[Sitting date: 09 May 2012. Volume:679;Page:2073. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: Is it still a fundamental purpose of his Government to narrow the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia, and to grow local wages in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: Narrowing the wage gap with Australia is certainly something we are aiming for over time, and we have made a good start. Since September 2008 real after-tax wages in New Zealand have increased by 11 percent; in Australia over a similar period they have increased by only 7 percent. So the wage gap has narrowed a bit, but there is still lots to do. In terms of growing local wages, the member should be aware that average earnings rose by 1.2 percent in the last quarter and 3.4 percent in the last year. In real terms that constitutes wage growth of 0.7 percent for the quarter and 1.8 percent for the year, so wages are certainly rising.
David Shearer: Is growth under his Government the worst in 50 years; if so, does that help close the gap with Australia?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that information to hand. But what I can say is that what is interesting is that the member has asked the question about whether a National-led Government facing a global financial crisis and the worst earthquake pretty much in New Zealand’s history—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a pretty straight question.
Mr SPEAKER: It was indeed a straight question. The Prime Minister said he did not have that information on him, and then went on to say what he could tell the honourable member or what he could say, and that is usually an indication that it is not actually part of the answer to the question.
David Shearer: Does he agree with data from Statistics New Zealand that shows that average annual growth in New Zealand since he became Prime Minister was well under 0.5 percent, while in Australia it was 6.5 times higher at more than 2 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, you would have to have a look at all of that data, because it probably includes a period that was under Labour. What the member is saying is that he wants a bigger mining sector, like Australia’s, but every time this Government talks about more mining those members reject it. I might add one final point. Last night the Australians had their Budget, and despite the fact they have got a massive mining sector, this is what the Australians have done in the last 4 years: borrow A$190 billion.
Michael Woodhouse: How—[Interruption]—have wages grown in New Zealand over time?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, at least he has friends, but anyway. As I said in my primary answer, real after-tax wages in New Zealand have grown 11 percent since September 2008. That is 11 percent more that is going into the pockets of people in New Zealand, even after allowing for inflation, in just 3½ years under a National Government. So let us understand that: in 3½ years of a National Government, in real after-tax terms wages have risen 11 percent. The interesting question is what they went up in the 9 years of the previous Labour Government. The answer is 4 percent.
David Shearer: Has the wage gap closed with Australia since he became Prime Minister, or has it actually grown by $19 a week, even based on his own figures that he tabled in the House?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It has narrowed, and that is because—[Interruption]; they do not like the numbers—real after-tax wages have grown 11 percent since we have been in Government. They have grown 7 percent in Australia, so that is less—the gap has narrowed. And they have grown a lot more than they did under a Labour Government.
David Shearer: In light of the Prime Minister’s commitment to stop the exodus of Kiwis to Australia, what is the average number per week of New Zealanders leaving for Australia?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that to hand.
David Shearer: Does he understand that the current migration figures show that 1,000 Kiwis a week are now moving to Australia, the highest ever recorded?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot confirm that number, no.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now look, I have been fairly tolerant of a reasonable level of interjection. I now call the Rt Hon Winston Peters and I want to hear his supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that a scaffolder in Queensland gets about $42 per hour and in New Zealand gets $14 per hour, does he stand by his statement, as reported in
Bay Report on 20 December 2007, that he would “love to see wages drop”; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not stand by that statement, because it was incorrect, and it was withdrawn by the newspaper that had made it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: This has not been in the ether for some time, so I seek leave to table the
Bay Report of 20 December 2007—
Mr SPEAKER: Could I just check with the right honourable member: is this a newspaper report?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is from
Bay Report but reported in the Whangarei newspaper—from 2007.
Mr SPEAKER: I think Whangarei is a reasonably major city to—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: But it is 2007. [Interruption] He has forgotten it but I have not.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! To a fellow Northlander, I think the Whangarei newspaper is a major newspaper in this country. We do not table such press clippings.