[Sitting date: 31 May 2012. Volume:680;Page:2746. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Questions to Ministers
Schools, Class Sizes—Teacher to Pupil Ratios
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister of Education; if so, why?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: Yes; because she is a hard-working Minister working to build a brighter future for New Zealand. In particular, she is focusing on lifting achievement for the one in five young Kiwis who does not currently succeed in the New Zealand education system.
Grant Robertson: Has he received any advice from the Minister of Education on the impact of changing staff-student ratios on primary schools that provide technology centres and classes for students from a number of other schools?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I do not have that information to hand.
Grant Robertson: Has the Minister—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have been down this track before. I think the Minister should not have said “On behalf of the Prime Minister, I do not …”, because what he is effectively saying is that the Prime Minister does not, and he does not, know that. I think he should be saying that he is not aware whether the Prime Minister has that information. It is quite important when it comes to later stages.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I accept the technicality the member makes, but I think one has to accept—if we got that technical about all questions and answers in this House, I think we would be in some difficulty.
Grant Robertson: Has the Minister of Education advised him that the cumulative effect of a number of contributing schools and the provider school losing up to two staff will be that they will not be able to afford to send students to technology centres such as that offered at Mt Cook School in Wellington, and that those centres may have to close?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not familiar with the exact issue the member raises, but it is important to point out the key element of this policy, which is that over the last 10 years teacher numbers have grown by over 12 percent while student numbers have—
Hon Member: Student rolls.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, they have not. They have grown by only about 2 percent over the last 10 years. At the same time we have had no further improvement in achievement in our education system. So the Minister and the Government have taken some decisions to invest in quality. We have made it absolutely clear that no school will be affected by more than two full-time teacher equivalents by this change.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a newsletter from Mt Cook School in Wellington that has been released to parents today that says that its technology centre will close in 2013 unless the funding policy in the Budget is dropped.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Grant Robertson: Is the Prime Minister concerned that technology centres such as the one at Mt Cook School in Wellington may have to close as a result of the policies being implemented by his Government in Budget 2012?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. We are very focused on supporting technology education at levels 7 and 8. I would point out two things. The Minister has made it clear that 90 percent of schools will be affected, either positively or negatively, by one full-time teacher equivalent position, and the other 10 percent by up to two full-time teacher equivalent positions. Beyond that the schools make their own decisions as to how they allocate their staff funding around the teachers in the school.
Barbara Stewart: How can he have confidence in the Minister of Education when her department is planning to close residential special schools throughout New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have all that information to hand today, but I would point out again that everything this Minister does is focused on lifting achievement of New Zealand’s young people, and I am absolutely confident she is passionate about doing that.
Grant Robertson: Has the Minister of Education informed him of what she will say to schools that, even with the slowing down of the cuts, will be forced to choose between cutting Reading Recovery programmes or programmes for gifted children, or reducing staffing and increasing class sizes?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Schools every day manage their number of teachers according to the roll they have at the time, and they make their own decisions as to how they allocate that funding to best teach the New Zealand curriculum and to give the best possible education to their students. We have said, and have made it absolutely clear, that the effect of this change will be no more than two full-time teacher equivalents for 10 percent of schools, and only one, positive or minus, for the other 90 percent of schools. I am confident that professional schools will work with the change.
Grant Robertson: Will he step in to stop the closure of technology centres such as the one at Mt Cook School if they have to close as a result of the cuts being made by his Government?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The reality is that those decisions are not made by the Ministry of Education or the Minister. Those decisions are made by the schools. If they did decide that they wanted to present technology in a different way, with a different provision model, that would be their decision, and this change will not require them to do so.
Grant Robertson: If he is prepared to intervene to ensure that technology education can continue in intermediate schools, why is he not prepared to intervene to say that technology centres in primary schools can carry on operating?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is obviously not listening. The answer to the question is the same as the previous answer. We have made it absolutely clear that 90 percent of schools will be either up one full-time teacher equivalent or down one, or about the same, and schools will make their own decisions within that as to how they allocate their resources—as they always have done. The same will apply to the other 10 percent, where any change will be limited to two full-time teacher equivalents.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question about why the Government is prepared to intervene for intermediate schools and not for primary schools. There was no—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have listened to the answers quite carefully and I believe that, in the answer to the previous question on which that supplementary question was based, the Minister in replying said that it was a matter for the schools to organise how they delivered the curriculum, and the Government would not be stepping in to tell them how to do it—if I heard the Minister correctly. So that is why the Minister, in answering
the last supplementary question, suggested that the member asking it had not been listening, because in asking the question the member implied that the Government would step in, and the Minister’s answer had indicated exactly the opposite—it would not step in to tell the school how to organise its affairs.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to that point of order, I think the point of the question was that the Government has stepped in to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The point of a question may be one thing; the question that is asked is the matter the Speaker has to deal with and the Minister has to answer. The question that was asked gave the Minister the chance to answer in the way he did, and that is why in my view it was an acceptable answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, I think you should review—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Government Financial Position—Measures to Return to Surplus
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the
Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to get the Crown accounts back into surplus?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the
Minister of Finance: Budget 2012 shows that the Government remains clearly on track to achieve a surplus in 2014-15, with $4.4 billion of new operating spending over the next 4 years matched by a combination of savings and revenue initiatives. This is a situation many countries would be envious of. We will achieve this through discipline on new spending, and running a zero Budget for the second consecutive year. We are encouraging economic growth to take place whether it is through changes to the tax system, changes to the Resource Management Act, changes to labour laws—the list goes on. Across the economy these policies will help drive the growth of competitive business.
Jami-Lee Ross: Has he received any reports on alternative approaches to getting back into surplus?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, but I have seen a lot of proposals to simply spend more money, whether it is the increased cost of borrowing more, higher tertiary student support, ineffective research and development tax credits, ever-increasing early childhood education subsidies, or even, in fact, army brass bands. The approach advocated for resembles a fire hose of borrowed money being sprayed round—and not just borrowed money, but money borrowed internationally. Somehow all of these policies of spending more money and making no savings would apparently still leave the Labour Party back in surplus by—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member was OK until that point. He must not attribute policies to other parties. That is not his responsibility.
Jami-Lee Ross: Has the Minister received any reports on alternative options to save money?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have received one. It involves increasing the age of retirement to 67, but it does not kick in until past 2020, and it would save only a small amount initially, and actually nothing between now and 2020. And that report is by a certain Mr David Shearer. However, I have also seen another separate report, which involves reducing the age of retirement to 60 for manual workers—
Hon Tony Ryall: At the same time?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —yeah, apparently—which requires extra spending of maybe as much as—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has no responsibility for reports of David Shearer. I think we have heard sufficient.
Hon David Parker: Would his Government get back into surplus more easily if export growth was higher?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: A whole range of things could get us back into surplus more quickly.
Hon David Parker: How about that one?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it does not necessarily apply, because if, for example, we then decide to spend a whole lot of money to try to achieve that, then that would not get us back into surplus more quickly. That would just involve fire-hosing money in all directions.
Budget 2011 and Budget 2012—Comparison of Economic Growth Forecasts
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the
Minister of Finance: Did he say Budget 2011 built “a platform for faster growth, more jobs and higher incomes”; and if so, did his forecasts in Budget 2012 show faster growth, more jobs and higher incomes than his Budget 2011 projections?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the
Minister of Finance: In answer to the first part of the question, yes. The policy steps taken in Budget 2011 built a platform for faster growth, more jobs, and higher incomes than would otherwise have occurred. In fact, each of our Budgets has been focused on building a platform for faster growth, more jobs, and higher incomes than would have been the case if we had carried on with the policy settings we inherited in 2008, which were forecast to lead to permanent deficits and ever-rising debt. In relation to the second part of the question, where the member refers to “his forecasts”, they are, of course, not the finance Minister’s forecast projections; they are independent Treasury forecasts, and they fluctuate from year to year depending on a range of factors, including the economic outlook of our trading partners.
Hon David Parker: Did Budget 2012 cut forecast growth in real GDP per capita from 1 percent to just 0.8 percent this year, and from 3.2 percent to 1.8 percent for the next year; and if so, is cutting his own forecasts what he meant when he promised faster growth?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In answer to the second part of the question, I again have to point out to the member that he knows that they are independent Treasury forecasts, but there you go. In answer to the first part of the question, the reality is, as we know, that the actual growth that turns out depends on a number of things. I know the member does not like to focus on what actually happens in the wider world, but during that period we had the ongoing aftershocks in Christchurch and we had lower growth in our trading partners. Those members can object all they like but that actually happens to be the reality.
Hon David Parker: Does Budget 2012 forecast worsening current account deficits totalling $64 billion to 2016; and if so, how is another $64 billion worth of overseas borrowing good for New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: They do, in fact, increase, but, of course, not to the percentages seen under the previous Government, when they lifted to 8-point something percent of GDP and caused us very significant issues, which we are still rebalancing from. The interesting thing—[Interruption] It may be, but from a much lower level, and the difference with it this time is that it is largely about investment in the New Zealand economy, whereas previously under the old Labour Government it was borrowing to consume and borrowing to spend, and that was an unsustainable position. We know where that leads—it is called southern Europe.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the conclusion about his Budget from Fran O’Sullivan in the
New Zealand Herald: “the major problem is that there is no clear economic growth agenda.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I can safely assume that the Minister’s answer to that question would be no. The reality is—as Fran would know if she actually focused on it—that we have a very strong economic growth agenda, involved in a whole range of areas: the tax plans we have made; the capital markets in terms of the mixed-ownership model; the investment in innovation and science; the investment in tertiary education, vocational education, and getting people off benefit and into work; the investment in education; the focus on primary resources and encouraging the use of our natural resources; the investment in infrastructure; and the investment in trade policy and encouraging new free-trade agreements with other countries. This Government has a comprehensive economic growth agenda, which we will continue to put in place for the benefit of this country.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister appeared to be quoting from some official laminated documents. I wonder whether he would like to table them for us.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me check with the Minister. Were those official documents? They were not.
Hon David Parker: Does he then agree with Vernon Small of Fairfax: “the Budget has been a barely qualified disaster.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Minister finds Mr Small a very engaging personality, but—
Grant Robertson: Dr Small.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —well, Dr Small to you. But the Minister is unlikely to agree on his economic prognosis.
Hon David Parker: Which is the more serious blow to his Budget’s credibility: commentators’ views that this Budget has no clear growth agenda, the cut in his own forecast growth figures, or the incompetence shown around his Government’s attempts to grow the economy through larger class sizes?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Sometimes I really do wonder where that member lives and on which planet. The reality is if you look at the commentators who count—for example, Standard and Poor’s and those rating agencies—they have all endorsed the New Zealand Budget of the Minister of Finance, as have a number of other serious economic commentators. That member constantly tries to pretend that New Zealand is not dealing with the challenges of the Christchurch earthquake and the world economy. As long as he keeps doing that, the country will still think he is in la-la land.
Criminal History Employment Checks—Reciprocal Information-sharing Trial with Australia
KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the
Minister of Justice: What steps is she taking to improve access to criminal history information for New Zealand employers?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice)
: This week I signed a memorandum of understanding between New Zealand and Australia that will allow four New Zealand agencies to benefit from being able to check job applicants for any criminal history in Australia. The Ministry of Social Development, Child, Youth and Family, the Teachers Council, and IHC New Zealand already operate in potential high-risk sectors and with vulnerable individuals. They already undertake high-risk employee checks through the New Zealand Police. The trial between New Zealand and Australia will give them even more certainty about client safety.
Katrina Shanks: How will the trial work?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: When a person is offered a job with these organisations, they provide written consent for a criminal history check to be carried out. The trial does not change that requirement. Instead it means that the organisations—via the New Zealand Police—can check whether that person has a criminal history in Australia. The trial will last for 6 months, after which time we will review how it has worked, before looking to extend it to other New Zealand employers. This is an important step in supporting border control and law enforcement.
Andrew Little: What steps will the Minister and her office take to ensure that information managed under the scheme will be accurate and treated with integrity, or will she apply the same standards of personal information management that she permits in ACC?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That question is absolutely ridiculous. The New Zealand Police has the highest levels of integrity, and I am astonished that that member would make such an allegation.
Schools, Class Sizes—Teacher to Pupil Ratios
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Could I ask the front benches, please, to bring the noise down. I want to hear Catherine Delahunty.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the
Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statement that “schools will therefore be given a guarantee that their staffing entitlement will not be reduced by more than two full-time teacher equivalents over the next three years”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education)
: Talofa lava. Tēnā koutou. I stand by my full statement where I said: “Schools will … be given a guarantee that their staffing entitlement will not be reduced by more than two full-time teacher equivalents over the next 3 years as a result of the policy changes.”
Catherine Delahunty: Given her admission this week that the Ministry of Education’s modelling for technology staffing levels was flawed, will she guarantee that schools that have been given a stay of execution will not lose up to seven teachers at the end of the 3 years?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have not suggested that the ministry’s modelling was flawed, and, no, I will not give a guarantee beyond 3 years. We are focused on raising quality in schools for all students over the next 3 years.
Tracey Martin: Can the Minister tell us how much of the money saved by increasing public school class sizes will be redirected to the investigation, setting up, and running of charter schools, which has become policy only since a former National Cabinet Minister became the leader of the ACT Party?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The money that has been saved as a result of the changes we are making, which are to focus on investing in quality so that student achievement can be raised, is being reinvested in quality for all schools, and for all students, and for all types of schools that will perform for them.
Catherine Delahunty: Given that the modelling around technology teachers was flawed, has she checked whether the ministry’s formula for staffing is flawed in any other way?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I reject the presumption in that question.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked whether she had checked something, and I did not get an answer as to whether she had.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member wanted—[Interruption] Order! If the member wanted that question answered, she should not have put the first part into her question. She said “Given that the staffing model was flawed,”. The Minister disputed that part of the question, and that is perfectly within the Standing Orders.
Catherine Delahunty: How will her new staffing formula working party come up with useful staffing solutions, when the schools most affected, including the New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools, have announced just today that they will not participate in a group set up to axe their staff?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The sector working group that has been set up is not focused on axing staff; it is focused on how we can ensure the continuation of the provision of a quality technology curriculum. It is focused on whether there are any unintended impacts and how we might mitigate those, and it is in the context of providing a guarantee that schools will be protected from losing any more than two full-time teacher equivalents, because our focus is on raising quality to raise student achievement for all New Zealand students.
Catherine Delahunty: Will her working party listen to children like 9-year-old Jade Christensen of Tauranga, who wrote to her yesterday saying: “We have enough resources to help us learn and play sports. I think this one-on-one time with teachers is much, much, much more important.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Look, we are very focused on how we raise achievement for all students. That is why we are working with the professional leadership of the sector. That is why we are providing assurance to parents who may have been anxious. That is why the conversation is with professional leaders and with parents.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order? The member must be called for a point of order.
Catherine Delahunty: I asked the Minister whether she would listen to Jade’s points.
Mr SPEAKER: If I remember correctly, the member asked whether the Minister would consult with students. If I remember correctly, that was the question—and the Minister did not actually answer that. The member went on to “such as”, so there was only one question, and the one question was whether the Minister would consult the students, and I think it probably should be answered.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I recall the question, it was whether I would consult a 9-year-old student about changes. My answer was that we are working with the professional leadership of schools, and we are assuring parents of what our commitment is, and that is to provide quality for all students of whatever age they are.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the member again, what is helpful is to actually answer a question, though. I mean, what the Minister has told the House is what the Minister wants to do, but the questioner asked whether the Minister would do a particular thing, and the Minister has basically ignored that. That is the dilemma at question time, because that is what causes members to raise points of order—if their questions have not been answered. The question was dead simple. It asked whether the Minister would consult students such as a 9-year-old student. It would be very easy to say “No, we are not doing that; we are doing this.”, and the Minister did not do that.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: All right. We are listening to the concerns raised by all New Zealanders—students, parents, professional leaders alike.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise. I think that yesterday and today your interventions have been helpful. I know that with technology developments we now get simultaneous interpretation of the Māori language, and I wonder whether you would look at a service where you could do that for certain Ministers on an ongoing basis.
Mr SPEAKER: No. Order!
Catherine Delahunty: When she told schools like Papatoetoe Intermediate School, which will lose seven teachers in 3 years’ time, that it was their choice how they cut staff, did she consider increasing class sizes to 40 or cutting technology altogether a fair choice?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Successive Governments have provided a funding formula to schools. It is based on a number of aspects and responsibilities. Then the professional leadership of a school makes the decision as to how it will deliver the national curriculum—
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether she considered that a fair choice.
Mr SPEAKER: In fairness to the Minister, the Minister was actually explaining there how it will work, and that is relevant to the question asked, because depending on how it will work, there may be other choices. I think that on this particular occasion the member is trying to pin the Minister down to an unreasonable position. I think it is not unreasonable that the Minister should explain how it will work, which was what the Minister was doing.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I have explained, it is the policy of successive Governments that the Government funds on a formula to schools in order that those schools can make determinations about how they will deliver their curriculum according to the specifics of their circumstances. Those include who the students enrolled at their schools are, and what the particular interests of their community are, as reflected by their boards of trustees.
Chris Hipkins: Is it current policy for the teacher-pupil ratios for years 7 and 8 to increase at the end of the 3-year cap to 1:27.5, as she announced on 16 May, up from 1:23.36, as it is presently?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I announced yesterday, the impact of the ratio change was not intended to have an effect to the extreme that we have heard anxieties raised about, and as a result of that we have guaranteed that all schools that are in the 10 percent that may experience an effect greater than two will be funded up to two full-time teacher equivalents.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you probably know what my point of order is going to be. The question I asked was what would happen at the end of the 3-year cap—whether the ratios that she announced on 16 May would apply from the time the cap ceased. She has talked about what is going to happen while the cap is in place.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a fair point of order. The question did ask what would happen at the end of the period of the cap applying.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: This provision is over the next 3 years, during which time we would expect to see student achievement raised, which is the whole point of this policy. We will be reviewing this over the next 3 years, and there are a number of Budgets between now and then that will allow us, with relevant, timely information, to make that decision at that point.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Once again, the question that I asked was whether it was current policy for teacher-pupil ratios in years 7 and 8 to increase at the end of the 3-year cap to 1:27.5, which was the ratio the Minister has announced. She still has not actually addressed that primary part—in fact, the only part—of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think, in fairness, the Minister has answered that those decisions will be made as the policy progresses and the Government reflects on the changes in student achievement that are achieved. [Interruption] Oh no, in fairness—the member should not be interjecting while I am ruling on a point of order, anyhow. He
has been getting a fair bit of licence, and maybe he should bring his interjections and points of order back a bit. I think that was not an unreasonable answer. The member asked about something 3 years out, and the Minister said the Government will make those decisions as it sees the impact of the policy develop. That is an answer to the question. That is not an unreasonable answer to the question.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue that we have is that I asked about the effect of current policy. Government policy changes—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have listened to the member long enough. I think the member is trying my patience a little too far. The member is just playing with words. Had the member been a Minister he might know this, but to say “current policy” is actually irrelevant. The Government has made some decisions, and the Minister has said it wants to see the impact of those decisions before it decides a situation in 3 years’ time. To argue that there should be some current Government policy about it, as the member is, I think is being unreasonable.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Catherine Delahunty. [Interruption] Is it a point of order or a supplementary question?
Catherine Delahunty: No, it is a supplementary question. I was just checking with my colleague—I could not hear him. Given the failed modelling in the technology staffing formulas, will she agree to a moratorium on all staffing changes until schools and parents have been consulted and she actually knows how many teachers are really needed?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I reject the presumption that that question is predicated on.
Chris Hipkins: Will the cap that she has announced, limiting the number of teachers any school may lose as a result of the ratio changes, apply only to teachers who are lost as a result of the ratio changes, or will the cap also extend to include positions that may be lost as a result of the consequent changes to classroom release time and management staffing allocations?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: What I have announced is that we will provide a guarantee that no school will lose more than two full-time teacher equivalents as a result of the policy changes.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That to some extent addresses the question, but does not actually answer the wider issue, which is that when we are talking about full-time teacher equivalents we are talking about the funding formula for schools. There is an additional funding formula around management positions and classroom release time, which is additional to that, and she has not—
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member’s point and I accept the veracity of the question asked, but I believe that an answer was given, in that the Minister has told the House that the maximum full-time teacher equivalent loss from the policy change will be two full-time teacher equivalents—that being the total impact of the policy change. That has answered the member’s question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Thank you for the interpretation.
Mr SPEAKER: There is no interpretation. The member should not interject. There is no interpretation. That is what the Minister said.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table an email from Jade Christensen, aged 9, saying they need more teachers—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is entitled to seek leave to have a document tabled.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table an email to the Minister from Jade Christensen, aged 9, saying that more one-to-one teachers are needed in her school.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Police Resourcing—New Police Stations
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the
Minister of Police: What recent investments has the Government made in new police stations?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police)
: Today I opened the new Ōtāhuhu Police Station in Counties-Manukau. The $8.6 million facility is the second new station to open in Counties-Manukau this month. Everyone in the project should be congratulated, as it, too, came in well under budget. Nationally recorded crimes are at a 15-year low, and Counties-Manukau police have made a valuable contribution to this, and I take this opportunity to thank the local officers for all their hard work.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What other investments has the Government made in police stations in Counties-Manukau?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Two weeks ago I opened the new $10.2 million police hub at Botany. The two new stations provide modern working environments for the additional 300 police officers that this National Government has put on the front line in Counties-Manukau to further reduce crime and make our communities safer.
Nicky Wagner: What investments has the Government made in new police facilities in Christchurch?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Earlier this month the first sod was turned for a new temporary police station for Christchurch central. Providing a strong police presence in the city as Christchurch and the surrounding area face their rebuilding phase is a really important symbol of the Christchurch rebuild. The temporary station is expected to cost around $19.8 million and is on track to be completed before the end of the year.
Schools, Class Sizes—Teacher to Pupil Ratios
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the
Minister of Education: Did she ask for, or receive, a list of the schools that would lose or gain more than one teacher as a result of the new ratios, prior to taking the policy to Cabinet for approval; if not, why did she not ask for that list?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education)
: As I clarified in the House last night, my office received a list of schools that were affected by a combination of forecasted roll growth and ratio changes. However, this list was based on a different funding formula.
Chris Hipkins: Did she ask for a further breakdown or any further information on the likely impact of the proposed new teacher-pupil ratios on the schools that had been identified as likely to lose more than one teacher as a result of the change, before she took the proposal to Cabinet; if not, why did she not ask for that information?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: In the iterative policy process I asked for breakdowns of different parts of that, and I took those impacts to Cabinet.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked her whether she had received a further breakdown on the impact of those proposed new teacher-pupil ratios, and I am not sure that she answered that question. She said she asked for a range of information, but I was asking specifically about the schools that lost more than one teacher, and she did not address that.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the Minister wish to add anything further to her answer?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, Mr Speaker. What I said was that in the development of the policy there are a number of iterative processes, and those have led to running lists that are relevant to those refinements, and that included what the impact would be on the 90 percent that would gain one or another. The member is suggesting that there was one finite stage. In the iterative process we have looked at what the impacts were for the 90 percent that have gained or lost one, and for the 10 percent on which it had a bigger effect.
Chris Hipkins: Did she examine the final list of schools that would lose more than one teacher as a result of her ratio changes?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes.
Chris Hipkins: Did the Cabinet paper she presented proposing the change to the teacher-pupil ratios contain a breakdown of the number of schools likely to lose teachers, gain teachers, or have the same number of teachers as a result of the change; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Cabinet made a decision on the basis of our focus on how we would raise quality, how we would raise student achievement, and what the impact would be across the 2,436 schools, and it wanted assurance that the 90 percent would either lose or gain one full-time teaching equivalent, that the 10 percent would experience a greater impact, and that we had transition options and contingency funding available to deal with that.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not entirely sure I followed all of that, and as a result of that, I am not entirely sure that she has addressed the question that I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a difficult situation we get into where, you know, the question asked was actually an absolutely proper question. It did not make any assertion in it. It did not have any content alleging anything that happened. It just asked: did the paper the Minister took to Cabinet contain a list of the schools that would lose however many full-time teacher equivalents? In answering, the Minister said that Cabinet made its decision based on these sorts of things. If the question had asked on what basis Cabinet made its decision, that would have been a perfect answer. But the questioner did not ask that. It could be a perfectly acceptable answer to say: “I do not reveal to the House the detailed content of a paper put in front of Cabinet.”, I guess. But simply to ignore the question asked, I believe—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet—is not reasonable. I think the member has got a fair point. He asked an absolutely straight question, and it was totally ignored.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am sorry if my hearing is not as good as yours, but I am not sure that that was the actual question that was asked. Could we have the question repeated?
Mr SPEAKER: Indeed. Certainly. I am very happy to do that. Chris Hipkins, please, to repeat the question.
Chris Hipkins: I am very happy to repeat it. Did the Cabinet paper she presented proposing the change to teacher-pupil ratios contain a breakdown of the number of schools likely to lose teachers, gain teachers, or have the same number of teachers as a result of the change; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did take a paper that had a breakdown of the numbers of schools. I did not take a paper that had the list of the specific schools.
Health Targets—Cancer Treatment
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the
Minister of Health: What progress is our public health service making in achieving the Government’s health target of shorter waiting times for cancer treatment?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health)
: Good progress. Every cancer patient needing radiation is starting it within the world gold standard of 4 weeks. Just 4 years ago people were waiting up to 15 weeks for this critical treatment, and many New Zealand women were sent to Australia to receive this treatment. From 1 July chemotherapy will be included in the target, and this means every patient ready for chemotherapy treatment will also start that within a 4-week maximum. I would like to
congratulate the very hard-working doctors, nurses, and support staff in our nation’s cancer centres on this outstanding achievement for New Zealand patients.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What further improvements is the Government making to public health cancer services?
Hon TONY RYALL: In Budget 2012 the Government makes available an additional $33 million for better and faster cancer services for patients. Research shows that some cancer patients can come into contact with up to 28 different doctors and even more nurses during the course of their cancer treatment. So that is why the Government is putting significant funds into new dedicated cancer coordination nurse positions, which will act as a single point of contact and assist patients and their families across the different parts of the health service. This has been welcomed by our friends at the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, who have said that this will be a win-win situation for everyone involved, and that patients will receive improved quality of care.
War Pensions, Law Commission Report—Government Response
ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First) to the
Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: What progress has been made by the Government to implement the recommendations in the Law Commission report
A New Support Scheme for Veterans: A Report on the Review of the War Pensions Act 1954,
published on 1 June 2010?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Veterans’ Affairs)
: The Government is, indeed, making good progress. The Law Commission took 3 years to produce the report, with 170 recommendations. Many of them were complex and included replacing the Act with new legislation, and making significant other changes. The Law Commission did not cost its recommendations, and advised that the Government obtain rigorous costings before making decisions. This work has now been completed, and I intend taking the proposals to Cabinet shortly.
Andrew Williams: When can concerned veterans, many of whom are well into their 80s, expect the Government to make comprehensive, far-reaching changes to the War Pensions Act 1954, given the Minister’s response in February 2012 to a written question was that a response to the Law Commission’s report would be released in due course?
Hon NATHAN GUY: If the member was listening to the answer to the primary question, I said that we have completed the progress so far in terms of—
Andrew Williams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question included the words “to make comprehensive, far-reaching”. Those were the two specific words, asking when the Minister would make “comprehensive, far-reaching” changes. The Minister has not outlined any comprehensive, far-reaching changes.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members asking questions cannot get too pedantic. I mean, the Minister had barely started his answer, and I think he should be given the chance to proceed with it.
Hon NATHAN GUY: As I was outlining to the House in my primary answer, this is a very detailed report with 170 recommendations, and it has taken some time to work through the dozen or so Government departments. It is now at a stage where I am going to be taking some of these proposals through to Cabinet in the next few months.
Andrew Williams: What does he say to the thousands of elderly war veterans with ailments from their time of service who are anxiously waiting for the Government to give them a fair go 2 years to the day after the report was released on 1 June 2010?
Hon NATHAN GUY: What I say is that this Government cares about veterans. Today I have just made an announcement that under the war pensions coverage 10 additional military deployments will, indeed, be covered that were not previously covered by the War Pensions Act. An additional $4.8 million of funding means that
1,100 additional veterans will now be eligible for this. This Government does care about veterans.
Andrew Williams: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear Andrew Williams.
Andrew Williams: Does the Minister believe, even allowing for the extraordinary laws of coincidence of the Minister’s announcement today, that this process is being needlessly drawn out due to the fact that implementing all of the Law Commission’s 170 recommendations may jeopardise this Government’s wishful plans to return to surplus by 2014?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I reject that assertion. If that member had done his homework, he would see that the 10 additional military deployments that are now going to be covered were in Budget 2012.
John Hayes: What else is the Government doing to support veterans?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As I just alluded to before, there are 10 additional military deployments that are going to be covered under the War Pensions Act. This is, indeed, a significant announcement involving $4.8 million that means that 1,100 additional veterans will now be eligible for a war disablement pension for any disability that occurred as a result of their service in these deployments. I am extremely proud of this National-led Government for this significant contribution to veterans.
Civil Defence, Disaster Preparedness—ShakeOut Exercise
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the
Minister of Civil Defence: What progress is the Government making on preparing New Zealanders for earthquakes?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Minister of Civil Defence)
: Earthquake preparedness has increased in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, but there is still a lot of work to do. On 26 September 2012 we will hold New Zealand’s largest ever earthquake drill, exercise ShakeOut. The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management aims to have 1 million New Zealanders taking part to raise awareness so that more people prepare themselves for an earthquake. Yesterday we reached a milestone of 100,000 registrations. This is a good start, and I encourage further schools, businesses, Government departments, and individuals to get on board.
Chris Auchinvole: What actions are being taken to encourage even more people to sign up for exercise ShakeOut?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management is writing to all Government departments, and New Zealand’s 100 largest employers, seeking their involvement, along with schools and other organisations. There will also be an advertising campaign that highlights the need for preparedness and encourages people to sign up to ShakeOut at www.getthru.govt.nz. I will be writing to all members of Parliament to ask for their support in this valuable exercise by encouraging their communities to get involved with “Operation ShakeOut”. Thank you.
Tax System Changes—Children’s Active Income Tax Credit
Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the
Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement regarding changes to the child tax credit that “if it’s interest on their savings or other means of payment they won’t pay any tax”?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) on behalf of the
Minister of Finance: That answer to a media question was not accurate, because it did not take account of the resident withholding tax, introduced way back in 1989 under Labour, which is applied to every dollar of interest or dividends.
Dr David Clark: Did the revenue Minister take the proposal for the child tax policy to Cabinet or any other Cabinet committee; and, if so, were he and the Prime Minister present at those meetings?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I can certainly answer for the revenue Minister yes to the first part of the question. To the second part of the question, my recollection is that the Prime Minister was certainly present at the meeting, which he alluded to himself last Monday week, but I cannot be more specific than that.
Dr David Clark: Was the Prime Minister correct in his answer to question No. 12 yesterday that the changes to the child tax credit “would remove the tax status for those who earn $2,340 from PAYE income.”?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The Prime Minister was correct in his answer yesterday. What we are doing is introducing an active income exemption for those who qualify, so that is persons under the age of 18, part-time workers, and children earning less than $2,340 per annum.
Dr David Clark: Has he seen recent Treasury figures that show his 2010 income tax cuts cost somewhere between $11 billion and $12 billion over the forecast period; and, if so, how much of that will be recovered by the paper delivery tax?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I think it is important to appreciate that the change the member refers to, plus the other two tax credit removals, was about streamlining and improving the tax system. Those changes, together with the changes announced to livestock and the mixed use of assets, will make a significant contribution to the Government’s revenue.
Hon Member: How much?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Some several hundred million dollars over the forecast period.
Nuclear Disarmament—Government Support for Convention on Nuclear Weapons
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the
Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will New Zealand promote immediate negotiations on a Nuclear Weapons Convention prohibiting their development, production, stockpiling and use?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs)
: The position of successive New Zealand Governments has been one of general support for such a convention when circumstances are such that it has a realistic chance of success, and in the meantime to focus on practical measures to reduce nuclear dangers. I am advised that the prospects of successfully negotiating such a treaty at the present time would be poor. For that reason, at Government level internationally, there are no serious moves afoot to get negotiations on a convention under way.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Given our nuclear-free policy and the fact that a convention is supported by the United Nations Secretary-General as a practical plan now, not in the future, should we not support all resolutions calling for the convention and a nuclear-free world generally?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: As I alluded to in my primary answer, the Government’s position on that, and the position of previous Governments, is one of general support.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does he agree, given that global support is 76 percent in favour of a nuclear weapons convention, according to a World Public Opinion poll, that New Zealand would be in tune with the world mood in advancing this goal now, not at some indeterminate time in the future?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: As I indicated in my primary answer, the Government’s position and that of its predecessors is generally one of support, but it has been determined that it would be useful to place some effort into promoting such an
outcome when there is some prospect of success. In the meantime the Government puts its efforts into immediate steps to try to reduce nuclear dangers.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister agree that any use of nuclear weapons would be a violation of the United Nations Charter and a crime against humanity, as affirmed last December in UN Resolution 66/57?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I would not want to provide an answer to a specific question based on the interpretation of that charter. What I would say is that the Government, as its predecessors have done, takes the view that we should work actively to ensure that the nuclear dangers that attend the world are reduced through whatever means are practical at the time.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is UN General Assembly document A/62/650, which is a letter from the Costa Rican and Malaysian Governments to the Secretary-General setting out a model nuclear weapons convention as an immediate practical goal.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Dr Kennedy Graham: There is?
Mr SPEAKER: There is objection. Does the member wish to seek—
Dr Kennedy Graham: The second document is UN Resolution A/Res/66/57, which endorses a convention on the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Dr Kennedy Graham: And the third document is a document by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which sets out the public opinion poll showing 76 percent of the world opinion in favour.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Maryan Street: Is the Minister aware of a report that John Key could not recall how he felt about New Zealand’s anti-nuclear stance at the time of the passage of the legislation; if he is, is he concerned that the Prime Minister has lost a decade somewhere along the line, because he could not remember his position on the Springbok Tour either?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: What I can say is that amongst the steps that New Zealand is taking in the short term to reduce nuclear dangers attending the world is the outstanding leadership that the Prime Minister brought to the nuclear summit held recently in Seoul.