Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. This National Government believes that we can, and we must, support people off welfare and into work. We have heard from the left and from the Opposition members, who do not believe in them enough to actually back them into work but would rather keep them down—keep them down. “Let’s not believe in beneficiaries and their ability to get off welfare and into work and to get ahead. Let’s keep them down—particularly, let’s keep down the women.” That is what we constantly hear from those members: keep them on the domestic purposes benefit, keep them dependent on welfare intergenerationally, and do nothing about it but hand-wring and scaremonger—scaremonger, I say. Who is the beneficiary basher? It is those who simply wring their hands in despair, who think that the answers to the questions are too hard, and who are ill-prepared to step in and actually have an active system that works for people and that supports them to recognise what they can do instead of what they cannot.
Let us be quite clear: at the moment we spend 90 percent of our spend in employment assistance on just 10 percent of our long-term liability—on those on the unemployment benefit. So we spend pretty much nothing, or a minimal amount, on those who are on the domestic purposes benefit, the sickness benefit, or the invalids benefit. So even when they, as you say, do want to get into work and do want that extra support, how the system has been under the previous Government is that we did not give them that support. This is fundamentally going to change the system so that they get the support that they need so that they can get ahead.
It quite amuses me that the honourable member would like to go back to the early 1990s. I have heard the cries of how it was back in my day. It does quite amuse me, and I give due respect to those members in my own party who were around in the early 1990s, but it would be fair to say that I have never heard a great reflection on that time in terms of welfare reform from Opposition members or from the left. They do not normally brag about how great it was in the early 1990s for beneficiaries—
Hon Member: They are now.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: —but they are now. Now we are constantly hearing how great it was in the early 1990s, when I was on a benefit, and that we should go back to that time. So instead of a time like now, when we spend more than $1.2 billion more just on family tax credit support for those who are on benefits, at a time when actually our expenditure on childcare assistance just for those on benefits—
Moana Mackey: You got the TIA, then you cut it for every other young mum.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Listen up, you might learn something. The childcare assistance for those who are on benefits has more than tripled. It has more than tripled. Yes, let us give it some actual numbers. In 1999—let us go for that year—there was $50 million actually, in support; now there is $188 million per annum. That is where that support has gone, and we think it should be more. This side of the House actually thinks we should be paying more for those who are disadvantaged, for those who are struggling to get in there, and that is what these reforms are all about. I am not going to join the negative ninnies from over on the left who believe that keeping people down, that actually not backing them into work, and that looking at what they cannot do instead of at what they can is the way forward.
Quite frankly, the work that was done in the 2000s has led to ongoing dependence on the welfare system. It has seen 29 percent of those who are currently on benefits having
subsequent children while they are there. We need to give them that sort of support. If we are serious about getting those women, in particular, out of hardship, there is a better way to do it than what we saw back in the 2000s. We saw sickness benefits going up by more than 18,000 when there were jobs supposedly there. We hear constantly about all these jobs that were there and the unemployment rate in the mid-2000s. In fact, the number on the invalids benefit went up by over 50 percent, and the number on the sickness benefit went up by just under 50 percent, when all these supposed jobs were miraculously there and had been created by the Labour Government.
What happened when things got a bit wobbly out there? What happened when we had the effects of a global recession? It was those very people whom they had not actually educated at school who fell out of this system.
DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition)
: Talk is cheap, and that is all it is—it is just talk—because when you look at the figures of what that Minister has been talking about, there are 60,000 more jobless—60,000—and 82,000 more are on benefits. The domestic purposes benefit is up. That is the reality of what this Minister is talking about. But do you know something else? A lot of this is just simply a smokescreen this week. All of these reheated, cobbled-together welfare changes that have been touted around the country are just a smokescreen. I will tell you what they are a smokescreen for. It is about the economy and where people think the economy should be going. They are worried about what is happening with their assets. They are worried about what is happening to their power companies.
Last year the Prime Minister told us that those power companies were going to be sold off for $10 billion. This year it was $6.5 billion, then it was $6 billion, and now you have the Minister of Finance saying that it is a guess, and not even a best guess at that. We are selling off our assets, and the country knows this. The country is aware of this. We are selling off our best-performing assets at sale prices to overseas investors. They are returning dividends—
Hon Member: That’s not true, David.
DAVID SHEARER: They are returning dividends, they are efficiently run—very efficiently run—and the only way the overseas buyers will get more money out of these assets is by hiking up power prices. We know that, and New Zealanders know that, and that is why the party over there is so nervous about talking about asset prices and wants to bring up welfare. Well, it might work, but underneath it all people are worried about that.
And if that is not bad enough, let us talk about the Crafar farms, because the country does not want this Government to sell off our best-performing land to overseas owners. That is what it does not want the Government to do—
Hon Chester Borrows: Why did you sell so much?
DAVID SHEARER: You can interrupt all you like, “Mr Crocker”, but I can tell you this—I can tell you this. You go and ask people what they want, and I will tell you they do not want our land sold off to foreigners when there is no value for New Zealanders in this—no value for New Zealanders. New Zealanders are the best farmers in the world, and we are selling off our land—our land—to people who do not know how to farm. The worst thing about this is we are putting Landcorp up, our own State-owned asset, to help these overseas interests, Shanghai Pengxin, to get across the line. That is what the Government is doing. It is putting up our Landcorp, our State-owned enterprise company, to help farm these farms in order for this deal to go through. That is absolute nonsense, and the Government knows it and the country can see right through it.
And if that is not enough, we are about to sell off our legislation, to allow pokie machines to be increased in the convention centre in Auckland, so that Skycity can build a convention centre. Nothing is sacred. Everything in this country is up for sale:
our assets, our power companies, our farmland, and now our legislation. We are prepared to sell off legislation, to enable Skycity to be able to have more pokie machines in order to build a convention centre. And that is an absolute disgrace. The Government is selling off all of our assets in order to be able to tell this country that we are moving to a brighter future. Well, you do not sell your way to a brighter future. You do not sell your way to a brighter future; you develop your economy; you put together an economic plan. But there is no economic plan here. This is about short-term interventions in order to be able to get across the line. Putting up welfare policies in this week, when the real issue is about selling our assets, does not fool anybody.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice)
: The Leader of the Opposition, the current leader, has just sat down, and he has talked about how you cannot sell your way to a better future. But I think you can work your way to a better future, and that is why I am so proud of the Hon Paula Bennett and the work that she has done in the welfare policy area to actually encourage—particularly young—beneficiaries into work.
In fact, what I have seen from Labour over the last 10 years I have been in this House is a constant drain—what we are talking about is “low-grade, demeaning work”, to quote the Hon Ruth Dyson. She was talking about people who work at McDonald’s, and she was talking about people who work as cleaners—in fact, the very people who actually help keep this country running. And she referred to them as doing low-grade, demeaning work. That is what Labour thinks about it.
But the Hon Paula Bennett says she has got some faith in teen parents, she has got some faith in young people, and she has got some faith in beneficiaries that they want to be able to experience what she was able to experience, actually. She was able to get ahead, to get her qualifications, and to work very hard. Sometimes she would have a setback but she would come back again. That is what happens in the real world.
What I heard yesterday in the House was Metiria Turei, a co-leader in the Greens, referring to women abandoning their children when they went to work. This is the same woman who talked to the
New Zealand Woman’s Weekly where she said: “My daughter saved me.”, and good on her. In fact, she went on to talk about how as a solo parent she found the energy and the drive to go to university and get a law degree. I think most of us would say: “That’s a fantastic achievement. Well done, her!” So why was she not abandoning her child when the rest of us, who are working mothers, were apparently abandoning our children when we went back to work? Frankly, that is the sort of level of personal abuse that the Hon Paula Bennett has had to put up with. And I think we will mention Hone Harawira and the abuse in the
New Zealand Herald
Hon Member: Who? Who’s he?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, people do wonder who he is. Well, actually Paula Bennett has had the courage to do what no other Minister of Social Development has done in our lifetime, and that is to actually have enough faith in young people, particularly sole parents, to say to them: “I know you can do better. I’m going to help you do better.” This is not about punishing parents, this is not about being difficult with parents; it is actually about giving them some choices, some options, some ability to get ahead. Because frankly the alternative is a life of poverty, in a State house, nothing to leave for their children—
Hon David Cunliffe: Where are the jobs?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: And the Hon David Cunliffe says: “Where are the jobs?”. Well, actually there are an awful lot of jobs out there, Mr Cunliffe and I suggest he just listens to what Minister Bennett said today in the House about the thousands and thousands of jobs. And he might be looking for a job, but I can tell him there is probably one on SEEK right now. He could do that now. But the fact is that people will not get jobs without the education and without the work ethic.
Hon David Cunliffe: They can’t all be stupid and lazy.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Mr Cunliffe says they are all stupid and lazy. Well, I am sorry; I do not agree with that at all. I, in fact, think that we should have faith in people, and where they need education and training, why can they not have it?
Hon Annette King: Does caring for children count as a job?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Oh, and Annette King says caring for children is not a job.
Hon Annette King: No, I said it is a job.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It is a job, she says. Yes, it is. But do you know what, Mrs King? Actually, if a mother wants to go out to work and get an income and get ahead, why should she not? I bet that member did. Why is it that one can do it only if one is married and not a solo parent? Why is that? Why is it that we want to leave these women in poverty all their lives so that they can be abused by people? Why is that? I do not think that is fair and nor does Minister Bennett, and I agree with her.
We should not condemn people to lives of poverty because we want to sit back in our middle-class worlds and tell them how to run their lives. Well, Minister Bennett has got more faith in beneficiaries than that member ever did when she was the Minister. [Interruption] That is exactly true. Why is it that she has got so little faith, and why is it that the Labour Party has moved so far away from wanting to get people into work and a life out of poverty? Why is that? Do you know why it is? It is because it does not want them to have choices. Well, frankly, I think we should have more faith. I am very proud of what Minister Bennett has done, and I congratulate her. I wish that member over there had had the opportunity to take that courageous decision.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker, Tēnā koutou e te Whare. Yesterday at the Australian Senate in Canberra, I was present at the launch of the Australian International Parliamentarians for West Papua, hosted by the Australian Green Senator Richard Di Natale. Also present were Green, Labor, and Liberal members of the Australian Senate, and a number of West Papuan leaders-in-exile. We were also pleased to welcome the international lawyers for West Papua, represented by Jennifer Robinson—who, coincidentally, is the lawyer for the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange—and the Vanuatu MP Ralph Regenvanu.
The Acting Foreign Minister for Labor in the Australian Parliament opposed the participation of the Labor members coming to our launch, but some of them came anyway. This was interesting in itself. Why was there an issue, and why would anyone want to stop the participation of MPs on an issue of this regional importance? If New Zealand citizens wish to raise a flag within this nation, whether it is the tino rangatiratanga flag or the All Blacks flag, no one gets locked up. If a citizen in West Papua raises the flag—the “Morning Star” flag it is called—they face 15 years in prison. Since 1969 these people have lived under a level of oppression that no one should have to accept, and the New Zealand and Australian Governments have been largely silent. Right now in a country just north of Australia, the Indonesian military enforces these laws, and tortures and murders citizens. Right now, five West Papuan leaders are in prison for daring to hold a meeting in a soccer field—because they were not allowed a building—to discuss self-determination issues; self-determination being the right of citizens to choose their own governance. The Jayapura Five face trial in an environment that is neither safe nor just.
The New Zealand Green Party in conjunction with the other international parliamentarians are calling for regional solidarity and support for West Papua. We wish to see things happen immediately, like about the Red Cross, which was expelled from West Papua. Which other country in this region has the Red Cross been expelled from, and yet our Governments turn their backs? For the recognition of these people’s
Melanesian status at the Pacific Islands Forum, which other Melanesian country is kept out of the forum by Governments such as ours? For journalist access, in which other country are no international journalists allowed across the border, and why are we colluding with this?
New Zealand has military ties with Indonesia. These include bilateral training and symbolic recognition of what is happening in West Papua. What the parliamentarians internationally and in this House who are friends of West Papua are calling for is a recognition that there needs to be peace, there needs to be justice, and there need to be human rights. We have a proud tradition in this House of standing up for our more vulnerable neighbours in these issues. Without the New Zealand Government I have been assured by many Pacific people that Bougainville could not have been negotiated—and that was a National Government. It was very important that we led with our role in supporting East Timor after the holocaust in East Timor for its citizens. Yet, we are still silent, still colluding, over the issue of West Papua.
The people of West Papua who are refugees, and who attended the meeting in Canberra yesterday, are asking for us to take a constructive role in the region and calling for a peaceful dialogue with Indonesia. It is not about attacking an important neighbour like Indonesia. It is not about denying the relationship. It is about saying to Indonesia: “Yes, democracy is developing positively in your country, but something is happening in a dark corner that you are not prepared to talk about, and we want to help you talk about it.” The land of the “Morning Star” is victim not only to human rights abuses but also to illegal logging. When I came into this House and put forward a bill to stop the loopholes for the products of illegal logging, it was voted down immediately by the Government, and yet this is part of the blood on the barbecue; this is part of what happens when we allow kwila, which is illegally logged by the military in West Papua, to be brought into our country.
We are also implicated through the Freeport-McMoRan mine. If you have never heard the word “Freeport-McMoRan”, go and google it, and have a look on the map at these vast, huge, open-cast pits that have been dug in what they call the “head of the mother”. The land of the “Morning Star” is the one place where you cannot raise a flag, and it is the one place where people are being tortured and killed. My plea to this House is that all of us, across parties, act responsibly in support of the freedom and justice and human rights of West Papua.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the honourable Minister, I just want to mention to the House that the Standing Orders have been amended to discourage the reading of speeches. I did not interrupt the honourable member for, essentially, reading a speech to the House, because this is the first general debate, but general debates—of all debates—should not necessitate members to read speeches, unless it is something particularly technical that a member wishes to be covering. That was not a particularly technical speech, because the member was present at the occasion she was talking about. I did not, out of courtesy, interrupt the member, but I will in the future, because I want to hear debate in this House, not speeches read in this House, especially in the general debate.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Defence)
: Those pioneers of the welfare State would never have envisaged the benefit system that New Zealand has today. They would have turned in their graves to see healthy 16 and 17-year-olds starting a decade on the dole. Working-age people keen to get into work is what we need in this country, and that is basically what the
Dominion Post editorial says today. I want to commend the Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, for the brave announcements that she has made, because she is tackling head-on a major problem for New Zealand society. One in eight working-age people are on a benefit. This country
cannot sustain that. It needs a clear signal, and the signal that this Government has sent is the right one.
Dominion Post says today, we are restoring that social contract. We have to have incentives to work, and that is what this Government is determined to do. It is no good having 220,000 New Zealand children being brought up in benefit-dependent households, and it is very disappointing to see that the Labour Party is sticking to the same old tired philosophy of trying to buy votes through supporting greater and greater welfare payments. It is not the way that this country is going to get ahead. It is not the way.
What we have heard today from David Shearer, unfortunately, is once again a whole lot of descriptive guff, but there is nothing in there about what he is going to do or how he is going to do it. If you want to know how this man is struggling as leader of the Labour Party, just go online and listen to his interview with Larry Williams on Friday afternoon. That shows a man who really is struggling in that role. It is like in medicine. You get an inexperienced surgeon and an inexperienced anaesthetist operating together, and people die. What you have got here is a very inexperienced leader coupled with a totally inexperienced chief of staff, and it is falling apart, because, quite frankly, when things start going wrong there is no one in charge over there.
But the one person who is very happy is the man who is doing the Kevin Rudd impression over there: Phil Goff. Phil Goff is not going away. He is counting the numbers. He knows that the time will come when all those people over there on the Labour benches get very tired of being hammered week after week, and get very tired of being embarrassed by their new leader, by his inability to land any punches on the Prime Minister, and by the bumbling and stumbling. The other guy who is very happy is David Cunliffe, because he can see the opportunity coming as well. I mean, first it is a beard. What next, a ponytail? But anyway, a leadership challenge is in the offing. Meanwhile Chris Hipkins sees the long game turning up for him.
So it is total disarray over there. But really they are fundamentally misaligned with the way the New Zealand population is. What they wanted to do was extend the in-work tax credit under Working for Families to beneficiaries—totally out of line with what the New Zealand people wanted. They wanted to further disincentivise work. They were going to say “Actually, well, you don’t need to worry about working; go on a benefit, and you’ll actually get all the benefits through Working for Families anyway.” But the New Zealand public saw through that. They knew that that was not the way to get ahead.
So fundamentally the Labour Party, when it comes to welfare, is totally off the planet on this stuff. Paula Bennett is the best Minister for Social Development that this country has ever had—brave decisions, which are going to fundamentally realign the system. These people can laugh, but they are going to be there for a heck of a long time. They will be there until the day that they realise that this Government’s policies are actually right. Annette King and Phil Goff are listening very carefully, because actually they know it is the truth. They know that the rudderless direction of the Labour Party at the moment is not going to take it anywhere.
Meanwhile, we are getting on with doing what the New Zealand people want us to do: managing the economy, rebuilding Christchurch, and putting in the incentives to work. That is the way that this country is going to get ahead. The people have a lot of confidence in John Key—in the fantastic leadership we are having from the Prime Minister. In the face of difficult fiscal challenges and a difficult environment, we have had the leadership that is putting New Zealand on the right path. They say there are no jobs; the
ANZ Job Ads
review for January showed 30,000 jobs available. There were
62,000 jobs created in the last year. So fundamentally, on welfare the left has lost the argument.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill)
: I do believe in work ahead of welfare.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Well, go and do some.
Hon PHIL GOFF: But I want to tell you—I want to tell that member—something. When there were 150 jobs advertised in my electorate at the New World supermarket, 3,500 people queued up for those jobs. You know, if you want to get people off welfare, you do two things. First of all, you make sure there are jobs to go to. And there are fewer jobs in New Zealand today than when that Government held its Job Summit. The second thing you do is make sure that people have the skills to go into the jobs. And you do not give people the skills by cutting back apprenticeships, like this Government has, or cutting back the financial ability of people to get those skills, like the Minister for Social Development did. She cut back the very scheme that gave her the chance to get skills and get a job.
I want to talk about foreign affairs now. Which one of Mr McCully’s three stories do you believe? Do you believe the story yesterday, where he said publicly no, it was not $900,000 to build a swimming pool; it was ¥900,000? That would have been NZ$15,000. So the first story was that they were doing the pool, but it was only costing $15,000. The second story was the story he said on TV last night: they were doing the pool, but he said he would be asking the embassy whether it was really needed. Then we got the third story this afternoon: there was never going to be a pool; some misguided engineer went out and did a whole lot of work bidding for a proposal that the ministry had never made. You know what that is? That is BS. That is just wrong. There was a proposal; I have got the tender sheet. And the engineers that were bidding for that were bidding for it because the ministry said that job was available.
I ask the Minister this: when he is laying off one in four of his workforce, why are we building swimming pools for $900,000 in Tokyo? Why is the Minister taking a plane ride at a cost to us as taxpayers of $75,000 because he preferred to go by Air Force jet, rather than paying $756, which is the return fare to Vanuatu if he had gone commercially?
Michael Woodhouse: He’s making the numbers up.
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, it is quite true. Ring the travel agency. It will show you that the Minister could have done the trip for $756, or a little bit more if he went via Australia. It is no wonder that the hard-working people—they are losing their jobs. These people have gone out. I was their Minister for 9 years. I have watched their competence, their commitment, and their sheer dedication and hard work. And he is telling one in four of them that they are down the road.
It does not stop there, Mr Speaker. You were once Minister for International Trade. Do you know what happens now to someone who accepts an assignment, maybe in Geneva, for the World Trade Organization? They give up their job security. They have to relinquish their position with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. They go on a 3-year posting, and when they get back they can apply for a new job. But if they do not get it, they go into what is called a surge pool—a surge pool. What image does that engender? It is like being thrown into a washing machine. They go round and round and round in that for a little while, and if they cannot find a job then, they are down the road. I ask you, what young, talented person would take up a job with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade today, when they have absolutely no job security? What young person with a family would go on a posting to an expensive place to live and get their kids educated in, when they have to pay for that themselves, or a certain percentage of it?
What this Minister is doing is destroying one of the best ministries that this country has: the people who go out and work in the interests of New Zealanders, pushing the trade, pushing for security issues, and doing the consular assistance. What will New Zealanders think when they or their family are in trouble overseas—they are in hospital; they desperately need help—and Minister McCully says “Here’s an 0800 number. If you’re lucky, they’ll speak English.”? They expect consular assistance. I expect that for me; you expect it, Mr Speaker; we expect it for our kids. If they get into trouble overseas, one of the fundamental responsibilities of any Government is to be there to help its citizens in trouble, and this Minister is contemplating doing away with that assistance. That is wrong—that is fundamentally wrong. They did a survey of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff recently. They showed that more people, in what was once our proudest ministry, had become “disengaged” than in any other Government department. What was our finest-performing ministry is demoralised and disillusioned, and this Minister is the person who is destroying it.
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Associate Minister of Social Development)
: I am pleased to follow the Hon Phil Goff, who has just resumed his seat. By now, having listened to the wannabe and the guy who got the job, some of those members on the other side will be shaking their heads, wondering whether they can have the vote again tomorrow.
I am proud to be part of a Government that believes, like other New Zealanders, that people who can work should work. It is an ethic that has kept New Zealand great for a long time and will continue well on into the future. Getting off welfare and getting into work means a better life—a better life for the individual concerned, and a better life for their family.
I want to speak about the independent youth benefit and the new terms of that particular benefit. This country under this Government cares enough to intervene in those young lives. Previous to this, those young people on the independent youth benefit, about 2,500 of them, were given the money and they walked away. They were given the money and the country walked away from them. Now, under this Government, we are saying this. A card will be given to those young people so that they can go on to purchase the food and other requirements that they need for daily life. Their rent will be paid for them and their power will be paid for them, and they will have some small amount of discretionary money that they can spend according to their own will. But most of all and best of all, they will be given a budget mentor to help them and walk alongside them, to make sure they learn the lessons that many of us learnt when we were young from our parents because our parents were there and our parents cared enough to show us the way we should go. And that is the way it should be.
Similarly, then, for those young mothers, about 6,500 of them, who are under 20 and solo parents; they will be given the same assistance. They will be given a card that they can buy good food with—not takeaway food, not alcohol, not tobacco. They will have a small amount of discretionary spending up to a maximum of $50. But the rest of the money will be available for them on a card to use as they need to meet their requirements in clothing, food, and other necessities. Again, a budget mentor will be placed with them to encourage them to attend schooling, to attend classes, training, parenting courses, and so forth. As we saw on a television item last night, they are getting up to an extra $30 a week for attending those courses, for turning up, and in this way we are helping them through. It seems ridiculous to me that in a world where 3 or 4 years ago we put a spaceship on Mars we neglect our young people who are the most vulnerable in our community, and I am proud to be part of a Government that cares enough to intervene in people’s lives to that degree.
We are similarly encouraging solo parents to be work-ready for part-time work at the stage that their children reach 5, and to be work-ready for full-time work when their youngest child is 14. What we normally hear from the other side of the House—strangely silent at the moment—is “There are no jobs! There are no jobs!”. Well, I would just like to relate to the House an email I got yesterday from a man from a labour company operating out of Palmerston North. He said they put about 80 people into work placements every day of the week. He said they constantly ring workers asking them to come into work, and they constantly either cannot get them on the phone—so if they are not on the phone, they are not work-ready—or they get responses like: “I’m sorry but I don’t like doing that job.” They have no tolerance towards drugs. They screen for police records—do Ministry of Justice checks—and also for drug testing and driver licensing. They lose about two out of 20 because they cannot pass a drug test, they lose about two out of 10 because of their criminal records, and they lose about three out of 10 because they have not got a driver’s licence. But he finishes off by saying this: “Therefore, to sum up, if you don’t take drugs, if you have a fairly clean MOJ check, and you have your own transport, you can virtually be guaranteed a job.”
There are jobs out there for people who are willing to work. There are jobs out there for young people who say they are willing to work and stay off drugs. There are jobs out there for people who are not dishonest and who are not habitually offending, and some people with low infringement type of offences are still encouraged into work and can still find work on a day-to-day basis. There are jobs for people who want to work and are prepared to make themselves ready for work. I am so proud to be part of a Government that supports that sort of thinking from our young people.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)
: Tens of thousands are to be made work-ready and work-prepared for an economy that is not work-creative. That is simply what is going on in this country.
But I want to talk about the form of democracy we have where the Prime Minister of this country slides away from his responsibilities for his Ministers, and again he did it today. You see, he has spent, by my observation, in the last 2 years less than 3 hours a week being responsible for democracy in this country. In the last 2 years, since 2010, no questions have been asked of the Prime Minister on a Thursday. Since 2010 no questions have been asked of the Prime Minister on a Thursday, which suggests he is not even here.
He does not bother to come to the House. In fact, if he was on an Indian reservation, he would get a name like “Don’t Come Thursday”. It would be “Mr Don’t Come Thursday” or “No Show John on a Thursday in a Democracy”. That is what we have today with these assets being sold, which the people all own and have built up—
Hon Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is my understanding that there is a very explicit Standing Order that forbids members commenting on the absence of any member from the House.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It is not Thursday yet.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Sorry.
Mr SPEAKER: The member should be sorry. I failed to observe he had not resumed his seat during the point of order. The Hon Anne Tolley is quite correct, but I listened carefully to the Rt Hon Winston Peters and he was not referring to the absence of a member from the House right now; he was commenting on the attendance of members historically. It is a fine line; I may seek a little guidance on it for the future but I chose not to interrupt today, and I ask the member maybe to avoid any further reference to any absence of members from the House in the rest of his speech.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We need to get more cameras here in this place, because then some people would stay for more photo opportunities on a Thursday. I am trying to be creative here. We need more cameras, so that the man can stay for another photo opportunity.
We know from the best assessment given by Government officials that these assets on the hock are at a median 49 percent out of about $7.6 billion. Yet we have a Minister of Finance and a Prime Minister going around telling the country that it is somewhere between $5 billion and $7 billion. Let us say, as Mr English said, that they get their best guess of $6 billion. That is a 20 percent rebate and discount, and guess who it will go to? Not to every New Zealander. Not to mum and dad investor. Not to people who built this asset up. No, it will go to—
Hon Members: Their mates.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —their mates. That is the way that they believe in democracy.
Hon Tau Henare: Their mates!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, I know. Look, Mr Henare, I can say this: there is a stack of members here who have got exactly 2¾ years to go from this House, and go they will because of these sorts of policies. If I was in that caucus, I would be telling them to draw back from this stupidity, because it will cost them plenty come election time.
But they will press on regardless of all evaluations by, for example, the Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit, which is a unit that has got together a range of valuations: Solid Energy at $2.23 billion at 49 percent; Transpower at $1.53 billion; Mighty River Power at $3.63 billion; Genesis Energy at $1.63 billion; Meridian Energy at $6.5 billion—that is $15.52 billion, of which 49 percent is $7.6 billion.
So what does Mr Key say? Well, he will settle for $5 billion, so that his mates can get the rest. And you know what will happen the next day.
Hon Member: He’s a trader.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, yes, this is what a junk bond dealer from Merrill Lynch would do. They would not look at the national interest. Oh, no. They would just do the deal for their mates and those people who shuffle paper and who have an unadulterated devotion to a thing called greed.
This is a Government not for ordinary people. This Government is not a Government for the New Zealand people. It is a Government for the elite, those over-mighty, rich subjects that so diligently back the National Party. It is not the majority it is interested in, just that of its mates.
Hon Member: What about Grey Power?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, do not worry about Grey Power. Grey Power is starting a petition and then they will be out in their hundreds and thousands to try to make sure that the recalcitrant, wayward member from Whanganui exits this place, as he should.
It is a scandal. You know, last year there was Bill English travelling around Asia, telling all the people over there that the country is for sale, but he never told the people back here that it is for sale at a massive discount, did he? Then he said that it was not even his best guess; it was just a guess. The Prime Minister then tried to quantify that, and when he was asked in the House about what he had done, what did he do? He flicked the question to somebody else. He ducked it.
Well, you can guarantee every question from now on will be: “Does the Prime Minister have confidence in so and so?”, and we will see what happens then, because he will not be able to pull that stunt in the future. Selling highly profitable State assets is
foolish and short-term. It is even worse for National to flog them off, as I say, to its mates.
And how many times has Mr Key, since he became Prime Minister, spent at Macquarie? I would like to know. I ask one of those backbenchers over there to find out.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie)
: It is my great pleasure to stand and speak in this general debate and to support not just the Prime Minister, John Key, but also the Minister for Social Development, Paula Bennett, for the reforms in welfare that were recently announced. These changes are welcome, and we all know that because the statistics are quite clear. We know that 13 percent of our working-age population are on the benefit. We also know that $7 billion is spent on benefits annually. That is $20 million a year, a week, a day, sorry.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh! What is it?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: If you think in terms of 5 minutes, then it was $67,000 for the 5-minute speech given by Mr Peters. But crucially it is about the 200,000 kids who grow up in welfare-dependent families every day, and that is an abomination. Long-term welfare dependency, as has already been demonstrated by the speeches today, is about failure for those families and failure for those kids.
This National Government is about standing up and making change. It is about doing something about an area of the law that does not work. We believe that those who are able to work should work, but we also know that those who are looking to work also need encouragement, they need support, and sometimes they need a little bit of financial incentives. But crucially in terms of the reforms, we believe that those who genuinely need help will receive that help. So these reforms are not just window dressing; it is about changing the focus, the attitude, and the behaviour of those who are on welfare. There will be a greater emphasis on work and support in every way, because it is about supporting the aspirations of those who are on a benefit to go forward and get work. It is about getting behind people so that they can achieve what they aspire to be, and not what they cannot be.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does that go for the Palagi policy?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: We want to target those resources, Mr Peters. We want to target those resources at the long-term welfare-dependent, because we want to support young people in order for them to stay in education, or for them to get training, or trades training, and get into work.
We also want to provide financial incentives, to provide for budgeting services as Mr Borrows has already mentioned, and also for parenting programmes for those on the domestic purposes benefit in order for them to get the wraparound service that they deserve. So we are no longer going to hand over benefits without some level of obligation and some level of commitment from those who actually receive those benefits.
I stand here next to my colleague Alfred Ngaro. As migrants to this country we came here for jobs and opportunities. We came here not to be on long-term welfare dependency but we came here to gain the jobs and opportunities and live in a better country. So this series of reforms will be about work availability. It will be about delivering expectations and obligations. It is really about a partnership between the State, which provides funding for beneficiaries, and those who receive it.
I just recall in last year’s campaign I met a young 18-year-old lady who was heavily pregnant and who had an 18-month-old son.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: She’s still laughing.
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA: She was living in a cold, damp garage. Mr Peters might want to laugh at this young lady, but she was a person who definitely needed
help. She was falling through the cracks and living in squalor in a damp, cold garage. These reforms will actually support this young lady by giving her income support, by giving her some budgeting services and by allowing for her to get some parenting services and also for her to access training in order for her to go forward in her life. This lady would support these reforms of National. It is about getting people back to work. It is about supporting those who want to work. I support these reforms. I support our honourable Minister and the Prime Minister in bringing about long-overdue reforms.