Hansard and Journals
[Sitting date: 20 June 2012. Volume:681;Page:3139. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) : I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. We are still waiting, this week, for the Labour Party to commit to buying back the shares of the 49 percent of the energy companies that the Government is planning to sell, mainly to New Zealanders. New Zealand First has made that undertaking. New Zealand First has shown that the Labour Party has persuaded New Zealand First that its arguments are so strong, New Zealand First should go and buy them back if it has a role in a future Government. But the Labour Party has not been able to persuade itself. Labour members have been in the Chamber arguing, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, that these proposed share offers are fiscally irresponsible, economic nonsense, and a sell-out to foreigners, but they are not so fiscally irresponsible that they are going to buy them back. They are not such a sell-out to foreigners that they are going to buy them back. They are not such an economic nonsense that they are going to buy them back.
The Labour Party has one more parliamentary day, tomorrow, for its leader to set some direction and show that the Labour Party really believes the arguments that it is making in the House. So far it has not happened. I thought it would happen; its members persuaded me that they really cared about this. It was the centre of their election campaign. Surely it is not the case that the Labour Party all through the 2011 election campaigned against asset sales and never intended to buy them back. Surely that is not the case! Surely it did not mislead the New Zealand public about how desperate it is to save New Zealand and New Zealanders from the evils of the sale of these shares. Well, a seed of doubt is growing in my heart. A seed of doubt is growing in my heart that Labour will not promise to buy them back.
Let us just take Labour members through the accounting that they would be signing up to. Let us say that they are the Government and they say that the sale of those shares is terrible. This is what they have to do. The first thing is they have to go to the international money markets and borrow $5 billion to $7 billion. They will borrow not just from their grandmother but off big corporate, foreign multinationals. That is the first thing. Then they have to take those billions and pay them out in lump sums to shareholders who, they told this House, are a small elite. That will be the first action of a Labour Government—borrow off foreign multinationals and pay it out in lump sums to a small elite to buy their shares off them.
Then the next thing that happens, these companies stop paying dividends into the Superannuation Fund. They stop paying dividends to KiwiSavers—2 million of them—and they stop paying dividends to iwi and to tens of thousands of New Zealand families who had the shares and were getting dividends and those dividends were flowing to them. Guess where that money goes? Labour then has to start paying interest to big corporate, foreign multinationals for the money that it borrowed. I can see a seed of doubt in David Cunliffe’s heart, as well. How is he going to explain to the aspirational electrician in his electorate who bought those shares that he has to sell them back to the Government so that the Government can borrow $7 billion and pay interest on it to a foreign multinational instead of into the electrician’s savings account? It is no wonder Labour has not made the undertaking yet, or will we be surprised by Thursday night? Let us see; there is only 27 hours to go.
GARETH HUGHES (Green) : Kia ora, Mr Speaker. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora. Today in Brazil—20 years on—the Rio Earth Summit meets for its 20th anniversary. Now, 20 years on, I think it is important to take stock of how we are doing two decades on. When you look at the promises made 20 years ago, and when you look at the promises made 10 years ago, you can see that it is clear: successive New Zealand Governments have failed to protect the environment—failed to protect it for future generations. We know that emissions are up, our waterways are more polluted than ever—Kiwi kids cannot swim in half of our rivers and streams—we have got species going extinct, and our oceans are not protected.
Firstly, looking at climate change, we know that our emissions are up. The Government promised to reduce them, but instead what we see is our emissions increasing. But, worse than that, we are seeing this Government fork out more than $1 billion in free emissions trading scheme credits to pay for the polluters. So our emissions are going up, and we are paying polluters to keep polluting. We know that the Government is blocking international climate deals. The Government has failed to develop a low-carbon development plan, which it promised in 2010.
When we look at our waterways, our waterways are more polluted than ever, 20 years on. The quality is declining markedly. Kiwi kids cannot swim in most of our lowland rivers, streams, and lakes. When you look at the waters, we know that there are only 55 Māui’s dolphins left, but the Minister for Primary Industries sits on his hands while this dolphin species goes extinct.
We know that the Government is embarking on a risky deep-sea oil drilling plan, opening up 40,000 square kilometres of our oceans to risky deep-sea drilling. When it comes to marine protection, the Government has sat on the Marine Reserves Bill, which is currently with the Local Government and Environment Committee. This bill is now the second-oldest bill ever to languish in a select committee. So while the Government goes over to Rio, and today Amy Adams put out a press release saying that she was signing New Zealand up to the Global Partnership for Oceans, the only thing she could point to was her Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill. The first thing is that this bill is not a conservation bill. This bill does not deal with protection. This bill is more of an “Exclusive Economic Zone Drilling Bill”. All this bill does is rubber-stamp risky deep-sea oil drilling.
The Minister signed up New Zealand once again—because, of course, we signed up to it in 2000 with the Labour Government—to a 10 percent marine reserve target. The last time we had this target, and the last time the deadline was met, New Zealand had achieved having only 0.41 percent of our waters protected. So what we know is that the Government is opening up thousands of square kilometres to deep-sea drilling. It will not protect any of it. It is sitting on the legislation that could protect it. Meanwhile, across the Ditch, Australia has just announced the world’s largest network of marine reserves. So when we talk about catching Australia, why do we not talk about catching it in marine conservation?
It is clear when you look across all the promises that successive Governments have made that we have failed to live up to those promises. There are tens of thousands of people off to Rio as the conference begins tomorrow, but there are two people who are not going. The first is the Prime Minister. Where is the Prime Minister? Why is he not going to Rio? We are sending the world the wrong signal. We are sending the world the signal that we do not care about sustainability. Of course this is a strong signal, but an even stronger one is the fact that over two decades we have completely failed to protect our environment. We are missing out on a huge opportunity. Secondly, from this side of the Chamber, it would be interesting to ask who from Labour is going to the most important Earth Summit in 10 years. Who from Labour is going to the Earth Summit in Rio? The fact is, Labour is not sending anyone.
It is good that New Zealand is signing up to a plan to reduce that $1 trillion in global fossil fuel subsidies, but really, much like the oceans partnership, we should start looking closer to home. This Government has got $25 million to throw at oil explorers, and it has numerous tax incentives and exemptions to throw at risky oil explorers. This Government is quite comfortable with the fourth-lowest Government take of any oil producer in the world. So what we know is that from that risky deep-sea oil we are going to see hardly any jobs, hardly any taxes, and hardly any royalties, and all the profits are going to go offshore.
There is a better way. Last week I met with Brittany Trilford, a New Zealander who has been selected to address tomorrow the world leaders who are at Rio. Brittany is going to ask the world leaders to give Kiwis a future that I can look forward to, and that is what the world is asking. This Government can embrace the green economy: clean energy and smart technology. It can give Kiwi kids a future they can look forward to.
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Primary Industries) : Following on from the contribution of my colleague the Minister of Finance, Bill English, when he talked about the seeds of doubt growing in those members’ hearts, I want to speak about the kernel of confusion. I listened to the debate with great interest yesterday. There were contributions from senior members of the Labour Party, like Mr Goff and Mr Mallard and Mr Cunliffe. And then I came across a comment or a speech by one of these Labour members. This member said in 2010: “in a capital constrained … environment,”—and we have certainly got that at the moment—“[Labour] will better leverage the Crown’s balance sheet in new and innovative ways …We can unleash State Owned Enterprises to create and grow [them] with private partners and private shareholders,”. That is exactly what National is proposing to do. That is what Mr Cunliffe came down and spoke in Opposition about in the Chamber, and yet at his own party conference, I believe, he made a speech like that advocating the mixed-ownership model.
Then I came across an even more interesting comment by a senior Labour Minister back in 2006 on the Agenda programme. This Minister said: “Something that we need to do, and something that I am quite keen on, is that as the SOEs develop new businesses, especially those that are done in partnership with people in the private sector, we could well have floats of the subsidiaries, so that they could be listed on the stock exchange. That would help give depth to our capital markets and get some transparency around these companies. I think that would help.” Well, amazingly, that was said by the Hon Trevor Mallard—the very member who spent hours in the Chamber yesterday arguing against National’s mixed-ownership model, when, in 2006, Mr Mallard said it was a good idea. So Mr Mallard speaks out of both sides of his mouth, saying two different things, and it is no wonder we have in the House today an absolute kernel of confusion.
The other comment that came through in the debate yesterday is that National needs a mandate. Well, I remind the Labour members that at the last election there were effectively two issues. One was the idea of the Labour Party to impose a capital gains tax. The other issue that was voted on by people was National’s absolute honesty to go to the electorate and say that if you vote National at the next election—the last election—then we will deliver a mixed-ownership model. And 47.5 percent of those who voted, voted National, Mr Little. That is as close to a mandate you can ever get using a general election to deliver a mandate, so for Mr Little, Clayton Cosgrove, and Kris Faafoi to argue that we are proceeding without a mandate is absolute rubbish.
I do not understand why the Greens are running a petition and—surprise, surprise—not only are they wasting their time with that petition, but they are actually wasting taxpayers’ money. We learnt yesterday that they have got paid officials—$75,000 of taxpayers’ money—out there at places like the Fieldays collecting signatures. The Green Party talks about all of its support base—its wide support base so loyal to the cause. If the support base is so loyal to the cause, why does the party have to pay its people to stand outside the supermarkets, collecting signatures for a referendum, which, Mr Hague, will be meaningless—absolutely meaningless?
The final point I want to make is about why National is proposing the mixed-ownership model. It is because we have a lot of things that as a Government we need to spend capital on. We need to spend money in Christchurch helping the rebuild; in the Port Hills electorate alone a number of schools have been completely destroyed. I want to see money invested in productivity like water infrastructure—particularly in Canterbury, but not only in Canterbury, in Hawke’s Bay and in Otago. To develop that infrastructure, to develop those new schools, we need capital—
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) : If it is not one thing in education, it is another, and there is no seed of a doubt in the public’s mind that the National Government’s bungling in the education system is creating a great big mess along the way.
First, we see the bungle from the Government of introducing national standards in our schools. Sure, many schools are meeting the requirements of the Ministry of Education, but they do not do it because they think it is going to make a big difference to the learning outcomes of children; they do it because they have to. The teaching profession informed the Minister of Education at the time that the testing of our primary school children in reading, writing, and maths was a narrow measure of learning progress and had the potential to narrow the way in which New Zealand’s rich curriculum could be delivered in our schools and in our classrooms for the benefit of our children. We have since found out that there is a huge variance between schools and within schools as to how the overall teacher judgment impacts on a student’s assessment.
Parents want to know how well their child is doing while they are at school, their rate of learning, and what can be done to improve their progress. National standards do not provide the type of information that will help parents as first teachers to progress the learning of their children. It does not work and will not work in the current regime. New Zealand needs well-rounded, engaged, resilient, and creative learners confident in who they are. National just does not get it and it is proving that is the case.
Today’s classrooms are full of children with diverse learning needs—and the Minister’s response this year? It was to cram them into larger classes. She claimed it would not make much of a difference. Well, parents knew that things had got out of control, that this Government did not understand what works in education, and they mobilised and challenged the Government on that very issue when their children came home from school saying that they might not have a technology, science, art, drama, kapahaka, music, or extension teacher. Parents became really angry with the National Government—some of its supporters. I will not be surprised if they switch at the next election, because they know in their heart of hearts—in their heart of hearts—that National is not committed to educating the future leaders of this country, and it is showing it does not have a clue.
Labour tabled research in this House that showed that larger class sizes for our youngest, most vulnerable, and disadvantaged learners did not improve achievement outcomes. We were clear that we would reverse this silly policy. Well, time passed—vigorous lobbying, damaging polls—and common sense prevailed, and the Minister had to back down and turn round her decision on larger class sizes. That initiative was supposed to make a saving of $114 million over 4 years, which was to be used for improving teacher quality. Now the Minister is scrambling around looking for funding to invest in quality teaching. Stump up with the funds, Minister. Find that money, because we believe that quality teaching does matter and should never have been considered a trade-off for larger class sizes.
In fact, what we should be doing is treating education as an investment portfolio. Get rid of charter school initiatives, cap the amount of funding for independent schools, reverse tax cuts for the top 3 percent of income earners, and there you will have the resources necessary to address the ongoing needs of professional development, mentoring, and training supports for teachers, because great teachers do make a difference, but the environment of the school and the classroom matters as well.
Hot on the heels of this bungle was another blunder. A rush of blood to the head saw the Prime Minister promote league tables. But it would depend on the shape of the reporting so that schools would not be disadvantaged, we heard—whatever that means! What does it mean, Prime Minister? He was not quick to clarify what the shape of the reporting of league tables will be, but he should. League tables and ranking schools based on reading, writing, and math confirm exactly what the educational professionals thought would happen after national standards. League tables—
Mike Sabin: Why shouldn’t teachers tell parents what’s happening in the schools?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: That member asks why schools should not tell parents what is happening in their schools. Parents want to know. Many schools will tell that member that they provide plain English reporting to their parents, but what is more important is the learning progression of their child, not simply that the child did not achieve.
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade) : There are many extraordinary things about this debate over the mixed-ownership model. There is, first of all, the literally ridiculous claim that somehow we are proceeding without a mandate, but Mr Carter has, I think, just demolished that argument comprehensively. Let me—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have not been in the House and I have not heard the previous contributions, but it appears to me that the member is anticipating the order of the day.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no. There have been a number of contributions around this issue, and anything can be debated in the general debate. He was not specifically dealing with any specific measures in later legislation. Members must not interrupt other members’ speeches unnecessarily.
Hon TIM GROSER: The other strange aspect of this debate is the idea that somehow the members opposite us are looking at this in a hermetically sealed bubble with no comprehension about the context in which we are taking these decisions, and, more particularly, no comprehension about the state of the international economy, which is forcing some very tough choices.
Let me try to explain this in very simple terms to the members opposite. I do want to pay respect here to the Mr Happy books, because I will use very, very simple language here—these are books that I brought up my children on, and I am sure many other members have brought up their very young children on the same series of books. In my version of a Mr Happy book this is “Nice-to-have Land”. Let me take you back through memory lane. In 2000 we lived in “Nice-to-have Land”, and these people were then in charge of “Nice-to-have Land”. They ticked off any proposal that had the right type of label on it, that said the right things, that looked shiny and bright, and then they built up core Crown Government expenditure from $32 billion—$32 billion—to over $60 billion, as they ticked off everything that was nice to have. But, unfortunately, this happy band of brothers and sisters did not look above them to see that there were some dark skies gathering overhead. And they started to appear as soon as 2005 hit the shores. We started to then run out of the good times and over the next 3 years, New Zealand’s average growth rate was less than 1 percent per annum, productivity tanked, the debt-fuelled consumption boom continued, but the people who ruled over “Nice-to-have Land” did not see what was happening, as they enjoyed themselves ticking off every nice-to-have proposal.
Well, in 2008, the people who lived in this country said thank you very much, and that they wanted some prudent economic management around this. All of this, let us never forget, was before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, before that triggered the global financial crisis. So this country was the only country in the developed world to be in recession before the whole difficult situation unfolded around the rest of the developed world. We have replaced “Nice-to-have Land” with a much tougher measure: “Must-have Land”. Nothing that cannot pass the must-have test has got through this Government. We have not imposed austerity. When I listen to some of these charges about austerity, I just think about what else is going on around the world, like 700,000 civil servants in the United Kingdom being given their leave. I am thinking about the huge increase in university fees in the United Kingdom, to an average, if I am not mistaken, of £9,000, which is around $22,000 or $23,000. Even in Sweden, if I am not mistaken, youth unemployment is now about 22 or 23 percent. We have unemployment in Greece of 52 percent. There are massive upsets in world capital markets.
This is the context in which we are managing a very difficult situation facing our country. Proceeding with a mixed-ownership model is, indeed, an integral part of it. It is all part of a strategy of trying to do more with less, trying to get better value out of public services, trying to ensure that we have the funds available to fund vital capital investments like broadband, improved schools, and a whole series of things in the hospital and health areas, otherwise we would be going on to international capital markets. Nobody knows precisely what is going to happen over the next 6 to 12 months, but you would have to be a supreme optimist to believe that that is where New Zealand should be going—that New Zealand should be trying to borrow as much as it can overseas—in situations like this. So the mixed-ownership model must absolutely be set in that context, and I am very proud to be supporting a Government that is doing that.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First of all, I would like to apologise for interrupting the member, the Hon Tim Groser, earlier. I should not have done that in a general debate. I would like to now go back to the point of order that I did make then and refer you to Standing Order 110(1) and (2) and to Speaker’s ruling 25/1. All of those are quite clear on the matter of anticipating an order of the day. It does depend on the likelihood of getting to it. It is clear that we are going to get to the Mixed Ownership Model Bill today. The member gave a speech that would have fitted well as a second or third reading speech on that bill. In fact, some of the matters would have referred to the Committee stage as well. My submission is that there is no exception either in the Speaker’s ruling or in the Standing Orders for the general debate from that Standing Order.
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Senior Whip—National) : The honourable member is quite right, and this has been raised in general debate in the recent past, but might I point out that in a general debate issues of the partial float of State assets—and I have been listening very carefully on this side—have been one part of a broader discussion about choices involving the raising of taxes, borrowing, reducing spending, and investing in future assets. To rule one part—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not believe I need more assistance on this. The debate that I expect to be coming up in the House this afternoon is a very particular debate on Part 2 of the Mixed Ownership Model Bill. That is a very specific debate. In the general debate referring to the wider issues of whether or not New Zealand should own State-owned energy companies, or whether it makes sense to sell shareholdings in them, or whether it makes sense to buy them back, is referring to far more general issues. It is not pre-empting a particular debate in the Committee stage this afternoon, and that is why I think it would be most unreasonable for the Speaker to rule that there cannot be that kind of general debate in the general debate.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask therefore that there is some discussion with the Clerk as to putting the ruling you have just given into Speakers’ Rulings. I think it would be useful, because I think it is certainly a change from Assistant Speaker Barker’s ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: I am very happy to do that if it is of assistance to members. I just note that Standing Order 110(2) currently says that “In determining whether a discussion is out of order, the Speaker has regard to the probability of the matter anticipated being brought before the House within a reasonable time.” I have been mindful of that. Had it been perhaps the second reading debate coming up this afternoon I think there might have been more merit in the member’s point of order. But since it is the Committee stage coming up this afternoon I think that for the general principles to be debated in the general debate is not contravening that Standing Order. But I am very happy to follow that up if that is helpful to the House.
SUE MORONEY (Labour) : The sight of a Government thrashing around without a plan—is it not horrendous to see time after time, every day now, a new thing that shows that this Government really has no direction and does not know what it is doing? Over there we had Tim Groser counting the cost of his big fat tax cut, which he could give back, but instead he wants to flog off the State’s assets to pay for infrastructure. Those are some of the priorities that that Government over there has got. Then we have got the prospect of seeing on a daily basis now the carnage at ACC from Judith Collins, as she thrashes about in her portfolio without a plan, without an idea, and all the casualties that are coming out of the ACC board as a result of that.
It all started some weeks back when the Government decided that its best idea, and the only real idea it had, for quality education was to increase the number of children in every single class throughout the land—and it was every single class throughout the land. The biggest impact was going to be felt in the intermediate schools and middle schools up and down the country, but, actually, the truth is that every primary school and every secondary school were also going to feel the impact of increasing class sizes.
What I cannot understand is that with all the official advice, all of the levers of Government, and everything those members opposite get in terms of information to make sound decisions, why they could not see what every parent in every household up and down the country saw was plainly obvious—the fact that if you have more children in a class, then that is going to be a more difficult prospect for the teacher, and, therefore, the quality of education for every single child in that class would diminish. It is what we might call—it is not a technical term—a no-brainer, and yet that lot opposite, the Government, did not understand that very basic concept. The Government had to wait until parents and teachers rebelled against such a ridiculous prospect: that increasing the number of children in each class and having more children per teacher was somehow going to increase the quality of education. It is absolutely a no-brainer.
But we watched Hekia Parata thrash around and actually try to defend that policy, knowing—as now the New Zealand public does know—that every single one of those members opposite, including the Prime Minister, actually still believes that increasing class sizes is the way to go in education. That is still their strongly held view of what was needed. The only reason they have not gone down that path is that their polls were collapsing, because parents knew better than this Government. Parents do know better than this Government because it is just about using common sense. With all the official advice that it has got, everything that it has got at its fingertips, it still could not work out what a daft idea that was.
It is now clearly obvious to every voter in New Zealand what party it is that stands up for quality education. It is the Labour Party. It is the Labour Party that understands, as parents do, what the key things are that make sure that children get a quality education. And it is absolutely clear now that Labour has education as a priority and National does not. National members cannot put that genie back in the bottle, no matter how they spin this round and no matter how many U-turns they make on this issue. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle now that every parent understands that the National Party at its heart, at its core, does not get education. It not only does not get education but it does not value the role of education in lifting families up in the way that parents actually value education.
The National Government is completely out of touch with the sort of value that parents place on education, and that is what it got a shock about. It did not understand the value that parents put on education. It did not understand the backlash that was about to happen, because education does not figure as a priority in the minds of the members of the National Government. That is plainly obvious. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle.
Now we are witnessing the blame shifting, and it is not only Judith Collins, in the ACC portfolio, who is doing the blame shifting. It is also Hekia Parata, who said that it was all her officials’ fault that she did not get that policy right. Then John Key said that it was not his fault; it was all Hekia Parata’s fault. So between the blame shifting and the thrashing around, there is clearly no plan.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) : At the weekend a very significant report was released that will have a huge impact on the life of just about every New Zealander, moving forward. I refer to the Financial Services Council’s report about future superannuation provision. There were two very chilling statistics amongst the plethora of statistics in that report that we should all focus on. Firstly, 52 percent of girls born last year and 44 percent of boys can expect a life expectancy of 100 years or more. Secondly, a 25-year-old in New Zealand today commencing a working career compared with a 25-year-old in Australia commencing a working career can, through the combination of a State-provided pension in the form of New Zealand superannuation and KiwiSaver, expect in comparison with the Australian schemes to be, on average, about two and a half times worse off by the time they retire.
The question that we need to focus on is what our situation in this country is going to be with superannuation policy, moving forward. The one certainty that everyone knows is that the record of politicians in this area over the last 30 years has simply been to create more uncertainty than they set out to establish in the beginning. What we have to do is put some pillars in the ground about where future superannuation policy should go, and work towards achieving those. I want to set out some from my perspective this afternoon.
This is not a debate about whether the age should be 65 or 67. That, with respect, is a very trivial issue. I favour retaining a core age of 65. What is important is the incentives that are created around that to enable people to plan their retirement with some certainty and some dignity.
That is why a flexible approach to superannuation, whereby the person has the choice of taking a reduced rate of superannuation if they choose to retire between 60 and 65, or an enhanced rate if they choose to defer their retirement post-65, has considerable appeal, for two reasons. Firstly, it will defray cost and, secondly, it means that the choice about when people leave the workforce is theirs, not the Government’s. Effectively, by establishing a superannuation entitlement age when we no longer have a retirement age, the Government is simply saying: “You will retire at this point in time, even though we do not have a retirement age to statutorily enforce.”
Flexible superannuation restores the choice to the individual. For a number of groups in our population—I think of Māori, I think of Pasifika, and I think of manual workers, who do not traditionally have long post-retirement life expectancies—the opportunity to take a reduced rate of superannuation from the age of 60 would give them some dignity in retirement and some choice that they currently do not have. But it needs to be buttressed by a couple of other factors. The first is that KiwiSaver, now with around 1.8 million or 1.9 million members, ought to be made a compulsory savings scheme, and still paying out at the age of 65, so that those who are entering the workforce now can invest in their future with some certainty, know what they will get at 65, and have the choice about a New Zealand superannuation scheme that they can take at the reduced rate of 60 or defer to 70 if they choose—but, again, they will have the choices.
Now comes the next issue, which is simply in the too-hard basket, but which a number of actuaries and others are starting to draw attention to. Over the next few years we are going to start to see people collect their KiwiSaver payments. In these first few years it is not going to be that significant, because the amount that they will collect will not be that great, but the time will come when people are collecting substantial KiwiSaver payments. What we need to be putting in place now is an annuities programme to enable them to reinvest those proceeds in a way that will pay them a sustainable income through the remainder of their lives.
The very worst thing we could tolerate is a situation where people get a large KiwiSaver payout at 65 and effectively blow it, and all of the good work of their lifetime in terms of their saving, and all of the good work in terms of the way we have sought to give people some comfort and some security in their retirement, will be completely wasted. So in addition to a flexible approach to superannuation, and in addition to a compulsory savings scheme in the form of KiwiSaver, we also need to start to bring in a comprehensive policy on annuities. That is the way we will give New Zealanders certainty and security for their futures.
Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector) : This afternoon we have heard about seeds of doubt. We have heard about kernels of confusion. I am going to talk about firm resolve, and it is the firm resolve of this Government. We need to build a more competitive and productive economy based on savings and investment, and to move away from the debt borrowed from foreign lenders. It seems really, really strange to me that there are members in this House who still do not get that. We see on television most nights a whole new set of disasters around the world based on the economies, in particular, in Europe and elsewhere. When we see those disasters there is just a bit of an inkling amongst some New Zealanders that maybe we should feel quite proud of ourselves and quite insulated from that. But, no, New Zealand should not feel insulated from that, and one way of protecting ourselves and of increasing the insulation is to protect ourselves from more debt.
Our mixed-ownership policy is part of a wider economic programme to reduce debt, to increase savings, and to get our country through what has been one of the worst economic crises in 100 years. It is also very much an integral part of our 120-point post-election plan. Again, I want to repeat the most important factor in there: the National Government does not want to increase debt.
Our plan to introduce the mixed-ownership model was a fulsome one. We are not going to be accused of treachery, which saw Labour dumped out of office—and we have heard Mr Mallard talk about it today—after selling too many assets. As Trevor Mallard reminded the House this afternoon, MPs lost their seats, and the public of New Zealand were appalled. The main reason they were appalled was that they were not consulted. That is very, very different from what has happened in this case.
Our fulsome plan involved 10 long months of campaigning on what we were going to do. We spelt it out time and time again. We said we would go and seek a mandate. What more can you do than to say that that is what you plan to do? And what better result can you get than 47.5 percent of the population saying: “Well, we might be a bit uncomfortable about it, but the National Party has got the right plan for New Zealand. We like it more than anyone else’s.”? Anyone who doubts that should go and look at the election day results of the other parties and see whether any of them came anywhere close. There was 10 long months of campaigning, 10 long months of asking for a mandate, and what did we get? We got 47.5 percent.
Unfortunately, there are still people out there in New Zealand who believe the title of “asset sales”. You will never see or hear Opposition members describing it as a mixed-ownership model, because that does not suit them. You see, members on that side of the House actually quite like mixed-ownership models. They introduced them. Let me give as an example the Rt Hon Winston Peters, who just happened to sign the prospectus for the shares in Auckland International Airport. He is now calling mixed-ownership models “treacherous”, but he seems to have quite a short-term memory, given that he signed as Deputy Prime Minister that prospectus for a mixed-ownership model.
There are other really good examples of mixed-ownership models that probably have been supported by the Opposition, including the Port of Tauranga. Air New Zealand was another one. In fact, it probably pays right now to again look at what we will gain by going down this track: avoiding debt. I come back to my principal point: this is about avoiding more debt. There will be a broader pool of investments for New Zealand savers; deeper capital markets; money for 21st century schools, hospitals, and priority infrastructure; and less exposure to debt and volatile markets—I will say it again. It is more of a successful mixed-ownership model, as evidenced by the success of Air New Zealand, of Auckland International Airport, and of the Port of Tauranga.
There will be—and this is a personal favourite of mine—up to $400 million as equity investment in irrigation projects. That is a very personal favourite for someone coming from Canterbury.
ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) : It is another week, and it is another resignation at ACC—another resignation of another board member. You, Mr Speaker, are entitled to sit there and say: “Another week, and another request from Labour for an urgent debate on ACC.” That is what happened for the third week in a row. But it is chaos in ACC. It is chaos, and now the latest departure—hushed up for 5 days, I might add—is Murray Hilder, one of the most respected actuaries in New Zealand, who is pushed aside because he has had enough of the politicking, the political manipulation, the shenanigans, and the chicanery that has been going on in ACC for far too long.
On 28 March I said about ACC: “It is a convoluted web of deceit, promises, counter-promises, and under-the-table utterances.” How prescient that was, with all due respect to my own modesty. I asked for answers from the Minister for ACC then. You know, here is the interesting thing. I gave the present Minister the benefit of the doubt. I said that she should front up, answer the questions, and get on with the job of cleaning it up.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why?
ANDREW LITTLE: I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I am a generous chap. I am a generous chap. Some would say naive, and others might say innocent. Well, I have learnt my lesson, because what has become patently obvious is not only that this Minister has no interest in cleaning it up—she wants to see the board gone—but also that this is part of a nasty, ugly, dirty, filthy game being played out inside the National Party, with ACC and its board as collateral damage. That is what is going on.
I regarded the Minister originally as responsible, but not to blame. I have changed my mind. She is responsible and she is to blame. She is not fixing the problem. She is not fixing the problem; she is making it worse. It is time for her to do the right thing.
It was bad enough that there was a privacy breach to begin with. It was bad enough that ACC did not seem to respond effectively, and it is bad enough that since the privacy breach there have been even more privacy breaches. But none of this compares to the prevarication, the evasion, and the dissembling that has gone on in this House with the Minister failing and refusing to front up, and no wonder. It is quite clear that her conduct is not the conduct of a reasonable and responsible Minister. Her conduct is the conduct of a sociopath, Ms Tolley. Maurice Williamson understands that, because he has worked with too many of them for too long. He knows sociopathic conduct when he sees it.
Here is what is going on. All we wanted was straight answers, but Judith Collins needs to understand that it is not just what is said in this House that counts; it is what is said around the well-heeled, well-fashioned dining tables of the middle class around New Zealand. They are not called the chattering classes for nothing, I can tell you. They are chattering—they are chattering. What they are saying is that Judith Collins, when she got the news of the mass privacy breach, called the chief executive and the chairman of the board to her office in Auckland and asked them what was going on. She gave them a dressing down. She balled them out, gave them a dressing down, and said: “It’s not just a question of sorting out the privacy. I want you to go after Michelle Boag—go after Michelle Boag.” That is her plan—that is her plan.
She told them what happened at the meeting on 1 December. Let us remember, too, about the meeting of 1 December, where this was arranged to benefit Bronwyn Pullar. Michelle Boag was there. There were no threats, no extortion. There was a polite letter from ACC the day after, and nothing for 3 months—nothing for 3 months. And then, suddenly, on 14 March, the day after news of it broke, the Minister thought this was criminal conduct and she urged and pressured and pressed the chief executive and the chairman of the board to lay a complaint with the police, and that is what they did. She told them to do it, and then when the police came back and said: “Nothing here. Nothing going on here. Move on, please.”, she hung them out to dry. She knows what the story is here. If she is found out as being responsible for sending it to the police, she is exposed on the leak of Michelle Boag’s email to her. That is the game that is being played, and ACC is the collateral damage. ACC claimants do not get a look in, and it is a disgrace.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : That was a great speech from Trevor Mallard. I want to talk about how Trevor Mallard can get up in this House and move a sanctimonious mea culpa—yes, we did that, and then we got kicked out. [Interruption] If the Greens do not like what I am saying, there is the door. He said: “Yes, we sold it and we have learnt our lesson.” The more you yell, the more I will yell. This is a fact. They do not like it. You know what happened? The complete difference between when the Labour Party sold out New Zealand’s assets, and when we are selling New Zealand’s assets—[Interruption] That is right. The complete difference is that Labour sold 100 percent of them. It did not worry about New Zealand. At least we went to the public. We went to the public and it was in neon lights. It was up there, in Christmas lights, for all to see, on every road, on every street, and on every crescent. We said to the public before the election that our proposal was to sell 49 percent—not 50 percent, not 100 percent, but 49 percent. What happened? A million people decided that they could trust the National Government, that they could rely on the National Government to manage the process through, on behalf of Joe and Mary Bloggs.
Never mind you getting up on your hind legs—sorry, I apologise, Mr Speaker—because New Zealand First is culpable. Mayor Williams sold off two parts of his council when he was the mayor, for something like a paltry $11 million. It was not 49 percent, but 100 percent. When Winston Peters was the Deputy Prime Minister, and I think he might have been the Treasurer, he sat at the signing of the sale of Auckland Airport—that was the Rt Hon Winston Peters. He was at the signing, and he said to the Crown that that was capitalism at work, or something like those words.
Hon Member: Popular capitalism.
Hon TAU HENARE: Popular capitalism. Well, I wonder what we call this—great capitalism. It is forward thinking. Then Phil Goff yesterday wanted to get up and table in the House a list of the assets that Labour sold, and it was blank. Well, I tell you what, I have got the list here. I have got the list here, and it is $9.5 billion worth.
Hon Member: Name and shame.
Hon TAU HENARE: Name and shame? Well, PostBank for a start—the post offices. Now you wonder why the old people in New Zealand still say that Labour did us in the eye because it took away our local post offices. That is what happened.
Grant Robertson: Bring them back, Tau.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh, let us talk about bringing it back. Labour said yesterday, with the Greens and New Zealand First, that they want to buy them back. They want to buy the assets back. That is not true. This is what they want to do. They want to nationalise. That is a terrible word. They have said that they want to nationalise the assets that we are getting rid of, the 49 percent of them. It is about nationalisation, and the last guy who got away with it was Hugo Chávez in Venezuela when he nationalised all of the assets—private assets. This is what they want to do. This is what Andrew Little wants to do. He wants to allow people to buy assets, but then when Labour gets to Government it is going to take them off them. It is going to nationalise people’s private property. If New Zealand First, the Greens, and Labour are not going to do that, they should get up in the House and say they will not nationalise those assets—they will not take them out of private ownership.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou e te Whare. After that outburst of testosterone, we will now enter a period of calm. Today I am going to speak about an issue that many people do not know much about, but it is not necessary for me to shout, because how loud we shout does not indicate the significance of what we are going to talk about.
I am going to talk about when the Prime Minister went to Jakarta in April. He met with the President of Indonesia, and the President discussed with him the sad issue of the human rights abuses in West Papua. They had a nice little chat. And then, interestingly enough, last week I found out that the New Zealand Defence Force is training a Kopassus officer, an officer from the special unit that is known for human rights abuses right throughout East Timor, Aceh, and West Papua. I do not think many citizens of this country would be happy to know that the New Zealand Defence Force is training people like Major Edwin Sumanta, who is part of the Kopassus special unit, which Human Rights Watch has accused of torture and murder in West Papua. This issue is one that brings New Zealand to shame. We should stop training military who are implicated in violence in West Papua. What that means is stopping training anyone from Indonesia until it stops the abuses that are taking place as we speak in that country.
Right now in West Papua we have a sorry record of human rights abuses. Last week the military attacked a village in the area of Wamena, and they burnt a number of houses. Then Mako Tabuni was assassinated outside the university—shot in cold blood. Buchtar Tabuni was arrested and detained without trial, and a number of other people have been killed. These Pacific people are being killed without licence by members of military groups such as Kopassus, whom we are colluding with if we continue to be involved with them and continue to train them. And so we have a situation now in West Papua—which is basically an occupied country—where people are being subjected to human rights abuses. It is less than 400 miles north of Australia. Most citizens of this country think West Papua is somewhere connected to somewhere, but they have absolutely no idea of our own involvement, as a country, with this issue.
I am not the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Greens, but I am a citizen with a conscience, and I cannot unknow what I have learnt from my colleagues in West Papua who are refugees from that regime. I and others today went to the Indonesian Embassy. We held a vigil outside the embassy, and we held up the Morning Star flag. The reason we held up the Morning Star flag is that unlike in Aotearoa New Zealand, if you raise the Morning Star flag in West Papua you get 15 years in prison. If that is the kind of country we want to trade with—Indonesia—do we not think that we should demand a higher standard of ethics from our trading partners than arresting people, shooting them, having summary executions in the streets of their country, and putting people in jail for 15 years for raising their flag? In this country we can raise any flag we like with impunity, which is the way it should be. We should be able to stand up and raise a flag, instead of which people just north of here are in prison for 15 years. The Jayapura 5, who dared to be the leaders of a congress held in October 2011, are doing 3½ years in jail for daring to discuss the issue of self-determination.
The Aotearoa New Zealand Government does have a role—definitely—as a peacemaker. We should be taking leadership as we did with Bougainville, with Aceh, and with East Timor—eventually, although it took a while—in terms of requiring the Indonesian Government to stop killing citizens. It is not acceptable. As much as we are concerned about Syria, and as much as we are genuinely concerned about issues in Palestine, those countries actually have something that West Papua does not. They have the international media and the international Red Cross. The international Red Cross is not allowed in West Papua. The international media are not allowed in West Papua. And yet our Government is training Kopassus. We need to answer as to why our Government has allowed that to happen, because I do not think our citizens think torture is acceptable, I do not think the citizens of this country think being put in jail for 15 years for raising a flag is acceptable, and yet we continue to collude with the Indonesian Government policy of attacks on citizens in West Papua.
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister for State Owned Enterprises) : Thank you very much for the opportunity to take a call in support of our colleagues, at, I think, a very important time for the world, as they consider the very significant challenges arising from debt. What has to be remembered, particularly, about this debate and this reference to the Government’s mixed-ownership model is that it has to be seen within a wider context and a wider plan that the Government has in order to help control our nation’s debt and continue to invest and grow our economy. These decisions are being made at very, very difficult times internationally. In just the last few hours it has been reported that both Spain and Italy are likely to be bailed out to the tune of £600 billion from the European monetary resources in order to support them. Ireland is expecting another bailout from the fund, and it has been reported in just the last 24 hours that the Russian Government itself—the Russian Government—is putting aside US$40 billion as the euro crisis buffer in that area. So things are very, very unstable in many parts of the world. In Germany 40 economists have told Chancellor Merkel that she should actually break away and establish a “northern euro”.
This just tells you about this uncertainty that is happening internationally, and the consequence of not controlling debt, which is the reason why the Government wants to do that. But what opportunities are there for New Zealand, with that uncertainty in Europe? Well, it certainly means that a number of investors here at home will be more interested in investing in New Zealand, I am sure, because of that uncertainty. And what we know is that in times of uncertainty people look towards infrastructural assets for the assurance that they provide. While we do have this very uncertain international situation, New Zealand’s proximity to Australia and China is good for our future prospects, and also it should indicate a changing environment for investment prospects here in New Zealand as well.
I think it is pretty clear that the Government is making a lot of progress in explaining to the public of New Zealand what the mixed-ownership model is about. It is about controlling our debt, and making sure that we are in a position where we can invest into the future. It works pretty straightforwardly. We hope to release about $5 billion to $7 billion, over a 3 to 5-year period, from the mixed-ownership model. That money will go into the Future Investment Fund, which will be available for investment in important infrastructural assets like schools, roads, and hospitals.
The Government has been upfront from January 2011 that this was our proposal. We have had a piece of legislation that has gone through a select committee process. There has been no urgency to date involved in this process. We have been quite clear. But that stands in absolute contrast to the lies and deceit of the 1987 general election, where the Labour Party did not campaign on the fact that it would go on to sell $10 billion of public assets to the highest bidder. There was no talk about everyday New Zealanders taking a stake. There was no talk publicly about selling it off to foreigners and Fay Richwhite—none of that in the 1987 general election. It was kept quiet. Mr Goff never told anybody. Mr Mallard never told anybody. Annette King never told anybody. Mike Moore never told anybody. No one in the Labour Party told anyone that it was going to sell these public assets, which is why there is so much suspicion about this, because people think that it is going to be what it was like when Labour sold $10 billion worth of assets to the highest-bidding foreign interest it could possibly get.
Our Government, on the other hand, has been completely open and transparent—open and transparent. We have been upfront since January 2011 about our plan to do this as part of a very sensible strategy to control debt and get our country back into the black, because, if you are heading from where we are now, which is about $52 billion or $53 billion a year in debt, to $72 billion a year in debt, there is an imperative that we take action. This is part of a very sensible, prudent response by our Prime Minister to make sure that our country can face the difficult times ahead as we work together to deal with the debt.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.