Questions to Ministers
Economic Recovery—Governor of the Reserve Bank’s Statement
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the
Minister of Finance: Does he agree with Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard’s assessment that the economic recovery is proving to be “slow and fragile”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: Compared with previous recoveries, generally, yes. As Dr Bollard noted in the bank’s annual report, a different kind of recovery is to be expected when an economic recession, which began in early 2008, is followed by a global financial crisis. Despite this, he also states in the report: “We have now emerged from a long recession, and have experienced some quarters of significant growth.”
Hon David Cunliffe: Does this, therefore, prove that the Prime Minister’s prediction of an “aggressive” recovery, and the statement: “The recovery has been quite considerable.”, were, in fact, incorrect?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the Prime Minister has said in response to probably half a dozen questions here in the House, the quote was from March 2009 and reflects the fact that there had been a 2.5 percent contraction in the economy in the previous year. Subsequent to that, the economy grew by 1.9 percent, which was a welcome increase in economic growth.
Amy Adams: What other factors are influencing the nature of the recovery?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As Dr Bollard and others have pointed out, a major factor in the pace of the recovery is that New Zealanders have adjusted their spending and saving habits very quickly, and are now saving rather than spending. This is contributing to a much-needed rebalancing of the economy. However, in the short term, it does mean a slightly more subdued recovery. The Government’s 1 October tax changes support this much-needed rebalancing, by tilting incentives towards earning and saving and away from the housing speculation, rampant borrowing, and spending of the last decade.
Hon David Cunliffe: Was he therefore correct when he said that John Key’s prediction of an aggressive recovery was merely “aspirational” and that “I wouldn’t want to say he’s wrong but he’s setting a high hurdle here and it’s our job as a government to meet those expectations … a big focus there for the Government is replacing the jobs that have been lost”; if not, does he agree that unemployment numbers showing that job losses increased by over 500 each week since he has been in office point to a failure to meet those expectations?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do agree with the expectations, and in respect of job losses, as was pointed out in the House last week, the number of people on the unemployment benefit currently is still less than it was for over half of the time that Labour was in office. As the member knows, when there is a significant recession, unemployment goes up. I am pleased to say the Government is playing its part by spending billions on infrastructure, which is underpinning the employment of thousands of skilled and unskilled people.
Hon David Cunliffe: Which aspect of the recovery has been aggressive—unemployment staying above 6 percent, compared with the 3.4 percent achieved under Labour; recent GDP growth of 0.2 percent, which is less than a quarter of the Reserve
Bank’s prediction; declining business confidence; or housing prices that have continued to fall?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I pointed out in answer to an earlier question, the economy did turn round aggressively from a sharp recession into economic growth, and now the recovery is somewhat qualified by the fact that, as I have pointed out a number of times, New Zealanders are saving much more strongly than perhaps some had anticipated. If we save a dollar, we cannot spend it. That is why things are a bit tough for retailers and the construction industry, but in the long run it is the right kind of adjustment—more saving, less borrowing; the opposite to that member’s policies.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with Governor Bollard’s concern expressed to the Finance and Expenditure Committee last week about the decline in business lending by the New Zealand banking system, and the thus dramatic decline in New Zealand manufacturing activity; if so, does he have a plan for dealing with either of those matters?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do agree with the concern about the decline in business lending, and that of course is a product of a couple of things. One is the fact that New Zealanders are saving more and spending less. Therefore, retail and construction businesses will not have the demand for borrowing, simply because they do not see the opportunities for growth. In the long run, the Government has a wide-ranging economic programme designed to lift productivity and confidence, and we are confident that in time business investment will begin to flow. We will do everything we possibly can to encourage businesses to invest and employ.
Amy Adams: What steps has the Government taken to pull the economy out of the recession that started in early 2008, and put it on the road to recovery?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the short term, the Government has run substantial deficits in order to cushion New Zealanders from the effect of what has been a fairly sharp recession, to the extent that this year we will run a $13 billion deficit, supporting Government investment in infrastructure, and continuity of public services. We have also implemented significant tax reform, including increasing GST and reducing taxes on savings, on incomes, on exports, and on investments. I am pleased to say those tax cuts are being very well received.
Economy—G20 Finance Ministers Meeting Communiqué
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the
Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: I have seen reports from the recent G20 meeting of Finance Ministers—that is, Finance Ministers of the 20 major economies in the world—who met over the weekend. The communiqué from that meeting noted that global economic recovery continues to advance, even though it is somewhat fragile and uneven. Growth has been strong in many emerging market economies, and New Zealand is benefiting from some of that, but the pace of activity remains modest in many advanced economies. The G20 Ministers noted that there are still significant downside risks, although they are different from country to country and region to region.
Craig Foss: Given the significant impact of exchange rate movements on the New Zealand economy, what did the G20 Finance Ministers say about their approach to currency and monetary policy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, they reaffirmed their commitment to monetary policy that is appropriate to achieving price stability. Secondly, they were committed to the move towards more market-determined exchange rate systems that reflect underlying economic fundamentals rather than competitive devaluation of currencies,
which do not reflect the underlying fundamentals. More broadly, they believe that the pursuit of structural reforms will help boost and sustain global demand, foster job creation, and increase growth potential. The Government is pursuing these kinds of measures including, as they suggest, clear, credible, ambitious, and growth-friendly, medium-term fiscal consolidation.
Craig Foss: What other reports has he seen about approaches to economic policy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Following on from the G20 meeting, I saw reports quoting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard saying that many groups in Australia should continue to support the political consensus that has delivered 25 years of hard-won economic reform. She has said that this reform consensus is now under serious threat in Australia and that there is a risk of a return to economic populism. She guaranteed that her Government would continue with more market-based reform, including in areas such as health and education. Clearly, she was not influenced by what Phil Goff told her on his visit.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he still agree with John Key that New Zealand has “the best monetary policy in the world”; if so, why since that date has the Governor of the Reserve Bank changed it to include the core assets ratio, the consideration of liquidity ratio, and a whole range of other tools that that Minister deemed completely unorthodox?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I agree with the Prime Minister’s view that New Zealand’s monetary policy framework is appropriate for our situation. We do not see significant reason for that to be changed. In particular, it is a bit odd to be hearing that a party that says it is worried about the cost of living is advocating monetary policy changes that would allow for significantly higher inflation.
Craig Foss: What economic policy risk parallels are there between New Zealand and Australia?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Like Australia, for more than two decades New Zealand has enjoyed broad consensus on important issues like independent monetary policy, a simple and uniform GST system, an open and competitive economy, and a commitment to free trade. I notice that in Australia Mrs Gillard has talked about the prospects of “economic Hansonism” taking hold. In New Zealand this risk could easily be called “economic Goffism”.
Film Industry—Minister for Economic Development’s Actions
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the
Minister for Economic Development: What specific actions has he taken since becoming Minister for Economic Development to secure the New Zealand film industry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development)
: I have undertaken a number of activities to secure the future of the film industry. I have been looking closely at the capacity constraints that will hold back the expansion of the industry in New Zealand. I have examined closely the commercial motivations for the major studios to bring productions to New Zealand. My most important specific action recently was to bring the Screen Production and Development Association and New Zealand Actors Equity to the table to begin discussions about improvements and updates to the Pink Book. That is something that has not happened since the Australian union showed up in 2006.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Will he accept the congratulations of the Labour Opposition on the work he did at that meeting on 14 October, which all of those present agreed sorted out all industrial relations issues in relation to
The Hobbit that were live at that time?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: At that meeting I made it very clear to participants that we were not there to discuss
The Hobbit or to negotiate contracts for
The Hobbit. Although some there insisted on mentioning
The Hobbit, it was not part of the discussions. I also say there is a difficulty inasmuch as the moment the ban on work on this film was put in place by the International Federation of Actors, at the behest of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance of Australia, the film was in some trouble. I think it is totally wrong to characterise that meeting in this way, although as it was the first meeting for 4 years, clearly there was some progress.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Will he accept the congratulations of the Opposition on the very good work that he did at that meeting in bringing the parties together?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Inasmuch as the parties agreed to accept an invitation, that is as far as it goes.
Hon Trevor Mallard: On how many occasions has he visited Warner Bros or New Line Cinema executives in the last 2 years?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have had discussions with New Line and Warner Bros, but I do not want to discuss matters that were in those conversations while we are at a delicate point. I will say that the previous Government’s approach to having lavish dinners and other such functions in Los Angeles—
Mr SPEAKER: The question had nothing to do with what the previous Government had done. The question was simply about how many occasions the Minister had visited. What the previous Government might have done is not relevant to that question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As I—
Hon Trevor Mallard: If the member is going to say how many times he has visited, then I will sit down.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As I said, I have had conversations with New Line and Warner Bros. I have not visited them. I have also not had $140,000 dinners, described as the “hangi and hui” approach by Tem Morrison.
Hon Trevor Mallard: What adjustments has he made to the Large Budget Screen Production Grant Scheme as a result of those phone discussions with Warner Bros or New Line cinema over the last 2 years?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There has been no need to make those adjustments. The concern in this case is about the industrial relations situation that arose out of this extraordinary resolution, passed by the International Federation of Actors, instigated by the Australian union, and presented as an ultimatum to the producers of this film.
Hon Trevor Mallard: If the Minister says there is no need to adjust the grant, can he give an undertaking to this House that the grant will not be adjusted over the next 12 months?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We need to get through the discussions that will take place today and see what it will take for this production to remain in New Zealand.
Hon Trevor Mallard: So how much is the Government prepared to pay by way of extra grant, this afternoon?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What a wrecker.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not want to use the words that some of my colleagues are using about Labour, because I think it has been very good that Labour has actually kept out of this argument. Mr Mallard has, himself, posted on his blog site a statement about how difficult these things are, and that with additional help it would all be sorted out with a cocktail party. We do not think that is the case. We will have discussions this afternoon and out of those there will be decision points for both the producers and the Government.
Hon Trevor Mallard: What action, other than facilitating the 14 October meeting and two telephone calls, has he taken over the last month to secure
The Hobbit in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Until the issue arose—that is, the threat was put to the producers by way of a work ban issued by the Australian union backed by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions—there was no need for the Minister to be involved.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Taking your advice, I asked a simple and direct question as to what action over the last month other than two phone calls and facilitating the meeting the Minister has taken to secure
The Hobbit in New Zealand. I do not think that that question was addressed. One might infer that there was none, but I think it would be—
Mr SPEAKER: The member is quite correct. The Minister answered the question, the member can take out of it what he likes, and he can pursue it with further supplementary questions. I believe that the Minister answered the question.
Housing, State and Social—Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group Reports
KATRINA SHANKS (National)
: My question is to the Minister of Housing: what reports—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I say to both members, please, I have called Katrina Shanks and I expect some respect to be shown to her.
KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the
Minister of Housing: What reports has he received about the stakeholder engagement carried out by the Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing)
: On Sunday I made public the results of engagement carried out by our housing advisory group, which includes Auckland City Mission and Salvation Army representatives. The overwhelming majority of community housing organisations supported the 19 recommendations made by the group, and called for the Government to act decisively to address the current housing challenges that the most vulnerable in our society face.
Katrina Shanks: What is the Government committed to in social housing?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: This Government is committed to income-related rents, we are committed to housing those most in need in their time of need, and we are also committed to increasing the total quantum of social housing in New Zealand, although we do not make Labour’s claim that the State and the taxpayer have to own it all. We are saying that the State cannot afford to do this on its own, and I have been personally heartened by the number of social housing organisations that are willing to step up and increase their capacity to house families in need as long as they receive significant direct resourcing support from us. I am happy for the opportunity to work with them.
Katrina Shanks: What options is the Minister considering to better assist those most in need?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: No decisions have been made yet. However, the group’s recommendation of working more closely with community housing organisations and providing them with capital, land, or houses in order to support them to grow is attractive to us. Their ability to provide, one, growth, two, affordable rentals with our support, and, three, secure tenure would be essential. We also want to debate the current concept of a State house for life. The introduction of reviewable tenancies would allow us to assess a tenant’s circumstances every 3, 5, or 10 years, rather than tenants being in a State house for life regardless of significantly or dramatically improved circumstances.
Moana Mackey: Does he agree with the strong position expressed both in the stakeholder feedback report and by members of his advisory group that any increased
role for the community housing sector in the provision of social housing must be as well as, not instead of, continued investment from the Government?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: It not only would be as well as; what it would mean is that the Government and social housing organisations would work together and pool their resourcing. The idea is that social housing organisations would receive a capital base, and therefore they would be able to borrow and also get a commitment from funders they know to purchase more houses. The goal is to increase the amount of social housing in New Zealand while ring-fencing the Government’s commitment. We plan to put no less money into social housing, but we also have said that we cannot put any more in.
Moana Mackey: Can we take from his comments in August that the Government will be expecting charitable giving to replace Government investment in social housing, and from his comments this week that “we’re going to slow down and probably stop and go to the community-housing sector” that he will expect the community housing sector to step in and do the job that his Government should be doing?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: In fact, the community housing sector is expecting to step in and help us with the job of housing more people in New Zealand. The sector thinks the amount of social housing in New Zealand should increase, and it wants to help do it. The main point of our resourcing it through capital, land, cash, or houses is it would have a secure base to borrow off and increase the number of houses it builds and supplies. That is good news; it wants to work with us.
Moana Mackey: Can he appreciate that his new-found desire to help those most in need of housing rings a little bit hollow, given that he personally stopped the building of 500 State houses in Auckland for the simple reason that the Prime Minister did not want them in his electorate?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I think Labour’s difficulty on this point is that it has lost the moral high ground when it comes to State housing, because it left the houses in such a serious state of disrepair. Rats in the houses, roofs collapsing, dampness, wetness, mould—it was an absolute disgrace. If this Government had not come in with its vacuum cleaner and its cheque book to clean up these State houses, I do not know what sorts of health problems we would have in New Zealand.
Earthquake, Canterbury—Insurance Advocacy Support Service
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the
Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Will he support my recommendation to set up an advocacy support service to provide earthquake-affected residents with help in dealing with their private insurers to prevent them being shunted between these insurers and the Earthquake Commission?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery)
: Since receiving that recommendation late last week—Friday, I think—I have had my office make contact with the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman to see what facilities might exist to expand some of the services there. I think it is very important that we do not begin by setting out a conflict situation between private insurers and claimants. It is worth noting that the first $100,000 worth of damage to the above-ground property is the responsibility of the Earthquake Commission. In order to facilitate that work being done at a speedy pace—although I say that, it will take a long time—we have put in place a project management structure, which should see that work progress steadily. As for the 1,200 or so houses that are identified as potentially—and I say only potentially—a total economic loss, we first need to let the private insurers go and see what is required on their part, whether it is rebuild or repair. Once we have a clearer picture
about how that is unfolding, I would hope sufficient services are available through existing Government agencies to assist people who are having difficulties.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What action is he currently taking to help distressed and confused residents who are facing the strain of trawling through what I am sure he would accept is a maze of information, and who have no access to independent expert advice?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I make the point that I do not think it matters how much independent expert advice one gets; if one is in a traumatised state, one will have limited capacity to take the information on board. We have tried over the last few weeks to simplify the whole situation. We have had very thorough geotechnical examination of the ground that has been damaged. The result of that examination is that, apart from 16 sections where there will need to be a bigger discussion about how to rebuild, if at all, in every case there can be a rebuild. That means that the people contacted last week should engage with their insurers—I have had discussions this morning with insurers and with the Earthquake Commission to make sure everyone is clear on this—and the insurers should then work out a work programme for either the demolition or the repair of that property. As the properties become available, through either demolition or repair, they can be remediated. In most cases that will mean simply compaction of the existing earth—filling and rolling. We are hoping the Christchurch City Council, along with the Waimakariri District Council, which has already done so, will support the major civil works being done in the public space in conjunction with the rest of that rebuild.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does the Minister accept that earthquake-affected residents are following the procedure that has been outlined—that is, going to the Earthquake Commission, which recommends that then they go to their private insurer—but are increasingly being treated as if they are in a pinball machine in that they are being bounced around between the Earthquake Commission and their private insurer, and vice versa? What will he do to motivate private insurers to more swiftly shoulder their responsibilities when a person is referred by the Earthquake Commission, quite rightly, to the insurer, and the insurer simply bounces the person back? It is creating heartache.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not accept that that is happening in all cases. I do not doubt that it is happening in some cases. Last Friday was the first day that there was clarity in the public arena about the ground. What is now happening is that information about properties where there is land damage is being shared with the insurers. The discussions that I have had with insurers this morning have I hope left them in no doubt that they now have a responsibility to get on with indicating either demolition or rebuild for those 1,200 people. The vast majority of the balance—some 77,000 households, I believe—are likely to be dealt with through the project management office, or, if those people choose, their own repair agencies.
Dr Kennedy Graham: How many more Orders in Council does the Minister plan to recommend to the Governor-General under the
Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act, and within what time period does he envisage these orders being issued?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I personally have no list of Orders in Council that we wish to put through. Orders in Council will be developed as difficulties arise, or as problems emerge, in the months ahead. I expect that all of the Orders in Council required will have been dealt with through the established process before Christmas at least. It may be that, going into the early part of next year, the legislation that we currently work under starts to become surfeit to requirement, and we will review that as we go through. We have no desire to keep that power in place for any longer than is absolutely necessary. As the member knows, Orders in Council that are being considered are supplied to Opposition parties ahead of time. I appreciate that in some cases the notice has been a little short; I assure the member that although that was the
case for the raft of Orders in Council that have gone through, it will not be the case for those in the future.
Nevis River—Protection of Native Fish
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the
Minister of Conservation: What steps, if any, is she taking to protect the unique, rare and threatened Nevis Gollum galaxiid, a native fish species found only in the Nevis River in Central Otago?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation)
: The Gollum galaxiid is included in the Department of Conservation’s recovery plan that manages priority resources. The member may be interested to learn that there are populations of the Gollum galaxiid beyond the Nevis River, including on Stewart Island and in parts of Southland. The department is undertaking monitoring of the species in order to better understand its status.
Dr Russel Norman: What are the threats to the survival of the Nevis Gollum galaxiid, also known as the “Smeagol galaxiid” and is she aware that the species on the Nevis River has in fact now been identified as a separate species?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I am aware that it has been ascertained as a genetically distinct species, and I can also advise the House that one of the threats to the Gollum galaxiid is the aggressive native fish, the kōaro.
Dr Russel Norman: Does she agree with the findings of the special tribunal that damming the Nevis River would put the Gollum galaxiid at risk of extinction?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I have read the findings of the tribunal, which says that it is necessary to understand that the Gollum galaxiid does not inhabit lakes or reservoirs. Can I say, though, that I believe that in New Zealand
The Hobbit may be more endangered and threatened if the Council of Trade Unions and Labour have their way. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There is no need for all that reaction.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was: “Does she agree with the findings of the special tribunal that damming the Nevis River would put the Gollum galaxiid at risk of extinction?”. It is a straight question. The question was not addressed; she spoke about other issues, but not that particular issue.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: This matter is before the Environment Court. As such, when Ministers—in this case, myself—make a final decision, there is an appropriateness about Ministers commenting on an application for a water conservation order that is currently before the court. Commenting on a matter of evidence before the court is equally problematic in the House with the way the member has formulated the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not believe there is a need to hear this further. The responsible Minister is perfectly capable of taking that matter into account in answering any questions. Minister Smith is absolutely right in that she needs to be careful when a matter is before the courts. As far as the member’s point of order is concerned, I believe that the Minister did express a view on the success of this species surviving in still water or reservoirs. I seem to recollect the Minister answering that part of the question.
Dr Russel Norman: Does she support the special tribunal’s decision to protect the Nevis River from being dammed in order to save the Gollum galaxiid from extinction?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: In relation to the tribunal’s decision, I am not in a position to offer any expert or peer-review advice on it, being neither an expert in dams nor an expert in the Gollum galaxiid. Furthermore, I would be reluctant to prejudge or prejudice any appeal from that tribunal’s decision.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that Pioneer Energy has appealed the special tribunal’s decision to protect the river, will the Department of Conservation submit against this appeal?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: No decision has been made on what role the Department of Conservation would take in the appeal process.
Dr Russel Norman: Why, when everyone is trying to save
The Hobbit, will she not step in to save the Gollum galaxiid and the Nevis River given that the attraction for film makers to New Zealand is our precious natural environment?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I think I have already answered that. No decision has been made on the role that the department will take in the appeal process.
Industry Training—Funding Decrease
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the
Minister for Tertiary Education: How does removing $55 million from industry training help the growth of the productive economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education)
: The Government has a view that it wants to get value for money out of every dollar it spends on behalf of taxpayers. I appreciate that that is still a novel view in some quarters. As part of securing value for money in the tertiary sector, we have reviewed the industry training budget and found $55 million over 2 years not being used effectively in that sector. That money is now being used to fund almost 3,000 more full-time student places, with little, if any, effect on industry training because the funding was under-utilised or in some cases not being utilised at all. This, I believe, is a sensible, prudent use of taxpayers’ money that will help the growth of the productive economy.
Grant Robertson: In making its decision to cut $55 million from industry training, was any consideration given to the Government’s role in avoiding future skills shortages; if so, did that include using the money to provide incentives to employers to take on more trainees?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member may not be aware, but the Government has an incentive in place where it pays roughly 70 percent, or in some cases more, of the cost of industry training—the cash version. The member may be interested to find out that roughly 100,000 of the registered industry trainees in New Zealand achieved no credits in 2009, 100,000 of them achieved no credits in 2008, and 44,000 of them achieved no credits across 2008 and 2009. I think it is appropriate for the Government to review that situation and spend the industry training budget more wisely.
Carol Beaumont: What impact does the Minister think cutting $55 million from industry training will have on lifting the skill levels of those already in work who will make up 80 percent of the workforce in 10 years’ time, and what new initiatives has this Government implemented to lift the skills levels of those already in work?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If the member had been listening to the answer to the previous supplementary question she would know that something like 44,000 of the people who were paid for out of the industry training budget across 2008 and 2009 achieved no credits whatsoever, and therefore removal of that funding will have absolutely nil impact on the training and skills going forward. I also point out to the member that some of the money in 2010 and 2011 is not currently being allocated. So shifting it to where it can be used makes a reasonable amount of sense.
Carol Beaumont: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked in that question what new initiatives has this Government implemented to lift the skills levels of those already in work, and I do not believe that the Minister even began to address that.
Mr SPEAKER: What makes it extraordinarily difficult for me is that the level of interjection from the member’s own colleagues in front of her meant I could not hear clearly that question. I nearly intervened but I thought it was the responsibility of her members to let her question be heard. Under those circumstances I cannot assist her, and
her colleagues should be a little more thoughtful when their own backbench members are asking questions.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was some noise from my left—
Mr SPEAKER: Indeed there was, from the member sitting directly to his left.
Hon Trevor Mallard: But the loudest noise came from Paul Quinn in the back corner.
Mr SPEAKER: I will deal with these matters, not National front-benchers, including the Leader of the House. I made my decision because the deputy leader of the Labour Party was interjecting very loudly while her colleague was seeking to ask a question; I could not hear the detail of the question. Members will learn to be disciplined. If they want Ministers to answer their questions, then they should make sure the Speaker can hear them. I always try to make sure that the discipline falls in the right place in this House and that I am not interfering all the time. If members want their questions heard, then they know the best way to remedy that.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not in any way challenging that ruling, but I do note that each of the answers the Minister has given to the relatively straight questions today has begun with a flick at the Opposition, and I ask for consistency in that ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: When I went through these questions, the member may be interested to know, the one primary question today that I put a political connotation beside was this particular question, and I am not surprised the Minister has taken a small flick in answering it. The member does not need to have been in this House a long time to see the political implications of this question.
Carol Beaumont: Does he agree with New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association chief executive, John Walley, that “trade skills are one of the main drivers for productivity, especially for a country like New Zealand with a small population.”; if so, how does he think cutting $55 million from industry training will help drive productivity?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Although I do not often agree with Mr Walley, I can agree with that statement. But I note for the member that it is actually a truism. Yes, building skill levels is important, but it makes absolutely no comment on the correct amount to spend. Quantity does not necessarily imply quality, and what the member seems to be suggesting is that any amount of money is better than any less amount of money no matter what it is spent on, and that was the problem with the previous Labour Government.
Freshwater Management Reform—Landcare Trust Funding Increase
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman) to the
Minister for the Environment: What progress is the Government making in improving New Zealand’s freshwater management?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment)
: Yesterday at a function in Golden Bay I announced a doubling in the funding for the New Zealand Landcare Trust so as to support further community initiatives to improve water quality. The Landcare Trust—a partnership between Federated Farmers, Fish and Game New Zealand, and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society—was founded in 1996. The then National Government provided baseline funding of $400,000 per year but it has not been touched since. The strength of the Landcare Trust approach is empowering communities to take ownership of their local water quality problems. The success in Golden Bay, I note in answer to the member’s question, is that whereas 5 years ago 70 percent of the time
people could not harvest shellfish in Golden Bay because of water pollution problems, that figure has been reduced to just 20 percent.
Chris Auchinvole: What other commitments has the Government made, in addition to doubling the funding for the Landcare Trust, that reinforce the importance of New Zealand doing better in managing water quality?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This Government has also hugely ramped up expenditure on water-quality initiatives in areas like Lake Taupō, the Rotorua lakes, and the Waikato River, with the investment over the years from 2009 to 2014 of $94 million. This is five times the amount of money spent over the previous 5 years, and it indicates the level of commitment this Government has to improving water-quality management in New Zealand.
Brendon Burns: Given that safe drinking-water is the most important use of fresh water, will the Minister now ask his bench mate to stop blaming the Christchurch earthquake and end the 14-month freeze on the $80 million of Government funding provided by Labour to help those one in five New Zealanders who still do not have water they can know to be safe?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The problem for my colleague the Minister of Health, like so many of my colleagues, is that the previous Government promised all sorts of millions of dollars to all sorts of people in its last year or two in Government when the money did not exist. One of the realities that this Government has had to deal with in a very tight fiscal environment is that it has been able to significantly increase the funding for improving freshwater quality.
Chris Auchinvole: What feedback has the Government had to the collaborative governance approach taken to freshwater management with the Land and Water Forum since it was raised last month?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have been hugely encouraged by the public response to the report from the Land and Water Forum that shows that New Zealanders do want to see a fresh way forward on managing fresh water. The first public forum on the report was held last Wednesday at the top of the South Island. It was attended by over 120 stakeholders, and there was very strong support for the 50-plus recommendations. I encourage as many New Zealanders as possible to engage with the Land and Water Forum in its 17 workshops around New Zealand over the next 3 months so that we can find a constructive way forward in which we can better manage those challenging freshwater issues.
Early Childhood Education—Subsidies and Fee Controls
SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the
Minister of Education: Does she stand by all her statements about subsidies and fee controls in early childhood education?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education)
Sue Moroney: Will the existing subsidies of $12.45 per child per hour and $11.52 per child per hour for 20 hours’ early childhood education continue to be paid after 1 February 2011?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No. The funding changes to $11.12 per hour for the new 80 percent - plus rate. But I stress to the member that that still remains a premium subsidy of a $4.59 per hour - per child difference in funding for 20 hours’ funding from the ordinary other 10 hours in early childhood services.
Sue Moroney: Is the funding for 20 hours’ early childhood education exempt from her wide-ranging review of funding and policy settings for early childhood education, which she announced on 7 October?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No, but this Government promised to retain the subsidies and fee controls that make up 20 hours’ early childhood services. So we have
maintained those fee controls, which prevent compulsory top-up changes, and we have maintained the subsidy premium the 20 hours’ early childhood services get over and above what non - 20 hours’ early childhood services get.
Sue Moroney: Is she concerned that her funding cuts to early childhood education mean that services such as the Kindergarten Association in Wanganui will have 14 fewer staff to provide quality early childhood education to children when her Government promised to improve adult-child ratios—it was the No. 3 election promise?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I say to that member that she does not quite understand what cuts mean. Cuts mean taking money from services. In fact, this Government added $107 million to early childhood education services this year.
Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table a document showing that there are—
Mr SPEAKER: Before the member says what it is showing, can we have the source of the document, please.
Sue Moroney: It is a media statement.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a press statement?
Sue Moroney: Yes, it is a press statement showing that there are 14 fewer—
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot do that. We have established rules now—we do not table press statements.
Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Application of Resource Management Act
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) to the
Attorney-General: Is it Government policy to exempt the holders of customary marine title from the application of the Resource Management Act 1991 and provide the holders with the sole right to give, or deny, a Resource Management Act permission right with no right of appeal or objection against the decision, as described in Bell Gully’s newsletter update October 2010 on the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General)
Hon Rodney Hide: Is Bell Gully correct when it states that “… the holder of such a title has the sole right to give, or deny, an RMA permission right to any other person proposing a development within the area, and there is no right of appeal or objection against the decision.”, when that is exactly what clause 65 of the bill states; if not, why, exactly, is Bell Gully, in its update, wrong?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have the greatest of respect for Bell Gully—
Hon Shane Jones: Why?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: —because it is a great firm—but where it possibly went slightly away from the straight and narrow was where it conflated customary interests with customary title, and it is trying to treat the two the same.
Hon Rodney Hide: Is Bell Gully correct when it states: “It is the first time that legislation has been introduced which effectively removes the application of the Resource Management Act … to an … area.”; if he disagrees with that statement from Bell Gully, then could he please explain to the House why it is wrong rather than just give the explanation that Bell Gully conflated two concepts.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes, it is wrong.
Mr SPEAKER: Just before I call the Minister, I was going to point out to him that he does not have any responsibility for Bell Gully’s statements. But he can, of course, give an opinion on them, which he has already done. If the Minister wishes to repeat it more slowly, then he is welcome.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, it is wrong.
Whānau Ora—Process for Short-listing Providers
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) to the
Minister responsible for Whānau Ora: Is she satisfied with the process to short-list Whānau Ora providers?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the
Minister responsible for Whānau Ora: Yes.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm that an open and transparent process for short-listing successful providers for Whānau Ora has been undertaken?
Hon TONY RYALL: Yes, that is my understanding.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister give an assurance that unsuccessful Whānau Ora applicants will not lose core funding from their existing service to vulnerable and needy families?
Hon TONY RYALL: Whānau Ora is about the integration of health and social services in support of families and whānau. It is not expected that those organisations that may not be in this first wave of Whānau Ora providers should necessarily have their funding reduced as a result of these changes.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Is the Minister satisfied that the current communications process has meant applicants have received timely and accurate information regarding her plans for the implementation of Whānau Ora?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am aware that a number of participants in the process have been advised of the outcome with regard to their own organisations, and that announcements of this very exciting Government initiative are expected on Friday.
Te Ururoa Flavell: When does the Minister expect that the first group of Whānau Ora providers will be announced?
Hon TONY RYALL: I expect that those first announcements will be made at the end of this week. The member will be interested to know that a total of 137 expressions of interest proposals were submitted, and the submissions included around 350 providers from around the country. Nearly 40 percent of all the expressions of interest were submitted on behalf of provider collectives, which is one of the more exciting elements of the outcome.
Te Ururoa Flavell: What has been distinctive about the process of selecting Whānau Ora providers?
Hon TONY RYALL: What has been distinctive about the process of selecting Whānau Ora providers is the willingness of providers to come together with other groups, including iwi authorities, to concentrate on a Whānau Ora - centred approach. What has become clear is that community organisations working with family and whānau were frustrated with the bureaucratic and nonsense, patronising approach of the previous Government, and they are excited by the opportunities that Whānau Ora presents them and their communities.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm that Te Puni Kōkiri has had a role in that process; if so, why is not the Minister of Māori Affairs responding to the process questions that have been asked today?
Hon TONY RYALL: I can confirm that Te Puni Kōkiri has been involved in this process. I can also confirm that the Government makes decisions on who will answer questions on behalf of the Minister. The fact that I am answering this question on the Minister’s behalf indicates how this Government is working collectively in support of the Whānau Ora effort. We are not interested in silos, like that failed party opposite.
Energy Efficiency—Energy Spot Advertising Campaign
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the
Minister of Energy and Resources: Why is the Government funding the Energy Spot advertising campaign?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources)
: The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority estimates that each household can easily save 10 percent on its electricity bill by taking just a few simple measures. That works out to savings of about $200 per household, or $320 million in savings, each year across the whole country. The Energy Spot campaign has been delivering practical energy-efficiency tips to New Zealanders for over 1 year now. Research by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority shows that 62 percent of adults recall seeing the Energy Spot, and of those who have seen it, 43 percent have taken action as a result. It is about encouraging people to save on energy costs.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What other energy-efficiency programmes has the Government funded?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government is committed to offering practical energy-efficiency programmes that not only help New Zealanders to save on power and fuel bills but also reduce energy demand. Aside from Energy Spot, the Government is spending $347 million on making New Zealand homes warmer, drier, and healthier through the Warm Up New Zealand scheme. The Government has also removed road-user charges for electric vehicles and is providing subsidies for solar hot-water heaters and hot-water heat pumps, amongst other programmes.
Instruction to Committee
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I move,
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the whole House on the Governor-General Bill that it have the power to consider and, if it thinks fit, adopt the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 173. The amendments relate to the term of appointment of the Governor-General and the processes of appointment. The reason I have moved the instruction is to clear up any doubt about the relevance of this Supplementary Order Paper to the bill, the Committee stage of which is to be considered very shortly. I understand that I am not to debate the Supplementary Order Paper now, but one of the two new clauses on it relates to the term of appointment of the Governor-General, which relates very directly to the whole question of annuities, the number of years of service to qualify for those annuities, and the different rates of the annuities. So it is directly relevant to the bill. I think that with a bill called the Governor-General Bill the process of appointment outlined on the Supplementary Order Paper is very relevant. I do not wish to debate it beyond saying that, but I am sure that those members who listened to the first and second readings would see that the content of my Supplementary Order Paper is very relevant to this matter.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I rise to speak to the motion on the part of the member. I think there is a lot of sympathy on this side of the House for the general cause that he is trying to promote, but it is also fair to say this is late in the process. Also, the motion is part of a process that does not involve the Government Administration Committee, which members on this side would think was a very important part of a discussion about republicanism. Perhaps the member later on, when he has his right of reply on this instruction to the House to consider something to be part of the Governor-General Bill, can give a level of assurance that submitters would be able to debate it. He might have a process that after the Committee stage sends the bill back to a select committee for submissions, or some other process.
I think members around the House consider this issue to be serious. Although on occasions I myself have used shortcuts in order to get things into legislation or to have consideration of particular debates, I think it is fair to say this issue is a major issue, and is one that concerns many New Zealanders. I understand there is a fairly even balance in the approach that people take to it. But it is certainly one where it is appropriate to have a due process whereby New Zealanders have the right to come to a select committee and have a debate on it. I know that the member has previously brought legislation to this effect to the House; it has been considered by the House and rejected. More is the pity when that rejection occurred, because although some of us thought that the member’s bill was not quite in a form that we could support, I think most of us on this side of the House are of the opinion that a debate is worth having on the issue. In fact, if we can shape something up to the form that we need, it will be a very important debate.
Having said that, I say I am slightly surprised to get the call at this stage, because I thought that on a relatively important issue like this the Minister who is in charge of the House would take a call to indicate the Government’s position on it. [Interruption]
There is a Minister; she is hiding. I think the member was looking to see whether a Minister was in the House. Kate Wilkinson might be described as head down and bum up, working on her papers, but she is in the House.
I say to the member that from my understanding and experience he is procedurally correct in his approach. I have some pretty severe doubts as to whether without this motion his recommendations would be within the scope of the bill. I think a ruling from the Chairman of the Committee would not be to that effect. Therefore, the member is attempting to avoid any doubt. It is more often done by Ministers when they have Supplementary Order Papers that they want to bring into debate on bills after they have been through the select committee process. In fact, it is possible to do this with a bill that is at a select committee. It is possible for a notice of motion to go to the House—normally, again, a Government notice of motion—that says that notwithstanding the relevant Standing Order, a Supplementary Order Paper that would otherwise be outside the scope of the bill can be brought within the scope of the bill, and a select committee can consider it. I think that is more often done to a bill that is currently before a select committee, when Government members want to make a pretty substantial change but at the same time want to provide the opportunity for there to be hearings and for submitters to be brought into the debate so that there can be discussions.
I am looking forward. I warn the member’s colleague Kevin Hague that if he takes the next call, the debate is finished. I ask him not to do that, because I think some other people have some views on this particular matter and may want to contribute to the debate. But Mr Hague could do that.
The interim position of the Labour members on this particular motion is that we will not support it, because it looks as though the process may be abused. But we are not beyond convincing, if the member has in his back pocket an arrangement that gets all of this back to the select committee. But the mere mention of the words “Governor-General” in the body of legislation would not normally bring it to the point of being the hook on which a referendum on republicanism, or anything significant like that, could hang. Although we are generally supportive of the cause, we are not supportive of that sort of abuse of process.
I always try to be friendly to my mates in the Greens, but generally they are sticklers for process. There is a blog by Metiria Turei; there is something called Frogblog, which comments quite a lot in the new media on the question of parliamentary process, and which is very, very critical of both National and Labour when there is any question that that process has been abused. I look forward to “Frog” blogging on Keith Locke’s amendment of this type. Again, I may be misjudging the member. He is not normally one for secret agendas; he is normally a person who is opposed to secret agendas. He has done quite a lot of work over time in trying to expose secret agendas, or to stop other people’s methods of finding secrets. But it may be that he has an agenda, and I hope that if he does, it is not one that stays secret for too much longer.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise a point of clarification. I think that it is important in order for this discussion to proceed properly for members to know that Supplementary Order Paper 173 has nothing whatsoever to do with republicanism. It is just about the way in which—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): The member is seeking to introduce, by way of a point of order, material into the debate. There is no such thing in the Standing Orders as a point of clarification. A point is either a point of order about the process of the House, or it is out of order. I advise the member that that is out of order.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I just apologise to the member. One of the problems with the sudden
method that the member used was that we did not know what the hell he was talking about.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): There are no points of order for clarification. There are no points of order for lamentable and heartfelt apologies that should have been given before. This is a debate.
CHRIS TREMAIN (Senior Whip—National)
: I rise to take a brief call on Supplementary Order Paper 173 in the name of Keith Locke from the Greens, to let the House know that the Government will not be supporting this Supplementary Order Paper. New clause 4A represents a significant departure from the way that the Governor-General is currently selected. In the new amendment that is being proposed: “The Governor-General is appointed by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the House of Representatives. The recommendation must be agreed to by at least 75% of all members of Parliament.” That, indeed, is a significant departure from where we currently sit. This proposal has not been through a select committee process, or even been discussed or debated by MPs in the House. On that basis and for a number of other reasons, the Government will not be supporting this recommendation.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
: On this occasion I agree with the Government and with Trevor Mallard as to process. The bill that we will consider today does not deal with the way in which the Governor-General is appointed. There is considerable merit in what Keith Locke has put forward in terms of ideas about how the process for the appointment of the Governor-General could be improved, but that matter is not for this bill. Indeed, it is also fair to say to Mr Locke that similar submissions were made in respect of the bill when it was before the Government Administration Committee, on which I was serving. The clerk of the committee provided advice to the committee that amendments to that effect were beyond the scope of the bill, because the bill does not deal with methods of appointment.
I would like to further describe my concerns about process. I am not a process junky, but I recognise that some of the long-established processes we have in this Parliament are to protect against substantial changes being made that might not be properly thought through. I am not accusing Mr Locke of not properly thinking this matter through; I am actually taking the point of principle.
There are various ways in which our select committees are meant to act as a check on what happens in this Parliament. This is all the more important in New Zealand because we have a unicameral Parliament. If Parliament gets it wrong, there is no higher House through which legislation passes; no higher House can check on legislation and turn things back if we make mistakes. That is why in New Zealand we are very, very reliant on the scrutiny of proposed legislation in the select committee process.
There are a number of ways in which that scrutiny can be usurped, to the detriment of New Zealanders, and one of them is a select committee putting into legislation amendments that are beyond the scope of a bill. We oppose that, because people do not have an opportunity to submit on them. If an amendment is not within the scope of the original bill, then interested New Zealanders, who might have a view in favour or against the sort of thing that Keith Locke is now proposing, do not have the chance to submit upon it, and to tell the committee—and, through the committee, this Parliament—what the pluses and minuses of the proposal are.
As Annette King said earlier—and it is the next issue I was going to mention—if we agree to this, I say Mr Locke, then how are we to resist inappropriate attempts by the Government to do similar things in respect of its legislative agenda when it wants to tack bits on to legislation that has gone to a select committee and then come back to the House, or, indeed, to do so at the select committee? We would disagree with that as an Opposition.
There already are, in my opinion, too many things being done to undermine the effectiveness of some of these processes. The open government we have in New Zealand—
Jacqui Dean: Yes, talk about the electoral finance legislation.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, the electoral finance legislation is probably quite a good case in point, because that went through a full select committee process. There was no truncated process there.
The rule of the Government now seems to be to use its numbers to change a reference to a select committee by truncating the period for the select committee process and truncating the period for public submissions at the select committee. The Government did so for the super-city legislation—a phrase that I do not like; I will refer to it as the Auckland city reorganisation legislation—and it has done so for other legislation. The Government has used urgency inappropriately. It has used urgency repeatedly and inappropriately to effectively push legislation through different stages in a very truncated period of time. That stops the fourth estate, stops the Opposition, and stops interest groups from getting up opposition to policy that could be opposed over a longer period of time to proper effect so as to protect New Zealanders against inappropriate change. Another example is the Official Information Act.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): I advise the member of Speaker’s ruling 80/3: “This is a procedural motion … it is a narrow debate. The only matter under debate is whether the committee should have the power to examine and adopt this Supplementary Order Paper.” That is the only matter for debate. What may or may not have gone on before could be very interesting, but it is proscribed for this debate. I invite the House to remember that it is a narrow debate about whether the select committee should have the power to consider this Supplementary Order Paper.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a submission to the select committee, presented by Lewis Holden and Dean Knight, specifically proposing—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): I say to the member that the kawa of this House is that those sorts of things should be done at the end of a member’s speech. The Hon David Parker is speaking. I have pulled him up on a matter of order. I want the Hon David Parker to be given the opportunity to complete his speech, and when he is finished the member is welcome to seek leave at that point. It is just a courtesy to the member who is speaking.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker. Indeed, Mr Locke is correct that a similar submission was made to the select committee, and that is the reference I was making earlier to the advice we had in relation to just that suggestion that it was beyond the scope of the bill. The instances that I was talking to were why we should take care not to agree, in this procedural motion, to take a step that effectively undermines the protections we normally have in this House against inappropriate process.
I was giving instances of that, and the only other ones I would give are in respect of how the Official Information Act can be ignored, and, indeed, how minority reports can be blocked by the Government. All these sorts of things are encouraged if we vote for this motion, because this motion suggests that we should put aside the normal processes, ignore what is normally within the scope of the bill, and ignore our parliamentary traditions, which go to open government, the Official Information Act, select committee length periods, minority reports, and agreeing only to things that are within the scope of the bill.
I think there is considerable merit in the idea that we should move to a more transparent process for the appointment of the Governor-General. The Governor-General ought to be appointed with the support of this House rather than just with the
support of the Government. Indeed, I think that Governments through the years have tried to make appointments that are appealing to both sides of the House. I have no problem with the substance behind the motion—because that would just be a case of writing down a process that would ensure that there is some cross-party agreement as to the future appointment of Governors-General. But in terms of the process point, we in the Labour Party are going to support the proper process here. We feel that the Government currently is taking advantage of us at select committees, and we do not want to give it cause to be able to do so by agreeing to an inappropriate process motion here.
So the position of the Labour Party is that we oppose this motion. These procedural motions appear, on the face of it, to be rather dry things, where we think: “Well, there’s not much harm in that.” But when we think through the underlying issues here, we see there are important matters of principle and precedent. I have mentioned the principles, but the precedent effect would be of concern to the Labour Party, and, I would suggest, to the Greens also.
As Trevor Mallard has said, the Greens often take the process point, and often appropriately, I have to say. During the two terms of the Labour Government when I have been here, the Greens often stopped us from using short-cut processes because they controlled whether we could get a majority for those short-cut processes. The Greens stopped us doing that. At times it was a bit frustrating for us when we were in Government, but, actually, I look back and I compare that with what happens now under the National Government, and I think the Greens were right.
These processes ought to be protected, because the way in which we consider legislation in this House has been built up through precedents for over 100 years, and those precedents are borne of experience as we try to protect New Zealand against inappropriate lawmaking. Inappropriate lawmaking can be caused by hasty lawmaking or by agreeing to matters that are essentially beyond the scope of a bill—and this is beyond the scope of the bill. It would serve the political ambition of the Greens and their reasoned position as to why they want to change the way in which the Governor-General is appointed, but it would not be appropriate to do that in a bill that has not been subject to wide public submissions on that issue.
Mr Locke is correct that two of the submitters, I think, raised the point at the select committee, but they were ruled out as being beyond scope by the clerk of the committee. The clerk was correct to rule them out of scope; I did not think there was any doubt about that. The fact that those two people submitted does not mean to say that the people who read the bill when it was publicly advertised thought: “I don’t need to put anything in my submission about how you appoint the Governor-General, because that is not what this bill is about.” Most of the people who submitted, or who might have submitted had it proposed to change the way in which the Governor-General is appointed, are ignorant of the fact that this bill could be used to do so. That in is itself means that it should not be done this way.
This is an important constitutional point. The Governor-General is the Queen’s representative in New Zealand. How the Governor-General is appointed is a matter of important constitutional note. If we are going to change that, we should do it directly through legislation on that topic.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I seek leave to table the submission by Dean Knight and Lewis Holden to the select committee on this bill, which proposes exactly the two points—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
KEITH LOCKE: I seek leave to table the second submission, referred to by the previous speaker, by Derek Round, which proposes a method of appointment by 75 percent of Parliament.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): Leave is sought for the tabling of the document by Derek Round. Is there any objection to that? There is objection.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka)
: I am happy to take a call in this debate on whether the contents of Supplementary Order Paper 173 in the name of Keith Locke should be able to be considered during the Committee stage of the debate on the Governor-General Bill. I think it is really important that the House and those listening in and watching on TV are aware of what the Supplementary Order Paper actually does, because none of the speakers so far have talked in any detail about what it does.
Chris Tremain: I actually did.
CHRIS HIPKINS: Chris Tremain mentioned what it does probably in more detail than most other speakers have done so far. I think it is really important that we know that Keith Locke is not trying to pull a swiftie here and slip republicanism into a debate that has nothing to do with republicanism. These are matters that could, if we took a very wide-ranging approach to the scope of the bill, argue were within its scope. That issue was debated at the Government Administration Committee. When the submitters put that forward, we had some discussion about whether those submissions should be deemed to be within the scope of the bill.
It is important that we talk about what the amendments on Supplementary Order Paper 173 are. The first substantive amendment is the addition of a new clause 4A, which deals with the appointment of the Governor-General. That is the one that basically requires that when the Governor-General is appointed, a 75 percent vote of the House of Representatives confirms that appointment. The question then becomes whether that is something that is within the scope of this particular legislation. I will now talk about new clause 5A, because the points I want to raise are relevant to both clauses. Additional clause 5A specifies in law that the term of appointment for the Governor-General is a 5-year term. The term should not exceed 5 years, and a person who has been appointed as the Governor-General cannot be reappointed as the Governor-General. The question is whether those two changes—providing for a specified term, and requiring a 75 percent vote of Parliament to confirm a Governor-General’s appointment—are within the scope of this bill.
The bill deals with annuities for Governors-General, but there is no fixed term for a Governor-General. It deals with payments on conclusion of office, for example. The idea of the term of a Governor-General being specified is relevant to the payment of annuities and so forth, which are matters contained within the bill. It is not too big a stretch to say it could actually be considered as part of the debate on this particular legislation. As Keith Locke mentioned, both of these issues were raised during the select committee process. As David Parker pointed out, they were ruled to be outside the scope of the bill. In that case, there are other process options that a member of Parliament could choose to take.
I have the select committee’s report on this bill here. There is no minority report in the select committee’s report on the bill. That, of course, is one option that is available to members if they feel significant issues have been raised that are outside the scope of the legislation that is being considered by a select committee. Members retain that option to put forward a minority report within the select committee’s report, arguing that additional issues had been raised during the select committee process that are worthy of consideration, and alerting the House to those things. The select committee works on a very cooperative basis. It is chaired by the Hon David Parker, and I can imagine that there would not have been any issue if a member chose to raise that
particular matter and alert the House to it. I think that is an important part of our constitutional arrangement—that right of select committees to alert the House to matters that fall outside the strict scope of legislation that is being considered. That did not happen in this particular case.
The question becomes whether this is a case for which there should be a specific exemption. Is this something that there should be an exemption for, and should we therefore widen the scope of the bill? I am a little uncomfortable about doing that, because having sat through the select committee hearings on this particular bill I think several submitters put forward quite compelling cases for doing so. I should point out that I personally am very sympathetic towards the two amendments. Two of the submitters argued that yes, in fact, those amendments should go ahead. However, the other submitters to the select committee did not get the opportunity to comment on that, because it was not in the original bill. So before the House was to consider those amendments at the Committee stage, I would prefer that they went back to a select committee so that the public could have a say. It may be that there is a different appointment process for the Governor-General that someone in the public may wish to submit on, and maybe a 5-year term is not be what people want. People may have a more compelling argument for a 4-year term, a 6-year term, or some other term.
I think, given the significant constitutional nature of these amendments and the extent to which they change the role, the appointment process, of the Governor-General—if we make it a fixed-term role, that would change things—it is important that any such change be subject to a pretty rigorous examination process. The problem with doing so in the Committee of the whole House is that the public would not have a chance to have a say on it, and members would not have a chance to get their heads around it, and do any additional research and so on. We are talking about the Committee stage effectively being over and done with, potentially, in a day. That does not give people much time to give the matter the depth of consideration that I think something of this constitutional significance should be subject to.
I think it is really important that Parliament as a whole treads very carefully when it comes to amending constitutional issues.
Hon Annette King: The Government could send it back to select committee.
CHRIS HIPKINS: As Annette King has pointed out, if the Government were of a mind to consider this issue, it could send the bill back to a select committee. I indicate as a member of the Opposition that I would be very comfortable with this bill going back before a select committee with such provisions in it. As I said, I think they are very worthy provisions. I agree with Keith Locke on many things about republicanism, but also about the role of the Governor-General, which is a separate issue. It is really important that we do keep those things quite distinct. This is not a republican issue. This is to do with the Governor-General, the appointment of the Governor-General, the annuities paid to a Governor-General, and the term of office of a Governor-General. That is within the scope of the bill, in terms of the annuities and what the Governor-General is paid. But I argue that the issues are on the margin, and they are just on the other side of the margin in terms of whether they are within the scope of this particular legislation.
So with some reluctance, I do not support the resolution put forward by Keith Locke to allow Supplementary Order Paper 173 to be considered by the Committee of the whole House. There are other avenues available to the member, and I indicate that I would be very supportive of him should he choose to pursue those avenues.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I find a lot of merit in Supplementary Order Paper 173 in the name of Keith Locke. We have heard the two key provisions on it being explained by colleagues over the last half hour or so. The first deals with the
appointment of the Governor-General, and would require a 75 percent majority in this House for any recommendation to go to the Sovereign for the appointment of the next Governor-General. As a fellow republican with Keith Locke, I appreciate the sentiment behind this. It is not that this Supplementary Order Paper is about republicanism; it is simply about the appointment of the Governor-General. But implicit in this Supplementary Order Paper is the idea that we are a democracy and it is appropriate that this House, as the assembly of the elected representatives of this nation, should have a say in the appointment of our head of State. That seems to be entirely consistent with the thrust of the Governor-General Bill, which we will debate this afternoon, and which is fundamentally about modernising the arrangements surrounding the Governor-General. I commend the member for this Supplementary Order Paper.
As my colleague Chris Hipkins has pointed out, new clause 5A on the Supplementary Order Paper deals with the term of the appointment of the Governor-General by setting it out in law that the Governor-General is not to be appointed for a term greater than 5 years. That effectively puts in place a term limit: a person who has been appointed as the Governor-General cannot be reappointed as the Governor-General. A clear line can be drawn between that and the provisions in the bill. Clause 8 of the bill deals with the annuities, and it states that if the Governor-General has held office for a total period of less than 2 complete years he or she must be paid an annuity. Of course, the bill also sets up the Remuneration Authority as the body that will set the level of that annuity.
Although I think the case can be made that this Supplementary Order Paper should be debated today, I am mindful that colleagues have already made the case that such a significant change to the way that the Governor-General is appointed deserves to have the benefit of a proper and serious process of public and parliamentary scrutiny, in accordance with the fact that this would be a pretty significant change to our constitutional arrangements. We have heard from Mr Locke that a couple of the submitters, Lewis Holden and Dean Knight, came along to the Government Administration Committee and submitted in some detail on this very issue. But I am persuaded by my colleagues that that is not enough, and that the bill would have to be changed and then run through a select committee process in which members of the public could come along and have a say on this matter. I like what my colleague Chris Hipkins had to say, and if there is a procedure that would allow Mr Locke to propose that the House send the bill back before the select committee with this Supplementary Order Paper to be considered by the public, then I would certainly be keen to support that. I express the hope that my colleagues on the Labour side of this House would also support that provision.
This is not a republican Supplementary Order Paper, but it is a democratic one. It is worthy of consideration; I think it has a lot of merit. I hope that we can find a way to ensure that this bill is sent back before the select committee, so it can consider the content of Mr Locke’s Supplementary Order Paper.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: Previous speakers have spoken about—and I think Trevor Mallard himself did talk about it—my right of reply as the mover of the motion. I consulted the Clerk and found out that technically I do not have a right of reply, but given the fact that I was commendably brief in my first speech, and given all the issues that have been raised in terms of the course of action to be followed, I seek leave to be granted 2 minutes to sum up this debate before the vote.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): Leave is sought for Keith Locke to have 2 minutes in reply before the vote. Is there any objection? There is objection.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I seek leave to move a motion that my Supplementary Order Paper 173 be referred back to the Government Administration Committee for consideration before there is a further debate on this bill.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I seek leave to divide the vote on this motion, because it is clear from the debate so far that there is much more agreement on the relevance of new clause 5A on my Supplementary Order Paper, relating to annuities and the term of office of the Governor-General, and is support for that amendment to go forward to the Committee of the whole House as a Supplementary Order Paper. So I seek to divide the vote on my motion so that the motion is taken in two parts: the first part to be in relation to the Committee of the whole House considering new clause 4A, in relation to the means of appointment of the Governor-General, and the second vote to be on new clause 5A, in relation to the term of appointment of the Governor-General being 5 years.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): I do not think the House can take leave for that, for this reason. I do not believe that a procedural motion of this nature is divisible. A Supplementary Order Paper itself would be divisible, but a motion to give the Committee of the whole House the power to consider and adopt, if necessary, a Supplementary Order Paper is, in my opinion, indivisible. It would be inappropriate to seek to have the motion so divided. Either the motion is up or it is down; it is not in halves.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the whole House on the Governor-General Bill that it have the power to consider and, if it thinks fit, adopt the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 173.
||Green Party 9.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 41; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
|Motion not agreed to.
Part 1 Provisions relating to remuneration, programme funding, and other payments concerning office of Governor-General
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka)
: I am very happy to take a call on Part 1 of the Governor-General Bill. It was worked over by the Government Administration Committee, which I have the privilege of being on. The Committee stage is the relatively technical part of the debate on the Governor-General Bill so I thought I would talk about some of the significant changes that Part 1 makes.
The first significant change relates to the definition of “family” for the Governor-General. I think people would be surprised to learn that although the funding arrangements and so on for the Governor-General have always included the concept of covering certain things to do with the Governor-General’s family, whom the Governor-General’s family actually consists of has never been defined. This legislation now clarifies that matter and makes it very clear what the Governor-General’s family is. It defines a family as the partner or spouse, and children under 18 who are being provided with ongoing daily care, are being maintained as a member of the Governor-General’s family, and are not living with another person in a marriage, civil union, or de facto
relationship. I think it is important that that definition is spelt out very clearly. When we are providing Government assistance to somebody who is not an office holder himself or herself but is a family member of an office holder, it is important that we are very clear about who may or may not be entitled to be supported in that regard.
Clause 5 deals with the salary of the Governor-General. There has been significant debate about this clause in particular. A lot of the debate in the media has been about whether the changes Parliament is making increase the remuneration of the Governor-General. Editorials in our local paper, the
Dominion Post,have decried the supposed increase in the amount of money being given to the Governor-General. That is not the case. The nature of some of the changes could lead to confusion, though, so I think it is important that we take some time to go through those changes quite carefully.
Under clause 5 the salary rate of the Governor-General will be set by the Remuneration Authority. The same authority establishes the salary rates for members of Parliament and, I believe, for the judiciary and other important constitutional offices. It is independent. It is not motivated by politics; it is motivated by a whole range of factors. The public of New Zealand can be confident that by having an independent Remuneration Authority establishing what the Governor-General should be paid, there is some integrity in that process. The salaries that come out of it will not be a pittance that does not reflect the status of the office, but they will not be exorbitant, either. Clause 5 deals with that and establishes that the Remuneration Authority establishes ultimately what the Governor-General is paid.
Clause 7 is the provision about which there was considerable public debate through the news media. It is to do with the sum paid to the Governor-General after vacating the office of Governor-General. Once a person ceases to hold the office of Governor-General, other than if they die, they will be paid a lump sum equivalent to the gross salary for the last 6 months in office. That is a change from the arrangements under the previous Civil Lists Act 1979, which provided for the lump sum paid to be the equivalent of 3 months’ salary and, in addition, 3 months of the previous allowance arrangements. This bill makes significant changes to the allowance arrangement; the recommendation put to the select committee and enacted through this bill was that in order to maintain the quantum that the Governor-General is paid on leaving office at about the same level, rather than having 3 months of the new salary arrangements plus 3 months of the new allowance arrangements, it would be better simply to have 6 months of the new salary arrangements and not include the allowance arrangements in the payment to the Governor-General on leaving office.
The intention of this provision, rather than to increase the amount of the payment—or the golden handshake, as I think it was reported in some media outlets—was to maintain the status quo and ensure that when Governors-General leave office they end up in roughly the same position as they end up in now. The Cabinet secretary wrote to the
to outline these changes, and because it is important that this is clearly spelt out I will quote directly: “To ensure that a future governor-general receives a payment on leaving office that compares broadly with that available under the current law …”. As the changes to the Governor-General’s allowance will lead to a smaller personal sum, the previous payment of 3 months’ salary and 3 months’ allowance would be more than under the new arrangement.
This bill overall—I probably should have said this at the beginning—removes the tax exemption from Governors-General, which is why such significant changes are being made to the way that they are paid and to the nature of their allowances. Previously, the Governor-General did not pay tax. That will not be the case any more. Governors-General will be taxed in just the same way as you, me, or any other New Zealander,
which is in the great egalitarian New Zealand tradition. I think it is great to see our de facto head of State subject to the same taxation arrangements as the rest of the country.
John Hayes: Do you mean you’re not going to tax his vegetables, either?
CHRIS HIPKINS: We will not put GST on his fresh fruit and veges. That is a very good point from Mr Hayes, and I thank him for pointing it out for me. If the Governor-General chooses to lead a healthy lifestyle, he will not pay GST on his fresh fruit and veges under a Labour Government. Under a Labour Government he will not pay GST on his fresh fruit and veges. I thank Mr Hayes for pointing that out and highlighting that very, very good policy from the Labour Opposition.
Clauses 8 and 9 deal with the annuities paid to former Governors-General and their spouses. An annuity for Governors-General is payable 6 months after they have ceased being Governor-General. The reason it is 6 months after they have ceased being Governor-General is that for the first 6 months, they receive the payment on leaving office. The annuity basically kicks in after they would have used up that 6-month payment. A lot of New Zealanders would question having annuities and other allowances paid to people who no longer hold public office. There is scrutiny on the travel of former members of Parliament, on what former members of Parliament get, and so on. I put forward the pretty strong argument that a former Governor-General should receive an annuity. I would have thought that there is a pretty limited range of career opportunities within New Zealand for a former Governor-General, so I think it is only fair. They have taken probably 5 years—or 6 years, because their term is often extended for an extra year—out of their lives to serve this country. It has probably narrowed down the career options available to them when their term finishes. It is important that our former de facto heads of State, which is what Governors-General are, can live the rest of their lives in reasonable comfort and with dignity.
Clauses 8 and 9 deal with the annuities that can be paid to a former Governor-General. If a person dies after ceasing to hold office, his or her spouse or partner is entitled to an annuity at half the previous yearly rate until he or she dies. When former Governors-General pass away, their spouses will still be provided for. It will not be at the same rate; it is obviously at half the rate they would have received were the former Governor-General still alive.
An important point here is that if the Governor-General dies whilst still in office, which is a possibility, his or her spouse or partner is entitled on the date of death to an annuity at half the rate that would have been paid to the Governor-General had the Governor-General resigned. Unlike the annuity for the Governor-General, this one comes into effect straight away, because the spouse will not get the 6-month payment on leaving office that a Governor-General receives when he or she leaves office. This annuity kicks in straight away. That provision is important because it recognises the contribution of the spouse, which can be quite significant. Governors-General’s spouses do a lot of ceremonial work. They represent New Zealand. It is a significant role in its own right. So allowing for an annuity to be paid to that person, should his or her partner die, is really important. It modernises, I guess, the legislation relating to annuities for former Governors-General.
Clauses 13 and 14, which I may have an opportunity to talk about a little further down the track, deal with the funding for the Governor-General’s programme.
JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki)
: The Governor-General Bill seeks to repeal and replace Part 1 of the Civil List Act 1979 with some updated financial arrangements that are concerned with the Governor-General’s salary and things like allowances for the travel expenses of the Governor-General and the Administrator of the Government. This bill would make the financial arrangements for the support of the Governor-General and his or her programme more transparent and simpler to administer. It also
intends to remove the tax exemption from the Governor-General’s salary. This will not affect the constitutional position of the Governor-General.
In speaking to Part 1 during this Committee stage, I note that clause 5 provides for the payment to the Governor-General of a salary at a rate determined by the Remuneration Authority, with the proviso that the salary of the Governor-General must not be reduced during the Governor-General’s term of office. The bill also provides, in clause 6, for the payment to the Governor-General of an allowance for official expenses, which is to be set at a fixed rate by Order in Council. Those provisions are contained in Part 1, clauses 5 and 6. Noting that the rate for the allowance may be changed up or down, and noting the important position that the Governor-General has in New Zealand society, we consider that the allowance for official expenses is well covered in this bill. Clause 7 in Part 1 provides for the payment of a gross lump sum to a person who ceases to hold office as Governor-General, which is to be equivalent to the gross salary payable for the last 6 months that the person held office. That is provided for in clause 7.
Clause 8 in Part 1 provides for the payment of an annuity to a person who has held office as Governor-General at a yearly rate determined by the Remuneration Authority. The annuity is payable from the date 6 months after the person ceased to hold office. Clause 9 is interesting and was a not contentious but well-discussed part of the bill. It provides that if a Governor-General dies after ceasing to hold office, the surviving spouse or partner of that person must be paid an annuity at half the yearly rate at which an annuity would have been payable to the person under clause 8—the clause I have just described—if that person had not died. However, if a Governor-General dies while holding office, the bill provides that the surviving spouse or partner of the Governor-General must be paid an annuity at half the yearly rate at which the annuity would have been payable to that person under clause 8 had he or she resigned from the office on the date of death.
Moving on to clause 10 in Part 1, the bill provides for compensation to be paid where the superannuation rights of a person appointed to the office of Governor-General, or the superannuation rights of a spouse or partner of that person, are adversely affected because of the appointment, and where an appointee has entered into a written agreement with the Minister of Finance before taking up the office of Governor-General for such compensation to be paid.
I just note at this point that although Part 1 might seem to be slightly dry in nature, it is very important—
Chris Hipkins: Oh, no!
Dr Rajen Prasad: It’s exciting!
JACQUI DEAN: —it is important to the members of the Government Administration Committee, I can assure those members—because it underlines the purpose of this bill, which is to bring up to date conditions relating to the remuneration of the Governor-General and other conditions of that office. With those few words of contribution, I commend this stage of the bill to the Committee.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I will quote from the Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the president of the Law Commission. When he presented a report on this bill, the Governor-General Bill, in December 2009, he stated: “We need a new statute to reflect the nature of the modern office of Governor-General. The office is vitally important to New Zealand’s Constitution. The Office of Governor-General is an important symbol of our nation. The Governor-General stands above political differences to provide a sense of national unity and identity.” That is why members on this side of the Chamber support this bill. It is a modest but useful step in the direction of modernising the arrangements of the office of Governor-General.
There are many useful elements in this bill that we have begun to discuss. But I have to say that I am struck by the bankrupt and contradictory impulses that are driving the National Government’s approach to issues of national identity and the office of Governor-General. I say that because this is the Government, led by John Key, that is bringing back knights and dames and bringing back Queen’s Counsel. Any moment I expect that we will have medieval jousting—
Hone Harawira: “Sir Shane Jones” sounds pretty good to me.
PHIL TWYFORD: —on the forecourt of Parliament. I expect we will see Mr Hone Harawira being transported into this House in a gold-encrusted carriage, pulled by white horses. Nothing would surprise me, given this Government’s fondness for medieval regalia.
On the one hand, a bill has come to the House from the Government Administration Committee to modernise the office of Governor-General and to sort out the arrangements and make them more transparent, to provide clarity around the payment of annuities, and so on. On the other hand, the Government is festooning our national Parliament with medieval regalia that I thought we had got rid of 200 years ago. At the same time, we find that the Prime Minister is besotted with the trappings of our colonial heritage but, simultaneously, he goes on to a morning television talk show and completely fails to defend the person and the office of Governor-General against some of the most racist and offensive attacks on the office of Governor-General that I have seen in my lifetime. I think the inability of the Prime Minister to open his mouth and defend Anand Satyanand, our Governor-General, against a gutter attack shows that the motives behind the clauses that we are debating in Part 1 are an inch deep.
Government members are quite happy to warble on about annuities and the arrangements for sums payable after the Governor-General leaves office, but they cannot find it in themselves to speak from the heart and defend our Governor-General when he is the subject of the most baseless and scurrilous attack by Paul Henry on
Breakfast, who questioned whether our current Governor-General looks and sounds like a New Zealander.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I have motioned to the member to stay within the scope of Part 1. Yes, we have a tradition that members can use examples, but the member needs to relate his examples to some clause or some aspect of the bill. This is not a general debate.
PHIL TWYFORD: I was simply trying to make the point that Part 1 sets out some modest but useful provisions that will modernise the arrangements around the office of Governor-General, and that bring some clarity and transparency to the payment of salary and to the definition of family. It is important that we do have clarity and transparency about those arrangements.
It is appropriate that the Remuneration Authority is tasked with setting the level of remuneration for the Governor-General. It is important that there is clarity and transparency, and one of the reasons is that the Governor-General, because of the office that he or she holds, is unable to defend himself or herself. We do not want the individual who is holding office engaging in political debate.
JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa)
: I would like to speak on Part 1 of the Governor-General Bill, which is before the Committee this afternoon, and draw particular attention to clause 3, which states that “the Bill binds the Crown.” When one reads through the bill, at various parts in clause 4, “Interpretation”, in clause 5, “Salary of Governor-General”, and in clause 6, “Allowance of Governor-General”, one sees a very clear linkage between the role of the Prime Minister and the role of the Governor-General in setting terms and conditions. That is why I think this Committee should feel very concerned about the possibility of Mr Goff ever getting near the Prime Minister
role. Mr Goff waited for 2 hours after the comments that the previous speaker, Phil Twyford, referred to were made, and then he said, in the context of the Act binding the Crown and as is set out in Part 1, that it was Paul Henry being Paul Henry. He was not being asked—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I have asked members to debate Part 1. We can use examples, but this is not a general debate. I ask members to confine their remarks to Part 1 of the bill.
JOHN HAYES: I thought that I was confining my comments to Part 1. It is important, because clause 6 states: “The Governor-General must be paid an allowance, at a rate fixed from time to time by Order in Council, for official expenses.” That involves a very close relationship between the Prime Minister and the Governor-General.
I think that our Governor-General is doing a really good job, but at the moment the office of Governor-General is handicapped because many of the allowances paid to him are consumed in doing his job. Clause 6 is really important because we are going to split that arrangement out, so that the Governor-General is paid a clearly defined amount to cover many of the costs of his office.
I also think it is very important, as one of the earlier speakers said, to draw attention to the fact that although the Governor-General is getting an annuity for a period of 6 months, under Part 1, once he has resigned, the fact is that under the present arrangement no tax is paid by the Governor-General. The purpose of this part of the bill, which was considered by the Government Administration Committee, was simply to make an adjustment allowing for the fact that in future the Governor-General will have to pay tax on the amount of allowance that he receives as an annuity at the point of his departure from office. It is a bit rough and ready, but it was a way of trying to accommodate the difference between a tax-free salary and a tax-paid salary. If a Government were ever to come into this Parliament and wanted to put up the top rate to 47.5 percent and impose that as a new upper tax rate, that would roughly equate to 3 months of the Governor-General’s 6-month annuity.
This is a very good adjustment to the Governor-General’s terms and conditions. With those words, together with the fact that this legislation was unanimously agreed to by the select committee, there is no real need for me to add further to the comments. I support the bill accordingly.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
: I am taking a call following the previous speaker, John Hayes, who, wearing his dapper little bow tie, is obviously auditioning for a future role as Governor-General. I do not know whether it will do the trick!
There is a need to tidy up the rules relating to the remuneration allowances of the Governor-General. I will raise two examples that show the need for the changes outlined in Part 1. The first relates to the fact that the rules are so old—and someone might have already mentioned that earlier, while I was out of the Chamber—they currently entitle the Governor-General, upon appointment, to a sailing trip from old Blighty. The Governor-General currently is entitled to a sailing trip between the United Kingdom and New Zealand. I am not sure whether it is one trip a year, but anyway it is ridiculous. That entitlement is well outmoded, and we no longer have any need for that allowance that still sits within the existing provisions.
The other provision goes the other way. It concerns a Governor-General who, by Paul Henry’s rating, would have been a real New Zealander. A previous Governor-General used to run a car importing business, and relied upon his—and it was a male Governor-General—exemption from income tax and import duty. He repeatedly imported a large number of vehicles from overseas and resold them in New Zealand. This was some time ago when New Zealand imposed very high tariffs on imported
vehicles, particularly high-end English Jaguars and suchlike, which he was importing from the United Kingdom. He supplemented his stipend by importing vehicles and repeatedly flogging them off in New Zealand. He had a car sales business on the side, which was tax-free because of his status as Governor-General. Clearly, that was not a very good way to run the affairs of the Governor-General. We need to stop that sort of thing happening again in the future, by making it clear that the salary and allowances paid to the Governor-General are, in appropriate circumstances—the salary at least—taxable. The sort of thing we have seen in the past should not happen again.
The office of Governor-General is a high office. It is very important that we have proper rules in relation to the operation of the office of Governor-General. The Governor-General’s office sits as a very important part of our constitutional affairs. The Governor-General is the representative of Her Majesty the Queen of New Zealand, who is the titular head of New Zealand. The Governor-General is bound by various traditions, protocols, and conventions as to how he or she acts. The Governor-General acts generally on the recommendation of the Government of the day through the Executive Council, which effectively makes recommendations to the Governor-General about what regulations should be passed. The Governor-General also signs into law, by giving the Royal assent on behalf of the Queen, legislation that is passed by this House.
The important constitutional role that the Governor-General fulfils ought to be properly administered and properly paid. The rules about payment ought to be clear. That is what Part 1 makes clear, by setting out the salary that is properly payable. It also sets out the annuity that is payable to former Governors-General upon their retirement—how that annuity carries on to the surviving spouse of a former Governor-General, and when those sorts of things arise and when they stop—and the other sorts of allowances that are payable to Governors-General.
I ask the Minister in the chair, the Hon Phil Heatley, if he can recall the instance that I spoke of, in relation to a previous Governor-General. The name, if he wants a hint, began with B. The Governor-General whose name began with B had an import business on the side. He imported large numbers of cars and sold them at a profit. He may have been using that business in part to fund the office of Governor-General, but he may also have been personally profiting. I am not sure where the truth lies! None the less—
John Hayes: A lawyer, was he?
Hon DAVID PARKER: He may well have been a lawyer. In fact, he may bear the same name as another lawyer who got into trouble for other judicial matters.
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central)
: I am pleased to speak on the Governor-General Bill. Firstly, I acknowledge the previous speaker, David Parker. I reiterate that it is very important, given that this is such a high office, that we have transparency in this area. We are here debating this bill because the Law Commission made a number of recommendations in the area of transparency, which the Government Administration Committee in this bill picked up. One of the recommendations of the Law Commission was that the provisions in the Civil List Act were very old-fashioned and unnecessarily complicated, and no longer supported what we needed, which is a much more modern office of Governor-General.
There are two main provisions that I want to touch on in Part 1 that really focus on greater transparency. The current situation is that the Governor-General’s personal allowance pays for a variety of official functions, which we believe would be more appropriately provided within a separate appropriation. Some of the political discussion brought up by previous speakers really emphasised the need to have a separate appropriation. The office is one of the highest in the land and it is really important that we can see what is being spent by the Governor-General and what may be being spent
in an official capacity in terms of events. A key part of Part 1 is about separating out that appropriation.
The second provision, which has been mentioned by a number of speakers, is about the fact that at present the Governor-General’s salary is exempt from income tax. We know that the Queen started paying income tax in 1993. We also know that the Australian Governor-General and state governors have paid income tax since 2001. That was not something the last Labour Government chose to pick up, but I am pleased that we will be putting that through under this Government to ensure—I reiterate Chris Hipkins’ comments—a much more egalitarian situation. I think those are the two key provisions in the bill. There are obviously also other provisions around annuities.
I will make a couple of final comments. I believe the current Governor-General is doing a fantastic job. This bill will not be relevant to this Governor-General, because it will kick in in August 2011. I think our country can be proud that we have had a really diverse range of people who have held that office. They have come from a variety of professions. I think it is really important that through this legislation we are updating the arrangements and putting in a much more modern regime, a more transparent regime. That, ultimately, will ensure that the person who holds the office of Governor-General will be able to do so in a way that is both transparent and egalitarian, for the benefit of the people of New Zealand.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I rise to follow on from the speech made by Nikki Kaye. She talked about the issue of transparency. The Greens are very much in favour of transparency, and it is good that the Governor-General Bill is introducing somewhat more transparency in terms of the payments of the Governor-General, annuities, and the rest of it. It is also good that we are laying out how the Remuneration Authority, an independent body, will determine such matters in the future.
I think that if we want to have proper transparency, that transparency has to go across the board. I say in response to the suggestion in the debate earlier today that there be more transparency in the actual nomination for Governor-General to go to the Queen—or King, perhaps, at a later point—that that process is not as transparent as I think Nikki Kaye would like. When a nomination goes off to the Queen, how are we to know what factors are being taken into consideration? It is all done in the deep, dark corners of the ninth floor of the Beehive, I think.
Certainly, the Green Party has never been consulted on who should be the Governor-General, and because that lacks transparency and proper accountability, there is good reason to think that if we are to make transparency in appointment parallel with transparency in remuneration—which this bill is going down the road to improving—then we have to have some process whereby it is all out in the open, names come before Parliament, and Parliament determines, in one way or another, which candidate nomination it comes up with is to go to the Queen, in a democratic and much more transparent process. My Supplementary Order Paper, which unfortunately was not able to come before the Committee of the whole House, would have addressed that.
The other point in relation to annuities is that clause 8 talks about annuities being paid at a yearly rate determined from time to time by the Remuneration Authority for each complete year, not exceeding 5 years. So the annuities very definitely relate to the length of service of the Governor-General. It would be much more transparent if we had in legislation a fixed term for the Governor-General so that the Remuneration Authority did not have to guess how long each newly appointed Governor-General might serve, and what the Government might determine their length of service to be. If there was a fixed term, the Remuneration Authority would know exactly where it stood in determining those annuities. I think that it is a pity that the second part of my
Supplementary Order Paper is not coming before the Committee. It would have straightened out that and made it much easier for the Remuneration Authority.
It may be that the Remuneration Authority decides to reduce some of the annuities because we are in rather tight times. It may well decide that 6 months’ redundancy pay amounting to $96,000 and a $62,000 annuity for Governors-General for the rest of their lives is a little bit excessive. It may not, of course, but I think we should consider that matter. We do not want to spend huge amounts on Governors-General. We do not want them to feel too much privilege; we want Governors-General to be ordinary people who can reflect society.
It is great that we have such a person in Anand Satyanand. As Governor-General he reflects many New Zealanders. I think it is important that Governors-General do not receive too great a remuneration and annuity, because they may think the job puts them up with the elite in our society and not in a job where they deal with ordinary people in their daily lives. The fact that Governors-General go around the country opening bowling clubs, and all the rest of it, brings them into contact with ordinary people, and I think that their remuneration and annuities should be commensurate with those tasks. The tasks are not heavily political on a day-to-day basis, although Governors-General play a very important constitutional role, particularly in our MMP system.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I am pleased to take a call on Part 1 of the Governor-General Bill. I agree with a previous speaker, Nikki Kaye, that the present Governor-General is doing a great job. That is the feeling of people around the country. I am really pleased to share a nationality with the Governor-General and that is the nationality of being a New Zealander, which is great. The provisions of Part 1 require an understanding of the role of Governor-General and they make sense when one understands what the role entails. The Governor-General has to be a person with extensive experience in diverse fields in New Zealand. Certainly, all modern Governors-General have had that background, and the role is that of no ordinary person. More often than not the person is a professional and has tremendous experience. It would be a person of great mana and understanding. It would be someone who commands great respect throughout New Zealand.
When we understand the role from that perspective, we understand the provisions of Part 1. Governors-General have to forgo their former careers when they are appointed to the position, so there is no chance at all of returning to those careers. The present Governor-General had been a judge and an Ombudsman. There is no chance of his ever going back to those types of paid, public positions. Undertaking any paid office generally of that type in New Zealand would not be possible. When we look at the provisions of Part 1 from that perspective, they make a lot of sense. The other aspect is that Governors-General often cannot defend themselves against criticism. Speaking as a former Race Relations Conciliator, I certainly would have immediately defended the Governor-General and criticised Paul Henry’s criticism of him. I would not have waited until later on.
Perhaps the one aspect of clause 4 that I find particularly satisfying is the definition of “family member”. It really shows an appreciation of the modern family. It shows that Governors-General could take different family forms, and there should be no discrimination on the basis of the type of family. Therefore, the definition of “family member” modernises the term and brings it into currency. That is a good thing for families in New Zealand. It reflects the reality of family life and the various forms of families that exist in New Zealand.
Clause 5 talks about a paid salary for the Governor-General. That is the first use of the term “salary” in respect of a Governor-General. It is a payment for a particular job. The salary will be determined by the Remuneration Authority—our highest authority. A
group of independent people will think about this role, size it, and determine the salary that fits the role. That will modernise the role in terms of how we treat it by way of remuneration. It is good that the salary cannot be reduced during the term of a Governor-General, and that protection is certainly required. Clause 6 separates the allowances from being part of the current remuneration package, if you like, of the Governor-General. The allowance part of it is not taxable; the allowance is simply what it costs the Governor-General to satisfy the role that is undertaken. Clause 8 talks about an annuity for former Governors-General.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour)
: Kia ora anō tātou. It is a pleasure to stand and comment on the Governor-General Bill, and to follow my colleague, who has developed a sudden interest in ensuring that equity is applied to this role. We heard a very impoverished view from a colleague in the Green Party, in contrast to an almost groupie-like speech from the member for Auckland Central, with her sudden-found enthusiasm for the Governor-General and the trappings associated with that role. The level of enthusiasm heard from her was inversely related to the subject matter.
However, I direct our attention to clause 5, “Salary of Governor-General”. I hope we will hear a response, or perhaps witness a contribution—lucid, coherent, and inversely related to the man’s name—from Minister Heatley, the Minister in the chair, about what exactly the Remuneration Authority will do, and what criteria it will follow, in composing a suitable salary package for that august individual, the Governor-General. The Remuneration Authority will quantify the salary and allowance. I will not cover the annuity at this stage. That can come later because this will be a long night, and this topic is very, very large, deep, and prodigious, and it goes to the heart of our democracy. It will require, I should imagine, at least a 4 or 5-hour series of contributions, given that our colleague, the tangata whenua from Wainuiōmata, will be back shortly—he may be away, but I am sure he will be back—to continue our contributions.
One has to think what this person—if I can use the abbreviated term “GG”—has to put up with in order to qualify for a very handsome salary. Others have spoken about the danger faced when this individual goes overseas, and whether the Remuneration Authority will take account of the epithets, slurs, and very, very cruel remarks made not necessarily about the conduct that he might be showing in that formal role but his inherited, ancestral qualities—ethnicity, and other sorts of things. I think the Remuneration Authority will have to take account of the sorts of insults and deprecating behaviour that he will receive from whoever may be the Prime Minister at that point of time. The Remuneration Authority has every entitlement to take account of the kinds of hazards that this individual will have to tolerate.
From time to time this individual—I will not say “poor” individual, but I will say “overworked” individual—will have to turn up at Waitangi. I know, having heard from the august member from Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, that members of the executive can be attacked at Waitangi. [Interruption] The man says that his finger was bitten and he pointed perilously towards Mr Harawira—but that is another debate. The Remuneration Authority will have to take account of the fact that when the Governor-General ventures beyond the harbour bridge, and closes his or her eyes in walking through the wreckage of what is currently known as the super-city—which is soon to be fixed up by us, and which will receive the Royal assent of the Governor-General in good time—and goes to Te Tiriti o Waitangi grounds, that man or woman will be confronted by elements associated with the Māori Party, which will deserve a definite, additional pay scale. Not only will the Governor-General have to deal with political perils as he or she moves closer and closer to the ever-diminishing number of Mr Harawira’s supporters—
Hon Member: Relatives.
Hon SHANE JONES: —his nephews; we should not talk about whānau—and in moving north have to confront them, but the Remuneration Authority must take account of how the Governor-General performs the royal duties at the Te Tiriti o Waitangi grounds and upholds the honour of the Crown, and does that in the face of slur, attack, and menace by the Prime Minister of the country, as we have witnessed recently. In addition, it is important that we give some thought to this person, and his or her partner, on remuneration matters.
CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South)
: Labour supports the Governor-General Bill because, as previous Labour speakers have pointed out, the previous Labour Government asked the Law Commission to look into the funding arrangements for the Governor-General, which is the substance of Part 1 of this bill. We are pleased that the commission’s findings are being implemented in full.
Labour welcomes discussion about New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements, and a bill about one of the most important figures in our constitutional arrangements is a good opportunity for that. It is good to start with a focus on streamlining the financial arrangements of the Governor-General. Labour members are always keen to hear people’s views about the future of our constitution, a keenness we have shown through voting for Keith Locke’s Head of State Referenda Bill at first reading to go to a select committee, and by moves to encourage debate about the New Zealand flag.
I do not think that anyone is in any doubt about my support for New Zealand having its own head of State. I would also like to put on record my great deal of sympathy for Supplementary Order Paper 173, put forward by my colleague in the Greens Keith Locke. We absolutely need to have a public debate about the length of the Governor-General’s term, and also about the role of the Governor-General and how that might change, but that debate must occur in select committee and in other public forums, where the public has adequate opportunities to put forward its views.
We have also shown our support for constitutional discussion—apart from our support for Part 1 of the bill about funding arrangements for the Governor-General—through our active participation in a recent constitutional conference in Wellington, where several present and past Labour members of Parliament talked freely about the importance and inevitability of constitutional change in New Zealand. Interestingly, the Government’s participation in that conference was fairly minimal, with only Simon Power participating. He restricted his views to MMP reform and did not address the wider constitutional issues. Labour, however, was ably represented by Charles Chauvel. We also heard from the former Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, who laid out a clear road map for New Zealand to become a republic. He talked about the need—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): We are confining this debate to Part 1. If the member is giving examples, she must relate them to some portion of Part 1. This is not a general debate.
CLARE CURRAN: He talked about the need to at least make a start on the law changes required so that we can get ready to elect our own head of State. Although this bill introduces the concept of constitutional change, it does not exactly light one’s fire. It does deal with some important issues, in particular egalitarianism and equality—both of opportunity and of responsibility—which have always been core Labour values, along with fairness. Certainly, the removal of the Governor-General’s tax exemption, which will be discussed in relation to the next part of the bill, is an important symbol of the fundamental equality that New Zealand is built on and that we hold dear.
The particular clauses that we are addressing in Part 1 of the bill are clause 4, which clarifies the definition of “family member”; clause 5, which sets out salaries; and clauses 8 and 9, which talk about the annuity paid to the Governor-General after leaving office. There is also an important clause, I think, recognising the Governor-General’s
spouse if the Governor-General dies after ceasing to hold office. That is a very important clause, because it values the role that the spouse of the Governor-General plays.
We note that this bill promotes transparency. It will also modernise the old-fashioned language found in the parts of the Civil List Act relating to the Governor-General, which will also be considered in Part 2. Of course, we welcome discussion about any legislation based on transparency, modernity, openness, and the upholding of ethical standards and principles as the cornerstones of democracy, because that is the kind of party that Labour is, in contrast to the Government, which seems to have as its modus operandi a habit of saying one thing to one audience and something completely different to another. I will refer to a comment made by my colleague Trevor Mallard during his speech on the second reading of this bill.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: There are a few more points that I want to make on Part 1 of the Governor-General Bill, and I express my delight at some of the provisions in it. Clause 7 needs some explanation and the Minister in the chair, Phil Heatley, might like take a call to explain it in a little more detail. There has been reference in the
Dominion Post to the provision paying a lump sum to the Governor-General after leaving office.
At the current time, the amount paid on leaving office is equivalent to 3 months’ salary. This legislation extends that amount to 6 months’ salary to make it equivalent to the original amount, allowing for the introduction of taxation on the Governor-General’s salary. There has been some cynical reference in the
to that increase, because the increase from 3 months’ salary to 6 months’ salary equates to a taxation rate of 50 percent. Perhaps the Minister in the chair might like to explain that a little.
Clause 9 talks about an annuity for a spouse or partner of former Governors-Generalwhen they leave office. I think that is a particularly important provision. God forbid that a Governor-General dies in office, but if that happens, it is good to know that clause 9 makes provision for an annuity that would take care of the spouse. A spouse of a Governor-General, having a position of that type, with much exposure and very little else to return to, requires that type of protection as well.
The annuity paid to the Governor-General is also well reflected here and the provisions are appropriate. People might want to consider why it is important to have clause 10, which addresses the fact that a Governor-General may lose superannuation rights accrued elsewhere. Perhaps the Minister in the chair might like to explain that provision a little. I understand that if a Governor-General has superannuation rights prior to becoming the Governor-General, those rights may be affected in the future as a result of taking up the position. So there should be no loss in those rights, and it requires some special provision. Clause 10 makes sure that there is no financial loss to the Governor-General in respect of superannuation rights gathered somewhere else through extensive service in a different capacity. So clause 10 takes care of that.
Clause 12 makes permanent appropriations for salary, allowances, and annuities. It regularises this and brings in the final element that is important to have in place with a stand-alone bill of this nature with all of those provisions.
The role of a Governor-General, such as it is, requires a special person with an extensive background, who will not have the ability to return to normal life, if you like. It is very satisfying to see that the provisions of Part 1 are so clearly stated and take care of a number of the demands of the role. Part 1 addresses what the Governor-General forfeits in taking up the role, which, in this case, he will not be able to return to. Therefore, the provisions in Part 1 are appropriate for that particular purpose.
Just to underscore again, the one satisfying part for me is the way in which the Governor-General’s family is defined in modern terms. The provisions around the spouse are also appropriate. With those words, I conclude my comments on Part 1.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I was very interested in Clare Curran’s excellent speech. She talked about our egalitarianism, and I think we should always bear in mind that our nation is built on a feeling that we are all the same in terms of rights and in terms of status, and that no one person is superior to another. It goes back to our early pioneer history, the whole bicultural nature of our nation, and that intersection of destinies. It goes through the great reforms of the 1930s under the first Labour Government, etc. I think that is very much part of our history.
In some ways this bill is in that tradition of egalitarianism, overcoming the history of the monarchy—and its expression through the Governor-General of New Zealand—as being somehow superior, richer, and not subject to taxation, etc. This bill is making a very good move to reflect that egalitarianism.
One particular half-sentence in this bill grates a bit against that egalitarian tradition, and that is in clause 11, “Payments in respect of other benefits and privileges”. Clause 11(1) states: “The terms of the appointment of a person as Governor-General may include an agreement for that person and his or her spouse or partner to be provided with specified benefits or privileges by way of payments in respect of domestic travel and the use of chauffeured cars when he or she no longer holds office as Governor-General.”
I think the first part of that subclause is OK—it talks about agreement on benefits appropriate to the situation—but not the last bit about the use of chauffeured cars when he or she no longer holds office as Governor-General. Firstly, why do we have to have that level of specificity in legislation; and, secondly, is that not grating against the egalitarian tradition? I sat next to Sir Paul Reeves on the plane coming from Auckland to Wellington this morning. He is a very humble chap. I cannot speak for him, but I am sure that several former Governors-General would not say that they have to have written in legislation the use of chauffeured cars when they want them for the rest of their lives.
Look at the era we are in now. We are in an era where we have a Green mayor of Wellington who rides a bicycle. She is setting the standard, and I am sure that when she retires after several terms as mayor of Wellington she will not demand the right to have a chauffeur-driven car in Wellington. Perhaps she will demand the right to have her bicycle serviced periodically, or something like that.
So why should the provision about chauffeured cars be written into the legislation? I have not actually written out an amendment—I should have done that—but I think the Committee should remove this particular provision. I cannot speak for Anand Satyanand, but he seems to be a pretty humble chap, as well. [Interruption] My good colleague has indicated that he is a fellow New Zealander along with Sir Anand, so he would know a lot about these things.
Hon Member: He looks like one.
KEITH LOCKE: Yes.
Phil Twyford: He sounds like one.
KEITH LOCKE: Yes.
Dr Rajen Prasad: He must be one.
KEITH LOCKE: That is right. I thought I would just bring up that point, because the whole history of the monarchy, if we go way back through the centuries, which we are starting to get beyond—and there have been speeches on that—is a history of privilege. The monarch is up there, above us, and in fact the more wealth and privilege
the monarch has, the more he or she deemed to qualify to be a monarch, whereas we live in the very opposite form of society—an egalitarian society.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour)
: I rise to speak on the enormously important Part 1 of the Governor-General Bill. I note—and I would like to hear from the Minister in the chair, the Minister of Defence—that the bill’s definition of “family member” includes a child who is under 18 years of age. I would like it noted that I have yet to discover a member of the Māori community who has a child over 18 who is independent and no longer in need of either patronage or financial succour from their parents. I must say, before I continue in a more serious vein, that I think it is very bad form that Mr Bakshi stood without contributing to this debate.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): The member cannot do that.
Hon SHANE JONES: I was just noting that I am looking for a comprehensive level of participation from the other side of the Chamber in this matter.
I want to move our attention towards an annuity for former Governors-General. I will recount some of these former Governors-General. I recall Sir Keith Holyoake arriving—I think the year was 1978 or 1979; my whanaunga Hone Harawira will attest to that—at the Waitangi Marae waiting to be welcomed, and the Ngāpuhi Governor-General Dun Mīhaka delivering a royal salute.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Come back to the bill.
Hon SHANE JONES: I am talking about former Governors-General, and whether the level of the annuity is appropriate for the travails and the hazards that these men and women during their time had to tolerate. However, I will move on from “Kiwi Keith”.
I am also following up because the name Sir Paul Reeves was mentioned. He is a former Governor-General, a man whom I, Parekura Horomia, and a host of others regard as having great mana, because before he became the Governor-General he was our bishop. That role gave him a suitable level of preparation, which is why both the allowances and the annuities need to be appropriate to the breadth and the difficulty of the role that that man and these people have had to endure. There was lots of very strong Treaty-based preparation for that particular individual.
The name of an additional former Governor-General was alluded to but not enunciated in relation to certain commercial activities. I do not think that that person needs an annuity. I am not entirely sure whether his family still are the beneficiaries of the Civil List entitlements.
We have had several fine female Governors-General, and Parekura Horomia and I had occasion to meet one of them recently while she was back from South-east Asia. Whatever has been allocated to that particular individual, she has earned it. We need to pay a great deal of attention to that particular portion of the bill, because that person has gone on to represent our nation fantastically in a host of different venues and positions.
I think I should draw our attention to clause 10, whose heading contains the words “adversely affected superannuation rights”. That expression has enormous resonance; in fact, it animates all over New Zealand. I do not think that anyone of any seriousness would actually decry or want to reduce what the Governor-General may or may not be entitled to enjoy through a superannuation regime. If only such entitlements, charity, or foresight were spread around in general public policy.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: It is a pleasure to take my first call on this Governor-General Bill—
Hon Member: First call?
GRANT ROBERTSON:—first call, that is right—which is a very important bill, as my colleague Shane Jones just stated.
We are talking about people who in our system play both a very important ceremonial role—and I think most of us are very aware of the ceremonial role of the
Governor-General—but also, as we know, a constitutional role that, although controversial for many in this Committee, is no doubt important.
When I look at Part 1, it says to me that democracy is not cheap. I think that when we look at this bill and work our way through the clauses in it, we see that there is a range of costs associated with being Governor-General, and that is as it should be. If we are going to have somebody in our society who is the head of state, and they have, as I said, a ceremonial role that takes them all over New Zealand and all over the world representing New Zealand and New Zealanders, as well as undertaking their constitutional role, then it is very important that we are able to resource that role well.
One of the criticisms levelled at republicanism is all of the cost associated with moving to a republic, but I think that this bill actually shows us that there is plenty of cost involved in being the Governor-General. When we look, for instance, at clauses 6, 7, and 8 we begin to see what the allowance of the Governor-General is. As I said, the allowance that somebody should be paid to undertake this role is quite reasonable, but it is expensive.
With regard to the annuity for former Governors-General, which I think is something that Mr Jones mentioned just before, it is sometimes hard for people to see why somebody who is a former Governor-General—who has undertaken the role but has now moved to another role in life—is still being paid. But the annuity is in recognition of the status of the role. I certainly respect what Keith Locke had to say in his intervention about whether references in clause 11 to chauffeur-driven cars are appropriate in an egalitarian New Zealand. I think that sometimes the phrase “chauffeur-driven car”—with all due respect to Ministerial Services and VIP drivers—makes it a little bit bigger than it really is. It is in fact a service that is given to Ministers. In this case I respect the fact that former Governors-General will have the continuing respect of New Zealand society by having that particular travel service provided to them.
It is true that this bill shows us that it is not cheap for us to retain the form of democracy that we have. We need to openly acknowledge that fact here in the Committee, and say that this bill, and Part 1 of this bill in particular, is about recognising those costs and putting them in an orderly way. From that point of view, I am certainly a strong supporter of the idea of the Governor-General, after this bill passes, paying some form of taxation. If it is good enough for the Queen, then it is good enough for the Governor-General. If it is good enough for Dr Prasad, then it is good enough for the Governor-General. If it is good enough for me, then it is good enough for the Governor-General. I am not sure about whether some of National’s mates are paying tax. But if it is good enough for the Governor-General to pay tax, then I hope that National members will be looking around and perhaps talking to some of their wealthy benefactors, and making sure that they take the opportunity to pay their tax, as well.
The role of the Governor-General is protected in this bill. I will refer specifically to some clauses that I do not think have had much discussion today, in relation to the Governor-General’s programme under clauses 13 and 14. In particular, I refer to the notion that the Governor-General is now essentially being de-linked from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Certainly up to this time the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has had a key role in overseeing the Governor-General’s office. I guess that that came about as a result of people trying to find a place to locate the Governor-General, given that he or she stands a little outside the normal departmental framework.
It is now clear from the bill that the Governor-General’s programme is being de-linked from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I think that is something
a Minister would want to take a call on, in order to be absolutely clear for us on what now will occur when the Governor-General’s programme is separated out. That will put a great deal more responsibility on to the Governor-General’s staff, and on to the offices that support the Governor-General, to ensure that they are in fact continuing to operate in line with all of the things that we would expect from a public office. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has been able to play the role of linking people with the service of the Government; I think it is important that that can continue in one form or another, so perhaps a Minister might like to tell us how that would occur.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: Continuing from my colleague, I note the deep interest that the senior Minister in charge of the Governor-General Bill is paying to this debate, and his reluctance so far to answer the specific questions that I have been listening to. I will add a series of questions. The first question relates to clause 11(2). I ask whether there is any similar arrangement for current Governors-General, or the current Governor-General—
Phil Twyford: Governors-General?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: —no, no, we can have only one at a time—at a specific point in time, and whether there is an obligation to set out in the financial statements of the Department of Internal Affairs the arrangements that have been made for a Governor-General while he or she is in office. I think that is an important issue, and I hope the officials are writing a note for the Minister in the chair, the Hon Phil Heatley, in order for him to answer the question.
If we are to have transparency in the arrangements for former Governors-General, I ask whether we are to have transparency in the arrangements for the Governor-General at a specific time. My view is that until now, it has been pretty easy to work out the arrangements for a Governor-General, but this legislation appears to take away that area of transparency. It may be that, under clause 10, someone can get some compensation for the period that he or she is Governor-General. I am looking in particular at clause 10(2), which indicates that the Minister of Finance and a person who is to be appointed as Governor-General can enter into what is effectively a remuneration contract, especially the superannuation part of the remuneration arrangement, for the Governor-General. Do we call the person the Governor-General designate?
Grant Robertson: Yes.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Except that person is not quite that, because if the deal is not made, then presumably the appointment would not be announced. But the proposed Governor-General and the Minister of Finance have to have a discussion. It is very clear in clause 11(2) that the result of that arrangement has to be made public. But under clause 10(2), I cannot see where there is an obligation to be transparent. Because people generally pick people who are nice people and whom they are close to, there is always some danger of there being a sweetheart deal in this sort of arrangement.
I think that the taxpayer would be well satisfied if there was transparency in this matter, and maybe even one of my colleagues is prepared to scribble words on a bit of paper that would make it clear that there is to be transparency. Even if the answer is a matter of a nod or a wink from the Minister in the chair, I ask whether the arrangements made under clause 10(2) of this legislation are to be made transparent. I am not getting any reaction at all from the Minister. I think it is an important question.
Until the current time, we have had transparency in the arrangements for Governors-General. Some of the arrangements that the Governor-General had in the past were a bit hidden away—the GST arrangements and, in the old days, the import duty arrangements—but I ask the Minister to react to this. Everyone agrees that this legislation is generally quite good, but I think this aspect is an issue. I am not asking the Minister to lose the Government’s position by taking a call on this; all I am asking him
to do is to indicate whether it is the intention of the Government to be transparent about the special superannuation arrangements.
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the question be now put.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 41; Green Party 9.
|Motion agreed to.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): We have an amendment in the name of Keith Locke to clause 11(1), to omit the words “and the use of chauffeured cars”. The question is that that amendment be agreed to. Those of that opinion will say Aye, to the contrary, No. The Noes have it. [Interruption] Let me make it very clear, because this has happened often in recent times. If a party wants a party vote, it must ask for a party vote. Just saying “Yea” or “Nay,” or “Yes” or “No”, does not mean that we will have a party vote. If members want a party vote, they must call for one.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. On that ruling, my question is whether only a party that is opposed to the ruling that you have made can call for a party vote, or whether any party can call for a party vote.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): That is a good question. My understanding is that any member with an opposing view has the right to be able to call for a party vote.
- The question was put that the following amendment in the name of Keith Locke to clause 11 be agreed to:
to omit from subclause (1) “and the use of chauffeured cars”.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the amendment be agreed to.
||Green Party 9.
||New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 41; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
|Amendment not agreed to.
Part 2 Miscellaneous provisions
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I will start by focusing on clause 16, which covers the first of these arrangements. I turn to the question of conflicting claims that was the subject of discussion in the second reading. Clause 16(1)(b) makes it clear that there is an ability to have a proportion of an annuity payable to more than one surviving spouse or partner of a former Governor-General.
John Hayes: Or children.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The member has raised another issue for me, which is the question of whether the arrangements in clause 10(2) could be in the form of an annuity that is not a lifetime annuity but an annuity that could be inheritable. I am
obliged to Mr Hayes for his interjection because I had not contemplated the possibility of something that is inheritable, other than in the circumstances of a spouse or partner being amongst the arrangements that could be made here. One of the questions I would like to ask the Minister—because we know that on occasions, for example, a lump-sum arrangement can be made for superannuation at the time of the death in office of a Governor-General—is whether it is possible that if the arrangements that have been made under clause 10(2) are then disputed under clause 16, a lump sum could be debated by children.
I must say that I would be relatively surprised if that was the case, because I think that clause 9 refers to spouses or partners of late Governors-General. I do not think it refers to children. But I do not know whether under clause 10(2) the type of superannuation arrangement that could be entered into would involve a lump sum that could then be disputed. Clause 16 would not cut the mustard for a dispute, because this is only for clause 9 disputes. This is a dispute around the annuity payable to a former spouse or partner. But if clause 10(2) covered a lump-sum arrangement, it could well be a single Governor-General, or someone whose wife or spouse or husband—sorry, I am being politically correct here—predeceased them, then if there is a dispute amongst the children or the other people who will be inheriting the money, the question is whether there is any role for a clause that is similar to clause 16, as clause 16 deals only with claims arising under section 9 of the Act.
I wonder whether instead of “entitled to an annuity” as provided for in section 9 of the Act, it might be worth introducing an amendment that states “or for an annuity pursuant to clause 10(2) where a lump sum is involved.” I think Simon Power would agree with me that it would be a little ugly if the children of a former Governor-General appeared before the High Court to dispute the will of a Governor-General, especially the part of the will that covered a lump-sum arrangement, which I think we have now agreed could arise from clause 10(2).
The question to the Minister of Justice—and I know he is avidly following this bill—is whether clause 16, “Conflicting claims”, should include a reference to clause 10(2), as well as to section 9 of the Act. I can see some members at the back of the Chamber shaking their heads, but so far no Minister has been able to explain to me why an arrangement, as set out in clause 10(2), could not include a lump sum. If it did include a lump sum and there were conflicting claims as to who that lump sum should be paid to, there should be a mechanism for sorting it out. As the Minister has provided for, clauses 16(1) and (2) essentially apportion the annuity in the case of there being multiple wives or partners, and I think that is fair. Generally, in the way that these things work, I hope that clause 16(1) will not be brought into play. I think having the authority to make the decision is important.
The next question is who the authorised person is, under this sort of arrangement. It is not clear from clause 16 who the authorised person is. My view is that it should not be a public servant. The idea of a serving public servant making a decision about the appropriate payments to be made to the wives of a former Governor-General is not appropriate. They could be wives seriatim, or they could be wives at the same time. We have had a discussion about the possibility of whether John Key and his moving this bill is taking a liberal view and looking to the future when we could have a Mormon Governor-General or a Muslim Governor-General. Such Governors-General could have a proper polygamist arrangement, according to the laws of the countries they have visited, lived in, or been married in. Although polygamy is not recognised in New Zealand law, I think many of us will be aware, through our constituency cases, of that sort—
John Hayes: Even our own cases.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not know—in fact, Tim Groser could be the one. The member’s friend Tim Groser was the one who had multiple Muslim marriages, but I do not know whether they were serial or concurrent. According to the law of the country that he was living in at the time, they could have been concurrent. So we might have a good example here. Tim Groser has the voice of a Governor-General—of the sort that I can remember from when I was a kid. If Tim Groser on some occasion became Governor-General would this clause be the one to sort out the claims of the wives, including serial and concurrent? However, leaving that aside, because I understand that there has been a change of faith and a change of relationships in that case, I ask whether it is the intention of the Government that clause 16 be used for that sort of arrangement.
The other question, which I think is an important one that we need to work through, is who the authorised person is. It is an answer that either Mr Hayes or Mr—what is his name?
Grant Robertson: Heatley.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Mr Heatley, who is currently acting Prime Minister—
Hon Phil Heatley: New member.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, he has been around a while; he is just slightly forgettable as to his name. If either of those members could advise who the authorised person is, that would be useful.
JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa)
: That speech by Trevor Mallard on the Governor-General Bill was 20 minutes of absolute nonsense. I refer the member to Part 2, clause 16(2), which states that if more than one person wants to claim part of the annuity then the total annuity can only be the amount payable to one person—the carrot can be cut only once. So it does not matter whether a person has 10 wives and 15 children, the amount is going to be the equivalent of only one annuity, which will be paid to whoever is entitled to it, and that is not for us to judge. All of the last 20 minutes was a total waste of this Committee’s time and if the member had looked at one little subclause he would have discovered that that was exactly the case. The second point of Part 2 is that it provides for an appeal if there is a squabble amongst people who feel they have a claim against the annuity; the claim can be taken to the High Court. With those words, I fully support Part 2 and have nothing further to say on it. Thank you.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: I cannot help feeling that this side of the House is doing a lot of the heavy lifting.
Hon Phil Heatley: First time for everything!
PHIL TWYFORD: I am thrilled to hear some words emerge from the mouth of the Minister in the chair, and I invite the Minister to show us that there is more to him than fish and flogging off our public housing stock. I really would welcome some comment from the Minister, particularly on clauses 19, 20, 22, and 24 of Part 2. I think it would be great. I was hoping we would hear from the member for North Shore, who used to teach constitutional law, and I thought he would have a lot of good things to tell the House about Part 2.
Hon Trevor Mallard: He never quite made it to being a senior lecturer.
PHIL TWYFORD: No, but just like many of our Governors-General he has gone on to bigger and better things, and that is one of the points we have been covering in terms of the need for an annuity. One of my colleagues, Chris Hipkins, made the point earlier that it is necessary because being Governor-General is not exactly good for someone’s employment prospects. I question that. I look at people like Dame Silvia Cartwright, who has gone on to provide fantastic service on the tribunal in Cambodia, and also Sir Paul Reeves, who has provided distinguished service in Fiji and academic life in New Zealand in the years following his tenure as Governor-General.
Part 2 has some important clauses. Firstly, it amends the Civil List Act 1979—it repeals Part 1 of that Act, which provides for the funding of the Governor-General; and it allows the establishment of a stand-alone piece of legislation that reflects the importance of the office of Governor-General. I think the symbolism of that is very clear. Clauses 22 to 24 provide for the amendment of the Income Tax Act 2007 to remove the Governor-General’s tax-exempt status. But of course, as we know, it retains tax-exempt status for the allowance.
The significance of this group of clauses in Part 2 cannot be underestimated. The motivation behind these clauses is the very reason why Labour has called for the beginning of a conversation about the future of our constitutional arrangements. We believe that the very reasons we are taking away the Governor-General’s tax-exempt status and establishing these arrangements and stand-alone legislation are why it is time for our country to start having a conversation about our future constitutional status.
Many New Zealanders say they are perfectly happy with this Queen, that she has provided many years of wonderful service as our head of State, and that it would be impolite to begin a conversation about constitutional change while she is still on the throne. We take the view that our future constitutional status is too important to be left to a mad scramble on the death or abdication of the current Queen, and that we must begin now as a country to discuss not just these important practical details around annuities and so on, but also the nature of the office of our head of State, the way in which the head of State is selected, and whether the head of State should be a New Zealander and not a member of the British royal family.
That is why we support these provisions. We think they are important and necessary. The nature of the office of Governor-General demonstrates the fact that New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy. There is a very real and important symbolism in having these provisions, which provide the core of the second part of this bill in separate legislation. There is simply no longer any justification for the tax-exempt status of the Governor-General’s income.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: I would like to follow up Trevor Mallard’s interesting speech on clause 16 in Part 2 in relation to conflicting claims—that is, envisaging a situation where there might be more than one person entitled to an annuity. As Trevor Mallard said, that reflects that we are in a modern society and it is a modern clause. Not only could there be two spouses in terms of one spouse dying and the Governor-General remarrying but also the provision could take account of divorce. If we look back into the history of the monarchy, including Governors-General as part of that, it is a history that is averse to divorce. The “until death do us part” part of the marriage vow was not only an intention but also very strongly part of the moral code of society and was very much tied up with religion. So to include clause 16 in this bill is a very modern thing to do.
Clause 16 gets away a little bit from the strictures of religion that have shaped our constitutional history, in some ways in too narrow a manner. Indeed, earlier this afternoon we had the prayer that has been read in Parliament for many years. In that prayer the term “true religion” is used. It is a phrase that dates back in the British Parliament to the 1600s. “True religion” means the Protestant religion. The reference to “true religion” is the Protestant religion against another religion—that is, the Catholic religion. That is the origin of the prayer we hear in Parliament each sitting day. In the Protestant tradition, true religion was associated with a very strong tie against divorce, and to marriage for the rest of a couple’s life. Clause 16, in allowing something different, is quite progressive.
Trevor Mallard’s comments about the multicultural element of this clause were quite relevant, too. There are various religions with different codes of marriage and divorce.
They will be taken into account as part of our multicultural dimension. I think also when we talk about religion, moral codes, and how they are reflected in this we have to take into account the issue Phil Twyford talked about in his speech. I think he was really talking about the outdated character of the monarchy, which the Governor-General is a part of. One of the problems with changing the laws of inheritance, which Gordon Brown, to his credit, wanted to do—and he took the matter to a Commonwealth Prime Ministers conference before he lost office—is that the monarch in Britain is officially the head of the Anglican Church. Therefore, Britain cannot have someone who is not an Anglican, or someone who has converted to Catholicism, as its head of State because that person is not an Anglican. That offends against our human rights laws and our ethos. I think that all relates back to this very modern clause, clause 16, which allows for conflicting claims relating to the annuity for spouses following, for example, the death of the Governor-General. Thank you.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: I too want to refer, firstly, to clauses 16 and 17 in the Governor-General Bill. I appreciated Mr Hayes’ intervention to clarify his interpretation of clause 16, and, although it may have dealt with some of the issues that Mr Mallard raised, it certainly did not deal with all of them. It definitely did not deal with Mr Mallard’s principal issue about clause 10(2), which we have had no answer from the Minister in the chair on.
I do think that the circumstances in which there could be conflicting claims are reasonably simple in terms of the way in which we live our lives in New Zealand, beyond any extension to the possibilities of the backgrounds of the kinds of people who might become Governor-General at some point. Basically, this is about a situation where a Governor-General may have had two partners during the time that he or she was Governor-General. It is quite a reasonable circumstance to imagine. Somebody may enter into a relationship, and the job of Governor-General is a stressful and difficult one at times and involves long hours, and that could lead to somebody separating and having a new partner. So I think the issue of conflicting claims is a sensible clause to have within the bill as it is about something potentially quite real.
On that point, it is worth noting that this bill is very modern legislation. Clause 4 lists the definition of partner as “a civil union or de facto partner”. The bill brings us forward into the 21st century in terms of the kinds of relationships that people can enter into. I think that clause 16 is a sensible clause, but I take the point from Mr Mallard that if we move through to clause 17, then the question of who makes the decisions on this matter is something that is up for debate. Again, in the interpretation clause, the definition of authorised person is “a person authorised to make decisions under section 16 by the Minister who, with the authority of the Prime Minister, is responsible for Ministerial Services”. At this moment that is the Prime Minister. So the Prime Minister will be appointing a person to listen to such claims.
I agree with Mr Mallard that a public servant in that position could be placed in a very difficult position in making those sorts of decisions. It may be a public servant who has a role that is subservient to the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services. I think that could lead to some unfortunate pressure being placed on a public servant to make that kind of decision. It will be a decision that, if one can imagine the circumstances I mentioned before, people will be particularly concerned about. No doubt it would attract a great deal of public interest and it would be a matter that the person would have to take very seriously. I do note that subclauses (2) and (3) in clause 17 refer to various rules that will apply, in particular, the High Court Rules, and the Judicature Act in relation to appeals against a decision of the High Court. There is clearly a judicial element to this role, and I think it is important that someone appointed to it can be independent and can make decisions like this without any particular pressure.
The other clauses in Part 2 that I will refer to in particular are clauses 25 and 26. I do this because throughout the debate a number of people have mentioned the current Governor-General. They have said what a nice person he is and that he has related well to these proposed changes.
Phil Twyford: A great New Zealander.
GRANT ROBERTSON: I absolutely endorse those comments—he is a great New Zealander, I say to Mr Twyford. But I think it is important to note that clause 25(2) exempts the incumbent Governor-General from the changes in this bill. Clause 25(2) specifically states that all of the Governor-General’s allowances “… are as if this Act had not been passed.” Although it is worth saying that the current Governor-General is a humble man, which he is, and that he is a person whom we all greatly admire and who deserves our support on any occasion, he actually will not be covered by this law. However, under clause 26, the annuities are “in accordance with this Act.” So I guess from the point of view of a buyer-beware situation, the Governor-General is already in this situation. Therefore, the conditions under which he took up his position are being protected, but, at the end of the day, his annuities are not.
Although I think we all see this bill as a good step forward, and we are also dealing with the changes to the Income Tax Act in this part, those changes will not apply to the incumbent Governor-General. He does not have too much further to run in his term, but a number of members have mentioned that point and it is probably important for us to clarify that. Part 2 puts in place what is being done in Part 1. Although the Labour Party is supporting this bill, I think it is clear from the speeches we have heard that we would like some further conversation on constitutional arrangements.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I am taking a call to address several aspects of Part 2 of the Governor-General Bill. In referring to clause 16, the one thing we can be certain of is that clearly the present Governor-General will not be using these provisions. That is a good thing, because we talked about the calibre of the present Governor-General earlier and we know for certain that there is no need for him to use this part of the provisions, at all. However, it is fascinating to try to understand why this clause is there and what might be the set of circumstances in which it might be brought into play. The Hon Trevor Mallard’s thesis about how this clause might come into play has been fascinating, as was the speech of the previous speaker, my colleague Mr Grant Robertson, as well.
There probably are some areas where it would come into play, and perhaps the Minister in the chair, the Hon Phil Heatley, will take a call and explain what his thinking was about this particular provision. That might clarify some of the concerns that members on this side of the Chamber have raised. The Minister has not taken a call so far and we have asked several questions. I am sure that he is keeping all his answers for one tight response, which I am sure that he will take just prior to 6 p.m., so we know we will have those answers. I can see it is possible that this might be utilised. The honourable Minister has his answers provided on very small sticky Post-it notes. [Interruption] Is that what it is? OK, I thank the member. But I am serious about this; it is testament to the officials who worked on this bill that they have considered it from many aspects and it is very thorough. Clause 16 is an example of that.
Referring now to clauses 19 and 20, here we have a stand-alone enactment once this bill is passed that relates to all of the conditions to do with the Governor-General. I think that is a good thing. It is an easy place to go to. It comes out of the Civil List, and here will be all of the provisions. So clauses 19 and 20 do a good job. Perhaps from a public perspective, they will be interested in the provisions in clauses 21 to 24, which refer to the requirement that the Governor-General pay taxes. The public of New Zealand will probably take this very seriously and will take great heart from it, because
it is beginning to say that we will treat our Governor-General as an ordinary person. Colloquially speaking, we will treat him in terms of a person who is earning a salary. Part 1 makes those changes, and here, in Part 2, the Governor-General will be required to pay taxes like the rest of us. There will be widespread support for this particular provision. It regularises the position, as indeed do all of the other clauses.
There is great transparency, as others have said. I would expect the present Governor-General—indeed, I am certain that this is so—would support this type of provision, because the present Governor-General has not even taken the salary rise that he was entitled to. He said that he takes a different position on this. He seriously understands the current climate and has demonstrated that he wants to be treated in this particular way. I will also refer briefly to clauses 25 and 26. Here, the present Governor-General is again protected in terms of ongoing annuities. The provisions in clauses 25 and 26 do not compromise the provisions applying to the present Governor-General. Clause 26 is just making certain that there is an avoidance-of-doubt clause there, and makes certain that the provisions will apply.
All in all, Part 2 clarifies a lot of the questions we had about this particular role. It regularises many of the provisions, which is necessary, and increases transparency as we understand it. It protects the present Governor-General and enables the public to have greater faith and confidence in this particular role in terms of its holder being treated like every other taxpayer.
- The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 164 in the name of the Rt Hon John Key to insert new clause 20A be agreed to.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I would like to now further debate especially questions around the amendment to the Civil List Act in clause 18—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I am sorry to interrupt the member—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Sorry, I did not think there had been a closure motion.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): No, I have started to put the vote. When I have started to put the vote—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, I do not think you had. I think—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Well, I have. I put the question that Part 2 stand part. I have put the amendment. We have voted on the amendment, and now we are moving through. The final part is to put the question that Part 2 as amended stand part. There is no opportunity to relitigate once I have started to put the vote.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I am reluctant to disagree with the Chairperson and his ruling in this area—and I can see that the Standing Orders are being passed to you—but it has long been the practice of this House to have votes on amendments to particular clauses, then to move on, especially where there are parts and amendments that affect particular clauses, to further debates on the bill as amended.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I thank the member for his comments. I refer him to Speaker’s ruling 115/1, which is headed “Putting the question”. I refer the member to the second to last sentence onwards, which states: “If there is no closure it is incumbent on members to seek the call to continue the debate if they wish to speak. If members do not call, the chairperson begins to put the questions on the amendments and there can be no further debate on the clause.” That is the position we are in and I have so ruled.
- Part 2 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 1 and 2
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: The first question I would like to ask the Minister in the chair, the Hon Phil Heatley, is that although the commencement date indicates that the legislation comes into force on the day after the date—
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The first question I refer to concerns the title of the legislation, the Governor-General Act 2010. Unlike a number of title debates that might be semi-facetious, there is a real and live question left with this one, which is whether we think it is necessary to have separate legislation. Matters previously have been very well dealt with under the Civil List Act in particular, and under the legislation covering the Remuneration Authority. The Committee has agreed to the amendments to the bill—I think it is fair to say there has been some debate around them, but, by and large, there is agreement to them—but I would like the Minister in the chair, the Hon David Carter, to explain to us why he thinks it is necessary that we have additional legislation of this type, rather than doing what Parliament would normally do, which is to incorporate this sort of change into the primary legislation.
The problem I see now, as we are dealing with this, is that people who go to, for example, the Civil List Act, and the functions of the Remuneration Authority under that Act, will not be able to see in the Act the Remuneration Authority’s role vis-à-vis the Governor-General—or that appears to be the case. It appears that it has been subsumed into this new legislation, which is to be known as the Governor-General Act. I think there is a live question there. I am not so much of a Geoffrey Palmer, or at least like him when he wrote “the fastest laws in the West”—what was the title of his book?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is right. In the period especially between 1981 and 1984 Geoffrey Palmer made many, many speeches about how we had far too many Acts in New Zealand, and that we should be working on consolidation rather than proliferation. So that is the first question of the series that I want to ask the Hon David Carter.
I congratulate the Hon David Carter on acting for the Prime Minister. I think it is fair to say that the Minister looks and sounds a little bit more like the Governors-General of my youth than does his friend Phil Heatley; it might be to do with the history of the landed gentry. I am sure that Mr Carter will be better at responding across the detail of this legislation, and in particular the need for having a separate Act rather than taking what I thought was generally the policy of the Government, which was to consolidate and bring together legislation, and to make it easier for people dealing with legislation going forward to find things.
What we will have here is a Civil List Act, on the face of it. At least, if the Minister can explain to me that I am wrong, I will be happy to—
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I call Phil Twyford.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I have had only one call.
Phil Twyford: I could defer to my colleague Trevor Mallard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, it’s all right. I will go. [Interruption]
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I have called Phil Twyford.
Hon Trevor Mallard: If you sit down, I will take the call.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I have given the call to Phil Twyford.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Yes, he can sit down. He still gets another three calls.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): Members stand up and seek the call. It is perfectly within the purview of the Chair to call whoever is the next speaker. I have
called Phil Twyford. If Phil Twyford does not want to take the call, he can sit down. I will call again.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Would the member be prepared to yield to me?
Phil Twyford: Yes, I would be prepared to yield to the member.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I thank the member for yielding to me, in order that—
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): This is too cute by half. That is not a yield. The call is for Phil Twyford. I will give the member one last chance. If the member does not take the call this time—this is the third time—it will be gone.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Can you explain to the Committee why you have ruled that out? A member seeking and being yielded to is not a usual occurrence, but it has occurred on a number of occasions in the past. I have been discussing with people recently the changes to the Standing Orders in the last 20 years. There have been some, and it may be that yielding is no longer available. Could you explain to me why you ruled that that was out of order?
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I draw the member’s attention to Speaker’s ruling 59/1. It is consistent with my understanding that yielding occurs where there is an interchange between members over an issue, and one member asks the other member to yield so that the member can take up the matter. It is an interchange—a contest between two members interjecting over ideas. One yields to the other so that the other member may carry the point.
That is simply not the case in this particular instance. The fact is that the member Trevor Mallard was speaking and at the end of his call Phil Twyford and a number of other members sought the call. I thought the member had made his point. It is up to me to consider the point of the speech. The member had gone round and round over several points, and I thought he had made every point he was going to make, and would continue to plough up and down exactly the same part of the paddock. The Chair was looking forward to some fresh information, and was ever optimistic we were going to hear a fresh speech, so I gave the call to Phil Twyford. I say to members that if the honourable member Phil Twyford does not want to take the call—it is being given to him for the third time—I will not call him for the rest of this debate.
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour)
: Thank you, Mr Chair. That is a powerful incentive to take this call. I will do my best to plough a fresh corner of the paddock.
Grant Robertson: The furrowed brow.
PHIL TWYFORD: The furrowed brow.
We are now debating clauses 1 and 2, the title and commencement. This is the moment in the debate when traditionally we can recap and explore some of the broad themes in relation to this bill. The title of this Act is the Governor-General Act 2010. I think by now colleagues in the Committee will be clear that Labour’s position on this bill is that we support its passage. We have spent a considerable amount of time considering whether Keith Locke’s Supplementary Order Paper should be debated. If it had been adopted, it would have seen the insertion of a mechanism for electing future Governors-General with a 75 percent majority of the House. I think we traversed the ground quite well. We are in favour of streamlining, and bringing transparency and clarity to bear around, the arrangements for remuneration for the office of Governor-General.
Labour supports these measures. We see them as overdue reform. The bill is a modernisation of the arrangements. It amends the Civil List Act, establishes its own legislation to deal with these matters, recognises the importance of the office of Governor-General, and updates and modernises, for instance, the definition of “family”, and the way that family is recognised in the payment of the annuity for the Governor-General and the payment when the Governor-General has left office. We support all of those things. We think they are sound.
But we believe that at this moment the Committee could go further. Now is the time we are debating the status of, and the arrangements around, the office of Governor-General, so it would be a great time for Parliament to lead a national conversation about the future of the office of Governor-General. Keith Locke’s Supplementary Order Paper took us some way down that track towards considering how the Governor-General is appointed. But, ultimately, I think we need to have a debate as a country about the future status of, and arrangements for, our head of State.
This bill is called the Governor-General Bill. When it is enacted it will be called the Governor-General Act 2010. It could be called the “Governor-General (Modernisation) Bill”. It could be called the “Governor-General (Transparency) Bill”. It could be called the “Arrangements for the Partners, Spouses, and Family of the Governor-General Bill”. I think we are indebted to the Hon Trevor Mallard for ploughing the paddock, as you so eloquently put it, Mr Chairperson. Trevor Mallard really shed light on the possibilities under this bill for future, polygamous Governors-General to be adequately catered for by this legislation. I think within our multicultural, modern New Zealand that is only appropriate. The law should recognise that.
There are other possible names for the Governor-General Bill. It could be the “Tidying up of Arrangements around the Governor-General’s Remuneration Bill”, but without the vision and the appetite for comprehensive reform in thinking through the long-term future of the office of Governor-General or the arrangements that we have for selecting and appointing heads of State. I will leave my contribution there.
CHRIS TREMAIN (Senior Whip—National)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: I promise to be interesting. I too obviously am referring to clauses 1 and 2. I will pick up on what my colleague Trevor Mallard was talking about before, because it is a relevant consideration. We are creating here an Act specifically in the name of the Governor-General, and that is something different from the situation we have had before. In my previous intervention, I mentioned one of the specific ways in which that is playing itself out: the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will now no longer have the level of responsibility for the office of Governor-General. That would perhaps justify an Act in the name of the Governor-General—that is, this Act recognises the specific and unique status of the position of the Governor-General. I think that is, therefore, one of the justifications for a bill or an Act on its own. Mr Mallard said that the proliferation of Acts of Parliament is one of his particular bugbears, and those of us in the caucus with him often have to hear from him about whether there always needs to be legislation. This is an issue where it is a lineball call, in many ways.
I agree with Phil Twyford that the title of this bill could easily be called the “Modernisation of the Governor-General’s Role Bill”, because that really is what it is doing.
It is also introducing an element of fairness, so it could be called the “Governor-General’s Taxation Fairness Bill”. That element of the bill I think will get the most attention from the media when they are reporting on it. No doubt, when it takes up many column inches in tomorrow’s newspaper, there will be a focus on the fact that this bill makes the next Governor-General pay income tax. That is also worthy of mention, perhaps, in the title.
It could be called the “Next Governor-General Bill”, because one of the things that I think was missed in the early part of this debate was that this bill does not apply to the incumbent Governor-General. His terms and conditions remain unaffected by this
legislation. So we very much could easily have called this bill the “Next Governor-General Bill”, but we have not done that; the Government has focused on a more generic title, giving it an enduring sense by calling it the Governor-General Bill.
Chris Tremain: It is quite elegant, isn’t it?
GRANT ROBERTSON: It is elegant. It is elegant in its simplicity, I say to Mr Tremain. I am really pleased that the Government is now taking a role in this debate, because it is very, very interested in being part of the debate on the title of the bill. The Government is now interjecting, showing that this is an issue that needs further debate. Quite clearly, over on the Government benches there is now concern about whether this should be called the Governor-General Bill.
Chris Tremain: We have no confusion over the title.
GRANT ROBERTSON: Has Mr Tremain got an alternative title?
Chris Tremain: No, I am quite happy with the Governor-General Bill.
GRANT ROBERTSON: He is quite happy with the Governor-General Bill. Well, I think that is a moot point over here, because we on this side of the Chamber do not feel that the title of the bill captures the vigorous debate we have had in the Chamber tonight.
Jacqui Dean: No, you’re not happy at all, over there.
GRANT ROBERTSON: Jacqui Dean, who served on the Government Administration Committee, is itching to take a call, stand up, and say what she thinks the title of this bill should be. She knows that this bill is so much more than the simple title that Mr Tremain is giving it. This bill will bring about a fundamental set of changes in respect of how we view the Governor-General, how the Governor-General is paid, and the future annuities for people who come after the Governor-General.
I think we have had an interesting debate on Mr Mallard’s views about why we have such a broad definition of the Governor-General’s partner. In my earlier speech, I said that it is reflective of modern life that a Governor-General may have more than one partner. That could easily be reflected in the title of the bill before us today.
As Mr Twyford said, although the Governor-General Bill represents a modernisation of the position and a modernisation of the conditions that sit around that position, it misses the main point of the debate in New Zealand at the moment about the constitutional position of the Governor-General and head of State in New Zealand. There has been useful and interesting debate on this bill, but many New Zealanders want to have a big-picture debate about our future constitutional arrangements. It would be good to see from the Government some leadership on this issue, but we have not seen that. It has been pushed off for another day. On this side of the Chamber we think a conversation needs to begin. It may be that we need to work through some difficult issues, such as the place of the Treaty, what it would mean if we moved on from having a Governor-General who is a representative of the Queen and the head of State in another country. We on this side of the Chamber would like to see a debate on that. This bill could be called many things other than the Governor-General Bill.
Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour)
: I am pleased to take a call on clauses 1 and 2 of the Governor-General Bill. In talking about the title, I am reminded of a piece of advice that the Law Commission gave to the Social Services Committee quite recently. We were hearing evidence on the Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill. The Law Commission, as it turned out, was very, very clear about titles of bills. Its advice to the select committee was that bill titles should describe what is in the bill and do no more than that. The Law Commission expressed some frustration at the fact that, over the years, titles of bills really have become little Trojan Horses for the branding of the particular ideas of the Government of the day. It was on that basis that the title of the Social
Assistance (Future Focus) Bill was changed. That bill went through the House under a different name; it was not the “Future Focus Bill”.
So if we take that advice quite seriously and apply it to the title of this bill, the Governor-General Bill, we see that the title almost falls on the side of being non-descriptive, whereas there was an opportunity for the Government to use the title to signal the elegance, if you like, of this bill.
The Governor-General Bill traverses, as we have debated for several hours now, really, really important transitional arrangements; from the present ones to a new set of arrangements. Any one of several of those kinds of images or directions could easily have been incorporated into the title to give the bill the status of being much more descriptive of what it is about. This bill is about the notion of entitlements. It sets forth, in some detail, what the entitlements will be for the next Governor-General. It has done that very well—there are some very good provisions in the bill. It changes provisions and brings in some new provisions, and those could have been incorporated into the title, thus making it a much more accurate description of what the bill is about.
Another notion in the bill—one that my colleague Phil Twyford has talked about—is transparency. It could easily have been incorporated into the title in some form, and it could have shown, in a creative way, anyone reading the Act in the future that it is about transparency. So that was another notion in the bill that could easily have been incorporated in the title.
Then there is the notion of salaries, taxation, and annuities. Those kinds of financial arrangements are spelt out in great detail, and that is also very important. Maybe the most accurate title would be the “Governor-General (Financial Arrangements) Bill”. Maybe that title would have said much more than the current title signifies to the reader.
But perhaps most important for me—and every stage at which I have spoken on the bill, I have been very impressed—is the way the bill defines the modern family and applies it to the families of Governors-General. There is reference to “family member” and “spouse”, so those are very, very important aspects of this bill that could easily have been incorporated into the title, thus making it far more descriptive of what is involved in the bill.
Then there are the notions of modernisation. Modern arrangements, such as transparency, could easily have been incorporated in the title. There are ideas about compensation, allowances, etc. So there was plenty of scope for this title to be much more descriptive. I think the select committee was not bold enough to take the advice of the Law Commission and take it further. I would have welcomed that. It is interesting to reflect that the present Governor-General is the last one who will be covered under the old provisions, so it is interesting that he will be the one who signs this off.
JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
JACINDA ARDERN (Labour)
: It is my pleasure to have an opportunity to speak on the title of the Governor-General Bill. My colleagues have already made some excellent points around the substance of this bill, but there is much more to be said that is specific to the title debate. The first point is that the Government has gone for a very traditional approach to the title, whereas every other element of the bill has been a modernisation of parts, except, I would have to say, the existence of the Governor-General generally. But the title of this bill is also traditional, which is, I guess, taken as a bit of a given, and that this is really the only title we could end up with. But I want to challenge the Government somewhat and say that if we were to modernise the reference, then that probably would be out of step with everything else the Government has done in this area generally. We need only reflect back, for instance, on the recent debates we had under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Bill around the existence of QCs—Queen’s Counsel. Of course, Labour attempted to modernise that system within
the judiciary by moving to the notion of Senior Counsel. I think that was an excellent move, and one that came after a long round of consultation. But what did the Government do? In office, it moved us back to the notion of Queen’s Counsel.
This bill, again, has lost an opportunity to modernise in that regard, but it seems we have a general theme when it comes to the notion of our constitutional issues, whether it be within the judiciary, or the governance arrangements of our relationship with the monarch. I really believe we are missing a beat. When it comes to the title specifically, I am led to question why the Government has been unwilling to have a wider debate around the role of the Governor-General in New Zealand. It is a distinct—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Or a “Republic Bill”?
JACINDA ARDERN: I am getting to my grand title. I want a little bit of a drum roll. I wonder, then, because it seems so obvious that the titles—for instance, the titular titles—seem to be so that former Ministers can get titles when they leave their job. Perhaps this bill should have been called the “John Key (Next Prospective Job) Bill”. Perhaps that is what the Government is angling for here. It was unwilling to have the discussion about the role of the Governor-General, beginning with this bill, because Ministers—and potentially the Prime Minister—are lining themselves up for this job.
Grant Robertson: The Prime Minister could smile and wave.
JACINDA ARDERN: I would not wish to undermine the role of the Governor-General by referring to it as simply a “smile and wave” role. But I have seen that the Prime Minister is well versed in the gesture of the wave.
This bill has been arranged to try to meet public expectations. It seems that that is what the Law Commission’s piece of work was around, but in the general principles of this bill I feel we refuse to meet their expectations around the public debate over the role of the Governor-General. I would have preferred the title “Governor-General (Wider Constitutional Debate) Bill”. We could have started something in New Zealand, because we have always heard that when it comes to our constitutional arrangements, and the existence of the Governor-General, it will happen in our lifetime, and that eventually we will move away from the structure of a Governor-General—the Queen’s representative in New Zealand. But there seems to be an unwillingness—
Hon Trevor Mallard: “Our lifetime” means something different to all of us!
JACINDA ARDERN: I should add some caveats: it depends on whose lifetime it is, but, generally speaking, there is an acknowledgment that that is where New Zealand is progressing towards, and this bill would have been the perfect opportunity to perhaps launch into an additional discussion over the future of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. I do not believe that the argument “If it is not broke”, actually sits well in terms of where New Zealand is progressing as a country. In the same way, we could argue that this legislation was not necessarily broken but it was out of line with public expectation, which is why the Law Commission did the piece of work that it did.
So I challenge the Government, in keeping with the notion of this bill, with modernisation, to begin the debate over whether it is sufficient for us to be discussing simply a Governor-General Bill, and I say that we should discuss, in future, the constitutional arrangements of New Zealand. We should be realistic about where we are going as a country.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: After focusing on clause 1 “Title” in the first discussion, the Minister in the chair has changed in that time so I will just reiterate my question to the Hon Jonathan Coleman. Before that, I ask: “Do most Ministers read with their fingers like that?”.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): Members are invited to speak and are to speak on the bill. I invite the member to continue.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I apologise; I have not seen that done since Tariana Turia did it.
I reiterate that question very briefly: why are we not continuing within the Civil List Act; why do we need separate legislation, which will be called the Governor-General Act when it is passed, I understand. I might be wrong, but that is my understanding.
I will now go on to what I think is a bigger constitutional issue and a debate that is probably more important than what we have had to date on the title of the bill—that issue is the commencement and, in particular, the Royal assent. The question I have for the Minister in the chair is who will give the Royal assent to this bill. Unfortunately, this legislation affects the interests of the Governor-General in one way or another. It either—[Interruption] No, I am talking about a system with integrity not someone who signs off their own housing—
Nikki Kaye: Treason!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Treasonable?
Nikki Kaye: Treason!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, no, I am questioning whether it is appropriate that the Governor-General sign this legislation. I was going to suggest that it go for Royal assent at the time that the Administrator is in charge because the Governor-General is out of the country. But unfortunately even the salary of the Administrator, who is generally the Chief Justice, can be affected by this legislation.
Phil Twyford: The Queen could sign it.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That could be an answer, although given her reluctance to tour to one of the other former colonies recently for her games, it is unlikely that she will be in town in the requisite period to do that. I do not want to draw Her Majesty into the debate any more than that.
But there needs to be a focus on whether there is any conflict where an individual’s conditions are affected or where the system of changing an individual’s conditions is affected, and whether it is appropriate for that person to sign the legislation into law. As I indicated, most of the arrangements affect the Governor-General. I want to make it clear that it is not like the arrangements are advantaging the Governor-General. There is not some big, sneaky thing happening in this bill. In fact, members on both sides of the Chamber think there is transparency. But it is clear that there is a change in arrangements and a change of systems that could affect that person. It is my understanding with regard to the Administrator that there were periods in the past where there was a possibility of an Administrator being paid at a different rate of pay for the period that he—it was probably both times “he”, rather than “he or she”—was acting as Administrator as opposed to Chief Justice or some other role.
Again, I say as a former Minister of some experience that we worked our way through those arrangements and had Executive Council meetings—pretty rarely—with the Administrator. Often when the Governor-General was out of the country we would have a smaller group of Ministers acting as the Executive Council without the Administrator. But the Administrator was still the person when it came to the assent; the assenting could not be done on behalf of the Administrator in the way that the Executive Council could be run. It had to go—
JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa)
: I move,
That the question be now put.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the question be now put.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 41; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
|Motion agreed to.
- Clause 1 agreed to.
- Clause 2 agreed to.
- Bill to be reported with amendment presently.