[Sitting date: 01 August 2012. Volume:682;Page:4161. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. What an extraordinary week it has been. We have seen something that I did not think was ever possible, and that is that David Shearer has shifted his position on the fence. And he has done that—[Interruption] I think it is the same fence. It is about mining. We have heard 4 years of Labour against mining and how we should turn ourselves into Australia except without the mining, and all of a sudden we have got “No, now we quite like mining. We are quite close to the Government.” I think that is what we heard from Mr Shearer or someone of his ilk. I never thought we would see it. But he is still not quite sure about it, so he is going to check. It is extraordinary. Of course, we ignored him because, I mean, why would you not?
At the same time what we have seen from the Government is the Christchurch recovery plan, which was delivered just the other day—a fantastic plan—and I would like to congratulate all the people involved in that. I can also say, too, that we have seen some announcements coming out. My colleague the Hon Steven Joyce is making an announcement today on industry training—a very, very good announcement. We have also seen, as part of the Christchurch rebuild, the justice sector and emergency services hub. This is a first for this country. This will be building on the work of the justice sector from the Christchurch-Canterbury earthquakes, where they learnt to work together, where they learnt to pool resources. This is the way forward.
That hub was announced, and I think it is going to be a fantastic event, a fantastic facility. We are going to have the police working together, based in the same area; the courts are going to be just along the building; we are going to have the Department of Corrections there—that part of the prison service that does not actually involve the prisons—and we are also going to have emergency services like fire and ambulance. That is going to lead to not only, obviously, some efficiencies around funding but also some massive efficiencies around operations. It is looking at where we should be looking, not these silos that we have always had under Labour before, but actually looking at how we can deliver better public services.
That is what we are getting on with. Unlike Labour, which all week has been rolling around, wallowing around, in the mud, we are getting on with the business that we were elected to do, along with our support parties—United Future, ACT, and the Māori Party. I would like to thank them for the support that they have been giving us to get this programme through.
In the meantime, what we are doing in law and order is, well, in the justice sector, just the other day the Prime Minister and I announced our Better Public Services justice sector plan. Yet again, it is a plan to deal with the issues—a target around reoffending, targets around crime. Of course, the Opposition members might bellow and say: “Well, it’s easy for National, because National’s got the crime rate down to 1982 levels.” I did not hear them say that quite, but they could say that, because that is where it is at the moment. Under Labour, all they did was build more prisons, and not back the police, and not back the Department of Corrections’ service.
Instead what we have now are levels of confidence in the police that are, I have to say, even greater than those in general practitioners—doctors. The police are now the most trusted agency in New Zealand, bar none. That has nothing to do with the state that Labour left them in, under the Hon Annette King and others. It has everything to do with what this Government has done: backing the police, giving them the powers, letting them get on to do the job, not second-guessing them, and not doing what Annette King did the other day after one of those trials—the Urewera ones—where she bagged
the police. She went on TV, on
Q+A, and said comments like they should be apologising. Well, forget that, Mrs King; not under this Government. We back the police. We back them to fulfil the law.
When the police needed the Search and Surveillance Bill through, did Labour deliver on it? No. That bill started in 2007 under Labour. Who got it through? This Government, along with ACT and United Future, got it through—got it through. And what happened? Crime has fallen to 1982 levels—1982 levels. I know that Mrs King loved the police, and they did not mind her compared with some Ministers they had had before. But I have to say this: the police are in such great heart—they are in such great heart.
The court system is being renewed and regenerated. I have a big announcement tomorrow—I am sure Mrs King will want to know all about that—it will be very appropriate. My colleague the Hon Chester Borrows is working very hard along these areas, he is doing the most fantastic job of modernising the court system, as well—
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
: The problem for New Zealand is that it is not working. Minister Collins, of those 10 targets, not one of them was an economic target by which you will be held to account. Five years ago, your Government came to power—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is not the Speaker’s Government.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Five years ago the National Government came to power pledging that it would stop waving goodbye to our loved ones. [Interruption] Four years ago. Thank you, Maggie. Since then what has happened? Record numbers of New Zealanders are moving to Australia—158,000 more New Zealanders have left. In the last year the largest number ever in the history of New Zealand left—53,000. The saddest bit of that is that 40 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 30 years. We are losing 40 percent of a generation of young people who should be having hope and opportunity in New Zealand. Instead, they are choosing to put their shoulder to the wheel of the Australian economy. What is it like in the regions? Twelve-hundred people have left from Whangarei, and 460 people from Nelson. This is just from 1 year, and just to Australia.
Why is it happening? We heard Mr English say “Oh, it’s Greece.” These people are not going to Australia because of Greece’s problems; they are going because of New Zealand’s problems. We have had record terms of trade, we have had booming economies in Australia and China—our two largest trading partners—plus booming terms of trade, and, despite that, record numbers of people are leaving, because they have no opportunity in New Zealand. Why? Because this Government has no adequate vision for our economy—nothing that will improve job prospects, and nothing that will address this housing crisis we have in Auckland of unaffordable housing for young people.
We have had mining in national parks. Well, that did not work. We have had cycleways. Then this year we have had asset sales. The biggest part of the Government’s agenda is asset sales. Changing who owns what already exists does nothing to improve the output of the New Zealand economy. What it does do is increase the Government deficit by $100 million per annum. What it does do is increase residential power prices and the current account deficit.
Then we had the zero Budget—the zero Budget where the centrepiece was improving educational outcomes by increasing class sizes. Well, that went down as it should have. It was another example of ineptitude—ineptitude that we have had in ACC. We have had Dr Nick Smith fall on his sword. We have had Mr John Judge tossed out unceremoniously. Whatever you might think of some of the things he did, he was treated shabbily by this Government. We have lost the head of Work and Income,
who moved back, giving 2 days’ notice before heading back from Australia. We have had Mr Key’s chair of the electorate, Stephen McElrea, in charge of New Zealand On Air, influencing programming.
We have had the tea-tape disgrace, where the Prime Minister and John Banks called in the police to use them against the media during an election, after their publicity stunt went wrong. Then we have got the same Mr Banks now not even being prosecuted, despite the fact that he was the person who asked for the donation, he was the person who picked up the envelope, and he was the person who was responsible for the declaration that said that he did not know who donations were from. Is that believable? Well, that is a jury question. We are never going to know, because Mr Banks is not being prosecuted, and because the Prime Minister stands behind him and leans on him in order to maintain his wafer-thin parliamentary majority.
We have got record numbers of New Zealanders going to Australia. We have got the Government putting off the agenda the important economic steps: a neutral investment signal to the economy through a capital gains tax, increases to the pool of capital available to improve labour productivity and to grow our exports that we need, universal KiwiSaver, and a research and development tax credit to direct investment into the innovative, productive part of our economy. These are the changes the Government has said it will not move on, and yet these are the very changes we need as a country. We need fiscal responsibility moving forward, and yet the Government says it is going to ignore the looming superannuation problem, despite the fact that within 4 years the Government will be spending more on superannuation than on the whole of the education system. No wonder record numbers of people are leaving to Australia without hope.
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Commerce)
: This John Key - led Government, with our coalition friends and partners, is investing in the future of New Zealand. It is investing in our future, getting on with the leadership and the governing of this great country—of this great country—and not being distracted by sideshows and not being distracted by gotcha politics, which the current leader of the Opposition said he was not all about when he was appointed late last year, after the election.
The previous speaker, David Parker, asked what was going on in the regions. Well, let me point it out. We learnt today that in Wairoa, of the great Hawke’s Bay region, more investment from health is in fact going into the medical centre, up in the region of Hawke’s Bay. It is amazing how the Bay has turned since it turned blue just a few years ago. The cycleways that the other members seem to, let us say, take the mickey out of somewhat, were, to be fair, a joint project with the Green Party. Actually, in the Hawke’s Bay, it is probably the best national cycleway network in New Zealand. Just this past weekend, linked to that, we opened the iWay, where $4.5 million of taxpayer funds were invested in the region of the Hawke’s Bay.
The audacity of that member asking what is happening in the regions, just after he was talking about Australian jobs or something, when the Leader of the Opposition criticised New Zealand jobs coming to Hastings in the form of
Heinz-Wattie in the Hawke’s Bay. Australian jobs are moving to the regions—Hastings, Hawke’s Bay. I challenge the Opposition members to go to Wattie’s in Hastings. I challenge them to go there and tell Wattie’s that its jobs are not worthy. I challenge that member, who was part of a group that had some interesting interactions with the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, the same district health board that is now in surplus and managed to fund itself and its own capital spend.
We are focusing on what matters. We are focusing on those things that New Zealand gave us a mandate for—47 percent of them. I guess the other side is focusing on the mandate that 27 percent of New Zealand gave them. We are putting legislation, statutes
amendments, and regulations in place to focus on what matters. We have put 10 targets in place for the public sector; 10 targets for the public to judge us on. That is how firmly we feel about them. The public needs to know, and the public should know, that Labour members have voted against every single initiative we have put in place—every single one—to try to reduce long-term welfare dependency. They have voted against every initiative where we have tried to support vulnerable children. They have voted against every single economic growth initiative for boosting skills and employment. They have voted against every single initiative that we have tried to put in place to reduce crime. They have voted against every single initiative we have put in place to try to improve interaction with the Government.
The public has a right to know, because I would not actually mind if the Opposition got up and said “Actually, we agree with the goal, but we think we should get there this way.” and engaged in some decent debate, perhaps; not pretending that some of these things do not happen and not putting its political expediency in front of what is right and good for New Zealand, New Zealand children, New Zealand’s education, New Zealand’s health, New Zealand’s Treaty obligations—members could name it. We are putting legislation through. We are a very, very busy Government. Just today the finance minister, Mr English, and Mr John Banks announced better economic performance through better regulation. We are simply putting the borax on ourselves, on our accountability, on our transparency, and on our integrity, and focusing on the goal and what matters for a much better and brighter New Zealand that all New Zealanders have the potential to realise, and fully and totally deserve. This John Key - led Government is getting on with the job it was elected to do: investing in our great future.
DENISE ROCHE (Green)
: Tēnā koe ki te Whare. Tēnā koutou katoa. I have got some concerns about this Key-Banks Government. I have got some worries about a Government that maintains its majority in the House by relying on a legal technicality. I have taken a really close look at the Local Electoral Act, and it does say in subsection (2) of section 134, which deals with false returns, that every candidate commits an offence if they file a false return, unless they can prove that they “had no intention to mis-state or conceal the facts;”, and that they “took all reasonable steps to ensure that the information was accurate.” Mr Banks—or Mr John “Fill my Banks”, as he is known in some circles—physically took a cheque from Skycity, and he also solicited two other cheques. He asked for them from Kim Dotcom, and then he forgot. He forgot to mention it when his campaign helper filled out his return, and he forgot it again when he signed his return, saying it was a true and accurate record. It is the forgetting bit that means he did not have the intention to misstate or conceal the facts. That is the technicality.
The problem with this type of technicality is that it is an entry into the moral low ground. It is a swampy place filled with dubious deeds and dodgy deals, and it is probably a place where you would definitely need a cabbage boat. The Government entered into a pact with this man, and Mr Banks is now shoring up this Government and its agendas—the Key-Banks Government. It is Mr Banks’ one vote that allowed the passage of asset sales legislation—the legislation that the majority of New Zealanders do not want. It passed by 61 votes to 60. This is a man with a memory problem who maintains the trust of this Government, despite the fact that he is prepared to bend the rules and nearly break them, but he is still rewarded for that by keeping his place as a poodle in this Government because it needs his vote. This man is a Minister.
The Prime Minister has said that the law—the Local Electoral Act—is an ass. I thought the Government and the Prime Minister could create the law. We can blame the law, or the Prime Minister could hold his Ministers to account and demand the type of
ethical and moral behaviour that the New Zealand public deserve. This Government should sack Mr Banks. Every parent knows that bad behaviour should not be rewarded, and that is what this Government is doing. The law is not the only thing that is an ass.
As it happens, this Government can do something about the law. Helpfully—and I tried to table it earlier—I have a bill in the ballot, the Local Electoral (Finance) Amendment Bill, which brings the rules on local government election spending and declarations about donations more into line with central government election finance rules. Among the purposes of this bill, one of the purposes is to “(a) maintain public and political confidence in the administration of local body elections; and … (c) prevent the undue influence of wealth on electoral outcomes; and (d) provide greater transparency and accountability on the part of candidates and other persons engaged in election activities in order to minimise the perception of corruption;”. It will lower the amount that can be donated anonymously. That will certainly ensure that Mr Banks and his memory problems are a thing of the past.
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, it won’t. No, it won’t. He told lies then; he’ll tell lies again.
DENISE ROCHE: The Government needs to urgently adopt this bill and support its passage through the House, and I am looking forward to your support too, Mr Mallard.
We need to up our game. No wonder the numbers of people turning out to vote in central government and local government elections are dropping. Mr Banks’ dubious actions cast aspersions on all politicians. We are all seen as untrustworthy. Certainly, a Government—the Key-Banks Government—that relies on that one vote from Mr Banks to pass legislation is seen as untrustworthy too. You know, my mum had a saying. She said that she never lied. She never lied, but sometimes she would evade the truth.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party)
: I would like to take a call on the housing situation in Tāmaki Makaurau in Auckland City. We have a desperate need for medium-priced and in some cases low-cost housing—a very acute housing shortage. One of the activities we have in place at this time is the Tāmaki Transformation Programme.
Tāmaki is a central eastern suburb of Auckland City, and the project, basically, is to remove old Housing New Zealand Corporation housing—take it out—put in new housing there, make more houses available, and move other people in amongst the suburb. It is based around Glen Innes township, and there are two marae operating in that area. What has happened is there have been quite a lot of protests about this project. I would just like to acknowledge that the Housing New Zealand Corporation has taken every step possible to communicate the process, and the people on the ground I have met with are doing a very good job. However, when you take away houses from a community, and when you bring new people in to be dispersed amongst them, you actually interrupt a society and a community.
As a result, there have been widespread protests. A number of us local MPs in Auckland have attended some; I have attended all of these protests. They are pretty vigorous and are aimed at MPs, councillors, and so on. However, they got so political that they conjured up a sort of fear amongst many of the residents about coming forward and stating their wishes to the Housing New Zealand Corporation about what they would like to do, whether they would like to move, stay, or have their house mended, repaired, or whatever. As a result, the protests got pretty hot and you ended up with people lying under the wheels of trucks that were shifting buildings—one woman ended up in hospital—and stuff like that. But the reality is that a lot of people did not come forward to say that they wanted to shift, because they were scared of the protest movement.
So I think we have got to think about this when we do a mass project in a community, because what you are actually doing is you are interrupting the sports club, the kura kaupapa Māori, the marae, the bridge club, the schools, and all the community things that have made Glen Innes and that whole community what they are—taking out selected places and interrupting the community activities, the bridge club, and all those kinds of things. There is a real need for us to take the community into account, and not just deal with the residents who are involved there.
Hon Annette King: So has that happened?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Yes, it has happened.
Hon Annette King: What influence has the member had in resolving these issues?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Well, I have set up an office there to assist the process, and I have put two of my Kaitoko Whānau workers in. They have visited the houses of the people who are too frightened to come forward, and they have taken them to the Housing New Zealand Corporation to negotiate its service and stuff. Nevertheless, there is still that disquiet amongst the community that their whole community has been disrupted, that the people who meet there will not meet there any more. It has been a really traumatic thing for them. So although it is good that we are bringing more housing into Glen Innes and into Tāmaki, nevertheless it is a lesson for us that if we intrude into a community, we take the community with us. Kia ora.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: I note that my colleague David Clark, in order to further his political career, has just come and sat next to me before I make my speech. I congratulate him on his two members’ bills he has had drawn from the ballot. I am not at all bitter at the fact that in 9 years I have not managed to get any of my members’ bills drawn from the ballot, but I congratulate him because they are very good bills.
That was a very disappointing speech from the Minister who just took his seat, the Hon Pita Sharples. The reason the people in the community of Tāmaki are upset is not just because of the displacement that happens when you have a major housing rearrangement like the Tāmaki Transformation Programme; it is because the Government promised them it would keep the same number of State houses in that community, and then it broke that promise. That community is upset because the Government lied to them. That is why they are protesting; not because of the reasons he outlined, but because—
Simon O’Connor: When was that member last there?
MOANA MACKEY: I turned up to the public meetings on the Tāmaki Transformation Programme that the member did not turn up to, those in Tāmaki that the National Government did not show up to because Minister Phil Heatley refused. He did not even tell the Tāmaki community that the Government had changed the commitment. The commitment was that the proportion of State houses would drop, but that the number would stay the same. That was the commitment. It was broken over a long time, and Minister Phil Heatley did not even show up in that community to tell them that that commitment had changed and that now the number of State houses would drop. Suddenly, the document that had promised that disappeared from the Housing New Zealand Corporation website when Labour put in an oral question on the matter. That is why the people of Tāmaki are angry.
This is the kind of behaviour that we are seeing more and more of from this National Government as the wheels come off in its second term, as we have seen with Mr Banks. I want to make it quite clear that the police report back found insufficient evidence to support a prosecution, but it noted that Mr Banks did personally solicit and receive donations from Skycity and Kim Dotcom.
It might be nice to be able to live in the National Party world, where you just forget $80,000 worth of donations, where it just happens every single day that you get an
envelope with $15,000 in it. Maybe in the National Party’s world that is normal and you could be forgiven for forgetting that, but I think most New Zealanders accept that it is impossible to forget soliciting up to $80,000 worth of donations, to forget asking for those donations to be split into $25,000 lots to evade electoral law, and to forget that you took a helicopter ride to a mansion of an internet billionaire and attended his birthday party. Maybe that is easy to forget if you are a National Party MP, but most people in New Zealand know full well that Mr Banks knows what he did, and that he got away with it. It might be OK for John Key to say: “Well, I still have confidence in him because he evaded the law and didn’t get prosecuted.”, but most New Zealanders would hold Ministers to a much higher ethical standard—
Hon Anne Tolley: He wasn’t a Minister.
MOANA MACKEY: Oh, Anne Tolley says that he was not a Minister when he did it, so that makes it OK. So it makes it OK that he broke electoral law, as he admitted and as the police have pointed out. It is OK as long as you did it before you were a Minister and you got away with it, then, when you were caught out, you prevaricated about whether or not it had happened, and when the evidence was finally presented, you admitted that you had been lying about it—that is OK, as long as you get away with it—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
MOANA MACKEY: I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I sincerely hope the Speaker has not been admitting that.
MOANA MACKEY: Oh no, certainly not, Mr Speaker, I would never ever—Mr Banks.
Apparently for the Prime Minister, John Key, that is absolutely fine. The John Banks affair has been a little bit of a distraction from another debacle that is happening at the moment, which is the Government’s response to the Waitangi Tribunal issue on Māori claims to water rights. This is an incredibly important debate for our country. This has massive implications. For the Government to just say: “Well, we’re going to pretty much ignore it and carry on with our asset sales programme.”—it so incredibly defies belief that it does not understand the importance of this report and the deep implications it has for all New Zealanders, and, in particular, for the taxpayers of New Zealand. They are going to have to foot the bill if, in the future, the Government is found to have been wanting in its protection of the rights of those people who are going to come in and buy the shares. If they can say that the Government was warned about this and it did not take it seriously, and it pushed ahead with its programme, and now they are going to come in and legally challenge the Government, then who is it that picks up the bill? It is the taxpayers of New Zealand.
I know that the Government has no plan other than asset sales. I know that that is it, so if it does not push ahead with that and if it does not—[Interruption] I am sorry, and mining off the East Coast, as Anne Tolley is pointing out, in the Raukūmara Basin, 3,000 to 4,000 metres deep, with inadequate protection in terms of legislation. That is a great plan, Anne Tolley, and I will be pleased to report to the
Gisborne Herald how supportive you are of it.
BRENDAN HORAN (NZ First)
: I would like to say that rail is a vital part of New Zealand infrastructure—
Simon O’Connor: Where are the pictures?
BRENDAN HORAN: —but New Zealanders are asking—I have pictures, do not worry. I am bringing them out. But I am bringing them out because of the safety aspect. There are derailments every week, but a major one is imminent. I would like to see a Government actually stand up and say that safety is important. But what is very important is jobs—jobs for New Zealanders.
I would like to take a walk back in memory lane, because history is important. If we know where we are going to go, we have to know where we have been. I would like to take you back to October of 1992. The National Government of the day gave Fay Richwhite financial advisership on New Zealand Rail. Then we started to see outsourcing. We saw Kiwis losing jobs in maintenance. We saw it attack passenger rail. And in April of 1993, with full knowledge of the financial dealings of New Zealand Rail, all of a sudden Fay Richwhite brokered the deal with the Wisconsin rail firm and sold New Zealand Rail. Overnight it made millions of dollars and the New Zealand taxpayer lost hundreds of millions of dollars.
It is starting all over again. What are we seeing at the moment? We are seeing outsourcing. We are seeing the morale of KiwiRail at its lowest ebb since 1993. And we are losing workers, and they are not being replaced. It is all part of the process of this Government to privatise KiwiRail. The writing is on the wall.
If we look at the cost of contracting out, it is not best practice. In fact, it is dangerous practice. That is why I have these photographs here. This photo is of a mudslide, which creates spreading in railway tracks. I mean, it is there and it is a safety issue. The photo was given to me by concerned KiwiRail staff who do not want to see a derailment. This one here is of a number of sleepers that were bought by KiwiRail that are rotten. They have a virus within them. They were supposed to be hard wood, but it got them from South America with a virus within the wood. You can see the growth within those railway sleepers. You can go along with a great bar, push down, and you will go through the sleeper. This is extremely dangerous, and I will say it again: a major derailment is imminent in New Zealand, unless we act.
Look at some of the other things that happen when you bring in contractors. I will look at something just on Monday night in the Kaimai tunnel there, where they use contractors to do some maintenance. Some of them did not even have gas masks. This is an occupational health and safety problem. This is what happens when you get in contractors. It is bad practice and it is—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Speaker is unlikely to get in contractors.
BRENDAN HORAN: National is undermining KiwiRail whilst pretending to be supportive.
New Zealand First asked the question 3 months ago about the Gisborne rail link. What happened there? We were told: “Oh no, KiwiRail is looking after it. It is its problem.” But then we find out in a radio interview with Jim Quinn that he turns round and says that the Government is stalling. So one hand does not know what the other one is doing. One hand is saying one thing, and the other is doing something entirely different. So New Zealand First is asking, on behalf of the people of Gisborne and those workers in Wairoa, what the Government is doing with the Gisborne railway link. What is this Government doing with KiwiRail?
Today New Zealand First asked a question about the locomotives and about the railway wagons. When you spend $100 million in a foreign country and you are using hard-earned taxpayer money to do it, that money goes straight away into that foreign economy. Were you, on the other hand, to build the wagons here in New Zealand, that money would go into the economy. Truck drivers would be paid. Form workers would be paid. The rail workers would be paid. They would go down the road, and they would buy some bread. The dairy owner gets paid, the baker gets paid—
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National)
: The previous speaker, Brendan Horan, is a man whom I have always regarded as having a cheerful disposition, but oh how dismal the speech. I am sure it is not a natural way for him to discuss things. Those members seem to have this mindset that everything has got to be covered in mud and be miserable. From the other side of the House, the people who have had the full
experience of being in the Government, are they coming forward saying what an exciting time we live in? Are they heck! But we do live in a particularly exciting time. We have the Olympic Games, where New Zealand is putting its young people against the best in the world and doing extremely well. Congratulations to everybody who is involved in that. We have the Christchurch development, with $1.6 billion already spent out of the $5.5 billion, with the remainder coming through by 2015, and the recent release of a plan, which shows the excitement that exists in Christchurch.
If we look at our Government services—and other speakers have spoken at length, and I know there are people in every party who are very familiar, particularly with health—health has been a wonderful achievement for this Government, with the improvement in and the more efficient and effective delivery of health services. Approximately $1.5 billion extra over the next 4 years means more operations, shorter waiting times, and a reflection at last, at last a reflection, of the real work that has been done for a long time in health services suddenly being made very effective. We do, indeed, live in exciting times.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the House, Opposition members have opposed every single growth initiative that we have put forward. They should remember when they were in Government, when I came into the House in 2005, we did debate issues hotly, but we actually provided support for the better things that Labour did—not that there were terribly many of them. We have this constant opposition to growth initiatives. They have opposed every single restraint we made to get back into surplus, and the Opposition lacks credibility on growth, on jobs, and on responsible fiscal management. That is such a pity, because I am sure there are some good ideas on that side of the House. On this side, we are working hard to get back into surplus in 2014-15. We will be one of the few developed countries that is actually not increasing debt over that period. That is our intention. We will establish and maintain international credibility that is hard won and easily lost, as we continue to see in the outside world. We are increasing spending on science and innovation to more than $1.3 billion a year by 2015-16—a wise investment, giving those people who are really good at technology the opportunities to give effect to some of the changes that we are all benefiting from today.
There is also a particularly big opportunity, and it is something I would like to concentrate on, in handling our natural resources in keeping with a sound environmental programme. I would suggest that we are having the success that we are having because of the hard-working nature of this Cabinet and the leadership it is providing to the ministries. I would like to say that I am particularly admiring of the work of Minister Heatley. He is doing very, very good work in the minerals and energy role. The potential is staggering. The future royalty income from oil and gas is estimated to be $3.2 billion, with a potential to rise to $12.7 billion with a 50 percent increase in exploration. Rather than talk about renewable energy, this Government has got on with the job. There was 77 percent—a very proud figure: 77 percent—renewable energy in 2011 and 74 percent in 2010, but under Labour in 2008 it was 65 percent. Minister Heatley is, as I say, doing a great job. A greater realisation of the benefits of modern mining is coming from him all the time. I enjoy the way he answers questions from the Green Party, which, to the Green Party’s credit, is now reconsidering its position on mining. This was well expressed during its annual conference. Now we hear that Mr Shearer is reconsidering Labour’s approach to mining and minerals. That is all very healthy, and I do not agree with the cynics who say that those members are slaughtering their sacred cows because they have finished milking them.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: Can I first of all take the opportunity to say happy birthday to every horse in New Zealand. They all turn a year older today, and they have
got a wonderful birthday present with a bronze medal from our eventing team. Congratulations to them.
The member who just resumed his seat, Chris Auchinvole, has asked for good ideas from this side of the House. Well, I will give the member some. One is extending paid parental leave. What about a $15 minimum wage? What about requiring 75 percent of our Parliament to agree, before we sell our precious State assets? These are just three great ideas that have come from this side of the House in just the last week alone—just the last week alone. Mr Auchinvole asked for great ideas from this side of the House. I think they have been flooding forward in this Parliament, not from the Government but from this side of the House.
I want to focus for a little while on the requirement for a 75 percent vote in this House before we can sell State assets. That is what a sensible Government would do, but not this Government. It is hell-bent on selling our most profitable State assets to private interests. And why is that? Why is it so hell-bent on it? Despite everything going wrong for the Government, and the shambles that it is turning out to be, it is still hell-bent on doing it. I think the New Zealand public know in their gut that the reason for that is that the Government and its rich mates get to profit out of buying shares in our most valuable and profitable assets. That is the real reason that underlies this.
It is a complete shambles from the public’s perspective. We have a loyalty scheme that the Prime Minister is talking about, but he does not know the cost of it. He never costed the loyalty scheme before he announced it. What a shambles. The estimates go from $250,000 to $500,000—oh no, there are several more zeros than that. The brokerage fees—there has been $1 million spent so far, and nothing has even been sold. Nothing has been sold yet, but there has been $1 million spent so far. Then there is the cost of iwi settlements over water rights, and the cost of advertising and public relations. John Key and Bill English will not say what the cost of that is. They will not even tell the New Zealand public how much money they are spending on advertising to flog off their State assets. Then there is the lost revenue—the lost revenue from those very profitable State assets that the Government did not even write into the Budget. So it is a complete and utter shambles, but it is hell-bent on doing it, despite the interests of the New Zealand public.
I want to talk about amnesia—I want to talk about amnesia—because it is an affliction; it is something that is deeply afflicting the National-ACT Cabinet. Take John Banks, for example. He seems to not remember, despite the fact that the police can confirm it, that he personally solicited at least $80,000 in donations. He cannot seem to remember it. There is a video game called
Its subtitle is
The Dark Descent—Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
I think that is exactly what is happening to that Cabinet opposite. It is catching—this amnesia is actually catching—because Bill English had amnesia last week, too. He could not remember that he over-inflated the cost of paid parental leave by almost double in order to try to justify his financial veto on that. So the amnesia seems to be spreading from John Banks—
Hon Annette King: John Key forgot his shares.
SUE MORONEY: Oh, John Key! He forgot about shares that he had bought. He forgot about what his position might have been on apartheid. There is a whole range of things, a whole lot of amnesia that is going on there. I would say are they fit to govern? If they cannot remember really important facts like personally soliciting at least $80,000 in donations, and are seeming to forget that, I would ask whether John Banks is fit to be a Cabinet Minister, if he has got that level of amnesia. But, of course, the New Zealand public know that he does not suffer from amnesia. What he suffers from is a lack of ethnics.
What the Prime Minister also suffers from now is a lack of ethics. He once said that he was going to lift the bar. He was going to have high standards for his Cabinet Ministers, but he seems to have forgotten that—amnesia again. Now he says that, ethically, it is perfectly fine for John Banks to have actually broken the electoral law but to remain as a Cabinet Minister. That shows that the higher standards are actually dropping. In Mr Key’s defence, that was last term. This term he seems to be a tired Prime Minister who has forgotten all about higher standards.
MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore)
: I have always believed that saving the planet starts in your own backyard, and that is why I joined National’s ranks, because I think this Government has a very proud track record of looking after our environment. We are determined to safeguard the environment, and it is an absolute fundamental bottom line for us, as is safety and transparency around it. It is through that lens that we want to look very carefully at all of the assets that we have, and that includes our mineral and our oil resources.
National has an excellent track record on environment and conservation. Over the past 3 years alone, for example, we have cleaned up our lakes and our rivers with our Fresh Start for Fresh Water programme. In March of this year on the North Shore I hosted the Bluegreens Forum, where we made some significant announcements, including about providing $265 million to clean up iconic waterways such as Lake Taupō and the Waikato River. We have also improved our air quality, which is amongst the cleanest in the world now. We launched Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart, a nationwide scheme that has now resulted in insulation and heating for 188,500 homes. We have helped minimise waste, with almost $10 million this year alone for the Waste Minimisation Fund, and that really works because it encourages people to look after their own waste, to reduce it, to reuse it, and to recycle it. We have empowered communities by enhancing environmental awareness in the community—$7.6 million. This Government puts the money where it counts and where it can make a difference. It was announced just last week that $105 million will go to 16 community groups to help them improve the environment—very exciting regional efforts.
Now, let us contrast those very tangible, make-a-difference measures from our Government to what has happened in the past. The party, in particular, that calls itself the Greens—let us have a little look at the measurement of its effectiveness and commitment. Let us look at question time in the House. I did a bit of homework on this. In the past couple of months the Greens have asked 26 questions. Of those, how many do you think reflected the environment in any way at all?
Paul Goldsmith: None.
Michael Woodhouse: 22.
MAGGIE BARRY: Five, and that is a stretch. There were two on mineral exploration, two on climate change, and one on fracking. Really, when we look at the Greens, we are looking at a party that is not exactly bright green, is it? It is more your watermelon green. It is kind of green on the outside; the more you cut into it, the redder it appears. We are looking at a guy, for example—the Australian co-leader—who clearly harbours aspirations to be the Minister of Finance if the unholy alliance of Labour and the Greens ever gets off the ground. These are the people who have a woeful, insignificant contribution to any discussion of substance around the environment and conservation.
The Opposition parties in general, Labour and the Greens—as my other colleagues have detailed—have opposed every single growth initiative we have proposed. Their naysaying ways have been well documented in the House this afternoon. I mean, Labour is bad enough, but the Greens just automatically chorus “No, no, no.”, to any growth initiatives, except when it comes to taxes. They love taxes: we have an
earthquake levy on households, ecological resource taxes, a hazardous substances and pesticides levy, a corporate tax, a diesel tax, a landfill tax, and a carbon tax on energy-intensive imports. But wait, there is more. As well as supporting Labour’s daft capital gains tax, wanting to make the emissions trading scheme even more burdensome, and overseas investment laws even more restrictive, the Greens also want to saddle the poor farmers with an irrigation tax, costing them—get this—up to $50,000 a year. This is absolutely so, despite the fact that water pollution is not related to irrigation intensity. Our Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson, and Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, have a firm grasp on what works for the environment. Labour will need the Greens in any Government it manages to cobble together, in whatever peculiar, unholy alliance it manages to do. It would be bad news for farmers. It would be really bad news for our environment and conservation. Labour’s environmental and conservation track record is woeful and it is, of course, supported by its watermelon mates.
Let us look at some of the other things it did. It allowed 30,000 hectares of forest to be cut down. That was just between 2005 and 2008. Deforestation—how good is that? Yeah, Labour, propped up by the watermelons. It insulated only 50,000 homes in the whole 9 years of its last term in Government. We have insulated 130,000 homes in 3 years. There was a conspicuous lack of progress on water.
JAN LOGIE (Green)
: That was the perfect segue into acknowledging our home insulation programme. Thank you, Maggie Barry—that was beautiful. Today I would like to speak about the status of women in New Zealand, and that is particularly coming on the back of the draft report back from the United Nations Committee on the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, commonly called CEDAW. The Government acknowledged this report back in a release and talked about the UN commending New Zealand women’s progress, with more progress to be made. It went on to state: “The Committee has expressed its appreciation for the comprehensive report on women in New Zealand presented by the delegation, and acknowledged New Zealand for implementing a number of positive legislative and policy reforms for the advancement of women”, and it went on to itemise three positive things.
Well, I read the report and, to be fair to the Government, I actually found seven things that it could have acknowledged that were positive. That is pretty good, eh? You know—seven. It is just a shame that there were over 50 concerns and recommendations. If you are looking on the scale of commendation and work to be done, I think it falls on the side of “work to be done”, team. This Government has a lot of work to be done to progress the rights of women. In fact, the rights of women under this Government are regressing.
I would just like to remind my colleagues, if you can see this beautiful picture, which may be a little hard to see. When we wonder why the rights of women may be regressing, I remember back to the day after the election and the front page of the
Dominion Post. Here we have the National Party in caucus, albeit non-officially. Here we have John Key, Bill English, Steven Joyce, Murray McCully, and Gerry Brownlee. This is the face of this Government, and, may I say, it is not women-friendly. This Government has been consistent with that image in this term. It has not been women-friendly in its progress. In fact, only 5 percent of women in this country feel as if they have equality—5 percent.
Maggie Barry: How do you know?
JAN LOGIE: Well, there has been some quite good research, actually, Ms Barry. According to a
New Zealand Herald
survey last year, 65 percent of women felt they were actively discriminated against in their workplace.
Women’s unemployment has increased. This is most notable in Christchurch, where I think it would not be going too far to say there is actually a bit of a crisis in women’s unemployment, with over 60 percent of women being outside the workforce in Christchurch. There is an increasing reliance, as stated in the report that came out today, of women using credit and relying on credit debt to be able to get through, which is really worrying because they cannot afford to get by in any other way. There has been an increase in the gender pay gap, and women are three times as likely to be working multiple jobs compared with men. Women are working the same hours as men now, but 65 percent of those hours are unpaid, and 90 percent of sole parents in this country are women. So this is the status of women in this country, which this Government thinks the UN has commended it on. You know, economics are fundamental to women’s ability to achieve agency in this world.
Another aspect that is really important for women’s ability to act in this world is to be free from violence, and what has this Government done around that? Well, it has no plan in relation to family violence. It has shut down the unit within the Ministry of Social Development. There has not been a report from the task force for family violence since last year in June. It has changed the police reporting of statistics in a way that the Minister for Social Development did not even know about, so it is no longer able to actually even monitor the problem. It has cut funding—the funding for the women’s refuges is in a bit of a crisis, I think you could say. So, altogether, this Government and the face of this Government have a lot more work to do.
SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki)
: It is a pleasure to take this final call, I believe, in the general debate. Look, it is always good to put a whole collection of facts together, regardless of where you have pulled them from, but they really need to come and focus somewhere. One of my colleagues mentioned that—do you realise—100 percent of mothers are women? Yes, there are some statistics there. [Interruption] I know. I am shocked. So it is all about statistics and figures. There have been a lot of statistics and figures being thrown around. We heard from another member earlier: more money for wages, more money for paid parental leave, and we are hearing about unpaid people, in the House. Do you know what? We need more Crown funding for that as well, but, of course, where does it all come from? Most New Zealanders are pretty smart and that is why they voted this Government in, and they continue to support this Government.
But I think one of the things that has happened in recent days is that I have heard that some in the Labour Party are supporting mining. I have not actually pushed to find out exactly what type, but I think I have got the answer to what form of mining. You see, the Labour Party, in particular, and the Opposition are very keen on strip mining—the strip mining of individual Kiwis. If you sit here today and you listen to what they have had to say, with all the ideas that are coming forward, that has to be paid from individual New Zealanders. They will be strip-mined of their success to pay for the dead-end ideas of this Opposition.
But I am going to stop there, because that is not exactly where I want to go today. I want to actually address some questions. [Interruption] Well, I was enjoying it, really; it was thoroughly enjoyable. I want to address some questions about my electorate, the great electorate of Tāmaki. Can I acknowledge Minister Sharples and what he was sharing about his experience? I am conscious that another member, I believe from Gisborne, was up. I am sure she was trying to learn the great art of being a politician, in a great seat like Tāmaki.
But I want to talk about the Tāmaki Transformation Programme and what is occurring there. The people are aware that transformation requires change. It is a simple principle. If you are going to transform a community, it requires change. All of us
know, in our own experiences and lives, that change is difficult. I have been saying that to the community, and it is a community that I deal with every day. I know some people will jump up and down and say: “Oh, I attended a meeting.” Well done—kudos there. But in my electorate, in my community, I am there every day, engaging. It is not that everyone is happy, but no one is upset as well. What is happening is that most people understand that transformation requires change, and change is difficult—change is difficult.
I have said this to a number of people out on the street and in the communities, principals, those who are leaving their homes—because again I do not intend to go to meetings where people just keep screaming and yelling obscenities and empty rhetoric; I will go in to the families who are being affected, sit on the floor and have a conversation. Boy, is that patronising? I know, they have gone very quiet. So it is about engaging with the community. I have always said to the community that these are the Crown’s houses, but they are people’s homes. They are the Crown’s houses and people’s homes, and this is the balance that the Government, the Minister, and Housing New Zealand Corporation are dealing with. It is about acknowledging that that change is difficult, but doing all that is possible to facilitate that change.
Just recently in our
East and Bays Courier there was a great positive news story of one of the Glen Innes community who has chosen to move. He has moved into a new modern home within Glen Innes, within his community, with his family, and he absolutely loves it. So there is an immense number of positive stories out there of people who are prepared to move, want to move, and understand again that transformation involves change.
I want to endorse the work that the Minister is doing and that Housing New Zealand Corporation is doing with great compassion and with great empathy. I want to add, at the end, that there is talk of these protests and so forth, and I have engaged with some of those protesters. But empty rhetoric is not reasons, and using people’s lives—particularly by political parties—to score cheap political points is just cheap politics and cheapening people’s lives. The people of Glen Innes are proud, they are vibrant, and they are wonderful people. They want their community transformed, and the understanding is that transformation brings about change. The challenge I put to members is to actually step away from the rhetoric, step into the communities, and hear their voice. That is something that I continue to enjoy, because again this is a vibrant and strong community—a strong community. I am very proud as the member of Parliament for Tāmaki to be in that community, engaging every day, and I endorse what is occurring.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.