Questions to Ministers
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: What is the plan he said yesterday he has to mitigate rising unemployment and why, after 7 months, has he still not announced it?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
: I am glad that the member asked me that question, actually, because there is a wide-ranging plan on this side of the House to take the sharpest edges off the recession. Parts of those plans have already been outlined. There will be $30 billion worth of borrowing to take the rough edges off the recession, $500 million for infrastructure, $500 million going to the small to medium sized enterprise sector—
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not like to interrupt, but this is the first question of the day, which has been put down on notice. Presumably, the House is interested in the answer. I have not heard anything from the first sentence on, given the barracking from the party that asked the question. I think those members are surprised that the Prime Minister does have a plan, and I am interested—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has gone quite far enough. I think the point he raises is relevant. I admit that my ears are not functioning properly at the moment, and I apologise to the House for that. I could not hear what the Prime Minister was saying, so I ask that interjections be a little more reasonable.
Hon JOHN KEY: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Of course, the $323 million that went into the home insulation fund budget delivered a credit upgrade, not a downgrade, which is what we would have got from Labour. There have been changes to legislation and regulations that have seen 90-day probationary periods and a balanced response to climate change. The Resource Management Act will be changed under this Government. There is the 9-day working fortnight, the ReStart programme, lifting productivity—and there will be a lot more to come. This is a Government that is working hard for the people of New Zealand.
Hon Phil Goff: Is it part of the Government’s plan to mitigate rising unemployment by sacking hundreds of workers in the public sector, including the sacking yesterday of 18 community social workers involved in early intervention, detection, and prevention of child abuse, which child advocates have said has put children’s lives at risk?
Hon JOHN KEY: As is so often the case with the Leader of the Opposition, he was a day late in asking a question. His deputy asked that question yesterday. I will give him the same answer. The 18 people who were involved in awareness of child abuse will be replaced by 21 people who will act on prevention of child abuse. This party and this Government campaigned on moving resources from the back office to the front office. There has been widespread support for that move out there in the community.
Hon Phil Goff: How high is the Prime Minister prepared to allow the unemployment rate to go in the Māori and Pacific Island communities—it is currently running at 12 percent and 13 percent—before he is prepared to take targeted action to prevent the huge social and economic costs of unemployment in those particular communities?
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I lament the loss when any New Zealander loses his or her job, not just Māori and Pacific Island New Zealanders. Secondly, we need to acknowledge that there are higher levels of unemployment with Māori and Pacific Island New Zealanders, and that has been the case for a very, very long period of time. Thirdly, there are targeted actions that we are taking around training, but I make just one point—
Hon Darren Hughes: Like what?
Hon JOHN KEY: There are actually a number of good things coming. But I make this one point: Mr Goff is being dishonest with the New Zealand public.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is grossly unparliamentary language from the Prime Minister and it does not help with the free flow of question time.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that statement. He cannot allege that another member is being dishonest.
Hon JOHN KEY: I withdraw. The Leader of the Opposition is being quite economical with the truth when it comes to New Zealanders. No one can magic away a recession. It is not the case in the United States, where the unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, and it is not the case in the European Union, where the unemployment rate is 9.2 percent. So to believe and portray that anyone can magic away a recession like that is being quite economical with the truth. If that were the case—I make this one point—in 1986 the unemployment rate—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I hesitate to stand when the Prime Minister is on his feet but I want to hear the last of the Prime Minister’s answer. I hope it will be relevant.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The last thing I heard the Prime Minister say was “1986”; we have not heard anything since that. If he repeats the answer, I ask that he please repeat it from that point onwards.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the members for a little decorum please.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It might facilitate progress if the Prime Minister were able to restrict himself to the current century.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Hon JOHN KEY: If I could just take members back to a time when Phil Goff was the new face of the Labour Party, back in 1986. Back then he was the Minister of Employment, and under his watch the unemployment rate went from 42,000 to 149,000 people. When he gets his magic wand out, he should go and give it to someone else, because it obviously did not work for him when he was the Minister of Employment.
Chris Tremain: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports of employment Ministers being able to reverse the trend of rising unemployment during a deep recession?
Hon JOHN KEY: No. Two of the least successful employment Ministers in that regard were Phil Goff and Annette King. I took a moment last night to read some of the Leader of the Opposition’s memoirs.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to rule on whether the Prime Minister in his reply, which we can now hear, is answering in an area for which he is responsible.
Mr SPEAKER: I think it is a perfectly fair point the honourable member has made. I caution the Prime Minister not to wander too far out of areas of his responsibility.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister was asked whether he had received any reports. If he has received a report, clearly—and he has received that report as the Prime Minister—it is within his responsibility. To suggest otherwise diminishes the Opposition’s ability, or anyone’s ability, to ask questions of Ministers.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Speaking to that point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any further assistance on this matter. The Prime Minister was asked about reports. The honourable member is quite right. The Prime Minister identified those reports and gave the House some information from them. But then he started to comment on the people involved at the time. That is the bit that is outside his ministerial responsibility.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question accepted asked whether the Prime Minister has seen any reports of employment Ministers being able to reverse the trend of rising unemployment during a deep recession. Naturally, he would go back to the last deep recession, and would want to contrast the way the current Government is handling things with the successive employment Ministers in office at the time, who are, of course, the current Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader of the Labour Party. That seems perfectly reasonable.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I remind you of two things, Mr Speaker. The first is that quite recently in this House, people who have relitigated your rulings have got into serious trouble. We have now had two Ministers who have done that, again without being stopped. The second point is that if one could take that sort of ruling and have things being within the area of the Prime Minister’s responsibility, we would have had a lot more questions for the Prime Minister on the Worth affair than we have to date.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member. The situation is very simple and straightforward. Where a Minister is asked about reports, of course the Minister can comment on those reports and provide information on them. But where it is not within the Minister’s ministerial responsibility, the Minister cannot make comment about the quality or the policies of another party. I ask the Prime Minister to stay within the scope of his responsibility, otherwise I would, as Speaker, have to rule out answers that start to stray outside that territory. I would rather not do that.
Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen a report from Phil Goff when he was the Minister of Employment. The report made quite interesting reading when I read it last night. It said: “Easy answers and quick-fix solutions exist only in the imaginations of politicians running for election.”
Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Budget cut funding to programmes like Career Services, which will lose $12 million over 4 years, and axe funding to Enterprising Communities, when 32,000 15 to 19-year-old New Zealanders are out work—that is, one in five young people who are in the job market are out of work?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Budget made it quite clear that there is additional funding going into Youth Guarantee, which will provide a great bridge between secondary schools and polytechs, and I think will deliver fantastic results for New Zealanders in an area of tremendous need. I would reject the suggestions that the Leader of the Opposition made.
Chris Tremain: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports that take a realistic view about unemployment during a recession?
Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I have seen a report from 1988 that says: “New jobs take time to emerge. … We would all like recovery, growth and full employment to happen right now. Unfortunately the economy does not work like that.” That quote was from the then Minister of Employment, Phil Goff, or, as he was affectionately known back then, the “Minister of Unemployment”.
Metiria Turei: Will the Prime Minister finally adopt more of the Green Party’s Green New Deal stimulus package in light of the World Trade Organization’s statement today that states: “Investing stimulus funds in such sectors as energy efficient technologies, renewable energy, public transport, sustainable agriculture, … ecosystems and biodiversity, reflects the conviction that a green economy can create dynamic new industries, quality jobs, and income growth while mitigating and adapting to climate change and arresting biodiversity decline.”?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is actually addressing many of those issues. We are putting $1.6 billion into transport—including the railway electrification in Auckland starting today—and $36 million into biofuels, and we have put $323 million into home insulation. I think this is a Government that accepts that good environmental policy makes sense, and we are adopting that.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Prime Minister so bereft of any ideas for the future because his officials have spent all of the last 24 hours dredging back 25 years to find out what was happening then?
Hon JOHN KEY: Well, the reason—[Interruption] Yes, this is the answer. The reason we look back is that it is very interesting what someone said when he was in control of the reins and completely failed to deliver on the results. But today, as Leader of the Opposition, he is quite happy to believe that we can magic away a recession—the worst recession since 1930.
Hon Phil Goff: What analysis did Treasury do on the cost-effectiveness of the national cycleway scheme in producing jobs, and is he prepared to provide the Treasury analysis, oral and written, to members of this Parliament; if not, why not?
Hon JOHN KEY: Rigorous analysis was done. We do not need to show the Leader of the Opposition the analysis; I can take him on the bike rides, because they are starting soon. They are going to be fantastic and there will be lots of jobs as a result of them.
Hon Phil Goff: Will the Prime Minister remove spousal income-testing, which prevents a person who is being made redundant from getting an unemployment benefit, in order to help families through the really difficult times they are experiencing at the present time; if not, why not?
Hon JOHN KEY: That is a complex issue that we need to consider. It is expensive, and the member will know that there is quite a difficult interaction between the tax system, which is based on individual income; and the welfare system, which for a large part is based on family income. That situation in some senses has been made worse by Working for Families because it is so broad ranging. The member knows that, and I just
say to the member that if it was such a great idea, so affordable and so easy, why did the member not do it when the Government had a lot more money hanging around over the last 10 years?
Question No. 2 to Minister
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga)
: My question is to the Attorney-General, the Hon Chris Finlayson—
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is just the matter of the method of asking the question including the name of the Minister, which we do not do. It is a practice that I hope we would not get into.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a fair point the member has made. The honourable member might note we do not normally name the Minister. The question is to the Attorney-General. I ask her to direct her question to the Attorney-General.
Foreshore and Seabed Act—Review
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the
Attorney-General: What progress has recently been made in the Government’s review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General)
: Late yesterday afternoon I met with the review panel and received its report. The report, together with the summary of submissions and the full submissions in their entirety, should now have been publicly released on both the Beehive and Ministry of Justice websites. I would like to express my gratitude to the panel for its work.
Rahui Katene: How does the Government intend to respond to the review panel’s report?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The Government will carefully consider and analyse the panel’s recommendations, and hopes to be in a position to make an initial response around the end of August. This Act has proven to be one of the most contentious pieces of legislation in New Zealand’s recent history. If we are to move forward together as a nation, it is important that we take the time to consider all the issues carefully, and strike the appropriate balance between recognition of Māori customary interests and the right of the wider public to use our beaches.
Hon Tau Henare: Will the Foreshore and Seabed Actreview lead to an ongoing negotiation or settlement process similar to the historic Treaty settlement process?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It is important we do not predetermine what the outcome of the review might be. The panel has made a number of recommendations, all of which will need to be very carefully considered before the Government is in a position to make an initial response. The Government is committed to the speedy and durable settlement of Treaty grievances, and will be guided by similar principles in considering its response to the panel’s report.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: In light of that response, was the Minister aware that the review panel’s report on the foreshore and seabed was being released under embargo, in a low-key manner, by the Māori Party to a select group of media; if so, was that under his instructions, so as not to draw attention to the predetermined outcome of the panel’s recommendations?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, I am not aware of that. And I can assure that member that there is no predetermination of the issues, at all. We are taking, as I said, a good look at the report. I have had an opportunity to read only volume 1; I have not read volumes 2 and 3. As I have advised the House, the Government’s initial response will be revealed toward the end of August.
Hon Tau Henare: What did the review panel say with regard to the public interest in the coastal marine area?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The panel noted that the non-legal public interest in the coastal marine area prior to the Ngāti Apa case was, and it still is today, in maintaining it as a natural environment—that is, a public recreation ground, the birthright of every New Zealander. The Prime Minister has previously made it clear that guaranteeing public use of our public beaches is a bottom line for this Government.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm that if the Foreshore and Seabed Act is repealed, as promoted by the Māori Party, it would result in hapū and iwi owning the foreshore and seabed, as claimed by that party?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I do not think it is helpful on such an important issue to indulge in speculation or “what ifs”. As I have said, and as I assure the member, we will look very closely at the panel’s report. We will come up with our initial response at the end of August, and then that member can ask as many questions as she likes on those and other issues.
Te Ururoa Flavell: What approach will the Government take in responding to the review panel’s report?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I note earlier comments by my opposite number in the Labour Party, David Parker, that “Labour will constructively engage with the Government over the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.”, and that “The last thing New Zealanders need is for this issue to be used to incite disharmony again and we won’t go there.” I endorse those comments, and I look forward to working with all political parties on this important issue. I acknowledge the very constructive engagement I have had with the Māori Party on the issue, and I look forward to working closely with its members in the coming months.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Supplementary—
Mr SPEAKER: I believe that the Māori Party has already had its two supplementary questions for today.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I spoke to my colleague the National Party whip about an additional supplementary question. I believe that that request was passed on to your office.
Mr SPEAKER: The procedures require the Speaker to be advised of such an arrangement. We have not been advised, but it seems that there might have been a slip-up. I will accept a further supplementary question from the honourable member.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Thank you, Mr Speaker; my apology for that. How many submissions did the panel receive; and can the Attorney-General advise the House how many of those favoured repeal of the current Act?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I can advise that, from my reading of volume 1, the review panel received 580 written and oral submissions. Eighty-five percent of those who expressed an opinion on what should happen to the Act favoured repeal. Of the remaining 15 percent, many favoured making substantial amendments but would be happy to see the Act repealed, and 5 percent favoured retaining the current Act unchanged. The panel believed that the Act severely discriminated against Māori, and said that it believed that the Act should be repealed.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Prime Minister: Is he satisfied with the performance of all his Ministers?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
Hon Annette King: Did he demote Paula Bennett by stripping away the disabilities portfolio because of her failure to develop relationships and work constructively with
organisations like the Disabled Persons Assembly, which offered to support Miss Bennett in her role and tried on numerous occasions to establish a formal relationship with her, but without success, or like Grey Power, which said the meeting it had with her “left a sour taste in our mouths as we felt we had received the old-fashioned ‘brush-off’ ” and it had wasted its time meeting with her?
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the Hon Paula Bennett requested that the portfolio be transferred, and, secondly, we were grateful that Tariana Turia was happy to accept the portfolio. I know she will do a stunning job. I listened to
Morning Report this morning; I thought Paula Bennett gave a stunning response to the challenges that are faced in the area of employment, and I think she is taking those responsibilities very seriously. I must say I think she is turning into quite a fine Minister.
Hon Annette King: When did he realise that Paula Bennett was struggling to grasp the social development portfolio; was it when she told the public earlier this year that she thought the rise in unemployment was just a blip, was it when she conceded in a
Listener article that she did not like reading long reports, was it her decision to appoint Christine Rankin as a Families Commissioner—which has caused his Government great embarrassment—or was it something else?
Hon JOHN KEY: What I can say is that having sat on the other side of the fence, I have observed 9 years of the previous Labour Government reading reports, and now 8 to 9 months of the National Government actually taking action. That is the difference.
Hon Annette King: Did he demote Paula Bennett when he found out that many people had started referring to her as the “Minister for Slogan Development”, not as the Minister for Social Development and Employment, and is he hoping that with one less portfolio she might now be able to concentrate on solutions and not slogans, and on doing something to help the tens of thousands of Kiwis who are struggling to find work?
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I assure the member that the Minister is working extremely hard on programmes to ensure that New Zealanders can either get into a job or have the support they need when they lose their job. I know that because I am working very closely with her on it. Secondly, if ever there was a political party that spent its time worrying about slogans, it was the Labour Party. The reason for saying that is that the previous Labour Government spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on rolling out an advertising campaign that in the final analysis did not save its bacon, anyway.
Hon Annette King: If New Zealand has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the OECD, which the Prime Minister likes to proclaim as all his own work, and if the Ministry of Social Development can manage with at least 200 fewer people to do the job, why can the Minister for Social Development and Employment not cope with her portfolio load?
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, because the Minister asked to have the disabilities portfolio transferred to another Minister, so that she could concentrate on the social development and employment portfolio. The second point is that I do not think the Hon Annette King should be challenging me about whether New Zealand has a low level of unemployment relative to that of the OECD. She should go to the ministry’s website and look at it, because it will tell her in black and white that that is the case.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the newsletter from the Disabled Persons Assembly, which points out it has tried to form a relationship with the Hon Paula Bennett, but without success.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon JOHN KEY: I seek leave to table the election result in the seat of Waitakere, which shows how successful Paula Bennett is in all forms of politics.
Mr SPEAKER: I missed—
Hon Member: There’s objection down here.
Mr SPEAKER: I beg the member’s pardon.
Hon Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I said yes. I object to Mrs King tabling that document.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to members. My hearing let me down, and I ask members’ forgiveness because it is very bad at the moment. Maybe if I go back and put that leave again—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It’s already on the Table.
Mr SPEAKER: The document is already on the Table? I can only apologise to the honourable member. I did not hear her objection, and I said the document could be tabled. I apologise to the honourable member for that, because it was my error.
Hon Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I objected as soon as the question was asked, and I believe my objection should be sustained.
Hon Darren Hughes: In fairness to the Minister for Disability Issues, I heard her state her objection to the newsletter of the Disabled Persons Assembly being tabled in Parliament. It is a bit noisy in here today, and we have no objection if you want to put that question again so the Minister for Disability Issues can once again object to that newsletter being tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the honourable member’s remarks. I apologise; it is my hearing that has caused this disruption to the House’s business. I will take the course of action proposed by the Hon Darren Hughes, and I will put the seeking of leave again. Is there any objection to the Disabled Persons Assembly document being tabled? There is objection, and therefore it will be taken from the Table.
Did the honourable Prime Minister wish to table a document? No. OK.
- Document removed from the Table by order of the Speaker.
Recession—Supporting Employment and Managing Economy
AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the
Minister of Finance: What are the Government’s priorities to support jobs and manage the economy through the recession?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: As the Budget laid out, over the next 4 years the Government will borrow an additional $30 billion to support the economy, and, particularly, to support jobs and help protect people from the sharpest edges of recession. Unfortunately, despite our having one of the more significant stimulus packages among developed countries, unemployment will still rise over the next year or so. The Government cannot turn back the tide of a global recession, but we can take off its sharpest edges and set out to fix the underlying economic problems, which arose from 10 years of economic mismanagement under the previous Government.
Amy Adams: How did Budget 2009 contribute to the Government’s programme of supporting jobs and driving economic recovery?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government delivered a balanced and responsible Budget that is setting New Zealand on the road to recovery by keeping our credit rating up, which helps to keep interest rates down; maintaining welfare entitlements; investing $7.5 billion in productive infrastructure in the next 4 years; investing $323 million in a very successful insulation and heating programme for 180,000 Kiwi homes; and providing record spending on front-line services in health, education, and law and order.
Hon David Cunliffe: If the Government is so concerned about protecting jobs and getting the economy moving, why did it today block the proposed banking inquiry, or does the Minister not care that thousands of businesses are paying way too much for their loans at a time when they can barely meet their payroll costs; and can the Minister confirm which of his big-banking mates got to him or to John Key to force him to roll over and drop National’s own terms of reference?
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the honourable member to reflect on whether that question complied with the Standing Orders for supplementary questions. It went way outside them. What is more, it even impugned the integrity of a member by implying that he was influenced by outside forces; that is totally outside the Standing Orders.
Hon David Cunliffe: Speaking to the—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. So that the House does not waste further time, I will allow the Hon Bill English to answer the part of the question that was relevant.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the question is out of order, it is out of order, and that should be the end of the matter. Labour has used up one of its supplementary questions. The member has been here long enough, and he has been a Minister; he knows the rules. The question was completely gratuitous. At some point, a line in the sand has to be drawn and that sort of thing stopped.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need further assistance on this matter. I accept the point the member has made, but part of the question was in order. I want to make it clear to the Hon David Cunliffe that in future I will rule out that sort of question, but on this occasion I think the Hon Bill English could answer the first part of the question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a request that you listen really carefully to the answer and make sure that it too is entirely within order. I think we are—
Mr SPEAKER: That cannot be a matter of order, because the Minister has not even started to answer. The member is seeking to influence the Speaker, and that is not on.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is clearly taking some time for the Labour Party to understand that one reason it was—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you now to rule whether the opening part of that answer was an “in order” response to the part of the supplementary question that you allowed.
Mr SPEAKER: The supplementary question was highly political. The bit that was totally out of order was to impugn the integrity of the Minister. It was a very political question and the House is hearing quite a political answer. If members ask political questions, they will get political answers. Do not appeal to me as Speaker to intervene when that is the case.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The nature of the supplementary question illustrates that the Labour Party has not yet learnt that one of the reasons it was kicked out of office was that instead of dealing with real issues, it resorted to dirty tricks. Nothing has changed.
Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, it seems to me that what has happened is that the Minister of Finance has answered specifically that part of the supplementary question that you ruled out of order, and, by implication, has failed to address that part of the question that you ruled in order. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Annette King should not interject when a point of order is on the floor of the House. I accept that the Minister’s answer perhaps did stray into that part of the supplementary question, but I think there is a huge difference between referring to dirty tricks and actually impugning someone by saying he may have accepted bribes or been influenced by parties outside of this House. The issue of politicians getting up to all kinds of tricks is nothing new, and I do not see it as being
out of order. But if the supplementary question had been more straight, I would not have accepted that answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It does go to the ruling you have just made, and I ask you to reflect on it. There is nothing in the Standing Orders or Speakers’ rulings that indicates that members, including Ministers, cannot be influenced by people outside the House. People are influenced; they are advised, they change their decisions, and that is part of being a good Government. You ruled that one cannot say that people have been influenced, but I think you meant to say “improperly influenced”.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the member has made. That is quite correct.
Amy Adams: What other approaches could the Government have taken to manage the economy through the recession?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We could have taken the advice of members opposite when in Government, which was to spend on everything they could think of and borrow billions of dollars to do it—for instance, $3 billion for the Waterview tunnel. We have not done that, because it would have put New Zealand’s credit rating at risk, and it would have blown out the Government’s books, blown business confidence, and cost thousands more jobs than are currently being lost.
Amy Adams: Has he seen any reports ruling out higher deficits and more borrowing to stimulate job growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I have seen a report from 1989, when the then fresh face of the Labour Party, Phil Goff, said: “We will not end unemployment by borrowing to sustain an artificial level of consumption and demand.” I agree with the comments of the fresh-faced Phil Goff, not the 26-years-later, retread Phil Goff.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the
Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: I have seen reports that before the global recession hit, New Zealand had a record current account deficit, ballooning fiscal deficits, and a business sector smothered in red tape, overseen by a Labour Government that is now reduced in Opposition to making ridiculous allegations of corruption in this House that Labour members should be ashamed of.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am afraid that I must take objection to the latter comments made by the Minister. Out of courtesy to you I did not interrupt your ruling when perhaps there may have been a mishearing. What I did allege was that—
Mr SPEAKER: No, we will not go back to the previous point of order. The member will resume his seat. I have heard his point of order. I say to the Minister of Finance that the question asked was a perfectly straight question. The question has no political overlay in it. I am cautioning the Minister of Finance that that kind of attack on the questioner is unacceptable. It is not in keeping with the dignity of this House. The question was a perfectly straight question. I invite the Minister of Finance to reflect on that as he answers further.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the time you were on your feet there were two interjections, one from the Minister of Finance who replied to you with “So?”, and before that there was an interjection from Mr Phil Heatley who indicated that you should sit down. If members on this side interjected directly to you while you were ruling they would be in serious trouble.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the Hon Phil Heatley and I apologise for that. But I do caution the Minister of Finance that his final comment to me was totally unacceptable. He will watch out as he answers further questions.
Hon David Cunliffe: Has the Minister of Finance seen reports that the Manufacturers and Exporters Association has expressed real concern about the extreme volatility of the New Zealand dollar, and, to quote its chief executive officer, John Walley, people are putting away their cheque books and are not investing in the real economy and in jobs as a result?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I have, and I share the concern of that organisation, because under the previous Government it suffered the longest period of a high real exchange rate since the Second World War because of Labour’s economic mismanagement. The effect of that is that the export sector has been in recession for 5 years. In the whole decade that Labour was in charge there was no jobs growth in the export sector. That is a shameful record for what was meant to be one of the best periods of economic prosperity in decades.
Aaron Gilmore: What reports has the Minister seen about trends in building activity as a result of the Government’s substantial investment in infrastructure?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have seen some reports that building activity is picking up. I am confident that as the $7 billion infrastructure programme rolls out, by early next year there will be a very significant pick-up in building activity through a large investment in roads, a large investment in electricity transmission, and the biggest capital programme in schools that the country has ever seen.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree, in the post Woodstock era, with Employers and Manufacturers Association head Alasdair Thompson, who said: “The fluctuating dollar isn’t helping manufacturers.”, and with Brian Gaynor of Milford Asset Management, who said: “Our currency is one of the most volatile, and for businesses operating in an environment where you have a very volatile and speculative currency, it does make it difficult for companies.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do agree with them, and I agree that Government policies can make that better or worse. Over the last few years, when Labour was in power, those exporters had to deal with an exchange rate at record high levels. The effect was that the export sector has been in recession for 5 years. In the last 10 years there has been no jobs growth in the export sector. The new Government is willing to take on the challenge of growing our export sector and growing sustainable jobs.
Hon David Cunliffe: Since the turn of the century, has he recognised the link between artificially high interest rates and high volatile exchange rates; if so, why did the Government use its majority to block the proposed banking inquiry today at the Finance and Expenditure Committee, and does that not make him look at best ridiculous, when he was calling for interest rate cuts to be passed through by the banks only 3 weeks ago?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: What happens with the inquiry is up to the committee. It has made a decision. If anyone thought that an inquiry by backbenchers would change the direction of the economy, then we would have done it months ago.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is it the view of the Minister of Finance that the current level of the New Zealand dollar is too high, too low, or about right, and is it his view that it is appropriately stable, or too volatile?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not take any particular views about the exchange rate, but I do know that I have seen reports that show that under the previous Government exporters struggled with the highest exchange rate episode in 50 years. The previous Government left the export sector flat on its back. The export sector has been in
recession for 5 years, and there has been no jobs growth in the export sector in the last decade. This Government will fix those problems.
School-level Assessment Information—Communicating with Communities
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) to the
Minister of Education: What reports, if any, has she received on proposals to change the way schools provide information to their communities?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education)
: I have received legislation from the Labour Party education spokesperson that proposes a new Labour Party policy to amend the Official Information Act so that “school-level assessment information must not be publicly released.” This legislation, if passed, would ban schools from releasing information about how they, as a whole, or some of their classes, were doing at raising achievement amongst their pupils. Schools could be prohibited from voluntarily providing any of this information to their own school community. That is how much the Labour Party respects school communities.
Allan Peachey: What reports has the Minister received on the effect this would have on schools’ day-to-day business?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The initial advice I have received is that the legislation drafted by the Labour Party education spokesman would mean the following bans placed on schools: firstly, schools would be banned from putting information about students’ achievement levels in their school newsletter because this would be publishing information to the public, and, secondly, school reports would no longer be able to have class averages in them, which means that parents would have no idea how their child was doing against the rest of the class. That is how Draconian and secretive the Labour Party wants to be. It wants to stop schools engaging with their local communities—
Mr SPEAKER: This answer is going on for a long time.
Allan Peachey: What reports has the Minister received on how the proposal will alter the ability of schools to engage with their school communities?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have received initial advice that the legislation drafted by the Labour Party would mean that schools would be prohibited from providing information to their communities on how they achieved against their student achievement targets, just as many schools currently do. Parents around the country are crying out for more information from schools, and the Labour Party education spokesman has drafted legislation that not only slams the door in parents’ faces but also muzzles schools from voluntarily engaging with their communities.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is the Minister prepared to work with the Labour Party to improve the draft in order to achieve her wish of a trouble-free implementation of a national standards approach?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have said to the member before that if he puts something sensible in front of me, I am prepared to talk to him. I will not pre-empt the consultation process that finishes on Friday. I will not pre-empt that process, and I will not be drawn on hypotheticals. I will not support any mechanism or legislation that muzzles schools from having ongoing dialogue with their communities and with parents.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the
Minister of Police: Does she stand by her statement that “it is essential that police have the resources and support they need to keep the public and themselves safe”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police)
: Yes. That is why Budget 2009 provided $182.5 million of funding for extra police. The $182.5 million includes $20 million of capital funding for accommodation and vehicles to support the extra police.
The police also received $10 million in Budget 2009 for Tasers to keep themselves and the public safe.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why, then, are Counties-Manukau police forecasting only an extra 26 police vehicles in 2010 to go with their 300 additional police?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member may have the wrong figures, because the Budget actually provided for 43 extra cars for Counties-Manukau police.
Sandra Goudie: What is the Government doing to make sure that the police have the resources and support they need to keep the public and themselves safe?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The Government has provided $182.5 million for extra police, accommodation, and cars. As a result, the number of front-line police will increase from 8,307 on 30 November 2008 to 8,907 by 31 December 2011. That means 600 extra police on the streets of New Zealand.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I will take the Minister at her word. Why, then, are the Counties-Manukau police forecasting only an extra 43 police vehicles in 2010 to go with their 300 additional police?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: An awful lot of police will be on the beat, doing what police should be doing—working hard. But they do not all need to have one car each, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. One of the things that the police are doing is looking at how they can more efficiently use the great deal of resources that they have been given by this Government.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Are the cuts in police vehicle numbers linked to the Minister’s view that certain people should not receive tickets if they break the law, and I quote: “When we see action being taken against generally law-abiding people—and you can talk about quotas or targets or tickets or whatever as an example—that actually ultimately undermines the respect that the public have for the police, and I do not think that works for police.”; and, considering that attitude, did she also suggest to the Minister of Transport that he cut $49 million out of the road transport policing budget?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The answer is no to all of those many questions. I would say to that member that I stand by my statement that New Zealand police can do the great job that they do because the vast majority of the public support them in doing that. And one of the reasons they can do that is that the public expect them to be fair, to be reasonable, and to enforce the law in that way, and I am very proud that New Zealand police actually do do that.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I seek leave to table a letter from the
of June 2009, from the Tasman Police District road policing manager, who states: “The ‘generally law-abiding public’ that the Minister refers to are those that feature far too often in fatalities and serious injury crashes that our frontline staff have to clean up after.”
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart—Role of Councils
NICKY WAGNER (National) to the
Minister of Energy and Resources: What role will councils play in the delivery of the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart home insulation scheme announced in Budget 2009?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources)
: Local councils can play an important role in delivering the scheme by allowing residents to pay off insulation and clean heat improvements on their rates bills. I announced today that the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has joined the scheme, and Environment Canterbury
and Nelson City Council intend to expand their current schemes to more suitably accommodate the programme Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart. This is just the start. I am advised that a number of other councils are in the process of working through their long-term plans and other administrative and technical details so that they, too, can implement plans that will be of use to their ratepayers and enable more people to take advantage of this extremely good Government scheme.
Nicky Wagner: How will the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme help the economy?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am advised that over the next 4 years the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme will create about 2,000 jobs. I will give an example of how that happens. I was out in the Hutt Valley today, accompanied by Metiria Turei from the Green Party, which has been very instrumental in putting this programme together, and we looked at the first house that is being insulated under this programme. The important thing is that the firm that is putting the insulation in place and installing the clean heat, which in this case is a heat pump appliance, has recently employed an additional 20 people and is in the market for even more. The most important thing is that nine of the people employed, from that group of 20, were previously unemployed. I was very impressed that when I spoke to one of the young men today who was doing that work, he said it was good to be doing something that is good for New Zealand. I agree with him.
Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen the comments from the chairperson of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the council that he announced was joining the scheme today, who said that as a result of the cuts in grants for clean heating under the new scheme, that council will have to reduce the size and scrap the interest-free component of its loans to ratepayers; and does he now understand that in his haste to replace Labour’s previous scheme, he is making sure that some householders are actually worse off than they would have been?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, I do not agree with that. I inform that member that the Hawke’s Bay gentleman who made the comment has been made aware of the situation that has led him to make what is, effectively, a comment in error. Formerly, ratepayers there could get a $1,400 grant, but he had not factored in that the Government has added the $500 heating appliance grant, which means that they can now get $1,800 for actual improvements to their heating. Although that comment from the chair was in the early press statement, I think there will be ones to follow that make it very clear that the residents of Hawke’s Bay are better off under the National Government scheme, which was put together in conjunction with the Green Party.
Nicky Wagner: What has been the response from the public to the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The response has been almost incredible. Before I came to the House I noted that there had been just over 1,200 calls today to the EnergyWise call centre. There have been 143 unique visitors to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website since the Budget announcement.
Hon David Cunliffe: 143? Ha, ha!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am pleased that the member has picked up on that number. I meant to say 143,000 unique visitors. That is 143,000 New Zealanders who have said what a great job the National Party and the Green Party have done in putting up this programme, how wonderful it is that they can finally heat their houses, and what a surprise it is that the politicians are doing something rather just talking about it. For 9 years the previous Labour Government was just talking about it, and in 9 months or less the National Party has put this scheme in place.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We were happy to help the Minister to correct his own answer, but I think subjecting us to a Wednesday speech half an hour ahead of time is a bit much.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the honourable member’s point, but the members on the opposite side of the House did interject and provoke a response. I take it the honourable Minister has finished his answer?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: My apologies, Mr Speaker. I always assume that there are people on the other side of the House who are prepared to learn. In essence, the answer to the question is that there has been a very positive response from the public.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a very simple point of order. The Minister commented on your ruling in a way that he is not allowed to do.
Mr SPEAKER: In fairness, I think that the whole exchange was in pretty good humour. I do not think that we should get too concerned about that.
Auckland, Local Government Reform—Minister's Support
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) to the
Minister of Local Government: Does he stand by his proposed reforms for Auckland governance?
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: Yes. Auckland is to have, I am pleased to say, one mayor, one council, and one plan. We look forward to further refining the Government’s proposals with the input of Aucklanders through the select committee process.
Phil Twyford: Does the Minister agree with his Associate Minister, John Carter, who said: “people would rather have 20 councillors elected from wards rather than any elected at large.” for the new Auckland council?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Labour members should take heart. They criticised me and the Government for not consulting with Aucklanders. Actually, we are consulting with them. Not only that, we are listening to them too. That will happen also through the select committee process. I am pleased to allow the select committee process to operate and to see what Aucklanders think.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleague Phil Twyford asked a very straightforward question to the Minister as to whether he agrees; then Mr Twyford put a proposition to him. The Minister has not told us whether he agrees with the proposition put to him.
Mr SPEAKER: I think members well know that they cannot expect a yes or no answer from a Minister. The Minister made it very clear that he did not have a yes or no position on that question. In fact, he helped the House by advising how the issue will be handled as we look ahead, and I think that was probably a pretty helpful answer for the House.
Phil Twyford: Does the Minister agree with his Associate Minister, John Carter, that Aucklanders would be more “comfortable” with as few as 10 local boards, rather than the up to 30 local boards that the Minister is planning for?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Thank you for the question. As I said in my primary answer, it is clear that Auckland is to have one mayor, one council, and one plan. We are happy to be working and consulting with Aucklanders. I would like to hear from Aucklanders through the select committee process. We have been hearing from them through meetings. I contrast what this Government is doing in terms of consulting with Aucklanders and what it has done for Auckland in the just under 9 months that it has been in Government with what was done by the previous Government in 9 years. It did nothing except fly Judith Tizard up and down to function after function.
Phil Twyford: Does the Minister stand by his recent comments on Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium that it is “never too late” for a referendum, and his view that
significant and irreversible changes in local government should be put to a referendum; if so, will he hold a referendum on saddling Auckland ratepayers with $84.3 million to fix up Queens Wharf?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: As I explained in my primary answer, I am committed to sorting out the sorry state of Auckland governance, where voters, mayors, and councillors have not been able to address the problems that have beset Auckland. That is my focus in Auckland—the very problems of governance that saw the previous Government spend $4 million on the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance, and leave it up to this Government not just to do a report but to actually act on it.
Sue Kedgley: Is it not the case that the local boards under the Minister’s Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill are toothless and impotent, have no statutory basis whatsoever, and are not even defined as local authorities but as unincorporated societies, whatever that means; and, given that they are so impotent and toothless, how on earth are they supposed to represent in any significant way their local communities?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: No, the member is quite wrong. Let us be clear about this: the Government wants the local boards to have a significant role and to be recognised in statute. We want them to have a significant role so that they have an important position in the community, and because we do not want the Auckland Council distracted from the regional issues and dragged into every local issue. However, we need considerable analysis and input from Aucklanders, because we also do not want the local boards to be making decisions that will undermine the regional decision making of the new Auckland Council.
Employment Scheme, McDonald’s—Government Subsidy
SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: By how much, if anything, is the Government subsidising McDonald’s through assistance with recruitment and training of staff as part of Work and Income’s 5-year deal with the company?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: I can tell the member that, as with other industry and employer partnerships, the amount of funding depends entirely on which Work and Income job seekers the company employs. The funding follows the individual. For example, a long-term beneficiary may attract a job subsidy of up to $16,800 over a 12-month period; that is, up to $380 per week. Another person hired directly by accessing Work and Income’s database may not be on a benefit and may attract no funding at all. To give the member an example, in Dannevirke we referred 54 people to McDonald’s. Of those 54 people, 27 were hired and started work last weekend. Twelve of those 27 people who were hired had been on a benefit, and eight of those 12 beneficiaries attracted a skills investment wage subsidy, for a total cost of $36,000 over 6 months.
Sue Bradford: Why does the Minister think it should be a priority use of Ministry of Social Development funds to subsidise a fast-food multinational whose net profit after tax in New Zealand in 2008 was over $23 million?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I previously stated, the funding follows the individual, so that the individual can get a job with any employer. It is a job subsidy for long-term beneficiaries, and it has been around for years. The job subsidy that goes with the individual is not new. The partnership and the way that we access those employees are different, but the job funding is not different or exceptional.
Sue Bradford: Why on earth does the Government believe it is important or appropriate to put this kind of money into picking up the costs of McDonald’s training, recruitment, and employment, when a company like that can well afford to pay its own wages, given that its employees are mostly on the minimum wage anyway?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Let us be quite clear that in order for individuals to get that level of funding, they would have to meet certain criteria. They have to be long-term unemployed, and they have to need the assistance of Work and Income in getting a job. The funding follows the individual no matter who the employer is; that is what is happening with this scheme. There is nothing exceptional about it, there is nothing unusual, and there are no hidden agendas.
Katrina Shanks: Are there other industry and employer partnerships that have the potential to absorb increasing numbers of—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the member. I ask members to bear with me; I just could not hear that supplementary question at all. It is my fault and I accept that; my ears are not functioning properly.
Katrina Shanks: Are there other industry and employer partnerships that have the potential to absorb increasing numbers of job seekers?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes. We currently have 78 industry and employer partnerships; we will see people being placed in jobs over the coming year. One partnership that I would like to highlight is in the aged-care and disability support sector, which has huge potential. The Department of Labour estimates that the number of paid caregivers needs to more than double, to 48,200 by 2036. We are already working with employers, the industry training organisation, and unions in this sector to put Work and Income job seekers on to this career path.
Sue Bradford: Is the McDonald’s deal not just an apprenticeship programme for a low-wage economy; and if the Government is serious about closing our wage gap with Australia, would it not be better to restore the Government’s recent funding cuts to skilled job creation and apprenticeship programmes and to boost the minimum wage?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am sure there are a number of ideas around how we can help people, particularly young people, into employment. The job subsidy is one of them. As well as that, I am sure the member has other ideas that she is putting forward now and that are worth listening to.
Sue Bradford: Why are the Minister and her department so optimistic that there will be up to 7,000 jobs for the unemployed from McDonald’s over the next 5 years, at a time when more and more people are hanging on to their jobs and when, for example, we just learnt that a new supermarket in New Plymouth is receiving 10 applications for every single job that is available?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because McDonald’s is opening new restaurants throughout New Zealand rapidly; that is why there will be more jobs with the company. McDonald’s is accessing our database, and we have a deal that by the end of the year it will be able to access our job bank, which will allow the company to search for candidates. So we are more or less work-brokering; we are putting people who are on the unemployment benefit at the moment forward for interviews with McDonald’s. I will quote a man who wrote to me recently, a Māori gentleman who came from a large family and who left school at 15. He said: “At 22 I started working for McDonald’s. During my time there I remember telling a young boy I was training: ‘Listen, mate, if you work really hard you can be anything you want, maybe even own your own store. Last I heard, he owned three McDonald’s.’ ”
Internal Affairs, Minister—Commitments
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the
Minister of Internal Affairs: Will he honour all of the commitments made by the previous Minister of Internal Affairs?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Internal Affairs)
: I am currently considering my priorities for the internal affairs portfolio, having had just 15 days in my new role.
Chris Hipkins: Has he reviewed all of the appointments to boards and committees and other similar roles made by the previous Minister of Internal Affairs; if not, why not?
Hon NATHAN GUY: That member needs to know that these appointments went through a very through process. There was a nomination process, they went to the Cabinet appointments and honours committee, and they have been through the Cabinet process and the caucus process as well.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you will find that the Minister did not address the question. I asked him whether—
Mr SPEAKER: There is a point of order on the floor and members will respect that.
Chris Hipkins: My question was very specific. It asked whether he would review the appointments and he did not address that.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister pointed out that they had been through a process involving Cabinet and a range of mechanisms. Clearly, from what the Minister said, as they have been through that process, they are not about to go through that process again. I think that by implication that answers the question.
Chris Hipkins: Can he assure the House that all of the appointments made by the previous Minister of Internal Affairs followed the proper process and were made in accordance with the highest ethical standards—yes or no?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Yes.
KiwiSaver—Complaints to Banking Ombudsman Regarding ING New Zealand
Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT) to the
Minister of Finance: Has he received any reports on the proportion of successful complaints to the Banking Ombudsman regarding ING Managed Funds DYF and RIF; if so, does he consider this to be an acceptable level for a Government-appointed default KiwiSaver provider?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: The Banking Ombudsman’s office is continuing to investigate complaints made by members of the public who believe they were ill advised about these investments. I understand that some of the investors who were advised to make inappropriate investment decisions have been compensated, and that a number of claims are still being processed. In addition, the Commerce Commission is investigating the sale, promotion, and marketing of various funds under the Fair Trading Act. It should be noted that the funds in question are not KiwiSaver funds, and I have received no reports of similar complaints about any KiwiSaver fund.
John Boscawen: How can the Minister conclude anything other than that investors in ING have been ripped off, when the Banking Ombudsman has upheld two-thirds of the complaints processed?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The fact that the Banking Ombudsman has upheld that proportion of complaints is a matter for people to draw their own judgment on. In respect of a KiwiSaver provider’s role, that matter is subject to the terms of the 7-year—I think—contract signed by the previous Government, and I would have to investigate that arrangement to see whether any kind of change could be made on the basis of the behaviour of a provider. That may be a bit difficult; all KiwiSaver funds, as far as we are aware, have been properly supervised and looked after. I certainly have not had any advice that the arrangements for KiwiSaver could be questioned on the basis of other things that those institutions do.
John Boscawen: Does the Minister think it is acceptable behaviour for KiwiSaver provider ING to require that an 84-year-old frail investor who wishes to accept ING’s paltry offer resubmit the claim to the Banking Ombudsman as a statutory declaration, if the investor is to benefit from her finding; and does the Minister not see this as ING simply making it harder for the elderly who have lost their life-savings?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In these cases, my sympathy—particularly in my role as a constituent MP—is with those investors who have lost what is often their life-savings. However, it is a matter of legal interpretation as to whether the way in which ING is conducting business in respect to those depositors would affect its status as a KiwiSaver provider. It is unlikely, but I am happy to pursue the matter in the way that the member has raised it.
Questions to Members
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the
Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee: Has the Finance and Expenditure Committee made a decision on the proposed banking inquiry today?
CRAIG FOSS (Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee): Yes.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why did he, and the National, ACT, and Māori Party members vote against—
Mr SPEAKER: That question is out of order, because that is not a matter of the process of the committee. The chair of the committee cannot be expected to answer that kind of question. I will give the member a chance to ask a supplementary question that is in order, though.
Hon David Cunliffe: I am not questioning your ruling, Mr Speaker, but I seek your guidance. The process of taking a vote, I had been under the impression, was a matter of process, and the way in which the vote was conducted and the results of that vote are now matters of the public record, so there is no question of that being confidential to the committee. Do you, Mr Speaker, have any advice as to how I might go to those matters of process in a way that is within the Standing Orders?
Mr SPEAKER: The part of the question, as I heard it—and forgive me if I heard it wrongly—that was out of order was the part that asked the chair of the committee why parties had done certain things. The chair of the committee is not responsible for that, so I invite the honourable member to ask a supplementary that is in order, should he wish.
Hon David Cunliffe: Thank you, Mr Speaker; that helps. Is it the case that the chairperson, and the National, ACT, and Māori Party members voted against the inquiry topic that the chairperson himself had earlier proposed, after the Reserve Bank had confirmed that there was still a problem on short-term interest rates, and after the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance had indicated they did not have a problem with the inquiry proceeding; or was it a case of saying one thing to the public’s face and the opposite in the committee, after a loving chat with a few old bankers?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is a political question; it is not a procedural question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I accept the point the honourable member is making, to some extent. I mean, the first part of the question did relate to the record of the committee, and the chair would have information on whether it was correct that certain parties voted in a certain way. The first part was not about why they did that; it was about whether they had done so. But then the member proceeded to add allegations to his question; members tend to do that. I did not stop the honourable member, and I therefore feel that the question was not totally out of order. I was listening quite carefully to it. But I suggest that in the future, questions to committee chairs should not contain quite so much political material.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reconsider that, because the question asks the chairperson of the select committee to explain why he and others voted in a particular way. That is the essence of the question. Members on the other side can say no, or whatever else, but when we start to ask questions about
whether it was for this reason or for another reason, or whether this was something that someone said at one time and not at another, that is not to do with the procedure of the committee. Those are personal decisions of the members at that committee. How they cast their vote is a matter of public record; it should not then be able to be questioned through the question time process in the House like this.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the honourable member has made, and perhaps I should have stopped the member, because the latter part of his question did go outside the Standing Orders. But the first part was in order. He was not asking why; he was asking for the record of what actually happened, and I believe that that is in order. So the first part of the question, I think, is in order to be answered.
CRAIG FOSS: The member should be aware that the voting on this matter has been recorded in the committee minutes, and these will need to be confirmed at the next committee meeting. All other matters are within the committee, and I urge the member not to go outside those rules.
Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill—Reoprt-back Date
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: Will the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill be reported back on 8 July 2009?
KATRINA SHANKS (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): The report-back date for the bill is 18 August 2009.
Hon Annette King: Has she, as the chair of the committee, been advised by the Minister for Social Development and Employment—
Chris Tremain: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker. The Hon Annette King in asking the substantive question said “8 July”. The question sheet I have here has the date 18 August, so the Hon Annette King did not ask the question that is on the question sheet.
Hon Annette King: Mr Speaker, my apologies if I misread it; I will read it again.
Mr SPEAKER: If it assists the good order of the House, let us go back to the start. Again, I apologise for not picking that up.
Hon Annette King: Will the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill be reported back on 8 August 2009?
Mr SPEAKER: I would ask the member to read the question that is on the Order Paper.
Chris Tremain: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This side of the House is fed up with this question. There have been two chances to ask the question correctly, and the former Minister has not asked it correctly. We think that is probably enough of this question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There will be order in the House! I accept the point the member is making, but I think that in the interests of democracy the member should be invited to get the question correct. The Hon Annette King. [Interruption] I want to hear her!
Hon Annette King: My question is to the chairperson of the Social Services Select Committee. Will the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families (Youth Courts Jurisdiction and Orders) Amendment Bill be reported back on 18 August 2009?
KATRINA SHANKS: The report-back date for the bill is 18 August 2009.
Hon Annette King: Has she, as the chair of the committee, been advised by the Minister for Social Development and Employment that the bill may be delayed; if so, what are the reasons for the delay?
KATRINA SHANKS: All discussions on this bill remain confidential to the committee until it makes its report back to the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that that question took a long time to come, but in fact there was another mistake. The question should have been addressed to the chairperson of the Social Services Committee. I am sure the member will correct it when she gets her
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member.