The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The Standing Orders provide for 8 hours of debate on the estimates. Each member may have no more than two speeches of 5 minutes on each vote. The estimates debate should be relevant to the Government’s current spending plans, as contained in the Estimates of Appropriations. As each vote is reached, the question will be put that the vote stand part. Should it be the wish of the Committee, a question may be proposed on two or more related votes with the purpose of debating them together.
At the conclusion of 8 hours of debate, any remaining votes and remaining provisions of the bill will be put as one question. The Government indicates which votes are available for debate; I understand that all votes are available. Votes will be called in order of seniority of Ministers, commencing with the Speaker’s votes. A compendium of the reports of the select committees on the votes is available on the Table.
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Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour)
: We have one opportunity a year to question the Prime Minister in the estimates debate. Today we will not have that opportunity to question the Prime Minister because, as the Committee will notice, he is not in the chair. All votes may be available to debate, as the Government has claimed, but there is not the ability to question the Minister who is in control of this particular vote, and I think that is wrong. Why would the Prime Minister not wish to sit in the chair and hear what this Committee has to say on his estimates? What has he got to hide? Why is he not in the chair today to debate his estimates? That is what this Committee wants to know.
Hon John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. The member, I know, is being very clever in not referring to the absence of a member in the Chamber. But it is a well-known rule that if the Minister in charge of the issue being debated is in the Chamber, he or she has to sit in the chair that is currently occupied by the Deputy Prime
Minister. Therefore, the fact that a member is absent from the Chamber is being referred to, and that is against the Standing Orders.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I make this observation: the member has referred to a very little-known fact, and he has now made it public and in fact people can draw the conclusion. But, on the interpretation, the member on her feet has not referred to the absence of another. The member has made the point that someone is not in a particular position in the Chamber, but that does not necessarily mean she has made it clear that that person is absent. People would have to be pretty knowledgable about the Standing Orders to be able to make that deduction, and I have to say that even some members are not knowledgable enough about the Standing Orders to be able to make the deduction for themselves. Probably about 60 people know what the true answer is, and Mr Carter would be one of them. I invite the member to continue.
Hon ANNETTE KING: If the Prime Minister were sitting in the seat he should occupy today in this estimates debate, I would be asking him a question. I would have liked to ask him whether the only advice he receives from his department when he has to consider a very hard policy issue is to just “kick the tyres”. Is that the only policy advice the Prime Minister has received from his department? It is the answer he gives to almost every difficult issue he has faced as a Prime Minister. He says: “We’ll just give the tyres a kick on that issue.”
I have to say to the Prime Minister that it is time to stop kicking the tyres. How about putting a bit of petrol in the engine and turning on the motor? What New Zealand wants from that Government and from the leader of that party is a plan for New Zealand. You see, as far as I know, Kiwis kick the tyres only when there is nothing else to do, or when they are standing around having a beer at a barbeque, or when they are looking to buy a new car. But our Prime Minister thinks the answer to every problem is to give the tyres a good old kick. I ask the Prime Minister why he does not get on his feet and answer the fact that there is no plan for this country from the leader of the National Government.
I have never seen a Government so lacking in vision and so lacking in a plan. There is no plan from that Government. All it has, as far as I can see, is a series of slogans. “We are going to catch up with Australia”—that was going to be the big plan, but it has turned out to be a big slogan. When we listen to Gerry Brownlee, the person who is supposed to be implementing the plan, we find that he does not even know what the wage gap is between Australia and New Zealand. How can we catch up with wages when the person driving economic development does not know what they are? What does he tell the Prime Minister when they have their meetings?
Members opposite said the Government was going to have an unrelenting focus—an unrelenting focus—in its quest to lift economic growth rates and raise wages. But, of course, its unrelenting focus has been all over the place, because those members have no plan. I ask the Prime Minister how we will catch up with Australia in wages, in employment, in training, and in skills. How will we catch up with Australia in investment, in research, and in development when there is no plan? There ought to be a plan for this country.
National went to the country telling New Zealanders not to worry because it could fix everything, but there has been no plan. Then National had a whole series of things that would give us a step change. Do members remember that? We were going to have a step change. Well, the first thing out of the block was the Job Summit. It was going to give a step change for New Zealand. But I am afraid to tell the Prime Minister that his Job Summit did not give us a step change; it gave us a step back. There are more people unemployed today than there were when Labour left Government.
I say to the Prime Minister that when we look at the estimates we find that the Government is planning to have higher unemployment in 5 years’ time than it had when
it became the Government. So the step change in terms of catching up with Australia and the Job Summit has been a real failure indeed. The Government saved about 670 jobs with its 9-day fortnight. At a time when thousands of New Zealanders are unemployed, the big idea, the step change, the big plan has saved about 670 jobs.
Then, of course, there was going to be mining. “Mining here, mining there, mining everywhere.”, said Gerry Brownlee to his Prime Minister. He said: “Don’t worry, Prime Minister, I’ve got a plan for a step change. Get out the shovels, get out the wheelbarrows, get out the diggers, we’ll just dig up our wealth and we’ll be on our way, catching up with Australia.” What happened to that plan? What happened to the big step change from mining? It fell flat on its face because the Government had not done its homework. Government members did not know what they were talking about. They did not have a plan at all—it was a light bulb that went off in Gerry Brownlee’s head. The Prime Minister, who is wont to agree to everything the last person said to him, said: “That’s a great idea. That’s our step change for New Zealand.”
Then we had another great idea for a step change, and that was to have New Zealand as the Asia-Pacific hub for financial services. Well, they are laughing themselves silly in Australia. The Australians said: “Look, we looked at that. We couldn’t make it work. How does New Zealand, with just over 4 million people, at the bottom of the world, think that it can run a financial hub for the Asia-Pacific when countries like Singapore can do it standing on their heads?”. What happened to that idea? I think it has also been parked.
Then there was the great New Zealand cycleway. We all think that a cycleway is a great idea—no doubt about it—but what was the big step change for New Zealanders? The Prime Minister said that 4,000 jobs would be created. I know that the Minister of Finance fell about laughing when the Prime Minister said that. He said: “Prime Minister, you’re dreaming, and I’m not going to give you the money.” When it came to the crunch, he got the money and the Minister of Finance was proved right—there are not 4,000 jobs to be had in building cycleways.
What about the Prime Minister’s tourism portfolio? We now know that we have moteliers in New Zealand with occupancy levels of around 15 percent. The occupancy levels have dropped so low that we have tourist operators worried about whether they will have a business next week. Now we have the Government’s next big step change, which is to reduce the wages of New Zealanders. That is how the Government is going to make this country hum; it will reduce the wages of all working New Zealanders with its latest crazy ideas.
This country is in desperate need of an economic plan that New Zealanders can see will take them forward. New Zealanders know that Australia is motoring ahead. But what do we have in New Zealand? We have a “gonna” Government. It is always “gonna” do something. It is “gonna” do something on Monday, it is “gonna” do something on Wednesday, it is “gonna” do something on Friday, but it has not actually turned the motor on yet or put any petrol in the engine. We say: “Get a move on and give New Zealand a plan.” I have to tell New Zealanders that this party has a plan for economic development and recovery in this country and they will hear about it over the next few days. Labour had a plan when it was in Government and we will have one when we return to Government in 2011.
This Government is so scared of being called PC that it will not tackle the hard issues. Government members are very brave at bashing beneficiaries, but when it comes to the real, hard issues they are too scared of being labelled PC. I say that it is not a PC Government, it is more like a gutless Government—a Government that does not have the internal fortitude to tackle the hard issues. That could not have been made clearer than when the Prime Minister vetoed any changes to blood-alcohol levels for driving.
That was an area where the Government could have shown some leadership, but it did not have the internal fortitude to do it.
This Government is two-faced. Its members will grin and wave at everybody they talk to, led by the Prime Minister, but they will not make the hard decisions. I ask the National-led Government to give us a plan. It must be agony for its coalition partners to watch it wallow.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn)
: It has been an interesting time in New Zealand politics. We are 18 months through this Government’s term in office, and New Zealanders are entitled to know what it is about. As Labour MPs have been going out around the community lately, knocking on doors and visiting businesses, the message they have been getting from one end of the country to the other has been exactly the same: National has no plan for this economy. National has no plan to protect Kiwi jobs, no plan to lift incomes, and no plan to make New Zealand a fairer or better place. It is 18 months into its term and it has no plan, and that was after 9 long years in Opposition, waiting for its chance.
Do members know what Mr Key said in a 2008 speech? He promised there would be a fresh start for New Zealanders. He was going to be unrelenting in his quest to lift our economic growth rate and wages—how wonderful! New Zealanders, to be fair, thought they would give him a chance. Labour had had three terms, so they thought they would give the friendly Mr Key a chance to prove what he was made of, and they gave him a chance. They gave this Government a chance, and from one end of New Zealand to the other they are asking the same question. They are asking why they gave National a chance, because they have nothing to show for it. New Zealand communities are suffering. They suffered through the recession, they are yet to feel a recovery, and they are asking what this Government’s idea is for lifting wages and protecting jobs.
Here is the pattern: National kicks the tyres on a daft idea that suits its mates but is not good for ordinary New Zealanders, and when Kiwis wake up to that, it back-pedals. It is not just the cycleway that the Government back-pedalled on; it back-pedalled on mining national parks. Now it is attacking workers’ rights, and if we wait a bit longer, it will back-pedal on that, because working New Zealanders will rise up and say no, they are not having that. The rolling maul of daft ideas has gone from bad to worse. Government members have rolled over themselves. Here is the list, starting with the Job Summit.
The Council of Trade Unions was more than fair to the Government. The Council of Trade Unions went along in good faith to the Job Summit. The union movement fronted up and said this Government had come in and said it wanted to help with jobs, so it took the Government at its word. Not only was it the case that all that the Council of Trade Unions got was a cycleway to nowhere—which the Minister of Finance had said he would not fund this year, the next year, or the year after, but was forced to—which has created only 70 jobs in the year since it received funding, but also this week the head of the Council of Trade Unions wrote to the Prime Minister and said any dialogue was off, because the Prime Minister had broken his word to protect jobs. The Council of Trade Unions said the Prime Minister was attacking jobs, wage rates, and working conditions, and his plan to fire at will for 90 days and to force low-income workers to sell off their holidays is a giant step change backwards. The Council of Trade Unions, which has been more than fair to this Government, said it has had enough.
If we are to be fair to this Government, then it is fair to take the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister at their word. The Government says the New Zealand economy needs to be rebalanced, it says there has been no growth in the tradables sector for a few years, and it says we are too much in debt to foreign interests. OK, let us take it at its word and ask the fair question that New Zealanders are asking: well, what would a real
plan to address those problems look like? We can ask what a coherent plan to address those problems would look like. Well, if we are not exporting enough, we need to export more. What do exporters say their problems are? Their No. 1 problem is the exchange rate. How do we solve that? We solve it through monetary policy reform. Who has had the real ideas? It is Labour. Where is the Government? It has its head in the sand, pretending that it has “the best monetary policy in the whole world”. But the rest of the world has moved away from the archaic framework that that Government still defends. National members are the last of the new right—the last conservatives who are still standing. The rest of the world learnt from the global financial crisis, but Bill English did not.
The second thing to ask, if we believe that our tradables sector is suffering and we need to lift exports, is what we should do. Presumably, we should open the markets—that is bipartisan—and then we should help New Zealand businesses to get into them. The last thing we should do is to cut Vote Economic Development, and we will get on to that matter in this debate. We should work in partnership with New Zealand business, boosting our Kiwi expat programme, boosting our gateway programme, partnering with Kiwi exporters, providing export credit finance, and getting into foreign markets. But this Government is doing less and less of that, as the ideology of the new right for shrinking the size of the Government prevails. Government members are turning less and less into inventors, more and more away from ideas, and more and more towards a failed ideology, which is all that they have to fall back on.
We can take the Government’s second analysis of the problem, which is that we do not have enough capital. It is right on that; we do not have enough capital. The effects of that are apparent everywhere. In the weekend papers, Rod Oram was absolutely spot on. The failure of nerve means that we cannot export. The
New Zealand Herald
had the headline, “The deal drought”. Why is it that Kiwi companies cannot succeed? It is because they cannot get capital. Banks are not lending to farmers. When Federated Farmers beat a path to Labour’s door, we know that we have a problem. Federated Farmers have come to us to complain about the Government, for goodness’ sake! They complained that farmers cannot get capital from the banking system, because these guys in the Government are so ideological that their only answer to the need to raise capital is to sell off the remaining assets that we have.
This Government thinks we should sell off our remaining assets. It does not matter whether those assets are the Crafar farms, Synlait—a promising dairy company that is now 51 percent owned by China—or NZ Farming Systems Uruguay. I wonder whether any Ministers in this Government have just bought shares in that company that they might not have disclosed. I wonder whether any Ministers have capitalised on the difficulties that face NZ Farming Systems Uruguay and have just geared up their own pocketbooks at the expense of an emerging New Zealand exporter, because I hear that they have. Why are we are selling NZ Farming Systems Uruguay to a foreign multinational? It is because we cannot fund it for ourselves.
I ask how we will provide Kiwi jobs and a First World income when there is no plan to provide the capital, the skills, and the technology that New Zealand businesses need in order to thrive. It is not very complicated. It is not very complicated to get a real plan for jobs that systematically attacks the constraints in our economy. Capital, skills, and technology mean jobs, growth, and exports, and that is what this Government is not providing leadership on. What do we have? We have a cycleway to nowhere, mining on conservation land, and an attack on the rights of workers. That is no substitute for a real plan for jobs and growth.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
: The Prime Minister was elected following a campaign where he promised that New Zealand would catch up with the fortunes of
Australia and that he would close the wage gap. So, at this time, it is appropriate to consider what success, or otherwise, there has been on the part of the Prime Minister through the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and through the other departments that that department oversees, in terms of that ambition.
The Government promised us a step change in the New Zealand economy. That was the other mantra the Government used. It was going to have a step change in the New Zealand economy, and that would cause New Zealand to catch up with Australia. The Government promised at the start that this would be achieved by 2025, but then, of course, since promising that date the Government has refused to say what an intermediate step towards that goal is. The year 2025 is 15 years away. By then, very few of the people who are sitting in this Parliament will still be here. The National Party will be long out of Government. Even in National’s wildest dreams it does not realistically expect to be in office for five terms in a row. It has never happened previously in New Zealand’s history, and, given the Government’s lamentable performance on economic matters, it certainly will not last for five terms.
How do we judge the Government as to its performance between now and then? It is very difficult for the public to judge, because the Government will not set out an intermediate goal. What has the Government done? What have its step changes been? Bill English is the Minister in the chair, and he is the man who described John Key, when he was talking at a National Party conference, as “hopping from cloud to cloud”. He was right in that statement, because we can see what has happened since then. There has been the cycleway, which was going to be part of the cure. We have had a 9-day working fortnight, which was going to be important, but it came to nothing of significance. We had the most recent plan of Chinese investment in broadband, but that has not come to fruition and it does not look like it will. We have had the assertion that New Zealand will somehow become a financial services hub in the world. That is a good ambition, but that is not going to come pass. The Minister for Economic Development has not even taken a paper to Cabinet in respect of that ambition. We know that Australia, which has far deeper capital markets, has a far greater chance of being a financial services hub than New Zealand. Of course Australia is competing for that same space. So that plan is not going to come off, either.
Then, of course, the Minister for Economic Development planned to give a shot in the arm to the mining industry by mining our national parks. No one denies that there is a role for mining in New Zealand; no one denies that. There is a role, outside of national parks, and it is an important role. Indeed, the previous Government was doing a lot to stimulate interest in the petroleum industry.
Hon Darren Hughes: We dug a lot of holes.
Hon DAVID PARKER: We did. That Government funded $20 million of data acquisition because we needed gas and oil. If we are going to be using oil for the next few decades we should be using our own, rather than importing it from Saudi Arabia. That is not a step change, I say to Mr English, who is in the chair, because that was happening already. What did we have next? The Government says that New Zealand will be catching up with Australia, so we have been trying to ask the Government what its intermediate targets are. What does it tell us? The Government does not have any. The Government will not give us one target by which it can be held accountable.
I thought I would go back to a more general level today, and ask the Minister for Economic Development at question time what the income gap difference is. Given that National campaigned on this very issue, I thought he might take a stab at it. He did not know. It surprises me that we can have a Government elected on the mantra that it will close the income gap with Australia, and its Minister for Economic Development is not able to tell the House what the income gap currently is. I thought that, OK, he might not
know the specific figure. How about a rough idea? Can we have a rough idea of the difference? What was the answer? No, we could not even have that, because the Minister for Economic Development did not know. I forgive him for not knowing the exact figure. I find it surprising that he did not know the estimated amount. [Interruption] John Key is responsible for this. Then the Minister said that the gap is getting smaller. Mr Brownlee can expect some questions on that issue tomorrow.
Hon Darren Hughes: Heads up.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Heads up! I encourage the Minister to do a bit of swotting, because I am not sure he is right. How can that be so? In fact, I am sure the Minister is wrong. Australia’s growth rate has been higher since this Government came into office. The per capita GDP gap, which is one measure of income, has increased under the National Government. The wage and salary gap has become bigger, because we know that wages and salaries have been going up at a higher rate in Australia than in New Zealand. In terms of salary and wages, the gap has got bigger, not smaller. If we take it per available member of the labour force, it is even worse, because not only has Australia had wage growth but it has had employment growth, while New Zealand has had unemployment growth. Whichever way we cut it, I say to Mr English, who is in the chair, or to Mr Brownlee, who, I see, is in the House, the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia has not been going down, contrary to Mr Brownlee’s belief at question time today. It is going in the opposite direction. I have to say that I am surprised that Mr Brownlee did not know that. [Interruption] The Prime Minister will know that, or should know that.
Hon Annette King: I think he should.
Hon DAVID PARKER: If the Prime Minister has not been advised of that, I would say that we should not be voting the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet any money, because the reality is that this was one of the Government’s promises. It was going to close the gap, and it is going in the wrong direction.
I turn to another area where policy is confused. The Prime Minister said yesterday at the post-Cabinet press conference that the Government is going to slow down on its review of overseas ownership rules. Just months ago Bill English said we needed to make it easier for foreigners to buy assets in New Zealand, and indeed John Key said proudly that he had already done a deal with the Australians to make it easier for them to invest in assets. Now the Government is slowing down. That seems to me a little inconsistent with what the Government was doing earlier.
The Government does not know where to go on this issue. The Government knows, from Federated Farmers’ criticisms, from the wider public opinion, and from things that the Labour Party and the Greens have been saying, that increased rates of foreign ownership in either infrastructure assets or land are problematic and should not be agreed. Rather than making it easier to sell those assets overseas, the Minister should be properly exercising his discretion and not allowing the wholesale sale of our farms to overseas interests. The world has changed in the last couple of years. Credit is not easily available. We ought not to be pricing those assets in a way that it is in an international market, rather than in a local market. Amy Adams asked earlier why we are going to stop those people selling those assets overseas, as if that was inherent in their property right. It never has been, I say to the member. The New Zealand property right in rural land has always been subject to restrictions in the national interest as to whether they should be sold overseas.
Amy Adams: He was talking about Synlait; he was talking about shares in Synlait, which is not land.
Hon DAVID PARKER: He was not. He was also talking about farmland.
Amy Adams: If you’re going to criticise me, get it right.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I ask Amy Adams whether you are now on record as saying that you oppose the sale of farmland, of Crafar farms, to China. Unless you are, that is hollow talk. The reality is that the world has changed.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. The Opposition speakers are continually referring to “you”, which is not only rude but outside the Standing Orders.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The Minister is right. Members should not draw the Chair into the debate.
Hon DAVID PARKER: That is the only contribution we have heard from the Minister in the chair, and again it was about process. There is no substance at all from this Government, because it does not have a plan.
Do members know what the big gap is between New Zealand and Australia? It is savings. What has the Government done? It has eroded the incentives for savings in New Zealand. New Zealand is going in the wrong direction on savings incentives, at the very time when Australia is improving its rate of savings. This Government is without a coherent plan. Labour voted for some of the reforms to the Resource Management Act. We thought they were quite sensible. But that will not cause an economic step change in New Zealand. There was always exaggeration as to the part that the Resource Management Act played in New Zealand’s economic growth, and that is evidenced by the fact that we do not have some great surging growth or step change as a consequence of the changes to the Resource Management Act.
We have no plan from the Government. It is setting up a Productivity Commission. Our concern is that the commission will be narrowly focused on deregulation, rather than on wider issues. I am sure that the Productivity Commission in Australia, which the Government says our Productivity Commission is modelled on, would have opposed the abolition of the research and development tax credits and would have opposed the cuts to KiwiSaver at the time when capital markets have been grown by increased savings in Australia. I have not heard the Productivity Commission in Australia come out and say that they should be flogging off their assets, like their rural land, to people overseas.
The step change in the economy that the Government has promised has not come to pass. The lack of a plan from the Minister for Economic Development, given the failure of his plan to mine national parks, has shown up for people the absence of a coherent plan to grow New Zealand incomes and to grow jobs. Instead, the Government is resorting to making it easier for people overseas to buy our assets, rather than curing our savings problem.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green)
: I also wish to address the approach of the Prime Minister and the Government to overseas investment. One of the major concerns around overseas investment, particularly in respect of land, is on the impact on land prices, both rural land prices and urban land prices. Multiple factors have driven up urban and rural land prices over the last decade; there is no question about that. But one of those factors is overseas investment, and that factor is likely to increase in time, not decrease in time.
Urban and rural land prices really matter. In particular, rural land prices matter if we care about the family farm. I endorse the statements that have been made, particularly by the Minister of Finance, about the fact that the family farm is important. I totally agree with the Hon Bill English about that. The question is how family farms can continue to exist if we cannot afford to buy into them. If the next generation of family farmers simply cannot afford the land because the price of the land has been driven up by overseas investors with very deep pockets, I ask how the farmer’s daughter or son can afford to become the next generation of family farmer. In fact, one of the great
dreams in New Zealand, particularly in the dairy sector, has been to go from being a sharemilker to a dairy farmer. That has become very, very difficult when the price of land is driven up by overseas investment. So one of the questions for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is to ask what the Prime Minister will do and what the Government’s policy will be towards protecting rural and urban land from being driven up to being so expensive that family farmers cannot afford it.
The other part in relation to family farms is that when the price of land is so high that an enormous mortgage has to be taken out, whether the farmer is a corporate farmer or a family farmer, then, in order to service the giant mortgage, the land and the soils need to be driven incredibly hard. The bigger the mortgage that needs to be taken, the harder the land needs to be driven. So one of the issues is that if we do not regulate to protect rural land from overseas investors, we force up the price of rural land, which means that family farmers cannot continue in New Zealand, because they cannot afford the land. This means that those who farm the land are forced to thrash it and destroy the environment because they are under such enormous financial pressures to meet their mortgage payments. This is a major concern for New Zealand.
One further impact, of course, is the inflationary pressure. We know that one of the key drivers of inflation has been inflation coming through the value of land, and that the Reserve Bank tries to deal with the inflationary pressures coming out of the housing market, which is linked very closely to the price of land, by jacking up interest rates. So any measure we can use to keep down the value of land and stop it escalating so quickly is of tremendous value and importance to the New Zealand economy, to family farmers, and to people trying to buy their first home in New Zealand.
One of the tools that we have is to restrict the access of foreigners to buy up land in New Zealand. We have heard quite a lot, and quite reasonably so, about the issue around the level of savings in New Zealand. I totally agree that there is a real concern about the level of savings in New Zealand, and we need to improve the level of savings and have policy instruments to do that. But I say two things: in the first instance, we cannot solve that problem immediately, but we face a real issue about foreign ownership and foreign buying-up of land right now. We have the regulations and we can impose them to prevent foreign ownership of land right now. I also say that even if we increase the level of savings quite significantly, we will still have very large sovereign funds that have identified that they want to buy up New Zealand land. We have seen it from South Korea and the Chinese Communist Party Government, which both have a strategy of buying up agricultural land, and they have been extremely explicit about it.
The other issue in terms of foreign ownership of land is around undermining Fonterra. If vertically integrated companies take dairy produce out of New Zealand and sell it straight into China, that undermines Fonterra on price, and it means that the profits travel overseas. It also threatens Brand New Zealand. Bright Dairy, which is the company trying to buy Synlait, was caught up in the melamine disaster, and that undermines Brand New Zealand. If a single packet of New Zealand - branded milk ends up in China contaminated with melamine, then it will undermine Brand New Zealand. For those reasons and many more, we need a policy to restrict foreign ownership of land in New Zealand.
Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour)
: The Prime Minister presides over a Cabinet that thought it could dig up just shy of half a million hectares of conservation estate and provide New Zealand with an economic step change. At least two Ministers, Kate Wilkinson and Gerry Brownlee, thought that it would be feasible to put up a proposition to Cabinet asking that 460,000-odd hectares of conservation estate be dug up to provide New Zealand with an economic step change. So what happened? Well, the people got in the way.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Stop being reckless with the truth.
Hon MARYAN STREET: The people got in the way, I say to Mr Brownlee, and they protested. There were 40,000 people in Queen St and 2,000 people in Nelson, which is a big march for a little place like Nelson.
What have we seen? We have seen a humiliating back-down on the Government’s prize strategy for the economic plan. What has this back-down left in its place? It has exposed a vacuum where an economic plan ought to be. There is no economic plan; this king hit was going to improve the wealth and prosperity of this country.
But, still, the Government keeps saying that it will continue prospecting. The Minister for the Environment, the Hon Nick Smith, for goodness’ sake, said that the Government will continue prospecting on Dun Mountain, just behind Nelson. But Dun Mountain was one of those areas that were going to be part of the national cycleway—part of the national cycleway. So I want to know whether the Prime Minister talks to the Minister of Tourism. It should not be hard; they are the same person. That should not be difficult. I ask whether anybody in one department talks to anybody in another department. I ask whether the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet talks to the Ministry of Tourism. Perhaps it takes its lead from the Prime Minister, because he does not even consult himself between portfolios.
Where is the plan? If we are going to continue prospecting in Dun Mountain, where there is also a plan for a cycleway—which I welcome in the Nelson area—which will win: mining or tourism? Which will prevail: mining or tourism? What is the plan? Is it mining or tourism? Who knows? The Prime Minister clearly does not, nor does the Minister of Tourism.
In fact, I suggest that the Prime Minister cannot run even his own office properly. On 30 June in this House, Mr Key said that he had received a phone call the previous night from Bill and Mary Smith of Auckland, who thanked him for their $40-something tax cut. I wanted some evidence of that, so I presented the Prime Minister with some written questions, asking when that happened, whether the call was logged, whether he took the call himself or it was referred to him, because when he sat down after Phil Goff had asked him a question about the veracity of that answer, I heard Mr Key say to Gerry Brownlee: “I just made it up.” “I just made it up.”—that is like the economic plan; he just made it up.
The first answers he gave me on the written questions were that he could not answer yet, but that he would answer soon. The second lot of answers that I got when he finally could answer were that—I will paraphrase for the House—he picked up a staffer’s phone that was ringing sometime after 5 p.m., but the call was not logged. The Prime Minister was stumbling around a darkened office because everybody went home at 5 o’clock, so he picked up the staffer’s phone call. A response on a Tui billboard comes to mind. But even if the answer is true—I cannot disprove it so I will give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt and take him at his word—it means that the man cannot run even his own office or get somebody capable to run his own office. So I ask why anybody in this country should believe that he can run the country and can present a coherent plan to the people to get us into an improved economic position.
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green)
: I too want to address Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet, given that last week the Prime Minister and Cabinet made a decision not to mine schedule 4 land. When we look at some of the other votes we will be debating today, we see the vote on the management of the Crown mineral estate. I must say it is a great relief that the Crown mineral estate will now not include the areas that are protected from mining under schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. Although it is certainly true that we have many battles ahead to protect our conservation estate for conservation purposes as opposed to exploitation and degradation by the decisions of
the Prime Minister and Cabinet, we must make the time to celebrate this victory for common sense.
We are a very small country and we are fully dependent on our environment for our economic needs. The green movement, alongside hapū, is right at the forefront of protecting the intrinsic value of our land and, therefore, our long-term economic welfare. Just last week the voice of common sense won over short-term political expediency. It was the only real choice, because when we love something the only rational response is to stand up and protect it. The victory that is the schedule 4 mining campaign has shown how the Green approach works, how Greens make change happen, and how Greens will set the agenda.
Last month I told our annual conference that together we would make the John Key Government back down on its mining madness, and we have been very proud to lead that campaign. Last August we challenged the claim that the plans to mine were just a stocktake. In October we revealed that the stocktake included Mount Aspiring National Park, among other national parks. In December we dismantled John Key’s and Cabinet’s fallacious economic argument. The minuscule mining royalties are not worth more than the damage to our economy and our environment. By February of this year we had forced the Government to change its agenda and scale back on its mining madness.
The pressure from the public continued to mount. Tens of thousands of New Zealanders marched through the streets of Auckland to tell John Key and his Government that they said no. Thousands of New Zealanders made submissions to the Government on its proposal to mine schedule 4 land, and nearly 50,000 New Zealanders signed the Green Party petition against mining our most treasured places. I thank all those people who signed, talked, and got out on the streets. I thank them for their incredible work.
We must also recognise and thank the iwi and hapū who have fought to protect our whenua and our whānau in the 170 years since te Tiriti was signed. Too often the struggles of mana whenua to protect their whenua go unnoticed. It is the marae and the hapū who belong to the land and have been kaitiaki since mai rā anō who continue to stand firm to protect these areas from degradation and the decisions of Governments. The struggle for hapū is not over, of course, with plans from John Key’s Government for deep-sea oil drilling under way and with further mining threats in Northland, the West Coast, and Southland. But we are successful as a community because we stand alongside each other and respect each other, and we work together to protect our land and waters.
I acknowledge and thank the environmental movement in Aotearoa. The “Too precious to mine” coalition of groups have been leaders too on this campaign against the Prime Minister and his Cabinet’s decisions. These groups, such as the Coromandel Watchdog, the
Environment and Conservation Organisations of New Zealand, the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, Greenpeace, the Save Happy Valley Coalition, and the World Wild Fund for Nature New Zealand are at the front line of New Zealand’s environmental safeguards.
Without the commitment from the volunteers, their supporters, and the staff of these environmental non-governmental organisations, New Zealand would not have the protected areas and rich biodiversity that it has. The Coromandel Watchdog and other environmental groups in the 1990s fought for 15 years before the schedule 4 protections were put in place in 1997. It was Jeanette Fitzsimons who ensured then that the law required public consultation before any land was removed from schedule 4. Jeanette Fitzsimons helped to give ordinary Kiwis a voice so they could look after their land. Kia ora.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: If this Government were a television show, it would be entitled
It’s All About Me, John Key. That is why the Labour Opposition is making a big effort today to focus on Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet, because the whole thing is about John Key. The whole point of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is meant to be to put together the policies and the plans a Government is meant to have to give effect to its manifesto, its Speech from the Throne and the Prime Minister’s statement. It is all about John Key, and this Prime Minister is failing to develop a plan for New Zealand that lasts the test of time—and that could be just 12 months—and is failing in his ability to drive through real change for New Zealand in order to give people the brighter future they were promised at the last election. Hundreds of thousands of people voted for National, more than those who voted for it in 2002 when it was led by the hapless Minister of Finance. Hundreds of thousands of people shifted from 2002 to 2008 to support National because they believed in the brighter future that was promised to them by John Key. It has turned out that after one episode of
TheLate Show with David Letterman, all we are getting is one tyre kicked after another. The tyres have been kicked to death. They are flat; they are down to the rims on the road, and the only place National wants to go is to Tony’s Tyre Service to try to get the Government back on track, but it cannot happen.
I heard the Prime Minister on the radio this morning. He was asked about one of the few genuine reforms the Government has driven through. I refer to Auckland governance, where National took the royal commission set up by Labour and managed to bring a reform through. Though controversial, at least it is one thing the Government has done. John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, who is serviced by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, was asked about how powerful the Mayor of Auckland would be. He was asked whether the Mayor of Auckland would be the second-most powerful person in New Zealand. Our Prime Minister, who is serviced by policy advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, said: “They might be; but, on the other hand, they might not be.” This constituted the top-level leadership from the Prime Minister in respect of the Mayor of Auckland.
Moana Mackey: Decisive.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: It was decisiveness writ large from a man who said he would deliver a brighter future and who said he would turbocharge the New Zealand economy. We were going to have a step change, and we are now finding out, 2 years into this Government, that all of those slogans are just that—they are just words. There is no plan to give effect to any of the words that the National Party spent 9 years in Opposition carefully road-testing or getting Crosby/Textor to check out. Every single word was focus-grouped. National checked to make sure it tested well with the market, and it gets 10 out of 10 for the marketing and the research it did in order to give effect to the policies it campaigned on. The problem is that National now has ministerial warrants. National now has departments that it is being serviced by to try to turn those slogans and that rhetoric into policies that will change New Zealand not just for a week or a month but for a year and a decade. That is the failure for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet with its vote, in that this Prime Minister is not capable of sticking to a plan. Whenever the pressure comes on, the Government always buckles and it cannot keep going.
Steven Joyce, who runs large swathes of the Government, is the man for whom the Road Code has been designed, with the contents page having, on page 1, “U-turn”. The most important piece of road safety that Steven Joyce knows is the same as his political safety—the U-turn. That is the key thing he knows, which is on page 1 of the Road Code. The slogans are getting harder and harder to turn into policy, and that is where the Deputy Prime Minister actually has a point. We always wonder why he is quite as
angry as he is, but it must be so frustrating to have predicted things years before they have happened and to be rubbished at the time, only to sit back and watch everything he has said come true. I empathise with the Deputy Prime Minister because he rubbished the cycleway, and he had Gerry Brownlee’s number years before anyone else worked out that Gerry was a good fella but he was not so good on policy. Mr English had John Key worked out with his case of bouncing from cloud to cloud. Mr English tried to tell them all this, but no one would listen. Now he has to sit there and try to suppress the laughter and the giggles, as Labour finally points out what all these things are about.
Hon Bill English: I wish I was that smart.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Deep down, he knows he is that smart. There is no such thing as self-doubt when it comes to Bill English. Mind you, in that respect he will never be lonely in the National Party caucus, where there has never been a great connection between talent, ability, and personal ambition.
One of the aspects of the brighter future we were going to see from National was where it was going to close the gap with Australia. So the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet should be going through all the different organs of State to work out how this gap with Australia can be closed. As was shown today by the Minister for Economic Development, that was only ever a slogan. The National Government has no idea what it wants to do to try to reduce the gap with Australia, and when Mr Parker asked the Minister for Economic Development a simple question today about income parity the Minister said he was blind-sided by the question. Let me read to the Committee the question: “Hon David Parker to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he have targets or milestones to achieve income parity with Australia by 2025?”. That could not have been a clearer question for which we wanted to know the answer from the Government; we wanted to know what it was doing to achieve parity with Australia.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is meant to be driving all the policies across the votes to make sure that this can happen. But Mr Brownlee was surprised that the issue was about wages and surprised that it was about income parity. What on earth he was doing preparing for question time today, Lord only knows! I am not sure what special is on at Copperfields; all I am saying is that I would have thought that if I had that question arrive on a green sheet of paper in my bill box this morning, I would think: “Gee, I’d better look up what people earn in Australia as against New Zealand.” That shows me that the Government is not coordinated; there is no plan with regard to how the Prime Minister leads his Government to make sure that parity with Australia can happen.
Gerry Brownlee did not know what the wage difference was. John Key did not know, at question time, how much a 2-litre container of milk was. The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Annette King, asked him about the price of milk and of Weet-Bix, and he had no idea how much the price of bread was. They are out of touch, because they have no plan other than how they got elected in 2008.
I close by saying that National has previously had plans before that it has worked to, and in preparing for today’s speech, I remembered that back in the Bolger National Government it was ambitious for New Zealand. It did have a plan for New Zealand, and it did believe in a brighter future for New Zealand. It used to call it a plan for a “decent society”. That kind of went by the by. That was before Mr Henare joined them! I found, from the Parliamentary Library, a document called
Path to 2010: Securing a future for New Zealanders to share. In that document the National Government in 1993 had a plan for the country, and it was going to achieve 5 percent annual growth for the New Zealand economy under that plan. It talked about preparing for an ageing population by trying to help ensure that people could have savings. Well, of course, we know that this
Government has no plan for the savings of workers, because it cut the KiwiSaver scheme. Superannuation savings for workers is one of the key advantages that Australians have over New Zealanders, yet the Key Government cut it out. I know that Lianne Dalziel will have something to say about that.
Path to 2010,talked about agriculture and the importance of making sure that that industry remained critical to New Zealand through “better research and development”. Well, of course, the previous Labour Government took up the challenge to boost research and development for New Zealand’s critical primary industries, and the Bill English - John Key Government came in and wiped that, despite the fact that in
Path to 2010—the last time National had a plan, 17 long, long years ago—that was all going to be taken care of.
The last aspect it covered was the “heavy indebtedness of New Zealand” at the time that the plan was written. The Labour Government, led by Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, paid down the debt of this country, when people like Gerry Brownlee, Bill English, and John Key were saying not to worry about things like that but to give out tax cuts. Can this country imagine how indebted we would be today if Labour had not reduced debt before we went into the recession where we had to borrow money to keep the country going? The position of the economy that this National Government inherited was far and away better than what the previous National Government gave to the country in 1999 when it left office.
National used to have a plan; it used to believe in doing things for the country; it used to have the courage of its convictions and the fortitude to follow through with policies even though they were unpopular. What we are seeing from this Government now is back-down after back-down when things get tough. It turns out that the slogans have got nothing behind them. They are slogans, they are clichés, they are rhetoric; there is nothing to them. When it comes to the really tough decisions, National does not have the bottle to follow it through. There is a U-turn on mining, there is a U-turn on the importance of the cycleway, there is a U-turn on doubling trade with China, there is a U-turn on becoming an international financial hub for the world, and there is a U-turn even on a simple matter like road safety where National could build bipartisan or even multipartisan support across the House to move on issues like road safety or blood-alcohol limits. National did not even have the intestinal fortitude to get on and do that. What is the point of being the Government if one cannot lead? What is the point of being the Government if one cannot campaign on manifesto policies and turn them into proper plans when one becomes the Government?
It’s All About Me, John Key.
That is why we are opposing Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet. That guy has no plan for New Zealand that he can make happen.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: I went collecting for Women’s Refuge on Friday, and when I came out to my car I discovered that there was a little plastic bag, with a message tucked inside it, under my windscreen wiper. I thought that I would bring that message to Parliament. Actually, when I saw it there I thought it was probably something awful about me, because I do have rather a large picture of myself on my car. But anyway, I found that it had this message: “Tell the powers that be”—and this is why it is appropriate to read it out in relation to Vote Prime Minister and Cabinet—“that John Key’s glued on mask is merely a drastic attempt at covering his feeling of INSECURITY when he loses the next election. I will have so many fond memories of him, but won’t remember where I put them.”. It was signed “GD”. I thank “GD”. He is a very good constituent, and I have done what he asked me do to. He actually attached the message to a cartoon, which states: “What’s the good of having something to look forward to, if I can’t remember what it was?”.
I think the point that my constituent was trying to make there is exactly the point that we are making in this debate. I want to know why the Government is no longer ambitious for New Zealand. I thought we were promised a brighter future. I thought the Prime Minister said he would be unrelenting in his quest to lift our economic growth rate and to raise wage rates, so that we could catch up with Australia. Does anyone else remember that? My constituent obviously cannot remember that, because he has nothing to look forward to as far as this Government is concerned. That is because the Government has spearheaded a move in the opposite direction to the one that it spelt out in its election campaign. I wonder whether that was because Mr Key was overseas working in the financial institutions that brought us the global financial crisis when the wage gap was actually created by a former National Government. There was no wage gap when National took office in 1990. It was created during the 1990s, and John Key did not know that because he was not living in New Zealand at the time. National managed to produce a huge wage gap, growing year after year, through its policies, and it is doing that all over again. We have heard the Hon Darren Hughes spell out all of the different things that the Government is failing to do. That failure means that we are not able to address that gap at all.
I will comment briefly on a couple of the matters regarding the workplace, and those are the issues of union access to worksites and letting employers sack workers without good cause and without a reason within the first 3 months on the job. I ask the Prime Minister how that works for a young person. I wonder whether the Prime Minister is aware that there are already probationary provisions in the Employment Relations Act that enable employers to set expectations, to monitor performance, and to provide feedback. Those provisions enable employers to terminate employment for cause, if an individual is not up to scratch. What does sacking someone without telling the person why he or she is being sacked do for the worker, in terms of his or her capacity to enter the workforce and be a contributor to New Zealand’s economic future, and in terms of the person’s own social and economic well-being?
I recall a case that was brought to Labour’s attention when the Employment Contracts Act went through the House. A young worker, in his first job, unfortunately at the end of the first week became involved in some drinking, and he was smoking at the workplace, as well. At the end of the shift, when the shop was closed and he had spilt some ash on the carpet, the employer sacked him on the spot for the damage that he had done to the shop. This young man carried on drinking. He actually bought a bottle of spirits, went down to the river, and killed himself. I know that that is an extreme example, but his mother brought it to our attention because she was very concerned that vulnerable individuals were being left without proper support when they could be terminated from their employment, and that it ended up with them having to cope with that.
I think it is really important that young people know what is expected of them. How on earth do we grow good workers in this country if we do not teach them how to do well in the workforce? I think it is a disgraceful misrepresentation to the public to pretend that the change is about a trial period, given that we already have those in the law. It is an excuse to sack workers with no excuse, and that simply is inexcusable.
I also ask the Prime Minister to tell us what evidence there was that unions were abusing their right of entry. Not one example was given in the Chamber today.
I seek leave to table the statement that I found on my windscreen.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Leave is sought for that purpose. Is anyone opposed to that course of action? It appears not. Leave is granted.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Vote Security Intelligence
KELVIN DAVIS (Labour)
: We have heard all the slogans about the rolling maul of initiatives and the brighter future for New Zealand. We have heard how this Government is ambitious for New Zealand and we have heard about the step change. We have heard all the slogans, but we have not seen a plan to improve New Zealand. The only thing we have heard in terms of tourism is about “kicking the tyres”. That is what the Prime Minister says, but in terms of tourism, when we kick the tyres on a cycleway, somebody is bound to fall off their bike.
I tell members what is happening now in tourism: the numbers of domestic tourists—New Zealanders who can afford to go off to have a holiday somewhere around New Zealand—are falling. Domestic tourism has fallen by 10 percent in terms of guest nights over the most recent time. In the North Island guest nights have fallen by 4 percent and in the South Island they have fallen by 9 percent. People cannot not afford these days, under this Government, to just go off to have a holiday, get a bit of rest, and get away. That is because nothing this Government has done is putting more money in people’s pockets. People cannot afford to go off on holiday, and that is before the 2.4 percent increase in GST and before the emissions trading scheme bumps up the cost of petrol. Even now, before all those things have really kicked in, people cannot afford to go on holiday. For people in the domestic tourism market, it means that moteliers are struggling.
Dr Rajen Prasad: No plan.
KELVIN DAVIS: Because of the lack of plan from this Government, people in the tourism industry such as moteliers do not have the numbers of people staying in their motels to enable them to make a living. There is anecdotal evidence that in Hawke’s Bay alone guest nights are down to 10 to 15 percent of capacity.
The Government’s lack of a plan for New Zealand is having a detrimental effect on the Prime Minister’s ministry—that is, the Ministry of Tourism. The big step change has been to consume the Ministry of Tourism into the Ministry of Economic Development. We now have a Minister who does not have a ministry because the whole Ministry of Tourism is being consumed. It is being taken up by the Ministry of Economic Development. I ask the Prime Minister where the unique issues of the tourism sector will be heard, who will listen to them, and how they will be addressed if the Ministry of Tourism is swallowed up and consumed by the Ministry of Economic Development. It is a backwards step, not a step change, for the tourism industry in New Zealand. We all know that tourism is right up there as one of New Zealand’s biggest economic earners. It is our second-largest export earner. Quite frankly, the people in the domestic tourism scene are struggling just to make ends meet.
The other step change from the Prime Minister and this Government was mining. If there is one thing that will really damage the New Zealand tourism sector, it is to start mining the most pristine areas of our country. Why the Prime Minister, as the Minister of Tourism, thought that mining and digging up underneath Mount Aspiring National Park, Great Barrier Island, or the Coromandel would ever be an idea that would fly, I do not know. The tourism sector itself has told the Prime Minister that it is not a good idea. It is not “100% Pure New Zealand”; it is 100 percent stupid. Mining New Zealand and our national parks was never ever going to fly. It harms our international reputation. People will not leave their homes in England and Europe to come over here, creating a huge carbon footprint through their travel, to a country that does not live up to its
“100% Pure New Zealand” image and reputation. We have reports from people who ask why they would travel all the way to New Zealand when they could just go to Norway to see lakes, rivers, and fiords.
AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn)
: I am very happy to take a call in respect of Vote Tourism, as I come from the beautiful electorate of Selwyn where tourism is a substantial part of the economy. Everyone in this Chamber could and should properly recognise that the work this Government is doing with its economic growth agenda to lift the wealth and prosperity of all New Zealanders is fundamental to the success of this country.
Anybody who looks at the issue objectively knows that this Government has been one of the most active, productive, and effective Governments this country has seen. Thank heavens we have John Key and a National-led Government, because this Government is leading economic growth in tourism, farming, and exporting—which are the sectors that will see New Zealand come out of the global recession—and addressing the horrific economic mismanagement of the previous Labour Government over the last 9 years.
The tourism initiatives I see happening every day in Selwyn will lead to growth. Treasury is predicting 170,000 new jobs for the economy as a result of this Government’s economic management. National was elected to deliver greater prosperity to New Zealand, and that is what we are delivering. Do members know what appals me? What appals me is that the Labour Party is so financially incompetent that it cannot see the effect of what we are doing. It cannot see the difference that the policies of this Government is making to jobs and growth in this country. Labour has had its head in the sand for so long that the only way it knows to create wealth is to spend taxpayers’ money—borrow and spend. This Government, on the contrary, understands that real growth comes from the productive sector, and that is why—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I am sorry to interrupt the member. I say to Dr Prasad that interjections should be rare and reasonable.
AMY ADAMS: That is why this Government is putting in place a number of initiatives. That is why we are putting an extra $30 million into the tourism sector, for example. That is why we have streamlined and simplified the Resource Management Act—so that new tourism initiatives can get under way.
We heard today in question time the Hon Dr Nick Smith talk about the fact that those changes to the Resource Management Act have changed a consenting process that was taking upwards of 6 years so that it now takes 4 months. So when some of the tourism ventures in Selwyn want to build new infrastructure, new growth—and there are some fantastic plans for the ski fields in my electorate—they know that the Resource Management Act will not now be the absolute, concrete shoe that it was under the previous Government. We will not see good growth initiatives and good tourism initiatives strangled by the red tape and inefficiencies of the previous Labour Government.
This Government will ensure that sectors like tourism, agriculture, and exporting, which were in recession for 5 years under the previous Labour Government—for 5 years while the world was in boom times—will now grow. They will grow, they will prosper, and they will create real sustainable jobs for New Zealanders. There will be an increase in average household incomes of more than $7,000 a year thanks to the policies of this Government. For Labour members to now cry crocodile tears when over 9 years they did nothing except borrow and spend other people’s money—[Interruption]
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Dr Prasad, if you are going to be disruptive, be disruptive from your own seat. Please go to your own seat. [Interruption] Please go to your own seat.
AMY ADAMS: The economic policies of this Government are substantial and effective, and they are making a difference for real New Zealanders. One of the best pieces of news that this Government delivered in recent times was when the Minister of Finance announced that for the first time we have seen growth in the productive sector outstripping growth in the non-productive sector. That is a major milestone. It is exactly the sort of economic growth, economic step change, that we are delivering.
Labour members are so blind that they cannot see that—they cannot see it. For them to now cry crocodile tears is pretty appalling. They managed the economy into the ground during the best period of economic activity the world has seen, and the productive sector continued to fail.
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki)
: I will speak on Vote Tourism. I congratulate the Minister of Tourism on his vision, aspiration, plan, and action—not words; action. He has put in place an economic base on which New Zealand can rebuild its tourism, after 9 years of shambolic, misguided, tragic, disgraceful, and, quite frankly, defeatist administration by the previous Government of not only the tourism sector but the entire economy. The tourism sector rests upon a robust economy, which needs to have good infrastructure, an educated workforce, and a business sector that wants to invest in the future and is also ambitious. Yes, this Government is bullish and aspirational for New Zealand, not like the defeatist rhetoric that we hear constantly from the other side of the Chamber.
I am saddened, particularly in this debate, to essentially hear confirmation that Labour wants to rip up the cycleways once they are built. I am disgusted—and people in Hawke’s Bay will be very disappointed—with the confirmation from earlier speakers, in relation to one of the key announcements from our Minister of Tourism earlier last year, that once the cycleways are put in place, Labour wants to dig them up. If I am wrong about that, I look forward to other members standing up to say that Labour backs the cycleways.
Other members have talked about how to attract tourists to New Zealand. One of the things that we need is to have a competitive exchange rate. Well, what happened to our exchange rate in the previous 9 years or so? It got to nearly 80c against the United States dollar under the previous regime. Interest rates reached double figures under the previous regime. Those who worked and those businesses that wanted to invest in themselves, in New Zealand, and in tourism had to fight the highest interest rates in the OECD because of the spend-up—the unfocused spending, the unaccountable spending, and the non-transparent spending and outcomes—of the previous regime. Not only did it push up interest rates with its unfocused spending—I acknowledge the member—which underpinned the high exchange rate and the inflation rate, as previous members have said, but we have been in recession since about 2004 in the tradables sector, of which Vote Tourism is a large part. We had an Export Year. Apparently, that was to have fixed everything; it did not.
Success in the tourism sector and the effectiveness of Vote Tourism will depend on—and tourists to New Zealand can come and witness—what is probably the biggest transformation in our taxation system in 25 years. They will witness that here. To make their tourism experience much better, they will witness the provision of better, faster, smarter public services and the use of public funds. I go back to the corporations and companies that are investing in the tourism sector, whose tax rate will go down to 28c in the dollar next April. They will also have a workforce that is starting to become better educated, because of national standards. The focus of this Government is on front-line services, on deliverables and outcomes, not on the endless plans and talk that we hear from members on the other side of the Chamber. Actions speak much louder than words.
Tourists will enjoy motorways and airports that have been improved with the boost in infrastructure spending.
Carmel Sepuloni: You haven’t done anything.
CRAIG FOSS: The member wants infrastructure to be built over a couple of days. Well, in fact, that takes years. Interestingly, for example, tourists can now shop at another supermarket that took 4 months to get on to the board, because of the Resource Management Act changes that this Government made, as opposed to one that took 12 long years to build under the previous Government, with its shambolic administration of the Resource Management Act. Tourists will come here, and of course I am sure that they will come to the Hawke’s Bay wine country. It is actually relatively cheap to do so. I hope that tourists, when they come back again and again, will see a better economic environment in New Zealand, and will see that we have moved up from No. 22 in the OECD rankings, which we tragically slid so fast and so far down to under the previous administration. One thing that tourists will also see is our more efficient public services. In fact, about $2 billion of savings have been made in the Budget, to have a better realisation of the investment of taxpayers in “New Zealand Inc.”, and particularly in the tourism sector.
Members on the other side of the Chamber have taken the mickey—shall we say—out of our aspirations for a growth in trade with China, where we aim to cater for an increase to $20 billion by 2020. I ask what is wrong with that. Why are the Opposition members being so defeatist? We are an exporting nation; we need to export our way out of the current situation.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn)
: So far in this debate, the Committee has considered the impact of government by focus group. New Zealanders are sick of that. New Zealanders are sick of a situation where real lives are at risk and real families are under stress because this Government does not have a plan. This Government advances ideas—it calls it “kicking the tyres”. That means the Government puts a potentially unpopular decision out in public, and when the polling tells it that a significant number of New Zealanders understand what is going on and do not like it, it backtracks. In the short term that may be to tactical advantage because the Government may be able to save itself a few votes. But if it keeps doing that time after time, we will get what we have got, and that is a country with no sense of direction, a business sector with confidence at some of the lowest levels on record, and consumer spending that is subdued because New Zealanders have their wallets closed because they are afraid of the future.
The Minister of Finance talks about rebalancing, and he is partly right. In our earlier debate, we noted the fact that the part of his analysis about the slow growth of the tradables sector and the scarcity of capital facing New Zealand’s firms is on the money. But that is where it stops, because there is no strategy to deal with the very problems the Government has identified. If we are capital-scarce, we should obtain capital. If we do not save enough, we should encourage savings. We should not cut KiwiSaver. We should not forget to put money into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. We should not close the Government’s mind to the possibility that new, additional, different things might have a substantial impact on savings—for example, beefing up Kiwibank rather than forcing it to go overseas to borrow yet more international debt so that Kiwis can recycle it into real estate.
This Government pledged to correct the imbalances of the economy, but it only tiptoed around building depreciation with the property sector, and even then it got it
wrong, putting it on commercial property as well as residential property. A significant tax advantage to real estate remains, and there is a huge avoidance problem. The Finance and Expenditure Committee, in its report to this Committee, has pointed out that some $2.5 billion is being avoided or evaded by means of loss attributing qualifying companies and the misuse of portfolio investment entities. But the Government did not have the bottle to follow its own rhetoric and address that problem at source.
The Labour Party has been able to recite example after example—whether we call it kicking the tyres, a rolling maul, or just a bloody shambles—of things that are no alternative for a strategy. We have had the cycleway, the Job Summit, the mining step change, and the attack on workers’ rights with the 90-day fire-at-will bill—all things that are no alternative and no excuse for a strategy.
I turn now to the contrast with Australia. The Government said that it wanted to catch up with Australia. It appointed none less than former National leader and former Governor of the Reserve Bank, Don Brash, to attempt to draw together the best threads of National Party thinking. It was so good that Prime Minister John Key announced it dead on arrival, before it was even published. He said it was too extreme. Government by focus group got in the way of the underlying agenda, just in case Kiwis worked out what they meant and decided they did not like it. It was the same thing Ruth Richardson meant. It was the same thing Jenny Shipley meant. In fact, it was the same thing that Margaret Thatcher meant, and the same thing Ronald Reagan meant: deregulate and hope; take it off the back of working people, make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and hope it all trickles down.
But it is not all their fault. Actually, the left of politics, broadly speaking, needs to stand up and be counted for some old principles of our own—like the fact that equality is a good thing, and like the fact that equality of opportunity for every New Zealand child matters. I was in my electorate of New Lynn on Friday, and I went to the local high school in Kelston. I am ashamed to say that there are children going to school without shoes and without breakfast, and some who live in caravans.
How do members like this for the Government’s economic strategy? One family that I was told about was a family of six children, mum, and dad. Dad was supporting that family, living in a State house, with a reasonable labouring job, but his entire company folded in the recession, and he is out of work. The family could not afford a State house, even with Labour’s income-capped rents. So they had to move in with his brother, and now there are eight children and four adults living in one three-bedroom home in Kelston.
Just down the road we are trying to help another family, who live in a caravan, and another family of four children who live in a garage. I am ashamed that this is the country we call home. If that is trickle-down economics, I say that it has not trickled down to Kelston. It has not trickled down to my constituents.
Let us contrast that with Australia. Australia is the country we were supposed to catch up to, but there is no plan to do that. The Australian Government invested robustly through the recession. It created jobs. Under Labour, we used to have lower unemployment than Australia, but now it is higher. Gerry Brownlee thinks that New Zealand incomes are rising faster than Australia’s, I say to Mr English. I am sure that Mr English, at least, knows better. It will be interesting tomorrow when he is asked to quantify that in the House in question time, because the truth will out. New Zealand workers have gone backwards—backwards—because New Zealand’s Government has no plan. The Australian Labor Government does. It may not be perfect, but it knew how to grow an economy through recession, and not stand on the sidelines, fiddle and hope, give up on New Zealanders’ future, and boil aspiration down to individual self-interest,
where the rich and the powerful climb on the backs of the poor, the homeless, and the needy just like they have always done.
Hon Steve Chadwick: It’s not funny.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: No, it is not funny, I say to Mr David Carter, who owns a dozen companies and squillions of acres of farmland. If Mr Carter lived in Kelston and his children had no shoes, he would not be laughing. If his colleague, who has just bought a swag of New Zealand farming systems, was in the Chamber right now, I would be asking him what is so funny about profiteering off a New Zealand company that has been sold for scrap because the Government’s economic strategy has failed.
The Government’s economic strategy is in tatters, and its public relations are in tatters. All it is doing is governing by focus groups, and New Zealanders want better. They want vision, they want values, they want coherent, good law, and they want evidence-based policy. They want policy that will work and will raise living standards, and they want more equality—they want more equality. It is very interesting, I say to Mr Carter, that I had a farmer in my office who said: “You know, we like National, but the Minister of Agriculture is a waste of space. We can’t wait for the reshuffle that gets Carter out of that job.” I said: “His brother is pretty smart, so I do not know what happened to the DNA. But I know what you mean.” So I say to the Minister of Agriculture that I would not laugh if I were him, because it will not be long before Federated Farmers have their way with him, and then the smile will be out of the other side of his face.
I turn back to the people of Kelston, who are struggling in this so-called recovery. It has not hit them. It has not hit the high street businesses whose windows are boarded up and whose shops are vacant, the taxi drivers who cannot get fares, or the workers who have lost their overtime. We have not caught up with Australia. This issue is not just about the lack of a plan; it is about real-life pain. It is about the real-life hardship of children going to school hungry, children with no shoes and no books, and people having to wait for medical care. It will get worse and worse, because it is not OK to create a society of haves and have-nots. It is not the Kiwi way. Kiwis are decent people. All right, they do not like to be told what to do, but they think everybody deserves a fair go and equality of opportunity. A plan for jobs and a plan for growth is what they expect of this Government. They are asking why they elected it, and how long it will be before they can get a coherent alternative.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: There is no doubt that if Labour wants vision, values, and evidence-based policy, it has found its man. There is no doubt about that. I can just hear that speech about equality rolling off Mr Cunliffe’s lips at the next Labour Party meetings up and down the country, where three Labour members get in a phone box, and there is not quite enough room for the spokesman on finance.
Hon David Carter: There won’t be enough for his head.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There will not be. I ask the member, if he really felt as concerned as that about the families that he met in Kelston, why he did not fix it when he was in the Government. After 9 years of growth, huge increases in the housing budget, and endless rhetoric about caring about everybody, the end result of almost a decade of Labour in power is that he has finally found the homeless families in his electorate. After 9 years in power he has finally found those homeless families. The member will be pleased to know that as part of these estimates the Government will do something about those families. It has been told by the Housing New Zealand Corporation that 30 percent of its stock is in the wrong place, is the wrong size, or is in too poor a condition to put those families in. That is what is left after 9 years of vision, values, and evidence-based policy. That is the result after 9 years.
There are a lot of stages an Opposition has to go through, but I will tell the Committee that the one that is still well ahead of Labour—Labour has not got there yet—is the stage when Labour accepts that the voters were right and that it was wrong. When the Opposition members have been addressing these estimates, we have heard all about the policies that were perfect, and that still would be. No doubt the Prime Minister, who was perfect, and who still would be if she had been in this chair during the estimates—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: They want her back.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course they do. But they do not need her back, because she is busy texting from New York to tell—
Hon David Carter: No, they’ve got Mr Cunliffe instead.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, that is right; they have found their man today. But those members have to admit that the voters were right and they were wrong, and we do not hear that. Today they have had an opportunity. There has been a lot of discussion about the direction for New Zealand, but Labour members still cannot admit that they were wrong and the voters were right. The voters were right to change the Government, simply because they wanted a Government that understood where the economy was going and what would actually lift incomes for New Zealanders.
As has been discussed in a number of debates in this Chamber, the Government, through the appropriations and these estimates, is addressing some pretty fundamental difficulties that were left behind by the previous Government. Probably the one that I find that New Zealanders most readily understand is that the enthusiasm for spending vastly outran our interest in earning, so the non-tradables sector grew by 10 percentage points of GDP from 2004, and the tradables sector actually shrank by 15 percent. If we look back over decades, we can see that it has never been so far out of balance. We have never become so blind to the need to earn a living from the world so that we can pay for the children who do not have shoes or who are living in a garage.
As they are finding out in other countries where debt has got out of control, and where people have lost their interest in living within their means, the results will be pretty harsh. If we were in the UK or the US, we would be seeing the complete shutdown of public services and a major reform of welfare, all of which can be pretty difficult for the most vulnerable. In fact, the lesson of what is happening in those countries is that it is when times get tough and are badly managed that we get the biggest impact on inequality and the worst impact on those at the bottom of the heap. People on reasonable incomes can ride out a recession; people who lose their jobs find it pretty difficult. So the Government’s plan to turn round this economy has now been running for a couple of years, and what has been satisfying about it, I have to say, is that the plan that was signed up to in 2008 by the Government has been able to be continued for so long and so successfully.
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green)
: I listened with interest to the Minister just then, expounding—certainly at the end, at least—his Government’s policies pertaining to the Appropriation (2010/11 Estimates) Bill. It strikes me that the single emphasis that has come through in that bill, both in the presentation of the Budget and in the debate ever since, has been simply on economic growth. That is not just one of a raft of policies that the Government is promoting; it constitutes the central plank of this Government’s raison d’être. Economic growth is the lodestar that this Government pursues; it is the criterion by which this Government is prepared—in fact claims to wish—to be judged by.
It began, as the Minister more or less said, right from the very beginning with the Speech from the Throne. If we go back to 9 December 2008, the Speech from the Throne said that “The driving goal of the new Government will be to grow the New
Zealand economy in order to deliver greater prosperity, security and opportunities to all New Zealanders. It will be going for growth because it believes in the power of economic growth to deliver higher incomes, better living conditions and, ultimately, a stronger society for New Zealanders.” The Minister reiterated that quite explicitly just now.
Similarly, in presenting the Budget itself back in May, the Minister said that the Government’s emphasis is now shifting towards getting the economy growing again, and ensuring that this growth is higher and “more sustainable.” Members should note the words “more sustainable”, which in a sense reflects the sheer inability of the Government to understand the true meaning of sustainability. There is a sustainable economy or there is an unsustainable economy; there is not a more or less sustainable economy. So the growth is higher and more sustainable than New Zealand has seen in recent years. “Growth matters”, because it creates jobs, increases incomes, and improves the living standards of New Zealand families.
To round it off, only last week the Minister for Economic Development, wearing his energy hat, stated in the very beginning of the foreword to the Energy Strategy: “The overarching goal of the Government is to grow the New Zealand economy to deliver greater prosperity, security and opportunities for all New Zealanders. … The Government’s goal is for the energy sector to maximise its contribution to economic growth.”
This excessive focus on economic growth is, I seriously suggest, contestable. With a global population that has shot up in half a century from 2 billion to 6.8 billion, and is rising to 9.2 billion, and with the consumption per capita of people on the planet rising, global economic growth on this planet by humanity has become in itself unsustainable, not less sustainable.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Rubbish, utter rubbish.
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM: I assure the Minister that if he bothers to read the literature pertaining to economic footprint, he will see—and I will help him out there—that the figures are 1.8 hectares per person for the bio-productive capacity of land, and 2.1 hectares at the moment for an ecological footprint, which is an overshoot of 35 percent.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Left-wing garbage.
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM: Sorry?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Left-wing rubbish.
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM: Left-wing rubbish?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That’s right.
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM: Yes—thank you for that stunningly insightful comment on the global challenge we face. The fact is that the global economy is overheating at the moment. Global economic growth has become uneconomic, and what has to be done is to distinguish between the global north, which is overdeveloped, and the global south, which is undeveloped but still has a right to develop in terms of material economic growth. In the global north we are obliged now to maintain our prosperity without material growth, while in the south, countries like Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia are free to grow. The key concept linking that is sustainable development, which has been on the international agenda since 1992. Thank you.
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS (ACT)
: To some extent the Opposition has put me off my stride, in the sense of what I was going to say. But one point—
Grant Robertson: Ha, ha.
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS: Yes, the honourable member for Wellington Central raises—
Grant Robertson: I haven’t even spoken yet.
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS: No, I know, but the member raises an issue constantly when he gets up, and I think his senior whip raised it today. It is an issue that I would like to comment about, because I get rather sick of hearing about it all the time, when what is said is basically so wrong. The claim is made, and it has been made today, that had it not been for Labour paying off as much debt as it did during its period in office, then New Zealand would be in great difficulty today, because we would have a huge deficit. The story goes that had Labour taken National’s advice to lower taxes, then obviously the deficit today would be much higher than it is and we would be in huge difficulty. Of course, that is absolute rubbish. It is absolute nonsense.
If we think about the period when Labour was in Government, we remember that during that time Dr Cullen and his Labour colleagues increased tax in real terms—and I emphasise “real terms”—by $5,500 per person a year, or $21,000 a year for a family of four. In other words, Labour had an alternative: to increase expenditure in real terms by $5,500 a year per person, or $21,000 a year for a family of four, which it did, or to lower taxes. Had Labour lowered taxes during that period but refrained from increasing Government expenditure, a lot of which was wasteful, then the deficit position would have been precisely the same, but people would have had another $200 or $300 a week in their pocket. How much better off New Zealanders would be today, had Labour not wasted so much Government expenditure during its period in Government. So the idea that Labour is promoting that it was prudent and that it paid off debt is absolute nonsense. It could have paid off debt and still had major tax reductions, provided that it did not have the wasteful expenditure that was equivalent to $5,000 a year, or $100 a week, per person.
The issue I want to raise with the Minister of Finance is in many ways an academic one, but nevertheless it is an issue that I feel is important, because in many ways it goes to the heart of New Zealand’s difficulty. It concerns the nature of our fiscal deficit. Today and yesterday I did a bit of work on trying to reconcile the difference between the core Crown operating balance and the net cash flows, or the Government’s borrowing, of $13 billion. I do not think there is a table that enables one to do that. It is incredibly difficult. There is a core Crown operating balance deficit of about $9 billion. We can adjust that for Crown enterprise operating balances. So we can get one figure, from which we have to, of course, deduct the non-financial instruments such as depreciation, etc. Then we can add to that the cash flows from investment activities, which amount to about $11.3 billion. That is when I got into difficulty, because I simply could not find any table that demonstrated or showed me how the net purchases of physical assets, which are shown as being worth $7.8 billion, were actually made up. I could find capital expenditure in the departments of about $4.2 billion, but I was unable to find the rest. It may be there somewhere, but it is certainly not in a convenient table, and I would be interested to know what the Minister intends to do about that.
But the point I raise, and it is why I was interested in this, is that I wanted to do a bit of work on analysing the so-called capital expenditure to see whether it is really capital expenditure. In other words, if it is not capital expenditure, then obviously the deficit is greater than the Government says it is. When I look at some of the so-called capital expenditure, I start to wonder whether it should be classified as being capital expenditure. Expenditure on items like the National Library of New Zealand heritage collection may be worthy expenditure, but is it really capital expenditure, or should it be added to the deficit? The Ministry of Education’s quality reinvestment programme, whatever that is, and the investment by the Ministry of Economic Development in the external reporting of its Accounting Standards Review Board might be important items of expenditure, but are they genuinely capital expenditure? There is also the issue of the money—$300 or $400 million—that we are investing in KiwiRail. Is that really an item
of capital expenditure, when it will not add one dollar to the capital value of the railways? How can those items and many others be regarded as capital expenditure, when the Government is actually borrowing this money and it will never show a return? In fact, it is not intended that it should earn an income.
I think there is a real issue here as to whether some items of capital expenditure that the Government incurs are really capital expenditure or should be classified more as ordinary expenditure, and therefore shown above the deficit line rather than below the line. This may appear to be a somewhat theoretical issue. But I think it is important, because it seems to me that the way that the Government arrives at its fiscal deficit in this country is somewhat different from the way that other Governments arrive at theirs. I am fairly certain that if we did our accounting on the same basis as other countries do theirs, then our deficit might be substantially higher than it is claimed to be.
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki)
: I will read a couple of very important points on Vote Finance. This Government is about action, and a couple of points have been missing from the discussion so far, but maybe other members will bring them up. As far as action goes, on 1 October 2010 the tax rate for those people who earn under $14,000 will change from 12.5c in the dollar to 10.5c. That is action. For those whose income on 1 October 2010 is between $14,000 and $48,000, their tax rate will move down from 21 percent to 17.5 percent. More than two-thirds of New Zealanders will face a marginal tax rate of no higher than 17.5c in the dollar. That is action and it puts paid to some of the accusations from members opposite, who tend to go on endlessly.
Those people on a taxable income of between $48,000 and $70,000 will no longer be taxed at 33c in the dollar; their highest marginal tax rate will be 30c in the dollar. That is outstanding action from a Government that has been in office for only 18 months. This measure will come in on 1 October. For those on an income over $70,000, their tax cut will be from 38c to 33c. So when we hear rhetoric from members opposite about looking for action, from 1 October the after-tax incomes for New Zealanders will, first, improve; second, be on the way to catching up with Australia; and, third, will mean that we are well on the way to putting freedom, fairness, and equity back into the system.
But, wait, there is more. Under this Government a married couple on superannuation will be about $80 to $90 better off. This is due to indexation, the changes we have made to after-tax incomes, and general increases in superannuation. Again, that is action, not just the plans, general reports, and reviews that members opposite rave on about. And wait, there is more under Vote Finance. From 1 April next year, corporate tax will move from 30c to 28c in the dollar. We hear about catching up to Australia. Hold on, that rate is lower than Australia’s! At the very best, it is going down to 29c in the dollar in maybe 4 years or so. New Zealand is running ahead and is more ambitious for itself, if you like, as far as business tax is concerned, with a tax rate of no more than 28c in the dollar.
Hey, there is more. Yes, GST is being adjusted on 1 October as part of the tax switch. Again, I always express my surprise that the Green Party does not vote for an increase in consumption tax, because we hear Green members endlessly talking anti-consumption. Well, there they go—there is a consumption tax, but they seem to vote against it. I also note for the benefit of those listening that the Labour Opposition voted against all these tax cuts and changes, and it continues to argue against them. But, to be fair, it is par for the course for those members. They went for 9 years without cutting taxes at all, other than for the cut in the corporate tax rate from 33c to 30c. I will give them that one.
We are using six planks to clean up our economic system. They are to clean up New Zealand’s economy, to rebalance it, to refocus it, to put focus back in the front line, and, most important, to put confidence back into New Zealanders, into their economy, and
into the Government that manages their tax. We will be managing it prudently, as a prudent manager of the economy. Part of those six planks, as I have just mentioned, is tax reform. This country is seeing the biggest tax reform in 25 years. This Government is getting out and backing New Zealand families and jobs. We will have better, smarter public services. Thus far, up to $2 billion has been found through reprioritising money within the public sector—up to $2 billion. The only contribution from members on the other side of the Chamber was from the Hon Phil Goff, who spent his Christmas thinking about something. He thought that he might cap the salaries of, I think, 50 or 60 or so public servants, having signed up a few years prior to giving them a 5 percent annual increase for 5 years with those same players.
Part of that is also national standards in education, which I alluded to earlier. It is also boosting and investing in infrastructure, which is all about investing in the future of New Zealand. We are unclogging the arteries and providing the infrastructure to allow our exports to go to the ports and allow tourists to come in. We have an ambitious trade agenda—$20 billion worth of aspirational targets with China.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: I want to ask the Minister in the chair, the Hon David Carter, a question. What is the Government’s best estimate of the additional cost flowing from the lack of credibility of the current Minister of Finance, to the Government of borrowing? I want to know what the premium is on our debt repayments from having a Minister of Finance who has no credibility in New Zealand’s financial markets or internationally. I ask where in these estimates is the half a million dollars that is to be repaid by the Minister of Finance, which is the money that he, his family, or his trust has received as a result of declaring that he lives in Dipton. I have been looking for it. I ask whether that money is sitting in these accounts, I ask whether it is a credit against these expenditures, and, more important, I ask what the cost to New Zealand is of having a Minister of Finance with the lack of credibility that the current Minister of Finance has.
I can go back a while. I was in this House with Sir Robert Muldoon—not while he was the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, but in the period immediately afterwards—and I cannot remember a time in all of those years when there has been a Minister of Finance who was regarded as being suspect by the financial community, someone who did not seem quite kosher, and someone whom we could not believe all the time. Frankly, I ask who can blame those in the financial community, when they know that they have a Minister of Finance who has declared that he lives in Dipton when, in fact, everyone knows that he lives in Messines Road and that he has benefited hugely, to the tune of at least half a million dollars, over the decade that that has occurred.
If we were in some other country, there would be investigations. There would be commissions. The person concerned would not be in the job, unless we were in a corrupt country. If we were in a corrupt country, then the Prime Minister would accept that sort of behaviour, but generally in New Zealand we have had much, much higher standards of transparency than that. When the OECD has looked at us and at our methods of ensuring that there is proper behaviour on the part of Ministers, it has had us right up there, and we have been proud of that. We can work our way back.
You know, I disagreed greatly, at different ends of the spectrum, with Sir Robert Muldoon and Ruth Richardson, but one thing that one would never accuse either of them of doing was making false declarations in order to personally benefit. There is a possibility, I think, that if we go back to Keith Holyoake’s time, some of the actions of that Government were slightly questionable, especially to do with the western access road round Taupō and the personal benefit that the then Prime Minister gained from the opening up of Kinloch. But I think it is fair to say that since that time, certainly in the
last 50 years of New Zealand politics, or pretty close, there has never been a question of our interest rates being at a premium as a result of questions related to the credibility and personal reputation of the Minister of Finance in the way that we have it today.
I think it is particularly interesting that not a single member opposite is prepared to defend Bill English in this matter. Clear reflections on his character are happening here, and not one member opposite—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I want to make it clear that there is no response from members on this side of the Chamber, because we simply consider Mr Mallard to be a complete—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): That is not a point of order.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: In the half-minute that I have left to me, I will challenge members opposite to stand up and say in their next speech that they are comfortable with the approach that has been taken by the Minister of Finance with regard to the non-repayment of the half a million dollars that he has received. I want those members to stand up and tell this Committee that they think that is the sort of behaviour they want from their Minister of Finance.
AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn)
: It is a great pleasure to take a call in the estimates debate on Vote Finance. I tell members right now that I will not waste any of my contribution responding to the muck that the member Trevor Mallard continually tries to throw at members on this side of the Chamber. It is clear that when a party like Labour has nothing to offer people, its members resort to mud, muck, and baseless allegations. New Zealand cares about getting this economy growing, getting New Zealand moving, getting New Zealanders into jobs, raising incomes, and making this country a place that New Zealanders want to live in and to be in. That is why I think we can all be very proud of the work that our Minister of Finance and Prime Minister are doing.
The initiatives in this year’s Budget—and in Vote Finance, in particular—are central to our economic growth strategy. This Government was elected overwhelmingly by the people of New Zealand to lift the incomes of New Zealanders and to improve the outlook for New Zealanders, and that is what we are doing. Let us be frank about this. The polls are very clear: New Zealanders like what we are doing, and they are paying no attention to that party over there, which is more interested in throwing mud and laying baseless allegations before this House than it is in getting New Zealanders into jobs and creating an economy that is sustainable, solid, and based on the productive sector of the New Zealand economy.
In my previous contribution to this estimates debate, I said that when Labour members stand in this Chamber and talk about a lack of direction, it simply tells us one thing. It simply tells us that they have no idea what an economic growth strategy looks like. They would not recognise one if it came up and bit them. The work that this Government is doing is working. Treasury is telling us that it will create 170,000 extra jobs and extra household income of $7,000 per annum. Those are real, substantial, and meaningful achievements. That is why this country is continuing to endorse the John Key - led Government.
Budget 2010 is focused on economic growth and on rebalancing the economy. A big part of that is addressing the external liabilities that put our economy in great jeopardy. The tax changes that my friend Mr Foss has already talked about are central to addressing the concerning level of external liability that this country currently has.
As well as the tax changes, the other part of that focus is the efforts that this Government is making to control government expenditure. Those efforts are meaningful. The Government is addressing the strong economy that we need, and ensuring that our debt position is controlled—far more so than it would have been under
the previous Government, which just wanted to keep borrowing and ignoring the failing of the productive sector. It also means that we are delivering better and smarter public services. We are ensuring that the taxpayers’ money—money that hard-working New Zealanders give us the privilege of spending—is spent on front-line services, not on more bureaucrats, not on more red tape, and not on more bodies than endlessly study and report on issues but do not deal with them, as we saw with the previous Government. We are ensuring that the money is spent on real services for New Zealanders, such as more doctors, more nurses, more midwives, and more police on our streets, because that is what New Zealanders want.
This Budget is about addressing the imbalances between our tradables and our non-tradables sector, and making sure that jobs in this economy are real, that they are sustainable, and that they support the parts of the economy that will see New Zealand climb up the OECD rankings.
This Budget is about productivity. It is about ensuring we have tight fiscal management for the first time in a long time—about 9 years, I suggest; from about 1999 to 2008. We are seeing good fiscal discipline. We are seeing a Government that understands the very simple lesson that every household learns: we have to earn money before we can spend it. That is what the previous Government did: that Government spent first, then earned later. This Government knows we have to earn the money first. It is not rocket science, one would think. Most New Zealanders understand it. Heck, my 10-year-old daughter understands it. We have to earn the money first, then spend it. But not Labour! Oh, no. Labour borrows and borrows.
This Government understands that if we do not have the productive sector working right, we are not earning any money and we cannot deliver the sorts of public services we want for New Zealand. That is what this Budget is about. It is about better balance sheet management, and ensuring that the $217 billion worth of assets that this Government is responsible for are working for the people of New Zealand, who are the owners of those assets. Thank you.
Vote Economic Development
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
: I rise to take call in respect of Vote Economic Development.
Jo Goodhew: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I seek clarification from you as to whether each speaker is able to take two calls in each one of the votes, or just two in the debate.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): It is two per vote.
Hon Steve Chadwick: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Each time a member seeks clarification, Labour is losing speaking time. I wonder whether the junior Government whip could clarify things with the Leader of the House. [Interruption]
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): The Minister knows he cannot interject when he is the Minister in the chair. We will leave it at that point. Anyone is entitled to raise a point of order. I hear what the member is saying, but anyone is entitled to raise a point of order for clarification. I have ruled on this matter.
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Government was elected on the promise that it would close the wage gap with Australia by 2025. We have been trying to get clarity as to some intermediate target, because of course by 2025 not many of us who are currently in the House, if any, will be here. The current National-led Government will be long gone. There has never been a 15-year Government for as long as I have been alive, and I do not think this Government will be a 15-year Government. There is nothing in the 2025 target that enables the Opposition, or, indeed, members of the public, to hold the
Government to account. We want some intermediate targets, and we have not had any. We have had an acknowledgment from the Minister for Economic Development that the Government does not have any intermediate targets, and it is plain from the record that there are not any.
I want to reflect a little more on the difference with Australia. At the moment the Nobel Laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, is on a tour of Australia. It has been reported that he has been complimentary of the Australian response to the recession. I can understand why, because Australia has done so much better in the recession than the National-led Government has done in New Zealand. Indeed, the contrast between Australia and New Zealand is stark. Since the recession started, the Australian stimulus package has been effective, and unemployment has gone down. In New Zealand, the stimulus package from the New Zealand Government did not work as effectively, and unemployment has risen. In New Zealand, wage growth has stalled. I think wage growth for the first 3 months of this year was virtually nil; it was a very, very low rate, anyway. In contrast, wage growth in Australia is still reasonable. The wage gap between New Zealand and Australia, contrary to Mr Brownlee’s assertion at question time today, has actually increased, not decreased. I am very, very surprised that the Minister has not corrected that statement in the
Hansard record as yet.
I could forgive the Minister if there was some measure by which he could assert the gap to be closing. There are three standard measures of the earnings gap between New Zealand and Australia. The first and most relevant is what people actually earn—their wages and salaries. That is what people understand when the Government says it will close the wage gap with Australia. It means that the gap will get smaller, not bigger. If somehow salaries could be separated out and we could find out that that gap has closed, then maybe that assertion could be made. But neither the wage gap nor the salary gap has closed. Of course, during the period since National has been in office wage and salary growth in New Zealand has been lower than in Australia. On that measure, the wage gap has not closed. That seems to me to be the end of it.
We might ask about per capita GDP. If we measure that, we see that the gap has got bigger, not smaller. Gross domestic product has been increasing at a higher rate, off a higher base, in Australia than it has in New Zealand. On this measure, the gap has also become wider. That is two out of two.
What about if we take per person available to work? That is a wee bit different from the average wages for someone who is in full-time employment, because it includes people who would like to work but cannot because they are unemployed. On that measure, too, the gap has become wider. Since National took office in New Zealand, the unemployment rate has gone up in New Zealand and down in Australia. Again, I would suggest that if we are assessing earnings per available worker, then we see that the gap between New Zealand and Australia has grown larger.
The Minister for Economic Development today in question time could not answer the question of what the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia is. He would not even give us a rough idea of the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia. I am surprised by that, given that the central plank of National’s campaign at the last election was that the gap was too big and that National was going to narrow it, and cause it to disappear by 2025. I am surprised that the Minister did not know, even within a bull’s roar, what the difference is. I am even more surprised that he thought the gap was getting smaller.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, better.
Hon DAVID PARKER: No, smaller. You said at question time that the gap was reducing.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: He never said a word.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Mr Brownlee said that.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Can I just remind the Minister and Leader of the House that when one is the Minister sitting in the chair no interjections are permitted, even though they may be humorous. This is not the place to interject from.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: My sincere apologies. I was deeply provoked.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): And now the Minister is questioning me!
Hon DAVID PARKER: It is not a matter of hilarity that the Minister for Economic Development does not know what the wage gap is between New Zealand and Australia, when it was such a central plank for National at the last election. We can be pretty clear now that the Minister for Economic Development does not have a credible plan for bridging the gap with Australia. He does not know what that gap is, and he does not know that it is going in the wrong direction rather than the right direction.
The central plank of his economic development platform was a step change in mining in New Zealand. It was going to cause a step change in New Zealand’s economic fortunes, but it has disappeared. It has evaporated. He was overruled by his Cabinet colleagues, who, in the end, heard that what the Opposition was saying was right all along. It is inappropriate to mine in national parks. He has been forced to abandon mining in national parks and other schedule 4 lands, and there is nothing to replace it. There is some good being done in respect of mineral exploration in other parts of New Zealand, but that work was going on anyway. There has been no step change in that. The Minister might get to his feet and say that the Government is spending about $25 million on data acquisition in respect of gas and oil exploration. Well, that is true. I ask what the previous Government spent on that. I think it was $22 million over a period of 4 or 5 years. From memory, it was a very similar amount. No step change is coming from that.
The reality is that Australia continues to march on ahead of New Zealand, and the National Government is not taking any meaningful step towards bridging that gap. Indeed, it is going in the wrong direction in respect of savings and investment, and that is the big difference between the New Zealand and Australian economies. It is far more significant than the difference in mining. The Government has no plan to increase New Zealand’s savings or to increase the depth of our capital markets to catch up with Australia’s capital markets in a way that would enable us to have improvements in productivity, such as Australia has had in recent years. Australia has better savings and more money to invest in its productive enterprises, and, therefore, it is marching ahead of us at a time when National has been caught in the headlights. Joseph Stiglitz said that Australia has a good plan to get out of the recession, or to avoid recession. However, we have none.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development)
: That last comment from the Opposition spokesperson for economic development, the Hon David Parker, in many ways typifies Labour’s problem. He quotes some chap who has done a little bit of analysis in Australia.
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: They laugh. Once again, they look for the silver bullet all the time. They look for someone else to tell them what to do and how to do it. I think it is extraordinary that Opposition members could come in here today and question the Government about economic direction when, having just been, I suppose, booted out by the New Zealand public after 9 years of exceptional mismanagement, they expect everything to change overnight. Other than that, Labour members expect us to believe that what they were doing was absolutely perfect. What they were doing was apparently exactly right. Well, it should come as no surprise to anybody that during the 9 years of the previous Labour Government, the New Zealand GDP rose by $10,700 per capita.
That sounds great, does it not? But if we look across the Tasman, Australia’s GDP during that time rose by $19,700 per capita, which is almost twice the rate. Labour members come in here all righteous about what they were doing, attacking the current Government, and expecting that after 9 years of abject failure, everything should be put right in 15 months. Well, that is utterly pathetic.
Grant Robertson: How about something?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That member is still after the silver bullet, and it does not exist. Fortunately, the Government does not pretend it exists. We have said that New Zealand needs to lift its economic performance across all sectors of the economy. That is what we are about. That has been our record over the last 15 months or so. I remember the previous Labour Government coming in in 2000 and setting up the “jobs machine”. What a huge and abject failure that was. Apparently, that was a milestone that they could be measured against, and it was an utter failure. Having failed then, the previous Labour Government brought in what it called “economic transformations”, which was going to be a milestone that it could be measured on.
Hon David Parker: It transformed to custard.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have just explained that the New Zealand economy went back for those 9 years, so that did not go too well. Then Labour came out with this wonderful thing called Fast Forward New Zealand. The problem was that after 6 years, Labour recognised that it was in some sort of replay, so it had to rename it to New Zealand Fast Forward. Labour brought in
Growing an Innovative New Zealand, the growth and innovation framework. What happened to it? Where is it? What was the new stuff that happened in New Zealand during those 9 disastrous years? It simply does not exist. Then 2 years out from the election, Labour members said they had better do something, so they brought in the economic transformation agenda. Well I ask them where it is, what happened to it, and where it went.
By comparison, the Government of New Zealand today has a much, much simpler approach to things. Firstly, we want to recognise the parts of the economy that can grow, and we have done that. We are talking to them and we are assisting them. Secondly, we are getting out of their road. We have done that through changes to the Resource Management Act, to the way in which we require all sorts of compliance, and also through the tax system. We have rebalanced the tax system in favour of savings and productive investment. We are in the process of reforming the electricity market. Members should look at it. It is just one small sector, which saw a 72 percent price increase in 9 years, compared with the much, much flatter rate that we have achieved in such a very short period of time.
Then, of course, there is the support that goes into business. One of the ironies I discovered is that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has been handing out these things called market development grants. If people gave Jim Anderton, Pete Hodgson, Maryan Street, or Trevor Mallard a photograph of their factory, they got a grant. Fill out the boxes, provide the photograph, and they got a grant. What did that achieve? Absolutely nothing. We were going backwards. Our exports were in decline.
What is more, we have brought in a programme of productive infrastructure. Years of neglect of our roading infrastructure is being put right by the current Government. Not one person sitting in this House can mount an argument against that. Then there were the years of talk from Pete Hodgson, Maryan Street, and Trevor Mallard about the need to get our broadband network up and running. That was talk, talk, talk. Along came David Cunliffe, and he brought the sword out and chopped the thing to bits. He had no idea how to put it back together. Finally, we get a new Government that is making the investments necessary to see New Zealand capable of performing at the cutting edge in the decades to come. We have unashamedly begun to reform the labour
market, which means that more people get a go in the workforce. How could that be bad?
I heard this afternoon people attack the Prime Minister by saying he had broken his word to the Council of Trade Unions. Well, I do not know what the Council of Trade Unions thought he said to them, but I can tell members that it certainly was not that we should drag New Zealanders back to the Stone Age, give them lower wages, and keep them suppressed, because that is what the Council of Trade Unions is all about.
We are improving education and skills. We are cutting red tape and regulation. Our trade strategy is working to open up new markets. We have negotiations right now with Gulf States, Korea, and India, and we are looking to open up those negotiations with Russia. We are supporting business research, not some pie-in-the-sky, Mickey Mouse, make-it-up-as-you-go tax credit. We are putting genuine cash, $234 million worth, on the table for people who are doing legitimate research.
We also want to get that link between the science and innovation system and the business community by not only renaming but also reorganising the way in which the Government contributes to science and innovation in New Zealand with the new Ministry of Science and Innovation. In my own area, in New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, we have refocused on growing those international markets. It is no good providing opportunities for people to trade if they do not have the back up to get into those markets. If businesses do not make sales, they cannot employ people to make the goods, to process the goods, or to add the value to the goods. We have set up the International Growth Fund with a very large amount of discretion as to how New Zealand Trade and Enterprise can assist businesses to get into the international marketplace. Some years ago Jim Anderton said that this country needed 100 new large-scale enterprises if we were going to progress. I ask members, 9 years later, to name just one.
Hon David Carter: Sovereign Yachts.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, it could be Sovereign Yachts. There is a classic example. The previous Government poured millions of dollars into it. It had the then Prime Minister up there with a photograph, and Jim Anderton up there getting a photograph. They had everybody lauding all over the country the great success of Sovereign Yachts. It was supposed to produce 300 jobs and $600 million through revenue for the country inside 5 years. What did it produce? Absolutely nothing! Those examples could be given to this Committee over and over again.
In the areas of primary production, we have a great, great opportunity with the work that David Carter is doing in making sure that that comes to the fore of where our economic future will be most enhanced. It will be the backbone of the New Zealand economy for years to come. Getting the best out of it is the total focus of Mr Carter and his department. What my department, the Ministry of Economic Development, can do is stand alongside those companies that are in international markets to try to make life a bit easier for them. That is happening with the wine industry, the aquaculture industry, and the meat industry. Those are industries that have enormous capacity for growth. Labour sits over there and asks where it will all come from. It will come as no surprise that the country with the fourth-largest sea space in the world had an aquaculture industry that in the year 2000 produced less than $300 million in exports, and today it is still the same because those guys neglected it. We will assist it to be a billion-dollar industry in quick time. That is economic development, not all those slogans we heard recounted before.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: When we look at Vote Economic Development, we are looking for a plan to grow the economy. For the benefit of my National colleagues opposite, I will give them a definition of the word “plan”,
because it is quite clear that they do not have any understanding of it. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
tells us that a plan is “A scheme, programme, or method worked out beforehand for the accomplishment of an objective:”.
Let us look at National’s plan. We can see the objective. We know the objective is to close the wage gap with Australia by 2025. It does not matter that the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand increased in the 1990s from 18.9 percent to 28.4 percent, and that it has basically stayed steady since then. Let us think about what happened in the 1990s. It was the period of the Employment Contracts Act. We now see coming from National an economic plan that is based on attacking workers’ rights and cutting conditions in the workplace. That is the substance of the plan as we have heard it so far from John Key and National, and, historically, in terms of economic development, that attack is what caused the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand to grow.
Part of National’s scheme or programme to try to reach that objective was the 2025 Taskforce. Half a million dollars was spent, and the report was trashed on the first day. In fact, it was trashed before the first day. National Ministers were desperately spinning against their former leader Don Brash saying that his ideas were not their ideas. Don Brash overspent, spending the taskforce’s whole budget in the first year, but National ignored that. He blew the budget, but National did not want to know about it.
In terms of an actual plan for economic development, we have seen the Job Summit, which gave us the cycleway. Cycleways are, in and of themselves, terrific, but in terms of a step change for economic development, they are useless. Almost no jobs have come from it, and it is certainly not a step change plan for the economy.
We also heard about mining, which brings us to the essence of National’s economic development plan. This was going to be the step change. It was going to be what gets us there in the future. Instead, there was a screeching of tyres as Gerry Brownlee was rolled by the rest of Cabinet. He has gone; there is no plan for mining and no plan for jobs. It is kicking the tyres and it is trickle-down economics, when what New Zealand needs is not a kicking of the tyres but some fuel put in the engine. And what puts fuel in the engine of economic development more than anything else is skills and innovation.
Skills and innovation have been abandoned in Vote Economic Development. There is no Skills Strategy. The current Government likes to belittle the idea of a strategy. The Skills Strategy was a combined effort by Business New Zealand, the
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, and the Government to plan for having a skilled workforce in New Zealand. Since National has been in Government, we have heard absolutely nothing whatsoever about the Skills Strategy or about skills. The only contribution that we hear from the National Government in terms of skills is about cutting money from adult and community education, cutting money from intensive literacy and numeracy funds, and cutting money from polytechnics. There will be $70 million coming out of the polytechnic sector over the next couple of years. Those are the places where we get skilled New Zealanders from. That area is the engine room of economic development, and it is being completely abandoned by this Government—completely left alone.
The Government is not prepared to plan for the long term; it is looking only for the photo opportunities. There is no plan for economic development. If we want to look across to Australia and look at the role of skills in developing that economy, we see that Australia has a plan to increase the number of people with degrees to 40 percent of the population. It is currently at 31 percent. Our percentage is in the 20s, and it is going down. We have no plan to catch up to Australia and grow wages, because we have no plan to do the things that will grow wages, like creating a skilled workforce and creating a productive work environment. We have none of that coming from this Government. We have no plan coming from this Government in the area of economic development.
If all we can get is poll-driven U-turns on mining and a lack of vision for investing in a new economy with new jobs and technology and making the best of our skill base and our productive workforce, then we will go nowhere. Unfortunately, that is what we are seeing from this Government.
When it comes to the question of innovation, Mr Brownlee and others like to say that they have renamed a few things and rebranded the odd idea. That is not enough. If we want proper economic development in this country, we need a plan that harnesses skills and productivity.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development)
: I mentioned in my earlier speech that dreadful company called Sovereign Yachts. It was the flagship of the previous Labour Government’s economic development outreach. What has just been made clear to me—
Hon Trevor Mallard: What rubbish.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Mr Mallard was one of the strongest supporters of a gentleman called Mr Bill Lloyd. Mr Mallard was a senior Minister in the previous Government, and he was one of the biggest hand-shakers in that entire Government of anybody who looked flash. One of the most extraordinary things that that Government did, in the name of economic development, was to take an $11.6 million property on the Auckland waterfront and give it to Mr Lloyd and Sovereign Yachts for a mere $500,000. Apparently, that was about economic development because it was going to deliver 350 jobs to New Zealanders. Did they ever eventuate? No, and what happened to the business? Well, eventually, it went out of business. In this last year it was finally wound up. When the creditors came along, they thought: “Thank goodness the stupid Labour Government sold an $11.6 million property for $500,000 because at least there will be enough asset to liquidate to ensure that New Zealanders—hard-working businesses, hard-working sub-trades, and hard-working people who employ hundreds of New Zealanders—will not be out of pocket.”, but they were extremely disappointed.
On the one hand, they were excited to find out that the $500,000 property was now worth $36 million and that there was a queue of buyers to get hold of it. But, unfortunately, that friend of the Labour Government, that great mate of Trevor, Helen, Michael, and, of course, their dear friend Jim, was able to shuffle that property out of his business and into his own pocket, and he remains the owner of it today.
We saw “economic development” Labour-style when the previous Government crowed from the rooftops about how clever it was to get a company like Sovereign Yachts into New Zealand. Effectively, it said to the company: “Here’s a massive pot of cash”—although the country does not know how much Labour gave out in cash—“and here’s a whopping great gift to Mr Lloyd in the form of a wonderful waterfront property, valued at $11.6 million, but we’ll sell it to you for $500,000.” Labour discounted that property out of the door like some sort of cheap sale. But some time later Mr Lloyd gave the two-fingered sign and walked off, and kept that property, which had a value of $36 million and rising.
So that is “economic development” Labour-style. Yet Labour members came into the Chamber today and wanted to know where the plan was and where the strategy was. I am not surprised that they asked, because frankly they could not see a plan if it was put in front of them, and they would not know a strategy if they fell over the top of it. New Zealanders should be utterly outraged that Labour has learnt so little from the humiliation of the last election that it continues to try to justify deals like that. It continues to try to say that if only the Labour Government had been able to carry on in that vein, then New Zealanders would be better off. Well, I tell members opposite one thing: New Zealanders would be better off if each and every one of them got a deal that allowed them to put up $500,000 to reap $36 million, about 10 short years later.
The National Government is assiduously working through all sectors of the economy but, more important, it is working with those sectors to see what their opportunities are; to stand alongside them; where it is necessary, to get out of their road; to take out the regulatory roadblocks that prevent them from growing; and to encourage them to go out there and make the best of the opportunities that they have in front of them. That is what economic development should be about. The problem with Labour is that it thinks that if Cabinet does not prescribe it particularly, then it does not exist. It thinks that if Cabinet does not come up and say: “This is what we’re going to do.”, then no one should be doing it. Well, our view is that we trust the New Zealand business community to respond to the policies that we are putting in place. I listed them at length earlier, and that will see greater economic growth for New Zealanders.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato)
: The Minister in the chair, the Hon Gerry Brownlee, may know, or think he knows, where the rubber hits the road, but the problem is, figuratively speaking, that his tyres lack traction. He does not have a plan in the energy portfolio for what “forward” looks like, and despite the fact that when he took on the energy portfolio he gave an undertaking that he would review the Energy Strategy, it has taken him 18 months to release the draft Energy Strategy for consultation. On top of that, he has given only 6 weeks for consultation. The draft strategy is light in detail. It reverses previous decisions made under Labour, in favour of National’s preference—a greater reliance on fossil fuels and thermal generation. It is a backward step. It is not a step change and it is not a comprehensive or coherent strategy for the future.
In fairness to the Minister, I note that he spoke previously about reforms that were taken to ease economic development, and I would have thought that he would apply the same argument to the mining sector. I am referring to the changes to the Resource Management Act. Well, what did that do? Sure, it sped up consents for significant projects, but also it constrained public input into decision making. I do not think that is a step forward; it is a step backward. He continued to report a number of the gains made by the National Government—or was it a gain to remove the ban on thermal generation, to remove the 5 percent biofuel obligation, or to push out the intent of the 90 percent renewable targets to 2025?
The whole aim of what this Minister is trying to do in the energy portfolio needs to be better positioned and discussed, because his strategy is light on detail. The Minister chooses to ride the cart when the horse has already bolted. Kiwis want a responsible approach to dealing with the real issues concerning them. They do not want an irresponsible mining regime where proper protections and limitations are considered fully, prior to consenting to deep-sea drilling. The Minister made the point at the select committee that observers from his ministry are over in the Gulf of Mexico looking at what had happened over there, taking the lessons forward, and considering that matter. Well, why does the Minister not start to tell the New Zealand public, or even this Parliament, about what those findings are and what he is doing to put greater protections around deep-sea drilling in Aotearoa New Zealand? Those are the types of concerns that Kiwis want to know about.
It is just as well the Minister finally did a U-turn after a march in Queen Street attracted a turn-out of about 40,000 against mining on schedule 4 protected lands. Well, did it need public consultation? Did 40,000 people need to march when by virtue of the creation of schedule 4 the Minister already knew that people feel very strongly about those lands? How much was spent on that process? I know that the people in my
electorate of Hauraki are very happy that the Minister listened to the common sense of what was already known when the development of schedule 4 took place. People feel very passionately about their natural heritage and their special and unique places in the conservation estate.
Iwi want better consultation and engagement on mining applications where they have significant interests, such as those in the Reinga Basin in Te Tai Tokerau and Raukūmara in the East Cape. Just today there is an article in the
Gisborne Herald with the headline: “Outrage at latest mining application”. It states that the Minister “has ridden rough-shod over the mana of our people.” Another article has the headline: “ ‘No obligation’ to tell the public of applications”. I tell the Minister that that is a travesty, as the public do have a significant interest in his mining agenda.
Equally important, household consumers want assurances on basic household impacts like power prices. What is the Minister’s track record on listening to these concerns? In December 2008 Genesis increased prices by up to 9 percent, and John Key said he was disappointed. In February 2009 Meridian Energy increased power prices by 6.5 percent for 180,000 of its customers. The Minister said that this was very, very disappointing.
In February of this year Contact Energy increased electricity prices by 5 percent for over 300,000 households. Gerry Brownlee advised customers to shop around. This month Mercury Energy increased power prices by 3.3 percent for all its consumers, and Contact Energy increased power prices by 3.2 percent for all its customers, and by over 10 percent for some customers in Dunedin. What are consumers told to do? They are told to shop around. How do Kiwi households compensate for that?
KEVIN HAGUE (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Tēnā koe te Whare. Tēnā koutou e hoa mā. The previous speaker mentioned the Government’s draft New Zealand Energy Strategy, and I thought I might begin with that point also. Perhaps the strategy is unkindly criticised by the
New Zealand Herald,which talks about its lack of detail and content. Probably the
New Zealand Herald
has not understood that the strategy is one of those aspirational strategies that talk in a hand-wavy kind of way about goals, without actually including any content about how we might achieve those goals.
I want to talk about two of the gaps. This draft strategy says nothing about energy planning. It says nothing about how much energy is needed, where we need it, and when. The other gap I want to talk about is the fact that it says nothing about the necessary, and now urgent, reform that we require in electricity generation, and, in particular, in decision making about electricity generation. I think it was Shakespeare who said: “There is a tide in the affairs of men”, and I think we would agree, probably at least in our party—and I am sure that other parties around the Chamber would agree—that perhaps the tide has now completely gone out on the idea that decisions about essential infrastructure for New Zealand can be left to the free market. Yet in electricity generation we still have the flotsam and jetsam of the free-market zeal of the 1980s and 1990s; it is actually still dominating this part of the energy sector.
In my shadow portfolios I talk to a lot of communities around the country about electricity issues, and I come across two things: communities with really great ideas about electricity generation that they cannot get off the ground, and electricity generation ideas from the big power companies that are steadfastly opposed by communities. So there are two different problems there.
Most people support the idea that we ought, in electricity generation, to make decisions from the perspective of the public good. They think that if we know how much electricity generation we need, we can identify all the options for generating electricity and compare the advantages and disadvantages of each from the point of view of the public good. They are astonished to learn that what we actually do bears no
resemblance at all to that. Instead we have no plan for how much energy is needed and where.
Instead we have only those proposals from the big companies that get advanced into the resource consent decision-making process, and there is a “first come, first served” basis for that decision making. We have no ability to compare schemes. This is all counter-intuitive; none of it is what we would do if we were approaching electricity generation from the public-good perspective. It is a process that is virtually guaranteed to produce suboptimal outcomes. It will never result in conservation schemes to match supply and demand, and it will never result in the small-scale distributed generation that is almost certainly the best option for New Zealand.
By chance the public has the opportunity to compare two schemes on the West Coast of the South Island. Either of these schemes would be sufficient to produce self-sufficiency for the West Coast. There is a scheme promoted by Hydro Developments that would take the acid-polluted water from the Stockton Plateau, drop it to sea level, discharge it out to sea, and have a net positive environmental impact.
The Hydro Developments scheme is being opposed in the Environment Court by two State-owned enterprises, Meridian Energy and Solid Energy. Both of those companies seem to have pretty spurious reasons for opposing the scheme, and I am inclined to suspect that it may be to do with their interests in their own generation schemes. It is both scandalous and unethical behaviour on the part of State-owned enterprises.
Meridian Energy’s scheme, by way of contrast, would flood 300 hectares of pristine public conservation land, the largest-ever inundation of conservation land in New Zealand history. It exemplifies the set of values that we see again and again.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources)
: I will respond briefly to the concerns raised about the proposed New Zealand Energy Strategy before I talk more broadly about the energy sector as a whole. The first point I make is that I noted the editorial in the New Zealand Herald this morning, but I make it clear to the Committee that I have long since given up any hope that the
New Zealand Herald might write anything positive about anything that I do. It seems to have a particular bent that I can do very little about. But I think the editorial showed that the analysis was incredibly trite. For a start, the strategy is a discussion document, and had there been a comparison—which we might have reasonably expected the editor of the
New Zealand Herald to engage in—considering the proposed Energy Strategy against the existing Energy Strategy, I am sure that he, she, or whoever that anonymous person was might have been able to conclude that the new document is far more realistic for New Zealand’s current circumstances.
The other point I make is that although we produce those documents, they are merely snapshots of thinking at a time. Inasmuch as the 2007 document became rapidly out of date, that possibly will be the case with the new one as well. It is just the nature of the way things happen. The salient points are that New Zealand in the last year produced 73 percent of all its consumed electricity from renewable sources, and I think that trend is likely to continue in the years ahead.
In preparing the document I was mindful that a very considerable number of consents for new capacity are granted currently. New Zealand needs about 175 megawatts of new capacity each year, and that is before we start looking at any savings we might make through conservation or better use of the energy sources. As at April 2010 we have 5,390 megawatts of projects currently under construction or consented to. That indicates to me that we are in a solid position as far as security of supply is concerned. Of those projects, 287 megawatts are currently under construction, and Contact Energy is building its new peaker project at Stratford, which will be a significant fillip not only for the development of the geothermal resource but also for the wind resource as well.
One thing that people need to understand is that apart from geothermal, which is fairly consistent, the other forms of renewable energy can be subject to constraint at various times, because the water can run out and the wind may not blow but demand continues throughout that period. The proposed Energy Strategy attempts to balance the requirements of the nation for its thermal back-up while promoting the concept of New Zealand developing further its extraordinary renewable resources. It is a pity that the New Zealand Herald did not bother to come and ask some questions about it, because clearly its staff did not have time to read the entire thing before they wrote their shoddy little editorial this morning. That will surprise nobody in this Chamber.
We are also engaged in securing the quality of the transmission network in New Zealand. Since coming into Government we have approved Transpower’s expenditure of some $5 billion to strengthen that network over the coming years but, most important, we have embarked on a review of the way in which electricity is marketed in this country. That has led us to the new electricity bill that is currently before Parliament, and I would expect to see the Electricity (Continuance of Supply) Amendment Bill passed into law later this year. The early effects of the changes that are incorporated in that bill are very, very encouraging. In the year from May 2009 to May 2010, the actual price increase for electricity to retail consumers was around 2.9 percent; contrast that with the 72 percent increase over the prior 9 years. It is almost two-thirds smaller than the previous, very steep price path. That is an achievement that the Government can be very, very pleased about. It is a trend that we want to see continuing. I think we are in good shape as far as energy is concerned, and I think the estimates show that.
Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice)
: I will have to take a call on this vote. I cannot let the entire justice sector pass by without a comment being made by anybody in the Chamber. I find it remarkable that nobody in the Committee rose to take a call on the justice sector, as it is one of the most important components of the Government’s work, and one that has received some legislative attention in recent times.
I think it is worth starting by thanking the Justice and Electoral Committee for its extremely hard work over the last short while, and, indeed, the work that it is about to do as part of the result of the estimates hearing. In recent times the committee has had a prodigious work rate. In fact, to this point 14 bills have been referred by me to the committee, and it has handled them all extremely well. They have ranged from smaller bills to very large bills.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Hon SIMON POWER: I was surprised when we got to Vote Justice just before the dinner break, because no one wanted to take a call. I decided that I had better stand up and say something; otherwise the entire justice sector would have passed through a vote in the Committee stage of the estimates debate without anybody from any other political party making a comment. I am pleased to see that on the Committee resuming a number of people with an interest in Vote Justice are here, and I look forward to hearing them make a contribution.
Before the dinner break, I was—
Hon Darren Hughes: Which ones?
Hon SIMON POWER: Well, specifically not Mr Hughes; it is not his strong point. Before the dinner break I was thanking the select committee for its enormous work rate over the last 18 months, and I was about to embark on a bit of insight into what the 18 months ahead may look like for that committee as part of the estimates process, which of course is forward-looking as opposed to backward-looking. The common thread that bound those initial reforms, the 14 bills that the committee dealt with during that 18 months, and that will continue to keep that committee busy is, frankly, the need to protect the vulnerable. That will continue to run through justice policy in the year ahead. We have an ongoing review of victims’ rights, which is currently having its submissions looked through by the Ministry of Justice; the Government’s response to the Task Force for Action on Sexual Violence; and further changes to sentencing for crimes against children. I will talk in my remaining time a bit more about some of these reforms and other priorities for the coming year.
In addition to the way that we will look at Part 8 of the Crimes Act, “Crimes against the person”, the year ahead will also see reform to some of the institutions through which the justice system functions. Institutions often evolve, particularly in the justice sector, through precedent, tradition, history, repeated practices, and the like. Those institutions need to provide continuity and predictability for those who use the justice system. But the danger is that such incrementalism can lose sight of the fact that society’s expectations may have changed with regard to those institutions. The review of legal aid by Dame Margaret Bazley in the last 18 months showed us that reform in this area could not wait. The Government has largely accepted Dame Margaret Bazley’s recommendations, and plans to implement the key recommendations over the next 2 years. Some of the changes will require legislative amendment, and I intend to introduce that legislation very shortly.
Simplification of the criminal justice system will also feature in the year ahead. One of the historic points that is worth making in the Committee is that when I first became the Minister of Justice everybody told me that in order to fix problems in the justice system, all that the Government needed to do were two things: appoint more judges, and build more courthouses. It struck me that that must have been the advice that all of my predecessors had received over a long period of time, and nobody had sat down and asked himself or herself what is was about the justice system that actually needed to be improved.
Hon Darren Hughes: He’s a watershed Minister!
Hon SIMON POWER: Somebody has to do something around here, I say to Mr Hughes. So members of the Committee—[Interruption]—now that I have started, I am not going to stop. Now that this piece of work is well under way—and the first, discrete part of that reform was dealt with in the audiovisual links legislation recently in the House—more legislation in this area will be coming forward.
Some of the other work that is likely to arrive in the House this year is work that relates to the Law Commission’s report in respect of changes to the legislation dealing with alcohol. Those changes, which are making their way through the system presently, will probably be the largest piece of work that the select committee will deal with over the next 12 to 18 months. The issue is not uncomplicated, and it will test the skills of the very able chair of that committee and his able colleagues as they work their way through it, trying to determine whether appropriate legislation can target the real harm and the impact that alcohol has, particularly on the wider justice system.
Also within the ambit of Vote Justice in the year ahead will be the confirmation of work done on the interaction between the citizenry and the State by way of elections, which means that we will work our way through the second reading, Committee stage, and third reading of legislation asking the public whether they wish to have a binding
referendum on MMP. If that legislation makes its way through all stages of the House, then that will occur. The first two questions as part of that process will occur at the 2011 election. And of course all members of the House will be anxious to cast aside historic grievances and deal in a sensible and forward-looking way with the matter of electoral finance reform. I look forward to continuing discussions with colleagues on all sides of the House about that historically rather controversial issue. But I have no doubt that it will not contain the same level of vitriol and controversy that it did, as we move into the future in a way that hopefully will see some of the issues that remain controversial for some members on either side of the House ironed out in a way that will see electoral finance law reform endure beyond just one election.
These are exciting times for Vote Justice, and I ask all members of this Committee to join me in this debate in advancing their own thoughts on how to improve the justice system in the years ahead.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT)
: I will begin not as my notes would have it but by taking up the Minister of Justice’s invitation. He mentioned that the advice he has received, which he suspects that all of his predecessors received, was to build more courthouses and to appoint more judges. Well, I say to the Minister, how about getting judges to work harder. In this country, judges seem to work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 days a week. In other jurisdictions, such as Singapore and the USA, night courts and weekend courts are a common feature, and for a very good reason. The old maxim, of course, that “justice delayed is justice denied” is extremely important, and it goes back as far as the Magna Carta. In our view, this Government should have a target of having all cases heard and decided within 1 year of charges being laid.
That is not an impossible task, at all. At the moment, courthouses lie idle from 4 o’clock or 4:30 until 9 or 10 o’clock the next morning. That can easily change. The Minister will probably have some problems getting existing judges to work harder, but there is no good reason with the queue of people wishing to be District Court judges, that those who wish to be appointed could not be appointed on contracts that require them to work the night shift from time to time, as the rest of society does. The delays that we have seen are unfair to victims, and they are unfair to the accused. Victims have the right to have the cases of which they are central—and in my view victims are central, not the State—resolved quickly. Likewise, the accused have the right to their presumption of innocence, and to have their trials brought as quickly as possible.
There was one high-profile example just recently of how the system is not working. I am not a sports fan, but I am told that the fellow Rene Ranger is a well-known rugby player. He was arrested on two charges of injuring with intent, committed in August last year. His case may be heard in November, 1 year after his arrest, but the officer in charge of the case apparently says it is more likely to be further delayed until September or October next year, which will be 2 years after his arrest. That is absurd. It is unjust; it would be comical if it were not so serious.
As I said at the beginning, other countries have night courts and weekend courts. Singapore has had night courts in place since 1992 for the express purpose of dealing with “the high volume of regulatory and traffic offences” that would otherwise block their courts, thus delaying more serious cases being heard. That is exactly what is going on here. Many US states use night courts to deal with such issues as landlord and tenant disputes, small claims, and minor misdemeanours. People do not stop committing crimes, of course, because it is the weekend.
More recently, the Minister has introduced—with, I think, widespread support in the House—on-the-spot protection orders. Persons subjected to those orders have the right to have their cases heard, as well. Night and weekend courts can play a key role there, as they do in Alaska, North Carolina, and other places.
Bail hearings are another issue. I found myself in the unique position a couple of weeks ago of agreeing with Mr Peter Williams QC that bail hearings are woefully slow in this country. Although it is true that less than 5 percent of people remanded in custody are found not guilty, it is unjust to have that 5 percent on remand for more than a year awaiting trial. The sooner those arrested have bail hearings, the more justice is not only done but seen to be done. I have witnessed firsthand, in American states, bail hearings that are always done the morning after arrest. Officials get through several hundred hearings in a couple of hours, and there is no reason why we cannot do that too. If we adopt best practice from other countries—and, indeed, from the private sector, as the Minister has touched on with the audiovisual link legislation, which again had widespread support across the House—we can go a long way to unclogging our courts and fulfilling our constitutional obligations to both victims and accused alike. Thank you.
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui)
: It is a pleasure to rise and speak in this estimates debate, and I am looking forward to the work that the Justice and Electoral Committee will be travelling through in the next 12 months. Some of the bigger chunks of work have already been outlined by the Minister of Justice. I am pleased to note that the response of this Minister to questions that are raised in the public has been to consider those comments and to review the legislation governing those areas or situations, and then to make a response. It is interesting to note that where that has happened, there has frequently been a positive response right across the House.
Although some commentators have talked about some responses as being knee-jerk or off the cuff, or in response to matters that have been traversed through the courts, I do not think that one can fairly reflect that. Given, for instance, the Drivers of Crime conference that was held last year, the response to it, and the way that upcoming legislation has been responding to the matters that were thrown up, I think one would have to go quite a long way to find a Minister of Justice who has responded in such a pre-emptive way. The Search and Surveillance Bill, which is travelling through its select committee consideration at the moment, is another indication. In response to some concerns that have been raised through the sector and by the public, that bill has been put on hold for some time while some investigations have been made in order to work through some concerns. We will very soon be able to go back to submitters and ask them to respond again in writing once they have seen the way the Government wishes to respond to the matters that were raised.
Of course, the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill is currently before the committee too. It has been put on hold while we have seen the response of the Law Commission in its report, and then seen the public’s response to that report. We await eagerly the Government’s response to the points that have been made.
It is interesting to note that the public have relished the opportunity to have input into this particular issue. There have been over 3,000 submissions to the Law Commission in respect of its discussion paper. Members of the Justice and Electoral Committee have to wonder whether those 3,000 people would not then go on and make submissions to the select committee. That will be a lot of fun; we look forward to engaging with them.
The Criminal Procedure (Simplification) Project will be quite unusual in terms of the way New Zealand has dealt with matters that come before the court, procedural matters, and the ability to speed up the court process. It will be interesting to see what response the public has to that project, but, as I understand it, a number of people operating within the sector consider that the indications that have been given so far are that it will be quite well received.
This is a great time for our committee to be working within the justice sector. It is great to be able to look back over 18 months and look at what has progressed through
the committee—largely with quite a substantial amount of support from parties across the House. I thank the committee members for their help. I thank the Minister for the aspirations he has for the justice system within New Zealand in the future. I look forward to the challenges of the year ahead. Thank you.
Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice)
: The Labour Party has kindly offered me one of its calls to respond to a member, and I gladly accept it. In respect of Mr Garrett’s queries about extended court hours I have some advice from the officials that he may find of some interest. I hope he does not mind me referring to it, but it is quite well put.
Hon Darren Hughes: In his own hand.
Hon SIMON POWER: Ha, ha! It is not, actually. The ministry has completed a pilot on extended court hours last year, and it was a very successful pilot. The next phase of the pilot is about to get under way in Auckland in 2 months. In reference to waiting times in both the High Court and the District Court as a result of the new committal process, the removal of depositions, which we were told would effectively end the way the criminal justice system operated, full stop, has actually operated extremely successfully and sped up, to quite a degree, the first part of the pipeline through the committal process.
Interestingly, in that legislation—which was introduced by the Chair, in a former capacity—we inserted a clause to enable counsel to seek the leave of the judge to make an oral deposition in the way that would have previously occurred. From the numbers I have to hand, that has occurred in about 3 percent of cases, meaning that it has not disrupted the way the early parts of those trials are conducted, to the detriment of any of those who are party to those particular proceedings. The changes to that committal process, together with the next phase of the extended court hours pilot, should show us how effective targeted policies can be in speeding up and dealing with some of the problems the member raised in his earlier contribution.
Vote State-Owned Enterprises
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: Labour is taking a call on Vote State-Owned Enterprises lest the Minister for State Owned Enterprises feel the need to stand up and give us chapters 4 and 5 of his autobiography, which I am sure he may do anyway.
It has to be said: I do not think there is any other area of this Government’s plan where there have been more U-turns, more tyre-kicking, and more running of the flag up and down the flagpole than in the area of State-owned enterprises.
We would like to hear from this Minister whether asset sales are part of National’s long-term plan for this country. Are they part of the long-term plan for this country? The day after the Budget the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Bill English, floated the idea of the privatisation of Kiwibank—the day after the Budget. This is the man who wrote the Budget. This is the man who, we would assume, knows a little bit about what is going on in terms of revenue for the Government’s future plans. We are expected to believe that the day after the Budget the Minister of Finance mistakenly floated the idea of the privatisation of Kiwibank. Well, I think New Zealanders know differently, and they know differently from experience.
The National Government would desperately love to privatise State-owned enterprises, but it cannot do that because New Zealanders do not want it to sell our silver to overseas interests. It has happened before, and we did not become any wealthier because we had lost control of assets in New Zealand. In fact, the reality was far from it. But National has had to swallow that dead rat, and as a TV3 poll said, 80 percent of New Zealanders are opposed to asset sales—80 percent. The Minister of
Energy and Resources based his entire mining policy on a TV3 poll—his entire mining policy on a TV3 poll. So National knows that 80 percent of New Zealanders are opposed to asset sales. Interestingly enough, 53 percent of New Zealanders do not believe the Prime Minister when he says that he will never sell assets. They do not believe him.
Hon Darren Hughes: That’s just the back bench.
MOANA MACKEY: And that is just the back bench of the National Party.
Hon David Parker: And never in their first term.
MOANA MACKEY: That is right, I tell Mr Parker, thank you. Fifty-three percent do not believe that, because they know that National is fundamentally opposed to the State owning assets. So we would like to hear from the Minister why National has now backed away from the policy that it has always held, which is privatisation either wholly or partially of those assets. Is the Minister for State Owned Enterprises admitting that his party was wrong in the past? Is he now admitting that the privatisation of those assets in the past did not work and was wrong? No? They rub their chins and do not say anything.
Hon Darren Hughes: David Carter sold Contact Energy.
MOANA MACKEY: Well, David Carter did sell Contact Energy. I want to talk a little bit about Kiwibank, because Kiwibank is an asset that New Zealanders are extremely proud of. It is an asset that Jim Anderton and the Alliance Party had as a policy in Labour’s first term in Government. Labour is very proud of the work that Kiwibank has been doing. New Zealanders do not feel that the Australian-run banks have been working in their best interests. They know that interest rate cuts have not been passed on in the way that they have been in Australia. New Zealanders very much value the work that Kiwibank does, and I believe they would like to see Kiwibank able to do more in New Zealand and work for New Zealanders. But what did Bill English say? The Minister of Finance advocated the sale of Kiwibank because, he said, that would be good for mum and dad investors in New Zealand. Well, I have a newsflash for Bill English: mums and dads in New Zealand already own Kiwibank—
Hon Darren Hughes: All of them.
MOANA MACKEY: —all of them. The sale of Kiwibank would be a prime example of Tory charity: Tories take something people already own and sell it back to them. But we know that it will not be sold back to them, because it will be lost overseas, like so many other assets.
I imagine there are a number of National Party donors out there who are already lining themselves up to purchase these very profitable, very well-run State-owned enterprises. They know that Bill English has got himself into trouble because he has introduced unaffordable tax cuts and has to pay for them somehow. He does not care about the long-term interests of the New Zealand economy; he has no plan for the long-term interests of New Zealand’s economy. He just needs to get himself out of a hole, because he has introduced tax cuts 25 percent of which have gone to the top-earning 5 percent of New Zealanders—$4 billion to the top-earning 5 percent of New Zealanders—and he has to pay for those tax cuts. Hocking off New Zealand’s family silver, in the form of State-owned enterprises, would be a very easy, short-term way of doing that.
Of course, long term it would do nothing for the New Zealand economy; long term it would be detrimental. In the part of the country I live in we suffered enormously because of the earlier loss of our rail line. We are desperately trying to keep it open, but the National Government wants to turn it into a cycleway! Clearly, none of those members have ever been to that part of the country and seen it, because it would probably be the most treacherous cycleway—over the Mōhaka Viaduct—that there is
anywhere. It would be true adventure tourism. We sincerely hope the Government will keep that rail line open, because we fought long and hard to get it back.
The previous Labour Government did that. It invested money into getting rail up to speed. We want to see more traffic on that rail line and off our roads. We would not have had to do that, of course, if it had not been hocked off at bargain basement prices in the first place, but that was the position that we ended up in. We can look at the example of Air New Zealand, and of many of our State-owned enterprises—the list goes on and on.
New Zealanders want to know, and the Opposition wants to know, what the Government’s plan is for State-owned enterprises, and what role the Government sees them playing over the next financial year and the years beyond that. Because so far, as I said before, all we have seen are flip-flops and U-turns, and all we have heard are grand statements and then hurried back-downs as the public has its say on how it feels about the sale of State assets. The Prime Minister, John Key, is on record many, many times saying that his Government will never ever sell State-owned enterprises or State assets—never ever. To me, “never ever” means that at no point while John Key is leader of the National Party will the sale of State assets ever be considered. But then he said that it just meant that the National Government would not sell them in its first term. That raises the question for the Minister for State Owned Enterprises of which one of those two statements is right, because both of them cannot be correct. Will National never ever sell State assets, or will it just not sell them in its first term? The Minister and the Prime Minister like to say that they will go into an election campaign with a mandate on this issue. Well, they did not go into an election campaign with a mandate on raising GST.
Chris Tremain: No, no, no. We will go into an election campaign asking voters to vote on it, or not—
MOANA MACKEY: Right. I ask Mr Tremain whether he—
Chris Tremain: —to get a mandate from the electorate.
MOANA MACKEY: OK. Then I ask Mr Tremain whether National told voters about its plan to raise GST. Oh no! That is exactly right, and this is why the Government cannot be trusted. It is all very well to talk about having a mandate and putting it to voters at an election—in fact, that is what should happen—but this Government does not have a record of doing that. It never went to the public about mining in national parks—never—but it was talking to the mining companies about it. It never went to the public about increasing GST, yet come 1 October we will have an increase in GST.
This Prime Minister said that National would make sure it told New Zealanders during an election campaign if it was going to sell State assets, so that they would have the opportunity to vote on that issue. If they feel strongly about it, they could vote against National; if they did not feel strongly about it, they could vote on other issues. But the Government has no credibility, because it has not done that on other key policies that are of extreme importance to New Zealanders, such as the protection of our environment, and how they pay their family bills every single week.
I ask the Minister to stand up again and tell us which one of the Prime Minister’s statements are correct—that National will never ever sell State assets, or that it just will not do that in its first term. I ask him to give us a guarantee that if part of National’s long-term plan for New Zealand is to sell State assets, it will admit to it during an election campaign. I also ask that National tells us who has been donating to it in that election campaign, and does not funnel donations through a trust so that New Zealanders cannot see who is funding National. Those questions are important when it comes to this debate on State-owned enterprises, because New Zealanders have been
here before, and it was a disaster. The Labour Government inherited an incredible infrastructure deficit, which took us 9 years—
Chris Tremain: And who sold the most State-owned enterprises? You guys did.
MOANA MACKEY: Yes, me—right! I tell Mr Tremain I was at primary school during the fourth Labour Government.
Chris Tremain: The Labour Party—oh, don’t take any account of that.
MOANA MACKEY: So Mr Tremain thinks that the 1990s National Government did nothing to sell assets. Mr Tremain might want to go out and explain to his constituents why their electricity costs so much.
Chris Tremain: Who sold the BNZ? Oh, the Labour Party.
MOANA MACKEY: Chris Tremain does not even know what he is talking about. He just said that Labour sold BNZ. It was actually the National Government that sold BNZ, I tell Mr Tremain. He might want to withdraw that statement, because it is not correct. But the fact is that during the 9 years of the previous Labour Government we had to address an enormous infrastructure deficit—an enormous infrastructure deficit. It cost us billions of dollars—billions of dollars—but we did it because it was the right thing to do for New Zealand’s economy.
Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills)
: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the Vote Health estimates this evening. We have heard from the Minister of Health a lot of figures being bandied about, but now is the time for this Parliament and the public to hear the true story about what the Budgets of last year and this year mean for front-line health services in our country. The truth is that they mean just one thing, and that is cuts to front-line health services.
The Minister admitted today, having received the question, that he was not comfortable with the numerous announcements of health cuts in the last 20 months, and there have been numerous front-line health service cuts. That is in direct contradiction to what the Minister, when he was in Opposition, and his colleagues said up and down the country. They went to meeting after meeting and said: “We’ll put more money into health. We’ll move services from the back room to the front line. There will be no cuts to front-line health services.” Tony Ryall is a Tui billboard, because whenever the Minister says there will be no cuts, just changes, to front-line health services, the whole country, including his caucus colleagues, say “Yeah right!”. We know that because of the Minister’s decisions and his budget cuts, front-line health services are being cut all around the country. The truth is that the component of the Vote Health budget that gets to district health boards is where the rubber meets the road. That is where the crunch decisions are being made.
If we look at last year’s health budget, and at health inflation, population growth, and the forthcoming increase in GST, we see that we are left with a $300 million hole in the health budget. That is how much the health budget is short of in order for it to stay still. That is what the Minister has given the country of New Zealand. Front-line district health board services will get a 3.5 percent increase, on average. If we look at those factors—population growth, health, and inflation—and at other factors that we know are coming down the track, such as wage increases and a GST increase that is not very far away, we have to ask what it all means. Six percent inflation and a 3.5 percent increase for district health boards means that there will be no alternative but to cut further health services. There will be more health cuts as a result of the decisions that Tony Ryall and his Cabinet colleagues made in the Budget.
According to the Budget documents themselves, public health will be cut. This Budget, delivered by Tony Ryall for health, means that spending on public health will be cut by $68 million over 4 years, spending on mental health will be cut by $12 million over 4 years, and the Primary Health Care Strategy money will be cut by $58 million over 4 years.
Sandra Goudie: They never do their homework.
Hon RUTH DYSON: When the Minister in the chair, Tony Ryall, resorts to Sandra Goudie as the cheerleader it is time to call for reinforcements. He has Dr Blue giving his urgent messages to Michael Woodhouse. Mr Ryall says, via Dr Blue, his messenger: “Make sure you talk about this, Mr Woodhouse.” Then he gets Sandra Goudie to be his cheerleader—desperate times.
Hon Darren Hughes: It used to be Jonathan Coleman.
Hon RUTH DYSON: It was Jonathan Coleman, but the Minister has given up asking him because he made such an absolute mess of things.
We heard in the House today the response to my request, under the Official Information Act, about mental health funding. We know that at Capital and Coast District Health Board this year the Budget has cut mental health funding by $5 million. The Minister describes that as low-value spending, when he is not brushing it aside as being changes, not cuts.
The older people in the electorate that Bill English apparently lives in, Southland—
Hon Darren Hughes: Wellington Central?
Hon RUTH DYSON: No, not Wellington Central. He apparently lives in Dipton.
In Southland, and in Invercargill, where the Minister’s colleague Eric Roy currently is the member, home support has been cut for thousands of older people. According to the Minister it was low-value spending. It is not just the hours that individuals had been getting that have been cut; a whole service has been exited. In Otago and Southland, where older people used to get laundry, house cleaning, and meal preparation done, the district health board in the area that is Michael Woodhouse’s hometown—and I imagine he will take a call later in this debate, unless he has been told by the Minister not to do so—has said to anyone who had their laundry done, their house cleaned, or meals prepared that “We don’t do that any more.” The district health board has not just cut their hours; it has exited the entire service. What can be more front line than cooking someone’s meal and doing his or her laundry? That is the cut that has occurred in Otago and Southland. It is not just a cut in hours; it is a complete exiting of the service.
No amount of the Minister saying that those were changes, not cuts, will change the fact that many people’s lives have been dramatically altered and many older people are now living lonely and in fear, often without the tiny bit of support that enabled them to live in their own home with a quality of life and dignity—
Michael Woodhouse: Here comes a story.
Hon David Carter: No story!
Hon RUTH DYSON: Michael Woodhouse and David Carter can laugh, but it is not funny when people in their 80s have no support funded by the health system.
I will give the Committee of the whole House another example of what cuts in health services have meant. I was very disappointed with the Minister last Thursday and again today, because he is not on top of his portfolio enough to follow pleas for help that come via family members, sometimes reported in the newspaper and sometimes directly to the Minister himself. The Minister should go through the basic standard exercise of checking the newspapers and his correspondence before he comes to the House. He should check his phone records and see what family members have contacted his office for help. He has given a commitment to help those families, but no help has eventuated.
There is one case that I want to repeat a plea for help with. My understanding is that as of today—5 days since I raised it in the House—the Minister has not done a single thing to help. I refer to the tragic incident of a 69-year-old man who has Parkinson’s disease and mild dementia who has been put into Rimutaka Prison because he had nowhere else to go. The lawyer for the man contacted me today and said that the Minister assured the House last Thursday that something would be done, but as of today when the lawyer contacted me, nothing had been done.
Hon Tony Ryall: Read your mail.
Hon RUTH DYSON: I hope that the Minister has done something. I hope that that man is out of Rimutaka Prison and is in a secure and supported environment in the community. If he is not in a secure, supported environment and faces a similar charge again under the justice system, he unfortunately will be liable to the “three strikes” legislation, which means that he would be indefinitely detained in prison for a very, very long time.
Hon Tony Ryall: I’ve written to you about this today. Don’t go there. You won’t say this tomorrow.
Hon RUTH DYSON: The Minister is burbling on, but not once during the entire course of question time did he say that anything had been done for that man. He denied knowledge of that situation in the same way that today he denied knowledge of another situation where a person who deserves support to live safely in his or her own home and community is being denied it. That is not a result of any failing of a doctor, a nurse, or any other professional. It is not a failing of a district health board. It is the direct result of the cuts in the health budget that we are debating in the estimates tonight. They are cuts that the Minister calls changes; cuts that we know are direct cuts to front-line health services—something that during the election campaign in 2008 the Minister said would not happen.
How does that make National members feel? They paraded up and down the country repeating the mantra: “We will move resources from the back room to the front line. There will be no cuts to front-line health services.”
Nicky Wagner: This is the biggest health budget ever.
Hon RUTH DYSON: How does Nicky Wagner feel when people from Christchurch ring her up and say: “We have had all our home support cut.”? Those are cuts, not changes.
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health)
: I have to say that so much progress is being made in health that I am looking forward to the contribution being made.
I will talk about the member who has just spoken, Ruth Dyson. One of the things I can say about that member is that day after day she asks a question in the House and never gets any coverage for it. That is because of this simple fact: the member distorts, and never actually tells the full facts of, a story. For example, just now she said that on Thursday I denied knowing something. Actually, on Thursday I was in Auckland opening a new health centre with other people. I was not in Parliament.
Hon Ruth Dyson: The Minister who answered was answering on your behalf.
Hon TONY RYALL: Oh, it was the Minister in my place. You see, this is just another little story. The member says one thing and means another.
Let us just go through what Ruth Dyson says. What about this one? Do members remember the press release headed “Starvation Imminent …”? I ask whether members remember this question from a couple of weeks ago. “Starvation Imminent …” was the headline of the press release. Ruth Dyson said that people in the Prime Minister’s electorate were having their Meals on Wheels ripped from them and that they would have imminent starvation. What were the facts? Seven people were moving from one provider to the next. Starvation imminent!
What about this one? I ask whether members remember this one. Apparently I was going to shut down 1,000 rest home beds in Dunedin. Do members remember that? There are only 1,200 beds in total, but I was going to cut 1,000! She did not cover that one.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Bed nights—tell the truth.
Hon TONY RYALL: We hear “tell the truth” from her!
Hon Ruth Dyson: Bed nights.
Hon TONY RYALL: It is bed nights now. Oh!
Hon Ruth Dyson: That’s what the press release said.
Hon TONY RYALL: So the press release said we are cutting 1,000 beds, and the question in the House said we are cutting 1,000 beds, but it was bed nights. That is just absolutely untrue.
What about this one? What about the press statement from Ruth Dyson stating that Waikato Hospital has a freeze on recruitment and on employing doctors and nurses? Just as Waikato Hospital was sending out 46 job offers, Ruth Dyson said that there was a freeze on recruitment there. I can tell members that there are more doctors—
Hon Ruth Dyson: Waikato District Health Board said that.
Hon TONY RYALL: It did not say that. It probably said that it had turned off the light switches, and the member interpreted that to mean that it had turned off recruitment. That is how she works.
It has been interesting today that Ruth Dyson has finally announced what the Labour Opposition’s one policy in health is.
Hon Member: What is it?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is another $300 million. She promised tonight that another $300 million will fix everything. That is from the party that doubled the health budget when it was in Government and gave people fewer operations. Labour doubled the health budget and rheumatic fever has gone up. It doubled the health budget and diabetes has gone up. It doubled the health budget and everything has gone wrong. It doubled the health budget and fewer people are getting operations. It doubled the health budget and there are fewer general practitioners. Now Labour says that the answer is another $300 million. That is Labour’s promise. Its promise is another $300 million in health. It did not work in the past, and it will not work again.
This Government has put a significant investment into health. It is made hard by the fact that under Labour’s watch, $17 million was defrauded from the Otago District Health Board when one of Labour’s mates was the chairman of that board—$17 million was defrauded. As a result of that, the previous Labour Government allowed the assets of the Otago District Health Board to become so run down that it refused to put extra money into the Otago District Health Board to fix its hospitals.
What have I done about it? With the great lobbying and support of Michael Woodhouse, we have another $25 million for a major capital upgrade at Dunedin Hospital. We have put millions of dollars into a new mental health unit in Whangarei. We have put tens of millions of dollars into a new emergency department and 50 extra beds at North Shore Hospital, and another 25 were opened last week. That party in Government and its flunky Mrs McKelvie—who was chair of the Waitematā District Health Board at the time, and who is also a close personal friend of the previous Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and Ruth Dyson—refused to deal with the emergency department at North Shore.
We have put millions of dollars into building extra buildings at Otago and Counties-Manukau. We have put tens of millions of dollars into the new emergency department and umpteen extra beds at Waikato. We are putting in a new wing, whose construction is under way, at Tauranga Hospital.
We are investing heavily in the public health service. Since we came into office, we have put an extra $1.3 billion—
Hon Darren Hughes: Why are old people losing services?
Hon TONY RYALL: —into health. What is more, as at last year, more money was put into home support for old people, and more money will be put in next year.
Labour hates that it doubled the budget yet it lost the public’s confidence in the health service. Do members remember when that party opposite said day after day that there was no workforce crisis in health?
Hon Darren Hughes: We never said that.
Hon TONY RYALL: Oh, did members hear that? The member says that Labour never said that there was no workforce crisis in health. What has National done about it? We have 1,400 of our smartest doctors, nurses, and midwives on a voluntary bonding scheme. We have said to them that if they stay in the country for between 3 and 5 years, they can write off their student loan. We have 1,400 young people who have put up their hand to do that, and we are having significant gains there.
What is more, we have much faster cancer treatment in New Zealand now than we had under the previous Government. Do members remember when Ruth Dyson used to defend sending women to Australia because they had to wait 14 weeks for cancer radiation treatment? She said that it was fine for people to wait 14 weeks for cancer treatment. That is what that member’s Government—
Hon Ruth Dyson: What a liar.
Hon TONY RYALL: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. That member has made unparliamentary comments.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The member has said that unparliamentary comments are being made. I have heard them, and they will stop.
Hon TONY RYALL: Those comments are unparliamentary, especially when we consider how that member misrepresents every day.
We have put a huge amount of money—$1.3 billion—into health. As a result of that money we now have faster cancer treatment. Cancer treatment waiting times are coming down within 6 weeks. In January 2009 about 8 or 9 percent of New Zealand cancer patients were waiting longer than 6 weeks for treatment. That figure is now down to 1 percent.
When we came into office, the average increase in elective surgery was 2,000 operations a year, and most of that increase happened in the last year or so of the previous Government. That figure is up by 13,000 in our first year. When we came into office, 80 percent of the people coming into an emergency department might have been treated and through the emergency department in 6 hours. We are now up to almost 90 percent of patients being treated through emergency departments in that time. Significant investments are going into health.
In mental health, $40 million is being invested in those services, and district health boards will be allocating an extra $174 million for mental health over the next 4 years. We will see $24 million of new spending on a 4-year pilot for the national bowel cancer screening programme. We remember when Labour talked about it, announced it, and did nothing for it. Those members talked about it, announced it, said that it would happen by Christmas, and did nothing about it.
We have also put a large amount of extra money into medical training. We will train an extra 200 medical students over the next few years. We have funded an extra 80 medical student places; that is happening already. We have put a huge investment into medicines. An extra $60 million is going into Pharmac, with huge numbers of New Zealanders benefiting.
We have also dealt with the cardiac surgery waiting list. Do members remember that when Ruth Dyson was in Cabinet there was a report that people had died on the Wellington Hospital waiting list because of the way that the previous Government operated the cardiac surgery waiting list? Well, we have put a huge amount of money into dealing with the cardiac waiting list, and we have those waiting lists lower than they have ever been before. We have made some very, very significant investments.
Ruth Dyson focuses every day in the House on some small, little change affecting a few people around the country, and misrepresents the facts. Do members remember the heading, “Starvation imminent …”? Do members remember the press release and the question in the House that referred to imminent starvation? What was it? Eight people were moving from one Meals on Wheels provider to another, and that was imminent starvation! Do members remember the 1,000 rest home beds being cut from the Otago District Health Board?
Chris Auchinvole: How many were there all together?
Hon TONY RYALL: There are only 1,200 all together. Do members remember the freeze on staff at Waikato Hospital as they were sending out 46 recruitment letters?
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: I seek leave to table a press release headed “Starvation Imminent in Prime Minister’s Electorate”, which is actually a press release from Grey Power, not from the Hon Ruth Dyson. Tony Ryall has just misled the Committee by telling us it was a press release from that member. I seek leave to table that statement so that people can be clear just how misleading the member was when making those claims.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The Speaker has ruled previously that press releases that are generally available are not to be tabled.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): When points of order are being taken, the House will be in silence. That goes for both sides.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: When things are not readily available to members, they will often make mistakes and not refer to the correct document. Clearly, this information is not readily available to the Minister because he has ascribed the authorship of it to the completely wrong person. I am seeking leave to table a press release from a non-governmental organisation, which is not tabled as part of the general business of the House at the beginning of each sitting day, and to make it available so that members are absolutely clear that the basis of the two contributions from the Minister was a press release by a different person.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): We can waste some time on this. I will put the question. But I say to the member to not raise it again; this is the last time. Leave is sought to table the press release. Is there any objection? There is objection.
NICKY WAGNER (National)
: This Government is committed to better, sooner, and more convenient health care. That is why Vote Health 2010-11 is the second-largest vote in the Budget, with appropriations sought totalling just over $13.574 billion. I say that again—$13.574 billion. All district health boards are receiving an increase in funding and front-line services have been boosted. Front-line services are improving across the country. We are also getting better value for money. Under Labour, we saw money being thrown at health problems, but with very poor results. The health budget skyrocketed, but health outcomes went nowhere. Our Government believes that it is possible to manage only what is measured. Therefore, based on public priority, the Government has introduced six key health targets for district health boards. Just as important, all district health boards are required to report to the public quarterly on these health targets.
There is nothing like transparency and accountability to make sure we get the best possible results and good value for money. Members may have seen the quarterly district health board reports in their local newspapers. They look like the one I am holding up. There have been three quarterly reports so far, so the public can now assess how their district health board is performing in the six key goals. Like everyone, I always want to focus on my home town, which is Christchurch. Along with many others, I have been following closely what the Canterbury District Health Board has been doing. I can see its strengths, I can see where it is improving, and I can see its weaknesses. But now I, and all other citizens of Christchurch and Canterbury, know how our district health board is performing in comparison to others.
I am particularly interested in immunisation because it can protect our children, prevent a number of diseases, and is a very cost-effective health intervention. Immunisation provides not only individual protection from some diseases but also population-wide protection by reducing the incidence of diseases and preventing them from spreading to vulnerable people. Some of these population-wide benefits arise only with high immunisation rates, depending on the infectiousness of the disease and the effectiveness of the vaccine. Under Labour, New Zealand’s immunisation rates were low by international standards and were not sufficient to prevent or reduce the impact of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and pertussis, which is whooping cough. This Government has made immunisation one of the six main health targets and is committed to a 3-year improvement programme, with a national goal of 95 percent of children fully immunised at 2 years of age. The target is staged, beginning with 85 percent of 2-year-olds being immunised by July 2010, 90 percent by July 2011, and 95 percent by July 2012.
There has been good progress against these targets since they were introduced. We have substantially beaten the 85 percent target, which was due at the end of last month. Eighty-seven percent of 2-year-olds have been immunised. It is a vast improvement on the mere 80 percent who were immunised 2 years ago. In fact, it is a fantastic result. It is better for kids, better for families, and better for our health system. We expect, with the added focus of collating statistics by district health boards every quarter, that there will be a continued improvement and we will smash those targets. I can track these results locally by following the Canterbury District Health Board report. At the end of 2009 Canterbury had immunised 84 percent of its 2-year-olds. By March it was 86 percent, which is already above the target, and at the end of June it was 89 percent. I congratulate the Canterbury District Health Board on a very fine effort in surpassing the target. This Government is committed to better, sooner, and more convenient health care. We are investing heavily in the sector.
Hon LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour—Mana)
: Kia ora, Mr Assistant Speaker. Kia ora mai anō tātou katoa. E taku whānau, e ngā iwi, e ngā rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Kia ora te Rōpu Reipa. Aroha te Rōpū Reipa toa. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
[Greetings to you, Mr Assistant Speaker, and to all of us, as well. To my family, people, and chiefs, greetings to you all. My greetings and sympathy to the warrior-like Labour Party.]
Talofa lava and warm Pacific greetings. I want to put substance to matters of accountability, transparency, value for money, and value for people. Due to the 2010 Budget, district health boards will now no longer have enough funds to continue services at their current level. Even front-line services, which have supposedly been given a 3.5 percent increase, will be cut after the effects of inflation and wage increases are taken into account. The evidence of this is clear, from right around the country.
Morale is low in the health sector, and people are expected to put a positive spin on what is happening.
As we have seen in the Budget, $186 million over 4 years has been cut from what the Government calls lower priority spending. This includes public health, mental health, and the Primary Health Care Strategy. The elderly are going without home support, because the Government regards them as being a lower priority for spending. These figures represent real people who are missing out on services. More than 80 front-line services have been cut in the last 18 months in nearly every region of New Zealand. Those services range from massive reductions in home-based support for the elderly, plans to cut beds in community hospitals that have just been opened, through to a decision to turn people away from emergency departments.
Sadly, the effects of the cuts are already being felt very strongly, and particularly in the area of aged care. I am hearing time and time again about problems relating to the care of the elderly, aged care, right around the country. Most of the comments that I hear are related to certain main themes: a lack of qualified staff, especially registered nurses, and a shortage of overall staff. What staff there are are underpaid and undertrained, especially health care assistants and other caregivers. This leads to inadequate care, both in rest homes and within the home-based sector. Home help has been cut after assessments made over the phone. I have heard many stories of elderly people finding medical care to be very elusive, such as spending hours waiting for an appointment at accident and emergency centres, only to be sent back to their general practitioner.
Horror stories about the state of aged care in our country abound in the media. There is huge concern about the state of home care, in particular. We all hear hugely concerning stories about cuts in this area. It means that a lot of our elderly are anxious and worried, and they feel unwell. For instance, I heard the story of a lady who had only half an hour of care support a week. The assessor declined her specific request to be assessed in person, and she was told by the caregiver that she would no longer come because of the distance to her house. Another elderly woman who suffers from a spinal injury had 1 hour of home help per week. After assessment, she negotiated a drop to just 1 hour per fortnight, and since then her home help has been cut entirely. She cannot manage her own cleaning and day-to-day tasks. Stories like those have led Grey Power in Southland to lodge a case with the Human Rights Commission about cuts to home help in Southland, as reported by the
Southland Times today. It comes after a huge number of stories about how the cuts are impacting on our elderly right around our country.
It is hugely unfair to deprive the elderly of such basic care. But I also ask how cost-effective it is. Without access to home support, many elderly will have to seek out residential care, which costs far more and takes them out of their own homes, often forcing them to move many miles away. I ask how much more front-line we can get than home help for our elderly. This Government talks a lot about shifting resources to front-line staff, yet a service that provides in-home help for our most vulnerable people, our elders, is the first to be gutted. I ask how the Minister of Health can be comfortable, when the results of the cuts he is imposing so obviously have such damaging effects on our elderly.
Vote State Services
Vote Climate Change
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: It seems that National has no problem with acknowledging that the environment is an important economic issue when it is presented with an opportunity to dig some of it up, send it offshore, and burn it. It is odd, then, that when it is pointed out to National members that our carefully balanced natural environment is the very thing on which our future economic success depends, they are a lot less willing to agree. It is fair to assume that their reluctance to see this simple truth explains many of the damaging cuts that have been made to Vote Environment and Vote Conservation while this Government has held office. These cuts and this Government’s neglect of the most important part of our economy are what I want to address my remarks to this evening.
If this Budget reveals one thing about this Government’s plan for the environment, it is that there is none, except for the intention to intensify mining and dairying, which will work to the detriment of our economy in the long run, rather than providing the many benefits that would have been gained from investments in cleantech, for example, which, so far, have been completely ignored. In respect of mining, I think it is very important that we have this on record: this Government has no regard for the natural environment or for the clean, green image that our country relies on. It has no respect for the importance of preserving our national parks, and, given the chance, it will have little regard for public opinion and for the fact that many New Zealanders absolutely cherish our natural assets.
Let us make it clear: the Government’s mining backdown was just like a dog running away, with its tail between its legs. It was a late attempt to cover for having made itself look bad. This backdown changes neither the Government’s true intention nor its disregard for the land protected under schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. At another point in time, the Government’s move might have been different. Given the chance, it is clear from the rhetoric we have heard over the past months that this Government will mine our most precious conservation estate, and this is something New Zealanders should, and will, remember at the next election.
If National truly cared about the environment, it would have invested in it in this Budget, but it did not. The Government has failed even to compensate for the degrading cuts made in the first Budget of its term in office. There has been no attempt to correct the slashing of funds to great programmes like Enviroschools. Thank goodness so many schools have just got on with it and found the money in their existing budgets, even though they have had to scrimp and save out of other areas in order to continue those programmes.
There has been no attempt to remedy the fact that the Government cut all initiatives to promote a carbon-neutral Public Service. Never mind that the public sector accounts for a whole third of our economic activity. The Government knows that it is ignoring the need to invest in sustainability, to the extent that it has tried to mislead people into thinking that it has invested. For instance, it has tried to portray an extra $500 million appropriated to the emissions trading scheme as an extra investment, when in reality it just represents a change in the uptake in credits for forestry. Thank goodness there is that uptake, but at the very least the Minister in the chair, the Minister for the Environment, should represent it factually and honestly, not misleadingly, in the Budget documents. It is this deliberate deception that is most worrying. It shows that National
knows it should be investing in sustainability and in our future, but it chooses not to; it just tries to fool people into thinking that it is.
This Government does not seem to understand the urgency of building a sustainable economy, as it is choosing inaction over action in so many areas. For example, we have seen the Government stall in areas such as air quality and freshwater management, under the guise of not rushing into decisions, but in reality it is just giving in to pressure from its industry allies, who do not want to pay their fair share for the pollution they cause. For example, industry has been given an extra 5 years to prepare for the new air quality standards, the introduction of which the Minister has pushed back all the way to 2018. Similarly, the Government’s changes to the Resource Management Act will make it a lot easier to move through the consents process, but they will fail to protect the environment in any way—again just helping National’s allies abuse our environment without having to pay for the abuse.
But without question, the most damaging and most unfair thing this Government has done in the area of the environment is its changes to the emissions trading scheme. It is just like the areas that I mentioned before. This is a case of National helping out its allies by subsidising their pollution, rather than doing what is right and fair and making them pay for what they emit. As if this were not bad enough, the people who pay the price for it are ordinary Kiwis, through increased power prices, along with other policies like the rise in GST.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment)
: It is a delight to be before the Committee as part of a blue-green Government that is making such strong progress on some of the key environmental issues facing the nation. Let us work through each of the big environmental issues and talk about the progress that we are making.
Let us start with climate change. For all of the 20 years that I have been in Parliament, we have debated the difficult challenge of putting a price on carbon emissions. Labour talked about it for 9 years, and what happened? We had the worst increase in emissions of any country. We trebled the amount of electricity that we produced from burning coal. We had the worst period of deforestation in any period since the Great Depression. In every single one of those areas the National Government has made progress.
Hon Darren Hughes: Why was that?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: My challenge to Mr Hughes is simply this: Labour cannot sing from two song sheets. In the House only today Annette King challenged the Prime Minister about the cost of the emissions trading scheme to consumers, while Charles Chauvel has just told the Committee that Labour wants to put up the price even more for consumers and businesses. I say to Labour members that they cannot have their cake and eat it too. They should be honest and upfront about their policy. The reality is that this blue-green approach that the Government is taking to climate change and other areas is the right approach for this country of ours.
The really important second issue is water policy. This country has an enormous challenge in this area. I am sure the members of the Government will remember the 2003 Water Programme of Action. I challenge Charles Chauvel over how many national policy statements the previous Labour Government delivered on water in its 9 years. Zip. How many national environment standards on water did it deliver in 9 years? Zip. In fact, it was so embarrassing that my own politically neutral Chief Executive of the Ministry for the Environment, when working for the previous Government, described it as the programme of inaction.
The actions we have seen from this Government to deal with those water challenges include, firstly, that we will not manage water unless we measure it. My colleague David Carter and I have brought in a very basic important measure of water, and that is
to require metering. We cannot manage what we do not measure. We will move from 35 percent of water being metered to 98 percent in a period of just 5 years. It is a very important step for water management.
Secondly, we have had the courage to make the difficult decision on the water challenge in Canterbury. The truth is that the previous Government sat on its hands and did nothing about the problems with Environment Canterbury. Those commissioners are doing a sterling job of making real progress in the region of New Zealand where there are big water challenges.
Let us talk about money, because this is the estimates debate. I will give members some figures. In the last 5 years of the previous Labour Government, how much did it spend on water-quality initiatives? The answer is $14 million. In terms of the first 5 years of the National Government’s commitment on water quality, the Budget—and, remember, we are dealing with the biggest downturn and the tightest budgetary process New Zealand has faced—has provided not $14 million but $94 million. We are spending $94 million on dealing with water-quality issues in the Waikato, Lake Rotorua, Lake Rotoiti, and Lake Taupō. I tell members opposite to not stand up in this Chamber and say that members of this Government do not value water quality, when in the tightest economic period since the Great Depression we have increased fivefold the amount we are spending on that important area of work.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour)
: It is rich to be lectured by that Minister on issues like making progress on climate change. The Committee might like to remember some of the salient history, in this regard. The Hon Dr Nick Smith, the Minister in the chair, is the one who, earlier in the last term when Labour was in Government, vigorously opposed the idea of putting any sort of economic instrument in place to price carbon. He was totally against the carbon tax. Finally, when we got to a position where we were going to introduce an emissions trading scheme as the economic instrument to price carbon, what did that person do?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: We voted for the first reading.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: That is right; he voted for the first reading. Then he came along to the select committee and behaved about as obstructively as anybody in his position possibly could, and complained about the process ad infinitum. He was responsible, as part of his wonderful blue-green agenda, for producing a waffly six-point document that gave National the intellectual respectability—or so National members thought—to vote against the emissions trading scheme at its second and third readings, and then what happened? We lost a year while the Minister wasted time on the select committee process and on consultation that was hardly conducted in good faith. Negotiations were also clearly conducted in bad faith, because that Minister is just not capable of any other action. That is his record on trying to progress climate change in a bipartisan fashion. No one on this side of the Chamber will ever accept a lecture from Dr Smith on the best way in which to achieve enduring public policy in this area.
If Labour were in Government, we would be implementing an emissions trading scheme that actually reduced emissions, rather than this Mickey Mouse fig leaf we have in place at the moment, which all the experts say will simply lead to a rise in emissions. Our international negotiators cannot say how New Zealand will get domestic emissions down when they are put on the spot at international conferences, because there is no plan. It is just a question of hoping that people will say: “Oh, New Zealand’s got an emissions trading scheme.”, and that that will do the trick. But we know, because the experts tell us, that that simply is not the case.
Not only would Labour put in place an emissions trading scheme—an economic instrument that would price carbon use at the margin—but we would make sure that those households that were affected by the implementation of the scheme received some
decent transitional assistance. Those ordinary Kiwis who are affected by price changes because of the implementation of the scheme would get a bit of a hand, because there would be the auctioning of permits under our scheme. Through the auctioning of permits revenue would be available, not only for transitional assistance but also to make the change to a lower-pollution economy. We all know we need to do it. By delaying the evil day on which we start to put in place proper, complementary measures to assist the economy to make that measure, all that the Minister is doing is to load future prices on future generations. That is just what the National Party does across multiple areas of public policy, superannuation—you name it. It is putting it on the never-never so that the next generation will have to pay the bill, and we get tax cuts now in an attempt to buy an election in a year’s time. People will see through that.
There is a need to invest heavily in energy efficiency now. Schemes like Enviroschools should be restored. We should be developing our public transport rather than just building more and more roads. It is a real shame that this Government has not only implemented bad policy but has gone backwards on making the progress that Labour made, like the emissions trading scheme, and like the meaningful strategy that was in place to get 90 percent of our energy generation in the electricity sector coming from renewable sources. There was a real plan of action behind that strategy.
The Minister gestures from the chair, but he knows—and he should be ashamed of himself—that he has put out misleading advertising to the public. He knows that fossil fuel plants were built between 2000 and 2008 because of the effect of the Bradford reforms. Decisions to build those sorts of assets are long-term ones. The Minister laughs, but he has not sat on an energy company board. He does not know the sort of planning that goes into them; I do. The fact is that we saw the hangover from those ill-advised reforms all through that period of time. We are now seeing, and the Minister is reaping the benefits of, the careful moves that Labour made to ensure that we did have more sustainable generation.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman)
: In listening to the speeches that are being made, I take comfort, as will the public, in reading the recommendation of the Local Government and Environment Committee on the estimates for Vote Environment. The committee’s report states: “The Local Government and Environment Committee recommends that the appropriations for the year ending 30 June 2011 for Vote Environment, administered by the Ministry for the Environment as set out in Parliamentary Paper B.5, be accepted.” Therefore, what we are hearing from the other side is well-intentioned rhetoric, and I think the public can take confidence from the fact that the estimates are well-thought-out and have true purpose that is generally supported widely by the whole Parliament.
It is my pleasure to stand and talk on the 2010 Vote Environment estimates. The total funding sought for Vote Environment this year is $138.893 million, which is approximately $29 million more than the estimated actual expenditure of $109.76 million in the previous financial year.
H V Ross Robertson: Who wrote this?
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Perhaps I should break to reassure the member, if he has difficulty with comprehension, that I am prepared to speak a little more slowly for him. I am sure he will catch up in the long term.
Baseline funding for the Ministry for the Environment’s departmental activities has increased, and this is mainly due to an appropriation of $16.8 million for the proposed new Environmental Protection Authority to process ministerial call-ins and applications under the Resource Management Act 1991.
The main area I wish to focus on in my speech concerns the vastly significant phase two of the environmental reforms and two of the major aspects in relation to this: the
Environmental Protection Authority and improving freshwater management. At the end of phase two we expect to see improved approval times for major infrastructure projects, better performance from local authorities, enhanced Māori participation, and an increase in confidence from the general public in the framework of the Resource Management Act, as they see the benefits of these changes. During question time today, I think, the Minister for the Environment, my colleague Dr Nick Smith, outlined for the public some of the remarkable achievements that are already being experienced.
Dr Smith has outlined to the select committee the Government’s priority of ensuring that a stand-alone Environmental Protection Authority will become operative by the beginning of July 2011. I am wholeheartedly behind this. It is imperative that we put great emphasis on getting the structure of that authority right and on getting it up and running as soon as it can sensibly be up and running.
The Environmental Protection Authority will take a greater role in setting stronger standards for water and for our other precious environmental resources. The intention of improving freshwater management so that it contributes to economic growth and environmental integrity is very, very important. Vote Environment includes non-departmental appropriations of around $20 million for specific water management initiatives and water-quality improvement initiatives for Lake Taupō, the Waikato River, and the Rotorua Lakes.
Work on water management will be a significant policy area for the Ministry for the Environment, and one of the highest Government priorities. Last year we initiated a nationwide, collaborative dialogue with farmers, iwi, conservationists, power companies, irrigators, and recreational groups on water reform through the Land and Water Forum. The Government is expecting to receive that report later this month.
It is worth observing that to have success in the environment it is necessary to be in step with the equal demands of the economy, the community, and corporate culture. All must move at the same pace if success is going to be achieved in any single one of them. There are many examples of this on the West Coast, particularly with mining.
Of course, there is the other example of Environment Canterbury, which is a real example of the demands of the environment, the economy, the community, and corporate culture being completely out of step with one another and nothing being aligned. The Government did step in, and it took action where others had not done so. Regional councils have been replaced by appointed commissioners. The new temporary structure allows the fast-track completion of a water storage and water-use plan for Canterbury.
Recent legislative and regulatory changes will improve water management in New Zealand. For example, fines for breaches of water-quality resource consent conditions were increased through the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act, and this appears to have led to an increase in prosecutions by regional authorities.
I have enjoyed the discussions we had on Vote Environment at the Local Government and Environment Committee. My views are consistent with National’s blue-green approach to environmental governance, such as fostering sustainable development, long-term consistency, reducing delay and costs, and the use of better technical information. I could go on at length—
Aaron Gilmore: And you can—you can go for another 3 or 4 minutes now.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Well, I think I should. What, for instance, did the previous Government do that would equal what is being intended in this programme here? It did very, very little. We could look at the waste minimisation programmes that this Government is proposing. These appropriations are funded by levies that are payable
under the Act, and the Minister has informed us that a statutory review of these levies will take place in 2011. Waste is a singularly important feature of our lives.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Why are you wasting time, then?
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: Well, I do not know that we are wasting time on environmental issues. I do not think we are wasting time, at all. Indeed, we are seeing a huge increase in the amount of work that is being done on environmental issues.
A particular concern is environmental reporting, because that has been proven to be considerably wanting. So we have a proposal for environmental reporting to be considerably improved. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, who appears before the select committee regularly, produced a report called
How clean is New Zealand? Measuring and reporting on the health of our environment. The report notes that New Zealand is the only country in the OECD without a statutory requirement for environmental reporting, and it proposes measures to improve the way that data on the state of our environment is gathered and interpreted.
This brings into question what has been happening in the last 9 years when we have heard these constant claims of “100% Pure New Zealand”. How has it been measured? Not very satisfactorily. The Minister has told us that he shares the commissioner’s concern—probably the first Minister to do so in the last 10½ years—about the inadequacy of New Zealand’s environmental reporting, and that a national environment reporting Act is one of his highest legislative priorities. Policy questions to be investigated include the allocation of responsibility for collecting, auditing, and interpreting data, and for paying for these functions. This ain’t a simple matter but it is an important one.
Hon Darren Hughes: It is.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: The member opposite, the chief Labour whip, thinks it is a simple matter. But Labour did nothing while it was in Government. It has rendered our environmental reports to be inept, and that member thinks it does not really matter. Well, it does matters. It matters not just to New Zealanders; it matters on a comparative basis with countries throughout the world.
We have to have a system of environmental reporting that matches our environment and also has a comparative feature. We need a system that is not a piecemeal product in the way that information is collected in New Zealand, with different data sets being managed by organisations such as regional councils, the Ministry for the Environment, and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. Although these organisations may continue to be responsible for collecting data, it is clear that effective guidelines on the management and systematic use of this material are required. These are some of the many steps forward that will be continued on during this period of Government with this environmental control being executed. Thank you.
DAVID GARRETT (ACT)
: We know that many who go to jail once are likely to reoffend and return to jail. This carries a huge economic and social cost, as housing prisoners is not cheap. The Minister of Finance said recently that on present trends the Department of Corrections will be the biggest Government department in 2 or 3 years, and that is an utter tragedy. Although the ACT Party has focused on ensuring that the most violent offenders are put behind bars longer, and we make absolutely no apology about that, we would much rather have no one committing a second-strike or third-strike offence. To achieve that, it is important that we turn round our appallingly high reoffending rate. The key to that, it seems, or at least part of it, is to ensure that prisoners are reintegrated into society successfully. Halfway houses can go a long way
towards achieving that end. New Zealand already has some halfway houses run by the Prisoners Aid and Rehabilitation Society and the Salvation Army, and they are doing a great job in trying circumstances.
However, the research I have done suggests that what we really need are places with 24-hour, on-site supervision of former prisoners. We have only three of these currently—in Hamilton, New Plymouth, and Christchurch. Canada is often cited in the House as a model to look up to, and I understand that Canada has had a very successful experience with such models. In that country almost all long-term prisoners, after their sentences, are placed in halfway houses with live-in supervisors. Here is the killer: their reoffending rates are five or six times lower than here. In our view, that, more than anything, explains the successes in Canada as opposed to here. Although the supervisors in those institutions in Canada closely monitor the former prisoners, they do not clean up after them. It is the former prisoners who do their own shopping, cooking, and everything else that comes with being free.
With such a high success rate, we must question why we do not invest more funding in such projects here. A successfully rehabilitated prisoner costs the State far less than having to remand him—it is usually a “he”—in custody for his next offence, put him on trial, then house him again in prison. It is well known and often quoted that the cost of doing that is $90,000 or so a year. In our view, hand in hand with a tough policy for those who do not wish to be rehabilitated or who are too dangerous to be in the community, we must seriously consider funding more halfway houses here. The current system is clearly not working when we have recidivism rates approaching 80 percent after 5 years, and it seems that the Canadians have offered us a model in rehabilitation just as the Americans have offered us a model for locking up the truly dangerous.
If we do not do something to decrease those reoffending and recidivism rates, we will continue to have a revolving door system with prisoners inevitably ending up back where they started. We could forgive those in the corrections service for despairing and wondering why they bother. If we do not look at rehabilitation programmes, the Minister of Finance will sadly be proved correct in that most or a very large part of our taxes will be spent on prisons. I urge the Minister of Corrections to consider using part of Vote Corrections to establish the kind of houses that appear to be working in Canada, and, thereby, assist to get our recidivism rates down. Thank you.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel)
: I am pleased to speak on Vote Corrections. It was an absolute godsend that National was voted into Government and brought in a new and excellent Minister of Corrections, the Hon Judith Collins. I cite one of the press releases she put out on coming into office as the new Minister, stating that the pressure on prisons was “a shameful Labour legacy” and “Ongoing pressure on capacity at New Zealand’s prisons is testament to failed corrections policies under the former Labour government,”. The National Government had to contend with a raft of failed policies right across the board, not least in the corrections system. Officials’ advice was being ignored, and the pressure on prison capacity and the probation service was absolutely pitiful.
I say to the Opposition that under the leadership of this excellent Minister everything has completely turned round. For a kick-off, there has been a $1.4 billion increase in the funding in the Budget. What did the corrections sector get under Labour? Sweet-all. I tell members that the changes have been absolutely magnificent.
I start by saying that in relation to the estimates, the public-private partnerships have been a wonderful initiative, and been a big part of the Budget increase. The public-private partnerships are a great new innovation in dealing with our prisons, and their introduction by the new Minister is to be applauded. I refer to the implementation of the Wiri Prison public-private partnership and the reintroduction of contract management of
Mount Eden Prison. The previous Labour Government did not see fit to progress that, which was unfortunate because it was incredibly successful.
One of the really exciting initiatives of the current Minister is the Prisoner Skills and Employment Strategy, which is expanding the work-based training in prisons industries. Several successful examples can be found in the facilities today. They are building strong relationships with polytechs and institutes of technology, resulting in new, practical training opportunities for prisoners. This strategy provides for those relationships to be expanded and for new partnerships to be established. Literacy and numeracy training is also a key focus, because we know that in our prisons the lack of those skills is one of the biggest problems we have to contend with. It is being taken very seriously by the current Minister, who is making great strides in that regard.
Once again, it is all good news for corrections, and the staff are getting behind the initiative. They are also getting behind the other initiative of the new awards that have been established by the Minister to recognise and promote honour and excellence in corrections. Corrections staff are very excited by the awards because they feel their work is being valued and they are being backed, promoted, and supported by their Minister. The people who received the inaugural awards were absolutely delighted. It was a very big initiative for them.
Hon Darren Hughes: Ha, ha!
SANDRA GOUDIE: It was. Sean Francis and Miller Slade received the awards at the graduation ceremony for corrections officers at Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt. They were the first to receive those awards.
The Minister established the awards to recognise newly graduated corrections officers who have demonstrated outstanding achievement. That is just one way of saying thank you to corrections officers, because they do such an outstanding job. It is a tough job, and they are helping to restore the public’s faith in the corrections system in terms of looking after the safety of our citizens. That is an eminently good way to be.
I will also talk about the containers. We were in a crisis in terms of housing our prisoners. Opening the container cell units averted that crisis. A reporter spent a night in one of those containers and found it exceedingly comfortable. That reporter thought it was a great initiative by the Minister of Corrections and applauded it. Those containers are quite fantastic. Pictures of them were presented to the Law and Order Committee to give us greater understanding, and we saw that they were absolutely excellent, and everybody agreed on that, just not the Opposition.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
Kia ora. Kia ora, Mr Chairman, ka nui te mihi ki a koe. Ko tāku he kōrero i te reo Maori me te mihi rā ki te Whare i tēnei rā, ka mutu, he whakanui i te āhuatanga o te Reo Māori, hei reo mō te motu. I tēnei wā, i tērā wiki i whakarite a Ngāpuhi i a ia anō, ki te kōrero ki te tangata nei a Ahorangi James Anaya, me kī, i te reo Pākehā the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. Koinei te wā ka hara mai tētahi mai i tāwahi, nō te Kaunihera Matua o te Ao, ki te—
[Thank you, Mr Chairman. I greatly appreciate your giving me the call in that manner. My address will be in Māori. I commend the House this evening for celebrating Māori Language Week for the nation. This time last week the people of Ngāpuhi readied themselves to meet with Professor James Anaya, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. This was an opportunity for someone from overseas, from the United Nations Human Rights Council, to come—]
I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Me kōrero i te reo Māori. He īnoi noa ake tāku ki te Whare kia ngāwari mai ai tā rātau kōrero ki a rātau anō, he āhua uaua te
whakaputa i tēnei kōrero i te wā e kōrero ana ētahi o te Whare, ka mutu, ko ētahi i runga ake nei. Arā, kei runga ake nei, he īnoi tāku, kia ngāwari mai te kōrero ā tētahi ki tētahi.
[I will speak in Māori. This is a simple request to the Committee that members moderate and lower the tone of their conversations to each other, because it is very difficult to address the Committee while some are speaking in the House and above in the gallery as well. I make this plea to those conversing in the Chamber, and in the gallery above, as well.]
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): I thank the member for those comments. I ask everybody—including those in the gallery, where people should have a passive role, and those down here in the Chamber—to give respect to the member who is speaking. The level of noise is extremely high. Kei a Te Ururoa Flavell te karanga.
TE URUROA FLAVELL: Kia ora, Mr Chairman. Pēnei taku kōrero, koinei te wā ka hara mai tētahi i tāwāhi ki te āta titiro, ki te noho ā-tāngata whenua nei, kaua ko tā te Kāwanatanga titiro ki a ia anō i tōna kotahi engari, he mea whakaoho nei anō hoki i a ngāi Māori i te iwi Māori. Anei tētahi kōrero o tana pūrongo:
[Thank you, Mr Chairman. I was talking about someone from overseas coming to assess the situation, not by just sitting alongside the Government, but also by raising awareness among the Māori people, with Māori themselves. Here is an extract from his report:]
“I cannot help but note the extreme disadvantage in the social and economic conditions of Māori people, which are dramatically manifested in the continued and persistent high levels of incarceration of Māori individuals.”
Nā, ehara i te mea me kōrero tātau i tēnei pō i tēnei pōti mō te āhuatanga o tēnei ao e kitea ai, ko ngā Māori ē hia kē nei e mauheretia ana engari, e tika anō kia kōrero tātau mō te hauora o te Māori i roto i ngā pakitara o ngā whare herehere. Hoi anō, i roto i ngā whārangi ruarua nei mō ngā whare herehere, ko te take e kōrerohia ana, ko te ora o ngā āpiha kaua, ko te hauora o ngā mauhere. Kare kau he kōrero mō ngā uauatanga o te moenga rua, arā, mō te double-bunking, o te noho roa ā-here, te kore puta moata o te rūma here ā-pouaka me te hinga toru, me kī, arā, ko te “three strikes”. Kāti, me hāngai tonu taku kōrero me taku titiro ki tēnei mea mō te moenga rua, arā, mō te double-bunking.
E hia kē ngā raruraru ka puta i tēnei momo noho, ki taku mōhio. Ehara nāku tēnei kōrero engari, nā te tohunga nei nā Tākuta Greg Newbold. Hei tāna, mēnā ka whai atu tātau i tērā huarahi, koinā te mutunga mai o te tari herehere i te motu. Hei tāna, ko tōna hua mēnā he hua kei reira, he tūkino tētahi ki tētahi, ko te whawhai tētahi ki tētahi, ā, ko te mahi pāwhera, ko te mahi whakaweti, ko te pakanga. E māharahara ana ahau, koinei te huarahi ki tērā wāhi rongonui, me kī ki ētahi ki te D Block. I te pērā anō hoki te Corrections Association. Kāre rātau i whakaae atu ki te moenga rua, arā, i heria tā rātau take ki te Kōti Mahi i te Hakihea o te tau kua hipa ake.
Ko te āwangawanga tino nui ki a au, ko te mea whakamataku i a au, ko te moenga-rua, arā, ko tērā e pā ana ki ngā mate pekepeke nei, arā, infectious diseases, communicable diseases, arā, ko ngā mate e ngau nei i te mauhere, ko ngā kaimahi tae atu ki te hapori. Kei reira te raruraru, me kī ake au, me noho wātea te mauhere, ko te kaimahi i ēnei momo māuiui. Nā, kua whakaarahia ake tēnei take nā taku ohorere, kāore te komiti whāiti, arā, ko te komiti law and orderi āta wānanga i tēnei take. Kāore tētahi i whakaaro ake mō te hauroa o te hunga kai roto i ō tātau whare herehere. Hei tā te pūrongo
Health in Justice nā te komiti hauora o te motu, mā te Poari ā-Motu e tuku, e whakahaere ngā āhuatanga i roto i ngā whare herehere. Ko tā te Pāti Māori, koinei te wā pai ki te wānanga i tēnei take. Tēra pea kia riro mā tētahi kē atu i waho ake o te Kāwanatanga, mā ngā rata rānei e whakahaere i te hauora ki ngā mauhere kia eke ki te taumata pēnei i te hapori whānui tonu.
Hei kupu whakamutunga, me mihi ka tika ki te tari mō tōna hiahia ki te mahitahi me te Māori, kaua mō te mauhere Māori. Me mihi hoki ki te Minita, me mihi hoki ki a Tākuta Pita Sharples mō tana kaupapa Whare Oranga Ake, nāna tonu tērā i kōkiri. Nā tēnei huarahi ka riro mā te kaupapa Māori ngā mauhere e āwhina kia hoki ki waenganui i te hapori, ā, kō te tūmanako ka whai pūtea te kaupapa nei hei whakatinana i te moemoeā. Mō te Whare Oranga Ake, me noho wātea te mauhere i ngā taru kino, i ngā mahi tūkino hoki. Koinei tētahi o ngā huarahi pai hei whāinga. Kei reira tonu te raru. I te noho here te mauhere i te tarutaru me tōna ao kino, ā, ka tangata whenua ia ki te whare herehere.
[It is not as though we should debate this vote tonight in respect of the disproportionate number of Māori seen in prison, but most certainly in respect of the safety of Māori within prison walls. However, in the few pages allocated to prisons in Vote Corrections, the concept of safety refers only to the health of staff, and not at all to prisoner health. There is no mention of difficulties relating to sleeping arrangements as far as double-bunking is concerned, longer sentences, early release, container cells, and “three strikes”. However, I will focus my address on the matter of double-bunking.
From what I have found out, very many difficulties have emerged from this method of sleeping arrangement. Comments about this are not mine, but are those by criminologist Dr Greg Newbold. According to him, going down that track would be the beginning of the decline of the Department of Corrections in this country. In his view, the outcome of double-bunking, if there is any, would be outbreaks of abuse and fighting amongst inmates, rape, bullying, and violence. My concern is that such acts would lead only to that place of ill-fame widely known by some as D Block. Even the Corrections Association was concerned. It also opposed double-bunking, and took the case to the Employment Court last December.
My greatest concern about double-bunking, and the one that scares me, relates to infectious and communicable diseases—those that affect not only inmates and staff but the wider community. That is where the problem is. I urge that inmates and staff must be guarded against those types of ailments. I raised this issue because I was surprised that the Law and Order Committee did not debate it in detail. The report Health in Justice from the National Health Committee recommends that the National Health Board deliver health services in prisons. The Māori Party thinks that this is the right time to debate whether health service organisations or general practitioners outside of the Government should provide such a service to inmates to the same level expected in the broader community.
In conclusion, I commend the department on its desire to work together with the Māori people, and not just with Māori inmates. I acknowledge the Minister as well, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, for his Whare Oranga Ake initiative, which he engineered. A Māori approach through this initiative helps prisoners reintegrate into society, and I hope it receives the funding required to manifest the dream. In respect of Whare Oranga Ake, inmates must remain drug-free, and violence-free as well. This is one of the ideal pathways to pursue. However, the problem is still there. An inmate who chooses to remain addicted to drugs and live in a world of evil will become a long-time resident in prison.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Corrections)
: It is with pleasure that I rise to speak to the estimates debate in relation to the Department of Corrections. First off, I congratulate the department, because it has now received an extremely good response from the public. Research New Zealand’s June 2010 quarterly survey showed that 61 percent of respondents had confidence in the Department of Corrections. That percentage is up from its previous high of 40 percent when Phil Goff was the Minister
under a Labour Government. Goodness knows what it was before that under all the other Ministers it had! So it is 61 percent as opposed to 40 percent.
That indicates the amount of hard work that has gone on in the Department of Corrections over the last 18 months and also, frankly, the amount of support that this Government has given to the changes that needed to be made in the department. For instance, we have had to increase the number of probation staff by another 303. That is all about the fact that we have had a big increase over the years in community-based sentences—45,000 community-based sentences are now being looked after by the department. That required a large increase in staff, but also the need for the department to look at the way in which it managed offenders, and to make sure that it was using its discretion and training to make the very best decisions based on what its officers knew and what their training taught them.
We have also seen a big increase in the prisoners housed by the department over the last decade. When I first came into this role I was told that we would run out of beds for prisoners by February this year. The Department of Corrections had a plan for that, which was to increase double bunking and to bring in container cells. When I announced that we were going to bring in container cells, it was dismissed as a stunt. We had Peter Williams QC saying that it would be a slum. Well, I invite him to come out and have a look any time, because it is some of the best accommodation that we have in the department, frankly. It is a vast improvement on almost anything else that I have seen around the country. No longer should we see people with potties in their rooms, as I saw at Waikeria Prison the other day. In container cells it is all mini-en suites; it is warm and contained, and they are fantastic.
Metiria Turei: It’s an open toilet in the bedroom.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I know that the Green Party does not like them, but the cells are recycled so they are very green. I am not quite sure what we have to do to please the Greens.
We know that the previous Government built four new prisons and started a rebuild of Mount Eden Prison. We are looking to finish that rebuild of Mount Eden Prison and build another prison. We are not looking to build another four; we are looking to build another one and to complete the one that the previous Government did not finish.
We are also looking, over the next year, to bring in more of the private sector to work in the Department of Corrections. I am pleased that the Māori Party supports that. It is not that we have any problems with the way that the department is doing things, but it is very important to bring in a benchmark for the department, and also to offer opportunities for iwi to get more involved in rehabilitation.
We know that although Māori are 15 percent of the population, they represent 51 percent of the male prison population. The figure is even worse for the female prison population. I know that the Labour Party does not like to admit it, but basically that tells us that real social issues are driving that crime. People do not just commit crime; there are all sorts of things that go on, from the time that an offender is born or probably even before the offender is born, that lead to crime becoming a way of life. We know that if we are to succeed in the corrections area, and if we are to succeed in the justice area, we need to succeed for Māori. If we do not, then we will continue down the path that we have for years and years of increasing prison populations.
I think that most people would realise that I am pretty staunch when it comes to people who commit violent crimes and to locking them away for a long time. Frankly, there is no problem with that, as far as I am concerned. When more of those sorts of people are locked away, there are fewer victims. Frankly, that is a good thing. But I think it is very important to look at what happens when they come out. What amazes me is that the previous Government, whose members like to make out that it is very kind
about rehabilitation, actually did very little at all. The National Government is doubling the amount of rehabilitation available to prisoners. We are doubling the amount of drug and alcohol rehabilitation now, and more than half of our prisoners are involved in any day in work or educational training. We are doing all of the things that those members talked about, and we are doing it well.
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth)
: I am very pleased to stand and speak regarding police. Our excellent Minister of Police, the Hon Judith Collins, has said: “The purpose of police is to uphold the law fairly and firmly, to prevent crime, to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law, to protect the community and to do so with integrity, fairness and common sense.” I believe that the people of New Zealand see that happening with this Government. We understand that crime is not just a consequence but also a choice. I believe that although it is a consequence for many people, to bring about the understanding that people can choose to live in different ways is very, very important.
Over the last 18 months the Government has given police additional resources, tools, and legislative authority to tackle crime. We are seeing tremendous support in our communities for those measures. The Government’s priorities for the 2010-11 year reflect its commitment to reinforce the police’s visibility, accessibility, and responsiveness to the needs of the community.
We cannot afford to let up in our determination to win the battle against organised crime, and everybody in this Committee, I am sure, would agree with that. Organised crime continues to exert its destructive influence in our communities through the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine, extortion, money-laundering, and violence. We will continue to focus on deterring participation in criminal gangs, following the money trails of organised crime, and seizing the proceeds of criminal activities.
Earlier this year it was reported that $7.4 million worth of proceeds from criminal activities was seized, taking away motivation and an incentive for those criminals. The appropriation sought for Vote Police for 2010-11 totals $1.58 billion, which is an increase of just over 4 percent. Most of this increase goes primarily to the extension of the numbers of our police force in New Zealand. The target is to grow police numbers in Counties-Manukau by 300 between November 2008 and December 2010. Police have estimated that there will be approximately 220 additional police by the end of the 2009-10 year, leaving a balance of approximately 80 for the first 6 months of 2010-11. Alongside this increase, we target an increase of 600 police nationally between 2008 and December 2011, inclusive of the 300 in Counties-Manukau.
We also look to increase expenditure touching the investigations and police primary response management appropriations relating to anti - money-laundering and countering financing of terrorism, the enactment of the Criminal Investigations Amendment Bill 2009, and domestic violence and enhancing safety in the home.
We aim to update the police land mobile radio network from analog to digital. The digital network has already been implemented in Wellington and Auckland, and is due to be rolled out in Christchurch by December 2010. We look forward to the full implementation of a secure, encrypted, digital radio network.
We are pleased to know that the attrition rate of police continues to be low. The Commissioner of Police, Howard Broad, reported to the Law and Order Committee that recruits continue to be of extremely high calibre. New Zealanders can be confident that we have a high-quality police force. Indeed, in the strategic plan 2010 the commissioner said: “We aim to be a world class Police service. We will accomplish this by developing
our people to be leaders in all that we do. The distinctive reality of Police is that when things go wrong in our society, we must be there. We must sound the call for action, inspire others to join the effort required to bring order to disorder and safety from danger, and we must set an example of professionalism and integrity. We must be respectful of our public and ourselves. We must be exemplary ‘guardians of the people’,”.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police)
: As the Opposition is being quiet on these issues, I think I will have to have a go. It is marvellous to be the Minister of Police and be the Minister who is responsible for one of the most trusted organisations in New Zealand. When I say to people that the New Zealand Police is the finest police force in the world, occasionally they say that of course I would say that. I then ask them which particular police force they would rather have than ours; I ask them to name one. Frankly, nobody has yet been able to come up with any credible alternative. That is because the New Zealand Police is actually the finest in the world. Our police are the only ones that operate in a community policing role, and for that very reason they are very highly regarded in situations such as those in Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, and the Solomon Islands, bringing a form of policing never seen in those countries, and, frankly, not seen elsewhere.
The New Zealand Police is an organisation with around 12,000 people, both sworn and non-sworn, who exemplify the very best attributes that we expect of New Zealanders. It was great to hear Jonathan Young, who has just resumed his seat, talk about the calibre of our new recruits. I say they are some of the nicest people that we could get into the New Zealand Police, and I am really proud of them. I attend most of the police graduations, and I find that the calibre of graduates is amazing. They are people from all walks of life, many with professions and trades training, who have come into the police after they have done other careers, or part-way through them, because they want to make a positive difference to New Zealand. I am very pleased that we can get them in here.
In the last year the New Zealand Police resolved 212,000 offences, increasing its resolution rate to the highest ever, at 47.9 percent. Yet no organisation can rest on its achievements, and in the New Zealand Police we are seeing what is being trialled in Counties-Manukau. I heard the Opposition members screaming out about statistics. Well, if they go on the police website, they will find that every month the police put up their statistics for crime, resolutions, and police activity all around the districts. That was live as of the other week, and people should look at it and see just what the police are doing. They are doing marvellous work. One of the things they are doing is proactive policing, and that is incredibly important: having police being seen, being visible, helping to keep the community safe, and also telling people to come on out, go shopping, and be seen around the shopping centres, because the police are there and will protect them. In Counties-Manukau, where this is being trialled, we are seeing an 80 percent drop in handbag snatches, which is pretty amazing in an area where that was rife—an 80 percent drop.
In the calendar year to date there have been three homicides in Counties-Manukau. That is down from about 17 in the year before. It is unbelievable. This is all since we have had the new recruits in and the new style of policing has been trialled there. We have seen some remarkable results, not just in Counties-Manukau but in other parts of the country, where various new ways of doing things have been trialled. It is great to have a police service that is absolutely committed to doing the right things. When I go all around the country visiting our police, I come across people who have spent their whole working lives dedicated to New Zealanders.
I can say that the worst thing about being the Minister of Police occurs when something bad happens to one of the police officers.
Sue Moroney: There’s never a car when they need one.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It is absolutely awful. When anything happens to the police, it really upsets me. The member over there, Sue Moroney, who clearly does not respect the police, says there is never a car. Actually, I say to Miss Moroney that the police travelled more kilometres last year than they did in the year before that, and that was achieved with a far better use of their cars than previously. One of the reasons is that the police, just like the rest of us, very much value the fact that taxpayers pay for everything that they do. They really appreciate that.
All around the country I know that people are very proud of the fact that we got in nine new pieces of legislation last year to help the police to do their job. Most of them came into effect from 1 December last year. We are seeing a massive increase in methamphetamine seizures and a massive increase in the attacks on organised crime, and we can start to see some dents being made in that area. I have no idea at all as to why the previous Government spent 9 years in power without touching the issue of methamphetamine, in terms of trying to deal with the causes of it. All that Labour ever did was to talk about anything else. It failed to make any effort to address methamphetamine; it never gave the police the backing that they needed. It always bagged them, and it still does.
Vote Serious Fraud Office
Vote Veterans’ Affairs—Defence Force
Vote Veterans’ Affairs—Social Development
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Chairman. Before I go on to matters to do with tertiary education, I move, on behalf of my colleague the Hon Trevor Mallard, his amendment that is on the Table. It amends schedule 1 of the Appropriation (2010/11 Estimates) Bill by omitting the number “1,364,193” after the words “School Property Portfolio Management” and replacing it with the number “1,364,593”, and by omitting the number “17,610” after the words “Schools Furniture and Equipment” and replacing it with the number “17,210”.
This amendment relates to something that Mr Mallard previously put before the House during the debate on the Education Amendment Bill. He also wrote to the Minister of Education about it. The amendment enables King’s High School in Dunedin—and I should declare an interest as a former pupil of that school—to use some of its 5-year property funding agreement to reduce the balance on a loan that was taken out to build the school’s performing arts centre. The amendment will resolve a misunderstanding that arose several years ago that has led to the school using its operational funding to pay for that loan. It is something that could be easily fixed with a fiscally neutral transfer between appropriations, as noted by the amendment. I request that the Minister of Education makes this exception in order to allow King’s High School to spend its operational money on its operations rather than on paying off debt. I know that Mr Peachey, Mr Douglas, and others have discussed this before at the Education and Science Committee, and I hope the Minister will look at this amendment and allow the school to get on with using its operational money for operational purposes and its 5-year agreement money to pay off debt.
I move now to the question of tertiary education. When I look at the education estimates and at tertiary education I see that there was a chance for the Government to finally create a plan for the economy. What could be more important to a plan for the economy than tertiary education, than creating a skilled workforce, a knowledgable, innovative population of people who can drive our economy forward? Investing in tertiary education is the key to doing that.
A lot has been made of the differences between New Zealand and Australia, but if we look across the Tasman to Australia, what do we see it doing in the area of post-secondary education? The Australian Government allocated an extra billion dollars in the last two Budgets for post-secondary education, it lifted the enrolment cap to allow enrolment by those affected by the recession, and it has a stated target of having 40 percent of the population with degrees. Currently in Australia around 31 percent of the population has degrees; in New Zealand that percentage is in the 20s. The Australian Government has ambitious targets and is using tertiary education as the engine room of its economy. What are we seeing in New Zealand? The cutting of funding for the tertiary sector, tens of millions of dollars being taken from polytechnics, and a complete failure by the Government to respond to a fundamental change to entrance to university. For the second semester of this year nearly 1,500 students are being denied entry to Victoria University. Massey University shut its summer school enrolments with half an hour’s notice. Next year thousands of students who have achieved university entrance will not be able to enter university. New Zealand has seen huge funding cuts in adult and community education, and cuts to literacy and numeracy programmes even though we were told that literacy and numeracy were the priority for this Government.
So, in short, in Australia we are seeing the Government and tertiary institutions working out how to get people into education, but in New Zealand we are seeing universities working out how to stop people from getting into education. How completely crazy that is, at the very time we should be investing in tertiary education, and at the very time we should be making sure that all New Zealanders can achieve their potential. We should be making sure that all New Zealanders, whether they have been affected by the recession, whether they are coming out of school, or whether they want to retrain, can achieve their potential.
As a small country, it is tertiary education, training, skills, and having a workforce that is constantly innovating that will make the difference for us. We are not a huge country with massive resources and massive reserves of capital, so we have to rely on the people in our country. We have to invest in the people in our country. Vote Education simply does not do that in this Budget. This Budget was an opportunity; there were choices for this Government. But this Government chose tax cuts aimed at the wealthy few, rather than investing in the future of New Zealand through funding tertiary education properly, and through funding education generally properly. This is a shameful Budget.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green)
: Ngā mihi ki te reo rangatira me Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. Tēna koutou katoa. Educational estimates will always be fraught with people calling for more money to be spent in the public system, and there is a good reason for that. The greatest investment we can ever make is in a public education that works for all our children. But this year was a huge disappointment over a number of issues, and I will focus on just three.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the Napier regional kindergarten conference, and I have to say that the room was seething with discontent—
Paul Quinn: Seething?
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: —seething—because the Government cuts to early childhood education funding had upset people considerably. We can try to spin it any
way we like, but the facts remain that kindergartens, which previously had 100 percent qualified staff and which were actively targeting hard-to-reach families through keeping costs minimal, now have to find a way to either increase costs or employ cheaper, less-qualified staff and cut quality in some form. Those people were furious. They just do not accept that early childhood education is something to be undermined when times get hard. The Greens agree with them that building motorways may keep the car and truck lobby happy, but it does nothing for the most important and vulnerable people to enter learning—or not—through early childhood centres. That is a big fail for the Budget and for education estimates.
Secondly, the public-private partnerships in school buildings will cost us. It is a bad idea to assume that contractors who gain more control over State assets like school buildings will save money and reduce stresses in schools. If people are trying to make a profit they have to find a way to cut costs, and that will not be in the best interests of school students. We know that this is the thin end of the wedge in terms of the privatisation agenda.
Finally we have the national standards debacle.
Grant Robertson: Debacle!
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: Debacle! It is enough to make us barking. If we are going to spend Government money restructuring the education system in primary schools to improve literacy and numeracy, we might want to discuss the methodology with practitioners in schools and academics first. Instead, we have the ridiculous situation whereby the Principals Federation, teachers’ unions, and many parents are asking for a trial and the Minister is refusing. Teachers who have been attending the training on national standards say that it is incoherent and unhelpful, especially given that assessment tools are already well developed.
The Greens have put out a poster on national standards calling for a far more positive approach. We believe in small classes, participatory education, properly paid support staff, and clear reporting to parents, but we are now receiving complaints from parents that school reports are abrupt and narrow, and show no real knowledge of the child as a whole person. Ranking children in relation to arbitrary national standards has made at least one teacher come to me in tears, and another one say that a competent 6-year-old child now feels like a failure. This is a damaging waste of resources and of potential.
There is no shame in a rethink of educational policy and a refocus of educational resources. It is not too late to have a trial on national standards, and for the Minister to rebuild the damaged relationships with the Principals Federation, teachers’ unions, concerned parents, and educational academics. All those parties would welcome a trial as a good use of resources, and would welcome the opportunity to explain to the Minister the current assessment techniques they are trying to apply. So let us get real now and stop the attack on the education sector in the name of ideologically redundant forms of pupil management. League tables are for sports teams, and labels are for jam jars.
Of course, the Greens are concerned about the systems failing Māori and Pacific nations, and I am sure the special rapporteur noted these issues, as he did in terms of prisons. There is a horrible similarity between prisons and schools at the moment, with the private-partnership model and the lack of proper resourcing in the right order. I recognise that this issue is very important for Māori and Pacific nations children. We support better resources and kaiako design standards for kura kaupapa, but 80 percent of tangata whenua tamariki are in Pākehā schools and they need a great, culturally appropriate education, too.
The Government performance on education has achieved a remarkable hat trick in alienating the early childhood sector, the compulsory sector, and the tertiary sector. I
have to agree with Grant Robertson on these issues and say that we are throwing away so many opportunities, and abusing, by closing off, the lists for enrolment into the tertiary education sector. But we are doing it at the other end, as well, at the expense of the next generation.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki)
: What is it about the Labour Party and the Green Party that they do not want New Zealand’s children to learn in school? What is it about those two parties that means that time after time in this House, when education is being debated, their members get to their feet and seek to defend the indefensible? Why do those parties not want children to learn? Why are they so ready to get to their feet to defend and advocate on behalf of a very narrow sector in education?
I need to tell those parties that this Budget and this Government recognise that there is more to education than a couple of teacher unions and a few selfish sector groups. Education is much more about children and their parents than it is about the groups that members opposite choose to advocate for. This Budget will spend $12 billion on education this financial year—$12 billion. That is an increase over 4 years of $1.4 billion.
I understand that it is galling for members opposite to sit there with the realisation that over 9 years they had one Minister of Education who destroyed all that was good about the system and two Ministers who then fiddled around with the portfolio with absolutely no idea what it was all about. What this Budget does for the children of New Zealand and their parents is to begin to redress that balance. This Budget will increase the operational funding of schools by $155.9 million. I invite the next speaker from the Opposition to tell this Committee the last time that a Government granted that sort of increase to the operational funding of schools. When was the last time? There is $48.3 million provided for the extension of ultra-fast broadband into schools.
There is new funding for early childhood education. We have heard all about early childhood education tonight. It is time the Opposition parties stopped making up stories and started to explain it the way it really is. I will tell them where they can start. They can start by telling this Committee how, had they survived in Government—which was never going to happen, anyway—they were going to pay for their promise of 100 percent fully trained staff. The money was not there, and it is wrong for those members and their Green mates to stand up in this Chamber and claim otherwise. There is a $1.3 billion Government investment in early childhood education. That is an extra $107 million—$107 million. The figure is worth repeating so that members opposite get it into their heads that this Government has a greater commitment to early childhood education, as is demonstrated in its Budget, than that mob over there ever had.
I suggest to certain members opposite that they stop trying to make their names by claiming to advocate for early childhood education, and that they look at what the true situation is. There is another member opposite who seems to be very, very keen to make his name in the tertiary education sector. A $4.2 billion investment has been made by this Government in tertiary education.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: Nothing in the estimates shows how much this Government has no plan for the future more than the savage cuts being made to early childhood education. If anything would show that a Government understood what a bright future might look like, it would be investing in our children. It would invest in making sure that our children had the very best and the highest-quality early childhood education. What has this Government done? It has cut the funding for high-quality early childhood education.
Allan Peachey: Didn’t you listen to what I just said?
SUE MORONEY: I listened very carefully, I say to Mr Peachey, and I invite the member to go and meet with the 2,000 early childhood education services that have had
funding cut. It has been cut to the tune of up to $320,000. One service that I have spoken to has a funding shortfall of $320,000 per year because of what that Minister of Education allowed to happen to her portfolio. That damage is being meted out to our children and to the future.
This Government promised this country a brighter future. That is what it promised, and now we have found out exactly what that brighter future looks like. It looks like a dimmer future. It is a dimmer future for the children, because they will have their education dumbed down by having fewer qualified teaching staff in early childhood education.
A lot of people in the sector have said to me that this move from a Government that pretends it wants to lift educational achievement makes absolutely no sense. The national standards are definitely not the way to do it because all that is doing is measuring what we already know is out there. The Government pretends it wants to lift educational achievement yet it has cut the funding for qualified staff in early childhood education. So the Government does not understand that investment is necessary for early childhood education and it clearly has no plan for the future. Those children are our future, and it is definitely not the brighter future that this Government promised.
Two thousand services are affected by the funding cut, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. At least 93,000 children and their families are affected by this cut. I ask what that will look like, because the Prime Minister, John Key, is quite fond of saying that he does not believe that those huge funding cuts of $295 million will be passed on to families. He said that he thinks that somehow the sector will absorb that shortfall. He thinks that it will suck in the $295 million shortfall and that it will not be passed on to families. But that is not what the officials told that Minister of Education. The Budget papers reveal that the officials warned the Government that the cost would be passed on to families. They estimated that a cost of between $20 and $45 per child per week would be passed on to families. That is exactly the effect of the funding cuts. The tax cuts for low and middle income families will be completely taken away by this funding cut alone. If families want their children to have access to quality early childhood education, then they will end up being out of pocket.
My real concern is that this will lead to a three-tier early childhood education system in this country. If a family lives in a very wealthy neighbourhood and the parents can afford to pay the extra $20 to $45 per week per child, then 100 percent of the staff for that neighbourhood’s children will be qualified, which is great. But a family in a middle-income neighbourhood will probably have to make do with plan B, a second-rate service only with up to 80 percent of the teachers of the young children qualified. If a family lives in a poor neighbourhood, the Minister’s plan for their children is to go to a playgroup. That is completely upside down.
All the research and the evidence tells us that it is the children from the low-income neighbourhoods who should have, and absolutely need, the highest-quality teaching for their early childhood education years. That can make a real difference to them. They need the teachers who are qualified, who understand how to make the best of those children, and who know how to get them off to the best start. But that will not happen under this Government.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Ka nui te mihi ki a koe e whakanui nei i tō tātau reo Māori. Mēnā ka āta titiro ki te āhuatanga o ngā take mātauranga, arā noa atu ngā rangahau e mea ana kai raro te Ao Māori e putu ana, ngā tamariki Māori kua noho ngoikore i roto i ngā kura. Āta titiro ki te hunga nohinohi, kura tuatahi, kura tuarua tae rā nō ki ngā whare wānanga, koi rā te kōrero. Nō reira, nei ahau e tangi nei ki a au anō, ki taku iwi, waku iwi, ki te iwi Māori whānui tonu nā te āhuatanga o ēnei kaute, o ēnei rangahau. Ehara i te mea nō nāia tonu nei ēnei
āhuatanga, ē kāo. Nō ngā tau e heke nei kua hipa. Nā, kua tae mai ki tēnei wā, anei au e pātai nei i te pātai, me titiro ki hea? Me anga whakamua ki hea? Kai hea te pae rangi e wawatatia ana e tēnei whakatipuranga?
I waenganui i ngā hararei ā-kura kua hipa, e rima ngā hui i tū ki roto i a au o Te Arawa. Ko tētahi mō te uniana Post Primary Teachers Association. Ko tētahi mō te uniana New Zealand Educational Institute, Māori tāku e kōrero nei. Ko tētahi mō te Community Based Language Initiatives, ka mutu, ko tētahi mō ngā kaiako Māori kei roto i ngā kura reo Māori nei me tana titiro ki te literacy, ā, me te hui whakamutunga i tū ki roto i a au i Te Arawa, tērā mō te noho o ngā iwi ki te taha o te Kāwanatanga.
He rawe ēnei hui i te mea i tīmata anō rā te Ao Māori ki te whakakorikori i a ia anō, ki te titiro i tētahi huarahi hei whāinga. Engari, i tētahi ringa, arā anō ngā Māori e hui ana, e kōrero ana mō ngā rongoā, mō te māuiui o te kore mātauranga. Kai tētahi ringa, me kī, ko te tāhuhu o te mātauranga, ko te Kāwanatanga me ōna āpiha. Nā, he kupu taupatupatu ki tērā momo noho, ko te pūrongo i puta i te Education and Science Committee, me kī, he pepehā i puta, anei pea i te reo Pākehā, “positive behaviour for learning; or “best evidence syntheses”. Ko te mate kē, kai te kōrero pea i ētahi wā ngā komiti mātauranga i runga i te hiahia, kia hari koa, kia titiro ki ngā painga engari, o roto i tōku ngākau, kai te rongo anō rā i te mamae o taku iwi e noho nei me ngā uauatanga o te mātauranga. I roto i ngā whiriwhiringa i puta te kōrero o tētahi o ngā āpiha o te tāhuhu o te mātauranga, ko tana kōrero mai ki ngā hui nei, otirā, ki ētahi hui.
[Greetings to you, Mr Chair. I greatly appreciate the way you are celebrating this Māori language of ours. If you take a careful look at educational issues, much of the research states that Māori are at the bottom of the heap. Māori children in schools continue to underperform: in early childhood, primary and secondary schools, and universities, it is the same. So I mourn for myself, my people, and the Māori people at large, at what these statistics and research show. It is not as if these circumstances are of recent times. Not at all. It is something from years past. So here we are now, and here I am asking questions: “Where do we look? Where is the way forward? Where is the vision that this generation is yearning for?”.
During the school holidays just past, five educational forums were held in my region of Te Arawa: one for the Post Primary Teachers Association; one for the New Zealand Educational Institute—Māori members, that is—one for the Community Based Language Initiatives; one for Māori teachers from immersion education, focusing on literacy; and the final one to do with iwi partnerships.
These meetings were wonderful, because Māoridom began to galvanise itself to find a path forward. On the one hand, the Māori people are there discussing remedies and the frustrations due to a lack of educational opportunities; and on the other hand there are the Ministry of Education, the Government and its officials. A statement that best describes this conflicting situation is the report from the Education and Science Committee, which states rather poetically in English: “positive behaviour for learning” or “best evidence syntheses”. The problem is that the committee at times talks about wanting us to be happy about positive behaviour for learning, but, in my heart, I feel the cries of my people undermined by an education system that excludes them. In the deliberations, a statement was made by an official of the Ministry of Education to these
and other forums