[Sitting date: 22 August 2012. Volume:683;Page:4632. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. I have to say that in all of my 25 years in this Parliament, I have never experienced a time when the accusation of being on “Planet Labour” has such relevance.
In 2008, as we went to the general election and the world was facing prosperity and growth for all, a whole range of things were committed by all political parties—by the National Party and by Labour. We got elected at the end of that year, and suddenly something called the global financial crisis crossed across the whole world. I can tell you that a number of countries across the world have gone into the absolute depths of depression, and have gone into areas where they are almost bankrupt. We see them daily in the news, places in Europe like Greece and Spain and Portugal. But the Labour Party here keeps going back to “How come National said when it was standing in 2008 it would deliver the following?”. That is why the accusation is that you must be living on “Planet Labour”, because on “Planet Labour” the global financial crisis just did not happen. On “Planet Labour” the earthquakes in Canterbury just did not happen. So we should all be in this beautiful world of peace and prosperity, and the rest of the world is all booming.
Well, even in total regards to all of what has happened to the world, I have to say the track record of what this Government has delivered over the last 3½ years or so has been outstanding. The rest of the world has nearly all been sentenced to life imprisonment and, relatively speaking, this nation has got away with a couple of weeks of periodic detention. Quite seriously, it has got away with almost no damage at all. In fact, in many cases this country has been growing, has been expanding, and has been doing better than anyone could have predicted.
Members of our team today in the general debate will be picking up on things like the fantastic delivery that we have had within the health sector. Daily Tony Ryall almost does not get enough time—in fact, we feel like we want to move extensions of time—to tell members of this House and the country how many more surgical operations are being delivered across the country. It is nothing short of outstanding, and that is while we have had to use tight, and in many cases zero, budget increases. It is an outstanding testimony to what he has done.
Other members of our team will cover things like the outstanding record in law in order, where I notice huge drops in the crime rate—a 15-year low in the crime rate. Again, how else could you want for better at a time when you think everything is tight financially, and people are struggling? It is often the time when you will see more offending, but no, not under this Government. If you look at the outstanding results in the education field, in the early education field, they are just spectacular.
But I want to concentrate for my few minutes that I get today on just a few things about the economy, because I think the economy is the central driver of all those other achievements. The first thing I want to do is ask, are New Zealanders actually better off, or are they worse off? Well, let me give you the answer. The after-tax average wage has gone up by 20 percent since 2008. The average tax, the average tax wage—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: After tax.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: —after-tax wage is up by 20 percent since 2008. That is spectacular. In fact, my favourite, my personal favourite, is this one: three-quarters of all income earners in New Zealand pay no more than 17.5 percent tax. Three-quarters of all income earners pay no more than that. That is my personal favourite. But wait, there is more. There is a lot more. New Zealand has the lowest inflation since 1999, meaning that the everyday cost of living is increasing at the slowest rate that it has ever done in the last 12 years. That is an outstanding result.
Interest rates—look at this—are at their lowest in 45 years. Do you know what that means? That means for just an ordinary family with a $200,000 mortgage, they are paying around about $200 a week less in interest than they would have been, and it would be a lot more than $200 if that lot were in control.
My colleague Steven Joyce gave me a little road test, I think it is called. The Labour Party has released the road test for the economy. It has come out with what is called Labour’s solutions, and I really do not want to promote the Labour Party too much, although it does need it. But I would love to go through—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)
: I move an extension of time so Maurice Williamson can tell us about May Wang and Jack Chen.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member seeking leave for an extension?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is being sought for the member to have an extension of time. Is there any objection?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: You can’t seek leave for someone else. It’s a longstanding tradition.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, I apologise. The member is quite correct. I should not have done that. I apologise to the House for that. I did not want to be unhelpful to the right honourable gentleman, though.
DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition)
: Well, that was Maurice Williamson’s long list of excuses as to why this economy is going down the tubes. You know, Mr Williamson, this country has experienced under this Government the worst economic growth since World War II. More than under any other Government since World War II—Labour or National—it is by far the worst. What we see, Mr Williamson, is 53,000 people every year going to Australia because there is no hope in this country. The figures that came out just 2 days ago show that that rate is still increasing. Just imagine what our unemployment figures would be if we did not have the safety valve of the Tasman crossing. In the last 3 years 150,000 people have crossed over. If you added that to our unemployment figures today, we would be in triple figures, almost, in terms of unemployment. This Government does not offer any real hope for New Zealanders and that is why they are leaving.
As I go around the country and I am speaking to people, the one thing that I hear from people talking to me—and it is a recurring thing—is the lack of confidence they have in this Government in education. Our education system in New Zealand is one of the best in the world. You look at the statistics around the globe, and we are consistently in the top 10 for reading, for numeracy, and for science. Yet this Government is determined to undermine that. Let us look at some of the mishaps we have had—if we want to call them that—over the last few weeks. The quality of teachers—actually, we
agree with the Government on this. Quality of teachers is really important and we have very good quality teachers. But you do not raise classroom sizes just to fund the quality of our teachers or increase the quality of teachers. The amazing thing about that is that this Government still believes that actually raising classroom sizes is a good thing. The reality of this is that it just felt it did not sell it well enough. It is not the fact that the whole proposition is completely wrong; it just did not sell it enough.
The Government has stripped $60 million out of teacher support and in-service training. It has done that over the last 3 years, but we are still not seeing alternative proposals or any sort of policies put up to further its claim that what we need to do is increase the quality of teachers. Instead, what we have got is a series of ad hoc gimmicks around the area of education. The latest is charter schools. After we heard from this Government about the quality of teachers, charter schools are going to be allowed to exist without teachers having qualifications. They do not actually need qualifications to be in charter schools. They do not need to have any training. It is extraordinary. Now you could have teachers in the “Maharishi Yoga School of”—whatever—“Transcendental Meditation” setting up some sort of school, and they do not need to have classroom teachers. They could teach creationism or whatever Mr Banks would love them to teach. They do not have to teach to the curriculum. For God’s sake, why do we have a curriculum? But what they can do is they can make a profit. They can take the taxpayers’ money and make a profit out of it. Well, is that not just great—a profit-making charter school that does not have to be absolutely accountable to anybody, and that is supposed to raise our education standards.
The other day I went along to one of my local schools and I was speaking to the principal there. The principal said to me: “The number of children who come along to our school who have an English comprehension age of a 3-year-old is overwhelming.” Yet at year 6, when they leave that school, they are all up to speed of where they should be. Do you know the interesting thing about that? The interesting thing about that school is that if you measure that school at year 4, it would be a failure under national standards. This is a school that is taking kids, and taking them through 8 years in the space of 6, yet it is going to be branded as a failure. Those kids are going to be branded as failures and the teachers are going to be branded as failures, yet it is a fantastic school in my electorate. Thank you.
TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua)
: As a backbencher one could be forgiven for being a bit apprehensive at having to stand and speak so soon after the Leader of the Opposition. Then I realised I have been here longer than him; I am in my second term. All I can say is that that was a desperate speech from an invisible man who has disappointed almost everybody in this country except for Goliath and the other
Davids in the Labour Party. I saw a glint in David
Cunliffe’s eye. He is ready for another shave, so soon, tomorrow morning. You see, the Leader of the Opposition, and his party, are out of touch.
On this side of the House we are focusing on what matters for New Zealanders and on the big picture: building a more competitive and productive economy—one of the four main priorities we have set in this term of the Government. What are we going to do in this area? It is so important that we focus on the things that will help New Zealanders do more for themselves. We have said that over the next 4 years, as you have heard today in this House from our Deputy Prime Minister, there will be $8 billion dollars of spending on infrastructure in New Zealand—$8 billion of infrastructure spending that will help us become more competitive, help us become more productive, and help our businesses do more for an exporting country. We have said we want to focus on and spend more on research and development and science and innovation. The Budget delivered this year will give us $385 million of extra spending on science and
innovation over the next 4 years. By 2015-16, $1.3 billion every year will be spent by this Government on research and development and science and innovation. We are focusing to double the business spend on research and development to 1 percent of GDP over that period of time, as well.
What will that do for us in this country? This will be focused spending on research and development and infrastructure, not money thrown around willy-nilly as we saw over 9 years of a Labour Government, but focused on the important parts of our economy where New Zealanders can expect a return, and where New Zealanders can expect bang for their taxpayer bucks. This is going to be important to a number of areas in my electorate and other electorates around the country in forestry, in dairy, in agriculture, and in geothermal.
Forestry is very important to our economy. We produce more trees than many other parts of the world. These trees that are grown produce jobs and are the backbone of many of our provincial areas and their economy. In my electorate we have an organisation called Scion. It is at the cutting edge of some of the work that is done around this research and development. It is doing a fantastic job on our behalf and as a member of the Government I am proud that we are backing them to do so much more in forestry, in dairy, in agriculture, and in geothermal. I want to repeat that—$1.3 billion of taxpayers’ spend that the Government will put in place by the year 2015-16.
If we focus on infrastructure—we are talking about roads, and we are talking about building productivity, and competitiveness, which returns more for our exporters—what will this do? It will mean jobs, investment, and growth. In the Bay of Plenty, where we grow more trees than in many other parts of New Zealand, where we have hard-working farmers, dairy farmers, and we have others who produce things to export—and we have excellent MPs, every single one of them, that is right; every single one of them is a hard-working elected constituent MP—we have a road of national significance. I call it the Te Puke bypass; others call it the Tauranga direct road. What it does is it links the provinces to a port. It is a 23-kilometre, four-lane highway from Paengaroa in my electorate to the electorate of Tony Ryall, and to Te Maunga in the electorate of the hard-working Minister Simon Bridges. The $567 million for that road, in 2015 costs, will produce a return—
Sue Moroney: What a waste.
McCLAY: The member opposite says what a waste. “What a waste.”, she said. The return journey will be reduced by 24 minutes. The road was started in 2011. It will be finished by 2016. What that means—to the member opposite, who occasionally shows up in the Bay of Plenty, and who says what a waste of money—is that all of the things that we produce, all of those trees, all of those other things, will be delivered to our port more quickly so that those businesses can be more productive, so that they can sell them overseas, and be more competitive. They will reinvest that money in jobs. I say to that member opposite, who lives somewhere near Hamilton, who has no idea about this important road in the Bay of Plenty and backing the people of the Bay of Plenty, that this is a Government focused on the big picture.
Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT)
: In the 30th Parliament we had Bill Rowling as the Leader of the Opposition. In the 40th Parliament we have got David Shearer as the Leader of the Opposition. Bill Rowling was so good that he was knighted for services to the National Party! In those days we had a powerful Labour front bench. I sat there, and we had a powerful Labour front bench. Today the Labour Party is led by the weakest leader of this Parliament in 10 Parliaments since the heady days of the ruthless, cut-through Wallace Rowling from down in Nelson. That is a statement of fact. Now we have got jokers on that side of the House in the 40th Parliament who want to be the leader. This side of the House does not care whether David Shearer is the leader or “Bill
Cunliffe” is the leader. They are both as bad as one another. Labour has got no plan for the economic security of this country. It is the poorest leadership, it is the poorest focused, and it is the poorest performing Labour Opposition this Parliament has had in my parliamentary lifetime, which is 10 Parliaments.
I want to say to the Leader of the Opposition, who I think is still at this very moment of time the hapless David Shearer, that partnership schools will give an opportunity to the 20 percent of young New Zealanders who are out of school, out of training, out of work, and out of hope. Why would the Labour Opposition in the 40th Parliament be opposed to that? Can anyone on this side of the House tell me? Why would it be opposed to that? Any idea? No idea. Why would it be opposed to giving young people hope? Why would it be opposed to giving young people opportunity? Why would it be opposed to giving young people the dignity of work? What would the Labour Party do? Let me quote from Joel Klein. The Labour Opposition in this 40th Parliament might learn something, if its members obey Speakers’ rulings—on page 62 of
Speakers’ Rulings—and listen and breathe through their noses. This is the proposition: “I remain convinced that the best cure for poverty is a good education. And I’m equally convinced that pointing to poverty as an excuse for why we fail to properly educate poor kids only serves to condemn more of them to lives of poverty.”
These people in the 40th Parliament on the Opposition benches want to consign 20 percent of our young people to poverty, helplessness, and hopelessness without the dignity of work. This is what Joel Klein also said: “I say to”—[Interruption] Listen to this. This is very important. Listen to this, and do not forget page 60 of
Speakers’ Rulings: I say to the “status-quo, poverty-is-destiny crowd”—[Interruption] Listen to that. I say to the “status-quo, poverty-is-destiny crowd” that that is what the Opposition members stand for: poverty is destiny. We say that poverty is wrong. We say poverty is young kids out of school, out of work, out of hope, and out of dignity. We are going to give them the opportunity to engage. So I say to the “status-quo, poverty-is-destiny crowd” that with your support, partnership schools will make a difference where it is most needed.
Partnership schools will make a difference where it is most needed. Even the Greens know that 20 percent of our kids have been written off. The Greens even know that partnership schools can work, because a proposition around partnership schools is already in place across the country. But in this 40th Parliament, with the weakest leadership of the Opposition, with the weakest front bench the Opposition has had in the 10 Parliaments I have been here, Opposition members have got no idea. They have abandoned hope for the young. They have written off 20 percent. They will not support a proposition that has worked all over the world. We say to them: get real or stay there for the 50th Parliament, and I will be back in the 50th Parliament to see that you are still there.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of interjection has got too high. I did not want to interrupt the honourable member’s speech, but a continuous barrage of sound is just not acceptable.
JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa)
: The crowd over there are shouting their heads off. Why? Because they do not want this country to hear the good news about John Key and the jobs he is creating. That is what is going on. I was in my electorate, in the Wairarapa, on Monday, carting around a Russian. He was Russia’s equivalent of David Frost. His name was Sergey
Brilev. I took him to Cameron Stuart’s dairy farm in Te Ore
Ore, near Masterton. As Sergey was watching 700 cows being milked by one man, I said to Cam: “What do you think of this bugger Key? Do you think he’s doing a decent job?”. Cam responded: “John, he is brilliant. I voted for him, and I’m going to vote for him again. Why? Because he knows what he is doing. He is managing this
country astutely. He is fiscally savvy, John. We are going to vote for him because he’s creating jobs.”
Why would anybody leave this country? Why are people saying that 50,000 people are leaving this country? Because they can see this Opposition and they think: “What a pack of losers. Why would you stay here for that carry-on?”.
John Key is about creating jobs. That is what he is doing, and he is doing it in my electorate. He has created fiscal responsibility in Government. If I think about somewhere like Dannevirke, I recall that, under Helen Clark’s administration, the
Ōringi meatworks closed down. It lost all its workers. Well, along came Allan
Metalform in Dannevirke, and now there are 100 employees in that plant, and they are doing all manner of things. What is more,
Benbow and his company,
Metalform, manufacture in Dannevirke—the manufacturing capital of the southern hemisphere—and have built over 1,000 wheelchairs, which they have exported to the States for US$25,000 each.
Under Helen Clark, what happened in Norsewood in our area? We had a sock and jersey - making factory. What happened under Helen Clark? It closed and jobs were lost. What has happened under John Key?
Norsewear is producing again, it is back up making socks, and it has 10 employees. Why is that? Because John Key and Bill English are doing a really good job. Why will people stay in this country? Because we have good public services.
When I became a member of Parliament in 2005, 30 percent of the constituents who came to my office in Masterton were complaining about the lack of health services. What has Tony Ryall done? I do not get one such visit a year now, because Tony Ryall and the local district health board chief, Bob Francis, are doing a superb job, along with Leanne Southey. They are creating an environment where really good services are being provided to the Masterton community.
I see what is going on in areas like Greytown, where I live, where, under Helen Clark, the
Ballaben factory closed. What has happened now? Under the leadership of John Key and the financial situation he has created, we have now got ourselves a new supermarket, employing 50 people. That is 50 new jobs.
Why are people wanting to work and come off benefits in this country? I will tell you why. It is because the after-tax wage is up 20 percent since 2008. We have the lowest inflation rate, 1.3 percent, since 1999, meaning that the everyday cost of living is going up more slowly—the slowest rate in 12 years. Interest rates, as my colleague Maurice Williamson said, are the lowest in 45 years. People are paying off their mortgages. Under John Key, we have moved from spending $1.10 for every dollar earned, which was the inheritance from Helen Clark and her colleagues. What are we spending now? We are spending 98c for every dollar earned. People are saving. They are paying off their mortgages.
We have created 60,000 new jobs in this economy in the past 2 years. Three-quarters of income earners are paying no more than 17.5 percent tax. Speaking of tax, do we remember Labour back in 2009 and that fellow Nash, its spokesperson on finance at the time, saying that dairy farmers paid no more tax than pensioners? Well, what use was that comment? It got Labour voted out of office.
I am very proud to get up and stand to support this John Key Government. He is doing a superb job for the people of the Wairarapa.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato)
: That was John Hayes, the member for Wairarapa. If there are 60,000 jobs and he has his way everyone will be making socks, but he will need more socks than those that are manufactured in Wairarapa to address the burgeoning unemployment problem. National has done
nothing to solve unemployment. It must do more, especially in the provinces, and that member knows it.
It was laughable to listen to John Banks earlier as he criticised this side of the House. Well, I tell you what: I would have this front bench any day than a member who has resigned himself to a one-member party. Under the MMP review, he is gone. Even if the threshold is lowered to 3 percent or 2 percent, he is gone. The comments coming from that member, saying that partnership schools will benefit the 20 percent of young people who are currently not achieving in the system, are laughable. Parents out there are holding meetings because they are concerned at the way in which National is systematically destroying our education system, and that is a concern to us. We know that charter schools will not make a difference. In fact, in 2009 Stanford University did a comprehensive report of about 16 schools across the states of the USA, and it showed that the outcomes in terms of education for minority and indigenous groups are variable. It does require significant private investment. Attrition has its place in terms of why some charter schools are doing better than others. The deliberate cherry-picking of some students to lift the performance, value, and outcome from those schools also has its place, so to bring that type of a model into the New Zealand system is absolutely a disgrace.
It will destroy what is at the heart of a high-performing New Zealand education system, which is one that delivers to kids based on the expectations sent to parents. That is a very important point that I want to stress. The way that National is going, it is driving a steam train right through the middle of our education system and undermining the things that really work. We need schools in New Zealand to be self-managing schools. International evidence shows that why we are presenting in the higher quartile of the OECD charts is because we have self-managing schools. Parents and communities are involved in setting the expectations of outcomes for their young people. They are involved in ensuring that the type of education is relevant to their children at a very local and personal level, so that they can monitor and work with schools to deliver those outcomes. It is the truth that, sadly, too many young people are not achieving in our education system, but charter schools are not the solution.
All charter schools will do is privatise the profits and socialise the loss—privatise the profits and socialise the loss. We need to be concerned if the six applicants sitting on the table right now come from private companies, which have a long track record of privatising the profits and socialising the loss. Members across the House know this. They know that at the meetings held in their communities in South Auckland, west Auckland, and Christchurch, and continuing throughout the whole country, parents are concerned because what they do not want put at risk is the quality public education system, where every child, no matter what their circumstance, has the opportunity to succeed in any school throughout this country, and we back them. We back those parents because we believe every school should be a good school.
We believe that the teachers in front of our children should be registered, unlike National. Through its charter school model, it is saying “Actually, we don’t need registered teachers in front of our children.” In fact, there is a difference between qualified teachers and registered teachers.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: There is.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: If there is, then I challenge that member, the member for Tauranga, to take the next call and stand up and explain to the good members of Tauranga what that difference is, based on the recommendations coming out of the Government with regard to giving greater protection around children, and strengthening the regulatory process so that sex offenders are not in front of our children. I challenge the member for Tauranga to get up, take the next call, and explain to the people of
Tauranga what the difference is. We think there should be registered teachers in charter schools. We think that if that Government wants to run that particular line, then it should be a uniform standard.
But, on balance, actually we do not need charter schools. On balance, we should be putting all our effort into strengthening the public education system. Parents are also concerned because they were told by National that parents deserve really good data about the performance of their young people. What do they get? A variable set of data coming out of national standards and being put up on a website, with the Minister herself acknowledging that that data is inaccurate.
Dr JACKIE BLUE (National)
: I am delighted to speak in this general debate, and I am absolutely proud to be part of a National-led Government that is getting on with the job of building a brighter future for New Zealand. We are not being distracted by sideshows.
I want to spend some time just talking about some really exciting health initiatives that have been happening in the health sector and one in particular that began in Mount Roskill, in my first term in Parliament. A group of migrant doctors, predominantly refugee doctors, had been meeting at one of the NGO groups in Three Kings for some years. It was like a support group, really. They were frustrated that they could not get any support for a bridging programme. They wanted to get recognised and registered with the Medical Council of New Zealand, but were really frustrated in their attempts to get support. That was until I got involved and I got Tony Ryall involved when he became the Minister of Health. He sympathised with their plight and he supported them. Health Workforce New Zealand got involved and the rest is history, as they say.
Colleagues, NZREX is the Medical Council’s registration exam that every foreign doctor has to sit if they cannot get registered by any other route. The NZREX preparation programme began in April 2011. There have been three intakes, of up to about 10 foreign doctors each
There was an example given to me of a woman who came to New Zealand from Russia 12 years ago. She had married a New Zealander and had permanent residency. She had a son. At that time in her life she did not feel she could go through the registration process, so she trained as a nurse and qualified, but never ever gave up her dream of practising as a doctor. She heard about the NZREX programme and was accepted into it.
She left her family for 3 months to work at Auckland City Hospital. Her days began at 8 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m., and that left the evenings for studying. She learnt about the Kiwi-orientated patient approach. Actors were involved in role playing. She passed successfully at the end of 3 months and is now practising as a doctor. Of the 10 on the intake, of which she was one, nine passed that exam and the 10th person eventually passed a few months later. So 10 out of 10 passed. That was a hugely successful intake, as have been the other successive intakes. Of those 10 students, two were from China, three were from Iraq, two were from Sri Lanka, one was from India, one was from Fiji, and, of course, this lady was from Russia. It was a win-win for all and it is particularly successful. We are a multicultural nation, and our health workforce needs to represent the community that it serves.
Another huge and exciting scheme, which I think has been successful, is the Voluntary Bonding Scheme, which was set up in the last term. It has been going for 3 years. That has been phenomenally successful. There has been a total of 2,300 health graduates who have been accepted on to this scheme, and they have come from all over New Zealand. This year we have accepted 510 health graduates. They are not all doctors. There are 43 doctors, 42 midwives, 411 nurses, 13 radiation therapists, and one
medical physicist. It is about keeping our graduates in New Zealand—that is what it is about.
The Rural Medical Immersion Scheme is also proving successful. It is keeping our graduates in New Zealand. We know that if graduates work in hard-to-staff areas and settle in there, they will stay there, and that is what it is all about. It has been hugely successful, and I am grateful that the Minister of Health has had the vision to implement that type of programme.
I am particularly pleased to see the patient cancer pathway improved for patients in New Zealand. We want to ensure that they receive good quality treatment that is timely. There have been four key areas that have been worked on. The first one is cancer wait indicators. Audits have shown that waiting times on the cancer patient pathway were very variable, and the different measurements are now being recorded. Let us face it. We know that when measurements are recorded and they are published, people step up. They start talking to their colleagues, asking: “How can we achieve this target?”. And guess what? It happens. That is what cancer wait-time indicators will do.
There has been work done on tumour standards, which is about getting the best-practice services across New Zealand. There are about eight tumour standards. They include bowel, breast, gynaecological, and melanoma, to name some of them. There is an improvement in multidisciplinary meetings, and that is key to providing excellent care for patients having cancer treatment. But the best news of all, to me, is the introduction of patient pathway cancer co-ordinators.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: One of the highlights of this debate so far has to be the bizarre contribution from John Banks, which we heard before. When he has not got amnesia, he is becoming a soothsayer. He confidently predicted that David Shearer would be the Leader of the Opposition in the 50th Parliament. Well, I have got news for John Banks: this is the 50th Parliament. This is actually the 50th Parliament, so he might well be right, but I think even more telling was his very confident prediction that he, John Banks, would be back in the 50th Parliament as an MP. I think he knows that he is toast at the next election, because all he could be confident about was that he would be present in the 50th Parliament. That is the one we have got right now, so there is a bit of news for John Banks.
The other bit of news for John Banks is a picture that I think tells us everything we need to know about charter schools. It is doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment. It has got a picture of John Banks on it, and it says “Charter schools: one rich white man wants to set up schools for poor brown kids to make a profit for his friends”. I think that is all we need to know about charter schools. That is exactly what it is, and that National Party is backing him all the way. That is the agenda of John Banks. He is interested just in his mates making a profit out of our education system. This is nothing to do with improving achievement in education. If it was to do with improving achievement in education, then that Government would want the best-quality teachers in front of every classroom in the land. What we know is that what that Government really wants to do is have unqualified staff—I am not going to even call them teachers, actually—in charter schools. If they are not qualified to teach, they are not teachers.
Hon Tau Henare: Yes, they are.
SUE MORONEY: They are not teachers if they are not qualified to teach. This idea that any old person can get up, understand the art and the magic of teaching, and actually improve successful educational outcomes for our children lives only over there on the Government benches. Every parent up and down the country knows that this Government is completely out of touch with what is required for improving the quality of our education system.
When it comes to arguing for better-quality education, then the arguments for that opinion are to be found on the Labour benches—not on the National Party benches. We know that, deep down in their hearts, those members want to increase class sizes. That is their big answer to improving the quality of our education. They want to increase class sizes, but only after they have dumbed down the teaching profession. They started it in early childhood education. That is where they started. They cut the funding for qualified teachers in early childhood education. They started dropping the standards at the very beginning for the youngest children, who need it the most. That is where they started. They did that in 2010. They think they are pretty clever because they got away with that. But parents up and down the country were not prepared to let them get away with that ridiculous idea that somehow increasing the number of children in a class, causing their teacher to have many more interactions with many more children, would actually be better for all of our children.
They are the only ones who believe that. They still believe it—they still do believe it. I think the blank faces opposite tell me everything I need to know: they think they just got the sell job wrong on it, actually. They still believe that increasing the number of children in the classes of our primary, intermediate, and secondary schools will somehow improve the quality of education. That is a nonsense. They are now completely exposed on the nonsense about what they think about education. To them, it is all about cost. They see education as a cost. Here, in the Labour Party, we know that education is an investment, and not any old investment, but one of the best investments that any Government can make in the future of its country. It is absolutely clear, because of that Government’s poor performance in education, that its members do regard it as a cost to be contained, not an opportunity to be invested in.
They also misled the public on their intentions around league tables. What was their former Minister of Education saying before the election last year? Anne Tolley said: “I want to make it very clear to the member that the Ministry of Education will not be publishing league tables. I will say that again to the member: the ministry will not be publishing league tables.”
Hon Anne Tolley: That’s right.
SUE MORONEY: That was Anne Tolley. She is just agreeing that she said exactly that. What is the Government planning to do now but publish league tables?
SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel)
: What a pleasure, what an honour, what a terrific thing it is to be able to stand here today in this general debate as part of the John Key Government, which is getting on with the job for New Zealand and for New Zealanders. And what a pleasure, what a privilege, what an honour it is to be the member for Coromandel, because in my part of the world, in Coromandel, where the previous speaker, Sue Moroney, occasionally visits her holiday home—we see her occasionally passing through—the people of Coromandel are enjoying the benefits and privileges that come from having a Government that is focused on getting the economy right.
It has been a wet, damp, miserable winter in parts of Coromandel. In fact, there has been an awful lot of rain about, but the businesses and the farmers of Coromandel are getting ready for spring, and they are getting ready for a prosperous and bright summer. Part of that will be to make the most of the new, wonderful Hauraki Rail Trail cycleway. I had the very good opportunity to spend some time with the Associate Minister of Tourism, Chris Tremain, earlier this year when we opened that cycleway. It runs from
Kōpū through to
Waikino, on to
Waihī, and then down through to Paeroa and Te Aroha. As I left Thames earlier this week I could see that the concrete was being poured on the way into Thames township. What a great thing that will be, because it brings jobs and opportunity to a part of the world that needs jobs and opportunity. And
it is going to be used not only by hundreds of local Coromandel people but by families, children, and visitors from all over New Zealand and all over the world.
I know that the projections are that there will be something like 52,000 people a year using that cycleway, and already, without having had the first summer, usage is twice what was expected. So in towns like Te Aroha, Paeroa, and
Waihī, businesses are already getting the benefit of visitors spending, buying food, wine, coffee, and what have you, but also they are staying overnight. It is just a terrific opportunity, because in Otago, where the cycleway has, of course, being going for a lot longer, it has something like 20,000 people a year using it—
Jacqui Dean: $7 million.
SCOTT SIMPSON: —and it is worth $7 million a year. So if we have 52,000 people, imagine what that is worth to the people of Coromandel.
You know, the local shopkeepers and cafe owners are already saying that business is up, business is booming, and that people are buying their coffees, muffins, and what have you. Indeed, just the other day I had a terrific email. It was actually addressed to the Prime Minister, and I was kindly copied in by a constituent. It said this sort of thing: “A group of 20 of us from
Whangamata recently did the
Waikino to Paeroa trail. We stopped for morning tea at
Waikino at the train station, and then we went on to Te Aroha, where we stayed overnight.” Twenty people staying overnight in Te Aroha—that is a big deal for the local moteliers. They had a meal and then they cycled back the next day, after having brunch. He says in his email: “Later this year a group of us are also planning to ride the Timber Trail.” So people are getting out and around and about and doing this stuff on the national cycleway. It is a great thing.
There is also other innovation. I want to just wind up by saying that Dr Simon McDonald at
Triodent in Katikati runs a terrific business, employing 80 people. This is a business that is only 8 years old that is exporting $20 million a year—export dollars—and making wonderful high tech products used in the dental industry. They are little things. If you have had any crown work done on your teeth, you would know about how expensive that is. I held in my hand, when I visited his factory just a week or two ago, 2,000 units in a small, little box. I held 2,000 of them, something like $200,000 worth of export dollars, in my hand, and not a single 40-foot container in sight—not a single 40-foot container. That is smart, innovative thinking. That is smart, innovative manufacturing going on in Katikati in the Coromandel electorate as we speak. It is a business that is niche, that is taking its product to the world, and that can compete against international competitors, because it is smart, innovative, and very talented. And what do 80 jobs mean to a town like Katikati? Well, they mean opportunity, they mean school rolls go up, they mean businesses are thriving, and they mean the cafes and restaurants are doing well.
Those are just a couple of the wonderful, tangible examples of what is happening under a John Key - National Party Government, which I commend to this House.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green)
: New Zealand has faced some major blows in recent years, whether it is the earthquakes in Christchurch or the Pike River mine disaster. These events, I think, have perhaps seen many of us take the focus off the events in Afghanistan and New Zealand’s longstanding commitment to the events in Afghanistan. This is not just a New Zealand phenomena; it has actually been happening in the United States as well.
However, the recent tragic events mean that we must once again look at what we are doing in Afghanistan, and how our military serving in
Bamian Province can be brought home safely. Many other parliaments debate these kinds of military deployments on a regular basis—the German Parliament debates it every year. So we think it is important that New Zealand should have this debate. We were very disappointed that the
Government blocked having a debate on this issue yesterday, and that the Speaker did not give an urgent debate on this issue yesterday. We think this Parliament should be debating this issue.
I want to make it clear from the outset that we consider that the current provincial reconstruction deployment should be the last. It should come to an end. The provincial reconstruction team’s deployment in
Bamian is easily New Zealand’s most significant and dangerous overseas deployment since Viet Nam. Now is the time, we believe, for the Government to signal an end to our involvement in the Afghanistan war immediately, and withdraw our troops as soon as possible. The ongoing loss of New Zealand life is too high a price to pay for a war we cannot influence, and where the situation for our troops is increasingly dangerous.
The role of the New Zealand force is no longer focused on simply reconstructing local communities and building schools, but rather on patrolling a dangerous part of the country, where our troops are being increasingly drawn into counter-insurgency operations that pose more dangers to them. New Zealand has had an active commitment in Afghanistan since 2001, so withdrawing our troops over a decade later is therefore in no sense cutting and running, as some members of the Government have suggested. We, New Zealand, have made a significant commitment, but the Green Party believes that the price now is too high to stay. The overall situation in Afghanistan is beyond our control, and sending more New Zealand soldiers to the north-east of
Bamian Province in particular, at this time, is indefensible and too dangerous.
The Government has signalled an end to our commitment next year. I understand it has reached an agreement with the US Government to end in April. This is simply bringing forward the end date that was previously announced, but the Greens believe we should bring it forward further. Of course, we would not be the only country making that decision to bring forward our withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Netherlands withdrew in 2010; it now has police there but it does not have troops. And, of course, the new French Prime Minister, Francois
Hollande, has signalled that he wants the vast bulk of French soldiers out this year.
The overall outcome of the war in Afghanistan is beyond the control of New Zealand troops based in
Bamian Province. According to news reports, we have about 150 soldiers there. What is interesting is that in 2010 the then defence Minister, Wayne Mapp, was interviewed, and he said that we had about 100 soldiers there, and that we were planning to draw down from September 2011. Instead, it seems like we have increased the number of troops that we have in
Bamian. This is after the current President of Afghanistan,
Hamid Karzai, in early 2011, called for the withdrawal of the foreign provincial reconstruction teams, in an interview with the BBC. So it was the President of Afghanistan who was calling for the withdrawal. Unfortunately, this advice has not been heeded, and rather than drawing down the provincial reconstruction team in
Bamian, the New Zealand Government instead has increased our commitment there.
I think it is important to note that the initial premise of our provincial reconstructions team was that it was not ostensibly a fighting force. The original Beehivestatement by Mark Burton in 2003 clearly stated that the provincial reconstruction team was not considered a combat unit. For many in New Zealand, the danger faced by our soldiers has perhaps been underplayed. We have not realised the level of danger that they are exposed to, but now that is clearly there for all to see.
As our provincial reconstruction team has been pushed further out from the centre of
Bamian Province, so the danger to our soldiers has grown. The Taliban presence within
Bamian and surrounding provinces has also increased in recent years. New Zealand’s losses in that province occurred in the north-east part of it. Earlier this month, the Government took a Cabinet decision to widen even further the area of operations of our
provincial reconstruction team. It seems to us that it is time for Cabinet to revisit that decision. Thank you.
MIKE SABIN (National—Northland)
: While on the subject of Afghanistan, can I just please pass my sincere condolences to the families of the fallen soldiers, and thank them for the commitment they have made to this country, and indeed to world peace and the efforts on the global stage.
What is it that sets this National Party apart from those in “Labour Land” and from across there in the watermelon patch? Well, I can tell you that the main thing is that we are just getting on with the job, responsibly managing the Government’s finances, and working to our plan to grow the economy. What does that require? It requires discipline and it requires focus on the things that matter. That is about making a difference—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Who wrote this rubbish?
MIKE SABIN: I wrote it, Mr Mallard. I wrote it. I can give you a copy if you would like. That requires staying on task for what matters and knowing what we stand for. Whereas in “Labour Land”, of course, those members do not know what they stand for, they do not even know who their leader is, or who they want it to be, for that matter. They do not have any discipline, unless you count Mr Shearer’s conversation with the media the other day, that he would tell members like that that he should keep his trap shut, and keep it behind closed doors—unless you call that discipline. They do not have a plan, other than to oppose. That is all they can do, and that is all they want to do. They do not want jobs, they do not want the economy to grow, because they want to be able to turn round and say to New Zealand: “Please elect us, because there hasn’t been any growth in the economy, and there are no jobs.” Well, New Zealanders have woken up to that, Mr Mallard. They have woken up to your self-serving agenda, and that is why you are sitting on that side of the House.
There is one thing that they will do, though—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Speaker does not have a self-serving agenda.
MIKE SABIN: Sorry, Mr Speaker, I am sure you do not. But some members on the other side of the House I am sure do. There is one thing that we have been told that they will do. Mr Parker said that they will get rid of the
Pūhoi motorway extension. In fact, a week ago in this House, he said that they would can it. This really is something of great concern to people in Northland. It is ironic given that they were up in Northland not that long ago having a wee Labour Party retreat, a few photo opportunities, and some fish and chips at the Maunganui fish and chip shop. I bet they did not get up on soap boxes and talk about canning the
Pūhoi project, on that particular visit. No, they save that for the safety of this place.
So how do I know that that road is so important to Northland? I know that because, as a new National Party MP, I facilitated economic summits in Northland to look at how we could grow the economic opportunities in that part of the world, because there are many, and because the social dysfunction and the welfare dependence that so many will talk to is really the result of an underperforming economy, and is not reflective of an economy that has much potential and is something that should be mobilised. So over the last couple of months I have facilitated the summits. The aim was to build a vision and a plan for the region that would identify where the enablers and constrainers were in achieving that goal. Over 440 attendees, from 14 sectors across the Northland economy, visited and participated in those summits, and they found that 89 percent of the enablers and constrainers they saw fell into nine core themes. What was at the top of that list? It was infrastructure. Infrastructure was at the top of that list, and at the top of the infrastructure list was the
Pūhoi motorway extension.
Northland is a region with immense potential and a very bad road. Northland has immense potential for aquaculture, forestry, minerals, oil and gas exploration,
geothermal power, development of the
Māori economy, tourism, manufacture, agriculture, horticulture—the list goes on. It is a long list. That road is a vital piece of infrastructure in Northland, and it has been called for
for years. Everyone in that part of the world knows that it is a trade and economic highway, not a “Holiday Highway”, as the “Labour Landers” would have you say it is. The National Government knows how important that piece of infrastructure is. The member for Rodney behind me and the member from Whangarei certainly do.
We are committing to helping businesses to grow themselves and to improve the economic potential. We are committed to Northlanders. This party is committed to New Zealanders. We are committed to ensuring that New Zealand has a brighter future, and that is what we are getting on with doing.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: We on this side of the House are enormously proud of our public education system. It has a wonderfully high standard that is recognised internationally, and it is something to be celebrated, not dumped on like this National Government is doing. We need to celebrate the fact that we have good teachers and staff in our schools, in our early childhood centres, and in our institutions and universities. But one of the saddest things I have heard in the last couple of weeks was at the meeting of educationalists and teachers who told me that they are losing the passion for teaching because of the dumping that is going on from this Government, the madness that has descended from this Government that we have seen through most of the year.
First of all, it was the class sizes debacle. Of course, the Government thought the parents would not notice that because it was having a go at the teachers, and it thought that the parents would side with it on that. Well, of course, parents did notice, and they made a big fuss about it, and the Government was forced to back down. Then we had league tables, and we have still got league tables—another part of the madness that has descended on the education system from this Government. And now, thanks to a cup of tea and a pretty dirty deal, we have got the latest madness, which is charter schools—or am I supposed to call them partnership schools now? They are charter schools, which no—
Hon Annette King: John Banks’ folly.
DARIEN FENTON: John Banks’ folly. Schools that no one wants, no one needs, except the deluded members of the ACT Party. I was interested to go back and have a look at what happened and what the ACT Party said when it launched its policy. It was poor, poor old Dr Don Brash who launched it.
Hon Annette King: The old hapless dried arrangement.
DARIEN FENTON: The hapless Don Brash, who launched the policy for charter schools at a school that is in the area in which I work as an MP, in Browns Bay, the Corelli performing arts school. In his speech, he compared our education system to McDonald’s. He compared it to McDonald’s. He said: “If the education system was the restaurant industry, these”—talking about private schools like Corelli—“would be the specialist suburban eateries faithfully serving their unique local markets. The rest of the education system would be McDonald’s, serving the same stuff consistently across every location. The head office being the Ministry of Education, sets the menu … the performance standards, being the exams, the décor, being the bricks and mortar of the school, the pay rates, being the national teacher pay scale, and the way customers are served, being the teaching style.”
So what he was telling us in that speech is that the 97 percent of kids who go to State schools deserve nothing more than McDonald’s, and that actually the 3 percent who go to private schools are going to get a lot better than that. Try telling my kids, who actually have a master’s degree and doctorates now, that because they went to State institutions they have been let down. Well, actually the only thing that has let them
down is the fact that there are no decent job opportunities for talented young people in New Zealand. They have left, along with the landslide of other Kiwis who we are seeing heading to the other side of the world for better work and better wages. They ain’t coming home any time soon.
Selfe, the principal of the Corelli Academic School of Arts, addressed the ACT Party conference before the last election, praising the setting up of the charter schools. There is a very close link with Corelli, so I thought I would tell the House a little bit about what is going on. It claims to be the only charter school in New Zealand, and it charges around $18,000 per year for senior students.
Hon Trevor Mallard: How much?
DARIEN FENTON: Eighteen thousand dollars per year.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is that boarding?
DARIEN FENTON: It is in Browns Bay, too. It is not boarding. It is for performing arts. It is in Browns Bay, so it is not in South Auckland or Christchurch, where the poorer kids are, like ACT says it wants to be. But the interesting thing about Corelli is that it is now taking a large number of its own parents to court. They are taking them to court for allegedly breaking their scholarships. These kids—
Hon Trevor Mallard: So the kids are leaving?
DARIEN FENTON: The kids are leaving, and they are getting sued. The parents are being sued. The kids went to school to get an education, to gain university entrance, and to further their talents in the performing arts, which is what this school is supposed to be about. But they did not get the education that they were expecting. Some of them found they were not on track to get qualifications they signed up for. The subjects they were expecting to do were cancelled. Qualifications were not offered in their place, they were not up to university entrance standards, and there were not enough classes being offered. So parents pulled their kids out of the school, and they have had to take them elsewhere to get their education.
One of the parents has told me that their child is now a year behind in her schooling. She has to catch up with her peers. Her parents are being sued. What an advertisement from the poster child of the charter schools model.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.