[Sitting date: 16 August 2012. Volume:682;Page:4468. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the
Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on progress in building a faster-growing economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the
Minister of Finance: Last week Treasury issued its monthly economic indicators for July, which showed the domestic economy remains in relatively good shape compared with most other developed countries. New Zealand posted a better than expected 1.1 percent GDP growth in the March quarter, taking annual growth to 2.4 percent compared with March 2011. This is better than most other developed countries, and compares well with Australia. Inflation is currently subdued. This should allow interest rates for households and businesses to remain lower for longer. Indicators suggest New Zealand will continue to achieve moderate economic growth in coming quarters, despite the further deterioration in international conditions we have seen recently.
Todd McClay: What recent assessments of New Zealand’s economic prospects has he received from offshore?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New York - based credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s this month affirmed New Zealand’s long-term foreign currency rating at AA with a stable outlook. We also remain one of only nine countries now with the highest possible AAA rating and a stable outlook with Moody’s. Standard and Poor’s noted this country’s fiscal flexibility, resilient economy, and strong political and economic institutions. The ratings agency also noted that New Zealand has favourable prospects for sustained growth while there remains strong demand for our agricultural exports. As it pointed out, New Zealand’s high level of private sector external debt remains its largest vulnerability. It is therefore pleasing to see the projected household savings rate reaching 4 percent by 2016, and remaining positive for a significant period of time—in fact, the longest period of time for 20 years.
Todd McClay: What reports has he seen on reactions to the Government’s various initiatives to boost exports and economic growth?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen many, many reports that talk about economic growth but would do nothing to boost economic growth and increase jobs. I have seen reports of people talking about returning the Government’s finances to surplus, then opposing every measure to reduce spending so that we can start repaying debt. I have seen reports of people wanting to encourage business growth, apparently, but then wanting to tax successful businesses more. I have seen talk of people wanting more jobs, but then proposing to pull up the drawbridge behind them by banning foreign investment. I have seen reports of people being supportive of convention centres when they are in Government, but vehemently opposed, suddenly, to similar convention centres in Opposition. And I have seen reports condemning resource extraction in New Zealand, but then bemoaning people leaving for jobs in the Australian mining sector. It is fair to say that those people are playing politics rather than having the best interests of New Zealand at heart.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought answers to questions were meant to be terse and to the point, and in that case the 5-minute bell was just about ready to ring.
Mr SPEAKER: The member makes a reasonable point. [Interruption] Order! Answers should not be longer than necessary, and I fear that that one did go on longer
than necessary, and I blame myself for allowing that to happen. I should be more vigilant.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister think that the 50,000 New Zealanders a year who are leaving are going because they believe he is making progress in building a faster-growing economy, or perhaps are they going because they see jobs being displaced by people on work permits working for less than the minimum wage, or is it because they see jobs being lost in the manufacturing sector, which is contracting?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it is not the latter, because the jobs in the manufacturing sector have been growing over the last 2 years, so we can rule that out. I think that if you look at it, what we can reasonably assume is that those who are going to jobs in Western Australia are going there primarily to work either in the mining and resources sector or in sectors that service those sectors. The Government, after a long period of inaction by the previous Government, is working to get the settings right to encourage reasonable levels of development of New Zealand businesses, such as the resource sector, in this country. And we would welcome the support of the Opposition parties in doing that.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that ratings agencies Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Ratings have all criticised New Zealand’s lack of export diversification and high-value exports, why does the export public relations glossy that he issued yesterday contain no quantitative target for export growth until the year 2025?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member’s analysis is as deep as the normal puddle. The reality of the progress report—
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will well remember yesterday drawing the Minister’s attention to similar intemperance in his answer to my question yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And, indeed, I would have responded directly myself, had I not listened to the question carefully and heard derogatory comment in the question. So if members include—well, the member referred to a publication that the Government put out yesterday as some glossy.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That’s not derogatory.
Mr SPEAKER: It is not objective language. If members want Ministers to stick to objective language, questions should contain objective language.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Referring to a glossy publication as glossy is hardly subjective.
Mr SPEAKER: The language was intentionally—[Interruption] Order! The Speaker might look stupid, but he is not that stupid. The language was intentionally derogatory about a publication. It is common language to refer to something as a glossy when it is considered not to have much content. The Minister therefore is at liberty to respond to that. And that is the end of the matter. I will not entertain any further points of order on that issue. Let me be very clear about that.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to re-ask the supplementary question, omitting the word.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the member asked his question. The Minister is answering it.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The point the member misses is that actually New Zealand’s exports have grown substantially in the last 4 years, and, in fact, have grown 5 percent in the goods exports per annum over 4 years and 4.2 percent per annum every year over 4 years, as well. So we are making very good progress in exports. I tell you what would upset the ratings agencies would be if we attempted to manage the exchange rate as proposed by the Labour Party, which is true voodoo economics—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is sufficient on that.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have no right of recourse against the little snipe about voodoo economics from the man who has his head in the sand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat right now. He knows he has intentionally abused the point of order process. I will not tolerate that. Members know that if they ask straight questions, they will get straight answers, if they use objective language. If they try to be clever, do not expect the Speaker’s protection from more clever answers. Had the Minister gone down that track at the end there, in response to a very direct, straight question with objective language, I would have reprimanded him severely, too. But I will not tolerate the point of order process being abused like that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to relook at the tapes for this week of every answer and every supplementary answer from that Minister, and find one answer that was straight.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are not going to get into that kind of argument by way of point of order. If members ask straight questions, I will do my best to endeavour they get straight answers. But the discipline is on the questioner.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table an original version of the Government’s
Building Export Markets
paper, to demonstrate that the word “glossy” is, in fact—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members will very shortly be leaving this House if they carry on this way. I do not care whether members have questions on the Order Paper or not. I will not see the point of order process abused like this.