest, which suggests it could be much sooner—if the evidence suggests it should be so.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Has she had a detailed discussion with the Deputy Prime Minister about his view of the lockdown going on far too long?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it should come as no surprise that we’ve had very comprehensive discussions, not just with the Deputy Prime Minister, but with every member of Cabinet, because we all have views to suggest and put forward, we all have people around the country who all have alternative views, and discussion and proper debate is what this coalition Government is becoming famous for.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Does she have any concerns about the confidentiality of Cabinet when her Deputy Prime Minister is revealing Cabinet discussions in public?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, now, there’s the rub, isn’t it? Because, if that was true, then I, as the Prime Minister, would be responsible for the same thing that was alleged by someone who knows nothing about the constitutional nature of this country, will never be in the Cabinet, doesn’t know what the manual is all about. To think that that member is repeating it astonishes me because the Prime Minister answering the question first disclosed this information herself to Jane Patterson of RNZ on Tuesday, 24 hours before the Deputy Prime Minister said anything.

Hon Grant Robertson: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports around issues to do with the confidentiality of discussions in this building this week?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, indeed, I have, and, to be true, even though it’s not in the bailiwick of the coalition which I seek to lead, it deeply shocked me that politicians could behave that way where they would use inside information to destroy, internally, the very party they belong to and where those that have been so heinously treated by demotion have decided to fight from the back benches against those who are unwantonly and wrongly and probably in vain, promoted.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Has the foreign Minister advocated to her or to the Cabinet to proceed faster around the trans-Tasman bubble?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, take a wild guess.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Has the foreign Minister advocated a date by which time he would like to see the trans-Tasman bubble established?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, in one word: yesterday.

Hon Nikki Kaye: What are the issues that are holding up the delivery of a trans-Tasman bubble?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the reality is, and everyone has got their reasons for having their view, but it is the concern to ensure that the stellar record of defeating COVID-19 has, perhaps, a few more days of an unblemished record before people would be more comfortable with change. And that is a fair sentiment; whether we all agree with it is a different matter.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Does she agree with economist Brad Olsen that 80 percent of the total job losses in New Zealand would come from small businesses, most of which will never be widely reported, and does she think that staying in level 2 longer will make this situation far worse?

SPEAKER: I’m going to ask the deputy leader of the National Party to relate that question to the primary question.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Does she believe that staying in level 2 longer will lead to significant job losses in New Zealand?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, of course I agree with that, because that’s what anyone who knows the remote elements of the economy are about would know that. The reality is, the longer we go in, the more difficult it is for us to recover, but, that said, there are medical caveats and conditions and provisos which the decision makers seek to ensure is first and foremost in their minds. But that’s nothing new. We don’t need a group of economists to tell us what this means. What we need, of course, is the right ideology, or the lack of blind ideology, to take us as fast as possible out of it. And the member from Epsom can keep on laughing, because that’s all he’s going to do.

Hon Nikki Kaye: What reports has she seen on the number of businesses that are likely to close as the Government waits weeks to move to level 1?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, be honest, there have been all sorts of comments and statements and predictions, but, in terms of analytical reports, I believe, none.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Will she and the Cabinet be weighing the risk to businesses of a further outbreak of COVID-19 when they make decisions about the further relaxation of current restrictions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I think you can take that as read.

Question No. 2—Health

2. JAMI-LEE ROSS (MP—Botany) to the Minister of Health: Is the development of a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, and the use of that vaccine, a crucial tool that will contribute, or is likely to contribute, to preventing the risk of the outbreak or spread of COVID-19?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and that’s why I was pleased on Tuesday to join the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to announce the Government’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy and the investment of $37 million to support the development of a vaccine.

Jami-Lee Ross: Does section 11(1)(a) of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 give him as Minister of Health the authority to make orders that “… require persons to take any specified actions, or comply with any specified measures, that contribute or are likely to contribute to preventing the risk of the outbreak or spread of COVID-19, …”?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This Government—and, indeed, previous Governments—have never compelled any individual to get vaccinated against their wishes. That is not about to change. We will not force people to get immunised against their will. That said, we know vaccination works and when there is a COVID-19 vaccine we will do all we can to ensure New Zealanders get immunised. I would note that there are eight measures listed in the Act that people could be required to undertake to reduce the risk of COVID-19, including staying in a specified place, staying physically distant from people, and reporting for medical examination or testing. Vaccination is not one of the measures listed.

Jami-Lee Ross: Has he seen any reports of other coercive public policy measures being proposed relating to vaccinations, which would see a parent losing their benefit or Working for Families entitlement if they did not vaccinate their children, commonly referred to as a “no jab, no pay” policy?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have seen that advocated. I don’t agree with Mr Luxon on that point. I would note also that there is provision to refuse medical treatment under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Question No. 3—Education

3. MARJA LUBECK (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What action is the Government taking to invest in training and education for people who have lost their jobs or who want to move into a different sector where prospects are better?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): As we emerge from this health crisis, Budget 2020 has made major investments in jobs and training as we get New Zealand working again. Our trades and apprenticeships training package will provide opportunities for New Zealanders of all ages to receive trades and vocational training. It sits alongside expanding the Ministry of Social Development’s employment services and further rolling out the successful He Poutama Rangatahi programme to tackle youth unemployment, and we’ll be continuing to add to it as part of our work to rebuild the economy.

Marja Lubeck: What will the trades and apprenticeships training package do to provide affordable training options for people who have been affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Firstly, we’ll be providing funding for tens of thousands of additional places in tertiary education over the next couple of years to meet increased demand from learners, who are expected to experience the effects of the economic downturn. Secondly, we’ll be making targeted vocational training programmes free for all ages, not just for school leavers, over the next two years, and this will help some of the people who have lost their jobs to retrain, and also allow new employees in some of the essential services to train on the job. The targeted training and apprenticeships fund will include programmes that are linked to industry skill needs, for example in building and construction, agriculture, manufacturing, and also in other vocational courses like community health, counselling, and care work, and the funding will be available from 1 July this year.

Marja Lubeck: How will the trades and apprenticeships training package help to keep apprentices earning and learning?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: We’ll be providing some financial support for employers to retain and keep training their apprentices. We’re also going to be putting additional funding into group training schemes so that they can continue to employ apprentices whose host employers, who are primarily small construction businesses, are unable to support them and provide on-the-job opportunities. These initiatives will be critical for continuity, because the last thing we want to see is apprentices and trainees having been let go when we are really going to need them in the future.

Marja Lubeck: What else will the Government be doing through the trades and apprenticeships training package?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Heaps, but I’ll give a couple of quick examples. We’re building on the volume of trades academy places in secondary schools over the next couple of years to provide further opportunities for young New Zealanders, we’re funding the establishment of industry-led workforce development councils so that industry can strategically plan for the skill needs of their industries as they recover from COVID-19, and we’re establishing and putting further work into our online careers system so that learners and workers, throughout their lifetime, can plan and manage their careers. This will help all New Zealanders understand their transferrable skills, and it will be particularly valuable for those who can’t easily show a clear work history.

Question time interrupted.

Version:1.0 StartHTML:000000252 EndHTML:000053245 StartFragment:000003338 EndFragment:000053160 StartSelection:000003401 EndSelection:000053139 SourceURL:https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20200527_20200528_42 Oral Questions — Questions to Ministers (continued) – New Zealand Parliament (function(w,d,s,l,i){w[l]=w[l]||[];w[l].push({‘gtm.start’: new Date().getTime(),event:’gtm.js’});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0], j=d.createElement(s),dl=l!=’dataLayer’?’&l=’+l:”;j.async=true;j.src= ‘//www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id=’+i+dl;f.parentNode.insertBefore(j,f); })(window, document, ‘script’, ‘dataLayer’, ‘GTM-NQJ5V9’); var _trackPreloadEvents = [];

Question No. 4—Finance

4. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What priority does he give to further opening up the economy to save jobs?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): My highest priority is the saving and creation of jobs. This includes by safely opening up the economy in a way that doesn’t put the health gains won by all New Zealanders at risk if there were to be another outbreak of COVID-19 that would force us to move back up alert levels.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree with Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, that we need to come out of level 2 now to further open up the economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have great respect for the Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, but on this matter we disagree.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he prefer the Prime Minister’s view that she explained yesterday, that she takes her advice from Ashley Bloomfield about how to come out of level 2 and to open up the economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In my experience it is always good to prefer the view of the Prime Minister or indeed the leader of the party the member might happen to be in, whoever that might be.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree with the proposition that while we trust Ashley Bloomfield to look after our health, we don’t necessarily want him running our economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government has said from day one that the very best recipe for the recovery of the New Zealand economy has been a strong public health response. That has been borne out by what has happened in New Zealand. We look broadly at all of the things that New Zealanders would want us to when we make consideration about moving through alert levels, and I believe we’ve taken a responsible path.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How many extra jobs will be lost each week we remain in level 2 as opposed to being in level 1?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member will be aware that a number of different calculations have been made by both the Reserve Bank and Treasury. The Reserve Bank have estimated that when we were in level 3, GDP was going to be reduced by about 19 percent, then when we went to level 2 it would be by about 8.8 percent, and then, under level 1, 3.8 percent. So, quite clearly, the difference between level 3 and level 2 is very significant in terms of GDP and indeed jobs. The difference between level 2 and level 1—less of a gap between those two levels, but I don’t obviously have those specific numbers here.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, isn’t it at a time when we’re losing more than a thousand jobs a day—isn’t it essential for him to at least make an attempt to quantify the difference between job losses at level 2 and level 1?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The premise of that member’s question is completely incorrect.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I’m not sure quite how it is. Does he acknowledge the concerns of restructuring specialist Grant Graham about waiting further weeks to reopen the economy “knowing that the cost will not only be extreme but unjustifiable.”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Again, obviously I don’t agree with the premise of that question. We have taken a responsible and measured path to lead New Zealand through a one-in-100-year crisis. The idea that we would yo-yo back up levels would have a huge impact on the New Zealand economy. We’re making good progress, much better progress than many other countries around the world, and we will continue to take all of the expert advice into account and make decisions in the best interests of New Zealanders.

Question No. 5—Economic Development

5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement of 1 April 2020 that he was developing a pipeline of infrastructure projects that “would begin as soon as we are able to move around freely and go back to work”; if so, how many new projects have now started?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister for Economic Development): I stand by my actual statement that we—as in “the Government”—are developing a pipeline of infrastructure. Some of this pipeline includes the Government’s State housing construction programme; the additional $1 billion for rail, announced in the Budget by the Minister for State Owned Enterprises; schools up and down the country, with school improvement projects under way. A number of Ministers, including the Minister of Transport, are continuing work on the projects announced in the NZ Upgrade Programme. The Minister of Finance signalled on Budget day that more projects will be considered through the COVID rebuild and recovery fund, based on the work of the industry reference group. The Minister of Finance is responsible for the COVID rebuild and recovery fund. Ministerial responsibility for the start of projects lies with the relevant portfolio Minister. By way of example, I’m advised by the Minister of Transport that construction has resumed on the Northern Corridor improvements in Auckland; Baypark to Bayfair, in the Bay of Plenty; Mackays to Peka Peka, and Peka Peka to Ōtaki; and the Christchurch Northern Corridor. I also note that the Minister of Housing announced on 9 May that 240 Kāinga Ora public housing worksites had builders back at work.

Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister’s referred to what he calls his actual statement. I have his statement here; it doesn’t seem to be the same as what he’s said it is. So I wonder if I could seek leave to table the statement that he put out.

SPEAKER: We’ll just take it simply. The member is seeking leave to table a document which is printed. Normally, we wouldn’t do that, but seeing issue has been—

Hon Member: What’s the source?

SPEAKER: Sorry. The source of the document—I presume it’s a press statement, is it, Ms Collins?

Hon Judith Collins: It’s a press statement, and the Minister says he’s quoted from it today. It is significantly different from what it says in the press statement.

SPEAKER: Well, we’re not going to make any judgment about the difference, but the member has sought to table a document and, unusually, I’m going to put it to the House because there appears to be an issue here. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none.

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

Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker; thank you for that. Is anything holding up his announcement of the—quote—”pipeline of infrastructure projects” that, on 1 April, he claimed would start as soon as the construction industry returned to work?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I suggest to the member that, if she’s after the start dates or any reasons for projects starting or not at a particular time, she should direct her questions to the Minister who has responsibility for those projects, such as the Minister of Education, the Minister for Infrastructure, the Minister of Transport, or the Minister of Housing.

Hon Judith Collins: If he is now saying he doesn’t have responsibilities for these projects, why did he announce that he was going to have an announcement?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The press statement that the member is referring to was put out by the Minister for Infrastructure, the Hon Shane Jones, and I because we were asked by the Minister of Finance to commission some work by the industry reference group chaired by Mark Binns. That’s what the press release announced, and I’m pleased to say that work has been completed by the industry reference group.

Hon Judith Collins: Why did he say on 1 April that these projects would start as soon as the construction industry returned to work, yet two months later he’s now telling the House that it wasn’t his responsibility?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I entirely reject the premise of the member’s question. I’ve already cited to her a long list of infrastructure projects that are part of the Government’s infrastructure pipeline that are up and running since the country emerged from level 4 and level 3 lockdown.

Hon Judith Collins: How many of the projects that he said would start as soon as the construction industry returned to work will need fast-track consenting in order to proceed?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I suggest the member direct that question to the Minister responsible for the Resource Management Act (RMA) fast-tracking legislation or, alternatively, the various Ministers responsible for those projects.

Hon Judith Collins: And, as the Minister for Economic Development, has he received any advice from the Minister for the Environment on any potential delays to the pipeline of infrastructure projects, and what is that advice?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I’ve received quite a lot of advice—as many of my colleagues have—from the environment Minister about the timing of a number of infrastructure projects generally that will be considered as part of the COVID response and recovery programme, and the desire to speed up the RMA consenting process for those projects is the policy intent behind the Hon David Parker’s bill.

Question No. 6—Prime Minister

6. Hon RON MARK (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her Government’s investment in New Zealand’s infrastructure and capabilities?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, particularly support for our inter-island ferry service. On 14 May 2020, we were pleased to announce that the Interislander ferries are to have their capabilities dramatically improved. Our Cook Strait ferry service is a critical link between the North and South Islands, both for passengers and cargo, and the $400 million we have set aside for replacing the three ageing Interislander ferries will restore KiwiRail to its rightful place in New Zealand’s transport infrastructure.

Hon Ron Mark: How will the upgraded Interislander service improve New Zealand’s rail network?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the ships that we will build will be the first brand new, purpose-built ferries that New Zealand has had in over 25 years. At the moment, only the Aratere is rail-enabled. This is a result of successive Governments’ failures to invest in New Zealand railways, and, as a result, the Aratere has a number of expensive technical problems. With the new ships, we will ensure the main trunk line between the North Island and the South Island is as well-connected and reliable as it should be, whilst ensuring that passenger services take full advantage of the journeys on offer.

Hon Ron Mark: Can she tell the House what investments the Government has made in the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF’s) infrastructure and capabilities?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the coalition Government has made huge investments in NZDF’s infrastructure, capabilities, and personnel, with $4.3 billion in operating and capital funding allocated in total across the past three Budgets. This represents the greatest injection of defence funding in decades, and we’re exceptionally proud of our defence force and its people, which was a great example of being of assistance yesterday in the rescue of two trampers gone for 19 days in Kahurangi National Park. A crew of Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) personnel in an NH90 helicopter successfully searched for Jessica O’Connor and Dion Reynolds—who are now safe and well—in the most difficult circumstances. It was a remarkable tale of endurance and survival, but it wouldn’t have been possible were it not for our defence force, again, and as a result of the coalition Government backing them, again.

Hon Ron Mark: Why were the defence force called in to assist with that search mission?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: You found them personally.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I beg your pardon?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I said you’d think you’d found them personally.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Here comes Valium again. On behalf of the Prime Minister, the New Zealand Police—for whom we would like also to express our profound admiration and gratitude—requested the support of the RNZAF’s NH90 helicopters because of their exceptional capacity and ability and suitability to the type of terrain that the pair found themselves in. Equipped with night vision goggles and winching capabilities, these helicopters and crew performed exceptionally well, and, again, it underscores for those who are always critical of the military just how profound their humanitarian reach is. I want to thank the member in particular, as the Minister of Defence, because his opponents have not asked a question of him or me on this issue since 18 September 2018.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! Order! Order!

Hon Mark Mitchell: Oh, when you said I was in the wrong helicopter?

SPEAKER: OK.

Question No. 7—Social Development

7. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: What is the total amount spent on her Keep New Zealand Working package, announced on 28 April?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. The Keep New Zealand Working package announced a number of initiatives, including a Keep New Zealand Working online recruitment platform; 35 new employment centres across the country; a Keep New Zealand Working fast-tracking service for those benefit applicants who need to re-engage quickly with the job market and support for those not on benefit; and quick upskilling solutions—for example, the new free online community health course with New Zealand Qualifications Authority unit standards. All costs associated with this have been met using the ministry’s operational budget. The cost of developing the Work and Income online recruitment tool was $244,000. The ministry has also entered into a partnership with the health sector training provider MySkill to deliver free online training modules for people who want to upskill or retrain. The ministry has committed $160,000 to support this online training initiative.

Hon Louise Upston: Does she think she should have committed more than $400,000 to Keep New Zealand Working, in light of the thousands of job losses seen in New Zealand since that announcement?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: We have made significant announcements in the House in respect to support for employment and upskilling and training. We announced, as part of the Budget, an additional $150 million to go towards Ministry for Social Development (MSD) employment services, as well as an additional $250 million that will support MSD with recruiting the front-line staff that we will need at this time in respect to not only work-focused case managers and work-focused staff but also general case managers to support with the demand that we are expecting because of this unprecedented event.

Hon Louise Upston: Does she think unemployed New Zealanders were misled when she announced 35 new employment centres as part of her Keep New Zealand Working package that, according to written question No. 6603, were actually current MSD staff working out of current existing offices?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Due to the restrictions with regards to COVID-19 at level 4 and even level 3, we haven’t been able to operate the face-to-face service that we would usually operate. Much of what we have had to do was online and over the phone. So the smart thing for us to do was to consolidate all of the employment-focused staff that we have into centres across the country to make sure that they were focused, working collaboratively. On top of this investment this year, with regard to the additional staff that we will be getting to support New Zealanders during this time, I do need to reflect back to last year’s Budget where, fortunately, we were also given funding for 263 additional front-line, work-focused case managers that are certainly going to be very useful now. And that was on the back of a decline under the previous Government of work-focused case management in MSD offices.

Hon Louise Upston: The 35 new employment centres that were part of her announcement—are they new or not?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: They were a new way of us working and we have been very clear about that. It was important that we be innovative and think differently about how we provide our support, and that is exactly what we were able to do. More New Zealanders are going to find themselves unemployed because of COVID-19, and so we have moved swiftly as a Government to put our resource towards employment, upskilling, and training and to think innovatively about how we work differently to ensure that we’re providing support to New Zealanders during these difficult times.

Hon Louise Upston: Why did she announce an employment service for those directly impacted by COVID-19 who are not on a main benefit when her written question answer yesterday says the ministry is still looking into how to do this?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: As part of the rapid response programme that we undertook before we went into lockdown level 3 and level 4, what we did was we had rapid response teams across the country who were not just working with New Zealanders who were already out of employment but also New Zealanders who were at risk of becoming employed. So at that point, they were getting in there proactively, to provide support to look at their options for alternative employment before they finished in those positions and needed to find work elsewhere.

Question No. 8—Transport

CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister, at the start of question time, corrected an answer to a question yesterday, which was a primary question on notice. I draw your attention to Speaker’s ruling 184/1 about Ministers having an obligation to correct answers at the earliest available opportunity. The House has been sitting all of yesterday evening, and indeed this morning, and we’ve only had the correction at 2 p.m. this afternoon.

SPEAKER: That is a fair point of order, and the correction, if the Minister was aware of it, should have been made earlier. There are a couple of points. First of all, the point of order should have been taken at the time of the correction or immediately afterwards. Secondly, I’m not sure that it impacts on the wording of the question that we’re about to have. If the member feels that he’s been significantly disadvantaged as a result of the correction on the part of the Minister, I would propose to seek the leave of the House for this question not to be asked and for an additional question to be given to the National Party on Tuesday, which would, I think, give the member the opportunity to have the question that he would want.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): You’ve heard Mr Bishop’s point of order, but he forgot to add the refinement or the caveat that is at the first available opportunity after discovering there was a mistake. He left that part out.

CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South): Is the Deputy Prime Minister implying that the Minister found out his answer yesterday was incorrect at 2 o’clock?

SPEAKER: No, let’s leave all of that. I’m now going to ask Mr Bishop if he thinks he’s been significantly disadvantaged by the correction, and, if so, whether he would prefer to ask a question on Tuesday rather than now.

CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South): I’ll proceed with the question. I’m happy to proceed, because I think it’s in the public interest that we do that.

SPEAKER: OK.

8. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Transport: In the Cabinet paper released in June 2019 titled “Progressing our plans to deliver light rail in Auckland”, does one of the redactions include a comment from the Treasury; if so, what does that comment say?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes, this comment was redacted in the released Cabinet paper to protect confidentiality of advice and so that negotiations can be carried out without prejudice or disadvantage, and on the basis of that it’s still appropriate to withhold that information. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order!

Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are various Speakers’ rulings: 177/5 and 177/6 make it clear that the Minister’s obligation to the House is separate from the obligations under the Official Information Act—

SPEAKER: Yep, and?

Chris Bishop: My point is that this is a primary question on notice and we’d like the information.

SPEAKER: No, no, there’s no—

Hon Chris Hipkins: Speaking to the point of order.

SPEAKER: No, I don’t need any help at all. There is no obligation. If the Minister says it’s not in the public interest to provide that—

Chris Bishop: He didn’t say that.

SPEAKER: Well, I listened to him very carefully. He might have used the terms of the Official Information Act but he made it clear that for commercial sensitivity and to allow the negotiations to proceed, it wasn’t appropriate to release the information now. He said he stood by that. The member’s absolutely right—you know, there are different obligations. But if the Minister—and I think he, in effect, told the House that it’s not in the public interest to release the information, then he cannot be forced to. It’s a matter for his judgment; no one else.

Chris Bishop: When he said yesterday “the recommended course of action that went to Cabinet from the Ministry of Transport in the paper that I took was the process that we have since undertaken.” where does it say in the paper that the twin track process was the recommendation of the Ministry of Transport?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Through me

Chris Bishop: When he states in his Cabinet paper at paragraph 65 what his “preferred approach” would be and how to deal with the New Zealand Infra and New Zealand Transport Agency proposals, did the paper state other approaches that could be undertaken other than his preferred approach?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.

Chris Bishop: Why, when the twin track process has concluded and the Ministry of Transport has completed its assessment of both proposals, can he not provide the House with details about alternative proposals and the recommendations from the ministry?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because the commercial process is still under way.

Chris Bishop: Did Treasury support the recommendations in his Cabinet paper?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: As I’ve stated, the comment from Treasury was redacted on the grounds to maintain confidentiality of advice because of the commercial nature of the process.

Chris Bishop: How can it possibly impact the commerciality of advice and the Crown’s commercial position as to whether or not Treasury supported his recommendation to Cabinet?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The content or the substance of the advice is judged to be relevant to the commercial process and therefore it’s appropriate for it not only to be redacted from the release of that Cabinet paper but to not be in the public interest to release that information now.

Chris Bishop: What is so explosive about the fact that Treasury has provided an alternative option to the one that is his preference that would put the Crown at a commercial disadvantage?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There’s never been any suggestion that it’s explosive.

Question No. 9—Revenue

9. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue: What advice has he received about the uptake of the Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme?

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. The Government has taken decisive and considered action to support small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Inland Revenue advised me that a billion dollars in interest-free loans for small businesses has been applied for.

Kieran McAnulty: Outstanding.

Hon STUART NASH: Thank you. Almost 60,000 businesses have applied and 96 percent have been approved. That’s an average amount of around $17,300 per business, and 90 percent of applications are from firms with 10 or fewer staff. A wide cross-section of businesses have applied. The most common are those from the construction industry, accommodation providers, professional firms, and retail. And 88 percent of those seeking loans also received support from the wage subsidy grant. Applications are due by 12 June, but I’m seeking advice on extending the deadline, given the substantial demand for the loans.

Jo Luxton: How are provincial businesses represented in those who have applied for the Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme?

Hon STUART NASH: The IRD has received around 3,062 applications from Tauranga businesses, 2,000 applications from Palmerston North, 1,800 from Whangarei, 1,500 from Nelson, and 1,400 from Napier, and more than 25,000 businesses from our largest city, Auckland, have drawn down approximately $425 million. I thank the member Jo Luxton for her advocacy for the businesses of Rangitata and for the insight she shares as a small-business owner. The loan scheme has helped 230 businesses in her region to the tune of $4.4 million. I also thank the member Tamati Coffey for his advocacy as a small-business owner. More than 1,300 businesses have also accessed this support in his area. My friend Damien O’Connor will also be pleased to hear that Government lending has extended to 300 businesses in Greymouth, and to the tourism Minister, who is supporting tourism-related businesses, more than 1,800 businesses in his electorate have borrowed $31 million.

Jo Luxton: What response has he seen from the private sector about the Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme?

Hon STUART NASH: Professional advisers like bookkeepers, accountants, and tax agents have backed and endorsed the loan scheme for their clients. For example, the Accountants and Tax Agents Institute of New Zealand, which has 400 professional members, has thanked Ministers for their excellent work in recognising the need of small businesses and for providing an effective package for helping their clients with cash flow at this time. The Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme is a targeted and balanced approach to recovery for viable but vulnerable small businesses.

Question No. 10—Housing

10. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Minister of Housing: How many KiwiBuild homes that have been sold “off the plans” have had their estimated completion date delayed from the date that was communicated to buyers at the time of sale, and will KiwiBuild homes continue to be sold “off the plans”?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Housing): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Seventy-two homes have had a delay of more than six months, while an additional 123 have a delay between one and six months. These houses are all within developments with contracts signed prior to the KiwiBuild reset that I announced last December. I do also note that there are 91 homes ahead of schedule. As frustrating as it can be, it’s not unusual for construction projects to experience delays—for instance, NZ LAW advises people considering purchases off the plans that projects often “take years to complete, and delays can and do happen”. If the member is referring to the Monark development in Wellington, which constitutes 44 of the 72 properties delayed by six months, I can confirm that this is a development arrangement that is no longer used by KiwiBuild. The agreement was signed prior to the KiwiBuild reset announced in September last year, and KiwiBuild houses at this development were marketed and sold before confirmation of a construction contract. When I first heard about this delay in December last year, I had huge sympathy for the first-home buyers who had secured these KiwiBuild homes but now face delays. In response, I instructed officials to ensure that no further KiwiBuild houses are to be sold off the plans prior to the developer having funding confirmed. In answer to the second part of the question, yes.

Nicola Willis: What will she do to help the 44 KiwiBuild buyers in Wellington’s delayed Monark development?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The contracts are not with KiwiBuild; they are with the developer. But, as I made publicly clear yesterday, there are a number of purchasers who the developer has released prior to the sunset clause arriving. If those people want to get in touch with my office, I am more than happy to put them in touch with the developer.

Nicola Willis: Will she do anything to help these first-home buyers other than passing on the contact details of the property developer?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I said, this is an arrangement that is no longer used within KiwiBuild, but what I would like to point out is that these are 44 first-home buyers that are still looking at the delivery of a first home via KiwiBuild. I will put our record of delivering affordable homes over the Opposition when they were in Government, who delivered 100 affordable homes through the special housing units in the nine long years that they were in Government.

Nicola Willis: How many KiwiBuild homes have been built?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I’d like to advise the new Opposition spokesperson for housing for the National Party that there is a very informative monthly dashboard that is published that tells you all this information. The latest dashboard will tell her there have been 395 Kiwi homes built.

Nicola Willis: Will KiwiBuild purchasers in the Monark development be required to live in their homes for three years before selling them?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: That will depend on the typology of the home, because, of course, when we did the reset in September, that was altered for studio and one-bedroom apartments, so it will depend on the type of apartment they have purchased.

Nicola Willis: Will she ensure that KiwiBuild buyers in the delayed Monark development can get their deposits back prior to June 2022?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: These are contracts that have been entered into. I am not going to stand in Parliament as a Minister and say that I am going to unpick contracts. What I have advised the purchasers to do is to speak to the developer. Some have been released, but I do note that I received communication this morning from someone who is a purchaser in the Monark development who understands there is a delay and is still committed to the very good apartment that he is going to have there. So not all people want release from these contracts.

Question No. 11—Employment

11. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Employment: What measures are used to assess the performance and progress of his employment programmes?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Kia ora, Mr Speaker. Employment programmes such as Mana in Mahi and He Poutama Rangatahi have reporting, monitoring, and evaluation processes built into them that measure things like, in the case of Mana in Mahi, employment and training outcomes and, in the case of He Poutama Rangatahi, the number of rangatahi engaged and the proportion of participants that go on to education, employment, or training pathways. I receive regular reports updating me on progress, and the clear indication these programmes work is in the decade-low unemployment rates we’ve achieved over the past two years. However, I want to make it clear to the House that, for many people in our vulnerable communities, it’s not just about reports or data; it’s about opportunities and transforming lives and communities. I mean, we’re working with people right at the edge, who have disengaged from secondary school—for example, 30 percent of those enrolled in He Poutama Rangatahi have no qualification, and 37.9 percent have been expelled or stood down from school. They have barriers to finding and keeping work—for example, 38.9 percent have no drivers’ licence. They have disabilities. They’ve come from long-term generational welfare dependencies. We’re talking about kids whose fathers—

SPEAKER: Order! I am going to interrupt the member. He will have the opportunity for a Budget speech at some stage in the future. Is there a supplementary?

Dr Shane Reti: When he said yesterday that the cost-benefit ratio for He Poutama Rangatahi was $2.60, how were the benefits calculated, and did they take into account a standard discount rate?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Everything that’s calculated is worked out through Treasury. We get our numbers back. They do a total assessment of it. It’s pretty easy. We’ve all been around a while. That’s how they work things out.

Dr Shane Reti: Does he agree that benefits to Māori in his programmes need to be a focus, and will he lobby for an increase in the discount rate?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Sorry, I don’t quite understand your question.

Dr Shane Reti: Does he agree that benefits to Māori in his programmes need to be a focus, and will he lobby for an increase in the discount rate?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: The majority of people on these programmes are Māori, and that member should know that; he comes from a community that has been hugely disadvantaged. And I will advocate for Māori or groups who have missed out at every opportunity that I am able to. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In his programmes, will someone get a fair chance for promotion and not be overlooked, regardless of race?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Absolutely. When we talk about race, it’s about how these groups have been affected. We help everyone.

SPEAKER: Marja Lubeck.

Dr Shane Reti: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I confirm that the Minister answered my question to point two—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Marja Lubeck.

Hon Members: He took a point of order.

SPEAKER: Well, the member’s asking about a point of order for a supplementary two back. The member can’t do that. The member knows that. He takes it immediately or not at all.

Hon Tim Macindoe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Dr Shane Reti was jumping up. You looked immediately at the Rt Hon Winston Peters and allowed him to ask a question. You didn’t give Dr Reti the chance to raise his point of order.

SPEAKER: Well, I know Dr Reti is not the loudest member in the Chamber, but he did have an open mike.

Hon Tim Macindoe: He was on his feet.

SPEAKER: Being on your feet is not good enough. One has to call, Mr Macindoe, and after all these years, you should know that. The member will not argue from his seat.

Marja Lubeck: Fa’afetai, Lau Afioga, i le Fofoga Fetalai. How does he measure the progress that has been made in the employment programme He Poutama Rangatahi?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Our community-led programme He Poutama Rangatahi works with our rangatahi who aren’t engaged in employment, education, or training. Now, we measure the progress that has been made with these programmes around the country in a number of ways. I’ve received reports from officials that show 3,472 young people have been engaged through He Poutama Rangatahi, and 1,625 of them have already been connected to further training or employment. As our programme is community led, they’re committed to working with our young people long term to get positive outcomes, and we’re funding community-driven projects in Tai Rāwhiti, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Tai Tokerau—regions with high numbers of disengaged young people and disadvantaged labour markets. Now, it’s not just about the numbers; we measure progress by these young people by how their lives have changed, and we’ve seen real change with these young people.

Dr Shane Reti: Is he the Minister responsible for the performance and progress of Māori and Pasifika trades training, given he said on Tuesday that it was his only new programme that he had taken to Cabinet during lockdown level 4?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Yes, I am responsible for Māori trade training and Pasifika trade training. That member should know we don’t need a lot of new programmes. We need to support workers—we’ve done that: 1.6 million workers have been supported. I’ve supported our Minister of Finance along the way with that. Wage subsidies have benefited New Zealand hugely. We’ve already got the programmes in place. We had record unemployment. We’ve had record Māori unemployment. We’ve had record Pasifika unemployment. We’ve got the underutilisation rates up. We’ve got the disability sector up. We don’t need anything fancy and new. We already had something entrenched, and then something like COVID-19 came along.

Dr Shane Reti: How has the Mana in Mahi success rate gone from 84 percent at the Epidemic Response Committee a few weeks ago to 81 percent yesterday; or were both figures a guess?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I think I’ve been very clear. I’m not sure where the member got 84 percent, but 81 percent—we’ve got an 81 percent success rate in terms of Mana in Mahi. This is such an exciting and successful programme. That member should feel very proud of it. At the moment, he’s embarrassing his relations in Whangarei. He should be standing up for Mana in Mahi rather than his useless, no-achievement leader at this stage.

Marja Lubeck: Fa’afetai. What measures does the Minister of Employment look for in the progress of Mana in Mahi?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Thank you for that. Every month, I receive traditional reports from our officials on the progress of Mana in Mahi, which is of great interest to the Opposition, who have no respect for a programme that is changing the lives of New Zealanders. They show so far: 729 people have started the Mana in Mahi programme, 54 percent of these are Māori or Pasifika, 35 percent of them have been on benefit for more than one year, and 10 percent for more than four years, 81 percent of people who start Mana in Mahi do not return to a benefit. There are a wide range of industries that Mana in Mahi supports, from agriculture, construction, retail, forestry, to manufacturing—

SPEAKER: OK, OK. That’s enough.

Dr Shane Reti: Is he denying that he told the Epidemic Response Committee the Mana in Mahi success rate was 84 percent?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: 84, 81—it should have been 81. I mean, if that’s what you’re hanging your hat on. Why don’t you stand up for your people in Whangarei and stand up for the Māori members in National? You’re a disgrace, Shane.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! That final comment—well, quite a lot of it was possibly out of order, but the final comment certainly was. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Willie Jackson: I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker.

Question No. 12—Building and Construction

12. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister for Building and Construction: What recent announcements has she made about supporting our building and construction businesses?

Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction): Malo le soifua. Manuia le aso, Mr Speaker. This Government is ensuring that construction subcontractors will have the support and security they deserve, with new changes to the retentions payment regime under the Construction Contracts Act 2002. We know that, when construction firms dip into money that isn’t theirs and if they then collapse and go into liquidation, it’s our hard-working builders, plumbers, electricians, and other tradies who are hit the hardest. These changes will ensure that we’re delivering security for our subbies. It’s great to be in this House for a second day in a row to talk about concrete changes this Government is making to ensure that our building and construction sector is put back to work.

Paul Eagle: What are the proposed changes?

Hon JENNY SALESA: The changes that I’m proposing are these: the Government is making three big changes to the Construction Contracts Act 2002 to deliver security for our subbies. First, we’re introducing new offence and penalties for firms and for company directors who don’t comply with their responsibilities. So, for companies, it’ll be a fine of up to $200,000; for company directions, a fine of up to $50,000. Second, we’re strengthening how retention money is held so that no one can dip into it and use it as working capital. And, third, we’re making firms issue a transparency report about how much retention funds are being held and where those funds are being held. These changes give the existing law the teeth that it deserves.

Paul Eagle: How will this affect construction firms who are already worried about an uncertain economic outlook?

Hon JENNY SALESA: I want to reassure the vast majority of law-abiding construction firms that they will barely notice a difference. This isn’t going to make life harder or more expensive for our head contractors and contractors who are already putting retention funds aside or who already pay their subbies in full. This is about going after those cowboys—those who knowingly dip into subcontractors’ money for their own cash flow when they know that they shouldn’t. We’ll hold those firms accountable, and we’ll go after the company directors as well. It’s always unfortunate when construction firms go under, but our subbies shouldn’t be the ones paying the price.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
Original url