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House of Representatives
4 April 2012
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3. Skycity, Convention Centre—Confidence in Ministers Involved in Negotiations

[Sitting date: 04 April 2012. Volume:679;Page:1639. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]

3. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : In a word, yes.

David Shearer: Does he have confidence in the handling of the Skycity negotiations by Steven Joyce, Nathan Guy, and Amy Adams, who at various times have had relevant responsibilities?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I do. I have considerable confidence in all those Ministers. They are doing an outstanding job of trying to negotiate the development of a convention centre that would have a substantial impact to the benefit of New Zealand by allowing conventions to be held that can bring significant economic gains to New Zealand.

David Shearer: Can he give an assurance that as part of the Skycity negotiations his Ministers will not include an agreement to extend the period of the existing gaming licences?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not going to go through the individual parts of the package today, but what I can say is I have tremendous confidence that it will be a good package for New Zealand that will not require $350 million. But I must say I am stunned by the new-found objection to casinos from the Labour Party. I say that for this reason—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First of all, the Prime Minister said that he would refuse to answer the question. Then he began a tirade against those who know exactly what game he is up to, and I would have thought you would have stopped him a long time ago.

Mr SPEAKER: The reason why I did not stop the Prime Minister sooner—and the member’s question is fair enough—is the interjection level from the Opposition. Just as the right honourable gentleman himself has observed when members interject while he is asking a question, I tend to tell the members not to be surprised if the member focuses on their interjections. Likewise, when the Prime Minister or a Minister is answering a question and the Opposition interjects a lot, do not be surprised if the Minister latches on to some of those interjections and climbs into them. That is way this place tends to work, and the remedy is in members’ own hands. Members are wiser not to interject on questioners, and when answers are being given members are wiser to keep their interjections rare and reasonable. That said, I think the Prime Minister had gone on long enough. He was certainly at liberty to indicate that the question was more detailed, given the very, very broad primary question, than he would be prepared to answer. Given the broadness of that primary question, there is nothing unusual about that.

David Shearer: Can he give an assurance that as part of the Skycity negotiations, his Ministers will not include an agreement to make technology changes or increase betting limits that make it easier for people to lose money more rapidly?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not going to go into the individual parts of the deal, but what I can say is that harm minimisation is a significant issue. As I was about to say earlier, I am amazed that Labour is so concerned about casinos, because—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet, and there was not the provocation on that occasion.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Oh, there was.

Mr SPEAKER: No. Order!

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Oh! But—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, there was not the provocation on that occasion. I know the Prime Minister is very keen to get something out here, but this is question time. It is not the general debate; that comes later. The Prime Minister is perfectly at liberty in the general debate to say what he likes, but during question time he will answer the questions where it is in the public interest.

David Shearer: When did he first become aware that casinos returned 2.5 percent of their profits to the community and gaming trusts returned 37 percent, and does he think it is fair to increase casino revenue while reducing trust revenue, in the light of these figures?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I first became aware when Labour brought casinos into New Zealand in 1990, with the objective of promoting tourism, employment, and economic development.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. I am not sure that that was the awareness that the questioner was seeking.

David Shearer: Is he confident that his Ministers are firm enough to negotiate a deal with Skycity that is in the public interest, and what differentiates New Zealand from South Australia, whose Minister said “There is no way we are going soft on them” when negotiating Skycity’s overtures?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I can speak authoritatively that Mr Joyce is not only the Minister responsible for this; he is also the campaign manager, and, trust me, he is firm enough.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Has he been briefed that that 1990 casino vote was a conscience vote, not a party vote, and will he support members having the right to exercise a conscience vote this year, as well?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and no.