[Sitting date: 18 July 2012. Volume:681;Page:3629. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. Dr Seuss said: “All alone!”—[Interruption] I am a good leader—“Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot.” I found that quote, which I thought was reminiscent of the Labour leader. I thought that summed up Mr Shearer perfectly, but actually now I am thinking that that quote also applies to two of the Labour members sitting there on the bench together as to how they are going to feel—
Hon Maurice Williamson:Co-defendants.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: —the co-defendants—in the court case. So maybe we could apply Dr Seuss’ quote about being all alone to the whole—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I take it, seeing as you are allowing this member to refer to the court case, that we can talk about John Key’s appearance as a witness here?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I must confess the noise was so loud I could not actually hear what the Minister was saying. All I would ask is for the House please to come to reasonable order. The House has had a few laughs, but it is time now to be able to hear members in this general debate. I cannot rule if I cannot hear them.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: In continuing that line from Dr Seuss about being all alone, he also said: “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.” Can I suggest that that is a good lesson—a good lesson—for the leader of the Labour Party, especially in light of the changes that have recently been made to the party’s constitution.
I do not want to spend any more time talking about the other side of the House; I am really pleased to be standing as a member of the National Government, led by John Key, whose economic leadership has placed this country and its people in a very strong position. One percent inflation—the lowest level in 12 years—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What’s the debt level?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The lowest level of inflation in 12 years. This means that the everyday cost of living, as measured by our Consumers Price Index, is increasing at its slowest rate in 12 years. At the same time we are seeing floating mortgage rates at about 5.7 percent—at their lowest level for 45 years. Those figures cannot be—cannot be—disputed by anyone in this House, and that means that under the economic leadership of this Government New Zealanders are seeing that they are able to save more, they are able to pay down debt, and they are able to get ahead.
While inflation has been falling, the economy is starting to grow moderately: in the last quarter it grew by 1.1 percent. So the future is looking brighter for New Zealanders under a John Key - led Government. And, of course, we know that John Key set out for this Government recently 10 areas under Better Public Services—10 results that he wants to see this Government achieve by 2017.
I just want to talk a little bit about what is happening for crime, because we have set for ourselves a target to see that crime is falling and our communities are safer. We want to see a reduction in the crime rate by 15 percent, the violent crime rate by 20 percent, the number of youth appearing in the youth courts by 5 percent, and the rate of reoffending by 25 percent by 2017.
The announcement today of the work that the police are doing in addressing the growing drug problem in this country shows that we are well on track—we are well on track—to achieving those targets. As a result of that operation today, the police seized
under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 14 residential properties, worth over $4.5 million; eight cars, worth $260,000; nine bank accounts, worth an estimated $353,000; and also a boat worth $40,000. So this message is sent by the police: follow the money. You have got to follow the money. If we want to address crime and these criminal organisations, we have to follow the money. This shows the work that our policemen and policewomen are doing.
In addition to that, of course, I announced yesterday as part of the work that the Department of Corrections is doing that record numbers of prisoners are involved in education, and record numbers are involved in work and in employment, learning those skills that they need in order to go back out into our communities, because the majority of our prisoners do come back into our communities. The majority of them do come back.
DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition)
: It is always good to follow the former Minister of Education Anne Tolley quoting Dr Seuss. Probably her bedtime reading was
Green Eggs and Ham, and there is a reason why she is now the police Minister and not the education Minister. She failed her own national standard, and that is why she is there. This week has seen an enormous train wreck of a Government that purports to have brought us strong government and stable government. These are some of the ideas it has come up with in the last few months: the mining of our national parks, an utter failure; a financial services hub—whatever happened to that financial services hub? And there was a convention centre funded by pokie machines. But the big
kahuna of an idea was always going to be the asset sales. This was going solve the debt crisis. Spending in schools, on health services, on children—the entire gamut of Government expenditure was going to be solved simply by selling off our State-owned assets against the will of the public, and the reason that the benefits started to grow and grow and grow was that the public did not actually believe for a minute that the sale of assets was going to do that.
But now, as a result of these asset sales, we now have a complete train wreck where there once was a shiny, bright, great idea by the National Party. The shiny, bright idea—the brighter future that was supposed to be brought by selling assets—is now languishing and likely to be delayed. The Prime Minister said that there is a possibility of it being delayed, and then the next day he came out and said that the delay is actually about as likely as a meteorite hitting the Earth.
Hon Annette King: What’s true, then?
DAVID SHEARER: Well, what is true? One day he says something, and then the next day he says something else, but I can tell you one thing: the thing that is coming down faster than a meteorite is the share price of these assets, because I can tell you right now that not many people are lining up to buy these shares when they believe that they are going to actually fall in value.
Not only that, but we actually find out this week that the Government, despite what it says, is actually thinking about listing them on the Australian Stock Exchange. This goes right against all the promises that the shares are going to be held by New Zealanders—against the promise that New Zealanders are going to hold these. What is going to happen is not that mums and dads are going to buy these shares—no. What is going to happen is that the mums and dads are going to have to put their hands in their pockets to pay for the compensation that this train wreck is going to bring about. It is the people who are not going to buy shares who are actually going to have to fund the compensation and all the damages that are going to result from this flawed policy, this ridiculous policy, of selling off our State-owned assets.
So here we have it: a
kahuna of an idea that has just flopped into a train wreck. We have the Māori Party threatening to walk away and destabilise the Government, we have
the ACT leader who may have to face charges brought by the police, and this Government says that it will bring strong and stable government. It has a big idea that has flopped, its Budget is in tatters, there is complete instability from its coalition partners, and this is what it says is going to be strong and stable government. I can tell you that 6 months out from the election this Government is in tatters, in absolute tatters, and I cannot see how it is going to recover from this. This is a shambles.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
:Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora
tātou katoa e hoa
mā i roto i te Whare
Pāremata. Ā te wiki e
tū mai nei ka
whakanuia ko te
āhuatanga o Te Reo Māori, Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. I
putatērā i roto i te
kua eke atu ki roto i
ngākooti o te whenua, o
tāwāhirāanōmō Te Reo Māori te take.
Nō reira, nei au e
tūake ki te
āki i a
tātau, ki te
whakariterite i a
tātauanōrāmō te wiki e
tū mai nei. Kia kaha
tātau ki te
ātatitiro, ki te
ātakōrero i te
āhuatanga o Te Reo Māori ki
mōhioanō hoki ko te
nuinga o koutou o
kāre i te tino
mōhio ki te
āhuatanga o Te Reo Māori. Ko
tākuīnoikē kia paku
āro ki Te Reo Māori.
Mēnā kai te
mōhio koe ki
ngā kupu e rua ā te wiki e
tū mai nei me
Mēnā kai te
mōhio koe ki te mihi atu ki te tangata, kai te pai
pātai, ā, kai te
pēhea koe? Kia
whakarahiake ko te
ahakoatēneikōrerokuahuri ki te reo
taeaai e au te
āki, te wero i a
tātau katoa o
mutu o te motu, kia
āro nui ki
nā te aha?
Nārunga i te
putatēnei wiki. Ko te
wātōnakua tangata whenua
tōtātau reo i
mutu, kai te
mua i te
[Thank you, Mr Speaker, and acknowledgments to all of us colleagues in the House of Parliament. Next week the state of the Māori language and Māori Language Week will be celebrated. It emerged through a protest in years past, through Māori making an issue of the Māori language in the courts of the land and away overseas as well. I rise, therefore, to encourage and ready us for the week ahead. We must be robust as we carefully examine and comment on the state of the Māori language at its highest level.
I am aware as well that the majority of you in this House really do not understand the plight of the Māori language. My real plea is for a tiny piece of consideration towards the Māori language. If you know a couple of Māori words, next week make it grow into four. If you know how to acknowledge a person, that is great, but then ask how they are. Make it grow; extend the state of our language.
Despite this remark, I would turn, therefore, to English for a period so I am able to urge and challenge all of us of this House of Parliament, of Wellington particularly, and of the nation to give this matter the greatest attention, and for what reason? It is because this week has become a reality. The expectation is that there will come a time in the future when this language of ours will become localised in this homeland of ours, but I am equally aware of the great number of difficulties ahead of us.
This year marks 25 years since the Maori Language Act 1987 was first enacted to give effect to Te Reo Māori as an official language of Aotearoa. In doing so Parliament recognised the significance of Te Reo Māori as a taonga guaranteed by the Treaty of Waitangi. Te Reo Māori, as we know, I hope, and accept as a precious part of the heritage of Aotearoa, is something, a right, that the children of this country must inherit. It is a vital investment in our future, and we need to do all we can to protect and preserve the language as a foundation of our identity as Māori and as a country.
This year’s theme, “Arohatia te Reo”, challenges us to cherish the language as the unique voice of this country of ours, Aotearoa. We have an urgent imperative to strengthen Te Reo Māori because less than 25 percent of homes where Māori children reside have access to a Māori language speaker. To increase the number of Māori
language speakers in the community, all of us need to sign up to a mission of Māori language that is both living and an ordinary means of communication.
In my opportunity this afternoon I say that although we might focus for only 5 days on Te Reo Māori, and we have our opportunity to celebrate the Samoan language as well, it would be good that we reflect on this in 1 week’s time, when we come back next Tuesday, and that we take extra care on the pronunciation of Māori words. I am sure there will be a karakia in Māori, and I am hoping that members of Parliament, all of our workers here—all of the staff—and, indeed, the people of
Pōneke and the country embrace Māori language as something that we can all own and be a part of.
It has been a bit of a concern for me, as I get on to the plane some mornings, that we have, of course, many mispronunciations of words like Rotorua and so on. I will not go on, because that is in the negative; we have to keep it positive. I am asking not only parliamentarians but the whole country, whether you be air hostesses, bus drivers, or workers around Parliament—or wherever you might be. I suppose for all parliamentarians the challenge is next week. Let us give it heaps with regard to celebrating Te Reo Māori, but hopefully it does not just end at the end of the week but, in fact, carries on in the weeks to come. That is the challenge as we intend to save this language from extinction. We are in a good space at the moment, but we should not be complacent. There is so much to do, and all of us—all of us—can contribute to that
Nō reira, kia kaha
tātau ki te
kōrero i Te Reo Māori ā te wiki e
tū mai nei,
ārohia Te Reo kia
ita, kia ora
[Therefore, let us make an effort to talk in Māori next week; pay attention to the language to ensure it is retained and secured so we survive.]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato)
: What a strange day it is, indeed, when in Parliament a Government Minister gets up in this House and quotes Dr Seuss. Unbelievable! She did not even make a proper quote. That type of start to a debate speech requires a response from Bugs Bunny, who said “That’s all, folks!”. That is all it is going to take for this Government to continue to head on the train track to a crash, because it is on the wrong track.
Time after time in this term of Parliament we have seen this Government make decisions that are fundamental errors and are eroding the confidence of New Zealanders throughout the country. Mining in national parks! Who would have believed it? Well, actually, everyone believed that National would do it, but who would have believed that, against opposition in many small communities like Coromandel, the Government would pursue its desire to mine national parks and cut up the heritage that people believe is really important. In the Coromandel it is trying to put schedule 4 lands on the block to carve it up—no good. People throughout the communities did not want it. This is a really important issue to many people in communities like the Coromandel. What did National do? It closed its ears.
Then we have things like a convention centre funded by more pokies when all the evidence suggests that in disadvantaged, small communities, more pokie machines mean more problem gambling for those most disadvantaged, whom that Government purports to make the best decisions for. A convention centre funded by pokies—really? Is that what New Zealand wants? I do not think so. People know that we need a convention centre in Auckland, but not one that is funded by pokies. For the Prime Minister to kind of imply that this is a preference deal by not ensuring that an open tender process takes place, I think, erodes confidence in the Government.
The ACC bungle. Well, this was a case where one green bottle was followed by another green bottle, followed by another green bottle, that kept falling off the shelf. People are leaving the board of ACC because the previous Minister for ACC had to acknowledge that this was a bungle of epic proportions. Unbelievable!
The sale of State-owned assets. Again, against a huge, broad mandate of many Kiwis throughout the country who did not want to see State assets sold, headed by groups like Grey Power, the Government continues on its train that is heading for a wreck, because nobody wants to see those State-owned assets sold. There is a petition that is currently going around—in many communities it has been signed up to in droves—to caution the Government about this.
Well, if that is not enough, now Māori have taken the step, through the New Zealand Māori Council, of getting the Waitangi Tribunal to hear the nature of the interest that Māori have in water as a means to further caution the Government that it has made a fundamental error. It is at that point that I think the Māori Party should be held to account. I applaud the speech by the previous speaker, Te Ururoa Flavell, who said that Te Reo Māori should be promoted ambitiously throughout this country, but we cannot get away from the fact that the Māori Party is propping up National to continue its programme of action, which is severely hurting many New Zealanders around the country. The sale of State-owned assets is just one part of it.
The New Zealand Māori Council is testing the nature of the interest that Māori have in water before the Waitangi Tribunal. The Prime Minister is rubbishing the tribunal process, and is implicitly rubbishing the leadership of the New Zealand Māori Council, headed by former High Court judge Sir Eddie Durie. That is unbelievable at a time when the Government should be considering very carefully the nature of the interest that Māori currently have in water.
I would argue that, actually, National needs the Māori Party, and I suspect that the Māori Party will not leave, at all. But I heard this morning from a friend who caught a plane from Auckland that there were members of the Māori Party coming down on the plane to join its members of Parliament in the 8 o’clock meeting tonight. They are trying to ensure that pressure is put on this Government—
Hon Parekura Horomia: They won’t go.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: No, they will not go. They will not go, and I will tell you why they will not go: they cannot go. They cannot go, because they do not want to go. But the real issue here is that the Māori Party is trying to caution the Government to taihoa, he kupu Māori
tēnei—taihoa, just hold tight on selling State-owned assets—because there are too many important issues on the table. I suspect the Māori Party will not go. It should go, but it will not go, and it needs to reconsider its coalition deal with National.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Consumer Affairs)
: We have heard Dr Seuss quoted with great effect by the Hon Anne Tolley and by David Shearer, who was talking about
Green Eggs and Ham. Well, I have a quote here from Dr Seuss: “We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” Who would have thought that Dr Seuss had prophesied the current New Zealand Labour Party so successfully?
I know that the Labour Party is currently a little preoccupied. We have got Trevor Mallard over there and Andrew Little, who are clearly preoccupied, wondering how they will pay for it. We have got Grant Robertson and David Parker clearly preoccupied—both thinking about the 25 reasons why they would be better than David Shearer. We have got the Opposition over here who are also thinking exactly the same thing Grant Robertson is thinking: “I would be so much better than David Shearer.”
Hon Trevor Mallard: This member should be a Minister.
Grant Robertson: Amazingly, he is.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Oh, he’s not!
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, it is an apprenticeship—it is an apprenticeship.
I want to speak about public services. I want to speak about public services and I want to talk about what we have said many, many times on this side of the House: the fact that there is a global financial crisis, and how, since that, there has been no lolly scramble. There is no lolly scramble today. It is a lesson, however, that Labour and the Greens have not picked up on. Labour and the Greens, of course, still have this old-fashioned view that in the 2000s we have a “spend-athon” going on. [Interruption] Well, telethons died long ago and so did “spend-athons”, Grant Robertson. Actually, on this side of the House we know that we cannot do that. When it comes to public spending we cannot just keep on going and going, spending billions of additional money extra each and every year. From 2000 to 2008 we saw that happen, and it proved that more money does not equal more and better public services.
One of the great lessons I have seen since National has been in Government has been that leadership, both political and organisational, in public services really matters and can really make a difference. It is not about, as I have said, spending; it is often about focus, prioritisation—
Grant Robertson: This speech won’t help the member’s leadership.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: It is a long way off, Grant. Yours is not—yours is not, buddy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Speaker should not be included in the debate.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I apologise. Better public services can be achieved from focus, prioritisation, and targets, and we have got some ambitious public targets that have been made by the Prime Minister very recently. Look, they will not be easy to achieve, but we are working very hard on them.
I want to talk about specific areas. We will hear very soon from Dr Paul Hutchison on health and the better public services we are providing there, and from Nikki Kaye on education. But I do know, actually, and I have seen it in my own constituency with elective services, that the focus and leadership provided by Tony Ryall there has, without, necessarily, a whole lot more money, resulted in better results. I know in my short time as a member of Parliament that, although at the start of my time there were many people coming to see me about health issues and complaints and delays, they are simply not coming any more.
Another lesson that I think is very important to learn when it comes to better public services can be seen very well, I think, in some of the portfolios that I am involved with. And that is this lesson: not all regulation, of course, is bad; some is very good. And it works particularly well where we are working with industry, listening to them, and letting them actually tell us what they think is needed, and where we work to reduce unnecessary costs and compliance. We did not see that under the Labour Government from 2000 to 2008, but we are seeing it very much now in my area. In transport we have seen that particularly well.
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green)
: I rise to address the small matter of the future of the planet. While the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development did not push Tom Cruise’s marital woes off the front pages, Rio+20 was none the less of passing significance to the future of humankind. In 1992 the first Earth Summit agreed on the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, and framework conventions for climate change and biodiversity. But binding obligations that followed have been inadequate to meet the global challenges. In fact, since 1992 we see negative progress towards the imperative of global sustainability.
Five critical facts record a planet in decline. Global population rose from 5.5 billion to 7 billion. Our global ecological overshoot rose from 18 percent to 50 percent. Greenhouse emissions rose from 42
gigatonnes to 50. Of the nine planetary boundaries we already exceed three. Biodiversity loss has intensified to a range of 100 to 1,000
times above the natural rate. Despite the action programme from the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development the global population is projected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. Despite the Kyoto Protocol global emissions are projected to rise further, to 56
gigatonnes by 2020. The voluntary pledges total half of that required for the 2-degree threshold. None of this was explicitly addressed at the Rio+20 conference. Instead, we got 283 paragraphs of painfully negotiated platitudes. Let us be honest—this document will not adequately meet the global challenge.
We actually face two crises, neither of which is formally acknowledged by the international community. We face a global ecological crisis, and we face a global governance crisis—the inability of the international community to properly resolve the interrelated problems. New Zealand, by and large, keeps its head down. We have no appetite for grim challenge under this Government. We have no readiness to take a lead. We fall back upon national platitudes about our clean, green image. An image, of course, is just that. This Government has discreetly—lest anyone notice—reverted to the phrase “sustainable development” and the word “sustainability”, again, after a brief and frenzied purge in 2009. So New Zealand trotted it out again at the Rio+20 conference.
Back in 1992 National’s then Minister for the Environment the Hon Rob Storey was moved to assert at the first Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro: “Sustainable development is the strong thread that will weave … the tapestry of our common future.” New Zealand accepted, he said, the need for extra financial resources for sustainable development. He said: “We have joined others in pledging our commitment to do this.” On climate change we signed the framework convention, and, he said: “We look forward to its … entry-into-force. International action is only effective if it is coupled with strong national action. I pledge New Zealand to such action.” And, finally, he said: “We have to remember that this gathering is but a first step in a journey that will take us together into the 21st century. … We need to look to the future with hope, determination and commitment to change values, behaviour and actions.”
The words of National’s Amy Adams last month rang out with less passion and conviction. This is because New Zealand in the intervening time has decisively not delivered. She thought better than to acknowledge our failure to live up to the commitments we made in 1992, and that we have not yet changed our values, our behaviour, and our actions. She forgot to mention the global ecological overshoot of our own national footprint outpacing the global average, and exceeding our share of the planet’s resourcing capacity more than twofold. Ms Adams found time to tweet on Brittany
Trilford’s speech. It did not occur to her to acknowledge that with our excessive ecological footprint we are incurring permanent theft from Brittany’s generation. She failed to apologise for the fact that, despite our pledge in 1992 to take strong national action, our gross emissions have increased by 16 percent, from 62 to 72 million tonnes. She failed to acknowledge that, despite Mr Storey’s ringing promise, our official development assistance percentage remained static at around 0.28 percent. We once were warriors; a proud nation attaching importance to honouring the international commitments we made. The mana of our people has since the beginning of time depended on us doing what we say we will. At Rio we failed.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua)
: I would firstly like to say a few words regarding the very sad and untimely death during the adjournment of one of Parliament’s long-serving security guards, David Ernest
Allanson. Like so many of his colleagues, David demonstrated great professionalism, courteousness, and kindness, and was always willing to go the extra mile for the public. I have known him from the first fifteen in the Onslow College rugby scrum, and have known him to be a very keen and enthusiastic outdoors man. On the night he died he opted to ride his bike home from
Parliament and, tragically, collided with a car. His popularity and respect is demonstrated by the fact that already the third condolence book at Parliament’s rubber door is almost filled in. Our thoughts and sympathy go out to his widow and his two sons.
On another note, Labour’s new leadership voting arrangements look very, very messy: 40 percent caucus vote, 40 percent members’ vote, and 20 percent affiliated vote. We can think of Andrew Little. He has probably got a few of the affiliated Labour union votes—a few of them, anyway—but he has other distractions, so he is out. Then we have the three
Davids. David Cunliffe, of course, is a man of the people. He is studiously going around getting the people’s vote, and he has unique methodology. As we all know, he lives in the very affluent area of St Marys Bay, but occasionally, every month or so, he goes to the cupboard and picks out these old jeans, and he goes down to mingle with the good people, his constituents, in Grey Lynn. He selects them on Sunday afternoon and he picks out those whom he is going to have to afternoon tea. So he has got the people’s vote. Then, of course, there is David Parker. He is a little bit more thin on the ground than all three of them.
But then we have got the present incumbent, David Shearer. David Shearer is his name, and, indeed, David Shearer—well, he has got the caucus vote for now. I also understand from the
New Zealand Herald
that he has got the votes of a few wandering warlords from Somalia, not to mention Liberian cannibals who happen to be refugees. So he is right. But he has got Grant Robertson breathing down his neck. And they have all got the Greens, who want to take over.
I have got some advice for them—I have got some advice for them. They have got this idea that they have secured this three-voting system. But I reckon they can outgun the Greens by having three co-leaders—three co-leaders for the Labour Party. Can we imagine the combinations and permutations of Andrew Little, Grant Robertson, and the three
Davids, all vying for leadership or co-leadership of the Labour Party? What absolute mayhem that would cause.
I want to talk to you just a little bit about what the really good news is in this Parliament, and that is the fantastic leadership that National has had in the health field. Spending of $14.1 billion in the last Budget represents the most spent ever and is $2 billion more than in 2008. We heard in question time today that New Zealand is literally leading the way in health, despite tough times globally. Under National, New Zealand has the third-highest growth in health spending of 28 OECD nations for 2009-10, according to that OECD report. It is very relevant to point out that some OECD countries, like the UK, like Denmark, and like Norway, which Labour is always talking about, have had reduced spending. We have the fifth-highest level of public health spending as a proportion of GDP in the OECD. I could go on with more and more good news in the area of health, brought about by the National Government.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai)
: There was a politician who once said: “There are doctors who make you well, and there are those who make you sick.” I think Dr Hutchison has just made a very interesting contribution, and I thank him for the words that he said about our former security guard here in this Parliament. That was a very, very good thought.
But, unfortunately, the National Government led off the Wednesday general debate with the brains trust, Anne Tolley, who started by quoting Dr Seuss. Well, I think she would be better off going back and reading
Alice in Wonderland. There is a very appropriate saying that I could use at this point. The March Hare said: “I have an excellent idea. Let’s change the subject.” I say to the National Government: “How about changing the subject?”. The whole day has been spent talking about Labour. Look, I
know we are a fascinating party, but how about, after 4 years, talking about some of the things that National is doing in Government?
One of the advantages of being a backbencher, sitting where I am, is that I have had the opportunity to observe the behaviour of the Government benches. I have to tell you I have been watching very closely and listening very closely. Those members are becoming more bizarre by the day. As soon as they can get out of this place, the Ministers scurry out the door, their coats flapping, their feet spinning, because they are increasingly impatient about being held to account by the Speaker and by the Opposition in this Parliament. They are finding it a nuisance, and it is all rather pesky being questioned by the Opposition.
What is interesting to me is to watch the Prime Minister. He has changed very much since he has been in Government in the last 3 years. He has increasingly become very slap-happy in his answers, and has increasingly become slapstick; he puts on a comic show for the public every day. When he cracks a joke he looks around at his party, and every now and then he gets a lone clap from some hapless backbencher. Then he looks up to the press gallery. Are they admiring him? The Prime Minister is putting more heads down in National than ever before. Yet we have got Ministers who are busy being busy, rushing here and rushing there.
But the truth is that National is increasingly becoming a party that is divided on itself. You have got the insiders and you have got the outsiders; you have got the
onsiders and the
offsiders. And then you have got divided leadership. You see, smouldering away there are the hopes and aspirations of Bill English, who really thinks he ought to be the leader. Then you have got divided priorities: those who want social change and those who do not. Then you have got a divided Government—divided into these little parties that support the Government, which are being sent off because they cannot agree with the Government.
All the while, the Prime Minister has been saying that everything is very stable. There are no worries. He has said that that they provide strong and stable government: “we’re working hard to take the country forward and deliver strong and stable government, just as we did over the last three years.” Well, I have to say we have a more unstable Government now than we have had in many, many years. People are starting to notice it. The commentators are starting to notice it. They have started to notice that the Prime Minister has lost his touch; his ability that he had to pull those little parties towards him and hold them in a Government, he is losing that touch. He is losing his touch with the public. I was interested to read in
New Zealand Management magazine very recently—New Zealand Management magazine normally supports the National Party—“Key’s disinclination to share his vision suggests a lack of willingness to commit and reluctance to be honest about future intentions. That in turn suggests a leadership approach based on knowing what’s best, and believing that what’s best is not for sharing.” That is what we are increasingly seeing from the Prime Minister.
The Government is increasingly getting out of touch with the public as well. I tell members to read the latest Housing New Zealand Corporation newsletter, which came out today. It is so out of date that it has provided a lovely little recipe for carrot and ginger soup for all its clients, but no information as to how it can be contacted.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I am delighted to speak in this general debate. Can I start by just acknowledging the speech from Annette King. She gave a great speech, except that it was a speech about the Labour Party, which is fractured, has no leadership, and has no policy. I just want to demonstrate that we are a team. I also want to quote Dr Seuss. Here is my quote from Dr Seuss: “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” That sums up how ineffective the Opposition is. We sit here in question time, we see David Shearer making absolutely
no hits on our team, and we see that there are several people vying for the leadership of the Labour Party. My colleague Paul Hutchison has talked about the fact that Labour Party members are not focused on a vision for New Zealand and alternative policies; they are focused on themselves. That is right: the biggest thing in the Labour Party at the moment is how its members elect their leader. I have got news for them: they actually have a leader, but he is pretty invisible. The reality is that he is getting no air time, because his members do not have confidence in him. If you compare that with our Prime Minister, John Key, the last time I looked he was actually doing pretty well in the polls. I also want to say that the big difference between us and that side of the House is that we have policy and a good record. In the area of education—I am chair of the Education and Science Committee—let us look back at Labour’s record.
Hon Annette King: So why do you talk about the Labour Party all the time?
NIKKI KAYE: The reason I want to address Annette King’s comments, and the reason we want to talk about Labour, is that the record and the comparison are appalling. Labour’s record was appalling. Here are some interesting facts for you: under 9 years of Labour it ignored the fact that one in five children was leaving school without basic skills, under Labour 16 and 17-year-olds were dropping out with fewer options and there was lower literacy, and under Labour the number of degree-level graduates did not improve between 2000 and 2008. If you compare that with an education agenda under this Government, which has seen under four successive Budgets increases in education—
Iain Lees-Galloway: You’ve got nothing to talk about—no success, no plan to talk about at all. Not a thing.
NIKKI KAYE: I will address Iain Lees-Galloway. Actually, under four successive Budgets there were increases in education. The increase in the last Budget was $511 million. We have seen significant investment in some of our most disadvantaged children. For instance, we have seen significant investments through the Budget in terms of Māori and Pacific Island participation in early childhood education. We are also focused on ensuring that we have good data for parents and teachers around how their kids are doing. That is about national standards. That is also about ensuring that we have targeted programmes for those kids who under the last administration did not come out of our school system with basic National Certificate of Educational Achievement qualifications. That is why we are investing in Youth Guarantee. We are putting in 12,930 more Youth Guarantee places, and I have personally visited and met many of the kids who are going through that programme.
We are also incredibly focused on ensuring that we have reform of our tertiary education system. That is about acknowledging that we spend a huge amount on student support but not enough on research. We also have a huge number of qualifications in this country, so we are reducing the number of qualifications from 6,000 to 1,200, which means that when our students go around the world or come back to New Zealand and study here, employers can recognise in a meaningful way what their qualifications are. We are focused on modernising our school system, to ensure that our kids are some of the most digitally literate in the world. That is why we are spending $1.5 billion on ultra-fast broadband, and that is why we have put $1 billion as part of the mixed-ownership model, the Future Investment Fund, to put New Zealand schoolchildren ahead.
The difference between this side of the House and that side of the House is its record, is leadership, and is actual policy. That is why New Zealanders are still supporting National in droves. That is the difference between that side of the House and this side of the House: we have a record, we have policy, and we have leadership.
JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green)
:Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I would like to start by acknowledging the comments made here today by the Associate Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, who rightly pointed out that there are opportunities to not throw billions of dollars at wasteful projects and to have more intelligent, targeted spending that results in the same benefits. So the question is when the Government will apply that logic to its transport spending, because it is not applying that logic to its transport spending at the moment. Yesterday I asked the Minister of Transport about the cancellation of the
Ōtaki to Levin expressway, and the Minister said some really intriguing things like—I will quote this from
Ōtaki to Levin expressway is not one of the roads of national significance.”
Far be it from me to question what the Minister is saying, but I do have a report here from the New Zealand Transport Agency, and it says: “Project update: roads of national significance:
Ōtaki to north of Levin”. Then it says, right here: “The Otaki to Levin project is a section of the Wellington Northern Corridor
Road of National Significance.” This document is dated 3 July 2012, so it is very up to date and recent, but I am sure that if you go back to 2009, when the roads of national significance were first announced, it was, in fact, the Levin to airport road of national significance. So there is really no way anyone could conceive that the
Ōtaki to Levin expressway was not part of the roads of national significance. What the New Zealand Transport Agency does say is that it has found that the best option is to target improvements on existing State highways, because this offers better value for money than building a new expressway away from the existing road. I think that is very logical, and the Government has been able to save $300 million this way—a reduction in cost of 75 percent.
Why will the Government not be applying that same logic to the
Kapiti expressway? Just earlier today I was on the steps of Parliament and we saw a community group from
Kapiti present a cheque
for $450 million to the
Wizard of Christchurch. That is the difference in cost between the Kapiti local connector road that had been agreed by the New Zealand Transport Agency and by the community before this Government come into power, and the new expressway that the Government plans to ram through that area at an enormous cost—actually three times the cost of a local road that would achieve the exact same benefits, perhaps greater benefits, at lower cost. When are we going to see some economic rationality from the Minister of Transport and from the National Government when it comes to transport spending? This situation is really like theemperor’s new clothes when it comes to transport spending, because I think that perhaps Government members do not feel empowered to actually look into the business cases; they just assume that if you throw billions of dollars at a motorway it is going to result in economic benefit. I would be happy to sit down with them and explain why that is not the case. In fact, as the Minister pointed out yesterday, I do have a background in transport economics and have been paid to do research, at a very low cost compared with the cost of planning roads that will never be built.
What worries me about what the Minister of Transport said yesterday is that he said he was going to direct the Transport Agency not to undertake economic research into transport projects. This is what we are hearing from the Government: rather than spending a small amount of money on research that could save the country hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars and get better economic outcomes, it would rather throw those hundreds of millions of dollars—in fact, $14 billion—at building projects for which there is not one shred of evidence that they will have a positive impact on the economy. That is concerning, and what is worse is that the Minister does not even see fit to come to question time prepared to answer honestly and correctly when I pose questions to him. I have some grave concerns about that.
The Green Party is quite happy to work towards a smarter transport future with the Government. We are happy to sit down any time and have a non-ideological conversation about how we can save billions of dollars. Thank you.
COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura)
: I must reply to the Green member and say that when it comes to economic rationale, it is a frightening thought for all New Zealanders to consider the economic stupidity that would result from a Greens-Labour Government. It is very illogical to be able to stand in the House here when you just talk about some of the things that the Opposition would do to this country’s economy. It would bring in place a capital gains tax, it would charge people for water, it would increase the emissions trading scheme, it would increase the personal tax rate, and it would cap the number of dairy farmers. We have heard from the other side of the House that those members would reverse the Crown pastoral lease laws and they would use the tenure review to force farmers to pay more than their good share of what is fair and reasonable.
But on this side of the House I want to concentrate for my remaining time in this debate on the five positive things that this Government is going to do, the targets that it has set. One of them is reducing long-term welfare dependency. When we stop and think about that, that is going to be a very positive step, because the sooner we can get people off living on handouts, the more positive they will be and the more potential they will realise. It is very important that we have to reverse the mentality that was instilled into the population of New Zealand over the 9 years of a Labour Government.
We will do more to support vulnerable children. We will make sure that 98 percent—an aspirational target, but a positive one—of children go to early childhood education. When you stop and think of that, it will set them up to realise their potential, get into the compulsory education system, and be very successful. Those are just two very positive thoughts that we are going to be working towards.
By 2017 we aim to have 95 percent of our children fully immunised by the age of 8 months old. You hear a lot about reverting back to Third World health conditions, but the standard of immunisation under Labour was as low as 67 percent. A really worthwhile goal on this side of the House is to ensure that we do everything to prevent those preventable diseases.
We are going to make sure that we reduce the incidence of child abuse by more than 1,000, from 4,000 down to 3,000. That is a very admirable aim to have. There is so much discussion on the other side of the House about why there is not more being done, because, really, nothing was done over their 9 years. There was a lot of talk; very, very little action. We are very pleased on this side of the House that we have got a Minister for Social Development who has commenced the white paper process. We have come to a stage now where there are many thousands of submissions to be heard. They will all be read individually, and what will come out at the other end is a very unified thought about how we approach this very difficult situation.
But, what is more, we are talking about boosting skills and employment. The rest of the OECD is troubled with the levels of unemployment for those between 18 years old and 25 years old. One of the major aims on this side of the House is to ensure that those at the age of 18 leave with the necessary level of education—National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2—so that they can realise their potential. That has been identified, because on the very fundamental basis of it, if you want to be able to realise your potential and to be able to move across various fields, whether it be trades or university, you need that independent ability to be able to learn extramurally. I see that as a very important aim to have. We want 55 percent of our 25 to 34-year-olds to be achieving at level 4 and above. That is very important too, because we are in a world today competing with all the other people in the many other countries.
We are doing remarkably well, but this Government is determined to do better. So it is a wonderful privilege to be on this side of the House with a Prime Minister of the nature and calibre of John Key.
ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First)
: I seek leave of the House to table a copy of a speech by Lawrence Yule, the president of Local Government New Zealand, to the conference on Monday, 16 July.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
ANDREW WILLIAMS: Well is that not interesting. If the Government does not want to receive a copy of the speech by the president of Local Government New Zealand, then I will have to refer to it. I am not surprised that the Government would not want to have a copy of that speech in the Parliament today, because the president, Lawrence Yule, in the presence of the Minister of Local Government and in the presence of the Prime Minister, basically said that this Government, in many respects to local government, had it wrong—had it wrong. So I will refer to some of the things. The president, Yule, said: “Local Government New Zealand does have some concerns with the Government’s Better Local Government reform agenda. … LGNZ questions the proposal to refocus the purpose of local government in the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill 2012 with the removal of the four
wellbeings. We believe this fundamentally undermines the integrity of the relationship the local authorities have with their communities. Part of the purpose of the current Act ensures outcomes must be delivered to communities. If one of the reasons for the changes is to limit the role of local government then we question this approach.”
It is interesting that this Government has made out that it has buy-in from local government in terms of the reforms of the Local Government Act. The Minister of Local Government, David Carter, on
Q+A on 20 May said: “I’ve spent a lot of time talking to local government people right around New Zealand over the last six weeks, and, frankly, most”—and this is the word—“local government politicians are very supportive of these reforms. At the moment, they get caught with requests from their ratepayers for them to be involved in all sorts of projects which are often difficult to turn down, because of the very wide purpose statement in the act passed in 2002. So local government people tend to want these reforms.”
Well, is it not interesting that this week 78 councils attended the local government conference in Queenstown. It was held in Queenstown because it was going to be held in Christchurch, but because of the earthquake it had to be transferred to Queenstown. Some people have criticised local government for having it there, but it was as a result from having to move it from Christchurch. But it is interesting that all 78 councils unanimously voted that they wanted the Government to rethink its attitude towards the review of the local government bill.
So is it not interesting that the Minister can go on New Zealand public television—we do not have public television any more; the closest to it is Television New Zealand—on
Q+A and say that he has got buy-in from all around New Zealand from local government on this. Also, Nicky Wagner, the chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee, which is considering this bill, and I am on that same committee, said on 12 June in this House: “local government Ministers”—and she was referring to the former Minister Nick Smith, and the current one, David Carter—“have met with Local Government New Zealand, mayors right across the country, regional council chairs, regional chief executive officers, and numerous ratepayer groups in order to understand the issues and to formulate these amendments.” Well, is it not interesting that on one hand we are being told by both the Minister and the chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee that they have
widely consulted and they have buy-in from local government, and that this is supported by local government, yet here is a media release from the president of Local Government New Zealand, following the conference, saying that 78 councils voted unanimously that this needed to be rethought by this Government.
This is another case of this Government not being in touch with what is happening out there in reality. It is another case of the Government being very economic with the truth and making out that it has widely consulted, making out that it has buy-in on this, and making out that it has support for this, but around New Zealand there are councils, there are communities, and there are many, many organisations that are very dependent on the support of their local authorities—they are very dependent on the cooperation of their local authorities for their communities—which are greatly, greatly concerned at what is proposed in the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill. I sit on that select committee, and we will certainly be asking the hard questions of this Government. Is this just another one of its Dr Seuss - type fantasies? Has this been dreamt up from one of its
Fantasy Island books—that it wants to have these radical reforms of local government? Or is it just another case of the Government using excuses to move in on local government, to centralise power to Wellington, to have an autocracy and a—
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.