[Sitting date: 31 May 2012. Volume:680;Page:2760. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
- Debate resumed from 30 May on the
Appropriation (2012/13 Estimates) Bill.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police)
: I stand in this House proud to be a member of the John Key - led Government, and proud to acknowledge our coalition partners the Hon Peter Dunne, the Hon Pita Sharples, and the Hon Tariana Turia. I thank them for their help. I want to congratulate our Minister of Finance, Bill English, on the 2012 Budget. It is a very sensible Budget—a very sensible Budget that addresses the four key focus areas that this John Key - led Government has identified. Firstly, there is responsibly managing the Government’s finances. Why is that important for a Government? Well, at this time, when we are still working our way through a global recession, and when we are dealing with our second-largest city having been largely destroyed by a series of earthquakes, there is no more important time for a Government to be focused on managing responsibly the finances of this country. We have done that
by protecting the most vulnerable in our communities from some of the sharper edges of that recession. We have not seen in this country the austerity measures that other countries around the world have had to implement, and we have maintained our front-line services. We have seen, in fact, a growth in front-line services of people like police, doctors, nurses, and teachers, right across the years of this recession.
The second area is, of course, building a competitive and productive economy. We have seen an extra 60,000 new jobs created in our community over the last 2 years. The Opposition does not seem to understand that the Government does not create jobs. There were jobs that the members opposite created when they were in power, and when times got tough they were unsustainable. We need businesses to grow, and we need New Zealand employers to decide to take on more staff and grow their businesses. We are creating an environment and a framework that will enable them to do that.
The third area is to deliver better public services—better services for New Zealanders that they pay their taxes to get. We have heard from the Minister of Health of one area where we have seen a dramatic turn-round. Whereas 4 years ago people were waiting for treatment—in fact, they had to fly women to Australia to get cancer treatment—now they are receiving that cancer treatment within 4 weeks. And this Government, of course, fully funded Herceptin for women—younger women, largely, and family women—who were having to pay enormous amounts of money under that previous Government.
The fourth area, of course, is rebuilding the Greater Christchurch area. I have a quote on my wall. It has been there for some years. It is attributed to a great Roman politician. I know that some of my colleagues have been quoting literary examples. Well, actually, I want to go back further, because Cicero, that great Roman politician, author, and orator, who lived from 106 BC, is supposed to have said: “The Budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” That was written over 2,000 years ago, and not much has changed. I put it to you that not much has changed.
Why is it important that the New Zealand Government balances its books? Why is it important that we get into surplus in 2014? It is so that New Zealanders have options. Of course—why else would we want to do that? We do not want to be beholden to overseas lenders; we want to be able to manage our own country and create good options for our New Zealanders. Labour, New Zealand First, and the Greens simply do not get it. I quote Cicero again: “To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child.” That is a pretty accurate description, I have to say.
You cannot keep spending money. You cannot keep spending money. If you have not earned it, you cannot spend it. I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker; I am sure that you would not spend money before you have earned it. But Labour, New Zealand First, and the Greens seem to have this cost-plus mentality. They keep wanting to do all the things they have been doing, even when those things are ineffective, and continue to spend more. We have seen that Opposition oppose every single change that this Government has tried to make. Every time we have said: “This programme isn’t working. We’re going to stop doing this programme, because we’re getting no results from it.”, we have seen the Opposition cry out and put up some poor innocent person or child as an individual case to show that that programme should not be cut.
We have seen our Public Service look deep into the way it operates. We have managed to produce some fantastic Public Service results without extra money, by looking at our back room, by looking at where there is duplication, and by looking at where programmes are ineffective—in other words, they are not getting results—and
stopping them. Clearly, the Opposition cannot comprehend that method of working, and that says that it does not deserve to have hold of the Treasury benches. That says that the Opposition cannot be trusted with other people’s money. It is not Government money; it is taxpayers’ money, and taxpayers deserve to have a Government that recognises and values the fact that it is someone else’s money that it is spending. The members sitting on the Opposition benches over there do not understand that, and that is why they will be there for quite some time to come.
I want to talk about some examples—in particular, where two departments have looked deep within their resources and managed to produce extra services with the same and similar amounts of money. The first example is the New Zealand Police. The police are looking at how they are operating and how they manage their resources. They are looking to get good intelligence. They are looking to work in a 21st century environment. They can do things smarter and better, and they do not need to keep having extra dollars put into the department. That is a simple way—every household around New Zealand is looking at that. But our police are, I think, doing a fantastic job.
I want to come to the Department of Corrections, because we made some announcements in Budget 2012 about the department. It also looked deep within its organisation and found savings to offer up to change the way we deal with the people who either are in prison or are serving their sentences out in the community. We are spending $65 million over the next 4 years on a radical new way of addressing crime in our communities, and that is saying that if 27 percent of people who leave prison come back within 12 months, then we have to keep our communities safe by reducing that by a quarter. That is an enormously difficult target to have set, but the Department of Corrections has set that target because it believes that by addressing alcohol and drug addition, 33,000 offenders will get access to drug and alcohol addiction services—33,000. The previous Labour Government struggled to provide those services to 500. For the first time, offenders who are on remand will get access to those services, to education services, and to trade skills in the workplace. For the first time ever, those remand prisoners will have access to that. The Labour Government was in power for 9 years and was never able to provide that. It did not try, and it had all the money to spend. Now, at a time when there is not a lot of money to spend, the Department of Corrections has said it can do things better. It has said it can find the money by digging deep, by looking at where the duplication is, by stopping things that do not work, and by investing money in things we know will work.
The Drivers of Crime work that this Government has done tells us that drug and alcohol addiction is one of the main features of reoffending. Another feature is poor education. The Labour Government was in power for 9 years, and it watched while one in five students left school not able to read or write. Many of them are in our prisons. Many of them are in our prisons. This Government knows well how to look deep and make the changes we need to make in order to balance our Budget.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour)
: It was interesting to hear the Minister of Police refer to Cicero. Presumably that is the Cicero who was the author of the book about Riley the rat, which the former Minister of Education read to the Post Primary Teachers Association. But remarkably enough, she was actually a better Minister of Education than Hekia Parata. It is absolutely incredible. I did not think I would ever say those words in the House, but it is true.
We have seen the worst anti-education Budget that I can remember from this Government. Its members come from a party that simply does not understand education. They do not understand how the education system works, and when it comes to education they are driven by a mentality that sees the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Overall, this is a Budget without a vision for sustainable growth and without
hope to ensure that a new generation want to build their lives for themselves and their families in our country.
The Government said it wanted this Budget to be boring. Being boring is no aim, but, more than that, being boring in the way the National Government is doing it is damaging. It is damaging to New Zealand, because there are such big issues that this country has to face. Being boring in the way the National Government is saying is neglect. It is neglect of the future of this country. But this Budget is not actually boring when it comes to education. Right through, from early childhood education to tertiary education, this Budget is the worst Budget for education that I can remember.
This is a Budget from an anti-education party that simply does not understand the education system. It starts right at the early childhood education level. That sector is still reeling from having $400 million ripped out of it in the 2010 Budget. It pushed the costs for many families up by $60 to $80 a week to have their children in early childhood education. That was the record from the 2010 Budget. Now we see a freeze on the funding for those centres. That will see the costs for parents with children in early childhood education go up, once again.
How many times do we have to tell this Government that investment in early childhood education pays off again and again in later life? Every dollar put in gives $10 or $11 back. But this Government ignores that evidence time and time again. It freezes the funding and makes sure that parents will have to pay more. Parents who are already under financial pressure will have to pay more for early childhood education.
But it is in the compulsory sector that this Budget really fails the future of New Zealand. Much has been said already in this House about the failure of this Government in the compulsory sector—
Phil Twyford: There is so much to say.
GRANT ROBERTSON: There is so much to say. But the real story is the fundamental flaw in the assumption that the Minister of Education and John Key are making, and that is that funding education is a zero-sum game—if we want to keep class sizes reasonable, we have to give up on teacher quality. That is the assumption from this Government. That is how it sees this. Well, I have got a message for John Key and Hekia Parata. Our children’s future is not something to be traded off. It is not one commodity to be traded off against another commodity.
Of course we want good quality teachers in front of classrooms. That is why Labour invested heavily in professional development. The National Government came in and took money out of professional development for teachers, and now tries to celebrate—this year—that it brought some of that money back again. It is not a zero-sum game. We can have quality teachers and keep class sizes at a reasonable level if this Government is prepared to actually prioritise education.
Class size increase is a deliberate policy by this Government. New Zealanders should make no mistake about that. New Zealanders should make no mistake. Parents right across New Zealand, this National Government is deliberately increasing the size of classes. We know from evidence right around the world about the impact that will have. We know that John Key and Bill English know that. In 2004 Bill English said it. He said that increasing class sizes will cause trouble in classrooms, and especially for children who are already disadvantaged. Yet that is exactly what this Government is doing. This Government is increasing class sizes and disadvantaging students.
We have already heard a lot about technology teaching. I just want to make the point that was already made in question time today. There are students who attend schools that are not intermediate schools. These are schools that go from years 1 to 8. Students who perhaps might be at a school like Wellington Girls’ College previously have been to schools in Wellington that go from years 1 to 8. When they go to their technology
classes, they go and do them at a primary school that offers that. We have heard today from Mt Cook School here in Wellington that as a result of the changes this Government is making, which will reduce funding to most of the schools that contribute students to that technology centre at Mt Cook School, they will have to close that centre if the Government does not change its priorities. They will have to close that technology centre, and five teachers will lose their jobs. Many of those students will lose the opportunity to learn the skills that they learn in technology classes. John Key received an email yesterday from a group of engineers. Those engineers—15 of them—signed this email, and they said: “Please do not make these changes to technology education, because that’s where we got our interest in technology. That is where we got our start to be engineers.” The very thing the Government tells us it wants—people in high-value jobs, adding value to the economy—starts in schools. But that is what has been taken away by this Government.
The way it has treated the compulsory sector has been absolutely appalling. Would it not have been better if this Government had actually sat down and formed a working group with teachers and schools—before it made these decisions, rather than afterwards when it has stuffed up and is trying to back-pedal? The problem is that even the back-pedalling is not enough, because this reduction in the number of teachers in schools will damage the educational future of New Zealanders.
There is no need for this to be a zero-sum game. I want to repeat the commitment that David Shearer made earlier this week. Labour in Government will reverse these class-size changes. We will reverse these, because we think it is important that every child—wherever they are, wherever they are from—gets the same opportunities. We are not going to put in place a regime that will see class sizes increase.
In the tertiary education area we have seen some bizarre changes. I want to make the point that the proposal to completely abolish student allowances for postgraduate study for master’s and PhD students was not in the National Party manifesto. There was absolutely no indication that this was what the Government was going to do. There were some indications it was going to raid the loan scheme and change that around, but no indication whatsoever that there would be these cuts to student allowances.
Student allowances go to people from low and modest income backgrounds. They are provided because people from those backgrounds will struggle to undertake tertiary study without that support. In the House this week we have seen Steven Joyce and John Key get up and say: “It’s relatively similar.”—the amounts that are going to be received by those who now will have to borrow from the loan scheme. Well, I want to tell Mr Key and Mr Joyce about a 24-year-old single mother who is trying to complete her master’s degree here in Wellington. She at the moment receives just on $353 a week to be able to support herself and her child while studying to do her master’s. Under the scheme that is now being put forward she will lose close to $140 a week from what she gets. She simply will not be able to carry on and finish her postgraduate study. She will not be able to achieve her potential, and that is what this Government is responsible for. It is responsible for taking away potential from people. I want to send a message to this Government. “Stop doing this. Stop taking away opportunity from people. Stop making sure that people can’t achieve their potential. Make sure you invest in education.”
The Labour Party sees education as a priority. It is fundamental to the health and well-being of our society and the success of our children. It is the key driver in creating a prosperous and growing economy. When Labour is in Government we will invest in education. When Labour is in Government we will ensure that we actually use a Budget to address the issues that are fundamental to our economy. Let us get monetary policy right. Let us actually support exporters. Let us make sure superannuation is sustainable for the future. Let us actually make the tax system fair and balanced so that everybody
pays their fair share. And let us invest in education. That is what a Labour Government would do. This Government is failing the future of New Zealand.
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Energy and Resources)
: Can I pick up from the Hon Anne Tolley’s message about using taxpayer funds so very, very much better. I would like to talk about a policy—one that the Labour Party is nowhere near, but which about a third of a million New Zealanders are right up against—that is, the insulation of private homes owned by homeowners or rental properties with tenants. It is the insulation programme that over 150,000 families have now picked up. There is an average of three people in a household, so about 450,000 New Zealanders now benefit from it. What happened was that when we came into Government—when the National Party came into Government—John Key asked his officials what were the two or three things that the Government could do that would change New Zealanders’ lives instantly and also create jobs. We came out with this home insulation scheme. The deal, essentially, is that the Government will pay for a third of the insulation costs for houses, if families can front up with two-thirds. The Green Party—of course, I acknowledge the Green Party—came on board, and we had an announcement back then that over 4 years we would put in about a third of a billion dollars and insulate about 188,000 homes across New Zealand. The Green Party was part of that, and I certainly acknowledge it. The reality is that the Government of the day, the National Government, stumped up a third of a billion dollars, and we are well on the way to insulating those 188,000 homes. So that is a good thing.
Come this Budget, I myself, as Minister of Energy and Resources, looked at the figures. What has actually happened—and Anne Tolley will be interested in this—is that out of that fund we have managed to be able to extend that to 230,000 houses. It will not be just 188,000; we think we can probably do about 230,000 houses with the same amount of money. In other words, an extra 41,000 houses will be funded out of that fund. Would the Labour Party—well, first of all, the Labour Party would not have thought of doing it—have got that cost-effectiveness? Is there anyone in New Zealand who would argue against the ability of National to get, from a third of a billion dollars, instead of 188,000 houses an extra 41,000 houses out of the same amount of cash, through the efficiencies that we, the sector, and the people who have installed it have driven? Can anyone argue against that? I do not think so. So what are we going to get? Instead of getting 188,000 houses over 4 years, we are going to get, 6 to 9 months into a fifth year, a total of 230,000 houses. That is fantastic value for money—fantastic value for money.
I want to inform members about something humorous. This does not go to the Green Party, because it supported us in that programme. Labour said: “We would have done that.” Labour had 9 years in Government and it did not do that, but it said: “We would have done that.” To make it worse, can I tell the New Zealand public about something pretty interesting. We are insulating private homes—right—and private rentals. Did you know that not all State houses are insulated? Did the Speaker know, and did the New Zealand public know, that not all State houses are insulated? In other words, after 9 years in Government Labour did not even insulate its own homes. Its own homes are not even insulated. By the end of next year we will have insulated every single State home in the country that can be insulated. The Labour Party, after 9 years in Government, had State house tenants living in uninsulated homes, yet when National makes the announcement that it is going to insulate private homes, the Labour Party members say: “We would have done that.” Labour did not even insulate its own houses. What a disgrace. Can I say that we do not agree with the Green Party on most things. We do not agree with the Green Party on most things, but I can tell you that when I am talking about the two-faced attitude here, on home insulation—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I know what the member is going to say. The member is referring to the word that we do not actually hear. The speaker cannot get around the use of that word by a circumlocution, which the member is trying to do. The member will withdraw.
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I withdraw and apologise. The point I am making here is that I do not agree with the Green Party on a whole bunch of things, but at least it has got some honesty around this. By the end of next year, under this Government, we will have insulated every single State house in New Zealand that can be insulated and that we can track down, and we will have insulated about 230,000 private houses across New Zealand. That is a stunning, stunning promise.
I am also fascinated about the odd story that turns up in the media about old, cold, and mouldy State houses. Can I reiterate, as I did in the last term of Government over 3 years—virtually every month over the last 3 years I have said this as Minister of Housing, and I will say it again—we have about 70,000 State houses across New Zealand. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of them are in the wrong place—wrong suburb or wrong town—or they are of the wrong size. In other words, they are three-bedroom houses when actually we need one-bedroom houses and six-bedroom houses. Thirdly, they are in a poor state of disrepair. In other words, they are old 1940s and 1950s State houses, and they are uninsulated. When we came into Government between a quarter and a third of State houses in New Zealand were either in the wrong place, were of the wrong size, or were in very poor condition. So to the New Zealand media: we know—we know—and that is why we are insulating them. That is why we are going through developments like in Tāmaki and bowling old houses and building new ones. That is why we introduced reviewable tenancies, so that State house tenants are no longer in a State house for life if they do not need one. If I got into a State house with a family of six, 30 or 40 years later, under the Labour Party, I could be a single person rattling round in five bedrooms, and all the while there is a desperate family on the waiting list. Well, that changes under us.
But I will tell you this out of interest: the Labour Party opposes everything we are doing in State housing. We insulate all the State houses; Labour is against it. We do redevelopments, where we better use the land and we upgrade all the State houses and bowl the old ones and build the new ones in Tāmaki; Labour is against it. The redevelopment in Farmer Crescent; Labour is against it. What we do is say: “Hey, if you don’t need a State house you can no longer have it for life. Someone else on the waiting list should get it.”, and the Labour Party opposes that. So it does not matter where you turn, the Labour Party opposes National Party policy, even when it blindingly makes good sense. I put on the record that, yes, the State housing stock needs a serious upgrade, yes, we need the right type of houses, and, yes, we need to insulate them all. The previous Labour Government did none of that in 9 years. We have to do it. That is why people are in State houses in poor condition. That is why people are on the waiting lists, and I am proud to be part of a Budget that actually starts addressing those issues. As we insulate State houses across the country and private houses across the country, can I thank members in the House, and can I thank the Green Party. Can I say to the Green Party that if ever it is in Government with the Labour Party, please, please, please repeat these messages, the main one being that insulation of housing is good, start at home with your own stock—you know, the State housing stock—and extend it to the private housing stock. Thank you.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka)
: Some of the old, cold, and mouldy State houses that the Minister of Housing referred to were in my electorate. They were old, they were cold, and they were mouldy, and they did need some work. Phil Heatley came
in and demolished them. He demolished them completely, and the land is now empty, and the land has stayed empty since he demolished them. Anybody who wanted to move into a State house would have to ring up his 0800 number and wait, and wait, and wait to get into a house that Phil Heatley had demolished—gone completely. He did not fix the problem; just demolished the houses and left the land empty—demolished, gone. So I guess that is one way to solve the problem, is it not? Just demolish the houses. Forget about the people who live there. Forget about anybody else. Forget about anybody who might need some State housing; just demolish the houses. Leave the land empty. Now his latest solution is to sell the land—to sell it off. That is another way to deal with it, I guess: demolish the houses and sell the land off. It does not actually help the people who were living in those old, cold, and mouldy State houses. It does not help them one bit at all. In fact, it makes them potentially homeless. If someone is living in their car now, under Phil Heatley they cannot go to a Housing New Zealand Corporation office any more; they need to ring an 0800 number. So this person who is living in a car is supposed to have a car and ring an 0800 number—
Charles Chauvel: They’ll use a car phone.
CHRIS HIPKINS: That is right, because someone living in their car is very likely to have a car phone! They are going to have to wait for at least about 40 minutes before someone answers that call—if, in fact, the call gets answered. This is a person living in their car. That is Phil Heatley’s idea of solving New Zealand’s housing problems. I think that speaks for itself.
This is a Government that is interested in governing for today and for the benefit of people like its members. It is not a Government that is interested in governing for a better future for all New Zealanders, and this Budget screamed that out loud. It is about making short-term decisions that will benefit people like its members, regardless of the impact those decisions are going to have on the future of this country. The Government has cut funding successively, in the time that it has been in Government, to early childhood education. It has continued to cut funding for early childhood education, even though all of the research says that kids who get quality early childhood education are more likely to succeed later on in the system. In this Budget what it did was punish people in New Zealand—hard-working Kiwis who are working and who are at the bottom of the ladder, and are trying to pull themselves up. They got punished by this Government. The paper boys—
Louise Upston: And what would you have done, eh?
CHRIS HIPKINS: Well, we would not have cut the tax credit for the paper boys, a measure that saves very little money but sends a message to the paper boys that says: “Don’t work hard to try to get ahead, don’t work hard to make your life better, because you’ll be punished by this National Government.” People who are from relatively modest backgrounds who want to do tertiary education study, particularly at postgraduate level, or maybe a medical degree, which takes many years to complete, are going to have their eligibility for a student allowance taken away. What it says is that if someone is from a family with means, who can support them through their tertiary study, they should think about a programme of study that is going to be greater than 4 years. They should think about medicine, they should think about dentistry, and those other sorts of programmes that take more than 4 years. But if you are from a poor family, a family who cannot afford to support you for 5, 6, or 7 years of tertiary study, do not bother applying, because this Government is not interested in providing support to those people.
What it is basically saying about tertiary education is that it should return to being the preserve of the people on the highest incomes and who come from families of means, and forget about the low-income families who want to make a better life for
themselves and for any children that they might have. No, no, no, this Government is not interested one jot in them. It is content to make life much more difficult for them, and to pull the ladder up, so that they do not get the chance to work hard and make a better life for themselves.
Perhaps the best example of the short-sightedness of this Government’s Budget, the zero Budget that we have seen from this Government, has been the changes that it has made to class sizes. This is a Government that is arguing that we can improve the outcomes of our education system by putting more kids into every class. That is what it is trying to tell New Zealanders. And every parent and every teacher knows—they know—that that simply is wrong. This must be the only Government in the world that thinks that we will get a better outcome from our education system by putting more kids into every class.
Not only has it made that rather Draconian decision but it has totally failed to consider the detailed implications of the policies that have gone through Cabinet. It took a Cabinet paper through that reduced the number of teachers in year 7 and year 8 of intermediate schools, without one Cabinet Minister at any point asking to see a list of the schools that would be affected by that change. Not one Minister at any point thought, gosh, do we think we should actually look at what this might mean for real, actual schools? Nobody—nobody—not one of those 20 Cabinet Ministers, including the Minister of Education, thought that it would be a good idea to look at what the actual impact of the policy that they were voting for, that they were approving and putting in the Budget, was going to be on actual schools. Not one. Twenty Cabinet Ministers, and not one of them asked for an analysis of the actual impact of the policy—including the Prime Minister, who then tried to deny that he knew anything about it, despite the fact that he chairs the Cabinet that approved the policy that was put forward by Hekia Parata, the Minister of Education, who clearly did not understand it. That is simply atrocious government. It is incompetence at the highest level of our Government and it should not be allowed to stand or to go unchecked. It should not be allowed to go unchecked.
I have here newsletters from the intermediate schools in my electorate, pointing out what these changes would mean for them. This one from Fergusson Intermediate School is headed up “Budget cuts will cripple intermediate schools”. The principal there talks about the fact that the horror of these details is that they show a devastating cut to the staffing of intermediate schools. He states very clearly, and I quote directly from it: “Our choice will be to abandon the technology/arts specialist teacher positions or retain these positions and lose at least three classroom teachers.” Further on through the newsletter he points out that the result of losing those three classroom teachers would be that students end up in classes of 38 students. So either forget about doing woodwork, metalwork, and those other sorts of subjects—the technology subjects—or end up in a class of 38. The thing is, the cap that the Minister has applied is a total hoax, because it lasts only for 3 years, and then the new ratios are going to kick in, anyway. So it does not actually solve the problem; it simply delays the implementation of it. Intermediate schools are being done over.
I will read from a newsletter from Maidstone Intermediate: “The idea that increasing class sizes will improve the quality of education for your child is difficult to comprehend.” That is a direct quote from the principal of Maidstone Intermediate. He points out that a whole lot of the extra activities that parents and students really value will be put at risk by this policy. Again, I will quote: “The whole nature of what intermediates provide is under threat. Opportunities such as winter sport, personal development options, Stage Challenge, computer extension groups, kapahaka would all cease to operate, because we would not have the staffing to sustain these programmes.”
That is John Key’s and Hekia Parata’s vision of a better education system. How is that possibly raising the standard of education in this country? This Government claims to care about standards of education. It does not raise the standard of education in New Zealand to put more and more kids into the same classes.
I will go back to quoting from the principal of Fergusson Intermediate, because I think he puts it very well: “Teacher quality will not improve with higher class numbers! Student learning will not improve with higher class numbers! Student engagement, particularly for students who enjoy and excel in hands on learning, will not remain at the current high level when all of those options are gone from their schooling.” And that is the reality that they will face under this National Government. Hekia Parata’s cap on this policy makes it very clear. Those New Zealanders who care about the future of education will have to vote for a change of Government if they do not want to see massively bigger class sizes in 3 years’ time when that cap is removed.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: Talofa lava. Chris Hipkins’ contribution just confirms how deeply in denial is the Labour Opposition, after that stunning information from the Hon Phil Heatley, where he pointed out that the National Government has insulated 150,000 homes so far, and will go on to 230,000 homes—a brilliant achievement after the Labour Government had done nothing after 9 long years, including failing to insulate even its own State houses. What did Chris Hipkins do? He denied it. He was in total denial. He did not rebut it, he did not say a thing, he just stayed, like the Labour Party, in total denial.
The day after the Budget, John Shewan—[Interruption]—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order! Members on my left and my right cannot interject on each other without the floor. The interjections are reserved for the person who is speaking.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON: The day after the Budget, John Shewan, arguably New Zealand’s foremost tax expert, if not the top tax expert, said that this Budget is an impressive Budget. He said it needed to be predictable, and it was. He said this was a responsible Budget. As so many speakers have said about Budget 2012, it is indeed a Budget for the times. For the Opposition to suggest that this is an austerity Budget clearly defies the fact. As the leader of the National Party, the Prime Minister, has so fondly pointed out, the Labour Party does indeed live on “Planet Labour”. There is also “Planet Green” somewhere up there in the clouds. As my old psychology teacher used to say, the difference between a neurotic and a psychotic is that a neurotic builds sandcastles in the air, and a psychotic lives in them. When it comes to Labour and the Greens, the public can take its pick.
The facts are that as a response to the global recession this National Government has actually borrowed up to $350 million a week. This is in order to ensure that vital services such as health, education, and social welfare continue to be well supported, and this, indeed, has been hugely helpful to millions of New Zealanders. This has, indeed, provided a huge stimulation. If one compares that with what has gone on in Europe, where there have been savage cuts to the Public Service, where there have been savage cuts not only to Public Service numbers but also to their salaries, New Zealand has really come through extraordinarily unscathed. That has been because of a highly responsible and prudential National Government.
As the Governor of the Reserve Bank pointed out, unless New Zealand does manage our finances prudentially, we undoubtedly will have a credit rate downgrade. This would have a huge impact on the housing mortgages that so many New Zealanders have, and it would have a huge impact on our farmers and our small businesses. Think of the dairy industry, which is in the order of $30 billion in debt. There is no question
that we do need in this country a Budget that is highly financially prudential and responsible.
For David Shearer to go on about a “departure lounge Budget” is scaremongering of the worst order. I was over in the Middle East with his predecessor, the Hon Phil Goff, 10 days ago. It was extremely poignant from that position, in that tinder-dry area, to realise how lucky we are here in New Zealand and how extremely well our economy has been managed by the National Government. What is more, despite the international economic uncertainties, New Zealanders can be optimistic for the future because of the clear economic growth plan that this Government has and because the National Government is committed to ensuring that we have a surplus by 2014-15.
One area that David Shearer said was good about the Budget was the fact that there is going to be a significant investment in science and technology—in all, a boost of $326 million for science, innovation, and research over 4 years. There is no doubt this will be money well spent. We know that countries like Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Taiwan have consistently invested in both the public and the private sector, in the science and innovation and in its commercialisation area, and have consistently had much superior growth rates than many other developed countries.
Here in New Zealand the National Government is doing exactly the same thing. New funding over the next few years includes $90 million operating funding and $76.1 million certified funding to create the Advanced Technology Institute. This will be business-facing and will work with the high-tech manufacturing and service sector. This is $326 million of new funding in the science, innovation, and research area, and, in difficult times, this is very significant and appropriate. There will be $60 million operating funding for the National Science Challenges to find innovative solutions to some of the most fundamental issues that New Zealand faces. For example, we have the world’s largest exclusive economic zone. How best can we use this, taking into account the balance between our economic and environmental interests?
There will be $100 million additional research funding for Vote Tertiary Education by increasing the size of the Performance-based Research Fund to $300 million by 2016. This is particularly important to ensure that we do achieve a world-leading research university in this country. By doing it in this way, by having a competitive research fund such as the Performance-based Research Fund, we will enable our universities, on merit, to get there and obviously assist New Zealand in terms of leading innovation and its commercialisation and research, and also attracting students. The Government’s total cross-portfolio funding for science, innovation, and research stands at $1.24 billion, up $0.24 billion from 2008. That has to be a very, very significant amount in science and innovation over these very difficult times.
I want to end by just repeating that, as John Shewan pointed out last week, Budget 2012-13 is an impressive Budget. It needed to be predictable, and it was. It is indeed a very responsible Budget.
JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Talofa lava. I would like to start by responding to some comments made by the Hon Phil Heatley and Dr Paul Hutchison.
Hon Phil Heatley: That would be me.
JULIE ANNE GENTER: Thank you so much for your acknowledgment, but I think those members misremember what happened. The instigation of the home insulation project was actually entirely the idea and initiative of my brilliant colleague and former co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, who convinced the former Labour Government to fund it with $1 billion, which is significantly more than what the National Government ended up doing.
Hon Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not quite sure how to test that, but that has never been reflected in the books.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): No. The member will be seated. This is a debatable issue. [Interruption] I am on my feet. This is the reaction to the Budget. It is a wide-ranging debate, and the issue that she is speaking about is debatable. Any member following from National can refute it, or otherwise. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. The member can refute it, and in response the member is entitled to say what she likes, within reason.
JULIE ANNE GENTER: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I think the Hon Phil Heatley will find in media reports shortly after the 2008 election that Prime Minister John Key said that he would be axing the home insulation fund. It was only the persistence of Jeanette Fitzsimons that convinced the Government to take up this smart idea, and I invite the Government to take up more smart, green ideas because we have many.
When one considers the lost opportunities in this Budget, it is quite easy to feel rather depressed that most New Zealanders are not going to be better off, and certainly not future generations of New Zealanders. But it is, none the less, a pleasure for me to take a call because I am very enthusiastic about the opportunities that we have before us. We have great opportunities, particularly in the area of transport. One of the easiest ways to reduce our debt, to improve our economic productivity, and to reduce household costs, as well as to get better outcomes in health, and in air and water quality, is to reform our transportation market. So, a few facts. Our transportation system is costing us a whole lot of money. This is not political; it is just a fact. It is costing us a lot of money. Last year New Zealand households and businesses—and members on the Government side can ask the Parliamentary Library for this information—spent $11 billion on imported cars and fuel to run them. This is a huge contribution to our current account deficit, and it is ongoing. There is a huge cost of off-street parking, which has been shifted from the transport sector to the real estate sector. That cost is conservatively estimated at $10 billion annually—$10 billion, because of bad Government regulation. I would think that that Government would be very interested in reducing some of the bad Government regulation that is imposing huge costs on developers and on businesses and on households. I invite the Government to inquire and get some information about how it can improve economic productivity by reducing bad Government regulations.
It is not just households and businesses and the real estate sector that are spending billions on our transport system. Transport funding is also the single largest outlay of local government in New Zealand, so if the Government is concerned about reducing rates and confining local government to how much it can raise rates, it should probably look at what changes to the transportation sector could limit the amount of rates that local government needs to raise. Of course, central government is continuing to spend billions every year, about $3 billion, from the National Land Transport Fund on capital investment and operations in transport. But for some mysterious reason the Government lists infrastructure investment as one of the things it is doing to improve economic productivity, and the vast majority of its national infrastructure plan is a new spend on State highways. So it is $12 billion to $14 billion over the next 10 years. [Interruption] If Government members listened, maybe they would understand what I am saying, but they are not listening; they are just talking. The mystery is how these motorways are going to improve economic productivity, because there is actually no evidence.
There is no evidence to suggest the Government is going to improve economic productivity. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that suggests the Government will do the exact opposite. We heard from the Minister of Finance last week in the House, in response to questions from Dr Russel Norman, that these motorways were never subject
Better Business Cases for Capital Proposals guidelines. The National Party campaigned on these motorways, without any investigation of the costs or the benefits or the impact on the economy, and it has massively reprioritised the entire national transport budget just to pay for them. It says that right here, in this document. Here is the 4-year budget plan from the Ministry of Transport and it says about the so-called roads of national significance—or National Party significance—that funding has been sourced from within the National Land Transport Fund by a major reprioritisation of expenditure. What this means is that in order to pay for these political projects—where there is no evidence that they are going to have a positive impact on the economy—we are going to be spending less money on road policing, we are spending less money on local roads, we are spending less money on road maintenance and renewal, and very, very little money on smart public transport and walking and cycling.
So it is a question of priorities—it is a question of priorities. The truth is—[Interruption] I am trying to get to it, but Government members are apparently not interested in listening. I think it is easy for New Zealanders and Government members who do not understand anything about transport or traffic engineering to think “Oh well, sure, another motorway couldn’t hurt. It’d come in handy if there was a crash or congestion on other roads. It’ll mean I’m less likely to get stuck in a traffic jam. It’ll mean that we can get out of Wellington if there’s an earthquake.” Except that is not the case. That is just not the case. Motorways have never reduced congestion—not in Auckland, not in anywhere else in the world.
There is a paradigm shift, and it is an opportunity for the Government. This is an opportunity for the Government. There is a paradigm shift in how we define and address transport problems. Look at Southern California, for example. No region has spent more on motorways than Southern California. And what has it led to? The worst road congestion in the entire United States, more road crashes per capita than anywhere else, longer commutes, a huge burden of under-maintained infrastructure, and a stagnant economy, not to mention huge costs to households just to get around. And they have extremely poor land affordability. It is completely understandable why this has happened. It is because the traditional approach to traffic engineering prioritises the flow of vehicles. It does not look at the movement of people and goods. It does not look at what the opportunity cost is of using up 30 to 50 percent of the land in our towns and cities just on transport infrastructure.
It is really funny to hear from Government MPs that there is wastefulness in public transport because sometimes buses, which are running at all times of the day, are really crowded at peak time and may be near empty at other parts of the day. But that is a network that enables people to move around a city all day, and it is far more efficient than the unbalanced, vehicle-oriented system we have right now. What about the wastefulness of nearly empty arterials and motorways outside peak? What about the land in our town centres lying fallow as empty off-street car-parks that exist only because district plan regulations force developers to put them there? Members of the House, I invite you to walk along upper Symonds Street in Auckland at 8 p.m. at night and look over the tarmac-covered landscape that is nearly empty of anything at all. That is some of the most valuable land in our city, yet it is not used for an economically productive use most of the time. It is not used for commerce, trade, dwellings, or recreation. We have given over huge amounts of highly valuable land in our towns and cities to our transport system, and the traffic engineers and transport economists who do the modelling and evaluation of these projects never include this massive opportunity cost in the assessment of projects.
The Budget shows that even though the Government says that it understands that public transport is a cheaper way to reduce congestion and to move more people and
goods, it is not actually putting its money where its mouth is. And this is just in the last year; it is going to get worse over the next 10 years. The red bit on this chart is how much the Government is spending on public transport in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch combined, and here is the amount it is spending on State highways. It is unbalanced—it is unbalanced—it does not give New Zealanders a choice, and it is costing us a whole lot of money. Every other part of our transport system, as I have said, is languishing under National’s transport programme, and this is imposing huge costs on local government. The Green Party has done a very robust analysis, and I invite Government members to sit down with me; I am happy to explain it to them. We found we can save money. We can spend less on expensive new infrastructure. We can use our existing infrastructure better. We can free up valuable land in our town centres for development. And we can move more people and goods at lower cost. This will be 100 times better not just for our economy—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member. Her time has expired.
Dr JIAN YANG (National)
: It is a privilege to speak on Budget 2012. I am supportive of this Budget because it looks to the future and focuses strongly on rebuilding and strengthening our economy, delivering better services, and creating new jobs, but at the same time managing the Government’s finances responsibly and getting the books back to surplus by 2014-15 without having to borrow more. Meanwhile, we are committed to protecting the most vulnerable families and businesses from the sharpest edges of the global economic downturn. We have set a path to surplus, while maintaining entitlements such as Working for Families and increasing superannuation above inflation so that New Zealanders are supported through these tough economic times.
Responsibility is a key word of Budget 2012. National inherited a country in recession when it came into office in 2008. Earlier this month the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s
Financial Stability Report
stated that “New Zealand’s financial system remains vulnerable to global financial instability despite an improvement in financial market sentiment since the start of 2012.” The statement supports National’s priority of getting our books back to surplus. A surplus helps keep mortgage rates lower for longer. It gives the Government choices about how it invests our taxes. It ensures that our economy is stronger and more stable, and able to deflect future economic surprises.
Only by acting responsibly can New Zealanders be assured a brighter future. The National-led Government is committed to that goal. To achieve that goal we have a lot of work to do. Here are some of the key areas that I would like to elaborate on. Firstly, the Government will provide substantial new funding for research and innovation over 4 years. This includes $59 million for science and engineering courses and $100 million to boost research. As a former senior university lecturer I understand how important such funding is. Research and innovation will help deliver a more competitive and productive economy. I commend the Government for that.
Secondly, this Government understands that only by investing in education will we ensure that the next generation reaches its highest potential. As the proud father of two girls, I want them to reach their potential. National will be focusing on increasing student achievement. Over 4 years we will commit over $511 million towards new early childhood and schooling initiatives, and also $59.8 million to support teacher quality.
Thirdly, the National-led Government has worked hard to put our economy on a more sound footing. It is committed to expanding our trade with rising economies such as China. I was fortunate enough to be able to accompany the trade Minister, the Hon Tim Groser, on his visit to China in March. Since National came into office our trade with China has grown rapidly. In 2009 it grew by 8 percent, in 2010 by 16 percent, and
in 2011 by 15 percent. We are well positioned to reach the goal of doubling our trade with China to $20 billion in 2015, which will benefit all New Zealanders.
Fourthly, the Government is committed to having a more effective welfare system. We are focusing on getting New Zealanders back to work, while still protecting the vulnerable through Working For Families, superannuation for our elderly, and welfare benefits for those genuinely in need. However, for too long New Zealand has been stifled by a welfare dependency that drains the taxpayer and does nothing to grow the economy. We want those who can work to go back to work. We want to break the vicious cycle of welfare dependency that can go from generation to generation in some families. We want them to know that work is good for them and for the country. All New Zealanders should strive to better themselves so that they can have a brighter future. That is why we are investing over $287 million in education and training to better support beneficiaries to return to work. We will be focusing on supporting sole parents back to work and giving more powers to Work and Income New Zealand to direct people to prepare for work.
What I should also mention is the issue of law and order. The National-led Government is staying tough on crime with a record 15-year low crime rate in 2011. Like many New Zealanders the Chinese community are law-abiding citizens and rate law and order high on their priorities. National believes in safer communities. Investing in more front-line police has played a part in this low crime rate.
As a member of the Health Committee I now would like to turn my attention to our successful public health service. The National-led Government is achieving great results for New Zealanders in delivering a world-class public health service; this, despite inheriting a service that was in crisis. We are spending more than any other Government, over $14 billion over the next 4 years, to deliver better, sooner, and more convenient front-line health care services for New Zealanders. In Budget 2012 health received the largest increase in Government spending; a sign of National’s commitment to growing our public health service. As a result of National’s investment, we now have 800 more doctors and 2,000 more nurses. As a member of the Health Committee I am supportive of more efficiency and less bureaucracy in our health system.
Many from the medical field are supportive of the health investment in Budget 2012. Medicines New Zealand said: “We support the Government’s commitment to improving access to innovative medicines and protecting and growing public health services, in a tight economic climate. Thousands of New Zealand patients have benefited from increased Government investment in pharmaceuticals over the past three years.” This Budget is about growing New Zealand’s economy and giving New Zealanders hope for a brighter future. National has shown that we have the right policies to help cushion New Zealand in tough economic times. We remain resolute in our commitment to responsibly managing the Government’s finances so that we return to surplus sooner and without incurring more debt. We are building a more competitive and productive economy. We are delivering better front-line public services, such as health and education, and we are focusing on priorities that matter to all New Zealanders. We do not want to see a return to the debt-fuelled excesses of the last Labour Government. That is why National is disciplined around spending and capital management.
National’s commitment to growing New Zealand’s economy and responsible fiscal management speaks for itself. We have created 60,000 new jobs in the past 2 years, mortgage rates are at 45-year lows, there have been tax cuts across the board to reward hard work, more doctors and nurses are providing health care to Kiwis, and more front-line police are protecting our communities. Despite the extraordinary challenges we have all faced in the last few years, which include the 2008 recession, the global
financial crisis, and the devastating Christchurch earthquakes, New Zealand is on a good track for growth. I commend this Budget. Thank you.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Members, the next call, I understand, is a split call for New Zealand First. It is a 5-minute call. I will ring a bell at 4 minutes.
BRENDAN HORAN (NZ First)
: Thank you, Mr Speaker—
Hon Simon Bridges: Does that mean there won’t be time for singing?
BRENDAN HORAN: Well, there is another one of those jokes of yours, staggering over the horizon with glacier-like speed. I look forward to seeing Mr Bridges in his role as Associate Minister. We all in Tauranga eagerly wait for you to do something.
I rise on behalf of New Zealand First to speak to this 2012 Budget, and I must admit that although this Budget at first glance bears an amazing resemblance to the “mother of all Budgets” from the Ruth Richardson era, this Budget, although similarly austere, does contain subtle differences of a frightening yet somehow morbidly fascinating design. To many of us New Zealanders it almost seems as if consultants of a numerical leaning have transferred figures, played a numbers game, with no thought or due consideration to the social ramifications affecting New Zealanders—our people. Question time yesterday lent evidence to that theory, with the education Minister’s admissions. I searched for redeeming features in this Budget for sport, for transport, for art, heritage, and culture, for Māori affairs, or for industrial relations, but instead I found only austerity and despair for my fellow countrymen and women. It truly is a zero Budget and I wonder how much attention to detail has been paid by the relevant Ministers.
I have seen some very sad occurrences of late as a result of the austerity measures imposed upon New Zealand by this Government. I will divulge some of those experiences to this House. Two weeks ago in Tauranga 32 primary schools sent teams to a Rippa Rugby competition. It was billed as the Rippa Rugby World Cup and all of the teams were given T-shirts of different nations. So you had England in one colour, and France and New Zealand in other colours. It was a very exciting day. In previous years the children were able to keep the T-shirts to remind them of the wonderful day they had participating in a sporting extravaganza. It also reminded them of the day they strove to be the best that they could be. I say to the Hon Mr Bridges that I look forward to the day when your young lad can be involved in that competition, because it truly is a great day.
This year, however, at the end of the competition all of the children were told that they had to return their T-shirts due to a lack of the money and so that the T-shirts could be used again by other teams next year. How can this be? How can this happen in New Zealand that we cannot even give Kiwi kids T-shirts?
The following day there was another unfortunate incident. My son was playing rugby in Paengaroa where a scrum collapsed and a 11-year-old boy was trapped in the bottom of that scrum and suffered a severely dislocated knee. We moved the rugby game to the adjacent playing field and I telephoned 111 for immediate medical attention. Well, the operator did not even know where Paengaroa was, and it turned out that she was in the South Island. About 30 minutes later an ambulance arrived and the young lad was taken to Tauranga to hospital. What if that boy had suffered a cut artery?
Later that day I visited Tauranga Hospital and noticed a significant amount of blood splashed on the kerb just outside the emergency department doors. My sister informed the receptionist, asking her to get an outdoor cleaner to wash away the blood, but was told that due to budget cuts at Tauranga Hospital they had nobody to perform that task. This is blood. It could have been infected, and it was metres away from the entrance. But no, it was just left there. Too bad “Mr Spray and Walk Away” was not there. This is
not a Middle East hot spot that I am talking of, but New Zealand, our country. Sadly, this is not—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Order! I am sorry to interrupt. The member’s time has expired.
BARBARA STEWART (NZ First)
: I rise on behalf of New Zealand First to take a call on the 2012 Budget. This Budget does not give much assistance at all to ordinary New Zealanders. It does not provide a brighter future for the ordinary New Zealander. In fact, this Budget gives New Zealanders no hope and no vision, and, lastly, there is no plan for economic growth. Instead, what we have is a Budget that continues to create hardship and misery for many: hundreds of people will continue to lose their jobs, and, of course, State assets will continue to be sold. The senior citizens were ambushed. There was no funding for aged care, one of the fastest-growing areas in New Zealand. One would have thought that this Government would do that. Second, the Budget links the aged-care asset-testing to the rate of inflation, it increases prescription charges, and there is no assistance for seniors and their increased power charges that they face.
In New Zealand First we had actually expected some vision, some tax policies that encouraged higher savings, some policies that encouraged research and development, some investment into plant assets that create high margin jobs and high margin exports—and, of course, jobs, for a start. We often hear about the jobs that are being created, but I can assure you that these are not career jobs that are being created; they are jobs for a very short period of time, like helping pick in the kiwifruit industry. It is not good enough for our Kiwi kids to consider that they will have a career in that particular industry. We know that New Zealand will never ever recover if we are not going to be focused on our export industry, our IT industry, and production and manufacturing, to mention just a few. We need these types of industries if New Zealand is going to grow and flourish. There is nothing in this Budget to actually grow the economy. It is a zero Budget that gives our New Zealanders no hope and—worse—no career jobs for our young people.
Just a few weeks ago we saw the rest home workers on strike. This group of workers was totally ignored in the Budget. Yet the Prime Minister has acknowledged that there were problems, but he did not go on to say that working in this industry was like a form of modern-day slavery, like the recent report actually suggests. District health boards can do nothing to raise the pay of our aged-care workers, because the Government has got other priorities than the health sector—robbing Peter to pay Paul. Aged-care staff are called upon to carry out a whole range of tasks. Some of them are heavy, most of them are seriously unpleasant, and, woefully, the staff are underpaid. This must be one of the hardest areas to work in—
Hon Member: Read the report.
BARBARA STEWART: —even if Minister Goodhew does not agree. What action is going to be taken? Nothing. Ignoring the problem, Minister, is not going to make it go away. Do not pretend that it does not exist. John Key acknowledged that there were problems with rest home workers paying for their own travel, so what is going to be done about it? We will be watching that space. We were interested to see that the Government also ignored in the Budget health initiatives that will save money in the years to come. “Do more with less” has been the catchcry. There comes a time when more just cannot be done. Shifting money from one area to another has meant that some initiatives continue to be overlooked.
This is a Budget that lacks vision and contains all the elements of failure for our people—an opportunity missed for New Zealand and New Zealanders. We cannot afford to have too many Budgets like this. This Budget did not work in 1991 and it is not going to work 20 years later.
BRENDAN HORAN (NZ First)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I timed the amount of time that I had to speak, and somewhere along the way 35 seconds were lost. It may have been—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Order! The timing is controlled by the officer on my right. I do not control the time; I ring the bell. So I can assure the member that the timings are correct, and that if there are interjections and I have to intervene, the clock is stopped. In your case, you actually had the time and when your time expired, I stood up and told you to sit down.
MIKE SABIN (National—Northland)
: I can see Brendon Horan’s point. It was such a ripper little contribution, I am sure he wanted to get a little sing-song in there before he concluded—never mind. His contribution was second only to the fantastic discussion, the chitter-chatter, from Julie Anne Genter of the Greens from “Fantasy Island”, where she seems to be domiciled.
Let us get down to this Budget, this fourth National Budget, which is about staying on track on the four key priorities that this nation needs. This Budget is about responsibly managing the Government’s finances, this Budget is about building a more competitive and productive economy, this Budget is about ensuring that we have better public services, and this Budget is about rebuilding Christchurch. These are the decisions that have been made that reflect the challenges that this nation faces in these tough, uncertain global economic times.
Of course, the first challenge that we were confronted with back in 2007 was the fact that New Zealand was going into recession after 8 years of Labour Government. This was a Labour Government that seemed to think that growing the Government is akin to growing the economy. When New Zealand went into recession, what we faced was Labour squandering the good times, zero growth in the tradable sector, massive growth in the Government sector, and a whole big bunch of lolly scrambles and bribes for Labour to make its way back into power. That was the picture. So when the global credit crisis actually did strike, and one Mr Cullen and one Miss Clark were last seen exiting stage left, what we saw was the Labour members scrambling—what was left of them—to get back on to their high horses of Opposition to blame National for the mess that they had made. Oh, what a surprise!
Labour and the members in that corner of the House have never known a better time to be in Opposition. Why is that? They know that they want to be able to blame the National Government for everything that is going on in the country and in the world, and they see plenty of opportunities to do that, because in “Labour Land” there is no global credit crisis. In “Labour Land” we have not taken a 10 percent hit on our GDP following the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch. In “Labour Land” the Government is to blame for all of this—not mother Nature and not the global credit crisis. But you watch this space on Christchurch, because when growth starts to pick up down there, what you will hear is the Labour bench saying: “Oh no, there is growth only because of what is happening in Christchurch.” Suddenly Christchurch will be back in the frame. Well, you cannot have it both ways—plain and simple. The members try, but they cannot have it both ways.
The truth of the matter is that lots of people on that side of the House think it is a pretty good time to be in Opposition, because it is all care and no responsibility. They do not have to deal with the challenges, and they would not have the gumption to do it anyway. Kiwis have woken up to this, and while these guys opposite are playing politics, Kiwis are out there getting on with it and doing what they know needs to be done. Households have made the adjustments, businesses have made the adjustments, and we have supported them to do just that. We have supported them by taking those rough edges off the recession whilst continuing to invest in infrastructure, by continuing
to invest in health, by continuing to invest in science and innovation, by continuing to invest in 21st century schools, and by continuing to invest in economic growth in tough times. When it all boils down, what we have done is what Kiwis want and need. We have set a course back to surplus, despite the headwinds that that crowd do not have to sail against. We have set a course, and we have stayed to that unfalteringly. That is about recognising what the right decisions are, and having the fortitude to actually make them.
On this side of the House we actually have to do that. That is about having a clear plan, focused on getting back to surplus, and sticking to it. That is about making tough decisions, because that is what New Zealanders want and need from us. That is leadership. That is John Key’s leadership, and that is the leadership that resonates with New Zealanders. It is also the reason that the polls are about 20 points apart and have been for about 3 or 4 years, like a set of railway tracks. New Zealanders know how important it is to stick to the course. New Zealanders know we need a more productive economy to actually grow jobs. They do not grow on trees; you need a more productive economy. New Zealanders know that we need more efficiency from our public services. New Zealanders know that we need to manage the Government finances as well as we possibly can, because that is their money. New Zealanders get that. But in “Labour Land” they do not. How do we know they do not? Because in “Labour Land” they oppose everything we do to try to grow the economy. They oppose a $1.5 million investment in ultra-fast broadband. They oppose the mixed-ownership model. They oppose roads of national significance, as do the Greens, of course. They oppose more mining and gas exploration. They oppose investment in 21st century schools. They oppose public sector reforms. They oppose the 90-day probation period. They oppose tax reform. They oppose welfare reform. They oppose, they oppose, they oppose. There is a bit of a theme creeping through.
They have had a change of leadership, although the three Daves cannot quite sort out what is going on from there. The Labour Party is trying to reinvent itself. Mr Assistant Speaker Tisch, you can also participate in that, if you like—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): No.
MIKE SABIN: —as can any member of the public, by simply tuning into Labour’s website and giving a pound of your flesh and giving your views. What is the Labour Party’s plan? Well, nothing much has changed in “Labour Land”. Nothing much has changed at all, because Labour’s plan is about milking businesses dry. Its plan is about a capital gains tax. Its plan is about increasing the minimum wage. Its plan is about abandoning the 90-day probation period for employers. Its plan is about returning to the 1970s industrial relations laws. Its plan is about accelerating farmers’ entry into the emissions trading scheme. Its plan is about doubling employers’ contributions to KiwiSaver. Its plan is about raising interest rates, and more borrowing. Its plan is about milking the business community dry. Well, the Labour Party may be stuck in something of a time warp—back in the utopian years of the mid-2000s—but the rest of New Zealand has passed Labour by.
What is this Government doing? We are on track to be back in surplus by 2014-15. We are one of the few developed countries that is not increasing its public debt. We have created over 60,000 new jobs in the last 2 years. Mortgage rates are at a 45-year low. We have made tax cuts across the board. There are more doctors, nurses, and front-line police officers. This economy has grown in nine out of 10 quarters. This economy is looking at 2 percent growth in this calendar year, and 3 percent is projected for 2014. That equates to 154,000 new jobs. What are we doing to keep this going? We are making sure we are achieving savings to invest in health, science, education, and a more productive economy. We are focusing on the efficiencies that Government programmes
need to deliver, and reprioritising $4.4 billion as a result of that, to deliver better public services for less. We are tackling the welfare trap. We are putting $148 million into supporting young people who are on a collision course with benefits. If they can work, we want to make them ready for work and to get them into work. This Budget is about keeping on course and investing in New Zealanders. This Budget has been about investing in our economy without increasing spending. Far from a zero Budget, this Budget has been about delivering for New Zealanders, and that is what we will continue to do. I commend it to the House.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: No wonder the member, Mike Sabin, was struggling to fill out his 10 minutes, because he was trying to spend 10 minutes talking about a zero Budget that had zero ideas for a zero future. It certainly did not have any ideas for growth, because it is a zero growth Budget, as well. It is no wonder that member struggled with his lines.
What I want to talk about is worse than zero, actually; it is it moving into the negatives. That is what this Budget did for education. Not only is it a zero Budget for education but it is moving into the negatives. Every parent in every household in New Zealand knows this. They get it. It does not matter how many times Hekia Parata tries to tell families that increasing class sizes and cutting the number of teachers are good for education—good news for education—they simply do not believe her. They are right not to believe her, because parents are not stupid. Parents know what is good for children’s education, and they know that having more children and fewer teachers means worse education. They are a bit confused, because they were promised a brighter future by that Government. They were promised a brighter future. But did the National Party, on the election hustings, once dare to come clean with the electorate and tell it that National was going to be cutting teacher numbers? Did any of those MPs opposite actually come clean and honestly tell parents in their community that the brighter future meant larger class sizes and fewer teachers? There is silence—absolute silence from the lambs opposite. They would not be honest with the electorate. They knew that if they told the electorate the truth about what the brighter future actually meant, they would lose votes. And so they should lose votes, because they were dishonest with the electorate. They are not creating a brighter future. They are putting every child’s future at risk by their policy of cutting teacher numbers and increasing class sizes.
The reality is that—and everyone knows what all of the research and evidence tells us about improving quality of education—it is the quality of the interaction between the teacher and the child that makes the difference. That is what makes the difference. So somehow that Government thinks that it is a good idea to cut the number of teachers and increase the number of children that they have to have these interactions with. Of course, every parent gets it, because they are not stupid. If you have more children in the class, the teacher has less time to have those quality interactions with each of those children. Members opposite seem blind to that fact, except for when it comes to their own children. They conveniently seem to have them in private schools where the ratios are lower. There is a story in the
New Zealand Herald, in fact, where only five of the Cabinet Ministers—out of, I think, 18 Ministers—said they sent their children to State schools. The rest are in private school education. So they do not care. They do not care about children in families like mine, who do go to the local State school. They do not care about what is going to happen in the future for those children, because their children are all right. They have the money to send their children to private schools. What do private schools offer? They offer lower class sizes. That is what they offer. And here we are with the very people who send their children there making the decision that that is good enough for their children, but it is not going to happen for other people’s children. That is what is going on here.
The other thing that has started to happen—because, my goodness, what a shambles education is for the National Party, I have got to say; what an absolute shambles—is that it has caused people to recognise what a difference it would be to have a Labour-led Government. Labour has said we will restore the class sizes to what they are currently. We are not going to allow those increased class sizes to continue to exist, and we are not going to allow those teacher cuts. New Zealanders know that it is a really stark choice now. They understand that the brighter future actually lies with Labour. It is really clear to parents, because they can see that it is Labour that is saying: “Uh-uh, no teacher cuts and no increase in class sizes under Labour.” That is the future that you get with National. Parents are now coming to understand what a brighter future actually looks like. It will look like a brighter future for their children under a Labour-led Government, not a National Government.
The current strategy is that National is trying to shift the blame on to the schools, for goodness’ sake. Can you believe that? Here is the Government cutting the funding to education so that there are fewer teachers and more children in every single classroom, and it is starting to blame the schools for that decision. It is starting to blame the schools. But here is what the schools have got to say. I am going to talk about a few schools in the part of the world that I come from. I will start with the
Bay of Plenty Times, actually, because it had a really interesting story about Tauranga Intermediate School. Tauranga Intermediate School has hit the headlines twice this week—both for tragic reasons, actually. One of them was because it was the school that had the children out in the Kaimai Ranges who were lost, but, fortunately, not overnight. I want to say how grateful we all are that those children were found before a much more serious situation evolved. Tauranga Intermediate is the largest intermediate school in the country, and it was set to lose 10 to 13 staff members—
Hon Simon Bridges: And now it’s a maximum of two. How good am I?
SUE MORONEY: —from its school, as a result of that Government’s folly with education. That is what it was set to lose. And Simon Bridges, who is their local MP, is now going: “But it’s going to lose only two. Isn’t that great news? Isn’t that great news?”. I have got some news for Simon Bridges. Two full-time teacher equivalent positions does not mean just two teachers. It does not mean just two subjects, by the way. But even if it did, is that really going to be his claim to fame? Simon Bridges’ claim to fame is going to be saying to the parents and the community in Tauranga: “Good news, you are losing teachers. Isn’t that great news?”. Well, that is the best members opposite can come up with on that side of the House, but it is not good enough for the Labour Party.
I want to move on and talk about some other schools in the area of the Waikato - Bay of Plenty. In
Matamata, actually, my old school, Matamata Intermediate School, is set to lose five or six teachers. That is what it is set to lose because of that Government’s misjudgment about education. There are a number of other schools, such as Cambridge Middle School, which is going to be losing 3.5 staff, and Fairfield Intermediate School, which is expected to lose 5.4 staff under the Government’s original plan. This is what the brighter future looks like, ladies and gentlemen of the New Zealand public. This is the brighter future. It is about cutting teachers and increasing class sizes. Anyone who knows what a brighter future looks like knows that that is not what it looks like, at all.
Parents are not stupid. It does not matter how many times John Key tries to convince them that the plan means that their children will get a better education. It does not matter how many times Hekia Parata tries to convince them that it means that their children will get a better education. Every parent knows that it means a worse quality of education for their children. That is the future under this National Government.
I want to go on to early childhood education—
Maggie Barry: And on and on.
SUE MORONEY: Yes, I will go on and on about education, thank you very much, Miss Barry, because it is important. I know that that Government thinks that it is not important, but it is. Parents, get this: on early childhood education the Government has frozen the funding. Get this: in the calendar year 2012 the funding is going down $200 per child. That is how much the funding cuts will be for early childhood education in this Budget. What is that going to mean for the future? If the Government is reducing, as it is, by $200 per child the funding for 2012, then that means that parents are going to have to make up the shortfall. That Government has no idea about the struggles that working families face these days. It is absolutely blatant that the Government has no understanding of the struggles of ordinary working families, because it does not care about them. But that is the result. The fees for early childhood education will go up for those families, and that Government does not care about that. It thinks that is perfectly fine. Well, it is not, because Labour certainly does understand working families and the struggle they face on a day-to-day basis. We know—
Maggie Barry: That’s why you’re in Opposition.
SUE MORONEY: —that their family budgets are at breaking point. Maggie Barry has no idea. She thinks that it is all tickety-boo, because on their planet over there, everyone is doing just fantastically well. Everyone is doing so well, and there are no problems out there in the community, at all. Well, in the real world, these are the problems that this Budget creates for families—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member. Before I call the next speaker can I just remind members about interjections. Interjections should be exactly that—interjections. They should not be running commentaries. Please bear that in mind as this debate progresses. Also, interjections should be related to the person who is speaking; they should not be exchanges across the cross benches as to what someone may or may not think. So just bear that in mind.
SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel)
: It is a pleasure to stand and speak this afternoon in support of the Appropriation (2012/13 Estimates) Bill—the 2012 Budget. It is a very fine Budget, but before I go on to talk about the merits of the Budget, I want to spend just a moment or two talking about the presentation from the previous speaker, Sue Moroney. She represents all that was bad, wrong, and evil with the previous 9 years of Labour administration—the excess, the fiscal irresponsibility, the excess of spending, and the borrowing to pay for things that we could not afford. Members on that side of the House—our opponents—have opposed every single growth initiative that we on this side have proposed. And every time we put up a growth strategy, they oppose it, they knock it, and they argue against it. Those members are the same people who have opposed every single restraint on spending that has been put up by this Government, because they are from an Opposition and a party—a once proud party, I might say—that has lost its way. They are on an orbit in outer space, which is an irregular orbit—
Hon Simon Bridges: Out of time.
SCOTT SIMPSON: They are out of time and out of orbit in a very, very bad way. But they were once proud. Once they knew what they stood for. Once they knew what they wanted to achieve. Now they do not. They have no idea. They are rudderless, leaderless, and bereft and lost in the orbit of Opposition. They are completely lacking any credibility in terms of jobs, growth, and responsible fiscal management, and under Labour all that we would get would be more costs for businesses.
Turning to Budget 2012, this is a Budget that invests in New Zealand’s future. It is a Budget that will stimulate the economy and will create jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders up and down the countryside. Most of all, from my point of view, it will create opportunities for the good people of Coromandel. We are investing across the board over $4 billion worth of new spending taken from a zero Budget. That means that there have been $4 billion worth of efficiencies gained somewhere, efficiencies in the Government spending and investments, and that is a good thing. It is a good thing for the New Zealand taxpayer, and it is a good thing for the New Zealand nation as a whole.
This Budget forms a very important part of the Government’s four-step plan. The four steps, of course, have been spoken about before. The four priorities are, one, the responsible managing of the Government’s finances, and this Budget absolutely represents that. The second one is building a more competitive and productive economy, and we are absolutely doing that in Budget 2012. Then, of course, we come to delivering a better Public Service. Finally, the most important one, the pressing one, and the one that the Labour Party seems to have forgotten, is the rebuild of Christchurch after the earthquake. On “Planet Labour” members seem to have forgotten that there has been an earthquake, and they seem to have forgotten that there has been a global fiscal crisis of the worst sort that we have ever seen in our lifetimes. So this is important.
Labour borrowed to consume, it borrowed to spend, and it borrowed to live beyond our means. It borrowed our children’s future. Inflation, in my youth, was the big fiscal bogeyman. In the early 1980s, when I was first married and buying a house, inflation was the big monster that we had to worry about. Interest rates were running at about 18, 19, or 20 percent. Now it is debt. Now it is debt that is the fiscal bogeyman, and it is debt that Labour does not seem to understand that people do not want. This week I received a text message from a constituent that read: “Have just renegotiated my mortgage downwards. New rate: 5.35 percent. Means a reduction”—wait for this—“of $2,000 p.a. for me and my family. All good.” That really means, in tax paid dollar terms, a huge saving for that family. That is an enormous payback of fiscal responsibility for that family.
I want to turn now, just for a minute or two, to what this Budget means for the good people of Coromandel, because they will be listening intently, I am sure, to this presentation, watching on their televisions and listening, as the member for Epsom would say, around their crystal sets this afternoon. This Government has been very, very good in providing sound financial management and certainty for the people of Coromandel. One of the best things that has happened, of course, is that we built early, ahead of time and below budget, the new Kōpū Bridge, and by this time tomorrow tens of thousands of people will be crossing the new Kōpū Bridge as they head on to the Coromandel Peninsula for the long weekend. That is good news for them and it is good news for us, and it was part of the stimulus package that this Government introduced in response to the global financial meltdown, after year upon year of delay and prevarication on behalf of the Labour Government.
Another thing that has been very good, and that this Government has assisted in terms of providing opportunity for the people of Coromandel, is the newly opened Hauraki Rail Trail cycleway, with 77 kilometres of new, exciting cycleway track from Thames to Paeroa, from Paeroa to Waihī, and from Paeroa to Te Aroha. In the first 3 years it is projected that there will be something like 40,000 people travelling on that cycleway. Can you imagine the economic benefit? Can you imagine the economic benefit to a township like Te Aroha when 40,000 people turn up? If only a few of them buy a single cup of coffee in Te Aroha, that is an enormous boost and opportunity for the financial well-being of Te Aroha.
So we have all sorts of good things. One of the most important ones is the rolling out of the ultra-fast broadband, because that is very, very important—the Rural Broadband Initiative. Fiscal responsibility means that we can, by being careful, roll this stuff out, and that means there can be opportunities for jobs, creation of business, and all sorts of happy, wonderful things, not just in our schools, our libraries, and our hospitals, but also it means businesses can grow. In Waihī there is a group of architectural draughtsmen, and I visited them recently. I went to see them and I said “How’s business?”, expecting them to say that business was a bit ho-hum. They told me business was booming, and I said “What? What’s happening?”.
Hon Simon Bridges: Booming.
SCOTT SIMPSON: Booming—business is booming, and business is booming not because there is a great big building boom going on in Waihī. What is happening is that most of their customers actually are in Auckland or Christchurch, and those customers are traded with via the internet and via broadband—via fast, reliable, ultra-fast broadband. They are refugees from Auckland. They are people who have come to Waihī for a better quality of life, where they can buy affordable homes, where they have reasonable rates, where their children can go to great schools, and where they can park their cars for free. My invitation to the people of Auckland who are being rated off their properties and out of their businesses by a mayor who is out of control and is inflicting 25 percent and 30 percent rates increases on the people of Auckland, is to come to the Coromandel. Come to the Coromandel, where there is fiscal responsibility, where the Thames-Coromandel District Council, which is a good council, is, for the second year in a row, like Bill English, being fiscally responsible, and for the second year in a row has a negative rates rise. I say that to the people of Auckland: come and bring your jobs, bring your enterprise, bring your opportunity, and bring your entrepreneurial flair; bring it to the Coromandel and enjoy the opportunities that we can create for you, and on top of all that you will receive a wonderful lifestyle and a fantastic view.
Coming back to Budget 2012, it is a good Budget. It is a very good Budget. It is a Budget for the times. It is appropriate, given the international climate. It is a very appropriate Budget for New Zealand. We will be positioned in a good space for the recovery that will eventuate, and it is through the prudent, fiscally responsible leadership of Bill English and Prime Minister John Key and his very capable Cabinet, not to say anything of his very good backbenchers. Those people will ensure that the country is kept on a stable footing with a bright future for one and all. Thank you.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: What did children ever do to the National Party? That is what was running through my mind as I sat there listening to Bill English reading out Budget 2012. What did children ever do to the National Party? You can just imagine Bill English sitting up in his Beehive office thinking: “It’s time someone cracked down on those little bludgers. They get a free education, free food, free board, all paid for by adults. It’s about time someone taxed the happy out of them and wiped the smug smiles off their little faces, so I’m going to tax their paper route. The time has come. They need to learn responsibility, because someone has got to pay for my massive big tax cut. Lord knows, the Government cannot afford it. So I am going to reach into the piggy banks of kids all around New Zealand and tax their paper route.” What a mean, petty Government. And what it shows is that the Government is so destitute of ideas and so desperate for any form of revenue that it would actually, as the big economic announcement in its Budget showed, tax children. That is how bad it has got in this country. That is how few ideas we have in the National Party caucus—that taxing children is going to be the economic saviour of this country.
This was a zero Budget with zero ideas, zero hope, zero reasons to stay in New Zealand, and zero reasons not to move to Australia. It was a zero Budget. It is about
priorities. I was very interested to hear the member who spoke before me, Scott Simpson, talking about how great it was that National upgraded the Kōpū Bridge so that people could have it a little bit easier when they go on holiday at long weekends, when they need to get to their holiday homes in the Coromandel. That should not be a priority in tough economic times, because—
Simon O’Connor: Politics of envy.
MOANA MACKEY: Politics of envy—it is the politics of envy to ask that the Government look after the people who need it the most in the toughest economic times! That is the politics of envy! Opposing a $1.7 billion piece of road north of Auckland—which officials themselves have said will do nothing except get Minsters to their holiday homes 7 minutes faster, twice a year in summer—and saying it is not a good use of money in tough economic times is apparently the politics of envy.
Apparently, the fact that we are cutting money for State schooling but always managing to find more and more money for private schools, so that they can keep lower class sizes, is the politics of envy. I want to talk to Mr Borrows, because he gets very upset when we talk about this. We are not saying we should not have small class sizes; we are saying that all schools in New Zealand, and all students, should have class sizes that are manageable, where students can get one-on-one time with teachers. Why is it only private school kids who should get that and not our State school kids, too? That is a question for Mr Borrows. It is no criticism of small class sizes. I think it is quite clear that we support small class sizes, but it should not be for just those kids who are fortunate enough to be able to go to private schools.
When you take $40 million out of the education budget for State schools, and then look at the fact that the Government put $40 million more into private schools, that is a pretty clear set of priorities. It is not the politics of envy; it is simply wrong and it should not happen. It seems like we can find all this money for tax cuts for the wealthiest New Zealanders, for pieces of roads that get people to their holiday homes faster, and billions and billions of dollars for private schools, but when we want to put money into those students who are struggling, who come from poor socio-economic backgrounds, suddenly that money is not available, and we have to tax kids on their after-school jobs.
The Government seriously needs to think about its priorities, because this Government is an anti-education Government. That is absolutely clear. From day one, when it came in, it made it clear it is anti-education. I want to say how disappointed I am that it has been two education Ministers from my part of the country who have led this anti-education agenda. They both should know better. They both come from a low socio-economic part of the country that faces a variety of problems where the schools have a broad mix of different cultures. They should know better. The Minister grew up in Ruatōria, as did my dad. She went to the same school in Ruatōria as a lot of my uncles and aunts did, and she said: “Well, we had a big class size and I was fine.” The thing she fails to mention is that not everyone goes into school on the same footing. And the fact is that the Minister, despite her performance this week, is intelligent, is able, and was always going to do well in the school system. She also came from a family that valued education. That is just such a treasure to have. She had a father who was a teacher, so I imagine that the education continued at home.
I wish every student in the country could go into school with those advantages, but they cannot. So our education system has to make sure that it delivers for those students who do not have that ability, or who have abilities in different areas—like maybe the trades or music or art, not necessarily the traditional academic areas—or who, unfortunately, come from families that do not value education as much as they should.
An education system has to deliver not just for those who were always going to do well in a school system because of the situation that they are in.
My colleague Sue Moroney talked about the early childhood education cuts. I also want to mention the cuts to the science advisers for primary schools. We talk about all this money going into science and innovation, and how great that is. Where is the next generation of scientists in New Zealand going to come from? They are going to have to come from overseas, because we certainly are not going to be producing any of them here—we are certainly not going to be producing any of them here. So it is all very well saying that science is great, but science training has to start at school, obviously. And we are cutting out all the support that would help those kids for whom science is their key interest. We got rid of the science advisers, and we are now seeing the loss of speciality teachers in intermediate schools. How is that going to help us deliver a creative and innovative economy? It will not.
Then we have the debacle of national standards. I have to wonder why National members keep looking to countries that consistently do worse than New Zealand students on every single indicator for their education policy ideas. Why would they take policies that have failed categorically all around the world, where their students do worse than our students, and say “Hey, here’s a good idea. Let’s ditch a system that works and bring in one that does not.”? National standards will not work. National has been told that by teachers and it has been told that by principals. Again, it does not listen.
I want to talk about another really big issue, and that is the change the Government made to quarterly roll funding. It is possibly one of the biggest anti-education initiatives the Government has come up with. It has devastated low socio-economic schools, because they have far higher levels of transients than wealthier schools do. I want to mention the case of Ōpōtiki College. This is a college that the Minister of Education should know very well because she knows the area very well. Well, Ōpōtiki College is addressing the tail of underachievement right now, and it is doing it through quality teaching. What is stopping the college from addressing this, and what is making it more difficult for it to do so, is Government policies—in particular, the shift to quarterly roll funding. It is losing about $70,000 a year from its operational budget because of that change—in one fell swoop. Not only that, when they bring kids into Ōpōtiki College, about 80 percent of them are in the bottom quartile for everything. By the time they leave Ōpōtiki College they are achieving the National Certificate of Educational Achievement at levels that are akin to much, much higher decile schools. The college is addressing the tail of underachievement.
One of the things that it does is that it takes students who have serious behavioural problems and puts them into an alternative education course, where they get the time and the attention that they need to re-engage with the education system. Overwhelmingly, those students come back to the college and they then achieve. When those kids go to the alternative education course, they are deemed to be excluded from school, and, under this Government’s policy, the college loses the funding for those students. It would be financially better for the school to send them home to sit on their backsides and play PlayStation than it would be to send them to the alternative education course and actually try to re-engage them in education.
Lo and behold, in this Budget we have increases to class sizes. The National Party must be the only party that actually thinks that the way to get better learning out of students is to put them in bigger classes. It is not a trade-off. We need quality teachers, but we need them in classes where the size is manageable, where they can get to know the students, and where they can spend one-on-one time with the students, particularly those who need it. The teachers cannot do that when the class sizes increase. If we are
going to be losing speciality teachers at the same time, that is going to be devastating for all those students who engage in education in that way. That is what makes education relevant to them. It is the trades, it is art, it is music, it is science. We risk losing these children at a very young age and then spending an awful lot of money on them throughout the rest of the system trying to re-engage them or—God forbid—in the criminal justice system if things really go bad. It is such short-term thinking. It is incredibly damaging.
Education is the key. There is no doubt about it. Education is what is going to make a difference in the lives of the children of New Zealand. This anti-education National Government is doing irreparable damage, and it should not underestimate that. What it is doing is wrong. National members need to apologise—or even not apologise but just back down—and recognise that the future of our children, the future of this country, is far too important to be gambled away because they need to find a way to pay for the extortionate tax cuts that they gave themselves 3 years ago.
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts)
: I am pleased to be able to take a call in this debate, and I am pleased to be able to have found at least one thing I can agree on with the previous speaker, Moana Mackey, and that is that education is important. In fact, education is extremely important. I am very, very disappointed, though not surprised, to hear that she wants to keep on referring to this Government as being anti-education.
I come from a part of the world called South Taranaki and Whanganui. In my electorate, in one very small part of the electorate, I have got 10 schools that were shut by that party over there when in Government, and none of those members raised a squeak about it. You can still drive down State Highway 45 and see a big billboard on the side of the road with a picture of a duck on it that says “Open season on Mallards”. It was 2002 when he shut those schools—2002. Labour came in and it shut schools, and I will pick on just one of the schools. One of the schools it shut was Te Kiri School. In the year that it shut it, three of the students from Te Kiri School were duxes in Taranaki high schools, and it shut it down. So those members want to talk about a National Government that is anti-education; it is Labour that is not prepared to be creative enough to look at education and see where those improvements can be made.
Labour members think that the only answer—the only answer—is class sizes. They do not even believe in the people they consider their own in the teaching fraternity. They do not even believe in them enough to understand that it is about creation and innovation. It is about looking at those young people who are sitting in front of them and dealing with the concerns that they have. For instance, no one in the Labour Party wants to concede for one moment that we have a 20 percent tail within our education system or wants to look at who those people are. That 20 percent tail was there in 1999, when Labour came into Government, and that 20 percent tail was still there when it left in 2008. It had done nothing with those people.
I reiterate that they are people. They are people, and Labour wants to keep treating students in this country as a commodity. That is how Labour treats them; it does not believe they have got faces and names and parents and addresses and a future. Labour members want to treat them as a commodity. They want to treat them only as voters, and they consider them their commodity and their voters. The reason why people on this side of the House talk about the politics of envy is the way that Labour members treat those people. When you have listened to the last three speakers from the Labour Party, what have they talked about? They have talked about protecting the rich and doing nothing for vulnerable people—absolute rubbish!
Let us go back to that 20 percent I was talking about. I was visiting a school in my electorate not too long ago, Manaia Primary School. The headmaster came to me and
said: “Look, here is the tail that you’re talking about.” Who are these people? These people and these students are the people whom Labour members would consider their voters.
What Labour has done with these people through the welfare system and through the education system is say: “We are going to lower class sizes.” Well, what we know is that the target that this Budget sets as far as class sizes go is exactly the class sizes that there were in 2005—exactly. What we know is that in the period of the Labour Government, the number of teachers within the education system went up about 12.5 percent, so class sizes went down. What happened to that tail we talked about? Nothing—nothing. What we also found was that in the same time that those teacher numbers went up by 12.5 percent, the number of students went up by 2 percent, and that explains why those class sizes were down.
What we also know is this. There are those people whom the Labour Party claims as its own and as its voters, those people who snuggle up to the teacher unions and tell them how hard-done-by they are, because when you go into every school classroom, what do you find on the noticeboard? The latest press release out of the education spokesperson from the Labour Party. That is the deal. But it is interesting, because what happens there is this. Just like under Labour, those schools are funded for 15 students per teacher in the first year of education. But how many kids are in those classrooms? There is not only 15. What do they do with those extra teaching places? They are the ones who are trying to look after their votes.
Let us have a little look at private schools, because Sue Moroney mentioned private schools. Apparently, in respect of everyone on this side of the House, their kids go only to private schools. Those members just want to lump National voters and National politicians together. Apparently, we have all got a bach north of Auckland as well, or there is another bach, apparently, at Pāuanui or wherever you get to if you ever go over the Potu—whatever that bloody bridge is. The point is, what did Labour members do with private schools in their term of Government? Trevor Mallard said: “Yep, help yourself.” When he was approached by his mates in the Exclusive Brethren who said: “We want to open a whole lot of independent schools.”, Trevor Mallard said: “Yep, help yourself. But we are not going to give them any more money at all.” The cap on private schooling went so far down, and that was it. The National Government came in and saw a need, and saw the contribution that private schools make to our education system, to our communities, and to our ongoing economy, so that was when that cap was lifted.
What we do know is that along with our 50,000 teachers who are operating within our schooling system, there are another 35,000 people working in the classrooms and in the schools, on that payroll.
Andrew Little: Oh, disgraceful!
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: Mr Little over there would like to say they are all cleaners. No, they are not. They are people working in classrooms, adding to the educational benefits of young people who are in that school. On top of that, there are 2,500 principals who are working in that system, too. So that has built up over time.
What we are doing here is we are saying this: we do not believe that the only answer to educational achievement in this country is to do with class sizes. I think that if you went and spoke to the average New Zealander, they would agree. They would say it is important, but they would not say it is the only thing. They would say: “Look, my kid was in a class last year. She had a teacher who did this. She had a teacher who did that.” Every one of us can look back on our schooling and we can think of a teacher who made a huge difference to us. I can think back to a teacher I had in standard 4. He was an incredible guy. I had him for two terms. His name is Gary Exeter. He was teaching at
Nayland Primary School, and he was only 22 years old. He is an absolutely fantastic teacher. He is still making a difference in the lives of people today, because he is still in the classroom and he is still teaching.
Every one of us too, though, can think back on a teacher we would rather not have again. We could think back on a teacher who probably was not happy in his job. Maybe he bit it off too early; maybe the decision that we make sometimes as 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds, or 20-year-olds to go off and do a teaching degree is not the decision we would make if we made it now. There are teachers within the education system, probably, just like there are police officers, panel beaters, people in the newspaper industry, and politicians, who some days think: “Maybe this was not for me.” That is maybe what Mr Shane Jones is thinking today.
But in any event, what I want to say is this. The difference between Labour and National on this issue, just this issue, is that Labour thinks the answer is class sizes. National believes it is about innovation. It is about creativity. It is about people who want to get up in the morning and go along to work and do what pushes their buttons.
What Labour hates is this. Those members hate the fact that National is prepared to look at an issue and deal with it creatively. National is prepared to look at the welfare system and realise that we can do more than just throw money at it and walk away. National believes that we should treat people who happen to have a vote as individuals. Labour believes the only way it can maintain its vote is to treat people as a commodity, and if it does not keep them poor and pissed off, they will not vote for Labour.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Consumer Affairs)
: What an outstanding speech we have just heard from the Hon Chester Borrows, delivered with heart and with passion. He comes into this House and he shows us why we are proud of the New Zealand National Party and what we are doing in this country. We do not come to this House to deal with issues in the way the Labour Party does. We do not come with hollow rhetoric. We do not come here out of sectional interests, trying to keep people where they belong. We do not come from the unions, from the teaching union, we do not come from the legal union. We come here because we want to deal fairly and honestly and responsibly with the issues this country has in front of it.
I want to say that Bill English and John Key have delivered this year a fantastic Budget that this side of the House is proud of. We are proud of the Budget that has been delivered in this House, and we are proud of it because it is the very best, most sensible Budget that can be delivered in the difficult, uncertain times we are in globally and also in New Zealand. This is a Budget that not only the New Zealand National Party but New Zealand can be proud of.
I want to go through some of what I think are the salient points. Firstly, it is a responsible Budget—it is a responsible Budget. Members opposite have gone quiet on that, because they know that that actually matters, whereas the Labour Party in Government, as we have heard, in the good years was spending like drunken sailors, with “$2.5 billion more this year, and another $2.5 billion” from Mr Michael Cullen. Today, they are not sure where they are—whether to spend up or say they are responsible; they just do not know. But we will balance the books in 2014-15, and that matters to New Zealanders. They tell us when we are down at the schools and they tell us when we are at their health centres that they want that, and so we are delivering that for them. That will deliver to this country choices and options, and the ability to do things creatively, as we have heard.
But let me be very clear. This was not an austere Budget. This was not whatever that means. We hear about austere times in Europe. We do not have an austere Budget in this country. We spent some $72 billion or $73 billion over this financial year. We did that, and we have proven it to New Zealanders, and they trust us on this. From 2008 to
2011 we kept our word, as we are doing this time. We kept our word, we smoothed off the sharp edges of the recession, and New Zealanders backed us and gave us another term.
Our prudent management, our balancing of the books, and our reprioritisation means fundamentally we can spend more in the areas that New Zealanders tell us they want us to spend more in. So we are spending more, over $1 billion more, in health. And what an unalloyed success that has been in terms of more elective surgeries, and in terms of redirecting funds into cancer treatment and immunisation. Those are the things that New Zealanders talk to us about and say that they want.
Iain Lees-Galloway: $80 million worth of public health cuts.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Yes. As I say, there is reprioritisation in the health department so we can spend more and more. There is more money going in, Mr Lees-Galloway—more money in Palmerston North, in the Rodney district, in Tauranga, in Wellington, and in New Plymouth. You name it, we are putting more in there. Education—I will come back to it because I have heard the things said, I have heard the heckling from the other side. There is more money—about a half a billion dollars more money—in education this term. Welfare: we are putting more money into welfare. That is because you can judge a society not just by how it treats the vulnerable, but by how many vulnerable it creates.
We have heard a lot about the politics of envy, the kind of politics, actually, that the Labour Party likes to play with. But let me put another phrase that is well known into this debate: the soft bigotry of low expectations. That is what the Labour Party stands for fundamentally—the soft bigotry of low expectations. It keeps them on the welfare because it knows that that is where they should be, and it knows that that is where they will keep on voting for it. We are investing money into welfare, to get people off welfare, so actually they can do well and they can get ahead. We know on this side of the House, unlike that side of the House, that what those people—all people in all our communities—do is aspire. They want to get ahead. They want their children to do well.
So I suggest that this is an upbeat, confident Budget, given the times that we are in, and given what we have been dealt—the cards we have been given in terms of a global financial crisis, the worst in 70 or 80 years, and in terms of the earthquakes. And I am not trying, Andrew Little, to politicise the earthquakes. They have been a terrible ordeal for the people of Canterbury. But we have got them, and that reflects what we have to do and the way we have to treat it.
But let me be political about this. The other circumstance we have been left with is the mess that Labour left us—the absolute mess. In 2008 in every single quarter there was negative growth—negative growth. Labour had the good years, Cullen spent like a drunken sailor, and then when the times started to get a little bit tough, this is the way the growth went—down. Yet in our Government in 10 out of the last 11 quarters we have delivered growth. In the toughest times this world has seen in 70 to 80 years, we have delivered growth. The one quarter we did not was the first one, before Bill English gave us his first Budget. We have delivered 60,000 new jobs in the last couple of years. Those are the facts.
We have grown the economy, as I have said. And, as I think Scott Simpson made clear, at the coalface, when you are talking to property owners and new home buyers, we have in this country at the moment the lowest interest rates this country has seen in 45 or 50 years. They are results that talk, results that most of the developed world would be envious of: Europe, America, Canada, and Japan. Yes, OK, Australia is doing well. We do not want to wish that away for our big brother next to us. But in this country, where today we have lower taxes and we have less regulation, jobs are moving here.
Let me say another thing about this Budget. It is always very important to look at the counterfactual, at what is on offer on the other side.
Paul Goldsmith: Nothing.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, it is not nothing; it is a shambles. It is a shambles. Labour members are outdone by the guys in black and green on either side of them, who seem to be getting more media than they can—at least, positive media. And they cannot decide whether to save money and be prudent or to spend it and throw it away. So what they do is they double-talk. They do both. They say both. They say: “We are going to spend more; we are going to spend less. We are going to be responsible; we are going to be reckless.” And they oppose all the time everything we do that is constructive for this—[Interruption] Well, I am coming to that, and I am glad you mentioned it: the proposed retirement age. That latest so-called policy or excuse of a policy that they give us is a shambles. They have said they will put it up to 67, or start doing that around 2020.
But then yesterday or the day before David Shearer, their leader—at least for the next week or so—came out with a doozy. He came out with a doozy.
Andrew Little: He doesn’t smoke. What are you talking about?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Ha, ha! He said that for manual workers, Labour would put it to 60. Well, let us not worry about the cost of that; let us just run through how that will work. Manual workers? If people thought taking GST off fruit and veges was a nightmare for the lawyers to get involved with, let us go with manual workers.
Who is a manual worker in this country? Well, Shane Jones is a manual worker. He is only manual when he is watching videos in his own hotel room. Trevor Mallard? Well, he is manual when he is fighting with another member outside, or when he is running away—like that member, Andrew Little, did—from process servers because he is scared of the full arm of the law. But that has caught up with him. Are they manual workers? Are farmers manual workers? That policy is a shambles that they should be ashamed of. When eventually they do get their next Prime Minister—the way they are going it is not going to be Shearer, Cunliffe, Parker, or Robertson; it could be “Chippy” Hipkins in, sort of, 2028; he might be their next one—they will not keep that shambles of a policy.
Here we have a responsible Budget for the times, a Budget that is dealing with a whole lot of uncertainty in the world, but nevertheless reprioritises the money and makes sure there is more for health, education, welfare, science, and innovation. It is a Budget New Zealanders can be proud of.
MELISSA LEE (National)
: What an honour it is to speak after these fantastic Ministers, who have spoken with passion and lots of animation as well. It is a great pleasure to rise to give my support to the Appropriation (2012/13 Estimates) Bill. But before I get on to some of the topics, I would like to give a little bit of perspective on the education topic that a lot of speakers have talked about in this House today as well.
I am originally from Korea. I was born in the 1960s, after the Korean War, when Korea was a very poor country. It was an aid-receiving country. In those times I was in primary school in Korea and there were at least 65 children in one class—65 kids. Because I was one of the youngest kids in the class, and the smallest, often I was No. 65 and I always had to take the last turn. Considering that I come from a country where there were 65 kids in one class, I do not think it actually did me any harm. Having moved from Korea to Malaysia, where the class sizes were about the same, and not speaking a word of Bahasa, a word of Chinese, a word of Tamil, or a word of Hindi and being in a class where none of the things that the teachers were talking about made any sense until I was about 15, the quality of teachers made a difference. It was not the class size that actually helped a non-language speaking, non-English speaking, non-Malay
speaking child in a foreign country; it was the teacher. It was the quality of the teacher. It was the care of the teacher who paid attention to me that made a whole lot of difference. Now, having actually started learning the language at the age of about 15, I like to think that I speak a bit of English—hopefully, better than a little bit. I am bilingual and I am very proud of that.
Until I became a member of Parliament, when people talked about the Budget it was relevant only in the way it affected my life, my personal life, but having been in Parliament—and I am now in my second term—my perception has changed dramatically. I would like to say what a fantastic job our finance Minister, the Hon Bill English, is doing and has done for this country by producing a Budget that is for our times. The burden is on all of us—not just on the Government, but on all of us as citizens.
A lot of people have dubbed the Budget many things, but I would like to just acknowledge the brilliance of the zero new money Budget in managing to provide and invest in better front-line services as a priority. Considering there is no new money spent on this investment, we must acknowledge how good the National Government is in managing our finances when our predecessor, the Labour Government, in its 9 years managed to deliver less in much better economic times, in a much better economic climate than we currently have. As previous speakers have said, we have not had such a bad time economically for 70 to 80 years, and we are delivering for New Zealanders. We are delivering more than Labour’s 9 years ever did.
Going back to class sizes and teacher numbers, let me just say that in the last decade the number of teachers—the growth in teacher numbers—has increased by 12.7 percent, or something close to that amount, but the roll growth has been only about 2.5 percent. Did the smaller class sizes over the last decade mean that we actually achieved better outcomes for our children? Absolutely not. We have not. It plateaued and it did not grow. What we are doing is innovative ideas to improve the outcome. That 20 percent of our students leave our school education system with an inability to read, write, or do maths is an appalling result. It is an appalling situation that this country is in. Creating a situation where we are providing better quality education for our children is something that I am sure all of us in this House agree on. Education is very, very important.
There have been many speakers in this Budget debate, and Chester Borrows and Simon Bridges were among them. Another one that actually caught my attention was the impassioned speech by my colleague the Hon Tau Henare. He spoked about the—he spoke about the—I almost made that mistake about the English language that the Opposition does, sorry.
Hon Chester Borrows: Be careful.
MELISSA LEE: Thank you. He spoke about the Opposition members, who were willing to wave goodbye to their whānau who are leaving for mining jobs in Australia—I think that is what he talked about—but were not happy to say yes to mining or oil and gas exploration that would create jobs that could keep people in this country. Yet the Opposition members keep on harping on about “Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs?”. Well, if they did not oppose every growth initiative this Government has proposed, perhaps that question might have some credibility. If they had not opposed every single restraint we have made to get back into surplus, they might have some credibility, but maybe the words “credibility” and “Labour Party” do not quite go together. Maybe that is the problem. If they did, those members would not oppose growth, nor would they oppose jobs, nor would they oppose responsible fiscal management. They would be supporting this Government to get back into surplus and actually grow this country, and provide more jobs and better opportunities for all New Zealanders.
Having moved to the Social Services Committee in the 50th Parliament, I am very pleased about what our Minister for Social Development, the Hon Paula Bennett, is doing in Vote Social Development. I would like to say that as a New Zealand citizen I am very proud that we have a welfare system that is there for those who are in need. Our welfare system will always be there to support those in genuine need; that is what it is supposed to do and that is what it was created for. But our welfare system in New Zealand is actually failing many. The cost of our welfare system is around $8 billion to pay benefits to 351,000 people. That is 13 percent of our working-age population, and that is one in eight people on a benefit.
Welfare is necessary but too many people have been on benefit for far too long. In fact, 170,000 have been on welfare for most of the last decade, 220,000 children are currently growing up in welfare-dependent homes, and 33,000 women on the DPB are having subsequent children on the benefit. We know that young people who come on to the benefit early stay on a benefit longer, and long-term welfare dependency is, in fact, destructive, trapping vulnerable young people into a life of limited choices, poverty, and poor health. We want to support young people to make better choices and to stay in education, training, or work. Talking about the children who are growing up in welfare-dependent homes, I say that the outcomes for those children, whether it is health outcomes, education outcomes, or social outcomes—all outcomes for those children—do not compare to those for children who are not growing up in a welfare-dependent home. They are not performing as well, and we are doing something about it. The other day I was speaking to the Hon Paula Bennett and I actually said that she had balls tackling this issue, and that Labour when it was in Government did not have the balls to fix this problem. We are getting on with the programme.
This Government will deliver a surplus in 2014-15, this Government is growing jobs, and this Government is making sure that the finances of this country are managed responsibly and pragmatically. Thank you.
Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram)
: First they came for the paper boys, and then they came for the old people in the rest homes—
Maggie Barry: Change the record.
Dr MEGAN WOODS: —and then they came for the woodwork teachers. This—[Interruption] I have been asked by the members opposite to change the record. I would like to, but that would have required the Government opposite to deliver a Budget that offered something. Instead, what we had was a Budget that offered zero ideas, zero hope, and zero opportunity.
We have heard this afternoon that this is a Budget of investment in New Zealand, of opportunities for New Zealanders, and a Budget of innovation. Well, I do not think that when New Zealanders in 2008 fell for the line of a brighter future, they thought the National Party meant the Sunshine Coast, but that seems to be the opportunity for New Zealanders, according to this National Government. Because, ladies and gentlemen, last week we had a Budget where young New Zealanders are paying the price for the Government’s deficit of ideas—and what a deficit of ideas it is. It is a Budget that has done nothing but tinker around the edges, and in that tinkering it has done nothing to address the real issues for New Zealanders. There are no jobs, there is nothing in there to increase our exports, and there is nothing in there to raise incomes for New Zealanders.
We have members opposite telling us what a wonderful track record they have in Government. But the reality is that this Government has the worst growth record in 50 years. This is not something to be proud of. There are more than 50,000 people leaving for Australia and a 52 percent increase in unemployment, with nearly 50,000 more people on benefits. How can it herald this as a triumph? What is more, there was
absolutely nothing in the Budget that we heard for the 87,000 young people who have been thrown on the scrap heap by this Government—the 87,000 young people who are not in education, employment, or training.
This Budget did do some tinkering around the edges, but in doing that tinkering it has created some sharp edges for young people. It has increased their class sizes. It has jeopardised their right to a good education. It has taxed children. This is something that is just beyond belief—that this is what the National Government could come up with as an idea. When it looked and thought “What are we going to do to fix our economy?”, it actually thought that cutting tax credits for children was the right thing to do and the way to fix the economy. The Government has issued disincentives for postgraduate study and it has lowered incomes for graduates in New Zealand. All these four measures amount to more of our young people getting on jet planes and leaving.
This is a Budget and a Government that do not understand education and its importance to New Zealand. It is an anti-education Government, and it is an anti-education Budget that was delivered. It does not understand the impact of what changing teacher ratios means. Well, I think Hekia Parata has found out pretty quickly over the last few days that changing teacher ratios actually means fewer teachers in our high schools and fewer classes being delivered, and—lo and behold—students, parents, and their teachers do not think that that is a good idea. We have a Government that does not understand education at the early childhood education level. We have a Government that does not understand its worth and the need to invest in it.
But its understanding does not stop here. Over and over again we hear members opposite say—and we have heard it today, we have heard the rhetoric from Paul Hutchison, and we hear it from the Prime Minister and the “Minister of Everything”, Steven Joyce, all the time—that science and innovation are the major drivers of growth in international competition for New Zealand, and that we must invest in these areas. However, last week a Budget was delivered that undermines our very ability to do that at every level.
Let us start with the staffing cuts for technology subjects for years 7 and 8 students. Previously National had seen the worth in teaching technology to young New Zealanders. In fact, John Key in 2007 said that National was committed to working with industry and teachers to make it easier for schools to find, pay, and employ people to take their trades and technology classes. He went on to say that National was also committed to helping schools overcome the funding and bureaucratic barriers that prevent so many students from accessing trades- and industry-based education at school. Well, we did not find this in Budget 2012, did we? No. Instead, what we found were cuts in this area.
We in Labour know that the food technologists, the scientists, the engineers, the designers, and the builders whom we need for this creative and innovative 21st century New Zealand get their start in the very classrooms that this Government is axing. This is where it begins. And it is not just we in Labour who know this; industry knows this as well. We have had the Industry Training Federation come out and remind the members opposite—remind the Government—that it is in years 7 and 8 that pupils start to think about their career, and losing these technology classes could take away potential career options. Principals and teachers know this. We have heard that if we want to set our students up for careers in biotechnology, engineering, or research, we need to set those foundations early on. We do not wait until year 10 or year 11 to start teaching kids literacy and numeracy.
So why is it that we have a Government opposite that thinks we can have an economy that is based on science, that is based on technology, and that is based on innovation, but we do not start teaching those very skills until kids get to high school?
This is not a Government that understands the value of education. It is not a Government that really understands the role that innovation can play in our economy. A principal in my electorate has told me—well, actually, he has told every parent of the students—that these staffing reductions are unacceptable. They are denying students valuable skills, knowledge, and attitudes to develop them into competent and capable adults of the future.
So here is a question for the members opposite. How does your policy of cutting funding at this level, your slashing of funding for technology teachers, either set our kids up for a brighter future or contribute to New Zealand having a 21st century economy that is based on science, research, and innovation? Well, the answer is nothing.
National is making sure that even if someone gets to university—after getting through an intermediate school where there was no technology and science taught—does a science degree, and decides they might like to go on and do some postgraduate study, it will kill their hope and aspiration there too by taking away student allowances for people going on to do postgraduate study. If we do not invest in this vital area of postgraduate study, we will have no innovation and we will not have a chance of creating the higher-paying jobs that National talks about but does nothing to invest in. There is no use throwing $166 million into the development of an Advanced Technology Institute, and smothering the human capital needed to grow this institute in the future. For our future to be reliant on technology and innovative manufacturing we need the technologists, we need the engineers, and we need the scientists. All we have seen from members opposite is policy that is going to destroy this human capital.
Even if you manage to get through all that and you are a young person in New Zealand in the future—you have got through your cut technology classes, you have gone on, and you have paid for your postgraduate studies—your income is going to fall because you are going to be asked to pay back your student loan at a rate that outstrips that of other countries in the OECD.
This is not a Budget that is investing in our education system. This is not a Budget that is investing in our young people. In fact, it is a raid. It is about cutting hope and opportunity, and it is driving more and more of our young people on to jet planes, and it will continue to do so in the future. The young people are starting to fight back. They want more for the future. I would like members opposite to give them a choice that is a bit broader than Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. Thank you.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)
: Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Appropriation (2012/13 Estimates) Bill. I begin by congratulating our Minister of Finance, the Hon Bill English, on planning and producing a very strategic Budget, which I believe will ensure investment in the brighter future of New Zealand and its citizens.
This Budget also focuses on the growing economy, less debt, more jobs, and strong and stable Government. We are also promising the rebuilding of Christchurch. The Minister of Finance and his team have ensured that spending is made in areas that are proven and cut in areas that are not pulling their weight. The Budget, I have little doubt, will ensure that New Zealand returns to Budget surplus by 2014-15, which will strengthen our economy, create jobs, and lead to economic and business growth, particularly for small and medium sized businesses.
Although the focus of this National-led Government is on ensuring that we return to surplus, it does not mean that we are not focusing on providing quality health and education and also ensuring that we maintain law and order in this country of ours. The Budget has made it a clear priority to deliver better, sooner, and more easily available front-line health services, and this is our goal despite the very difficult financial crisis.
This Government has decided to spend more on health care than any of the previous Governments. Our effort has provided some great results, but we are certainly not resting on our laurels. Rather, our Minister of Finance has listened very closely to the Minister of Health and provided $14 billion towards front-line health funding, along with an additional $1.5 billion towards priority investment in front-line services and funding for disability support.
Andrew Little: Give us an example.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI: If I can be more specific—it is coming—$48 million of this will go towards elective surgery, $33 million towards better and faster services for cancer patients, $15 million for quicker access to important diagnostic tests, and $144 million towards improving disability support.
This significant amount of funding in health will help all New Zealanders, including migrants from all ethnic groups. In Counties Manukau we have got one of the country’s biggest hospitals—at Middlemore. As Manukau is an area that houses multiple ethnicities, I am sure all of them will welcome this initiative from the National-led Government towards improving the public health service to ensure that people’s health and well-being are well taken care of. I acknowledge the work of our Minister of Health, the Hon Tony Ryall, towards all the initiatives that I have just mentioned.
Apart from health, the other area that I feel will need a significant amount of work is education. Educated and healthy New Zealanders will want to positively contribute to this country. The Government must ensure that we are providing people with the necessary skills, knowledge, training, and qualifications for them to do so. This Government understands that unless the basics of the child are strong, it may not be possible that the child will attain its full potential. Towards this end, the National Government’s education plan is ensuring that five out of five kids get the qualifications they need. At the moment this is four out of five kids. We want to increase the participation in early childhood education to 98 percent, and would like to see 85 percent of all 18-year-olds achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 within 5 years.
These are ambitious targets. Once again, we are not going to rest on our laurels. We understand that to achieve our targets, significant investment must be made in the quality of teaching, as this raises a child’s achievement. Once again, the Minister of Finance has listened very closely to the Minister of Education and the general public. He has allocated an extra $511 million over the next 4 years to raise this achievement.
Once again, the money for education will assist all New Zealanders, regardless of their ethnicity. Migrants will benefit from gaining access to the world-class and well-established education system, which seeks feedback towards improving its services to students. In my own community I have received very positive feedback about this. I congratulate the Hon Hekia Parata, who is working hard to uplift educational quality among all New Zealanders.
The third point I want to talk about today is law and order. In the Manukau and South Auckland region, law and order used to be a major issue. However, ever since the National-led Government has been elected we have deployed an extra 300 front-line policemen, and have taken a number of other measures to reduce crime and bring back the rule of law. This Budget further extends our commitment to ensuring that New Zealand, and South Auckland in particular, remains a safe place for us to live and raise our children. National firmly believes that Kiwis deserve to be safe at home, on the streets, and in their communities. Keeping this in mind, the Government has rolled out a number of initiatives such as the $50 offender levy for victim support, 600 more police officers, and DNA testing for serious offenders, among a number of other initiatives.
The Budget seeks to capitalise on the good work that we have done so far. The Government aims to reduce reoffending by 25 percent by 2017, along with 18,500 fewer victims of crime every year. Our efforts will not be limited to tackling crime. We are keen on rehabilitating those who are in jail, thereby providing 33,100 offenders with access to drug and alcohol treatment. We have established 7,855 more rehabilitation places, along with 2,950 in education and training. All in all, our efforts are toward the integration of offenders back into society as normal, hard-working, positive citizens who can contribute positively and live their life with their families and society. Towards this end, I acknowledge and thank the Hon Judith Collins for her commendable work.
Today the Hon Anne Tolley opened a new building—the Ōtāhuhu Police Station. This is the second new station within 2 weeks opened in Counties Manukau by our Government. The first was opened in Botany. I acknowledge the work of our Minister of Police, the Hon Anne Tolley, towards these initiatives and many others. There are many more areas that I would like to discuss here today, some of which have been spoken about by my other colleagues. It is with a lot of excitement that I commend this Budget to the House. Thank you.
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green)
: I am pleased to take the last call today, I think, for the Budget debate at the end of this Budget time. Research from Otago University has shown that 50 percent of New Zealand families have likely lived below the poverty line for at least 1 year in the last 7 years—50 percent of New Zealand families have lived below the poverty line for at least 1 year in the last 7 years. For all of the MPs here, they are families whom you know, they are families whom you are related to, and they are families who are in your community. They are not just families who are on the lowest incomes but those on middle incomes, who are under severe financial strain and only just managing to keep their heads above water.
Their financial circumstances have now been made considerably worse as a result of John Key’s 2012 Budget. We did some analysis of this, and our studies show that in terms of lost income, a solo mum of one who is on a benefit, who is also working part-time and making her contribution, is $5,000 worse off today than she was in 2008. A solo mum of one doing her best is $5,000 worse off. A typical family, with both parents in work and three kids, earning around $70,000, is $11,000 worse off than it was in 2008.
Chris Hipkins: They obviously lack aspiration!
METIRIA TUREI: Ha, ha! Well, do you know who does not? Do you know who is better off, though, if you look at the numbers and do the analysis? The top 10 percent, earning around $250,000 a year, are $12,000 better off today than they were in 2008. Well, lucky them! I want to give you just one more example. A person who is married with a couple of children and who just happens to be getting the Prime Minister’s salary of around $400,000 a year is now $19,000 better off than they were when they first took the prime ministerial salary in 2008. The Prime Minister is now $19,000 better off because of the policies he has put in place.
And where has that money come from? Where does this $19,000 more that he now earns come from? Well, it is from that 50 percent of families whom I talked about who are struggling just to keep their heads above water, and more families trying to work to pay off their mortgages, to take care of their kids, to save for their children’s schooling, which is getting more and more expensive under this Government, and to save for their own retirement—ordinary New Zealand families. They have lost income from the increase in the repayment of student loans, they have lost income through the cuts in student allowances for postgraduate study, they have lost income from increased early childhood education costs, they have lost income from the increased prescription charges, and their kids will go to the State schools with less food in their lunch boxes
and to classes with fewer teachers. All the burden of National’s economic failures has fallen on to New Zealand families—not just low-income families, but those in the middle, as well.
There was one shining light—one shining light—from the Budget, I have to say. Thank God for the Greens. If there is one shining light in the Budget it is the home insulation scheme. I want to just touch on that for a moment. The Green Party, working first with Labour and then with National, has managed to save this country $1.5 billion—that is right, $1.5 billion saved—through the home insulation scheme. Eighteen deaths have been prevented as a result of the home insulation scheme—18 old people who would otherwise have died from respiratory illness caused or exacerbated by cold homes are still alive because of the Greens’ home insulation scheme. The scheme has been so cost-effective—and it is getting cheaper all the time—that the original Budget allocation made in 2008 is now enough to extend the scheme for nearly a year into 2014, and from 180,000 homes insulated to 230,000 new homes insulated. This is a programme for families that keeps their costs down, that keeps their homes warm, that keeps kids and their grandparents healthy, and that saves the taxpayer $1.5 billion.
It is also true that the Budget has failed to allocate any more money for the scheme, and we want to work with the community, with business, with councils, with community organisations, and with families, asking them to work with me and the Minister of Housing, Phil Heatley, to find a way that we can extend or expand the scheme and keep it rolling until every house in this country is warm, dry, and safe for our kids.
A Government makes choices about what it values. It demonstrates those values, above all else, in how it spends public money. The 2012 Budget makes some very stark choices. John Key has chosen to give tax cuts to the wealthy, which cost about $800 million or $700 million a year; to subsidise the agricultural sector through the emissions trading scheme, which costs around $1 billion a year; and to spend $14 billion on unnecessary roads over the next period. So who is missing out on all this largesse from John Key and his Government? Kids are missing out. Babies are missing out.
You know, I wonder what Hekia Parata was thinking when she took her Budget paper to Cabinet. I think she was thinking that she was going to get the prize for head girl in Cabinet, that she would turn up to Cabinet with this vicious set of cuts to the education Budget and, proud of it, she would get a big old clap on the back and be told: “Well done, Hekia, you good girl.” “Good news.”, she said to this House with her education cuts. I wonder whether she saw the long tail of underachievement in the education sector and, in an attempt to deal with it, took out a big, giant pair of scissors and just chopped it off—chopped it off and moved on, leaving those kids behind. What she has done with her Budget cuts is strip money out of the public schooling system and put it into the private schooling system. So there will be much bigger class sizes for kids who are in the State schools in order to make sure that there are still very small class sizes in the private schools.
We have had cuts from education and advice on the prevention of child abuse, from community support services for families, and from the housing budget. This has been a zero-hope Budget, but the Green Party has a plan for a smart, compassionate economy. This Government has made choices. John Key has made choices about where he will spend Government money, and those choices ignore those most in need. But the Green Party makes choices, and will make choices, about the spending of public money that reflect our values and our choices. The Green Party chooses families. The Green Party chooses children. We make no apology that we put children at the heart of everything we do, and we will continue to do so. This is a zero-hope Budget and there is zero hope
for families, but there will be a time when this Government will look back and see that this was a zero Budget for it and not for our community. Thank you.
SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki)
: It is great to stand and take a call on this Budget. It is the first time that I have done so. I will just reflect very briefly, in these remaining seconds, on that faux moral outrage that we have continued to hear across the House from various speakers, and it is that outrage that is really itself without hope and without substance.
You know, you can make up facts to suit whatever you like, but this has been a very important Budget for this country. I want to begin by thanking Minister English for the work that he has done to pull this together. It is a Budget that is, well, a Budget for our time. Budgets have to reflect the times that we are in, and have to look forward to take the country in that direction positively and strongly. This is a Budget that has been about cutting our cloth to suit.