Questions to Ministers
Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme—Extension
1. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the
Minister of Finance: What advice has he received on extending the retail deposit guarantee scheme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: I have received advice that the extension of the scheme until 31 December 2011 provides certainty for investors and institutions. The alternative was to allow the scheme to lapse on 12 October 2010, which would have created a high degree of uncertainty and could, in turn, have resulted in a loss of confidence in some parts of the finance sector, thereby undermining financial stability.
David Bennett: How is the extended scheme consistent with new Reserve Bank requirements?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the commentary on the scheme there has been some confusion about the distinction between the Reserve Bank requirements and the deposit guarantee scheme. Last year this Parliament passed amendments to the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act that require all non-bank institutions with deposits of over $20 million to obtain a credit rating from a recognised agency by 1 March 2010. That is currently the law, regardless of the deposit guarantee scheme. The deposit guarantee scheme extension will simply pick up the credit ratings that institutions already have. If they have a minimum of a BB rating, they will be eligible for the scheme. If they cannot get a credit rating by March 2010, then that is a matter they will have to deal with with the Reserve Bank, regardless of the Government guarantee.
David Bennett: How is the extended scheme fairer to participants and taxpayers?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The original scheme was put in place under duress at the beginning of the financial crisis. We have had the opportunity to refine the scheme when it is extended, by introducing a new pricing system based on the institutions’ risk profiles. It will be fairer to participants, because it is designed to avoid a situation where low-risk institutions are essentially subsidising the activities of higher-risk institutions.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with sharebroker Chris Lee that there will be “no chance of many of the little finance companies getting a BB credit rating in the next 12 months” and with KPMG partner Godfrey Boyce that “Very small financial institutions are going to struggle to achieve that credit rating.”; if so, does he still feel he has struck the right balance by limiting their eligibility while giving the larger banks an opt-out?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I explained earlier, already on the books there is a requirement for financial institutions to get a credit rating by 1 March. I understand that if they do not get a credit rating, then they will either be prosecuted or have to negotiate an exemption with the Reserve Bank if they have deposits of over $20 million. That is a requirement that this Parliament passed last year, independent of the deposit guarantee.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the
Prime Minister: Does he stand by his claim that as Prime Minister he is committed to consulting with, and listening to, people prior to making decisions that impact on their lives?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister understand why people like Ngāti Whātua spokesperson Ngarimu Blair has described his consultation as a masquerade, and the
New Zealand Herald has accused the Prime Minister of ignoring due parliamentary process, when the Government arrogantly goes ahead and makes announcements as to its decisions when the people’s submissions to that select committee have not yet been considered and deliberated upon?
Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Hon Phil Goff: There is no hope for the Prime Minister. Would bodies like the Auckland Regional Council and the Kaipara District Council and the Rodney District Council today be expressing concerns about “major and secret changes” to the legislation, and “worst possible scenarios” if the consultation process had been adequate and if there were trust in the Government’s good faith in this matter?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Government has gone through the select committee process on the matter. We are working through the decisions on boundaries, which were part of that select committee process.
Hon Phil Goff: How does the Prime Minister claim to be committed to consultation and to be listening to people on the Auckland City reform bill when, firstly, his announcements after the royal commission reported were made without any process of consultation; secondly, the legislation introduced was rammed through under urgency without any select committee process; and, thirdly, now with this so-called showcase of consultation, without referring to those submissions he has made decisions that even his Minister of Māori Affairs described today as a sham?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Leader of the Opposition gets consultation confused with agreement. Just because some people advocate a position in a select committee does not mean the Government has to agree with it.
Hon Phil Goff: On another matter, while calling on the Labour Party to support the Government’s decision to send SAS troops to Afghanistan, why did he not, on any occasion, make any effort to consult with Labour or any Opposition party on the reasons why he made that decision, if he expected our support?
Hon JOHN KEY: It was my opinion that the Opposition had already made up its mind.
Hon Phil Goff: That is a bit rich! Why, as Prime Minister, did he not consult with any Opposition parties either before or after making the decision to cut out pre-funding of New Zealand superannuation, thus ending a period of consensus between political parties on superannuation that gave elderly people certainty in making plans for their retirement?
Hon JOHN KEY: Two things: firstly, because we exercised the provisions that already existed in the law that the previous Labour Government passed; secondly, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I do not currently live on Mars and presume that the country is not going through an economic recession in which some changes might be necessary.
John Boscawen: Is the Prime Minister prepared to listen to the 87 percent of Kiwis who voted No in the referendum, and support my member’s bill?
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, we are listening to the 87 percent of people, and that is why we are in a position—
Hon Phil Goff: To issue guidelines and set up a committee!
Hon JOHN KEY: You can be on it; it would give you something to do because you have not got much else to do!
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker is not going to be on the committee.
Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure they will let you out of primary school early to do that. Anyway—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker is on his feet. There will be silence. Could the honourable member be a little more courteous. I might advise the Prime Minister that the Speaker left primary school quite a while ago, sadly, with advancing years. He must not refer to the Speaker in answering the questions. I think we have heard enough of that answer.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have not begun to hear the answer yet.
Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the Government is listening to the 87 percent of New Zealanders. The way that we are doing that is that we asked both Child, Youth and Family and the police to look at the process that we are working through. In direct answer to the member’s question about whether National will be supporting the bill through to select committee, I say that is a decision I will be announcing at about 4 o’clock this afternoon.
Hon Phil Goff: Will the Prime Minister now commit to working constructively with Opposition parties in order to ensure that a credible emissions trading scheme is developed to protect our trade opportunities, to allow us to meet international obligations, and to ensure that we can give the forestry industry certainty to start planting trees and dealing with the problems surrounding climate change?
Hon JOHN KEY: Unless I am missing something, the Government has been working constructively with the Opposition. It is true that the Leader of the Opposition has written a letter to me expressing come concerns about the direction in which the emissions trading scheme negotiations are going. Like all letters I get from the Leader of the Opposition, as expected, it was delivered to the media at the same time as it was delivered to me. It would be a little more useful, if the Leader of the Opposition wanted to have a constructive relationship with me, if he could learn to deal with me as a grown-up and not through the media.
Hon Heather Roy: Does the Prime Minister agree with the following statement, made by John Key in April 2007, which is backed by 87 percent of New Zealanders: “… if the reality is that no one is ever going to be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child, then don’t make it illegal. Don’t make it a crime. It’s poor law-making to write a very strict law and then trust the police and the courts not to enforce it strongly”; if not, what has changed?
Hon JOHN KEY: Well, very simply, what has changed is that an amendment was put up. The amendment basically ensured, I believe, that the police had quite clear guidelines in the way the law would be administered, and at this point we have to say that the evidence strongly supports that the law is being administered the way the amendment was designed.
Hone Harawira: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā tātou katoa e te Whare. Does the Prime Minister stand by his speech from the throne when he promised to see Māori standing strong, economically independent, and fulfilling the complete promise of their potential, and how does he reconcile Cabinet’s recent failure to address the significant under-representation of Māori within local government with that earlier promise?
Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I do stand by that statement. It has been my view that an advisory participation committee is the best way of representing mana whenua. I draw the member’s attention to a huge number of gains that have been made in the very short time that National has been working with the Māori Party. Those gains have included a review of the foreshore and seabed legislation, an accelerated process of Treaty settlements, and substantial work being undertaken around Whānau Ora. They have included the policy that I announced this afternoon, which will see thousands and
thousands of young Māori given the opportunity to participate in holiday programmes, and the like. Although I can fully understand the frustration of the Māori Party when it comes to the Auckland seats, what I do know is that we have achieved more in 9 months than Labour achieved in 9 long years.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 3, Kevin Hague. [Interruption] I have called Kevin Hague. [Interruption] I say to the Labour front bench—because no one else was interjecting then—that I have called Kevin Hague and they should show him some courtesy.
Healthy Eating Projects—Funding
KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the
Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement in the House last week that “The Government has not slashed the budget for healthy eating projects.”?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health)
: The member’s quote is selective. What I said was “The Government has not slashed the budget for healthy eating projects. What the Government has done is sought more balance in the approach between physical activity and nutrition.”
Kevin Hague: Does he accept that ordinary Kiwis might think the $31.6 million cut to the Healthy Eating - Healthy Action fund was a slashing?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am completely unaware of a $31.6 million reduction in the healthy eating fund, and I invite the member to table the information he has that suggests that there has been such a reduction.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What new initiatives has the Government recently announced to help address unhealthy weight or obesity?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Prime Minister recently launched the KiwiSport initiative, which will provide $20 million a year to schools and regional sports trusts to have more opportunities for sports and other physical activity. This will certainly provide more balance to the message that New Zealanders need good nutrition and physical exercise.
Kevin Hague: Does he accept that ordinary Kiwis might think the $24 million cut from the “Get Checked” Diabetes Aotearoa programme was a slashing, the $1.2 million cut from the Diabetes New Zealand obesity programme was a slashing, and the $3 million cut from men’s health initiatives constituted a slashing, or does he think Kiwis might prefer to use a “chainsaw massacre” metaphor?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think the member needs to realise that he should see this matter within the context of the fact that the Government is moving resources around the health sector. We inherited $160 million of unfunded services from the previous Government, and we are seeking to move resources within Vote Health to meet those demands.
Kevin Hague: What reports did he receive providing evidence that the programmes were not working, and will he table them in the House?
Hon TONY RYALL: There were a number of situations where those various expenditures were reviewed. The Government must make it very clear that we have moved resources within the health sector in order to meet new areas of spending and requirement. This Government has put an extra $750 million into the health sector this year. Half of all new spending is in Vote Health, and New Zealanders are very pleased with that.
Kevin Hague: Is it not the case that his decision to take the axe to the programmes was driven purely by ideology, or was it driven by the fact that the benefits of the
programmes, in terms of reducing health-care need, will not be felt until the future, when he is most unlikely still to be Minister?
Hon TONY RYALL: The member may not realise that we are in the worst recession since the 1930s and resources need to be moved. But I am interested that that member’s party has not criticised the party opposite for cutting $24 million from public health programmes, cutting $17.5 million from primary health organisations, and cutting another $20 million from the programme to immunise against the human papilloma virus, and other immunisations. Let us see the member be fair in his criticism.
Kevin Hague: I seek leave to table a document entitled “Budget 2009 and line by line review of Vote Health”, the author of which is the Hon Tony Ryall, which sets out the adjustments in funding that I have referred to.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme—Opting Out
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the
Minister of Finance: Why is he allowing banks to opt out of the retail banking guarantee scheme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: Participation was voluntary under the current scheme, and it remains so under the extension I announced yesterday.
Hon David Cunliffe: What are the consequences for the average level of risk borne by the taxpayer if major banks opt out, but small and less creditworthy finance companies stay in?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The consequences for the taxpayer are that the more institutions they guarantee, the more risk there is. At the moment the contingent liability is around $120 billion, and a big part of that is in bank deposits. Banks have operated in New Zealand for around 150 years without Government guarantees, and it is possible that they will be able to do so in the future. As I said before, participation was voluntary in the current scheme, and it will remain so in the future scheme.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I submit that the Minister has not addressed the question. The question was very specific and asked what the consequences would be for the average level of risk. He attempted first to talk about the total level of risk, which was irrelevant, and then talked about the voluntary nature of the scheme, which was also irrelevant. He has not addressed the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member still has further supplementary questions available to him. It is a fine line to draw on the matter. I invite the member to pursue it through further supplementary questions. I will give him that chance right now.
Hon David Cunliffe: Have the same major banks further reduced short-term interest rates in line with recent cuts to the official cash rate; if not, what does the Minister propose to do about that?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That issue has been discussed extensively in the House, and I maintain the same position as previously. If bank customers do not like the margin that the banks are charging on floating rates, then they can opt for the 6-month rate for mortgages, which happens to be lower. The Government’s priority is, and has always been, that banks should keep lending, because when they stop lending, people lose jobs.
Amy Adams: Is the wholesale guarantee scheme altered by yesterday’s announcement?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, the wholesale guarantee is not affected by yesterday’s announcement. The two schemes are largely independent. Under the wholesale scheme, bank issuers are charged a fee of between 70 and 200 basis points, which is
considerably more than is charged for the retail scheme. There are recent indications in the market that banks will be able to borrow money without the Government guarantee, as a number of their parent Australian banks are doing now.
Hon David Cunliffe: Having given the banks a free pass on the retail guarantee scheme and also on the interest rate pass-through issue, when will the Minister start to stand up for the interests of hard-pressed Kiwi businesses and households, or will he continue to just roll over in the face of pressure from the big end of town?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a pretty silly question. The banks do not get a free pass. If they want to have the guarantee, they will pay for it. The comments they have made on how much they have to pay for it indicates that they do not like it. If they do not have the guarantee, then they do not pay for it. That seems an entirely logical position. It would be pretty odd if we imposed the guarantee on them.
Youth, Support—Fresh Start and Break Away
CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) to the
Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government doing to support young people?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment)
: Today we announced our Fresh Start programme for youth offenders, and our school holidays Break Away programme for young people. These two programmes together will support New Zealanders aged between 11 and 17 years with both preventive programmes and programmes to help them when they are in trouble.
Chester Borrows: Can the Minister give more detail on what activities will be offered in the school holiday Break Away programme?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Break Away package will provide activities and programmes for young people who normally do not have access to such activities. In excess of 30,000 young people will benefit from the package, through holiday programmes for 11 to 17-year-olds whose families cannot afford holidays; the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, which will reward 100 young people who have made positive life changes; and, a personal favourite of mine, residential respite camps, which will give 500 places to children and young people who are cared for by foster parents or by grandparents raising grandchildren, to give the parents a break. Those camps will be run by children’s health camps to start with.
Jacinda Ardern: Why is the Minister trialling the first military-style activity camps as early as next month, well before the public and the select committee have the opportunity to report back on her youth justice proposals; is this yet another example of a Government that refuses to listen to submitters, especially when the vast majority of them are opposed to its ideas?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: These young people are ticking time bombs that are about to go off. They deserve our attention. They deserve our putting everything we can behind them to try to turn their lives round. Quite frankly, all that happened under the previous Government was that they ended up in adult prisons really quickly and really easily. We are going to do something about it.
Chester Borrows: Can the Minister give the House more details on the Fresh Start programme for young offenders? [Interruption]
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I know that members opposite do not like to hear about the action that is going on under this Government, and the difference that we are making, but Fresh Start will target New Zealand’s most serious youth offenders. It also has a focus on turning round the lives of young people before they get into the youth justice system. We are bolstering the court orders available to judges, and investing more in supervision programmes. We are combining those measures with police and
community-based diversion, mentoring, and drug and alcohol programmes, amongst many other programmes. This is a $59 million investment, and it means that nearly 3,000 Fresh Start places will be available.
Telecom New Zealand—Employment Contract Advice
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the
Minister of Labour: Has she or any Department of Labour official analysed the contract being offered to workers currently employed on behalf of Telecom; if so, what advice has been given to those workers or their representatives?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence) on behalf of the
Minister of Labour: No. Neither the Minister nor the Department of Labour gets involved in contractual disputes between private sector companies and their workers.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Has the Minister or her officials read the emails received in her office on this subject over the last month?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I am not in possession of that information myself, but it would be extraordinary if a Minister did not read emails. I am sure that she would have read the emails, or her staff would have.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does she agree with her colleague John Carter that the contracts are “a crock” and workers should not sign them?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Of course, Mr Carter is acting on behalf of his constituents in his capacity as the member of Parliament for Northland. He is well known for representing their concerns, and that is precisely why he has such a large majority and continues to be voted in by his constituents.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Can the Minister then explain why the contracts are a crock in Northland but are supposedly acceptable around the rest of the country?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: If the member had listened more carefully, he would appreciate that the member for Northland was acting on behalf of his constituents. Like all members of Parliament, we hear the views of our constituents. That is the normal role and activity of a member of Parliament; it is not a matter of ministerial responsibility.
Sue Bradford: Why is the Minister refusing to meet with the National Distribution Union executive this week because, according to the Minister’s office, the Telecom workers who belong to the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, another union, are on strike; and will she be applying the same principle by, for example, refusing to meet with any business representatives this week because Telecom is involved in an industrial dispute?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I am advised that the Minister was unable to meet the National Distribution Union because of a clash of commitments.
Darien Fenton: Does the Minister agree that there is an inherent issue of employment fairness at stake when the chief executive of Telecom gets $5 million, or more, while the Telecom lines engineers are facing redundancy with no compensation; and will she be considering any measures to help to rectify this awful situation?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I would remind that member that these issues are all resolved under the Employment Relations Act, which was passed in the year 2000 by the then Labour Government.
Sue Bradford: I seek leave to table a statement from the National Distribution Union saying it was advised by the Minister’s office that the risks are too great for her to come to the meeting, and she cannot meet with the union because Telecom workers are on strike.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of the Minister’s response to my second supplementary question, is he prepared to deny in this House that the contract being offered to workers formerly employed on behalf of Telecom is a crock?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I ask the Minister to respond to that, I say the Minister is not actually responsible for an employment contract that is being offered by a private company like Telecom. Although I did permit the Minister to give his opinion on the comment made by his ministerial colleague, once we get too far down the track on matters that are properly private matters of the company, it becomes a bit difficult.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a relatively simple one. This is a matter that has been referred on a number of occasions to the responsible Minister’s office. It is something that I am sure the Minister has looked at. She may want to say that she does not want to comment on it, but I think the matter is properly before the House.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member. I invite the Hon Dr Wayne Mapp to answer the question.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: As is well known, Ministers do not get involved in private disputes between private companies and their employees. That is exactly how the Employment Relations Act is supposed to work.
Auckland, Transport Planning and Delivery—Auckland Transport Agency
NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the
Minister of Transport: What steps is the Government taking to improve Auckland transport planning and delivery?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport)
: Yesterday I confirmed, as part of the Auckland governance reforms, the establishment of a new Auckland Transport Agency to focus on delivering transport projects and services across Auckland. The single Auckland Transport Agency will replace the nine separate entities that currently govern Auckland transport, and will be responsible for all local authority transport delivery functions in Auckland, including local roads and public transport. The new agency will be responsible for an annual budget in excess of $1 billion.
Nikki Kaye: How will the new Auckland Transport Agency improve transport for the people of Auckland?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Rolling the multiple current entities into one transport agency will provide the focus and continuity of decision making required to deliver a transport network that supports Auckland’s growth and economic success into the future. The Auckland Transport Agency and the new Auckland Council will work closely on urban and transport planning, meaning that they will identify areas of population growth in the city and design improvements to transport infrastructure to support those growth areas in an integrated way.
Nikki Kaye: How will the new Auckland Transport Agency be structured?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It will be structured as a quality delivery agency, to be overseen by the new Auckland Council. The Auckland Council will set the strategic direction, appoint the board—which will include up to two councillors—provide planning and guidance, and determine the levels of regionally sourced funding. The new agency will undertake the sequencing of projects, tendering, and the procurement of operational decisions. It will work closely with, and be partly modelled on, the New Zealand Transport Agency, which operates at a national level.
Hon Darren Hughes: Why on earth do we need a new agency in Auckland, given that the Minister is so brilliant that the last plan for Auckland, which would have
delivered rail-track electrification, electric railcars and rolling stock, integrated ticketing, and the very important Penlink road, was disregarded by the Minister, even though all the projects had been costed and funded? Now, thanks to him, all those projects are delayed. That is his brilliance at work!
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If the member looks, he will find that all those projects are going ahead. It is, of course, possible and, indeed, perhaps necessary for a Government to do more than one thing at once, and that includes developing the projects and organising the governance. The important thing for the member to understand is that, going forward, we need to have a strong, integrated process between the council and transport in Auckland. It is not enough for local body people in Auckland simply to announce they want a project here and a project there, without any consideration of the overall plan to develop the big city.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: To the Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I say to members on both front benches that I have called Jeanette Fitzsimons.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Are there any Auckland motorway projects that he has announced must keep within their initial budget allocation, even if that means they cannot be completed; if not, why has he imposed that condition on Auckland’s rail electrification and the railcars to run on it?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Absolutely we expect motorway projects in Auckland to come in within budget. In fact, we have taken the step of halving the amount to be spent on the Waterview Connection, to ensure value for money. That goes for all transport projects.
Auckland, Local Government Reform—Northern Boundary of Super-city
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) to the
Minister of Local Government: Does he agree with the Prime Minister that “for all intents and purposes” the decision on the northern boundary of the super-city has been made?
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government)
: It is my observation that the Prime Minister is invariably right, although sometimes not as centre-right as I myself would prefer. Cabinet has decided the governance position on the northern boundary of Auckland, but the final decision on the northern boundary will be made by the House when it considers the Local Government (Auckland Council) Bill.
Phil Twyford: What other issues have been decided by Cabinet in advance of the select committee recommendations, given that Māori representation and the boundaries have been predetermined?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: Let me inform the member that it is a standard part of the legislative process that when a department is preparing its report for a select committee, it ensures that its departmental report reflects the Government’s position. Cabinet is the forum where the Government confirms or decides its position. I am sure that the select committee, which the member is a part of, will consider the departmental advice along with all other submissions that have been put to it, and in the end the committee will decide on the form of the bill to be reported back to the House. That is the process that the Government and the House will follow, and I look forward to the member studying it and getting the hang of it eventually.
Phil Twyford: What does he say to the mayors of Kaipara and Rodney and the Auckland Regional Council chairman, all of whom are opposed to Cabinet’s decision to override the select committee and the Local Government Commission and set the northern boundary itself?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: It would be helpful if the member would listen to the answers he seeks. It is the practice for departmental reports to reflect the Government’s
position. Rodney and Kaipara people along with other Aucklanders have had the opportunity to make submissions to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee about all aspects of the legislation. I have been informed that a number of submissions on the northern boundary were received and those submissions have been carefully considered by the select committee, along with all the other submissions. I am also aware that members of the committee have been listening to the people, and indeed I have had very good reports from the people of Kaipara and Rodney that the local member John Carter is doing a great job.
Phil Twyford: Does he agree with former royal commissioner David Shand that the Cabinet decision on the northern boundary will lead to substantial coastal development, and who does he believe stands to benefit from turning our northern beaches into a mini - Surfers Paradise?
Hon RODNEY HIDE: No, I do not agree with him.
Finance Companies—Oversight Changes
MELISSA LEE (National) to the
Minister of Commerce: What changes is the Government proposing to the oversight of finance companies?
Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Commerce)
: This morning I announced a number of changes to improve the regulatory oversight of finance companies. One of those changes will be to require debt issuers, including finance companies that propose to go into moratoria in order to avoid receivership, to produce clear and concise investment statements that disclose the details and merits of a moratorium proposal. They will also need to disclose the basis on which the relevant directors and trustees are recommending the proposal, and any other relevant information. The aim is to ensure that investors are provided with information in a way that is transparent and easy to understand, to enable them to make the appropriate decisions for their individual circumstances.
Melissa Lee: Are there any plans to improve the oversight of corporate trustees and their relationship with finance companies?
Hon SIMON POWER: Yes. The collapse of a large number of finance companies in recent years has raised some fundamental issues around the role of corporate trustees, and in particular the competence and accountability of some of those trustees. Today I announced a package of measures designed to improve the quality of trustees’ supervision of issuers, including a licensing regime to be overseen by the Securities Commission. Trustees will be required to meet a series of stringent criteria, such as appropriate infrastructure, monitoring systems, processes, and financial strength. The commission will also have an ongoing role in monitoring trustees, and that role will include the power to prosecute trustees, direct trustees to take action to protect investors, strengthen trust deeds, and require mandatory reporting to the commission when issuers may be nearing default. I can advise the House that I hope to bring legislation on this issue to the House by the end of the year.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Will the proposed moratorium regulations require investors to be given an honest assessment of both the benefits and the risks of the moratorium proposal as against receivership; if so, who will provide this information in light of the experience of certain companies overplaying the former to the personal benefit of directors, and underplaying the latter to the detriment of investors?
Hon SIMON POWER: That is the intention.
Melissa Lee: What other initiatives are being undertaken to improve oversight of the financial sector?
Hon SIMON POWER: The Government is also undertaking a review of the Securities Act. The Act is now over 30 years old. The review will focus on ensuring,
firstly, that investors receive relevant and timely information; secondly, that the rules around managed funds are clear and consistent; thirdly, that the regulatory bodies have the right roles, the right functions, and the right powers to enforce securities law and monitor issuers; and, fourthly, that the scope and objectives of securities law are clearly stated. I intend to release a discussion document that canvasses these issues by the end of the year.
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour) to the
Minister for Biosecurity: Has he received any reports on the increasing risk to the biosecurity of New Zealand?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Biosecurity)
Hon Damien O’Connor: What is his response to the 2006 AgResearch report that identified that 77 percent of shoes inspected at the border contained fungi, bacteria, and plant material, and how will he ensure proper biosecurity protection for New Zealand after the Prime Minister has just announced that the vast majority of travellers from Australia will not be inspected at all, just to save an estimated 8 minutes in processing time when those travellers enter New Zealand?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The Prime Minister has not announced that the vast majority of people will not be screened at the border. This change is about delivering the most effective biosecurity that we can at the border, and it would be irresponsible not to actively examine the system we have to see whether we can do it better.
Shane Ardern: What steps has the Government recently taken to strengthen New Zealand’s biosecurity system?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Just last week the Government moved to double the instant biosecurity infringement fine. This toughening up on those who put our country at risk, combined with Biosecurity New Zealand’s more targeted approach of focusing on travellers who pose the greatest risk, will significantly strengthen and enhance our biosecurity system.
Hon Damien O’Connor: How can the Minister protect New Zealand from unwanted pests and diseases, when the report from his ministry investigated and identified 106 living species in storage containers of palm kernel destined for New Zealand farms; and considering his view that “there is no evidence to suggest that the current requirements have failed”, in what circumstances will he start showing some concern, and will he review the importation of palm kernel into this country?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Over recent days I have seen a number of reports around palm kernel and the risk it poses to biosecurity in New Zealand. Most of them are totally inaccurate. All shipments of palm kernel are fumigated before they arrive in this country.
Economic Stimulus Package—State Housing
TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the
Minister of Housing: What progress is being made on the State housing economic stimulus package announced earlier this year?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing)
: Good progress is being made: $20 million has been committed to the new build part of the package. That was for the delivery of 87 new homes, making up to 1,550 new State houses that are being added to the stock over 4 years. Although a handful of properties are yet to be finished due to the usual winter weather conditions, these houses should be finished within the next few weeks. This is 18 more houses over and above what we first announced, because of the new efficiencies in the Housing New Zealand Corporation under this Government.
Todd McClay: What other good news can the Minister tell us about this project?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I am delighted with that question, because under the Healthy Housing component $3 million worth of work has been done on over 200 properties. Also, the corporation has finished, or is completing upgrades on, over 1,600 other State houses. But members should wait; there is more. On average, over 1,000 people each month have been employed since March, and we are now working on the next phase, in which we will upgrade the disgraceful and derelict housing stock that we inherited when we first came into Government.
Moana Mackey: How can anyone take the Minister seriously when he gets up and brags about the number of State houses he is building, given that he has personally stopped the building of 500 State houses in Hobsonville because the Prime Minister does not like them; and how many State houses could be built or renovated for the $1.2 million that is being spent by the Housing New Zealand Corporation every year in Hobsonville in order to be the master developer for what is essentially now a private development?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I think I have previously outlined to the House that the previous Government started the process of Housing New Zealand Corporation being involved in Hobsonville in 2002. There were three elections between that time and now, when no houses were built, no consents were issued, there were no earthworks, and the promise of the 500 houses never came to fruition in 7 years.
Moana Mackey: How does he think his housing stimulus package compares with the Australian Government’s nearly $8 billion social housing stimulus package, which is saving 15,000 jobs, and does he believe that this has had anything to do with the Australian unemployment rate now holding steady, while New Zealand’s continues to rise?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: The Australian housing package and John Key’s National Government package are stimulating the economies of both countries, which is a lot more than what the hot air stimulated under the previous Government did.
Accident Compensation—Sensitive Claims and Sexual Abuse Victims
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour) to the
Minister for ACC: Has ACC abandoned all changes relevant to sexual abuse victims since question time yesterday?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC)
: No. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) is consulting providers on the clinical guidelines for sensitive claims. No final decisions have yet been made. I assure the member that the needs of sexual abuse survivors will be paramount. Decisions on the clinical guidelines will be made by clinicians, not by politicians.
Lynne Pillay: Given the Minister’s assurance in the Chamber yesterday that the proposals were in the best interests of victims, followed by ACC’s back-down a few hours later because the proposals would not work, can the Minister guarantee victims of sexual abuse that they will not be subjected to more cost-cutting strategies at their expense?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I can assure the member opposite that in dealing with sensitive claims what is paramount, in respect of ACC’s policy, is ensuring the very best quality of service.
Sue Moroney: Can the Minister provide any evidence of representations or submissions made by the Minister of Women’s Affairs to the Minister for ACC on behalf of victims of sexual abuse?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, and I will tell the member why. We on this side of the House believe that clinical decisions should be made by clinicians, not by politicians. I am disappointed that members opposite think we want ACC’s clinical decisions to be made on a political whim.
Michael Woodhouse: What was the origin of the new clinical guidelines, and when did the process being?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am surprised that Labour members are today criticising the clinical guidelines. In June 2008 the official launch of the guidelines was praised by none other than the Hon Steve Maharey. The origins of the guidelines go back to 2004, when concerns were raised about the effectiveness of sexual abuse counselling. That resulted in an $800,000 comprehensive research programme, which led to new guidelines being produced last year. Those guidelines are now being consulted on for implementation.
I seek leave to table a photo of the Hon Steve Maharey at the launch of the clinical guidelines, where he said what an important step forward—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Imprest Supply Debate
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: I move,
That the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill be now read a third time and the Imprest Supply (Second for 2009/10) Bill be now read a second time. The passage of the appropriation bill and the Imprest Supply Bill through Parliament signals another step in the parliamentary administrative process, which on the face of it is pretty simple. But these bills underpin a process where the incoming Government is trying to get hold of the momentum of Government spending to wring some productivity and effectiveness out of it, and to work with the reality that, on current forecasts, for the next 10 years the New Zealand Government will be showing deficits. I think those forecasts should be taken reasonably seriously. Although we have seen a lift in confidence among businesses and consumers, and although we have seen commentary about green shoots in the recovery, it would be a brave economist and, I think, a brave politician who would see our path over the next few years as a smooth path of sustainable recovery—that is possible, but it is not very likely. When we have events of the scale of the global financial crisis alongside the most coordinated world recession since the 1930s, it is unlikely that all the consequences will wash through the international economy or the domestic economy in just 9 or 12 months. The road to recovery is likely to be somewhat twisty with a few rocks along the way.
These bills underpin a process going on in that context. Over the last 5 years this economy has become quite significantly unbalanced. Some of the work we have done shows just how far it has become unbalanced. If we look at what has happened to GDP going back to 2004, we see there are some pretty interesting statistics about the rate of change. The tradable sector, which is the export sector and tourism largely, has actually shrunk by around 10 percent since 2004. Further analysis shows that in the last 10 years that tradable sector—which is the income-earning sector of the economy—has not had any growth in terms of jobs. Within that tradable sector, service exports are down 13 percent. Manufacturing is down 16 percent in the last 5 years. The primary sector has grown a bit—around 2 percent—despite the fact that we went through a cycle of very high commodity prices. Over that time GDP grew, and it is now 7 percent larger than it was in 2004.
What has actually grown in this economy is the non-tradable sector. That is the part of the economy that does not compete internationally, and it includes the Government, domestic construction, and quite a lot of our services, such as restaurants. The non-tradable part of the economy has grown by 15 percent in the last 5 years, and within that, the Government part of it grew by 32 percent. Here we have a pretty stark picture of imbalance in the economy: the export sector shrank by 10 percent and Government administration grew by 32 percent. Over the next 5 years that simply cannot happen, for the very simple reason that to maintain the rate of increase in Government spending that applied over the last 5 years New Zealand would have to borrow at an unsustainable level. It is no different from a household budget. Over the last 5 years Government revenue has grown at half the rate of Government expenditure: Government revenue grew at 25 percent; Government expenditure grew at 50 percent. No company, no business, no Government, and no household can grow its expenditure at twice the rate of its income. It is not a matter of ideology or politics. Over the next 5 years that simply cannot keep going. The reason is not that it would not suit most people; it is just that to finance that rate of Government expenditure we would have to borrow a very large amount of money, and the world may not be willing to lend it to us.
In the last Budget the Government took a number of steps to limit the amount of borrowing it would have to do. Even with the steps taken in the last Budget, Government debt will more than double over the next 4 years. The New Zealand Government will borrow around $40 billion in that time; the current stock of Government debt is about $34 billion. That means that the Government has to pay a good deal of attention to getting value for the taxpayers’ dollars, and there are a few high-profile examples of where that will be a challenge. One example is the accident compensation scheme. The accident compensation scheme system is run through levies. People pay levies, and those levies are likely to substantially increase because the previous Government expanded the coverage and held the levies down. The moment of truth has now arrived. But there is one account—the non-earners account, which is for people such as older people who fall over and break their hip—that the Government finances directly. When we came into office we discovered that there was a hole in that account of $300 million a year. Over the fiscal forecast period, that represents $1.2 billion. Well, the bad news is that the hole is a lot bigger than we thought. It is now about $420 million a year, which over the forecast period represents $1.7 billion of unexpected expenditure. That is the scale of the problem this Government has to deal with.
All the fiscal momentum that was built up under the previous Government has created a high level of public expectation. Our revenue has dropped considerably, and although in the short term there is a benefit to the economy because of the stimulus effect of that increased expenditure, in the long run it is unsustainable. I challenge Opposition members to argue that it is sustainable. I do not think it would help their credibility very much if it did—
Dr Cam Calder: What credibility?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a good question. When we listen to Opposition members, we find that for each and every decision the Government makes, they claim that more money should have been spent. Well, more money being spent means more borrowing from a world that is being fairly careful about whom it is lending to.
The Government is working assiduously with the public sector, and I must say that the leadership of the public sector has shown a ready willingness to get to grips with the new realities. It is not just getting to grips with the new Government, as it is part of the professionalism of the leadership of the public sector to handle a change in Government; probably the bigger change is the change in the fiscal outlook. In health, for instance, it is simply not tenable that health expenditure can grow at 8 percent per year. It just cannot keep going. That is just a matter of fact, and, fortunately, the leadership of the health sector is starting to get a realistic grip of that fact. Right through our discussions with the public sector we aim to provide improved services for the public. That will mean sorting out priorities and making decisions based on those priorities. The fact is that some things matter more than others. Where there has been low-quality and ineffective expenditure, we will need to reallocate that money, because there are still plenty of high-priority needs in our community, and sometimes in a recession those needs grow. But I think we need to be straightforward about the need for that prioritisation and the will of this Government to do it.
We are heading out to rebalance the economy after 10 years of economic mismanagement—10 years of too much borrowing and too much spending. The next 10 years have to be about saving, investing, exporting, and reward for effort, and these bills indicate some of the decisions that the Government is making to achieve that.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition)
: I move,
That all words after “and” be omitted, and the following substituted: “that this House condemns the decision of the Government to pre-empt the democratic process through the select committee on
Auckland governance regarding Māori representation, and in doing so ignored the views of submitters and members of the public on this issue.”
First of all, I will touch on the financial side of what the Minister has just said. Every morning Bill English gets up and thanks God that the previous Labour Government never followed his advice when he was in Opposition, which was to spend the surplus. Mr English inherited from a Labour Government—a responsible Labour Government—a zero net Government debt situation and one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the world. That is why New Zealand is weathering the recession as well as it is. It is because of the very situation that Bill English inherited.
We have major concerns about the direction that the Budget took and about its ineffectiveness in countering the soaring levels of unemployment. In the last quarter of the household labour force survey, unemployment went up at the fastest rate in 20 years—the fastest rate in 20 years—and Mr English has done nothing in the financial appropriations that will turn that situation round. We are concerned about the lack of fairness and the poor priorities in this Budget.
We are concerned that Mr English can bring in legislation that slashes the funding for therapy for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged kids in schools. We are concerned that he can bring in legislation that kills adult education, with its proud history of more than a century of delivering to the needs of continuing education, although the Government somehow has the money—$35 million—to fund private education and kids who are already advantaged.
We have concerns also that this Budget lacks any real plan to seize the opportunity that will be created by the upturn in the international economy. Ironically, our economy will do better, probably, out of the stimulus packages of Australia and the United States than it will do out of anything that Bill English has moved through this House. We know that there will be an upturn, and surely this Budget should have prepared New Zealand for that with investment in research and development, and investment in skills and training so that we approach that upturn able to take advantage of it and able to improve the standard of living and the well-being of our people.
I come back to the amendment I have moved to the motion. It is about our concern that, once again, this Government has refused to consult genuinely with people and to listen to what people were trying to tell it. It is no wonder that the personal relationships amongst the members of the National Government and the coalition parties came apart in the outburst from Tau Henare yesterday. His calling the leader of one of the parties that gives the Government supply and confidence a “buffoon” and a “jerk-off” underlies the frustration of people in the National Government—including, I believe, Georgina te Heuheu. I read her speech back in 2001 in which she supported the creation of Māori seats in the Bay of Plenty. National, which was then in Opposition, gave her the right to vote for that legislation, but it is currently denying that right to its members.
It is no wonder that Tau Henare was as angry as he was. He was given the job of going around the Auckland marae, talking to people about the bill on Auckland City, telling them that they would be listened to, and telling them that the Government would take account of what they were saying to the select committee. I believe that Tau Henare did so in good faith. But the good faith was not followed by Mr Key and his Government, who pulled the rug out from under the select committee, said they had already made the decision on Māori seats, and did not even want to hear what the select committee was considering, what it might deliberate on, and what it might report back to the House.
It is no wonder that the
New Zealand Herald
stated that that was an abuse of the due process of democracy. New Zealanders and Aucklanders turned up to a select committee to give their submissions on what the Government might decide to do, only
to find out that the Government had already made the decision. The Government did not want to know about their views. Rodney Hide had promised earlier in the process that he would respect the select committee. He did no such thing. He threatened to throw his toys out of the cot and resign if there were to be Māori seats, and John Key, who had made it clear to Pita Sharples and Rodney Hide that he was supporting Māori seats, caved in to that pressure, backed down, and left Tau Henare in an impossible position.
Māori representation is not a new concept. There are seven Māori members of Parliament here, and they were elected in precisely the same way that we would have Auckland councillors represented from Māori seats in Auckland. In 2001 Labour passed a bill that gave Māori people the chance to have representation on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The chair of Environment Bay of Plenty came out yesterday and said that that situation has worked well, not only for Māori people but for all the people of the Bay of Plenty. If we get people involved, get them participating, and ensure their representation, then we will have a strong democracy—and it is not just about the issues themselves; it is about consultation, and this consultation programme was an absolute sham.
Ngarimu Blair is the spokesman for Ngāti Whātua. He called the process a masquerade, a sham, and a farce. For political reasons, the Government had already decided what it was going to do, regardless of what the public said. I have a quote here from John Key. He promised that “The Government is not so arrogant that it won’t listen to the submissions that are made before or during the select committee process.” That statement is sheer hypocrisy and is not sustained by what the Government actually did.
The submissions were 60 percent in favour of having Māori seats; 20 percent were opposed. Mr Key said he would listen and would not be arrogant. He did not listen and he was arrogant. The Government disregarded entirely the submissions that were made and the process through which those submissions were put forward.
I recall that straight after the royal commission’s report John Key and Rodney Hide made a decision about where Auckland was going, without any consultation at all. I recall that a bill was rammed through this Parliament—on a Saturday night, under urgency—without being referred to a select committee. What did Government members tell us at the time? They said that there would be consultation and that there would be a second bill on which people could have their say. It was to be the showcase of National’s consultation on Auckland City. What did we find? We found—again—that it was a sham and a fraud on the people of Auckland. There has been much rhetoric about the select committee process, but it has not been taken seriously.
I will finish by mentioning a quote from the other major tribe in Auckland, Tainui. Tuku Morgan said of Mr Key that “He says the relationship with Maori is a significant relationship. Well, clearly that’s amounted to nothing.” The Māori Party went into a coalition with National on the basis of a mana-enhancing relationship. The decision by National not to have Māori seats has stripped that relationship of any mana. The decision by National is contrary to democratic process. The decision by National shows that it is utterly contemptuous of and arrogant about the right of people in Auckland to be heard on what will happen to their city.
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (Minister for Courts)
: I am very pleased to speak in the debate on the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill. I will make some comments relative to the Leader of the Opposition’s speech a minute ago. Yes, there is no doubt disappointment over the Auckland seats issue. There is no doubt about that; the disappointment is around us, for all to see. Yes, I did cross the floor in 2002 to support Mita Ririnui’s bill. I did that partly because the Bay of Plenty is an area I know well, and because it seemed to me that that was the thing to do for that area at the time.
Thankfully, my party allowed me to do so. But in the end it may be that the best way for the seats to eventually come in across this country at local government level is for it to happen in exactly the same way that Mita Ririnui did it for the Bay of Plenty. The Bay of Plenty wanted to have Māori seats, and the fact that they work shows what a wise move that was. In the end, the Tuku Morgans of this world will find a way to ensure that their voice is heard as mana whenua. Māori in Auckland will make sure they find a way to do that.
This House—and this Government, in particular—wants to focus on some of the things that really matter at this point in time: literacy and numeracy for Māori and Pacific children, training initiatives, more support for training, and job opportunities. Those are the things that lift the lives of Māori individuals, Māori children, and Māori young adults today, not the issue of seats. Seats are an important issue, but they are not as important as the things that this Government wants to focus on, which are about lifting the lives of individuals, families, and communities, and the rebalancing of the economy, which the Minister of Finance talked about today. Rebalancing the economy is absolutely critical to ensuring that every individual, family, and community flourishes and grows into the future.
I will focus briefly on the area of Māori development and Māori advancement. National believes in and supports the notion that the job of a Government is to create the framework that allows individuals and communities to flourish. That is what is happening in our approach to Māori issues across the board. The seats are important, but they do not necessarily lift Māori families at this point in time.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Oh, cut it out, Georgie.
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: They do not, and that member knows it. Mind you, when that member was in Government he did not know what would lift Māori families. He did not know that then, and he does not know it now.
We inherited a long tail of dysfunction, and that member knows it. Over 50 percent of Māori boys cannot read and write. That is what was bequeathed to our Government when we came into office. Māori seats will not fix that, but national standards in schools will, and literacy and numeracy will. More training and job opportunities are what fix the issues that Māori families worry about on a daily basis. The previous Minister of Māori Affairs did not get that. He was good at going around the marae, and I give him credit for that, but ultimately we inherited a long tail of underachievement, which Labour should be absolutely ashamed of.
I will look at some of the things we are doing in terms of education—I see Minister Tolley in the House. Despite the economic downturn, we have a whole raft of initiatives designed to lift Māori and Pacific individuals, particularly those individuals and families in our communities who are not doing well because Labour, which was profligate when in Government, wasted the surpluses and did not address the issues at all.
Regarding the spending on public services, I say there is a $3 billion boost for health services, $1.68 billion of spending on education to raise student achievement, plus 600 more police, 246 more probation workers, more infrastructure—roads, in particular—and more schools. Maintaining people’s entitlements is absolutely important. There is $1.68 billion over the years 2008 to 2013 to improve facilities for education. We will be building new schools, modernising existing ones, helping students to meet the national standards, and making sure that if young New Zealanders are not in training, they at least have opportunities to look towards that. The things that matter are education, health, boosting Māori providers, strengthening Māori business, and developing a Māori tourism strategy, which the previous Government never did. All of those things will improve the lives of Māori way, way before having seats in local government would.
Labour thinks that we appear to have a slight hiccup here—and that is all it is. We know my colleague Tau Henare, and we know that sometimes he just has to make a comment; he cannot help himself.
Hon Members: Oh!
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: That is a very affectionate comment; it is not a criticism. I admire him, and he has been here way longer than any of those members. Tau Henare will say what he wants to say, but that does not a rift make. Labour wishes it would. It has the temerity to think that somehow, over this one hiccup, it can get the Māori Party on its side. Labour does not have a hope of doing that. Those members would not have a clue about how to respectfully court the Māori Party. Helen Clark called the Māori Party the last cab off the rank, but the Labour members think that this one hiccup for us will somehow get that cab to go to them. It absolutely cannot. The Labour Party did not treat its Māori members properly; otherwise Tariana Turia would still be sitting over there. Where is she? She is not there; she was totally humiliated by that party.
Paul Quinn: Where is she?
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: She is still on our side of the House. Labour would not have a clue about what respect or mana is. Labour trampled on Tariana Turia when she was there, and it has not done anything this year to win the affection or respect of the Māori Party.
The Māori Party will be with us for a long time to come. There is no doubt we will have our ups and downs; that is what happens in a family. But essentially we have laid a long-term plank for the Māori Party to hopefully remain with us. Labour, with all its Māori support for all of those years, trampled on the interests of Māori people and does not have a show of winning the Māori seats back. Certainly, for the time being Labour does not have a show of winning the Māori Party to its side.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour)
: I am delighted to take a call in this debate today on the third reading of the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill and the second reading of the Imprest Supply (Second for 2009/10) Bill. It seems a long, long time since Budget 2009, since Bill English walked through those double doors with his brand new shirt and tie on, clutching his blue Budget in his hands. He was so excited and eager. It is a long, long time since the Government primed up the National backbench to clap at every pause and every apostrophe in his speech. Every punctuation mark got a round of applause from the National backbenchers. They looked adoringly and longingly at the Minister of Finance. There has been a lot happening in the New Zealand community since Budget 2009.
Since that time, 2,000 people a week have been thrown on to the unemployment scrap heap in this country. That does not matter much to the National Party, but the public is certainly starting to take notice of it. They are feeling it in their families and in their pockets. They know that we have a big problem. The Minister for Social Development and Employment said that unemployment was just a blip, but I have to tell her that that blip is becoming a blight on the landscape of New Zealand. Then we have the Prime Minister telling New Zealanders that the recession will be over by Christmas. Unfortunately, his Minister of Finance does not agree with him, and I note that last night, when the Minister of Internal Affairs was shovelling out some cheques from the Lotteries Commission, he said that organisations were going to need that money because it was not known when the recession would be over. The people of New Zealand have been looking at what this Government’s response is to the growing number of people who are being made unemployed. We were told that there was a rolling maul of initiatives, but it seems to me that it is a rolling maul where they seldom find the ball. There is a lot of eye gouging going on. We have seen that in the last few days between the ACT Party and the National Party, and the Māori Party and the ACT
Party. It seems to me that whenever they get near the ball, all the Prime Minister does is kick the ball for touch.
The Government held a summit where it was going to solve the unemployment problem in New Zealand. It was billed as refreshing, exciting, and collaborative. It was idea-generating and visionary, but it produced a 9-day fortnight in which 33 companies showed an interest. It produced a cycleway that was going to be from the North Cape to the Bluff and create 3,700 jobs, but unfortunately that big idea is now a number of little bike rides and there is no talk of jobs at all. This Government has been unable to produce a decent idea to help New Zealanders who have become unemployed. What does the business community think about that summit? The Research New Zealand business confidence report for July said that it was very, very disappointed in this Government. Only one in every hundred businesses signalled that they had any faith in the Job Summit producing any gains for small business. Nearly 50 percent were convinced it would have zero impact on their business—
Hon Steve Chadwick: How many?
Hon ANNETTE KING: “Zero percent impact” said 50 percent of the businesses surveyed. They thought the summit was a joke; it was a joke. That was that Government’s response to the unemployment rates.
In the meantime, the numbers climb every day. People are going on to benefits every day in New Zealand. We now have 310,296 on main benefits in New Zealand. That is up from 258,000 and growing fast. What has this Government’s response been? It has been a whole lot of slogans. Let us name them. We have ReStart, and today we heard about Fresh Start for young offenders. We have Job Ops, we have Community Max, and today we got boot camps. They are a whole lot of flash names and very little action. The number of people going on to these programmes, in relation to the number of people who are becoming unemployed, is minuscule. I ask members to look at the ReStart programme, the flagship programme from Paula Bennett a few weeks ago. We know the number of people going onto the ReStart programme has gone down every week in the last month. The unemployment numbers are going up, but the number of people who can access this flagship programme are going down.
Then we had Job Ops. We know that one-third of those on the unemployment benefit are young people. It is a serious issue. Paula Bennett rolls out her latest slogan, which is Job Ops. Employers will get $5,000 for each new job they create for a young person. Only there is a problem—they are not new jobs that are being created. Employers around New Zealand are saying they are existing vacancies that would have been filled by a New Zealander; they are not new jobs. What have we got? We have exactly what Grey Power said to me would happen; we have the old unemployment merry-go-round under way. So $5,000 is given to an employer to take on a young person and deny an opportunity for an older person, who then goes on the unemployment benefit. It does not make a jot of difference to unemployment in New Zealand. It has a feel-good factor for the Government and that is all. As Grey Power said, we have many people aged 50-plus who are now not getting jobs at all and not getting a look in. They are not getting a subsidy. If they have a partner who works, they get no help at all. They have families, they have mortgages, and they are under considerable stress.
This is the time when one would have thought that a Government would invest in skills and in education, and would train people to be ready for the uplift in the economy that will happen. But what did it do? It cut many of the important programmes that would have helped New Zealanders into jobs. It cut community education, cut scholarships, and cut the training incentive allowance—the very assistance that got the Minister for Social Development and Employment into a job. At this time when we
should have these tools to help people get jobs, the Government cut them. It does not make sense. No one can make sense of it.
So what is this Government doing? It has decided that it will rule by committees. It has set up 40 committees since the election, one for every week that National has been in Government.
Hon Members: How many?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Forty committees! The Government has set up review committees and regulatory review committees. It has set up advisory groups and technical advisory groups. It has set up ministerial panels, boards of inquiry, task forces, expert panels, policy forums, and working groups. It is a Government run by committees and bureaucrats. Every one of those committees has to have a whole lot of people to run them. They have to have a travel budget and they have to have consultants to run their committees. This is a Government that cannot make a decision. It kicks the ball for touch. It sets up committees, reviews, task forces, panels, and forums, but will it make a decision that will benefit New Zealanders? No, it will not.
We are very, very concerned at the lack of action by this Government when it comes to people who are unemployed in New Zealand. Over 50,000 people are now on the unemployment benefit. Over 138,000 people are out of work, and by next December we are looking at 180,000-plus people out of work. In the meantime, let us have another committee! Let us have another task force! Let us have another review! But, for goodness’ sake, do not put in place anything that will make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders. This Budget could have done so much for so many people; it did so little. It is a real disappointment.
METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green)
: Last year in the equivalent debate—this debate happens every year—my colleague and co-leader of the Green Party, Russel Norman, said that the defining realities of the 21st century were threefold. The first was the real constraint of resource depletion, particularly of oil, fresh water, and arable lands. The second was the decreasing capacity of the planet to absorb our pollution and our waste, like carbon dioxide. The third was our addiction as a species to exponential growth in both resource use and waste production. These are global realties but they are played out every day in our own communities. They are made real by the current twin crises that our communities face—the crisis of the global recession and that of climate change.
Each Government is required to deal with these constraints in a practical and effective way that protects the community and the environment, that prepares for the consequences of an oil-constrained world, and that ensures our country will continue to prosper in the world. This was the opportunity for this new Government to demonstrate that capacity. But doing so required a New Zealand Government to understand one basic fundamental truth about the New Zealand economic context: no environment—no economy. In a climate crisis, action now saves us money. In a recession, every job counts.
The Green Party, of course, has had the common sense to recognise that our economy is 100 percent dependent on our environment. That is why, prior to the Budget announcement, we released a Green New Deal stimulus package, of a very modest investment of $3.3 billion over 3 years, that would create 43,000 new jobs for New Zealanders. Unlike this Government’s stale 19th century approach of taking money from the most vulnerable in order to provide subsidies to the most powerful, our Green New Deal package would help to develop a stronger, more resilient, and more prosperous economy for everyone in our country.
Alongside the stimulus package we have produced a range of measures, in a report called
Getting there, to reduce our carbon emissions in order to meet a responsible
emissions target of 30 to 40 percent. We must reduce our carbon emissions and increase our carbon sinks if we are to protect our economy and our environment from the worst costs of climate change. These are the Green twin solutions to the twin crises. Our Green twin solutions will help to ensure we have a prosperous nation ready for the challenges of the 21st century. Our Green twin solutions propose major energy efficiency improvements—for example, the reduction of the demand for energy and the reduction of carbon emissions—while saving money for our New Zealand families. Home insulation will reduce energy demand and save families money in their power bills. Business efficiency upgrades will increase productivity and save energy costs for businesses. Speeding up the replacement of the Huntly coal-fired power station by new geothermal and wind generation, which is already in the pipeline, will also help to reduce costs and save on carbon emissions. These investments in major energy efficiency and reduction in energy demand will create some 2,700 jobs. In a climate crisis, early action saves us money. In a recession every job counts.
This Government has dedicated huge amounts of public money into the building of motorways. The Greens’ twin solutions clearly show that this use of public funds is grossly irresponsible. The Government argues that because 85 percent of New Zealanders go to work by car, we therefore have to spend all our money on roads. But we know that our public transport system is creaking at the seams. Indeed, just this year there was a 10 percent growth in the use of public transport in Auckland. Public transport usage grew by 3.9 million trips. But the Government is stuck in the 19th century and is failing to deal with these real issues of climate change, peak oil, and the costs that are therefore borne by our families. Our Green twin solutions will reduce our emissions, reduce families’ transport costs, and reduce our current account deficit, in part through the lessening over time of our dependence on oil, and therefore in the spending of some $8 billion a year on oil imports. Our solutions would reduce our oil imports by moving funding from low-quality spending on new motorways into high-quality spending on increased public transport capacity. We know that we can create 40 percent more jobs through spending on public transport, safer cycling, and walking than on roads. We would reduce congestion, pollution, child road deaths, and costs to business. We would help our current account deficit, as I have outlined. In a climate crisis, action now will save us money, and in a recession every job counts.
The Government’s decision to axe funding for children and their families was a key means by which big business and wealthy interests were subsidised through tax cuts and other subsidies. It was a key means by which this Government took money from the most vulnerable to give to the most powerful. Funding is being slashed in adult and community education. Enviroschools funding has been slashed, and 675 schools and over 200,000 children are losing the support that the Government provided to that important programme. Three million dollars a year has been axed from the Nutrition Fund, which was set up to help schools have healthy eating and edible garden initiatives. We know that poor diet contributes to poor learning outcomes, and that poor diet contributes to some 8,000 preventable deaths in this country, yet the Minister has axed food and nutritional guidelines. There have been cuts to funding for 80 projects that were supported through the Enterprise Allowance scheme. These were projects that provided employment in local and rural areas, the basis of quality economic development in those areas where it was most needed by New Zealand families.
Our Green twin solutions will protect our families, and our country’s children. We want New Zealanders to be warmly housed, to be healthy and well, and to have access to affordable food and clean water so our kids can learn better at school. More of our communities will have warmer, drier, and healthier homes under the Greens’ twin solutions, including the 6,000 extra homes built by otherwise unemployed builders,
plumbers, and electricians. We will get the families that are desperately in need of homes off the waiting lists and with a roof over their heads. Social cohesion will be better encouraged during these particularly tough times, especially for our older folk who rely on programmes like adult and community education to stay connected to the communities they have supported through many, many years of work and volunteering. We will support communities by investing in community economic development initiatives. Recycling and waste initiatives, if they are locally and community-owned, return much more to the local community than do national or international companies. We will invest in free, low-cost health care, community transport, community gardens, river and coastal restoration projects, and the creation of some 700 extra jobs.
This Government, through its Budget initiatives, has returned this country to the 19th century. The provision of more roads and the development of more coal-fired power stations, through some of the legislation the Government has passed, denies the reality of an increasingly constrained resource-constrained environment. Our country must be prepared for the new challenges of the new century, as opposed to looking back to the old century. Our Green twin solutions to the twin crises would set New Zealand on a path to a low-carbon, less oil-dependent, more prosperous future. Our twin solutions will ready our communities and help to protect them by providing new jobs and protecting the environment on which our economy is so completely dependent. In a climate crisis early action—action now—will save us money. In a recession every job counts. The Green Party’s twin solutions to the twin crises would provide that; this Government has taken us backwards. Thank you.
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS (ACT)
: Listening to the Committee stage of the appropriations debate reminds me how many of the issues that we have debated over the last few months are precisely the same issues that have been debated in this Chamber for at least 40 years. In 1979 I wrote a paper advocating broadening the tax base and lowering tax. That paper got me sacked from the front bench. Today the Tax Working Group is undertaking the same project.
Although some things have not changed, there are some things that have changed, and I am not sure that all of them have changed for the better. Today’s political parties, it seems to me, are obsessed not with goals, not with things that we want to achieve, but with the way that things operate. There is no rational political discussion about setting goals and determining the best way to achieve them. Instead, politicians pigeon-hole each other according to how they want to manage things. A brief look at what the parties have been saying during the debate on this legislation demonstrates this particularly well.
When I was a member of the Labour Party we almost always agreed on what we wanted—a decent education for our children, an economy that ensured people had jobs, and a welfare care system that looked after people. We used to debate how to get there, and there was a lot of disagreement on that. Some believed in centralisation and clever bureaucrats, and others thought that we needed to make people responsible for themselves and to ensure that those who fell through the cracks had a safety net. We agreed, in other words, on the ends, but we argued about the means.
Listening to the debate on this legislation and other legislation in this House, I cannot help but realise that today’s Labour Party is the complete opposite. The ends its members seek are different. Some want a growing economy, some want to eradicate poverty—
Hon Darren Hughes: This is National’s bill.
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS: That is all right. I am talking about that member’s debate. Some Labour members want to stop economic growth, in the name of the environment. But the one thing they all agree upon is the means. They all agree that the
best way to achieve the diverse ends they seek is through larger Government and the centralisation of power. That is what we have heard over recent times. They never tell us why centralisation is a good thing. They just tell us that it is so. There is no better illustration of this than the recent member’s bill introduced by Phil Twyford, which sought to protect and retain State ownership of assets owned by local councils. To Phil Twyford, State ownership is all-important. He never talked about the best way to get value from the assets, he never talked about the proper role of Government, and he never talked about what he wanted those assets to achieve for the people of Auckland. As long as the State had its hands on the assets, he was happy. That is Labour today.
The same narrow view is present in education. When Anne Tolley and Heather Roy announced education scholarships for up to 250 students from low-income backgrounds, Labour members were opposed. They said it was the privatisation of education. They were never willing to argue the merits of a few vouchers, over State monopoly. State monopoly has become their goal. It is obsessed not with goals but with structures. The reality is that Labour’s inability to argue sensibly over means ensures that it will always be blindsided by National. National is hardly radical; it is just aiming to manage things better than Labour. If Labour was to come out in favour of increased competition between State-run schools—or State-run hospitals—as a means of increasing education quality, which is something entirely consistent, I would have thought, with its principles, that it could easily outflank National and put it on the back foot.
Labour, as currently structured, however, and as evidenced in this debate, has a situation where the privileged special interests that lurk amongst it—the unionists, the teachers, the ex - student politicians—have control of the party. It is predictable that these people are more concerned with preserving the current structures that privilege certain groups at the expense of the general public, but the policies are not, in my view, doing Labour a favour.
During this debate, National also confirmed what we have come to know, and that is that National is a party that is fundamentally conservative. It largely accepts the status quo and seeks to manage it better. There have been a few exceptions, such as National under Ruth Richardson, but people do not necessarily last if they are in that camp. We are seeing a sense of conservatism in National. From 2005 to 2007 Labour increased Government spending by over $7 billion. From 2009 to 2011—and some of that period is covered by the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill—National will increase its spending by over $5 billion. It may be slowing down the progression to an even larger State, but it is certainly not reversing it. National is, and always will be, timid. That was evident in the selection of some of the Cabinet Ministers who were placed in various positions
Grant Robertson: Tell us which ones!
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS: Do members want me to mention one or two?
Grant Robertson: Yes!
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS: I am happy to do that if called on, but, on the other hand, I think it is self-evident who they are.
National has become the political manager. It engages in political stunts and short-term opportunism. The cycleway, the Job Summit, and the housing insulation scheme are current examples of political expediency. The problem with such a tokenistic approach to politics is that people are smarter than most politicians think. People are well aware that in their private lives sacrifices are often made to improve their prospects in the future. People save to buy a house, and go without to get a tertiary education. The voting public grows weary as politicians continually try to massage the polls by adopting short-term, popular policy.
I will finish by saying that, in many ways, I have been disappointed with the approach of the Māori Party, as well. It seems to me that the Māori Party, more than any other party, has the opportunity to help its people. Unfortunately, I think, too often it grandstands on one small issue after another. But I believe that Māori people rightly have very real grievances in some big issues. Let me very quickly take the example of superannuation. Māori people often pay into superannuation early, and they often retire but do not live as long as others. Māori people are not treated equally in terms of superannuation. That is the sort of big issue the Māori Party should bring to this House, because I think that if it was pushing that issue, it might just win.
RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga)
: When I spoke on Vote Health a couple of weeks ago, I shared with members the warning issued by the World Health Organization that in the past we have seen the social sectors robbed in times of economic downturn, with dire long-term consequences. Little did I know that now the picture would look even worse. We know now that the unemployment rate for Māori 15 to 24-year-olds was 20.8 percent for the year ended June 2009. That is up from 16.9 percent a year ago. In absolute numbers, that is an increase from 11,500 to 15,600. The Māori Party has received considerable expressions of concern from around the motu about the shock announcement in Budget 2009 that restricted eligibility for the training incentive allowance for tertiary study at level 4 and above. As we know, about 4,500 beneficiaries a year will be affected by the change. Beneficiaries already getting the allowance for university degrees will continue to do so for another 2 years, but anyone enrolling in new courses at level 4 or above since Budget day will not qualify.
We have to question the logic behind some of these changes. Sometimes it appears the Government is taking away with one hand and giving with another, and it is not always clear why. It is hard to understand the rationale for targeting solo parents or those on the invalids benefits doing tertiary courses, such as diplomas or university degrees. They are no longer eligible for support. It is hard to understand the cut to the Health and Disability Innovation Fund to help disabled people into employment. It is nigh on impossible to understand the reason for disestablishing from 2010 Skill Enhancement and, in particular, its very effective Rangatahi Māia programme. In a similar vein, we have many questions around why the adult literacy educator grants will now be significantly reduced and reprioritised.
One of the more well-read lines in the coalition agreement negotiated between the Māori Party and the National Party pertains to the “agree to disagree” provisions. We will continue to articulate our concerns when we see budget cuts. We will persist with the hard questions, and we have no qualms in doing so. To paraphrase the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, ours is to reason why, not but to do and die. We have too much at stake to sit in this House and not hold each of us to account for the grim reality of the current economic situation. All of us must heed the warning of the Family Centre social policy research centre and Waikato University, which suggested earlier this week that New Zealand’s baby boomers could end up living in poverty if critical issues of income, housing, and health are not addressed.
Any one of us in the House could stand and report on the grim state of his or her electorate: the impact of rapidly rising power bills, the consequences of redundancy being realised in the increasing length of the queue lining up for food parcels, poor health, and compromised housing. But this is not the Charge of the Light Brigade. I will highlight some of the critical steps that are helping to lift our people out of these dire consequences. The groups I have met with appreciate the timely support of the Community Response Fund, designed to assist non-governmental organisations affected by the recession. With an announcement imminent any day, I know that many social service providers will be waiting eagerly to hear whether they will get the extra support
necessary to help them cope with either a funding crisis or a significant increase in demand for their services. There is also the Community Max programme, led by my colleague Tariana Turia. It is fantastic to learn that over 250 community groups have already registered their interest in this programme. With the help of the Māori Party networks, we will make sure that that number grows. Other announcements have provided a source of comfort to many of our families as they negotiate difficult times. I am really proud of the work the Māori Party has done with the Minister of Housing to help draw attention to the need for social and affordable housing. I know that many of our families are keen to look further into the opportunity to build houses on multiple-owned Māori land that the Minister announced last week.
Of course, it is not all plain sailing. We have noted today the announcement of the Fresh Start package for young offenders. This issue arose during the select committee consideration of strategies to address the country’s worst youth offenders. The Māori Party was concerned to read the submission to the Social Services Committee from Unicef, which advised: “Children are in danger of being victimised to respond to somewhat populist but ill considered proposals to satisfy the ‘pitchfork and torches’ mentality calling for more punitive, harder, harsher treatment of young offenders.” I think it is of value to refer to the research of Lipsey, who developed a meta-analysis of 20 different studies of wilderness programmes involving more than 3,000 juvenile offenders. Lipsey found that programmes involving a combination of relatively intense physical activity and therapeutic enhancement—such as individual counselling, family therapy, and group sessions—were especially effective. The key theme across all of these studies is that rolling out national programmes based on inadequate evidence can do more harm than good.
Although we are pleased with some of the projects that have been included in the package today, I want to end with a conclusion from a range of studies looking at mentoring high-risk minority youth, in particular the Brothers Project. That study concluded that caring adults make an important difference in the lives of vulnerable youth. There is a message in that for all of us. It seems to me that in a caring nation our priority would be to support and keep warm those people at the front line of our families, not to push them out into the cold. A caring nation would also be a nation in which we deal with the chronic levels of abuse and violence that keep occurring. I am pleased at the announcement that my colleague Tariana Turia made yesterday regarding the establishment of a high-level ministerial group to address family violence. At the end of the day, all of the infrastructure in the world, having all the assets in place, and all these economic developments will mean nought if our children are not able to reap the benefits. We must put the foundations in place to achieve the vision of well-being for all.
So in the debate on the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill I want to plant the seed for future appropriations to work towards strategies to achieve the aspiration of whānau ora. The achievement of whānau ora has to be the most significant pathway to move us onwards from talk to action, and from a time of crisis to a focus on prevention. At its very heart, it is about restoring our homes to places of safety and love, where healthy partnerships are the norm. It is an aspiration that the Māori Party has firmly staked its future on. As a final word, I have to wonder at the value of the efforts that have gone into seeking the opportunity to smack, rather than thinking of more nurturing and loving alternatives. I would love to see a referendum that asks New Zealanders: “Do you agree that the greatest gift of all we can give our children is the commitment that we will provide them with unconditional love, security, and safety?”. That is a referendum I hope the whole nation could sign up to.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police)
: Following on from the speaker who has just resumed her seat, can I say that a caring nation is also a responsible nation. Caring families are also responsible families. That is why it is with such pleasure that I rise to speak on behalf of the Government in relation to the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill.
This is a caring Government that has produced a responsible Budget. Nothing could say that more than the fact that this Government has delivered on its election promises. It has, in the worst economic times we have seen in three generations, been able not only to deliver on those promises but also to increase spending in the areas where it was most needed, and at the same time have our credit rating saved despite all the doom and gloom talk from the Opposition.
I will touch on just a couple of the things that I am most pleased about in this Budget, and they are in relation to corrections. This Government took over a Department of Corrections that had been seriously underfunded, in particular in relation to the probation service. This is an area that has come under increasing stress over the last some years, and the reason is that there are more and more community-programme sentences for the service to look after. We had an increasing offender population to deal with in community services, but, unfortunately, not sufficient funding. There was a small increase in the number of probation officers, but actually so much more was needed.
One of the things I found out when I came into Government was that the previous Minister, the Hon Phil Goff, had received an application from the Department of Corrections in September last year outlining just how critical the parole system and probation service were, and how there was a need for urgent funding. That request for help did not even get a reply. That was the service that we got to take over. We were left with the Auditor-General’s report into the status of the parole system. It was a damning report. But in a very short period of time we have been able to work closely with the chief executive and the senior staff at the Department of Corrections, and, with a great deal of support from around the justice sector, we have been able to turn round the Community Probation and Psychological Services system that was in dire need. All of that required funding.
We are injecting a further $255.9 million into the probation service. I would like to thank my colleagues for the support they have given me in helping to turn this service round. Budget operating funding of $133.8 million over 4 years will enable Community Probation and Psychological Services to recruit an extra 134 probation officers, 26 front-line managers, and 20 psychologists, which will ensure that it can effectively manage almost 100,000 sentences and orders a year. These are good people who are doing their very best, many of whom are very well trained people who have come into the Community Probation and Psychological Services to do good work, and it is important that they get support.
Another $71.2 million operating funding has been approved over 4 years to recruit an extra 112 probation officers, three front-line managers, and three psychologists to improve the quality of parole and home-detention management. We cannot continue down the path of simply locking people up in jail for year after year, consistently increasing sentences, and sending out into the world people who are damaged by their time locked up in prison and who are certainly not made better people. It is appalling that we have gone down this track. We had years of it under the previous administration and it has to be brought to a close. We need to deal with the fact that we have 8,500 prisoners today locked up in our jails.
Our population in New Zealand is about 4 million. The population of Queensland, Australia—not a state known for its soft-on-crime attitudes—is about 4 million. We
have 8,500 sentenced prisoners; Queensland has 4,500 prisoners. I think that says it all, really. We are locking people up and letting them come out of the prison service worse people than when they went in, not better. It is appalling for members of the previous Government ever to try to take any credit in the area of law and order, because they should not. Most of our prisoners have drug and alcohol problems. Many of them are addicts. Yet only 500 places were made available in our prison service for drug and alcohol treatment programmes. In the first 3 years of the John Key - led National Government we are doubling the number of treatment places.
That is 1,000 places, but it is still not enough. I note that the Green speakers have often said to me that we should have more. Well, we should, but we have to start somewhere. Not only that, but previously they have been available only to people near the end of their sentences and to people who have been sentenced to long sentences, not in fact to the people most likely to benefit—in other words those who will be there for 2 years or less. The Department of Corrections has been working very hard on getting a programme available for people who are sentenced to a shorter term of imprisonment. I believe that that is great work from the Department of Corrections. I would like to thank its staff for all their support and the work they are doing, because they are particularly dedicated towards this area.
We also obviously have to increase the number of prison beds, because we will run out of them by February next year. As well, I found out to my horror that the previous Minister, the Hon Phil Goff, was advised of new projections in the prison population back in 2007, and that the Government of the day refused to accept the new projections because, clearly, they did not suit its rhetoric. We have therefore been left with a number of problems: an increasing prison population, people sentenced to very long sentences, very few drug and alcohol treatment programmes, and the situation of the prisoners we are sending back out into the community. We are having to fund $385.3 million over the next 4 years to make sure we have enough prison beds. This is a problem that we have inherited, but the Department of Corrections is working very well in this area.
I now turn to the role of the New Zealand Police. I am one of those people who believe that the police have a huge job in the role of not only catching criminals but also preventing crime. One of the great things that members will have seen from the Prime Minister’s announcements today on youth justice is the role of the New Zealand Police in running programmes to help young offenders and to get them back on to the straight and narrow. So many of the young offenders whom the police deal with come from homes where really nobody is responsible, and those young people are, in fact, victims of the homes and the families they come from. The police are the right people to be involved in the mix, to help bring those people around so they do not end up going down the inevitable pathway that they had before, of going through the system and into our adult prisons—essentially going through the revolving door of a prison system that lets them come back time and time again.
But apart from that, the police also need the tools to be able to catch the criminals. That is where the roll-out of digital radios is so important. Digital radios are already having an effect in the Wellington area, and I am very hopeful—
Hon Trevor Mallard: That’s right; very good. And it started in the Hutt!
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am very pleased that the previous Government did some work on that; it is working well—and it is good to hear from Mr Mallard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It started in the Hutt!
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: And we are funding it. We are also rolling out Tasers for the police. The police increasingly have to deal with methamphetamine-fuelled crime and violent criminals—people who on a previous day might have had the armed
offenders squad called out and could have been shot. The introduction of Tasers early next year will give the police another tool to deal with offenders in a way that is safe, secure, and, in the vast majority of cases, not life-threatening. That is a major breakthrough for the police.
I commend this legislation to the House. It is a pleasure to be part of the John Key - led Government and to work so well with our support parties in Government: the Māori Party, the ACT Party, and United Future.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri)
: It is always a pleasure to follow that Minister, Judith Collins. She made one of her usual, astounding speeches. I remind that Minister, through the Chair, that her party, only after the election, and despite the crocodile tears we see now, said how shameful it was that we have the second-highest incarceration rate in the world—and it is shameful. It was the National Party in Opposition, though, that said the previous Labour Government was not locking up enough criminals. It was the National Party in Opposition that said the Labour Government was soft on crime. It was the National Party in Opposition that talked about flat-screen TVs, but I have now been around to 12 of our 20-plus prisons, and I have not found one. I have not been shown one. No manager in a prison that I have been into—and I have been to over half of them—has shown me one, and I have asked, where these flat-screen TVs are, apart from showing me the data screens in the central control unit, where they actually observe prisoners and protect prison officers.
Secondly, this was the Opposition, of course, who said we were not locking up enough people. This was the now Minister and her ilk who said before the election that prisons were “Hotel Hiltons”—I think one of the expressions was—and that they were all holiday camps. So I was then astounded to see the Minister walk into the Law and Order Committee with a photo of a cell—I believe it may have been at Mount Crawford or Mount Eden—and say: “This is terrible. Look at what these poor prisoners have to put up with. We want to give them flash containers. It is terrible that prisoners are treated in such a way.” She said that after the election. So unless there has been a sort of road to Damascus experience for that Minister, or unless some medical miracle or miracle of technology has happened that I do not particularly know about in respect of her personality, it is the usual from Judith Collins. She said before the election that we were not tough enough and that we were not locking up enough of them, but now she comes to the Chamber and wrings her hands about how terrible it is that the incarceration rate is so high.
She went on to say that the police, whom she is proud of—indeed, I am very proud of them; I think that every New Zealander is proud of our police force—need adequate resources to fight crime. But did she mention the 343 cars that she has required to be cut out of the police vehicle fleet? Did that Minister at any stage say that she has required a $21 million cut in the police budget? Howard Broad, the Commissioner of Police, confirmed that for us before the Law and Order Committee when I asked him: “Commissioner Broad, if police do not have vehicles, aren’t we going to have a rerun of the 1990s, where the police, under that crew over there when they were in Government, had to wait for an hour to get a car to go on a call-out? Will there not be a greater risk of degradation in response rates, a longer time to respond to crime, because”—and he agreed with me—“that is what happened under the National Government of the 1990s?”. He went so far as to say: “Yes, there is indeed an additional risk to those response times and to those service levels.”
But did we hear the boastful Minister talk about that? Did we hear her say that on the one hand—I think we did—she had given 43 police cars to the fleet, but that on the other hand she had required 343 cars to be taken out of the fleet? She says “Well, that is only non - front-line vehicles.” But I have not met a police officer or a police manager,
and I have questioned a number of them, who can identify for me a non - front-line vehicle. I went to a police station the other day and I asked one of the officers: “Which of the fleet in the car park, mate, are non-frontline vehicles?” The police officer said that all of them were front line. Yet this Minister has stood up and said that the police need—as they do—adequate resources to fight crime. So does that mean a situation, as we had in the 1990s, where the community constable’s car is non - front-line? When the community constable identifies the shoplifter, the bank robber, or whoever, and the offender jumps into a fast car to get away, the community constable—as they had to do in the 1990s when that Government pulled this trick on the community the first time—will have to thumb a ride or get a cab.
Is the community constable’s car non - front-line? Is the youth aid officer’s car at the Kaiapoi police station in my electorate, a car that has now gone? Is the youth aid officer’s car non - front-line? So when we have a spike or movement in youth crime because the youth aid officer cannot get a vehicle to go and deal with young people in a rehabilitative sense, or on occasion to go and chase them up and put the cuffs on, will that Minister stand up and take responsibility? Oh, no. I challenged that Minister at the select committee. I said: “If there is degradation in service and in response times for police because you as Minister have required a cut of $21 million out of the police budget, and a cut of 343 cars, will you as Minister take responsibility for that?”. Do members know what the answer was? She said: “Oh, that’s an operational matter.” She said that it was an operational matter. Oh, but it was not an operational matter when she spoke in the first police bulletin for which she was interviewed as Minister—when she said she had no problem in wading into the police’s operational authority to tell them she wanted her policies implemented, as in where to put 300 extra police, and we will get to that fudged number in a minute. Yet she now says: “Oh, no, it’s operational.”
So I then said to the Minister: “Hang on, if you had given the police an extra $21 million and there had been a wonderful increase in the level of service, I’m sure that wouldn’t have been an operational matter.” I am sure the boastful Minister would want to come to the House and take credit for that. There is silence. It is operational when it is bad news; but she takes credit for what happened under a Labour Government. She puts out a press statement on every police station she has opened in the last 6 to 9 months and the last line of the press statement states: “This demonstrates the National Party’s commitment to the police in fighting crime.”
Hon Darren Hughes: Hang on!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I can anticipate what Darren Hughes is going to ask: “Weren’t all those police stations budgeted for and funded under the last Government?”. But that is not “operational” is it, because this boastful Minister takes credit for that.
Then we come to the notion of 600 extra police, which is the Minister’s stated commitment. It is interesting because she unpicked herself before the Law and Order Committee. We finally got out of her that there will not be 600 additional police over and above the 1,200 staff put in place and funded by the last Labour Government. And how can I prove the great lie that keeps being perpetrated in this House that these people are unfunded? The problem with that is that over 40 of them were recruited under the last Budget of the last Labour Government. They were recruited, and they have to be funded to be recruited. She unpicked herself before the select committee because we finally got out of her that it is not an extra 600 police, it is an extra 240 over and above the 1,250 whom we put in place. If we add the two figures together it is 600, but half of them were provided for and funded from the last Labour Government.
The boastful Minister gets up and plays fast and loose with the facts and the truth. This is a Minister who thrives on selectively doling out information. This is a Government that has put a Budget together and now every week we lose 2,000 extra people on to the dole queue. The Prime Minister criticised Phil Goff and others on our side for saying, before the latest unemployment figures came out, that the figure was 1,300; now we know it is 2,000. Added to that are the 2,800-plus young apprentices who lost their jobs part-way through their apprenticeships, and Government members crow that through their Job Ops scheme they are doing something about youth unemployment! Well, we know about that. There are 9,000 16-to-24-year-olds who will get 6 months, maybe at “McD’s”, flipping the old Big Mac—I am sure Gerry will line up for one of those. Then what happens to those young people? They will be back on the scrap heap. What happens to the 49,000 other 16 to 24-year-olds who are not catered for under the Job Ops scheme that Mr Ryall and Ms Collins boast about? They get nothing.
Then there is also a different sector. Unlike in the 1990s, for the first time under this awful recession there are middle-class folk who were qualified and have worked hard all their working lives, who never thought they would lose their job—they thought they were in a stable position; they thought they had a career right through life—who are losing their jobs. Suddenly that quartile of people—a new quartile, a new sector of people—are losing their jobs and they do not quite know what to do. And this Government is doing nothing for them—not a thing. But Government members get up and talk about this Budget, after they have gutted superannuation and KiwiSaver, and tinkered around the edges of health. They gutted special-needs funding and then reversed that. Mrs Tolley is so proud of the fact that she reversed a $2.5 million cut that sold young kiddies with cerebral palsy down the river. She reversed it after weeks and months of stress for the families. That is the biggest $2.5 million “let’s get it off the front page” strategy of any Government in history. Then she sold those people out again by saying that if the children changed schools their funding was gone.
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health)
: It was very interesting to hear the member opposite Clayton Cosgrove talk about policies for middle-class people who have lost their jobs. The one policy we have heard from the Labour Party this year is that millionaires who lose their jobs should get welfare entitlement. That is what we heard from the members opposite and that is what Phil Goff said. It is the one policy idea we have heard from the Labour Party this year. The other idea is that we can borrow our way out of this recession; whatever we want, we can just borrow. That is what the Labour Party says. It is completely unaware that eventually everything needs to be paid off, and Labour has no record whatsoever for dealing with that.
I am pleased to be following the Hon Judith Collins, the Minister of Police and the Minister of Corrections, in this debate. She is a Minister of Police who will deliver an extra 600 front-line police officers for New Zealand—many of them into South Auckland, where they are desperately needed.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I seek leave to table the transcript of the Law and Order Committee estimates hearing where the Minister admits that what the member said is not the case. It will not be 600.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave has been sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: You don’t like the truth, do you?
Hon TONY RYALL: Actually, it is Labour members who do not like the truth. They do not like the fact that violent crime in this country increased dramatically under the previous Labour Government. They do not like the fact that our police force became completely disenchanted and disconnected because of the leadership of that failed party
opposite. They do not like the fact that this Government is serious about dealing with violent crime and keeping criminals behind bars, where they belong, so that we can keep our streets and communities safe.
I want to talk about the dreadful problems that we inherited in the New Zealand public health system. We inherited a public health system tracking towards financial crisis. We found that district health boards were delivering about $160 million of unfunded services. That is a deficit, and we are expecting it to go up to over $200 million next year.
Hon Darren Hughes: So you’re going to cut that?
Hon TONY RYALL: Mr—what is his name—Hughes, who used to be the MP for Ōtaki and was defeated, asks “What about the cuts?”. I will tell him about the cuts. He was a whip in a Government that weeks before the 2008 election cut $150 million out of the health budget and never put out a press statement.
Hon Darren Hughes: Not true!
Hon TONY RYALL: That is what previous Government members did. If we look at the estimates, we see that they cut $50 million out of health for this year and another $50 million out of the next year. Altogether, $150 million was cut out of the public health budget. We also inherited $600 million of capital infrastructure claims for beds and wards but next to no money to pay for them. It is just dreadful.
The worst part of the health system we inherited was the workforce crisis. We simply did not have enough doctors and nurses engaged in the running of our public health service. [Interruption] The previous Government did about 55 reports over 9 years. It never actually dealt with the problem, but it decided to set up another committee. That committee had endless reports, those reports spurred further reports that needed to be dealt with, and we ended up having 55 health reports. This Government took decisive action to encourage our young doctors, nurses, and midwives to stay in New Zealand. We introduced a voluntary bonding scheme that says to our young midwives, nurses, and doctors that if they stay in the country for 3 to 5 years after they graduate, we will write off their student loans or give them a cash incentive sufficient that after 5 years working in New Zealand in a hard-to-staff area or in a specialty, their loans will be paid off. That scheme has had a huge response. We originally thought we would get about 100 doctors and 250 nurses and midwives wanting to enter the scheme. We ended up getting 950 young New Zealanders wanting to be in the voluntary bonding scheme. I went to the Prime Minister and I said “Prime Minister, we have money for 350; I have 950.” The Prime Minister, John Key, said “We’ll take every single one of those people who want to be in the voluntary bonding scheme.”, and we had to find resources in the health sector to pay for that. We are bringing in policies to keep those young people in New Zealand.
This Budget deserves the support of New Zealanders because half of all new spending pledged in it goes to health. Health got half the new money, and the other 30 departments and Ministers got the other half. That demonstrates the strong commitment and leadership that John Key and Bill English have towards the New Zealand public health service. We have $750 million of new health initiatives being funded in this Budget. That shows that this Government is committed to dealing with the crisis in health that we inherited.
What have we spent some of that money on? Do members know that there are no more general practitioners working in the country today than there were 9 years ago? Despite doubling the health budget and putting a huge amount of money into tertiary education, there are no more general practitioners today than there were 9 years ago.
Hon Dr Wayne Mapp: That’s a mark of Labour failure.
Hon TONY RYALL: That is a real failure by the previous Labour Government. So what are we doing? There are 60 new medical training places in 2009-10, which is the first tranche of the additional 200 new places annually that we will be producing. There will be 25 extra places this year for general practitioner training, increasing to 52 extra places next year. We have set aside $70 million over the next 4 years to train the additional health professionals we need to help support New Zealand’s move to dedicated elective surgery capacity in the next few years. We have also put more money into training for health professionals in rural areas.
The Government has put a huge amount of money into district health boards—$2.1 billion over the next 4 years, $536 million this year. We get little Opposition spokespeople jumping up and saying we have cut $500,000 here and $300,000 there. That is what Labour members tell me I have done, but in fact the Government has put $536 million extra into district health boards this year. It is the single biggest input into district health board funding that there has ever been. We are working diligently with the health sector to improve services for New Zealanders.
We have put in an extra $40 million to increase the length of stay in hospital for New Zealand mums. New Zealand mums made it very clear that they were sick and tired of having problems thrown at them, such as when Wellington Hospital was planning to give $100 Pak ’N Save vouchers to young mums if they got out of the hospital within 6 hours. That is what was planned under Labour. Did the Minister stop it? No; it was going to happen. Did the National Opposition stop it by blowing the whistle? Yes. The hospital was going to give young mums $100—[Interruption] It might interest Mr Hughes eventually. Does Mr Hughes support that plan? Yes, his head is nodding. We do not support that on this side of the House. We want to have longer stays in birthing facilities. We want improved support services for parents. We are funding 24-hour PlunketLine. Why would Helen Clark not fund 24-hour PlunketLine when she promised she would in 1999? National is funding it.
We are doing a lot more. Why is the Labour Party opposed to an extra $15 million this year for hospices? Why is Labour opposed to me contributing $100 million to the home insulation fund? When the Government announced that health was contributing $100 million to the home insulation fund, Ruth Dyson said it was a cut to the health budget. One move that will make a huge difference to respiratory disease in New Zealand and keep kids out of hospital was opposed by that party opposite.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour)
: The member who has just resumed his seat, Tony Ryall, has battled humility all his life but appears to be winning the battle. He appears to be getting there. He is also a former Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand. I wondered why he was so busy ingratiating himself to Judith Collins, because she has never struck me as being a particularly popular member of the National caucus, but then the reason was revealed to me: Tony Ryall has been invoiced for the expense of the Diplomatic Protection Squad that was tailing him around the Bay of Plenty while he was the Acting Prime Minister. Judith Collins has said it was a waste of public money—she is such a hard-liner on these things—and she has charged Tony Ryall for the services of the Diplomatic Protection Squad during his tenure as Acting Prime Minister of our country.
It was not a very good tenure—not that anyone will be too shocked to hear that. During Tony Ryall’s grand moment, when his address to the country was all about a new shirt and tie, at the very same moment, on typewriters around this country, the
Dominion Post was labelling him the loser of the week. The
New Zealand Herald
was writing stories about him saying he was fudging the health numbers, and we saw evidence of that in his speech before.
One of the things Tony Ryall was complaining about was the number of committees and reviews the previous Labour Government set up, but, as the Hon Annette King told the House, this Government has initiated 40 reviews after just 8 months. That is a lot of Tories being appointed to do a lot of jobs, if you ask me, yet the Minister Tony Ryall in his other portfolio of State services set up a scheme that he said would redeploy State servants who lost their jobs. Obviously, when people are losing their jobs, first and foremost is what we can do about that. He said 1,500 people who had lost their jobs would be available to be redeployed across the State sector. Well, Labour thought that was quite interesting, so the Labour spokesperson on State services, my colleague the Wellington Central MP, Grant Robertson, went and found out exactly how many people had actually been redeployed. Out of the 1,500 people who could be redeployed over the State sector, Tony Ryall has managed to find jobs for two people.
Hon Members: Two!
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Just two out of 1,500. So when Tony Ryall is lecturing Labour about committees and reviews, he needs to know that his own policy is spin. Two people have been redeployed out of 1,500. Mind you, we did not count the police officers who were redeployed from the front line to tail him around as Acting Prime Minister of our country.
Let us not worry too much about Tony Ryall. In this Budget debate Labour is focusing very closely on the message that the Government is not listening, that the Government has gimmicks for the real problems of our country, and that the Government has no plan for the real problems and challenges that New Zealand faces. There has been nothing from the Government in this Budget debate on how to lift up the New Zealand economy by several gears in order to get it going for the recovery.
We see all around the world signs that a recovery is under way. It will come to New Zealand, and whereabouts is the National Government in New Zealand doing any work or coming up with any creative ideas in order to try to harness those opportunities for New Zealand? There are none. There are gimmicks everywhere. There are half initiatives everywhere. The cycleway is the greatest gimmick of them all, and it keeps changing in terms of its nature. All National’s initiatives are half-pie, half-thought-out, and not really focused on what matters for the people of New Zealand. The Government cannot get its act together.
On the issue of Māori representation in Auckland—and the Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the legislation, criticising the Government for the way it has behaved in pre-empting the select committee process—the Government is all at sea. The Hon Georgina te Heuheu once acted with great honour on the question of Māori seats on councils in the Bay of Plenty. When the previous speaker, Mr Ryall, said Māori seats were racist, she acted with a great deal of honour and crossed the floor in order to support Māori representation. Today she said that she did so only because she lives close to the area of those seats. That is not a very credible argument. It is amazing the difference a Crown car can make to a member’s position on an important issue like Māori representation.
We know that options were put to the ACT Party so that there would be one person, one vote, which ACT members say is the No. 1 argument for them. There is no reason to deny Māori in Auckland the right to representation like any other Aucklander by way of the new super-city that is being set up. Denying the Māori seats is all about the personality and ego of the ACT Party, and not at all about the needs of the people for representation.
I feel sorry for parties in this House that have been let down by National, which is running a sham consultation. Let us remember what National has done. It put through a bill under urgency, and then said the select committee would be the point at which the
Government would listen. Then it made the Associate Minister of Local Government, John Carter—the guy who does all the work—the chairperson of the select committee. When the most contentious issue about the council—the question of Māori seats—came up, National decided to pre-empt the select committee process and abandon Māori representation. The Government said that is democracy.
The Government does not listen. That is all it has to do—listen to the arguments, give people a chance to have their say, and then make a call. In the end we have to respect that the Government gets the final call, but to not even listen is unbelievable arrogance, particularly when we were told that everything was going to change. National said it would listen if it became the Government. The nanny State would be gone when National became the Government. Actually, there are more rules about how to run one’s life now under National than there were under Labour.
Of all the things that were done under the Labour Government that National complained about, not one has been reversed. In fact, Gerry had to try to reopen an incandescent light bulb factory because the bulbs are not being made any more. Steven Joyce put up his hand because he is the guy who wants to charge us 80 bucks to talk on our cellphone, which is the most expensive mobile termination rate that a Minister for Communications and Information Technology could ever come up with.
What else is the Government doing? It is looking—
Paul Quinn: Shower heads—what about shower heads?
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Well, I will tell members something about shower heads. That member should take a shower, because he will get 3 years, 6 years, or 9 years at the end of this parliamentary term. If ever there has been a one-term wonder, it is Paul Quinn. If I were him I would not be asking for an early shower quite so soon, as his is not going to be a glittering and distinguished parliamentary career.
What is the National Government doing? The National Government is saying it wants to change tax policy. It is true that those members are always focused on tax. You know, they campaigned on the issue of cutting income tax, and they came in before their parliamentary—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry to interrupt the member. Barracking is unacceptable. Interjecting across the floor is OK, but that noise was not acceptable. Members need to keep the noise level down. I am sorry to interrupt the member.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. While you are at it, I think that saying: “You have done nothing with your life.” is also out of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I would hope that I have done something with my life.
Hon Trevor Mallard: We know you have.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is amazing how one can touch a few nerves in this place from time to time. I think we might have just done something along those lines. In fact, if the member Paul Quinn wanted to get some publicity for himself, all it would take is for four members of the National Party out of 58 to vote for Māori seats and we would have the seats. Labour has 43 votes, the Progressive party has one, the Greens have nine, and the Māori Party has five. We need only four National MPs to vote for Māori seats and there would be Māori representation in Auckland. We could have Georgina te Heuheu and Tau Henare, and we need to get Hekia Parata and Paul Quinn. He could have his 5 minutes in the sun on this issue. Actually, he would probably stuff it up and get only 2 minutes in the sun, but publicity is something. The member would be keen on it. All we would need is the four votes to be able to do it.
National campaigned on tax. National was going to cut taxes, and initially it did. The top 3 percent of income earners got one-third of the value. Then, in the Budget, which we are debating here, National put taxes back up for the people who had voted for it to
bring down taxes. Now National members are running round the country wanting to put GST up to 20 percent. Well, how does that help working families in this current economy? It does not help them at all. National wants to put GST up to 20 percent. Its second option is a friendlier 15 percent. That is the kind of bright, friendly face that the National Government has—wanting to put up GST.
At the moment the rates bills are going out around our country, and people will be applying for a rates rebate, which is a scheme of the third Labour Government that was improved and made better by the fifth Labour Government. The value of that rates rebate will be totally undermined three, four, or five times over if pensioners have to pay higher GST, as the National Government proposes.
Everywhere we go we find that the Government is not listening. It is not listening in the area of transport. The Government has taken a plan for Auckland that was comprehensive, funded, costed, and ready to go, and it did not listen. At the moment in my area, in Kapiti, the Government is doing the same old trick. At the last election I campaigned on Transmission Gully, Western Link Road, electrifying the railway line to Palmerston North, and doing something to sort out peak weekend traffic at the Ōtaki roundabout, where the major retail centre is causing congestion at that time. The National Party said “Me too!” and campaigned on the same thing. Yet now National has got into Government, for the whole year while the council was working on those options it had the Transport Agency working behind the council’s back on an alternative plan for Kapiti that no one had seen, and which the Government turned up with on Monday. Consultation on the plan started on Monday.
The proposed motorway does not include Western Link Road and it does not include one extra dollar for trains. The proposed motorway rips through the communities of Kapiti and totally bypasses Ōtaki. Do members know how long the Government, which said it would listen, is giving people to have a say about the plan? Six miserable weeks. It is a scheme that no one had heard of, and people have to decide in 6 weeks whether they lose their house. [Interruption] National members might be yelling at the moment, but I know that they have so many homes individually that if their home was run over by a motorway they would just shift to another home. I know that they do not understand the problems of working families. But the people of Kapiti have only one house to live in, and if a road—a four-lane, 100-kilometre motorway—goes through it, then they cannot simply shift to another home.
That is an example of National members’ arrogance. If the Minister thinks he will get away with the plan, which is wiping out our community overnight in this way, then he is sadly mistaken, because people want to have a say on it. They want the right to be able to put up a plan, and National should have campaigned on the proposed motorway, if that is what it wanted to do. We have experience with this Minister, because he did the same with the Waterview Connection as well. National campaigned on it, got into office, and then wanted to rip through houses all around the place and take away the homes of working families there as well.
The Government is not listening. It is focused on gimmicks that do not matter—like cycleways—and it has no plan to take the New Zealand economy up a step in order to give real opportunity to people. That is why we are opposing the Budget bill.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence)
: There we have it, do we not? That was Mr Darren Hughes, the failed candidate and former member of Parliament for Ōtaki. He says that the terrible thing about National is that we have a plan for Ōtaki that we are willing to go out and consult on. He says that that is a terrible thing. What he forgets, of course, is that in the 9 years under the previous Labour Government, there was no proposal and nothing to consult on at all. That is exactly the reason why he lost his seat. That is what the voters have said to him. I would ask Mr Darren Hughes why
he does not go and talk to his deputy leader. Surely he could do a trade with her and get her seat, because he will never get back in Ōtaki. I tell Darren to shift. He should shift to a better opportunity.
National had to deliver its Budget 2009 in the most challenging circumstances since—
Hon Darren Hughes: Oh, give it a break.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: There we are. The member is disconnected from reality, completely disconnected from reality. “Recession? What recession?”, he says. Should that affect the Government accounts? Oh no, it is nothing to do with that, just borrow a bit more and it will all be solved! That is the approach that we have grown to expect from Labour, and the public saw through it precisely.
The National Government had to deliver a Budget in extremely difficult circumstances. I will say this about the last 9 years under a Labour Government. During that period of time New Zealand’s productivity growth was virtually zero—virtually zero. That is why we continue to decline down the OECD ratings. Yes, the Labour Government paid off a bit of debt. How did it do that? It paid off the debt by not giving a single tax cut during the whole of the 9 years, and the public got sick of that. The public were hanging out for that tax cut, and that is why there had to be a change. Labour’s solution, to the extent that one could discern a solution from the incoherent ramblings of members on that side of the House, is to borrow more, to have more Government programmes, to have more borrowing, and to have more Government-created schemes. It was to have a continuing growth of government. I say to members opposite that during Labour’s 9 years in office it did have a continuing growth in government. The consequence was a decline in productivity output. That is an indictment of those members’ failure. New Zealanders fundamentally saw through that, and that is the reason for the change of Government.
I will turn to a couple of specific points around productivity. We have focused on this issue more than on anything else, and the reason is that we are focused on growth. Yes, we did provide a tax reduction. We had to do that to get more growth into the economy and to stabilise the effects of the recession, which, I might add, had started under Labour in early 2008. That is the difference between us and Australia. We have a more constructive approach to growth than Labour had here, and the current Labor Government in Australia inherited a more constructive approach from the Howard administration. We inherited difficult circumstances. The Rudd Government inherited circumstances that were fundamentally more positive.
We are focusing on reducing the size of government in a practical and considered kind of way. We have focused on reducing taxes, and in a very difficult set of circumstances we will restrain the growth of debt. It is clear that debt will grow over the next few years, undoubtedly, and I certainly concede that. We have to allow that to sustain a certain level of activity within the economy. The fundamental difference, however, is that we are taking a moderated approach to that. We are also concentrating that extra borrowing into infrastructure. I know that Mr Joyce would want me to mention the National Government policy on broadband, for instance. It is hugely important as a driver of productivity. He would want me to focus on issues around transport. It is hugely important to get more effective transport. That reminds me yet again of Mr Darren Hughes’ signal failure as a member of Parliament for Ōtaki to deliver good outcomes for his electorate, and the public there made a judgment on that. So I say to Mr Hughes that he should talk to his deputy leader, encourage her to shift aside, and then go for her seat. It might give him a better opportunity and a more sustainable future in politics.
I will talk about two particular issues that are directly relevant to the portfolios I am responsible for. The first one is research, science, and technology. I will focus on that issue in particular because it is right at the heart of the productivity machine in New Zealand. We as a Government had to make some very careful choices as to where we put in extra funding. We heard from Mr Ryall about health, which is fundamental to people’s confidence in their country and in their own personal well-being. Research, science, and technology are part of the productivity growth machine. We specifically focused on fundamental research as our first priority. We increased the Marsden Fund from $37 million to $47 million. That is a 24 percent increase.
Grant Robertson: Robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: The member should just listen to the figures. There was a 24 percent increase to fundamental research funding. The second element of fundamental research we focused on was the Crown research institute capability fund. We increased that from $51 million to $61 million, which is a 20 percent increase. The increase gives much more confidence to those Crown research institutes that they have a platform from which to grow. Thirdly, in the area of fundamental research, the Health Research Council of New Zealand has grown from $63 million to $71 million, which is a 13 percent increase. Obviously, that research funding is part and parcel of our overall objectives in health funding generally.
Why did we focus on fundamental research? Fundamental research underpins economic growth. That is the first phase of our delivery. The next phase of our delivery will be looking over the next 12 months, in particular, at the commercialisation process. The Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, is also particularly focused on that issue. Over the next few months the commercialisation process will be the very particular focus of our research, science, and technology policy, because we understand—unlike members on the other side, who had 9 years in which to deal with these issues but simply took an ad hoc approach of bolting on extra policies to make it more complex and more complicated—that this country needs to do better, especially in research, science, and technology.
The other vote I am responsible for is Vote Defence. By and large, there is a multiparty consensus on foreign policy and defence. I realise that there are some differences, because inherently we are a Parliament of parties, but by and large there is a high level of consensus around these things. Our deployments are particularly in the Pacific but also in Afghanistan, where I think every party acknowledges there is a challenge and that New Zealand has a particular role to play. I know there are some divergences as to how that role should be carried out, but, by and large, people accept that there is a proper role for us to play there. We have to deal with those issues, because it is about New Zealand’s security.
Therefore, Vote Defence was increased by $52 million. I advise members that $15 million was in relation to infrastructure; $10 million was in relation to increased activity and maintenance for aircraft, which is inherent in operations of the New Zealand Defence Force; and an extra $5 million went to the new Project Protector. I acknowledge the previous Ministers of Defence for their initiative in relation to Project Protector. Although one has to note that HMNZS Canterbury has been problematic, the Defence Force is improving it. It has a truly excellent commanding officer, and there is a make-work programme to fix it. But there is a fundamental lesson about HMNZS Canterbury. A small Defence Force like New Zealand’s simply cannot go for one-off projects.
KEITH LOCKE (Green)
: Last Sunday I spoke at a migrant forum at the New Zealand Diversity Forum in Wellington, which was sponsored by the Human Rights Commission. I spoke alongside two colleagues, Darien Fenton from the Labour Party
and Jackie Blue from the National Party. There was a big crowd there, particularly of migrant workers who are here on temporary visas. In the midst of the recession in New Zealand, migrant workers are having a lot of problems with staying in the country when they lose their jobs. According to this morning’s
New Zealand Herald,38,000 people are here on what are called work-tested temporary visas. They are skilled people. We need the people who come to our country to replace the skills we are short of.
The Government has been under a lot of pressure because of stories in the newspaper about particularly hurtful situations of families of migrant workers here in New Zealand. The Government has conceded a bit. If people are working on a 90-day probationary period and are laid off in the middle of it, they are given up to 3 months to get their affairs in order and leave the country. We were told at the forum that Immigration New Zealand will offer some assistance to people who are laid off and whose work visa expires. If those people talk to the Immigration Service nicely they do not necessarily have to get out of the country the next week. But this is a huge issue, and I do not think the Government has taken full responsibility for it.
Also in this morning’s
New Zealand Herald
the Minister of Immigration, Dr Coleman, is quoted as saying that migrant workers come here knowing that there is no automatic renewal of their work visa. Although that is technically correct, I do not think it takes into account the real responsibility New Zealand has to migrant workers, on two levels. One is the simple moral level of not hurting people who come to our country in good faith because they like New Zealand, because it is a country they would like to settle down in, and because a work visa is a way in. The second, practical level is that instead of viewing such people as people whom we are helping by giving them a job, we should view them as skilled people who are coming here because we need them.
Why did New Zealand bring these people here? Why did New Zealand need them? There are two reasons. First, there is quite a big outflow of New Zealanders migrating to Australia and beyond. Those New Zealanders are often very skilled people, and we need to replace those skills with temporary workers. Secondly, sometimes because of deficiencies in our system—when the apprenticeships schemes were run down in the 1990s, in particular—there has been a shortage of skilled workers. We have had to replace them with migrant workers, who then want to live here and become full New Zealand citizens.
A lot of these people have uprooted themselves and their whole family from the other side of the world and at great cost to come here—sometimes spending all their life savings—and have a fairly good expectation that they can get work visas, can work towards residence, and be able to become full participants in our society in every sense. They are doing that to help us, so we should feel the human tragedy of the people who have been laid off in the recession. We should not develop a first-class or second-class citizenship attitude that somehow we who have been here for a long time are the true New Zealanders and that migrants are just temporary workers, so we can kick them out when there is a recession. Sometimes a racist element can creep in there, as a lot of the people who are in this situation are non-European and are perhaps seen as having fewer rights. We should not have any of that; we should see everyone living in this country as being fully equal.
What are some of the solutions that would take into account the real needs of those workers? One solution that was very strongly pressed for at the forum was the extension of their visas—say, for a 12-month period—for a number of reasons. A solution is to allow them to find other employment, and also just to help them. There is also a good, practical reason for New Zealand to help them. After we have gone through a recession, there is generally an upturn. There is talk already that perhaps an upturn has begun.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
KEITH LOCKE: Before the dinner break I was saying that it would be useful to give migrants here on work visas who are laid off because of the recession an extension on their work visas. I said that 12 months would be a good figure, and it was what was pressed for at the migrant forum I attended last Sunday. This is also a practical measure for New Zealand, because when there is an upturn we will need skilled labour. The construction industry will expand, and we do not want to have to go through the hassle of recruiting people with the same skills from overseas when we could have kept people with those skills here. We could also look, possibly in the interim, at giving migrants openings in other jobs, such as caregiving. There is a shortage of skilled caregivers in rest homes. We could give a little bit of retraining to keep them in the country, so that they and their families do not suffer a huge disadvantage after they have packed up all their worldly goods to come out here, only to then have to go back somewhere else.
I also think it is important to treat the children of migrants well, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to not deny them anything because they happen to be the kids of migrant workers in a disadvantaged situation. We should give them proper health and education. In fact, under the Immigration Bill, which is currently before this Parliament, schools will be able to take on, without any cost, all kids who are in compulsory education. That will be a step forward, and it is one of the good things in that bill.
In terms of support for new migrants and those on work visas, the Government should also support, not cut back, the funding for courses teaching English as a second language that it has cut recently. We need proper support for migrants so that they can be fully part of and integrate into our society.
With regard to the Immigration Service, a catch-22 came up at the forum I spoke at. Workers go to employers and say that they want a job, and employers say that, as they will be on a work visa for only so long, they will give them only a fixed-term contract if they get a work visa. Workers then go to New Zealand Immigration, which says that because those workers are on only a fixed-term contract, it will not give them a work visa. The Immigration Service has to take a better position. It has to look at the totality of the situation and give out work visas where there is a genuine commitment between the employer and the intending worker.
The other issue that came up at the forum is a lot of professionals are still not getting the appropriate attention. Doctors are finding it hard to get jobs because of a more restrictive attitude towards registration from the Medical Council of New Zealand. Similarly, nurses are suffering some problems because of restrictions by the Nurses Organisation, affecting, particularly, Filipino nurses. Filipino workers predominated at the forum.
On Monday I attended another event where I came across a number of other Filipino workers. They had predominated at the migrant forum I attended in Wellington on Sunday, and they were also very strongly represented in the protest action taken by the employees of Telecom who are to be kicked out of their status as employees to become contractors. These Filipino workers, these new migrant workers, are the last to be able to afford to be moved under contractor status. This is effectively happening under Telecom, even though it is being done through another organisation called Visionstream. In order to become contractors and do that essential repair work on the fixed lines so we can have a good service, they have to fork out $20,000, $30,000, or $60,000 to get trucks and tools, and they are not even guaranteed to get 40 hours’ work a week because they will be contractors who can be given work at the whim of Visionstream, rather than full-time employees of Telecom. They are suffering.
Migrant workers in New Zealand have a lot of concerns during this recession and because of the way that companies like Telecom are acting. It is almost a crime that someone like Paul Reynolds gets $5 million a year, including his bonuses, while these workers, who are fairly lowly paid as it is as full-time employees of Telecom, are now to be given very little as contractors.
JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT)
: We are debating the Budget. We heard earlier from the Minister of Finance that the country is in a recession and that there are a number of challenges facing us. We all know that taxpayers’ money is not always wisely spent. In my speech this evening I want to address a particular item of expenditure. I refer to the recent referendum on the issue of whether smacking should be a criminal offence. There was a lot of coverage given to the referendum and its cost to the New Zealand taxpayer of $9 million. That cost has been paid by the taxpayer, and I believe it is a cost we need to discuss this evening. Although the organisers of the referendum received a lot of criticism, I believe such referendums, or the access of the New Zealand public to referendums to call politicians to account, are absolutely fundamental to our democracy. The referendum could have been held at the last general election, but the previous Government chose not to do that. I believe very strongly that the reason this referendum has cost us far more than it should have lies firmly with the previous Government, and the Prime Minister in particular.
Earlier today my member’s bill was pulled from the ballot, and within 4 hours the Prime Minister of New Zealand had called a press conference to say that the National Government would not be supporting it. I think that is a very, very big shame for the people of New Zealand. At 2 p.m. yesterday, when Parliament sat for the first time this week, I sought leave for my Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill to be introduced, and there was opposition from throughout the House. Yesterday afternoon the ACT Party stood as the only party prepared to stand up and represent the 87 percent of New Zealanders who voted No. From discussions I had with other members of the House earlier this afternoon, I was optimistic that I may have been able to get support for my bill. But within 4 hours, the Prime Minister ruled it out.
I think that is very sad because the public of New Zealand were asked a specific question: do they believe smacking for the purposes of correction should be a criminal offence? It currently is an offence. The amendment that was passed in legislation 2 years ago clearly sets out that a smack for the purposes of correction is not a valid defence in a charge of assault. The people of New Zealand were told by members of the Government and by various other lobby groups that this was a make-believe referendum and that it was confusing. I do not believe the people of New Zealand were confused at all. There will be people listening to this debate tonight who voted No in that referendum who were not confused. The only way that we can make smacking for the purposes of correction not a criminal offence is to change the law.
I think the Prime Minister dismissed my member’s bill out of hand, without, I assume, consulting his own caucus because it was dismissed very, very quickly. I say that in particular because I would like to again quote from a speech that John Key gave as Leader of the Opposition at a function organised by the Salvation Army in April 2007. He said “In reality no one is ever going to be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child. But if the reality is that no one is ever going to be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child, then don’t make it illegal.” It seems to me that the Prime Minister—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member has spoken now for 4 minutes. This is a debate on the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill and the Imprest Supply Bill, and I ask the member to relate what he is saying back to the Budget. This is a Budget debate,
and the member has 6 minutes left. I would like him to come back to the Budget. It is all very well what he is saying, but he must relate it to the Budget.
JOHN BOSCAWEN: I can relate my comments back to the Budget in very many ways. The cost of the referendum and the cost of child abuse in New Zealand is spread across many, many departmental votes. I see the Minister of Police, Judith Collins, is smiling.
Hon Judith Collins: I’m a happy person.
JOHN BOSCAWEN: The Minister of Police tells me she is always smiling. There is money spent in her budget that covers the cost of policing, and the police are involved in enforcing the current law. There is money involved in the Ministry of Social Development budget, in the Child, Youth and Family budget, and for Child, Youth and Family staff. I am told there has been something close to 1,000 investigations by Child, Youth and Family into families over the last 2 years. They may have resulted in only 13 charges, but a huge amount of taxpayer money has been spent on investigations—a huge amount of wasted money.
The reason I say this is important is that the Prime Minister clearly said 2 years ago that people will not be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child. He said that if that is the case, then why have a law that makes it a criminal offence. Mr Key has again said to the people of New Zealand this afternoon that he gives his assurance that people will not be prosecuted for lightly smacking their child. I say to Mr Key that if it is not his intention that police prosecute people who lightly smack their child, why have a law on the statute book that provides for it?
Eighty-seven percent of people were not confused by the referendum; they voted No. Look, Mr Deputy Speaker, you want me to bring this debate back to the cost, but what is the cost to New Zealand? What is the cost in the policing budget? What is the cost in the Child, Youth and Family budget? An amount of $9 million was spent on this referendum, and it is a pity to ignore what the people of New Zealand are saying. I ask members to think of the money that we spend in this debating chamber and to think of the money that is spent on the salaries of parliamentarians and their officials. Think of us as lawmakers who have to pass laws that will be of benefit. It would seem as though the five ACT Party MPs are the only MPs prepared to represent that 87 percent; we have become the “87 Percent Party”. I see the Minister of Finance is smiling. He knows that what I am saying is true. He must be embarrassed that the five ACT Party MPs have become the “87 Percent Party”. Members can smile, but ACT has become the “87 Percent Party”. I have been sent correspondence this afternoon that members of the public have forwarded to National Ministers and National members of Parliament in the last 2 days. There is huge disappointment that the Prime Minister has decided that that $9 million should be wasted, that the people of New Zealand will not be listened to, and that we, the ACT Party, are left as the only people who will listen.
I ask this Parliament, these parliamentarians, and the people here this evening who are being paid a salary by the taxpayer to think again about the children of New Zealand. Good parents are trying to raise their children as law-abiding citizens. Now parents are forced to tell their children that there are some laws it is OK to break. That is right; parents are being forced to tell their children that there are some laws it is OK to break if the Prime Minister has said it is OK. That is confusing and inconsistent for children. How can we be helping children if we pass laws that we acknowledge are not intended to be enforced? When the section 59 amendment was passed 2 years ago, there was a provision in the amendment that said the police will have some discretion. In other words, our parliamentarians knew that they were passing a law that was never intended to be enforced. I say to the National members what their Prime Minister said 2
years ago to the Salvation Army: if the reality is that people will never be prosecuted for lightly smacking, why make it illegal? Do not make it a crime.
Mr Chester Borrows is in the House this evening. I put up a member’s bill that was based entirely on what Mr Borrows promoted 2 years ago. I might add that it was a bill that Mr Key talked about on breakfast television on 3 August—his Prime Minister’s salary was being paid by taxpayers. He said that had National been the Government 2 years ago, it would have passed the Chester Borrows amendment. My member’s bill was drawn out of the ballot this afternoon. The salaries of the people administering the drawing of the ballot were paid by taxpayers—
Hone Harawira: Thrown in the dustbin!
JOHN BOSCAWEN: Yes, it might have been thrown in the dustbin, Mr Hone Harawira tells us. But we stand here very proudly, as the party prepared to represent 87 percent of New Zealanders. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa e te Whare. The Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill includes within its schedules the commitment and departmental output expenses to implement the Government’s decisions on the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. It is pretty straightforward, one might think, until one gets to the report of the Local Government and Environment Committee. Then it starts to come unstuck. Yes, there were issues about cost. But the real issue for us as the Māori Party and for the whole nation was the arrogant dismissal of the issue of Māori representation. This House knows well of our commitment to strong Māori representation at every level of governance in this country because of the value we placed on the Treaty partnership and the honouring of that partnership by both Māori and the Crown. In fact, our agreement with National includes a line that reads: “Both the National Party and the Maori Party will act in accordance with te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi.” We take that line seriously because the Treaty partnership is the basis of the Crown’s relationship with Māori. We expect the Government to do its best to uphold the Treaty.
The issue of the Māori seats was just the vehicle for the Prime Minister to use to advance his philosophy about taking the country forward. He would have had the support. Heck, even before he came along, the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance travelled all over the region, talked to hundreds of people, received more than 3,500 submissions, and publicly recommended Māori seats. It made the point that Māori have simply not been represented in local governance, at all. Eight Māori councillors in 150 years is an indictment on the current system, not an endorsement of it.
On election night 2008 the Prime Minister famously spoke of looking forward to a positive relationship with the Māori Party. The Māori seats in Parliament have been there for more than 100 years without there ever being a collapse of Government. With the emergence of the Māori Party, there is finally a recognition that the Māori seats provide the opportunity for greater participation by Māori in the electoral process and more independent thinking from Māori MPs. The newly minted Minister of Local Government thought he could run a sly one past the Māori in Auckland by talking up the importance of the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee process, probably expecting people to oppose the Māori seats there. But what do members know? The select committee also travelled all over the region, talked to hundreds of people, and received more than 2,500 submissions. Guess what! More than 80 percent of non-Māori submissions also came out in support of the Māori seats.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: How many?
HONE HARAWIRA: More than 80 percent. One hundred percent of the Māori submissions supported them, but that is to be expected. Most of the councils in
Auckland have come out in support of the Māori seats, as have three of Auckland’s mayors. The Prime Minister himself thought the seats were a deal worth doing. The Leader of the Opposition supported them, Russel Norman and Metiria Turei added their weight as leaders of the Greens, and, of course, the Māori Party’s Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples were clearly in favour of the Māori seats, as well. Thousands of Aucklanders marched in support of the Māori seats, and, for heaven’s sake, even the good old, conservative
New Zealand Herald
spoke out strongly in favour of those Māori seats.
Yet what do we get from the Minister of Local Government? We get a threat to throw his toys out of the cot if he cannot get his way. We get a threat to resign if the Māori seats go in as part of his legislation. Well, so much for democracy! In fact, the Government caved in completely by announcing its rejection of the Māori seats before the select committee report was even in. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted on the exercise; never mind the will of the people; and never mind even thinking about the overwhelming support for the Māori seats from all over the place and from all kinds of people—black, white, and all shades in between.
What a bloody joke the select committee turned out to be! I am glad that I did not bother hauling my little black ass around all the hearings, because at the end of the day the word was sent down from on high: “We do not care what you National and ACT members of the select committee saw, we do not care who you met, and we certainly do not care what you heard. You will put together a mealy-mouthed report that uses petty little words like ‘substantial’ instead of ‘overwhelming’, and prattles on about different models as the reason for trying to deny what people were actually saying.”
David Garrett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have listened very carefully to this speech and thus far I have not heard one reference at all to expenditure on anything.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Probably prior to the member coming into the Chamber, an amendment was put in the name of Labour that talks about the Māori seats in Auckland. This member is speaking to the amendment in Labour’s name, so he is in order.
HONE HARAWIRA: Word was sent down from on high: “We do not care what you National and ACT members of the select committee saw, we do not care who you met, and we certainly do not care what you heard. You will put together a mealy-mouthed report”—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member cannot bring me into the debate. He has mentioned “you” many times. The member should concentrate please on the substantive nature of his speech, without bringing the Speaker into it.
HONE HARAWIRA: —“that uses petty little words like ‘substantial’ instead of ‘overwhelming’, and prattles on about different models as the reason for trying to deny what people were actually saying.” Eighty percent of those submissions can be summed up in five little words: “We support the Māori seats.”
Ngāti Whātua chairperson, Naida Glavish, described the Government’s unequivocal no to Māori representation as a slap in the face. She said that the future now looks bland and unrepresentative. Ngāti Whātua o Ōrākei spokesman, Ngārimu Blair, described it as “one more chapter in our long struggle.”—a struggle to uphold the nation’s constitutional foundations; a struggle to live by the promise of the Treaty of Waitangi. Tainui chairman, Tukoroirangi Morgan, said that he was disappointed in Mr Key, saying he had “caved in to Rodney and his 1 per cent party.” Mr Morgan went on to say that Mr Key said the relationship with Māori was a significant one. Mr Morgan said: “clearly, that’s amounted to nothing.” He said further that Tainui would refuse to take part in any advisory board: “That’s not where the decisions are made. Giving Maori people the crumbs at the second level is a nonsense and we’ve made it quite clear we are not interested in being a tekoteko or tonotono—people who are subservient to the
top table.” Mihi atu ki a ia. I wanted to present those views up front, because this House needs to understand how seriously Māori view this breach of the relationship between Māori and the Crown. It is hugely and massively disappointing, but surprisingly unsurprising.
I put all this before the House today as we consider the appropriation bill because it also signals a substantial cost that this nation can ill afford. In the same way that this country agonised over MMP and finally accepted it as a model that would better enhance democratic representation in the Parliament of this nation, so too should we be bold enough to consider other ways of enhancing representation at local body level. In the same way that Māori seats in Parliament are a means of enhancing democratic representation for a Treaty partner in a plural society, so too are Māori seats on the proposed Auckland Council. The facts tell us that Māori representation does not happen as of right, and that it will not happen unless there is the political will for the Treaty to matter. When the Government says that if the new Auckland Council wants Māori seats, then it can choose to establish them, it is consigning those Māori seats to the dustbin of history. If there are no Māori seats on the council to begin with, who on earth will advocate for them to be established?
The long history of Māori participation and representation in local government is all the evidence we need to support the view that this House has an obligation to provide for Māori representation in the governance structure of the proposed Auckland Council. Pita Sharples said that Māori will never go away, and that Māori representation is inevitable. All that Rodney Hide’s political tactics are doing is putting off the inevitable, putting this Government on the wrong side of history, and bringing discord to the relationship between Māori and the Crown. The Māori Party will continue to work with mana whenua and with other Māori in Auckland to fight this attack on our rights as Treaty partners, and to push for those Māori seats.
I make one final statement about those seats. Getting Māori seats at local government is like using Pantene shampoo: it may not happen overnight, but it will happen. The sadness is that when history looks back at this time, it will not see a head of shining hair. All it will see is a balding scalp full of kutu because Rodney will not share his shampoo. Kia ora tātou.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Labour—Te Atatū)
: I proudly rise on behalf of the Labour Party to speak in this appropriation debate. Before I begin to comment on things that were in the Budget, I will comment on the speech made by the previous speaker, Hone Harawira. I listened with keen interest to his presentation. I say that the Labour Party will be supporting the Māori Party amendment. I concur with all the things he said. I am not sure about the condition of Rodney’s hair, but the rest of his speech made a lot of sense. It is about participation, and it is about recognition of the special role that iwi play in this country, as recognised by the Treaty and as represented in our Parliament by Māori seats. It is given a good example in the Bay of Plenty where there is iwi participation as of right on the regional council, where it is working very successfully. The Labour Party believes that in Auckland City, which has the largest Māori population in the world, and with Māori the indigenous people of our land, participation in the governance of that city by Māori is critical to successful local governance in Auckland.
I have sat through, I guess, 12 Budgets in this Chamber. I have to say that for 9 years, under the previous Labour Government that left office in October last year, Budget time was a time of excitement in New Zealand. It was a time to be proud to be a Kiwi. Amazing things were announced in this Chamber over those 9 years. I could spend all night talking about the initiatives that came through in Labour Budgets, everything from KiwiSaver, the Cullen fund, saving our national airline, and saving our
railways, to creating the most amazing initiatives in education, in health, in housing, in conservation, and so it goes on.
I think of education, in which I held my last ministerial portfolio. Amazing things were announced in previous Budgets for education, such as Schools Plus, the programme that Labour was bringing in. I can hear Mrs Tolley, the present Minister of Education, chuckling. I say thank you to Mrs Tolley for being here. This woman is known throughout New Zealand as the invisible Minister. Indeed,
Craccum, the Auckland University Students Association newspaper, ran a weekly column called “The Great Craccum Tolley Hunt”. The students wanted to know whether she actually existed. Sadly for New Zealanders, she does, as does the Government that she is part of. This Government has done the most astonishing things in education.
First of all, this Budget put $35 million into private schools. It put $35 million into the schools attended by the children of the wealthiest New Zealanders. Private schools are not part of our State system. The Government put $35 million into private schools, but it cut out special education funding for some 23 schools. The programmes for children with cerebral palsy and other children with special needs were cut. Of course there was such a hue and cry about that, that she did a flip-flop. New Zealanders were so outraged that $35 million went into private schools and 23 schools with physically disabled students had their funding cut. Of course, there are all sorts of other funding cuts going on in education. Fruit in Schools—that is out. That came from the woman who had a stomach stapling operation to deal with her own obesity, and she cut fruit out of schools. She also reintroduced junk food into school canteens. Was that not a wonderful message to all New Zealanders! Junk food is back into schools, and fruit is out. And this comes from the Minister who has had a stomach stapling operation. What sort of message is that to New Zealand education? It is actually incredibly shameful.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was the most outrageous personal attack by the former Minister. I would ask—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Judith Collins: I would ask that he withdraw and apologise to the Minister.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Minister who is referred to is in the House. If she has taken exception, I ask her whether she wishes to take a point of order.
Hon Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I found that personal attack to be offensive. I ask the member to apologise.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I ask the member to apologise and withdraw the comment.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I apologise, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member must also withdraw the comment.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I withdraw the comment. Obesity is a very serious issue in our schools. Around 40 percent of young New Zealanders suffer from obesity, with enormous implications for our health system and for the well-being of New Zealanders. To cut fruit out of schools and to reintroduce junk food into our school canteens sends a terrible message about the Government’s priorities in education.
We heard today about some initiatives to deal with youth offending. The only way we can deal with youth offending is through a systemic approach. We must deal with early childhood, and in previous Budgets in this Chamber under a Labour Government, enormous sums of money went into, first of all, giving 20 free hours for early childhood education.
Hon Anne Tolley: It did nothing!
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The present Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, says it was nothing, that 20 free hours for every 4-year-old in New Zealand is nothing. I tell members that it was a large amount of money, and it was an effective intervention to
open up education opportunities for young Kiwis. All research shows that all children who have an effective, quality early childhood education do better in their lifelong journey through education. Something like $100 million went into enhancing early childhood education physical facilities. Through a funding process in Labour Budgets we established a new curriculum, which we modernised and which became a world quality document that overseas educationalists came to this country to look at. We developed a systemic approach to underachievement, which was about building education opportunities, facilities, and resources right from the start.
Where are the resources in this Budget for that sort of approach to deal with underachievement and lifting up skills? There was enough money to put $35 million into private education, but there was not enough money to do any meaningful expansion of early childhood education. I got the Minister of Education to look at South Auckland schools to see which schools wanted early childhood education facilities on their properties. Of course, land is the greatest expense in building early childhood education facilities. South Auckland—Manukau City—has the smallest number of early childhood education facilities anywhere in the country.
Hon Anne Tolley: That’s right.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can hear Ms Tolley saying that is right. As soon as National was elected, it immediately cut out that opportunity. We went down from something like 16 schools ready to go, to a handful. That is absolutely cutting.
Hon Anne Tolley: They didn’t want it. You decided they were going to have it.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I hear the member opposite bleating that the schools did not want them. Every school initiated the facilities with the Ministry of Education. They wanted the facility on their school site so that local children could get into those facilities and begin a successful, lifelong education journey. But that is not good enough for the new Government.
This Budget is a “Sheriff of Nottingham” Budget. It rips off the poorest New Zealanders and complements the resources of the wealthiest. We see it in the $35 million for private schools. We see it in the cut to adult and community education, which I know my colleague Maryan Street will talk about shortly. We see it in the tax regime, which was announced before the Budget, but was part of that process, and that was all about taking resources from the poor and giving it to the rich. You know, 3 percent of New Zealanders got 33 percent of that tax money. Something like 71 percent of New Zealanders got no money whatsoever from those tax cuts. Is that not incredibly shameful? Elsewhere in the world, Governments are stimulating their economies so that people have purchasing power. Now who will go out and buy things? Families who are not so well off will use any extra resources they get, like Working for Families, which was an incredible initiative that came through under a Labour Government, or income-related rents in State houses. That was all about giving more purchasing power to people who are not so well off. It was not only good for them, because it increased their quality of life and gave more opportunity to their families, but also it stimulated consumption at a time of recession.
In Australia, enormous sums of money have gone into stimulating the economy. In China, where I recently visited, 4 trillion renminbi is going into stimulating the economy to get consumption moving. We are one of the very few developed countries in the world, if not the only one, that is actually retracting spending instead of expanding it to try to stimulate consumption and economic growth. Two thousand New Zealanders are losing their jobs every week. We now have a higher unemployment rate than Australia. This comes from a Government that spent 9 years in this Chamber saying it wanted to be ambitious for New Zealand and to catch up with Australia; we now have more unemployed per head of population than Australia. How shameful.
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture)
: I have some advice for the member who just resumed his seat, the Hon Chris Carter, the former Minister of Education. I suggest that he spends more time in New Zealand and finds out what is really happening. His contribution was a typical contribution from a man in denial. He seems to think that Labour ran the country in good shape over the previous 9 years. He seems to think that the election did not happen and that the people of New Zealand did not wake up to the fact that Labour left a mess.
The Budget was difficult to prepare. It was difficult because of the mess that had been left by Dr Michael Cullen. I will forever remember the day when Dr Michael Cullen, the then Minister of Finance, appeared on the TV news and revealed the Pre-election Fiscal Update. He sheer gloated, saying to New Zealanders: “Whoops! After 9 years of economic buoyancy I have left the place in such a mess that I am leaving a decade of deficit for whoever wins the election in a couple of months.”
History shows that New Zealanders knew the economy had been run down and was in a mess. They gave National the vote to form a Government, and we are grateful for that. But no one should ever forget the mess that Dr Michael Cullen made after 9 years of buoyancy.
Chris Carter points out that Australians are in a position where they are battling the current economic recession now by spending more money. We do not have that option. That option was taken away from us by the profligate spending by the previous Labour Government on all sorts of programmes. One was called What’s Up. Badges were given out to New Zealanders by Chris Carter as the Minister of Education in an attempt to improve literacy. It was absolutely useless. If Chris Carter spent more time in New Zealand and more time with the people he is meant to be representing, he would know that he left a serious problem with literacy in this country.
As a former Minister of Education, he will go down as a complete and utter failure. He not only spent money with reckless abandon but also made sure we dropped the literacy standards in this country over that period of time. Chris Carter’s record is shameful. He suggested that our current Minister of Education, the Hon Anne Tolley, is an invisible member. Well, she may well be invisible in China, London, the United States, or wherever it is that Chris Carter has been travelling to, but in this country she is very visible. She is tackling the real issues and the mess that was left behind.
The real problem that this country faces is that we have the most incredible economic conditions since the 1930s. Although the whole of the developed world grapples with this recession—it is an international recession—New Zealand, under the previous Labour Government, can claim one credit. It entered into recession before the international recession hit. That is the condition the Labour Government left New Zealand in.
Hon Trevor Mallard: And the member’s Government said it was a drought. That’s what that member said.
Hon DAVID CARTER: Mr Mallard has woken up. He is another member who is in complete denial of the mess his Government left. He was an Associate Minister of Finance. He can take the next call and explain the mess that was left.
Chris Carter said in his contribution that our Budget had cut spending. Again, if he spent a little more time in New Zealand he would know that the Budget did not cut spending; it very carefully controlled the amount we could spend. It increased the amount of spending in all of the important portfolios where we had to increase spending, but it did so with caution. The Budget was very focused on the debt structure we had been left—
Hon Maryan Street: And very focused on tax cuts for the wealthy—very focused on inappropriate tax cuts.
Hon DAVID CARTER: —and on the fact that we had to remain credibly recognisable by international rating agencies, otherwise every New Zealander would have incurred an increase in interest rates. That may not worry Maryan Street. She might be one of those lucky New Zealanders without a mortgage. She might be one of those people who do not know anything about businesses that borrow money to create capital and create jobs in order to give New Zealanders jobs. Those New Zealanders are the people we have to think about when we are putting together a Budget. They are the sorts of people who are affected by the rash decisions made by the previous Labour Government. They are the people we had in mind when we carefully put together a Budget that was respectable and recognised the huge issues we have to face.
In health alone I remember 9 years of Labour Budgets. The previous Labour Government used to spend more money every year—ridiculously large amounts of money. I expected that we would get something out of that expenditure, but we actually got fewer elective surgeries under Labour, even though it increased the Health vote by over 50 percent in those 9 years.
The Hon Tony Ryall is doing a superb job tidying up the mess left by the previous Government. He is focused on making sure that the taxpayer money that goes into Vote Health is there for those people who need it. It is not there for the bureaucrats to build huge bureaucracy around the system; it is about delivering the best health dollars to those people who need it, those people needing primary health care, and those people in our hospitals tonight who should be the focus.
Hon Maryan Street: Primary health care! Oh, yes, let’s start on primary health care.
Hon DAVID CARTER: Maryan Street should be ashamed of herself for not seeing it.
I will finish my contribution by talking about my particular portfolio areas of agriculture, forestry, and biosecurity. Although this country is in recession, most people realise—certainly every member on this side of the House does, but maybe Labour members do not—that the New Zealand economy will come out of recession when the New Zealand rural scene performs. The rural sector is the backbone of the economy. It was given scant regard by the previous Labour Government, but if we look after that sector, watch the cost structures that have been recklessly imposed on it, and give it a chance to compete effectively and fairly against other producers around the world, then it will be the industry that drives this country out of recession, delivering better living standards for everybody.
That is why we were so focused on the primary growth strategy. The Primary Growth Partnership has to deliver the next level of innovation to the sector.
Hon Maryan Street: And it is a tenth of the Fast Forward Fund.
Hon DAVID CARTER: Oh, here we go—the rubbish about the Fast Forward Fund. Maryan Street would borrow $700 million today and somehow magically that would become $2 billion. No one else, not even Jim Anderton, believed that story, but Maryan Street still believes it. I guarantee to that member—I have told her before; I know she will not listen, but I will say it again in the hope that she will listen—that over the next 15 years the Primary Growth Partnership will deliver considerably more money than we ever got out of the Fast Forward Fund. We are not going out there to borrow money to create a fund; we are doing it with industry. We have people in the industry saying that our scheme will work.
The industry had no faith at all in the previous scheme. Mr Anderton announced the previous scheme and then said: “Now we had better build a bureaucracy around it.” The industry was panicking about that scheme. That is why people in the industry did not vote Labour at the last election. Like most New Zealanders they saw the opportunity to
get a better Government, one that is really focused on the economy. That is why the Labour Party lost—and lost decisively—the last election.
When the next Labour member stands to make a contribution in the debate I think that member should acknowledge that Labour got it wrong. Labour members should acknowledge that the people of New Zealand finally woke up to the way Labour was trying to spend its way round the country to buy votes in an attempt to stay in office. New Zealanders woke up because they know that this economy can perform substantially better. They know that the economy should be delivering for them a substantially better lifestyle and standard of living than it is. With John Key as Prime Minister, the National Government will perform for a long, long time, delivering substantially to New Zealanders.
Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour)
: I want to talk about the Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill and to focus on what we are voting on tonight. I want to draw to the attention of the public that amongst the things we are voting on are a $13 million cut per annum to adult and community education; cuts to university funding; scuttling the tertiary scholarships; shutting down Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarships; shutting down the Skill Enhancement programme, which directly affects Māori providers, including the Kokiri Training Centre in Dunedin; and shutting down the funds for the Pathfinders programme, which is funding for young people, particularly Māori people. It is called the Ngā Kaiarataki scheme; the Pathfinders scheme. In this document—for the benefit of the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley—is a whole series of testimonials from schools in her electorate that are protesting against the cuts to education, and the Pathfinders provision in the first instance. There are cuts to polytechnic funding. It is the end of professional development programmes for teachers. These are the things we are voting on tonight. Those cuts need to be known to the public, and the public need to be aware that this is the kind of bill that is in front of us tonight.
I shall take one of those issues and talk about adult and community education. The cuts to that area are particularly fierce. The adult and community education sector delivered, as we so often know it, through high schools and night classes, and the community organisations they support are at extreme risk. In fact, when there has been an 80 percent cut in funding to high schools it is entirely apparent to everybody except this Minister that adult and community education classes will have to stop. The people who attend those adult and community education classes are generally those who are not in a position to self-fund, as the Minister thinks is possible. It may be possible on her salary, but she is not like many of the people in, for example, the area where I live in Nelson, where 76 percent of income earners earn less than $40,000. So, they have not benefited from a tax cut, and they are not able to provide funding for adult and community education classes.
I draw to the Minister’s attention, because she seems to be unaware of it, just what the purpose of adult and community education is. There have been five strategic priorities, three of which will go down the gurgler when this vote is passed tonight. The purposes are targeting learners whose initial learning was unsuccessful, raising the foundation learning of literacy and numeracy skills, encouraging lifelong learning, strengthening communities, and strengthening social cohesion.
When we look at the bang for the buck that communities get, and that the Government gets as a return on investment for every dollar invested in adult and community education classes, we see that the Minister is flying in the face of the evidence that demonstrates that that dollar is well spent. Every single dollar of Government money that is put into adult and community education classes at the very least returns $16 to $22—we are talking estimates tonight. Any Government dollar that is put into adult and community education returns, at a minimum, from $16 to $22. If
the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ additional factors are put in—that is, accounting for volunteer hours and private contribution—that return escalates hugely to somewhere between $54 and $72. But the most critical point about the cuts is that thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders are going to be denied the opportunity to have locally delivered, accessible, affordable, post-compulsory education opportunities. And that is a crime. That is a crime against the communities that are out there. Hundreds upon hundreds of people are attending meetings around this country that National MPs are too afraid to attend. National MPs are too afraid to attend them.
In Dunedin there was no National MP; in Canterbury there were two National MPs. Two National MPs turned up in Christchurch, to their credit. They were booed and jeered and hissed, and it was probably their first experience of that. I hope they learn from it. But clearly it is not making any difference. There was no National MP at a meeting in Porirua, no National MP at a meeting in Newlands, no National MP out here on the steps of Parliament, no National MP in Auckland, and no National MP—except for one—in Hamilton. They are running for cover on that.
First of all, the Minister said that she was digging her toes in and that the cuts would not be reconsidered. A report in the
Otago Daily Times
on 10 August stated “Cuts will not be reconsidered”, but by Wednesday, 19 August, out of Canterbury, she began to change her story and said that it was out of her hands, and that the education cuts were not her decision. She said that again to Community Learning Association through Schools representatives—that is, representatives of the group that covers the adult and community education coordinators. Well, if the education Minister has washed her hands of them, she has now compelled all of the people in adult and community education to write to the Prime Minister. I am sure he is appreciating the heavy mailbag he is getting these days. So now the Community Learning Association through Schools, over Maryke Fordyce’s name, is writing to the Prime Minister and asking him to change his mind, to alter this cut to adult and community education. What is the recent evidence of that group’s likelihood of success? We have from this Government, developing as a theme, “We will not listen. We will not listen.”
Hon Steve Chadwick: We know best.
Hon MARYAN STREET: “We know best. I am sorry if those cuts offend the community, but we know best.” We have people who will testify to the value and the worth of adult and community education delivered through organisations and high schools. In the Auckland region the adult and community education money goes to 160 community organisations around the Auckland area. It puts some $700,000 into those communities at a grassroots level that allows people to build up their confidence to engage in formal education again, that allows people to upskill when they have been out of the workforce for a long time, and that allows people to develop their literacy and numeracy skills—
Hon Anne Tolley: And scarf tie-dying—it is a whole heap of rubbish.
Hon MARYAN STREET: Even through Moroccan cooking, I say to Mrs Tolley—even through Moroccan cooking—because if one cannot read and one cannot count, one cannot cook! This kind of affront to adult and community education is going to come back and haunt this Government, and that is a promise.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The time for this debate has concluded. The question is that the amendment in the name of the Hon Phil Goff be agreed to.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That all words after “and” be omitted, and the following substituted: “that this House condemns the decision of the Government to pre-empt the democratic process through the select committee on Auckland governance regarding Māori representation and in doing so ignored the views of submitters and members of the public on this issue.”
||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.
|Amendment not agreed to.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Appropriation (2009/2010 Estimates) Bill be now read a third time and the Imprest Supply (Second for 2009/2010) Bill be now read a second time.
||New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
|Appropriation (2009/10 Estimates) Bill read a third time.Imprest Supply (Second for 2009/10) Bill read a second time.