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Date:
28 March 2012
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Questions for Oral Answer — Questions to Ministers

[Volume:678;Page:1369]

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.

Prayers.

Questions to Ministers

Government Financial Position—Management of Government Debt

1. SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister of Finance: What measures is the Government taking to responsibly manage its finances and reduce the build-up in debt?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: I am pleased to report that responsibly managing public finances is one of the Government’s four priorities in this term of Government. We have taken a number of steps. We have committed to a fast return to surplus in 2014-15 so we can stop the increase in public debt. We have reprioritised about $9 billion of lower priority spending in the last three Budgets. We have told public sector chief executives to take a careful look at their own operations and tell us how they could be improved to deliver better services without extra money, and we have committed to selling minority shareholdings in five State-owned enterprises to New Zealanders, which we expect to raise between $5 billion and $7 billion over the next 3 to 5 years—money we therefore will not have to borrow in volatile overseas markets.

Simon Bridges: What are some of the reasons Government debt has increased in recent years?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The pre-election update showed that net Crown debt increased from $10 billion in 2008 to $40 billion last year. It was caused by a number of factors, including the Government’s supporting the economy through the recession and the global financial crisis, rebuilding Canterbury through the $5.5 billion Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Fund and about $7 billion in Earthquake Commission expectations and paying out on earthquake claims, and—the biggest factor—an unsustainable 85 percent increase in Government spending from $35 billion a year in 2000 to $64 billion a year in 2009. That massive ramp-up in spending left us facing projections of never-ending deficits and ever-rising debt, and that is why the Government is working hard to turn that round.

Simon Bridges: How will the Government’s partial sale of shares in four energy companies and Air New Zealand help to reduce debt?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It will play a very important part in our overall programme. The sale to New Zealanders of minority shareholdings in Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis, Solid Energy, and Air New Zealand will free up money to invest in priority projects like modern schools and hospitals without our having to borrow that money from uncertain world financial markets. The Government expects the programme to raise between $5 billion and $7 billion over the next 3 to 5 years. I suppose our opponents, who seem very critical, should explain to New Zealanders why borrowing this money and paying more interest to overseas lenders would be better than paying dividends to New Zealanders.

Hon David Parker: Is he aware that at the Finance and Expenditure Committee this morning the Office of the Auditor-General, when giving evidence of its audit of Treasury’s implementation of the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme, said that so far as it could ascertain, at the time, Treasury did not report in writing to the Minister of Finance, or any other Minister, that finance company liabilities were growing sharply in the 6 months after the guarantee, which increased the risk by the Crown by more than $100 million in that period alone?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Minister of Finance obviously did not attend that committee meeting this morning. However, I would point out that the Auditor-General’s report on the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme found that the scheme worked as intended to protect the stability of the financial system overall. The report identified some issues early on in the scheme that needed to be tightened up, and from about March 2009 it identified that they were. That is, of course, hardly surprising, given that the scheme was put in place in haste by the previous Government in the middle of an election campaign.

Hon David Parker: Is he concerned by the Office of the Auditor-General’s findings in its performance audit that Treasury monitoring and reporting to Ministers—or non-reporting to Ministers—of increases of more than $100 million in finance company deposits and increasingly risky lending was inadequate?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Treasury, of course, only had limited powers to stop companies growing their books. That is one of the difficulties and the moral hazard of a retail deposit guarantee scheme. I think that is one of the challenges, and I am sure it was one of the challenges the Minister of Finance faced at the time when the Government was trying to deal with, on the one hand, the risks and stability of the whole financial system, and then the issue about potentially encouraging people to deposit into guaranteed finance companies. So that is one of the challenges. The report says Treasury could have monitored some things more closely and asked companies why it was occurring, but that does not necessarily translate into stopping companies, unless they were in breach of their deeds.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does his first answer to Mr Bridges, when he said that the Government was committed to selling these shares to New Zealanders, possibly mean that no foreign interests will obtain any shares if there is full New Zealander subscription?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We have been on record as saying about 85 percent to 90 percent of those companies would be owned by New Zealand mum and dad investors, and, of course, the Government’s 51 percent cornerstone shareholding.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking, from his words, whether or not he admits the possibility that what he is saying, by way of assurance, is true: that it is possible no foreigner will obtain any of these shares. That is the question.

Mr SPEAKER: With respect, I thought the Minister’s answer was no, he cannot give that assurance.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, why did he say so?

Mr SPEAKER: He did not use exactly those words, but it was perfectly clear what he was saying, that there was a certain percentage the Government expected to remain in New Zealand hands, and, therefore, some of the rest could end up in foreign hands.

Simon Bridges: What reports has the Minister seen supporting the partial floats of these State-owned enterprises?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen a report in today’s New Zealand Herald that says there is a strong interest from the investing public in these partial floats. For example, Hamilton Hindin Greene director Grant Williamson is quoted as saying: “We’ve had a rather large number of investors show interest, including new investors that maybe haven’t been in the market for some time.” As Ministers have said, the Government expects between 85 percent and 90 percent New Zealand ownership of these companies, including the Government’s commitment to retain at least 51 percent.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister: is the answer to my question no, or does he need it translated from somewhere else?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If the member is asking whether the answer to that question that he just asked is no, I suppose that the only correct answer is that I do not know, because he has not actually asked me a question in the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You were seeking to be helpful to me in explaining what answer he had given. I am asking now a very direct question: is the answer to my first question no?

Mr SPEAKER: I think it is perfectly obvious what the Rt Hon Winston Peters means, and I think the Minister could answer it. The member is simply asking whether the answer to the first question he put to the Minister today is no. I think that is capable of being answered.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The only trouble is I cannot remember exactly what he asked in his first question today, and so I do not know whether I am answering no in the affirmative or the negative.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think I can offer a remedy for the situation. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. I invite the right honourable member to repeat his first question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the answer to the question that I first raised with regard to Mr—

Hon Paula Bennett: He can’t remember, either.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, actually, to help you, I am trying to put it in a more simple way.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! What I actually invited the right honourable member to do was to repeat his first question. He was complaining about the fact that he felt it was not answered adequately, and that led to his second question, which led to confusion because the Minister was not sure what he was asking. So I invited the member to repeat his first question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you. Does it mean, given that his answer to Simon Bridges was that the Government was committed to selling these shares to New Zealanders, that it is possible no foreigner will be able to buy any shares at all in these enterprises?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is always possible that no foreigner may end up buying shares, but the Government’s stated intention is for New Zealand shareholders to be at the front of the queue. We expect around 85 to 90 percent of those companies to be held by New Zealanders, including the Government’s 51 percent share, once the share offer has taken place.

Rt Hon John Key—Recording of Private Conversation

2. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Attorney-General: Were the Prosecution Guidelines dated 1 January 2010 applied to the decision not to prosecute Mr Ambrose over the Tea Tape complaint?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) : The decision whether or not to prosecute was an independent decision made by the police commissioner. I have no personal knowledge of the commissioner’s process in making his decision. There is no day-to-day supervision of prosecution decisions made by agencies, including the police.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prosecution Guidelines make it clear that the Attorney-General is responsible for their administration, and I thought it was perfectly within the ambit of my primary question to ask the Attorney-General whether he was satisfied that on this occasion they had applied. That is what the question does.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister’s answer was a reasonable answer, I believe, because the member asked whether the Prosecution Guidelines were applied, and the Minister described exactly what happened. The member can dig deeper with his further supplementary questions. I think it would be unreasonable for the Speaker to say that was an unacceptable answer. There are more supplementary questions. The idea of the supplementary question is to dig into the Minister’s answer—given the information about the police commissioner making the decision independently, did that process meet these guidelines? That is what supplementary questions are for.

Charles Chauvel: Given that paragraph 1.5 of the Prosecution Guidelines clearly states an expectation that they will apply to decisions relating to prosecution by the New Zealand Police, is he satisfied as Attorney-General that the Prosecution Guidelines were properly applied in this case?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The decision about whether or not to prosecute was an independent decision made by the police commissioner. There is no day-to-day supervision of prosecution decisions made by agencies, including the police.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My supplementary question, on your advice, sought the view of the Attorney-General as to the appropriateness of the decision made on this occasion. Given that he is the officer of the State responsible for the application of the Prosecution Guidelines, it is perfectly proper for him to express a view and to answer the question.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I will hear the Hon Chris Finlayson, the Attorney-General.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Not only would it be not right for me but also it would be quite improper for me to make any comment second-guessing a decision by the commissioner on whether or not to prosecute. There is a clear delineation between the general principles set out in the guidelines, and day-to-day matters.

Mr SPEAKER: The interesting issue that has arisen is that the question that Charles Chauvel has asked does not ask about the merits of the particular decision for which the Attorney-General is not responsible. The question asked is whether the Attorney-General is satisfied the guidelines applied. The guidelines are something the Attorney-General is responsible for, and I think, although the Attorney-General is quite right that he has got to be careful not to comment on particular decisions by the independent authority—the police commissioner—the question is a reasonable question about whether the Attorney-General is satisfied the guidelines for which he is responsible were applied. That is not, in my view, a question out of order and I would invite the Attorney-General to answer that.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I am afraid I will probably displease you, because I can and will add nothing further to that. This is a day-to-day decision made by the commissioner and I am not privy to the commissioner’s thought processes in making the decision about whether to prosecute. I go further than that and say it would be quite improper for me to comment.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again the Attorney-General, either deliberately or otherwise, is missing the point. You were quite clear in your ruling about this. Mine was simply a question about whether he had a view as principal law officer of the State, responsible for the prosecution guidelines administration in New Zealand, whether the decision as to whether to prosecute in this case was sufficiently compliant with those guidelines. He is entitled to have a view; indeed he should have a view.

Mr SPEAKER: It is a very interesting situation that has arisen here. I have got to say I have sympathy for both members, because the guidelines exist and the Attorney-General is responsible for them. But I think in his further answer there, the Attorney-General has indicated, although he did not perhaps use the words, that he considered that it is not in the public interest for him to go further than he has in answering even in respect of the guidelines. It raises all sorts of interesting issues around the value of the guidelines, but still, the Attorney-General has argued—[Interruption]; I am on my feet—that he believes, and I am interpreting what he said, that it would not be in the public interest for him to comment further in respect of whether that decision complied with the guidelines. I should not second-guess that answer from the Attorney-General. The member is entitled to ask further questions.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for your ruling. Could we have clarification, in the circumstances, from the Attorney-General that he is claiming that it is not in the public interest to answer my question, because if I understand your ruling correctly, that is how you have taken his answer.

Mr SPEAKER: I think he made that very clear. He said he would not comment further on the individual decision of the police commissioner, even in covering that decision in relationship to the guidelines. That is clearly a decision that he does not consider it in the public interest for the Attorney-General to be commenting on such a decision. I think that is reasonable for me to accept that as Speaker.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The normal approach that has been taken in this House—I can remember probably three or four times previously—is that where a Minister believes it is not in the public interest to answer a question, they get up and they say just that, rather than being interpreted as they are now by you as meaning that, even though they do not say it.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the member makes. Would the Attorney-General assist the progress of the House. Would he be prepared to indicate in his view whether in fact it is the issue of public interest that prevents him from answering.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I did not think it was some kind of primer 1, formulaic—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no, I have asked—

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I so do.

Mr SPEAKER: He has now declared it not in the public interest.

Charles Chauvel: Does he have any knowledge of why the decision not to prosecute was announced only yesterday, when it was made at least a week ago, and whether that has anything to do with the absence overseas of the Prime Minister, who was the complainant?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I have already said—it is becoming a litany now—I have no personal knowledge of the commissioner’s process in making this decision. There is no day-to-day supervision of prosecution decisions made by agencies, including the police.

Charles Chauvel: Has the Crown agreed as part of the withdrawal of the Prime Minister’s criminal complaint against Mr Ambrose, or otherwise, not to pursue all or any of the costs of defending the declaratory judgment application that Mr Ambrose filed in the High Court last year?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The member has now moved from the criminal to the civil and is making reference to the costs application made by the Solicitor-General under his delegated authority after the decision was concluded—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Just answer the question!

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I am just trying, for the benefit of the former MP for Waimakariri, to set it out in primer 1 terms. That matter having been made—

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the Attorney does not like these sorts of questions—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I am on my feet and some members will be leaving this House if that is not respected. The Attorney-General did not help. It always leads to disorder when unhelpful comments are made. Had it not been for that unhelpful comment, the Minister was answering the question in a reasonable manner. I invite the Minister to answer the question without the unhelpful comments.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I do not want to offend Mr—

Mr SPEAKER: Just answer the question, please.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: After the decision of Justice Winkelmann was released, the Solicitor-General filed an application for costs. That has been responded to by counsel for Mr Ambrose. The matter is before the judge, and it would be improper for me to start commenting on those matters in this place. Any decision as to the ultimate outcome of those matters or negotiations are presumably for the lawyers.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to do this, but the question was very carefully framed, and the Attorney-General is accountable in this area. He cannot answer in a vague fashion like that and avoid the question. It was whether or not there has been agreement between the Crown’s lawyers, who are accountable him, and Mr Ambrose’s lawyers about withdrawing their claim for costs in the civil proceedings consequent on the withdrawal of the criminal prosecution.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Forgive me but I am not understanding the member there, obviously, because the Attorney-General pointed out the matter is still before the court, and it would be, in his view—I think he made it clear—improper for him to comment on any matters to do with this issue that is before the court, especially in matters to do with any possible agreements between lawyers that may have impact on the decision of the court.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue here is a simple question as to whether as part of the deal to withdraw the criminal prosecution there was also an arrangement between private lawyers on the one hand and lawyers accountable to the Attorney-General for the other, on whether or not to continue to seek costs in the civil case. There is no reason why the Attorney-General should not answer that question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would have thought it very obvious. The member appears to be making some kind of possible allegation in his question that such an agreement might have existed. Clearly, the Attorney-General is not going to comment on anything like that, because he would consider it, I would have thought, to be sub judice because the civil matter is still before the court, and in respect of any matter relating to lawyers involved in that civil case the Attorney-General, I would have thought, would consider it not in the public interest to answer. In fact, it is beyond not in the public interest; it is a matter that is sub judice, and it would be inappropriate for any member of this Parliament to get into commenting about those issues.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The sub judice rules are for matters that are before the court awaiting adjudication. The suggestion made by my colleague is that this is a matter of agreement and therefore will not be subject to adjudication.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Trevor Mallard: The Attorney can just say no.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is getting into debating this issue. The Attorney-General has indicated to the House that the matter is before the court. The Speaker has to accept that. I cannot go arguing with the Attorney-General that the senior law officer of the land is wrong when he says the matter is before the court and therefore sub judice. I have to accept that from the Attorney-General. If the Attorney-General is wrong in that matter, he has to face criticism publicly for being wrong, but I have to accept his view that the matter is sub judice. Just because it may become the subject of an agreement between lawyers does not make it not sub judice in the meantime.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If a question is sub judice and therefore ruled out from here, it is your decision and it is not a decision of the Government or its lawyer.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: That’s what he just said.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will not have debate across the House. The Speaker cannot have full knowledge of all matters that are before the court. The Attorney-General has a number of advisory roles, and the Attorney-General has made it clear to the House that it is his understanding that this matter is still before the court. As Speaker I have accepted that, and I am ruling therefore that we should not be raising questions about that particular matter that is still before the court, and that is that civil action, as I understand, where the matter is still before the court.

Charles Chauvel: Does he have a view, as principal law officer, about the appropriateness of both the prosecuting agency in this case and then the Prime Minister publicly pronouncing on Mr Ambrose’s guilt after the prosecution was withdrawn, despite the failure of the prosecution to meet the test for prosecution?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As will be tolerably clear, the answer is no, for the reason that I do not get involved in day-to-day matters concerning prosecutions.

Welfare Reforms—Work Testing

3. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Social Development: How will the Government’s proposed welfare changes give greater flexibility to support beneficiaries back into work?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) : As part of the Government’s focus on strengthening work obligations and incentives, we are introducing more flexibility in the part-time and full-time work tests. This means that there is going to be a change in the hours of work someone is required to undertake. There will be more of a range around the 15-hour, part-time work test and the 30-hour, full-time work test.

Tim Macindoe: Why is the Government making this change to the part-time and full-time work tests?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The previous policy settings have led to an arbitrary restriction, really, on the range of jobs that beneficiaries could be referred to or are required to accept. We also saw unnecessary circumstances where someone working 12 or 13 hours was still subject to a work test, when perhaps that was their capability for that week and made sense. So this is about backing people into work and ensuring the benefit system has a degree of flexibility around it.

Tim Macindoe: What trends are we seeing for people coming off a benefit and into work?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It would be fair to say that there has been some talk of late around where those jobs are and what has been happening out there, so I thought we would look at the evidence. For example, the household labour force survey says that 62,000 jobs were created over the past 2 years. The ANZ bank job report for January says 30,000 positions are available across the country. Work and Income has 1,300 to 1,500 vacancies coming in each week, quite frankly, from employers, and 3,500 jobs on its books at any one time. Last year 80,000 people went off benefits and into work. That is actually one person for every minute of every working day.

Accident Compensation Corporation—Release of Personal Information

4. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister for ACC: Does she stand by her answers to all supplementary questions to Oral Questions No. 2 and No. 9 yesterday?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC) : Yes.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the email she received from Michelle Boag received on the basis of a confidentiality undertaking from her to Boag, and if so, what are the details of that undertaking?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner contacted my office this morning and advised that it is now investigating this matter. I am quite happy to answer the question in the normal course of events, but I am a bit concerned that it might interfere with the Privacy Commissioner’s work.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister needs to make her own judgment about how she answers the question in relation to that. I invite her to answer the question in so far as she feels it appropriate.

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The answer is no, and, as I have always said, if anyone thinks their privacy has been abused, certainly by my office, they should make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner. I understand that the Privacy Commissioner is now investigating. I welcome that investigation. I have been advised that it might well include some forensic investigation of computer records, and, again, I welcome that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: What explanation, if any, did the Prime Minister give her for having to directly ask her on two occasions whether she was involved in leaking Ms Pullar’s name?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: None.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did she or any of her staff discuss the contents of the Boag email with Simon Lusk?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did she or any of her staff discuss the systemic privacy issues that Boag and Pullar raised with her with Simon Lusk?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No.

State-owned Energy Companies, Sales—2012 Budget Policy Statement Forecasts

5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Has the Treasury underestimated the forecast lost profits to the Crown from the sale of State-owned energy companies in light of Mighty River Power’s enhanced earnings and dividend announcement?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: No, the Minister does not believe so. The nature of New Zealand’s electricity market means that wholesale market conditions that are positive for one company—in this case, Mighty River Power—are likely to be negative for other companies, including, possibly, some energy State-owned enterprises. This is due to rainfall patterns. South Island lake inflows, for example, this year are low, increasing the electricity wholesale price. On the other hand inflows into Lake Taupō and the Waikato River are about normal. Mighty River Power would therefore expect to benefit from a higher wholesale price and normal generating capacity. Other companies would be negatively affected by the same weather pattern. Overs and unders like this are a feature of New Zealand’s electricity generation system.

Dr Russel Norman: Has the Minister of Finance read the table on page 6 of the Budget Policy Statement 2012, which indicates that the cost to the Crown per year in 2016 as a result of the privatisation will be a loss of $360 million per year in lost profits to the Crown?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sure he has seen that table, but the reality is, as the member knows, that there are a number of unders and overs involved in the transactions, and they come out broadly equivalent over the forecast period.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: In light of the increased profitability of Mighty River Power, what guarantee can he offer that this asset sales programme that he is proposing will not widen the Crown’s deficit by more than at least the $100 million a year he has already admitted to?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would refer back to my answer to the primary question. I think the member is drawing too much from this particular or single announcement.

Dr Russel Norman: Has the Minister read the table on page 6 of the Budget Policy Statement 2012, which indicates that the forgone profits as a result of privatisation will be $360 million a year, whereas the estimated finance cost savings will be only $260 million a year, and hence the Crown will be about $100 million a year worse off?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sure he has read that table, and again I think the member needs to look at the other unders and overs in relation to that table.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Do the improving profits from the energy State-owned enterprises not prove that Treasury was indeed right when it said that these companies were already operating efficiently under Crown ownership, and what would change under his privatisation agenda, other than the outflow of at least $100 million in profits per year flowing offshore?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The profits are not flowing offshore, and we could expect further efficiency improvements over time—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: They will when you flog off the assets.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, that is not correct, Mr Cosgrove. We have stated in answer to an earlier question that 85 to 90 percent is being held in this country, including the Government’s 51 percent share.

Dr Russel Norman: Has the Minister of Finance read, again, the table on page 6 of the Budget Policy Statement 2012, which says that the net decrease in operating balance, before gains and losses, will be $94 million a year as a result of the privatisation programme, and does that not mean that the Government will have $94 million less per year in 2016 as a result of privatisation?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: My answer remains the same. I am sure the Minister has read the table, and the member is aware that there are a number of unders and overs in relation to those calculations, which are clearly stated in the table.

Dr Russel Norman: What are those unders and overs?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have those tables with me, but I would point out—[Interruption] Well, if he is quoting page 6, he will know them. He does not need to ask me personally. But also, again, the transactions are that the money is obtained by the Crown and then progressively spent from the Future Investment Fund over a number of years.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he think it is a smart way to run a Budget to sell something that is earning a total shareholder return, according to Treasury, of 18.5 percent per year, in order to avoid debt, according to Treasury, of about 4 percent a year?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sure whether you buy or sell anything depends largely on the price. I point out that the Government is talking about selling minority shareholdings in these State-owned enterprises. For the member to make that suggestion without any reference to price suggests that he is actually operating on a philosophical view, rather than on any sort of economic view.

Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister of Finance tell us whether the return on these assets is greater than the cost of Government borrowing?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member should be reminded of his opening question. In his opening question he was talking about the variability of earnings in these companies. That is the reality of the situation. You actually cannot judge that looking forward; you can make an estimate. But we are confident that it will be a net positive for the New Zealand Government in selling those minority shares, and it will have the benefit of strengthening New Zealand’s capital markets and have the benefit of strengthening the accountability and performance of these companies over time.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very clear and simple question. The Minister talked about many things. He did not compare the return on the asset versus the cost of Government borrowing. That is the substance of the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept that the Minister’s answer was not as straightforward as the member’s question, but perhaps the question is not capable of quite such a straightforward answer, because what the Minister said was that if you project ahead, the variations in return and the variations in the cost of capital mean it is difficult to predict which will be the greater. I think that was what the Minister indicated. He concluded, if I recollect correctly, though, that it is the Government’s belief that they will be of similar magnitude. I think that is what the Minister indicated. Now if I am wrong on that, the Minister had better correct me. I accept that that was not exactly as simple as the question was, but then I think one has to accept that the question sounded simpler than it really is. As one projects these things ahead there is significant variability, and I think that is what the Minister was pointing out in his answer.

Dr Russel Norman: If the return on this asset may be actually less than 4 percent—the cost of borrowing to the Government—why on earth would anyone buy one share in this company?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The assessment as to who will buy shares, of course, will be made at the time the share offers are made. But, again, the projection forward of the income for those companies will be one of the factors in determining not only the number of offers but also the price. The member seems to be operating completely devoid of any consideration of price, which seems a rather strange approach to take.

Prisoners—Drug Use

6. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister of Corrections: What reports has she received about the amount of drug use in prisons?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections) : I am happy to advise the House that the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs has reached a record low. The latest figures show that only 4.3 percent of prisoners randomly tested for drugs returned a positive result. This compares with 13 percent in the 2008 year, and 34 percent in the 1997-98 year, when testing was introduced. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I ask members please to extend some courtesy to members at the back of the House. Mike Sabin has a big voice, but he cannot get through some of that noise.

Mike Sabin: What factors have led to the decline in drug use in prisons?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Since 2008 we have doubled the number of prisoners able to attend specialist drug treatment units, and introduced new laws that increased the search powers of corrections officers and provided new offences relating to contraband. Just last week, three more corrections drug dogs and their handlers graduated from the police dog training centre to help fight contraband in prisons, bringing the department’s team of drug-dog handlers working in New Zealand prisons to 15. This increase in capacity means more dogs to cover each region and should result in fewer drugs getting into prisons.

Biosecurity Management—Confidence

7. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Does he have confidence in New Zealand’s current biosecurity arrangements?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Associate Minister for Primary Industries) on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries: Yes.

Richard Prosser: What assurances can he give that drug runners and smugglers are not exploiting loopholes and vulnerabilities in the direct exit initiative?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Point of order, I believe that that question—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Hang on. If the member calls for a point of order, he has got to wait until a point of order is acknowledged. Point of order, the Hon Nathan Guy.

Hon NATHAN GUY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question is down as a biosecurity question. I believe that that member is straying into an area of customs, and that question would be better suited to be addressed to the Minister of Customs.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is the sole judge of whose responsibility such an issue is. I do accept that. The member will need to make sure his questions lie in the responsibility area of the Minister for Primary Industries, not the Minister of Customs.

Richard Prosser: How can he be confident that all dangerous goods and potential biosecurity hazards entering New Zealand from Australia under the direct exit initiative are detected, when experienced customs staff have expressed concerns that they are understaffed and that biosecurity detection dogs are not adequately deployed?

Mr SPEAKER: It seems to me the member in his own question has raised the issue of how customs staff see this thing, and the Minister has already pointed out that the Minister for Primary Industries is not responsible for customs. I fear that we may have a situation where the question has been directed perhaps to—my office would have been unaware of the direction the member wanted to take his question, because it asked only whether the Minister for Primary Industries had confidence in New Zealand’s biosecurity arrangements, for which that Minister is responsible. But he is not responsible for our customs arrangements.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you look at the question, what is being asked of this Minister, who, after all, is the Minister most concerned with primary industries, is whether he, as the primary industries Minister, is someone who has confidence in our biosecurity arrangements. He may not be the only Minister responsible for this issue, but he needs to tell the farming and export community whether he has got any confidence in what is in place now. That is what we have been asking of him. That is why he is being asked.

Mr SPEAKER: If I recollect correctly, the Minister answered that he did have confidence in our biosecurity arrangements, but then he was asked a matter about customs, and the Minister has indicated that he does not have responsibility for those issues. He is the judge of that. If it was an absolutely outrageous proposition from the Minister, the Speaker would intervene, but it seems a reasonable proposition from the Minister that the Minister of Customs is responsible for those matters. I invite Mike Sabin, though, to ask a further supplementary question. I beg your pardon—Richard Prosser! My God! My apologies.

Richard Prosser: I do not have such a large voice as Mr Sabin. Is the Minister happy to jeopardise $7 billion to $8 billion per annum of New Zealand’s agricultural exports from the South Island, where there are a total of four biosecurity dogs to protect three international airports and six seaports?

Hon NATHAN GUY: Dogs, of course, are just one measure in biosecurity. The member might be interested to know that the number of dog handlers has increased in the last 12 months, I am advised. Also, can I go on to say that all other biosecurity screening processes in place—for example, profiling, risk assessment, X-rays, and baggage searches—of course carry on.

Richard Prosser: I seek leave to table a letter to the Minister dated 4 January this year from a highly experienced biosecurity officer outlining these concerns.

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 Damien O’Connor: Is it now National Government policy to not test risk material coming into New Zealand for fear of identifying unwanted organisms or for fear of “highlighting perceived failings of MAF over clearance, and potentially further alarming stakeholders”, as happened with 2.3 million rogue strawberry seeds in the not too distant past sold by The Warehouse?

Hon NATHAN GUY: No. He wants to ensure that biosecurity in New Zealand continues to be a world-class system. Certainly, in the example the member has raised about strawberry seed importing, it is worth noting that the Netherlands did not pick up the strawberry seeds in the consignment. I am also informed that the importer did not pick up the fact that strawberry seeds could not come into New Zealand. Also, it is relevant to mention that in a 10-page document strawberry seed was referred to by the Latin name Fragaria. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is reviewing its internal processes to make sure that they become more stringent in this particular area.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Minister admitted that there were more trained dog handlers than dogs, how long did it take him to train those dog handlers without dogs to sniff the drugs to give him the confidence to provide the answers he gave in the House today?

Hon NATHAN GUY: If that member was listening he would realise that sniffing drugs for these dogs is actually a corrections issue.

Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 8, David Bennett. [Interruption] Order! The House will come—[Interruption] Order! The Minister had his chance to answer questions. He will be silent when I am on my feet, as will other members.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can see that this is not going to be a point of order. The member knows that it is not going to be a point of order. He cannot invite—[Interruption] The House will come to order. The House has had some fun, but we have had enough.

Vehicle Licensing System—Vehicle Licensing Reform Project

8. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Transport: What is the Government doing to reduce compliance costs for motorists?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport) : Today I have launched the Vehicle Licensing Reform project. This will examine annual vehicle licensing—more commonly known as registration—warrants of fitness and certificates of fitness, and transport services licensing. The current vehicle licensing system has been in place for many years and affects every vehicle owner. The review will look at using technologies to modernise processes and produce cost savings.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I hope the member asking the question heard the answer, because I could not hear it for the life of me. I say that it is the Labour benches that are actually making all the noise here, and they will stop. I could not hear that answer. I could not tell whether the answer was within the Standing Orders or not, and this ridiculous level of noise will stop now. I accept that a bit of fun has been had, and that is fine, but it has got to stop. It cannot go on indefinitely. What I am going to do is invite the Hon Gerry Brownlee to answer—

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is on the record.

Mr SPEAKER: It is on the record, so he does not wish to repeat his answer.

David Bennett: What types of savings could this review identify for households and businesses?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This reform has the potential to save millions of dollars in unnecessary costs and time for households and businesses. More than 14 million transactions are generated each year by these three systems, which is a huge administrative compliance burden. It is important to note that safety will remain a key priority in considering any changes. Reform work is in the early stages, and there will be opportunities for stakeholders to have their say.

Question No. 7 to Minister—Amended Answer

Hon NATHAN GUY (Associate Minister for Primary Industries) : I wish to seek leave to correct an answer that I gave to a supplementary question from Mr Peters on question No. 7 where I said—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is being sought to correct an answer. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection. The Minister may correct his answer.

Hon NATHAN GUY: I answered by saying it was a corrections issue. It was actually a customs issue.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister.

Māui’s Dolphin—Preservation

9. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: How many adult Maui’s dolphins are estimated to be alive today and can she guarantee that on her watch no more Maui’s dolphins will die of human-induced causes?

Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation) : Earlier this month I released new figures from a study conducted over the past two summers that estimates 55 Māui’s dolphins remain. The actual figures are calculated as being between 48 and 69, with a 95 percent confidence factor. No one can guarantee what the member asked for in the second part of his question. We all take the plight of these indigenous dolphins very seriously, which is why we have announced immediate steps to help protect these mammals, but I cannot control nor guarantee what other humans will do.

Gareth Hughes: Can the Minister of Conservation confirm that the proposed extension to the marine mammal sanctuary will only put restrictions on seismic surveys, and will not prevent the use of trawl nets, set nets, or drift nets, or seabed mining?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: I cannot give such a guarantee, because at this stage it is only a proposal, and it does have to go through its proper process.

Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether the proposal contains this point, not whether the Minister will decide after submissions on the proposal have been heard. [Interruption]

Hon KATE WILKINSON: I thought the question asked whether I could guarantee—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the House knows better than to interject when a point of order is being heard. Clearly, there is confusion over the question asked. I invite Gareth Hughes to repeat his supplementary question.

Gareth Hughes: Can the Minister of Conservation confirm that the proposed extension to the marine mammal sanctuary will only put restrictions on seismic surveys, and will not prevent the use of trawl nets, drift nets, or set nets, or seabed mining?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: As the member will know, the proposals also include proposals under the fisheries regime that do include a proposal relating to set-net banning.

Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, the question was on the Minister’s proposal that she has gone to the public with to be submitted on, not on what the Minister for Primary Industries has also gone out on.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister, I think, answered that, but pointed out that in other proposals in front of the Government the issues the member included in his question are actually being addressed. That seemed to be the Minister’s answer, to me. The House must not be pulled up with every answer being challenged under a point of order. Members cannot expect to get exactly the answer they want when they ask a question. Often, there are a range of answers to a question and a range of ways of answering a question. I invite members to listen. Just as I ask Ministers to listen to questions, I want members to listen to the answers from Ministers. It should not take the Speaker to explain why, in fact, the Minister has answered the question.

Gareth Hughes: Why will the Minister of Conservation not use her powers under the Marine Mammals Protection Act to implement a prohibition on the use of trawl nets, drift nets, and set nets throughout the entire marine mammal sanctuary in order to protect the remaining 55 Māui’s dolphins?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: What we are trying to do here is do everything we can to put in place measures to protect what are critically endangered creatures. We are going through a proper process as quickly as possible. To be honest with this House, I do not want to waste a couple of years in judicial review hearings because the process was not done properly or because of political pressure to take shortcuts.

Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry—Cost of Change Management

10. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: What is the cost budgeted for this financial year of the 30 or more positions in the Change Programme Office within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the consultants engaged by the Ministry on the change process?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs) : I am advised that the 30 positions referred to in the question include both Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade staff temporarily assigned to the change team and change programme consultants on fixed-term contracts. In addition, services are being contracted from a range of external consultancy firms. The cost of all three of these categories in the current year is $9.2 million from the ministry’s budget of $398 million.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the $9.2 million that he has invested in what is regarded as a failed change process include the quarter of a million dollars paid to a man in Singapore to come to New Zealand once every 6 weeks—$250,000, which, annualised, equals $1.5 million a year—and an organisation called Change By Design being paid thousands to give advice to stressed employees, such as to get a pet or take up yoga?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The contracts that the member refers to would have been entered into by the chief executive, who has authority to enter such contracts without—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. I say to the Labour front bench again to show some courtesy to their colleague. I believe he has asked a question in which there is genuine public interest, and I believe members of the House want to hear the answer.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The particular example that was cited by the member is a contract that the chief executive had full authority to enter into. As he is probably aware, the matter has been raised in a number of media articles in recent times, and I have raised the matter with the ministry accordingly.

Hon Phil Goff: Have 49 out of 53 of his heads of mission written to the ministry on 15 March expressing that they are “deeply concerned” that the new business model that he has just admitted spending $9 million on will “undermine or even destroy” the ministry’s key strengths and capabilities?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I cannot confirm that statement, but I can say that there have been a large number of exchanges taking place between heads of mission and other staff members, and the chief executive. I have taken an overview of some of those comments, and it is fair to say that many of them are strongly critical of the change programme. That is one of the reasons I decided to issue a 4-page letter trying to ensure that the future discussion should focus on those areas in which change could be constructively considered, and eliminating those areas where further discussion was going to be destructive.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a letter, dated 15 March 2012 and headed “MFAT in confidence”, signed by 49 of our top high commissioners and ambassadors, saying precisely what I said.

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 Phil Goff: When 95 percent of his top front-line staff, most of whom he has personally approved the appointment of, say that the proposed changes that he has spent $9 million on will “severely curtail … NZ economic and foreign policy objectives …” for years to come, does he consider that $9.2 million spent on consultants and the change office a total waste of money?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The member’s original question asked for the budget for the year, not for the amount expended so far, and so the figures I have given him are the budgeted figures for the entire year, not the amount spent, as he has just asserted to the House. I do want to say, though, that the heads of mission and other staff members who have made their concerns known as part of this consultation process have been listened to carefully by me, and, from the beginning of this process, I have publicly urged that the ministry leadership should listen to their comments carefully. That is why I have tried to ensure that future discussions are focused on areas where there can be constructive dialogue, and tried to eliminate those areas in which further discussion would be destructive.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Minister not consult with his top front-line staff before committing the expenditure of $9.2 million, which he has practically admitted now to this House has been a waste of money?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The member as a former Minister will know that the process of modernising the practices of the ministry is entirely a matter for the chief executive, and one that he has full authority to engage in.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Minister now take responsibility for budgeting for $9.2 million—and he will have spent $9.2 million—on change proposals that he has been intimately involved in from the start, or is he continuing to blame his chief executive officer, who constitutionally cannot answer back to his Minister?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I have made it very clear from the beginning that this is a change process driven by people who have been engaged by the chief executive. I have conveyed my views—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! A member has asked a serious question, and I think the House deserves to hear the answer.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The chief executive established the change team to engage in a modernisation project, as he is fully entitled to do. To the extent that I had concerns about elements of that programme, they would have been known in advance of the consultation document being distributed. At the end of that consultation process I thought there were some steps that I should take to focus the discussion going forward, and I took those steps.

Census 2013—Preparations and Availability of Results

11. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Statistics: What information has he received on preparations for the 2013 Census?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister of Statistics) : I thank the member for giving me the opportunity to bring more good news from the department of statistics. I am pleased to tell this House that it is now less than 1 year to go before we will conduct a census on 5 March 2013. The House will remember that the 2011 census could not be held because of the 22 February earthquake. I have been advised by Statistics New Zealand that preparations are well on track for this event. About 7,000 census collectors will be employed to both personally deliver the forms and assist people with filling them out. But for the census next year, the real thrust will be going on promoting completing your census online. We are hoping to get really, really large uptakes with the internet, so the census will give the Government some very valuable information for health, education, roads, public transport, and recreational facilities that will actually inform us for good decision-making.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: Will the information from the census be ready in time for setting up electorate boundaries ahead of the next election?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I know this is a question that concerns a number of members of this Parliament. Yes, indeed, census information is obviously critical to the setting of the boundaries ahead of the 2014 election. Statistics New Zealand has informed me that the work it needs to do on the census data will be ready in time. It has agreed to provide that data to Land Information New Zealand by 7 October next year. I know the Minister for Land Information is delighted to hear that information. This will mean the boundaries can be completed and will be ready on time for an election in 2014.

Skycity—Convention Centre

12. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic Development: Is the Government considering legislative or regulatory concessions with respect to SkyCity Casino in order to build an international convention centre; if so, why?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) : The Ministry of Economic Development is negotiating with Skycity over the form of a potential commercial agreement. While these negotiations are ongoing it would be inappropriate for me to rule in or out what the Government might finally agree to. If there are any legislative or regulatory changes that are required, they will go through the usual public and/or parliamentary process in which that member, of course, is welcome to engage. However, I would say that the overall economic benefit of any agreement would have to outweigh potential negative impacts before the Government would proceed. In the case of the proposed international convention centre, we are talking about a $350 million investment that would bring in 1,000 new jobs during its construction and around 800 jobs once it is up and running and that would inject $90 million a year into the Auckland economy.

Hon David Cunliffe: Would the Minister consider any of the following concessions inappropriate: increasing the number of pokie machines, extending Skycity’s gambling licence or lease, reducing taxation on gambling, or destroying part of Television New Zealand’s headquarters?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I just refer the member back to the primary question. The Ministry of Economic Development is negotiating with Skycity at the moment, and I am not prepared to conduct those negotiations on the floor of the House.

Hon David Cunliffe: Given that the South Australian state Treasurer has ruled out “legislative favours for sale” in similar negotiations with Skycity there, can he explain why in New Zealand gambling law is for sale to the same company?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I reject the inference that the member makes in that question. I would point out of course that what he is sort of suggesting is that, actually, if he had applied the suggested Government approach today back 20 years ago, we would not actually have the original Skycity, the Sky Tower, the hotels in Auckland, or the 3,000 jobs today. So I think the member has to be careful, because on the one hand he often asks for the Government to do more to encourage jobs, but pretty much every time that the Government is proceeding and looking at things that will create more jobs, the Opposition in the form of Mr Cunliffe and others opposes those measures.

Hon David Cunliffe: Has the Minister or any member of his staff ever received a chairman’s card or any other redeemable card or benefit from Skycity?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would not even know what a chairman’s card from Skycity is. I have received one from Qantas, I think, as a Minister, I am sure, or something along those lines, yes. I do not think Qantas does gambling or gaming.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Can he advise what economic benefits there could be for an estimated 350 to 500 problem gamblers from an increase in the number of pokie machines at the Skycity Casino that would come about from the development of a convention centre, as has been reported today?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I am not sure where the member gets his numbers. As I have pointed out in the answer to the primary question, negotiations are continuing between the Ministry of Economic Development and Skycity, and if there was an arrangement to come to, it would come back to this House and to Parliament to review. But I would say that, again, the important thing is that the overall economic benefit of any proposal has to outweigh the potential negative impacts before the Government will make a decision to proceed.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister explain to the House the difference between a closed-door negotiation with a casino in exchange for selling the law while receiving pecuniary benefits, and practices that in other countries could be termed corrupt?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: That is out of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Well—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No one minds the member asking questions about an issue like this. The Minister has made it clear that he cannot talk about negotiations, but the inference in that question is completely outside of the Standing Orders on a number of levels, and if you were to review Hansard, because I am not repeating it, I am sure that you would be able to see that it is a totally inappropriate question.

Hon David Cunliffe: Earlier in supplementary questions I gave the Minister the opportunity to effectively rule out or deem inappropriate any number of alleged concessions that have been publicly reported as being considered. The Minister has refused to rule out any and has refused in further supplementary questions to rule out the possibility of having received some pecuniary interest. [Interruption]

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no, no, order!

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, that’s outrageous!

Mr SPEAKER: No. Order! I am on my feet. The Leader of the House should not be interjecting like that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Throw him out.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I say to the right honourable gentleman that I am on my feet and he should not be interjecting either. The question, I accept, is right on the margins because the question talked about legislation being for sale, or law being for sale, and asked the Minister to compare that with what might be considered corrupt practice in other countries. I could get on a high horse and rule it out, but it is an invitation to the Minister to give a pretty blunt answer back and I do not want to be preventing Ministers from being able to do that. None of the language alleged corruption in New Zealand. There is no reason why a member in this House cannot ask about possible corruption. If the Speaker was to rule that out, how is that upholding the rights of members of this House to hold the executive to account? So although the question to me does contain imputations that the Minister may find quite offensive, I do not think the Speaker should be ruling it out. I think it is up to the Minister to handle it in the way he sees fit, and the questioner may not have much sympathy from the Speaker where he seeks the Speaker’s assistance in dealing with the kind of answer he gets. So I invite the Hon Steven Joyce to answer it in the way he sees fit.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I reject point blank the suggestion of the member in relation to the comments he made in that question, including any suggestion of pecuniary benefits, which I do find offensive.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can I seek leave to table a document created by the Parliamentary Library depicting the head office and key studios of our State broadcaster, which the Minister wants to demolish to make way for more pokies. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again I say to the honourable Leader of the House, this is a point of order. [Interruption] Order! 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 David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a document created by the Parliamentary Library depicting the artist’s impression of the Minister’s new pokie palace. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member has now breached the Standing Orders. To refer to something as a pokie palace I think is just treating the House with—the member had leave to table the first document. I am not putting leave. Because of the way the member treated the House I am not putting leave to table the second one.