It's Our Future Kiwi Voices on the TPPA Sat, 25 Oct 2014 01:02:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Lisa Owen interviews Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings Fri, 24 Oct 2014 10:51:15 +0000 Press Release – The Nation

Fonterra boss worried about the spread of Ebola in West Africa and potential big consequences for the company, saying it doesnt feel to me like that it is under control at the momentLisa Owen interviews Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings


Fonterra boss worried about the spread of Ebola in West Africa and potential “big consequences” for the company, saying “it doesn’t feel to me like that it is under control at the moment”

Estimates if Ebola worsens, it could “very quickly” hit 5-6% of Fonterra’s exports, worth $150 million in sales.

Spierings says China as a market is “stable” – volume growth might slow to 4% from 6%

Downplays chance of sealing a Trans-Pacific trade deal – “where the world is right now, we should not be overly optimistic on reaching this… it’s going to be very difficult”.

Can envisage a day when New Zealand reaches ‘peak cow’ – “there could be a point in time that you say no more” – but not for some years.

Says New Zealand dairying can continue its expansion in the next decade – “with 60% based on conversions and more animals and 40% is productivity”.

Disagrees with Environment Commissioner’s comments that more dairying means a drop in water quality – “New Zealand can easily grow for the next ten years by 2%, 3% a year”.

“Not worried” about sales of productive land to foreigners so long as we are “working together” with foreign owners

If China takes “a single-minded focus on dairy” he agrees with comments it could be self-sufficient in dairy in five years, but China’s leaders “have many other priorities” and prefer partnerships with firms like Fonterra.

Spierings says China as a market is “stable” – volume growth might slow to 4% from 6%

Confident dairy prices will start to rise in 4-6 months, once China comes back into the market in December, and Fonterra’s $5.30/kg forecast payout is realistic.

It’s one of the main engines of the New Zealand economy, but is dairy powerhouse Fonterra running out of gas? Could foreigners be stealing the cow that gives the golden milk? And as more and more farms convert to dairy, have we reached peak cow? Our largest company has been hit with a near 50% slump in dairy prices this past year and slashed its milk payout forecast to a six-year low. The man at the helm of New Zealand’s largest company, Theo Spierings, was in the studio earlier, and I began by asking why the bank economists don’t think even the revised forecast is realistic.

But that, Lisa, is where I really disagree with banks, because it’s very easy to look backwards for one or two months and then extrapolate that line going forward, but that’s not forecasting. So what I’m doing is we are where we are. We know our demand pools, we know the supply pools, so forecasting means from today, not looking backwards. If I look at the last four GDT events and I look forward, I might land on a figure starting with a four, but I have to forecast based on what do I see on supply, what do I see on demand. So that’s where—

So how confident are you that you’re right? Give me a percentage – how confident?

It’s still a forecast, but everybody in the world knows, and I’m talking to milk traders but also all the milk companies. A very fair price level for dairy is 3500, so we’re way below that price point right now. So we will come back to that level, whether it’s in four months or in six months, but we will get back there.

But you think definitely by six months, you will be on the up?

That is in our forecast right now, so last GDT even for milk price produce was slightly up. So let’s see if China comes back, and they will come back in December, then we will look at better prices.

So what do you think are the biggest risks for you right now and in the next year? What are the biggest risks for you across the globe?

The biggest risks – look, China is stable, and China might show a little bit less growth, but that’s from a 6% volume growth to a 4% volume growth, and it’s still strong. Supply only grows by 2%, so that gap is increasing. So China is stable. The biggest risks are really what is going to happen around the Russian situation and what is going to happen in the Middle East. So it’s more geopolitical. And, look, all the supply pools, we can try to make a forecast, but that’s kind of the weather forecast. If you have one weather event in one milk pool, so if El Nino hits or whatever, then one supply pool will be affected, yeah. If demand is strong, prices will come up very fast.

The Middle East and Africa are identified as a growing market for you. You’ve mentioned Ebola. What impact could that have for you?

What you see is that countries are locking down their borders, so that limits us logistically. So West Africa – movements in West Africa become more and more difficult, so that limits movement of food as well, movement of people – people going to the market, doing their groceries – so you see demand really dropping pretty fast. And Ebola – the question is can it be contained quickly, but it doesn’t feel to me like that it is under control at the moment, and I’m saying it mildly.

So how worried are you about that?

I’m quite worried about it, yeah. I’m worried about it, and I’m worried that it will spread, because I’ve lived in West Africa, and it’s very difficult to contain an Ebola virus or whatever virus to a certain region because people are used to travelling, crossing borders. It’s a heavily populated region.

So potentially what impact could that have on you and Fonterra’s business?

I mean, if West African demand would slow down or drop off, you’re talking about 100,000 tonnes of powder very very quickly, right.

And what does that mean in money?

That is of our total, that is about, you talk— let me quickly think. That’s about 5%, 6% of our exports. So you talk, yeah, 150 million or something like that, yeah.

So huge consequences for you?

Those are big consequences, but that’s why we are constantly looking around the globe – where are the opportunities? Now there’s opportunities, for example, in the US, arbitrage opportunities with butter – very high prices. We can come in with our prices. So we use that opportunity.

So you’re talking there about diversifying your markets, but so much of our wealth as a country is dependent on China’s growth at the moment. But that is a country where the government is aggressively encouraging the growth of its own dairy industry. Does that keep you awake at night?

No, no, because— Of course, that they develop their own dairy industry, in my opinion, that’s very—that’s even good because that is, in my opinion, from a food safety quality perspective, number one. If you look at from 2008, melamine till now, the China milk pool was 35 billion litres and still is 35 billion litres because of food safety issues but also biosecurity issues. So effectively you see a flat line, and you’ve seen demand growing. The gap in China between supply and demand now is 10 billion, and we’re expecting by 2020 to be 20 billion, and they are going to rely—

In saying that, though, one Australian dairy boss has said that China could— should be – those were his words – self-sufficient in dairy in the next five years because Australia is selling them live dairy cows, and we’re doing the same thing, aren’t we?

We do the same thing, but dairying is not only about cows. First of all, you need to have a piece of land which is suitable for dairying, and probably the most scarce—

But do you think—? So you’re saying there’s a skills issue there as well and land, but do you think that they could reach that self-sufficiency within five years in terms of dairy?

If they would have a single-minded focus on dairy, I’m not going to say to you that they can’t, because they can. But they have many other priorities, like the meat industry. Pig farming is massive. If the Chinese government has to choose what are we going to do – pig farming or dairy? – they will choose pig farming because that’s part of the staple—

But if they do take an aggressive approach or a single-minded approach, as you say, where does that leave you?

I think that the relationship between China and our country here is extremely strong, so there is a very strong government-to-government relation. I’m very close, business to government. We do talk to government as well. We see the dynamics in China. They are not adamant about self-sufficiency. They are adamant about people like us developing the milk pool and from a food safety quality perspective and local partnership.

But if they develop their own resources, there’s less opportunity for us, less business for us.

There’s possibly less at the beginning of the supply chain, but there is still a lot of money to be made downstream. We have to do both. We do farming. We do ingredients. So if you look at the value chain, we are at the source – farming – we do the ingredients, and we do brands. So we capture with our brands the entire value chain.

It’s funny you should raise that, because Lochinver Station, which is going into Chinese hands, that’s one of the big staging stations for live cattle exports, so there is a fear in some quarters that basically China is aiming to own the whole supply chain, and that would shut you out. So they’d get a farm here with staging for live cattle, they get a processing plant, and then you’re out.

No, but China really thinks in partnership, and, of course, they want people to create value on ground, like we are doing, in China, but you are right. They would like to partner with companies like us and other companies in other milk pools in Australia or New Zealand. That’s why there’s the Beingmate deal for us. For Beingmate, it is very important to have access to another milk pool rather than China. So these partnerships – they are definitely the top of the agenda of the Chinese government.

But does foreign or Chinese ownership of productive New Zealand land – does that worry you?

Look, I’m not a politician, and you know that—

No, but you’re a businessman. You are a businessman, and this is buying up elements of a business that you are invested in.

Correct, but I also have to go back to principles and roots of democracy. I mean, in China, nobody can own land.

The question—

No, no. In China, nobody can own land. Not even the Chinese can own land.

No, you lease it, but does it worry you that our land – our productive land – New Zealand productive land is being bought by Chinese, for example?

I am— What is important for me is that you have—that one rule applies and there’s no discrimination. And I think if I can buy land as a Dutchman, then it’s very strange if a Chinese person cannot buy land.

So you don’t think there’s any need for further restrictions?

Again, I’m not a politician, but if we have proper partnership, like what we do with Beingmate, that we are in their milk pool, they are working together in our milk pool, that we work together in the entire value chain and it’s not us and them, I’m not worried.

At the moment, we have our— I’m just going to check these figures so that I’ve got them exactly right – 4.7 million dairy cows on 1.7 million hectares of land currently. So when do we reach peak cow?

I don’t know what you—

That’s from Dairy New Zealand 2013.

No, but I don’t know exactly what you mean with ‘peak cow’.

So optimum number of cows – when have we hit the ceiling? Are we there now?

That depends, really, on the system you run. I mean, I come from a country the size of the Waikato, with three million cows, right, so it depends what solutions and willingness for investments in the farm.

But what’s your gut feeling? Because at the moment you have, say, for example, the Environment Commissioner saying that it’s a zero sum situation – more dairying means inevitably, no matter how you do it, degraded water. So when are we hitting a peak for cows?

That last statement, I do not agree with that, because New Zealand can easily grow for the next 10 years by 2%, 3% a year, but we need different solutions. Can we grow, again? Same with the banks. If I look backwards and I say the last 10 years we have grown X%, or 3% to 5% on average, can we grow the same way in the coming 10 years? No, we cannot. We have to—

So, what? 10 years we’ll hit a ceiling—potentially hit a celling in 10 years?

No, we need different solutions on farm to allow ourselves to grow. I mean, this is a big country.

But in the future, do you conceivably see a time where we would have to say, ‘That is the cap. That is the optimum number’?

There could be a point in time that you say no more; we limit the increase of animals – the number of animals. But we are going on the productivity route only, that you get more milk—

And when do you see that time? How far down the track?

I believe, and we have made a sustainable growth plan, and that’s not just dropping a top-down figure on to the organisation and saying, ‘Work with it.’ No, we went catchment by catchment all around New Zealand—

So when is it?

In every catchment, becoming 10 years, we can still grow with 60% based on conversions and more animals and 40% is productivity.

So in a decade you think that we will be around the perfect equilibrium?

The balance.

The balance. Now, just before we go, I’d like to ask you a question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. We’re going to be talking about this a bit later in the show. Are you confident that we’re going to reach a deal and when do you think?

When I came into New Zealand and I had the first interactions and I went to the US at the end of 2011, I was pretty positive about reaching deal in the near future. But the longer these things take and you look at the complexity of who wants what – America has an agenda, Canada has an agenda, Australia has an agenda. And, again, I’m not a politician, but I’m a very close contact with the Ministry as well—

So you’re telling me you don’t think it’s going to happen?

I think it will take time. Where the world is right now, we should not be overly optimistic on reaching this—

So not in the next year?

That’s what I can see. It’s going to be very difficult with all the issues you see in the world at this point in time.

All right, thank you very much for joining me this morning. Theo Spierings from Fonterra, thank you.

Okay, thank you.

Transcript provided by Able.


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Minister to attend TPP Ministers’ Meeting Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:18:37 +0000 Press Release – New Zealand Government

Trade Minister Tim Groser will depart today for Sydney to join Ministers from countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for the next round of negotiations.Hon Tim Groser

Minister of Trade
24 October 2014 Media Statement
Minister to attend TPP Ministers’ Meeting

Trade Minister Tim Groser will depart today for Sydney to join Ministers from countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for the next round of negotiations.

“Negotiations are entering a crucial stage, with some of the most difficult issues remaining to be addressed in the negotiations such as agricultural market access, intellectual property and disciplines on state-owned enterprises,” Mr Groser says.

“The objective for this meeting will be to achieve further progress in these areas, which still require substantial work in order to move parties closer to conclusion.”

New Zealand continues to be guided by the instructions from Leaders in Bali for Ministers and negotiators to resolve all issues consistent with the Honolulu objectives established by Leaders in 2011, to achieve a comprehensive and balanced regional agreement.

The TPP negotiation aims to create a free trade agreement covering 12 Asia-Pacific countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Viet Nam.

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On The Nation this weekend Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:00:30 +0000 Press Release – The Nation

This weekend on The Nation with dairy prices falling, China growing its agriculture sector, and the environmental costs piling up, we ask the Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings if New Zealand is too dependent on milk powder and if weve almost …On The Nation this weekend

This weekend on The Nation… with dairy prices falling, China growing its agriculture sector, and the environmental costs piling up, we ask the Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings if New Zealand is too dependent on milk powder and if we’ve almost reached ‘peak cow’.

Then, with the latest round of Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations taking place in Australia, our reporter Torben Akel takes a look at the pros and cons of the agreement for New Zealand and the likelihood of striking a deal at all.

And Tribal Huk gang president Jamie Pink runs a sandwiches in schools programme and thinks everyone should get involved in helping hungry children. We’ll ask him what drove him to start the programme and what he thinks the government should do about child poverty.

We’ll discuss all this and more with our panel: Hive News founder Bernard Hickey, Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly and former Act MP and Medicines New Zealand chair Heather Roy.

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Agri-Food Producers Call for Strong Outcomes through the TPP Thu, 23 Oct 2014 11:04:48 +0000 Press Release – Federated Farmers

International Agricultural and Agri-Food Producers Call for Strong Outcomes through the TPP At the round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations taking place this week in Australia, agri-food producer and processor groups from Canada, Australia …International Agricultural and Agri-Food Producers Call for Strong Outcomes through the TPP

At the round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations taking place this week in Australia, agri-food producer and processor groups from Canada, Australia and New Zealand are calling for negotiators to maintain a high level of ambition in the trade talks, and to conclude a comprehensive trade agreement with equal access for competing products across the region.

The groups calling for an ambitious, comprehensive agreement through the TPP trade talks include the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the Australian National Farmers’ Federation and the Federated Farmers of New Zealand. Representing hundreds of thousands of farmers, producers, processors and exporters with millions of employees across the TPP region, these groups remain united in support of an expedited and successful conclusion to the negotiations.

“The value of this agreement is reflected in the significant economic boost it offers to our countries,” said Lisa Skierka, President of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance.

“However, in order for our agricultural sectors to benefit from these opportunities, we need to ensure that a plurilateral agreement is in place. If TPP members provide select market access to some countries over others, our regional supply chains may actually be worse off than they were before.”

Preferred access within the TPP region is seen as a key component of future economic success.

“Once implemented, the TPP has the potential for agriculture and agri-food businesses in the region to pursue new export opportunities, to diversify their operations and thus ultimately improve their competitiveness,” said Brent Finlay, President of the Australian National Farmers’ Federation.

“This is the time to, work together in securing a high quality agreement which addresses trade barriers – both at and behind the border. Our economies and supply chains will all benefit from increased access to agricultural and agri-food commodities.”

With a total population of 792 million people, the TPP region is a burgeoning portion of the global economy—but one that lacks a comprehensive trade agreement. In fact, the region boasts a total GDP that comprises nearly 40 per cent of the world’s economy.

“The agriculture sector needs the TPP to be in place in order to take advantage of the huge opportunities that would be afforded by it,” said Dr. William Rolleston, President of Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

“We are calling for trade talks to progress this week, as the global value chain cannot continue to wait for commercially meaningful growth.”

A critical element of a truly plurilateral agreement is the comprehensive elimination of tariffs throughout the region.

Currently, there are 12 TPP negotiating parties: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. In 2012, trade among TPP partners was more than $2 trillion. This number is poised to increase provided that the TPP eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers.

The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the Australian National Farmers’ Federation and the Federated Farmers of New Zealand remain committed to the need for a plurilateral agreement, access to new market opportunities and the elimination of tariffs and other barriers in the TPP trade agreement.


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Questions and Answers – October 23 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 15:51:38 +0000 Press Release – Office of the Clerk

Economic ProgrammePolicies 1. JAMI-LEE ROSS (NationalBotany) to the Minister of Finance : What measures is the Government taking to help the New Zealand economy become more productive and competitive?QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Economic Programme—Policies 1. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What measures is the Government taking to help the New Zealand economy become more productive and competitive?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance): on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Government is taking a large number of measures to help the economy become more productive and competitive. It is, of course, only by having a strong economy that we can lift opportunities and incomes for Kiwi families and provide world-leading public services. This literally requires us to do hundreds of things well. Within the Government’s wider economic plan, the Business Growth Agenda sets out around 350 of these initiatives in the areas of growing exports, capital markets, innovation, skilled and safe workplaces, natural resources, and infrastructure.

Jami-Lee Ross: Within the Business Growth Agenda what are the Government’s main priorities for this term of Parliament?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We have laid out many priorities, but during the election campaign we highlighted 10 priorities, in particular for the Business Growth Agenda, on returning to Government. They are all aimed at increasing New Zealand’s long-term growth rate and to create more opportunities for New Zealanders and their families. These priorities include negotiating and signing free-trade agreements, including with Korea, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the World Trade Organization Government procurement agreement. They also include passing the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which is currently before the House, to ensure flexible labour markets that create more jobs for Kiwis. Another priority is introducing and passing a Resource Management Act reform package to provide more certainty, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness in resource allocation decisions.

Jami-Lee Ross: What priorities within the Business Growth Agenda will the Government pursue to improve skills and support more jobs within the economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In a growing economy—and, of course, that is what we do have—it is important that we quickly fill any emerging skill gaps to help encourage thriving Kiwi businesses to continue to grow. That is why two of the 10 Business Growth Agenda priorities I identified previously are aimed at training and attracting more young people to innovative and growing parts of the New Zealand economy, with initiatives like information and communications technology graduate schools, more places in engineering, and holding a series of job fairs in Australia. Yesterday my colleague the Minister for Economic Development announced that the Government would be holding these jobs fairs in capital cities across Australia to encourage more expat Kiwis and, indeed, skilled Australians to help contribute to the growth of New Zealand businesses. The (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) first two fairs will be held before the end of the year in Perth and in Sydney, in late November, with job fairs planned for Brisbane and Melbourne in the first quarter of next year.

Jami-Lee Ross: Why has the Government decided to hold job fairs in Australia?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, that is an excellent question. Between December 1999 and December 2008, well over a quarter of a million New Zealanders—277,000, in fact—moved to Australia, which, of course, provided a lot of skilled labour to help grow the Australian economy, but now it is time to get more of those people moving back the other way to do the same here. We are making progress on that. In the year to September there was a net outflow of only 6,000 people to Australia, which is the lowest net outflow since December 1994. In fact, it included a net loss of only 68 people in the month of September. One of the reasons that has changed is because of the Government’s unrelenting focus on growing the New Zealand economy. Our economy grew by 3.9 percent in the year to June, compared with 3.1 percent in Australia, and our unemployment rate at 5.6 percent is below Australia’s now, at 6.1 percent.

Dr David Clark: Does the Minister agree with the Hon Steven Joyce that a target of exports reaching 40 percent of GDP in 2025 is still achievable, given that the export to GDP ratio is forecast this year to plummet to its lowest level in a quarter of a century?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This appears to be the new manufacturing crisis.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: OK, grumpy. Come on, grumpy. Come on, grumpy.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! If I may also add, just answer the question.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is wrong. Actually, in world dollar terms and in volume terms, New Zealand exports continue to grow. Yes, because of the high dollar in New Zealand dollar terms they look lower than they otherwise would do. But, actually, I bring good news to the member. I was at the TIN100 launch in Auckland last evening, and for the member, who professed his interest in the information and communications technology and high-tech sectors, there was, once again, a further growth in exports of that sector—the top 100 tech companies in New Zealand—of up to $5.6 billion in exports over the last year. That is growth of 2.3 percent in New Zealand dollar terms at the highest New Zealand dollar they have had to face possibly for 50 or 60 years.

Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table a document showing that Treasury expects exports to further drop as a percentage of GDP for the year to March 2015—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document has been described. What is the source of the document?

Dr David Clark: The Parliamentary Library.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave; the House will decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document prepared by the library. Is there any objection? There is none. It will be tabled.

Dr David Clark: Given that exports relative to GDP in 2016 are forecast to reach their lowest level in 40 years, the worst since Robert Muldoon became Prime Minister, how much faster will exports have to grow, relative to GDP, to reach Steven Joyce’s 40 percent target in 2025?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We tend to work in actual volumes, not necessarily Treasury predictions. I have been expecting a significantly higher inflation rate, for example, than what has turned out in this last quarter, where New Zealand’s inflation—

Hon Annette King: He’s pretty arrogant, isn’t he?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, actually, no, it is not arrogant at all.

Hon Annette King: He is pretty arrogant.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it is actually a 1 percent CPI rate, and Treasury only a few days ago was expecting a higher number.

Dr David Clark: Does the Minister understand Steven Joyce’s numbers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Does the member just want to take a break and listen? [Interruption] (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think it just goes to demonstrate that interjections as loud as that do lead to more disorder. It would be much appreciated if the Minister could simply answer the questions being asked.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I was going to say, the Government is working hard to reach that target by 2025. We are working hard, of course, to take New Zealanders with us, and the industries that I referred to in my answer to the previous supplementary question are achieving great progress as well. We are also working, of course, to try to be in Government in 2025 to see that target met.

Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure how that addressed the question.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion, I think the question has been addressed. It may not have been satisfactorily addressed for the member and other members in the House, but it has been addressed.

Prime Minister—Statements 2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he believe he is Prime Minister all of the time, or just some of the time?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Prime Minister: I am Prime Minister all of the time by virtue of my ministerial warrant. I am also a member of Parliament, a party leader, and a private individual all of the time. Like any Minister, I act in a different capacity at different times. I am responsible to this House for actions taken in my prime ministerial capacity, but not for actions taken as an MP, party leader, or private individual.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he be a private individual all of the time, and in what capacity does he speak to Cameron Slater: as “BFF” or best friend forever, lifestyle coach, speech therapist, counsellor, currency adviser, dietician, or puppet master?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: None of those.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What makes it wrong for Judith Collins to be improperly associated with Cameron Slater and not for the Prime Minister?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The question is based on a series of suppositions that the member himself wishes to make and that bear no relevance to any ministerial responsibility or prime ministerial responsibility held by the Prime Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which of these statements from the Prime Minister is correct: “I speak to him regularly.” or “Every so often.”? Which one of those two statements is true?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: If the member provided the dates on which those statements were made, he would be able to understand that in both circumstances they could be true.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek the House’s leave to table the two dates and the two statements to the media with respect to the comments that he has asked now for evidence of.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table those particular dates of those two comments. Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he believe it is dignified for someone who occupies the office of Prime Minister to regularly be in discussions with a scumbag focused on character assassination and deceit like Cameron Slater?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have no intention of agreeing with the various personal assassination points raised by that member.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In Mr Brownlee’s answers replying to Mr Peters, he said that both of those statements can be true. The statements were about when the Prime Minister speaks with Mr Slater. The Prime Minister has previously said that he as Prime Minister—and Mr Brownlee is answering on behalf of the Prime Minister—does not speak to Mr Slater. How can those answers be consistent, because he has just said that he does speak to Mr Slater as Prime Minister?

Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want to respond? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


Mr SPEAKER: If I can understand the point the member is raising, he is asking now whether the answers given were in order or out of order for the questions that were raised. I see no difficulty with those answers that were given by the Hon Gerry Brownlee to the questions that were raised. If the member has supplementary questions, he can ask them.

Chris Hipkins: Is it the Prime Minister’s expectation that when Ministers use information obtained in their ministerial capacity whilst in a private capacity, they will be accountable for those actions to Parliament; if not, why not?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It would depend entirely on what the circumstances were. If they were, for example, to pay a parking fine, which is information they would have, perhaps, as a Minister of Transport or something else, then you would expect them to pay that, but not to be accountable to Parliament for it.

State Housing—Housing Stock 3. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister responsible for HNZC: How many Housing New Zealand properties does he intend to sell during this term, and what is the projected number of houses Housing New Zealand will own in three years’ time as a result?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister responsible for HNZC: No target has been set for sales or for the size of the Housing New Zealand stock in 3 years. Instead, the Government is focused on what is actually the most important part, which is meeting the needs of the most vulnerable families. We are doing that by investing $718 million in the income-related rent subsidy this year. That is nearly $200 million more than 5 years ago, and is forecast to increase another $160 million in the next 3 years. We are committing to growing the social housing sector by opening up the income-related rent subsidy to community housing providers and by redeveloping Housing New Zealand properties to get more houses in the right place and of the right type, instead of what we currently have, where one-third of the Housing New Zealand stock is in the wrong place, is of the wrong type, or has mismatched tenancies.

Phil Twyford: Why did the Government not tell New Zealanders before the election that it intended to privatise a large part of the State housing stock, and how many of Housing New Zealand’s frail, elderly, vulnerable, and at-risk tenants will be displaced due to his asset sales cash grab?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I completely reject the characterisations—I think there were about three of them—in that member’s question. But I would draw his attention in terms of the question about pre-election announcements to this, a document from the National Party, actually. It is a social housing policy that I think was released at the time of the National Party’s campaign opening. It says: “Reform social housing sector”—this is right at the top, by the way—“to ensure it is fit for purpose, including passing legislation to facilitate a shift from State housing to a range of new social housing providers.”

Phil Twyford: How about “Flog off $5 billion worth of State houses.”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Let me repeat that for the member: “to facilitate a shift from State housing to a range of new social housing providers.” If the member would like me to get a copy of it for him, I would be more than happy to pass it across.

Phil Twyford: How does he reconcile his statement about the proceeds of State house sales that “if we want less stock, there’s not much point in rebuilding stock with it” with statements by the other two housing Ministers, who say that they want to increase social housing stock?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This is, I think, the nub of the question. The member does not seem to recognise that social housing can actually be provided by entities other than Housing New Zealand. For some Ministers to say “We want to increase the amount of social housing stock.” is entirely consistent with discussing a change in how much social housing stock Housing New Zealand has, provided you do not expect that Housing New Zealand has to be the monopoly provider of all the (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) social housing stock in New Zealand. It has been historically, and I think if the member looks back he will find that it has not been a complete solution and that most other countries do it differently. In New Zealand, this Government is open to different ways of providing more social housing for more New Zealanders.

Phil Twyford: How many of the over 5,500 people in desperate need of a home and currently on the Housing New Zealand waiting list—many of whom are living in cars or campgrounds—will be housed as a result of his State house sell-off?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think, again, the problem with the member’s question is the pejorative way he talks about what the social housing mix should be in this country. Actually, we are very keen to ensure that there are more opportunities for more people to access social housing, which is exactly why we are making the changes that we are making. If the member looks back in the history of New Zealand, he will find that a monopoly Housing New Zealand provider has never solved the problem of the availability of social housing.

Phil Twyford: Will he guarantee that no money raised from Housing New Zealand sales will go into the consolidated account; if not, will any of the funds raised by evicting tenants and selling off State houses end up in the so-called Future Investment Fund to help subsidise irrigation schemes for hard-up farmers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member shows—I do not know—a level of imagination that is just a bit frightening, really. The reality is simply this: the Government is actually focused on lifting the amount of social housing. How much we put into the capital of social housing and how much we put into the income-related rents will be entirely driven by our determination to see more access to social housing for New Zealanders. Exactly how that is to be done will unfold quite visibly in the next 3 years.

Health Targets—Cancer Treatment 4. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Health: What is the Government doing to provide faster cancer services for New Zealanders?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The House will be aware that 6 years ago the National Government inherited cancer services that were failing New Zealanders. This Government has invested more than $100 million extra to support people with cancer and get cancer services back on track. The 100 percent achievement of the international gold standard 4-week waiting time target for patients to receive their radiation or chemotherapy treatment has seen patients receiving faster treatment, and, unlike under Labour, no patients have had to go overseas for treatment.

Jacqui Dean: What recent announcements has the Government made to further speed up cancer treatment?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: From 1 October, the Government introduced a new faster cancer treatment target that will ensure patients see a cancer specialist and receive treatment faster than ever before. The new target will see people with suspected cancer receive faster access to all services, from diagnostic tests to surgery or other treatment. Our goal is that 90 percent of patients will receive their first treatment within a maximum of 62 days of seeing their GP, by June 2017. The maximum 62-day wait is an international gold standard for cancer treatment. It builds on the gains that we have made over the past 6 years, and provides New Zealanders with even faster cancer services.

Jacqui Dean: What role is new technology playing in delivering faster, better care for cancer patients?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Recently, I visited the radiotherapy treatment unit at Auckland City Hospital and saw first-hand the impact that additional investment in new technology is having on providing patients with an overall better experience during their hospital stay. Following a successful pilot earlier this year, the Auckland District Health Board has invested $1.5 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) million in new cancer equipment. The use of a new RayStation computer program enables the enhanced use of the linear accelerator for radiation treatment. This new system means that pinpoint accuracy in targeting the cancer is achieved, that shorter treatment times are occurring, and that more New Zealanders are receiving their treatment more quickly.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not wish to interrupt the member’s line of questioning, but the primary question was from the Government side, and the Minister, in his first answer to the primary question, attacked the Labour Party. The question, Mr Speaker, is whether your view is that that is an acceptable way for us to start the 51st Parliament, with the Minister using a question from—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard enough. It is not helpful for any Minister to start a question with an attack on another political party or an Opposition member. In that case, I thought it was a relatively mild comment on his interpretation of a former Government’s action. I did not personally perceive it to be an attack.

Iraq—Deployment of New Zealand Special Forces 5. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that the risks to New Zealand from any commitment of military assistance to counter Islamic State militants in Iraq would be “no greater than I think the risks are currently here today”; if so, why?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, this is an evolving issue. No commitment of military assistance has been made. Officials are preparing advice for Ministers and Cabinet to consider a range of options, including humanitarian, diplomatic, and military contributions. This will include advice around risks to New Zealand and New Zealanders from any contribution.

Dr Kennedy Graham: What evidence did the Prime Minister originally have to base his original statement on, and any further evidence to reflect that evolving situation, and will he share it, consistent with genuine national security interests so that both the Parliament and people of this country can be properly informed on this important matter?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister has made it clear in the past that there are New Zealanders who want to go and fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) forces, and there are people who want to come into this country after perhaps having fought with them. Those are concerns that the Government has, and beyond those statements I am not offering anything more at this point.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Is the Prime Minister aware that countries facing security risks to their citizens are those engaged in the military campaigns against Islamic extremists—primarily, the US, the UK, and Australia, and now, of course, Canada?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It could appear that way. We do not quite know what the situation is in Canada. But let us be clear: if we were to do nothing and simply live with the threat that New Zealand clearly is now part of, then in fact we would be allowing terrorists to dictate our current foreign policy arrangements, and therefore significantly impede the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders to make their own choices.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Is he not concerned that any involvement in the military action against ISIL may be actually doing more harm than good for global peace and security; and does he think that we have an independent foreign policy when the Prime Minister has already stated that New Zealand should join the United States and “other like-minded countries” in fighting the Islamic State?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No decision has been made about what we might do if we do join such an action. Yes, of course there are worries about the threats that could occur here in New Zealand. In case the member has not noticed, there are considerable worries even across the organisation of this Parliament, with some of the restrictions that have been put in place today. These are not occasions when you can simply ignore what is going on around you and hope that (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) being somehow passive about the way in which these organisations operate will make them go away.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Does he agree with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006 that rather than doing nothing or ignoring what is going on around us, we need to recognise that the real triumph over terrorism requires the elimination of its causes; if so, how does he foresee New Zealand contributing through the United Nations Security Council in that respect?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I would note that that statement from the United Nations is now 8 years old and that the world has changed a lot in that time. What we have said is that our consideration will be across a range of possibilities—humanitarian contributions, Government contributions, all sorts of things. Nothing is ruled out. As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, they are all under consideration.

Dr Kennedy Graham: In light of the fact that the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006 was reaffirmed in its entirety 2 months ago by the Security Council, having regard to the time elapsed since then, what plan does New Zealand have as a member-elect to the Security Council to develop its conflict prevention role in Syria and Iraq as called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2171 of 21 August?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: All matters relating to whatever we might do in response to the ISIL threat to countries like ours are currently under consideration. Once Ministers in Cabinet have completed that consideration, then clearly this House will be notified of that deliberation.

Schools, Partnership—Impact on Student Achievement 6. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that the introduction of partnership schools is resulting in better educational outcomes for all of the students who are attending them; if so, why?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. At the stage they are at and in all the circumstances, yes. The schools have, however, completed just over 8 months of a first-year start-up. Nevertheless, the flexibility that the model provides is already showing some early positive results. For example, the latest reports from the Education Review Office on two of the five schools show signs of success, and we look forward to further reviews. I am satisfied that the partnership schools are meeting their contractual requirements and are working to do the best for all their students, but of course there will continue to be challenges, as there are in schools across our system.

Chris Hipkins: If charter schools are supposed to be about increased flexibility, which of the following innovations does she believe will do the most to raise student achievement: students making a bong to smoke marijuana out of apples supplied by the school, the incorporation of daily surfing into the curriculum, high staff turnover and lack of qualified teaching staff, or reports of bullying, racism, and vandalism?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Regrettably, every one of those examples given we have seen across our system of over 2,500 schools.

Hon Ruth Dyson: So it’s all right then?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is not all right, and that is why we have levers in place to deal with them, and so we are dealing with them. The flexibilities that we are talking about are the hours of operation, the curriculum, the ability to have cashed-up funding instead of it being already paid on behalf of other schools, the range of subjects taught, the way in which they are taught, and the engagement of parents, whānau, aiga, and communities. There is a whole range of flexibilities that these schools offer that we think will bring success for students who have not been successful for many years in other alternatives.

Chris Hipkins: Why does she believe that these students are better served in an experimental charter school that is funded at considerably higher levels than State schools, resulting in a teacher- (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) student ratio of 1:8 at that particular school, when existing schools could arguably do a much better job if provided with the same level of resourcing?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is quite wrong in his assertion. In fact, these schools are funded comparative to decile 3 schools. The difference is that whereas in a mainstream State school the ministry pays directly to provide, for instance, for property, for insurance premiums, and for the provision of professional learning and development, those elements for partnership schools are cashed up. But the comparisons are almost exactly the same. To the first part of the member’s question, none of the students are compelled to attend these schools; their parents freely choose for them to do so.

Chris Hipkins: How is it fair and equitable for a charter school to be funded with guaranteed funding every year for 71 students when, in fact, it enrolled only 61 students at the beginning of the year, and that number has already dropped to below 50, and the Ministry of Education figures show that it is lucky to get 30 kids regularly showing up? That is half the number that it is funded for.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Perhaps if the member was more familiar with the way our entire education system runs, he would know that in start-up years for every school there is a projection of what that roll might be, but it will fluctuate before it settles down. That is equally true for very long-established schools.

Chris Hipkins: Does she believe that charter schools conducting random searches of students to detect drugs or other prohibited items is consistent with the Education Act 1989 and the changes that this Government made last year that prevents State schools from doing the same thing?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: If the member has specific incidents that he would like brought to my attention, I am very happy to—

Chris Hipkins: It says so on their websites and in the documents with the ministry.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: And perhaps if the member would like to wait for my answer to his question, then I would be very happy to answer it. What I can tell the member is that these schools are subject to review by the Education Review Office, two of which have returned very positive reviews—and thank you to the member for celebrating that—and three are still to come. In terms of their further monitoring, the authorisation board also does that, and the Ministry of Education reviews and works with each and every one of these schools.

Beneficiaries—Statistics 7. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received regarding the number of New Zealanders who are benefit-dependent, in particular those relating to sole parents?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Under this Government, the number of people on welfare for this quarter is the lowest it has been since 2008. The latest benefit figures released last week show that there are now over 10,000 fewer people on welfare compared with September last year, and more than 70 percent of them are sole parents. We know that sole parents who go on benefit, particularly in their teens, do have the highest lifetime cost of any group on welfare and are more likely to stay on welfare. The reduction in the number of sole parents on benefit extends across all ages, and this is indeed a positive trend.

Alfred Ngaro: What are the Government’s priorities for ensuring we move New Zealanders who are on benefits into work over the next 3 years?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We believe that the best way out of poverty is through work, and that is why we have set ambitious targets to reduce long-term welfare dependency. As part of this programme we will progress legislation extending the Youth Service approach to under-20s. This will see these young people working with a dedicated provider to deliver intensive support and guidance as well as budgeting support and help paying their bills. This Government believes that the welfare system should provide a safety net for those in genuine need and that people are better (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) off in work. This is particularly the case for our youngest New Zealanders, who deserve to be backed rather than left to sit on welfare.

Sue Moroney: How many sole parents have simply been transferred from sole parent support on to a different category of benefit over the same period?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not have any figures on that, but I do not believe that this Government is in the habit of the previous Labour Government of merely shifting people around when it comes to benefit numbers. We are working to make sure that people get off benefit and into work, and, what is more, we are succeeding.

Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table a document showing that the number of sole parents who have been transferred on to job seeker support was about 20,000 over that period.

Mr SPEAKER: I need the source of the document.

Sue Moroney: The source of the document is theNew Zealand Herald.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I will not be putting the leave.

Pest Control—1080 Poison

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The breakdown’s occurred already.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Question No. 8. 8. RON MARK (NZ FIRST) on behalf of RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation: Does she stand by all her statements regarding 1080 poison?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Indeed, I do. The Department of Conservation is halfway through dropping 1080 in an aerial spray over 700,000 hectares. Early monitoring has shown that the numbers of rats, which had been up to 25 million, have now been knocked down to zero in places where 1080 has been used, so the birds will be able to breed this season in their absence. I and many others believe that in order to save our birds from extinction, doing nothing is not an option, and well-managed, biodegradable 1080 is the very best tool for the job.

Ron Mark: Why is the Department of Conservation advising anglers—

Hon Todd McClay: You didn’t come back to ask about rats, Ron.

Ron Mark: I am enjoying this, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will now start again and ask his question.

Ron Mark: Why is the Department of Conservation advising anglers not to eat their catch if, as the department itself is saying, trout caught from 1080-dropped areas “do not pose a food safety risk to humans”?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The member is entirely mistaken. The department has never given that advice. In fact, we sought independent advice from a Ministry for Primary Industries toxicologist, who assessed the risk as negligible from ingesting trout that had eaten mice that might have eaten 1080 pellets. The science shows—and we stick to the science, on this side of the House—that the health of the trout themselves is not affected by 1080. An average adult would have to eat many times their body weight in one sitting—in trout, that is; not their body weight and other things, but in trout that had ingested mice that had eaten 1080—to experience any health ill-effects whatsoever.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been a while since I have been in the House and it is wonderful to be so welcomed back, but—

Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

Ron Mark: The point of order is that I just want advice from you. When I was last here, points of order had to be heard in silence—

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, points of order will be—[Interruption] Order! I am the Speaker, not Mr Mark. Points of order will be heard in silence. Now would Mr Mark quickly raise his point of order.

Ron Mark: That was it. When I was here last, points of order were heard in silence—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I will give the member one more chance to raise his point of order, otherwise I will not hesitate to ask the member to leave the Chamber. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Ron Mark: My point of order and question to you was this: is it still the rule that questions might be asked in silence?

Mr SPEAKER: I do not recall that ever being the case when the member was previously here. It is helpful if there are not a lot of interjections, but frequently during questions being asked and answers being given there is a level of interjection across the House. If it gets to a stage where it is difficult to hear I will call order, but inevitably there will be interjections and chips from both sides of the House, and for the 20 years that I have been here, Mr Mark, that has always been the case.

Ron Mark: Is the Minister aware that it was indeed not Cawthron Institute researchers who provided that scientific advice, that instead it was Department of Conservation officials who calculated the amount of trout needed to be consumed to receive a lethal dose of 1080, that this determination amounted to nothing more than a flippant back-of-an-envelope calculation done for spin purposes; and will she order that that work be redone this time by Cawthron Institute researchers in order that we may all be satisfied that there is no risk to the consuming public?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I ask the Minister to respond, supplementary questions should be short, they should contain one supplementary question, and they are certainly not an opportunity to give a very lengthy question as that one was. I will allow the Minister to answer.

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The member is incorrect yet again. The Cawthron Institute researchers did assess the risk. They did it in a controlled scientific laboratory, not on some back-of-an-envelope assessment as you attest. The trout in laboratory tanks were orally dosed with a high level of 1080 to assess the uptake and the breakdown of 1080 in their flesh. The trout remained in good health and showed no ill effects. Preliminary results indicated that the force-fed laboratory trout took up low levels of 1080, which break down over a period of days. The member is mistaken. When it comes to residual amounts of 1080 in water, which is also something that we have done some science around, no trace of 1080 has ever been found in any of the samples taken from drinking water catchments. Only 2 percent—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: It was a long question so I gave a long answer.

Mr SPEAKER: It was a long question and I took issue with that. I now cannot allow an extremely long answer, either.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister then enlighten the House as to how she, as the Minister of Conservation, would have directly intervened to force a 1080 drop on a territorial authority in the event that that authority on behalf of its community decided against such a drop—such as she stated on Television New Zealand’sQ+A?

Hon MAGGIE BARRY: I am happy to answer that question. As the Minister of Conservation, it is my responsibility, and that of my department, to ensure that education, information, and science-based evidence are widely disseminated and understood to clarify the science, because there are a lot of mistaken people—as evidenced by the questions that you have asked; you are in that camp—who need to have this information clarified. So there have been, particularly when it comes to the Hunua example, which is one that you are talking about, no traces of 1080 found. In fact, there is more 1080—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order.

Hon MAGGIE BARRY:—in a cup of tea—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] The Minister will resume her seat.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a point of order based on the issue of relevance. My colleague is asking about the Minister forcing her will upon a local authority and she is talking about some education programme. She is not answering the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to go back and look at the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has not had a chance to go back and look at it because it has not been printed yet. But when he does the— (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I got it the first time.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question, when it was first asked, was “Can the Minister enlighten the House…”. The Minister took the opportunity to enlighten the House, but in a very lengthy fashion.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are absolutely correct. But my question—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. If the member wants to raise a point of order, he stands to his feet and does it. I will give him another chance.

Ron Mark: I asked that the Minister describe how she would directly intervene to force a drop.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard the question; that is not the question that was asked. It was included in the question; I certainly accept that, but it was not the question that was asked. I invite the member to go back and look afterwards. He started the question with: “Can the Minister enlighten the House … ”, and the Minister took that opportunity. If the member wants a specific question answered, then ask a specific question.

Pike River Mine Disaster—Government Response 9. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast – Tasman) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his commitments to the Pike River families?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Prime Minister still believe recovery of the bodies of the 29 miners to be “an absolute priority”, and will he accept the advice of the two mining experts, Bob Stevenson, a former UK chief mines inspector, and Dave Creedy, that recovery of the drift can be done safely?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government made available funding to Solid Energy, which has primary responsibility in this matter, for that very purpose. As to the opinion that the Prime Minister might have about the expertise offered by the two gentlemen mentioned, there is no basis for him to make any comment on that.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Will the Prime Minister and the Minister for State Owned Enterprises ensure that Solid Energy makes the decision on whether to re-enter Pike River based on all the available evidence and information, and will he show the families dignity and provide them with the opportunity to seek clarity on any issues raised in that evidence?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The question really asks the Prime Minister to get in the road of a decision that needs to be made by the Solid Energy board. It would be inappropriate to do that.

Hon Damien O’Connor: During the more than 12 months of reporting on progress to re-enter the Pike River mine, was the Prime Minister briefed at any stage that any re-entry into the Pike River mine would be illegal because there was no second egress?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Those reports would have gone to Solid Energy.

Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the question: “Was the Prime Minister”—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not exactly catch the question. I am going to invite the member to ask the question once more.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Thank you, Mr Speaker. During the more than 12 months of reporting on progress to re-enter the Pike River mine, was the Prime Minister briefed at any stage that any re-entry into the Pike River mine would be illegal because there is no second egress?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unable to answer that question because I do not have that information available, given that I am answering on the Prime Minister’s behalf. But in any event, it would be my understanding that matters that related to re-entry to the mine would have been conveyed to Solid Energy for Solid Energy to make a decision about a go or no-go. So matters about egress, or second egress, etc., are not matters that I am able to comment on. What I would say, though, is that at the time of the original explosion, and then particularly after the second and (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) third explosions in that mine, there were a lot of suggestions that a second egress would be a good idea.

Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the difficulty that the Minister has in answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, but I am seeking from him a commitment to provide the information as to whether the Prime Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. You asked the question and the Minister, answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, said that he just cannot give you that information. So it is not a point of order, then, to raise and seek a commitment. If you have another supplementary and want to try to do it that way, it might be possible. But you cannot use a point of order for that.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the withholding of information from the Pike River families show the same arrogant disrespect as the Prime Minister’s comments about the mother of the young West Coaster killed in a motor accident and other parents of the Pike River miners, which he wrongly dodged responsibility for answering questions about yesterday?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled earlier today in a very interesting way, because you sort of hinted that something might change, but then said it is very difficult and that you would have to make decisions as you go along. But I do not think that you can actually go past, in that consideration, the requirements of Standing Order 378(a), which relates to a Minister, and therefore clearly to the Prime Minister, and which states that a Minister can have questions put to them relating to: “(a) public affairs with which the Minister is officially connected, or (b) proceedings in the House or any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible.” The question just alleged a whole lot of statements that came from various sources, and the requirement to comment on those does not fit any of the requirements that are here in the Standing Order. So what I think we are getting to is that we are very quickly going to get to a position where Opposition members can ask as many catch-22 questions on made-up stuff as they like, and Ministers would be expected to respond.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Appreciating your ruling that clearly apportioned to the Prime Minister some responsibility, I am aware, and the Pike River families are aware, of a person appointed by the Prime Minister, which they were grateful for, at least 2 years ago who was to report and liaise directly between the Prime Minister’s office and the families. Those are the questions that I am asking about in terms of briefings and responsibility. The Prime Minister has responsibility in this area.

Mr SPEAKER: I certainly accept the point that the Hon Damien O’Connor has just raised. He raised a question where in my mind there is no doubt there is ministerial and prime ministerial responsibility. The way in which the question was raised was certainly not helpful. I have not got a good record of some of the language used, but it was relatively emotive. The easiest way forward, I would have thought, is for Mr Brownlee—but it is for Mr Brownlee to decide—is to simply answer the question and dispute the facts as they have been laid out. Mr Brownlee has now raised a point of order, which, if I understand it, is trying to suggest there was no ministerial responsibility—


Mr SPEAKER: Well then, maybe I will ask—

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I will explain.

Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Hon Gerry Brownlee to explain his point succinctly, because it was difficult for me to comprehend.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Thank you for that opportunity. If the Hon Damien O’Connor had asked the question that he managed to get out in his point of order, it would have been a simple thing. But it was everything else that went with it.

Mr SPEAKER: Then I have got a very instant solution to this. I am going to ask the Hon Damien O’Conner—this is a very sensitive matter, and I appreciate that—to ask the question as factually and without emotion as he can, and let us see whether I can assist the honourable member to get an answer from the Minister answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the withholding of information from the Pike River families, including the legal advice provided to Solid Energy that it claims prevents it from re-entering the mine, display a level of arrogance by the Prime Minister, or reports about the Prime Minister, towards members of the Pike River families?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, firstly, I reject any suggestion that there has been disrespect shown for the families of the Pike River victims—far from it. The Prime Minister has never failed to turn up to speak directly to them on occasions when that is what they wanted to do. As for the suggestion that information is being withheld by the Prime Minister’s office from the families, that is not something that I can make a comment on, other than to say that for the last 12 months or more this is a matter that has been in the hands of Solid Energy and the board of Solid Energy. If there is any information that they are withholding from the public, then we would expect that it is made available at the time that they make decisions.

Health Promotion Agency Board—Potential Conflict of Interest 10. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that there is no conflict of interest in the head of the Food and Grocery Council, Katherine Rich, being a board member of the Health Promotion Agency; if so, why?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I am satisfied that there are procedures in place to manage any situations where a conflict of interest may arise. All board members of Crown agents are required to declare and manage conflicts of interest in accordance with the provisions of the Crown Entities Act 2004.

Kevin Hague: Is he concerned about allegations that Katherine Rich hired public relations man Carrick Graham to write attacks on health researchers that were later published word for word on the Whale Oil website?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have seen no credible evidence to back up those allegations, but what I do know is that Katherine Rich is a person of the very highest integrity and that her conduct as a member of the Health Promotion Agency has been excellent.

Kevin Hague: What specific actions has he, or his predecessor, taken to ensure that Katherine Rich is not compromising the goals of the Health Promotion Agency by paying for attacks on researchers and others who highlight the damaging effects of the products promoted and produced by some of her Food and Grocery Council members?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have had direct communication from the chair of the Health Promotion Agency, which states: “She has always been an ethical member of the board. As chair I have always had confidence in her contribution.” That satisfies me.

Kevin Hague: As the incoming Minister, will he take that further and, in fact, initiate an investigation into whether Mrs Rich’s conflict as both a member of the Health Promotion Agency and a lobbyist for the alcohol, tobacco, and junk food industries was appropriately managed, and will he hold an inquiry into the allegations that Mrs Rich hired a public relations man to attack health researchers while being a member of the Health Promotion Agency board?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I see no reason to take any further action, and I am going to spend my efforts on improving access to quality health care for all New Zealanders. That is what I think should be the focus of the portfolio.

Kevin Hague: How can Katherine Rich possibly fulfil the goals of the Health Promotion Agency when, with her other hat on, she is promoting unhealthy food, tobacco, and alcohol and paying for public attacks on health promotion researchers?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Dealing with public health issues, including obesity, involves a range of responses, including good diet, nutrition, and physical activity. I believe that the food industry actually has a very important contribution to make, and it is helpful to have them represented around that table. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Road Safety—Progress 11. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Transport: What progress is being made in improving road safety?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): The Safer Journeys road strategy is nearly 5 years old. This Government has introduced many road safety measures during that time, including increasing the driving age, lowering the blood-alcohol levels to zero for drivers under 20, fixing the give-way rule, introducing alcohol interlocks, and continuing to support high-profile and successful campaigns. From 1 December the blood-alcohol limit for all drivers will also be lowered. Since the introduction of Safer Journeys the number of road deaths has reduced by almost one third. In 2010 we saw 375 people lose their lives on our roads. Last year that total fell to 254 deaths. We are not, however, complacent, and that is why this Government invests millions each year in continuing to improve road safety.

David Bennett: What are the key messages for motorists over the long weekend to help keep them and their families safe?

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I would ask all motorists and their passengers enjoying the long Labour Weekend to keep road safety in mind. The messages are clear: stay focused, drive to the conditions, stay within the speed limit, and do not drive when affected by alcohol, drugs, or fatigue. Last Labour Weekend’s road toll was one of the lowest since 1956, but even one death, of course, is too many, and we need to work together to stay safe on our roads.

Crime, Economic—Cost 12. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Minister of Police: What is the annual cost of economic crime in New Zealand?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): An annual cost of economic crime is difficult to accurately identify, but I have seen a draft report that indicates the cost of economic crime to be in the range of around $6 billion to $9 billion.

Dr Megan Woods: Why was theCost of Economic Crime Report of the Serious Fraud Office not completed?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Considerable work was done on that report to estimate the figure, including reviewing and adapting similar pieces of work from around the world. But it became clear that the proposed methodology, largely developed overseas, was not directly applicable to the New Zealand context. So, as a consequence, the Serious Fraud Office, in consultation with other Government agencies, ended that body of work.

Dr Megan Woods: Was the Ministry of Justice consulted regarding the decision not to proceed with the Serious Fraud Office’s report on the cost of economic crime in New Zealand?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: As far as I am aware, the answer to that question is yes.

Dr Megan Woods: Was the former Minister of Justice Judith Collins in any way involved in the decision not to proceed with the Serious Fraud Office’s report on the cost of economic crime in New Zealand?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am not in a position to be able to answer that question. I do not have any knowledge, but I would be very happy to consider it if the member puts it down in writing.

Dr Megan Woods: I seek leave to table a document that shows that the office of the former Minister of Justice Judith Collins provided a copy of the Serious Fraud Office’s scale of fraud report under the Official Information Act to a requester in January 2014.

Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of the document?

Dr Megan Woods: The document is a table of fulfilled Official Information Act requests compiled by the office of the current Minister of Justice, the Hon Amy Adams. [Interruption] (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not exactly sure what the document is, to be honest, and I do not want to consider putting the leave just because a member—[Interruption] Order! I ask Dr Megan Woods, and without interjection, what the document is.

Dr Megan Woods: It is a list of Official Information Act requests that the Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: But they have already been released.

Dr Megan Woods: It shows that the Minister of Justice—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I now understand that the documents were obtained by the Official Information Act, and they have been released, so they are available to everybody anyway. Is that right? [Interruption] Order! Could the member just try to explain the document to me simply?

Dr Megan Woods: Yes, it is a table of Official Information Act requests that the Minister of Justice fulfilled, showing that she had a copy of the report in January 2014.

Mr SPEAKER: The easiest way—[Interruption] Order! I am going to put the leave. [Interruption] Order! There are too many interjections on these points of order. I am going to put the leave, and the House can decide. Leave is sought to table that particular table listing Official Information Act documents. Is there any objection to that being tabled in this House? There is not. It can be tabled.

Dr Megan Woods: I seek leave to table a transcript of the then Minister of Police—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Where is the transcript from?

Dr Megan Woods: It is a draft transcript of the estimates hearing of the Law and Order Committee—

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member can resume her seat. That is available.

Dr Megan Woods: Did the former Minister of Justice Judith Collins support the decision to abandon any further investigation by the Serious Fraud Office on the cost of economic crime in New Zealand?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am not in a position to be able to answer that question, but if the member puts the question down in writing, I would be very happy to give her a response.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to raise an issue with you that relates to the previous ruling regarding that exchange around the tabling of the document by Megan Woods, in which you indicated that a document released under the Official Information Act was publicly available. Official Information Act documents are typically released to one person—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need any further assistance. The difficulty was the way the document was explained. It was very, very difficult for me to comprehend what it was that we were dealing with. When I finally realised that it was simply a table of documents that had been released—listen, the House has decided. It has been tabled. That is the end of the matter.


Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill—Purpose 1. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Member in charge of the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill: Why has the member adopted the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill?

METIRIA TUREI (Member in charge of the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill): The Green Party believes that in this House we have a moral duty to make sure that children in need have the support that they need. It is estimated by KidsCanthat up to 20 percent of children in low-decile schools go to school without either breakfast or lunch. If the Government has the resources to feed these hungry kids, we have a moral duty to use those resources to feed those hungry kids.

Jan Logie: Is the plan outlined in the “Feed the Kids Bill” the ideal way to ensure that children are fed at school? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

METIRIA TUREI: The bill sets out one means by which we can feed hungry kids at school. I hope that the bill is sent to a select committee so we can hear from parents, schools, and children’s health and welfare experts as to what is the best means to make sure hungry kids in schools are fed.


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Questions and Answers – October 22 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 15:41:54 +0000 Press Release – Office of the Clerk

Child PovertyGovernment Priorities and Policies 1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Acting Deputy Leader – Labour) to the Deputy Prime Minister : Will he make reducing child poverty a Better Public Service target given the statement in the Speech from the Throne …

Child Poverty—Government Priorities and Policies 1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Acting Deputy Leader – Labour) to the Deputy Prime Minister: Will he make reducing child poverty a Better Public Service target given the statement in the Speech from the Throne that his Government will continue to “have a focus on poverty, especially child poverty”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes. The Government already has a number of Better Public Services related to children’s welfare and poverty, and we have focused on these results because we believe they have a longer-term impact on child poverty—for instance, reducing long-term welfare dependency, increasing participation in early childhood education, reducing assaults on children, and, in particular, increasing educational achievement. These targets are published regularly in the fashion that no previous Government has been able to be held to account on in respect of progress on its social policy, and the member is free to contribute any good ideas that she has to enable us to, for instance, reduce assaults on children or increase educational achievement.

Hon Annette King: If child poverty is a Better Public Service target, how will the Ministerial Committee on Poverty that he is to chair measure the success of the cross-Government approach announced as the method for focusing on poverty over the next 3 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That committee is likely to do the same thing as the Government, and that is measure success in terms of better outcomes for real people. That is, for instance, higher levels of educational achievement and more people having their serious housing needs met, which is not one of our formal targets but something we will be very focused on. Another one that has been topical recently is that we will measure success by trying to reduce the proportion of household incomes that is spent on housing costs, because those have risen over the last 20 years, particularly for low-income households.

Hon Annette King: Will the ministerial committee use the EU measure of poverty, as the Prime Minister did on Radio New Zealand this morning, which, when applied to New Zealand, indicates 180,000 children living with seven or more items of deprivation; if not, what will the committee use to measure progress over the next 3 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course we can use that measure. There is any number of income measures available, including the EU threshold, which is a bit lower, actually, than the one that was discussed during the election campaign. But those measures are all readily available. They are tracked regularly by the Ministry of Social Development. We have come up with a series of in many ways more challenging measures, and those are ones that are directly related to the welfare of the children, not just to the measure of the income of the household in which they live.

Hon Annette King: The Prime Minister stated today: “There will be extra money to fight child poverty.” How much has he earmarked over the next 3 years to spend on this policy, and how has he calculated the amount required?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is all a matter for discussion. What we do know is that if you were going to try to shift some of the indicators, such as with the EU measure, then you would need to spend maybe several billion dollars to get some appreciable change. What the member can be reassured about is that the Government will take the investment approach; that is, we will look at putting money in where we can see there are clearly going to be payoffs in the future, as we have done with welfare dependency, as we expect to be doing with housing, and as we want to do with any number of other Government interventions.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the Minister answered when I asked how much he had earmarked over the next 3 years to spend on this policy. He gave nothing other than airy-fairy sorts of answers about some money, sometime, somewhere.

Mr SPEAKER: No, on this occasion I think that to ask how much is being earmarked when budgets have not been presented by this new Government—I think the chance of getting an answer to that was not good. [Interruption] Order! The interjection question would have been better—and I will invite the member to ask an additional supplementary question.

Hon Annette King: Why is the Government, to quote the Prime Minister, “just starting to produce some paperwork on child poverty and a programme that we can work on.” when the Government already has numerous reports, and one exceptional one from the Children’s Commissioner?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do, but, as the member will well understand, child poverty is a complex problem. Fortunately, we are learning a lot more about what sorts of interventions might work, which ones do not, and too many of them do not. And so the work the Prime Minister is referring to is the ongoing evolution, actually, of issues this Government has been focusing on for the last 5 or 6 years.

Hon Annette King: Was the Prime Minister correct when he stated this morning that 15 percent of children go to school hungry; if not, is he prepared to spend some of the extra cash that is in the Budget for the next 3 years to provide some hard data, not just guesswork and anecdotal stories, about how many children go to school hungry?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course the Prime Minister was correct. There is quite an interesting issue—

Hon Annette King: On what measure?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, there is an interesting issue around data, and that is that most of the data held by the Government is organised around Government departments, not around families and communities. That is one of the reasons why we cannot know for sure how many kids turn up to school without having had breakfast. One of the challenges for the Public Service is to reorganise the millions and millions of dollars’ worth of data that it has in a way that is much more relevant to decisions about families and communities, not about Government departments.

Hon Annette King: The Prime Minister has said that there are a number of children who live in an unacceptable level of material deprivation—how will the committee identify those children so that it can address their issues?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a very good question. The measures of hardship and deprivation are, by definition, statistical measures. What you then have to do is turn it into identifying actual families. The important point is this: the Public Service knows all these families—they are in our health population registers, they are in our school enrolment registers, they are in our State houses. The challenge is how to reorganise that information so that we can ensure that every single family in persistent deprivation is known to the Government and that for each one of those families, we are thinking much more deeply about the interventions that will change their life course.

Mr SPEAKER: Question—[Interruption] Order! I gave the additional one supplementary question, not two.

Economic Programme—Policies 2. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What will be the main features of the Government’s economic plan during this term of Parliament?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government’s economic plan will reinforce all those decisions and actions taken by New Zealanders over the last 4 or 5 years that have put this economy in the right direction. It grew by 3.9 percent in the year to June, 83,000 new jobs have been created in the past 12 months, and, on average, wages are rising faster than inflation. So we want to build on this progress: first, by keeping our spending under control, getting back to surplus, and reducing debt; secondly, by continuing to encourage what is now strong business investment and the enterprise needed to create new jobs; and, thirdly, we will focus on rewarding New Zealanders’ hard work—for instance, by reducing ACC levies and with modest tax reductions when we can afford them.

David Bennett: What reports has he received confirming the Government’s economic programme is helping to support more jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The most important thing to support more jobs is businesses having the confidence to invest another dollar and employ another person, and, fortunately, more New Zealand businesses are doing that. Since the House was last sitting, Statistics New Zealand has reported that the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent as at 30 June, the number of people unemployed in the June quarter fell by 9,000, and the number of people employed increased by 10,000. This encouraging labour force data is backed up by other indicators, such as employment confidence among businesses. Total job advertising increased by 2.4 percent in September, following a 1.7 percent lift in August, according to the ANZ job ads survey.

David Bennett: How is New Zealand’s improving economy being reflected in confidence among manufacturers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We track manufacturing because the Opposition decided a couple of years ago that it was in crisis. Last week the BNZ – BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index came out for September. It rose by 1.1 points to 58.1 points. The manufacturing sector has now expanded for 25 consecutive months, beginning in about the month when the Opposition said the sector was in crisis.

David Bennett: Since the election, what reports has he received supporting the Government’s economic plan?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, a number of reports, but one particularly strong endorsement. The report said: “Well, I think at the end of the day people wanted stability. They wanted prosperity. They saw the current Government as for now delivering that for them, and they weren’t prepared to take what they saw as some kind of risk for a change.” That was from the then Labour leader, David Cunliffe.

Dr David Clark: Given the forecast of his own department that exports as a percentage of GDP will this very year fall to their lowest level in 25 years, will he finally concede that he has failed to rebalance the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. The measure the member is using is, as I understand it anyway from what he said, the nominal measure, which actually is not the volume measure. But the Government, rather than attacking the export sector for non-performance, as the Opposition is, has been backing it solidly while it has been dealing with the headwinds of a high exchange rate. As the exchange rate comes off and our exporters show that they have become very competitive, we expect them to perform pretty well, actually, over the next few years.

Dr David Clark: Has he in the past month come up with any new ideas to rebalance the economy, given that his own department forecast exports as a percentage of GDP by March 2016 to be the worst since Robert Muldoon became Prime Minister—the worst exports to GDP ratio in 40 years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I pointed out before, our exporters have done a fantastic job, given that they have been dealing with the highest exchange rate since the Second World War. Despite that, they have been able to hold their own. As the pressure comes off, they will be able to succeed. But, of course, alongside growing exports we have to do some domestic work in New Zealand—for instance, expanding the housing supply. So resources that are applied to that very vital task will not be able to be applied to exports until the construction catch-up is complete.

Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table a document.

Mr SPEAKER: The source of the document?

Dr David Clark: From the Parliamentary Library.

Mr SPEAKER: And what is the document?

Dr David Clark: It is outlining the extent of the Minister’s abject failure to rebalance—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. It is a privilege the member is asking for—the ability to table a document. He stands and describes the document without that form of embellishment and then I might consider putting the leave. I will give the member a second chance.

Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table a document outlining the extent of the Minister’s failure to rebalance the economy.

Mr SPEAKER: I gave the member a second chance. He has not accepted it. I am not putting the leave.

Prime Minister—Communication with Blogger 3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister: How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): None in my capacity as Prime Minister. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! When I remain on my feet, I do not expect interjections to continue from my left.

Dr Russel Norman: Given the Prime Minister’s previous statements to say that he regularly talked with Mr Slater on the phone, is the Prime Minister now claiming that when he talked with Mr Slater he was talking with Mr Slater as the leader of the National Party, not as the Prime Minister; and does he wear a different hat when he takes those phone calls?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not now claiming that. That has always been the claim.

Dr Russel Norman: Did he call Cameron Slater to discuss the backlash Slater received after describing a young car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die; if so, what did he tell Slater about the dead man’s mother?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have never rung Cameron Slater in my capacity as Prime Minister.

Chris Hipkins: Has he ever phoned or texted Cameron Slater on a phone funded or provided by Ministerial Services?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not 100 percent sure of that, but what I can say is that—as Prime Minister Helen Clark would have told him—that is not the test of whether it is in my capacity as Prime Minister.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need the Leader of the House’s assistance at this stage.

Dr Russel Norman: The Prime Minister gave an answer to the primary question on notice, on the basis that he never called Mr Slater as the Prime Minister. We have now established that there are occasions where he used the prime ministerial phone to call Mr Slater. I would ask you to rule as to whether the Prime Minister’s original answer was within the Standing Orders of the House, given that he himself has now acknowledged he used a prime ministerial phone to call Mr Slater.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! In regard to the answer given by the Prime Minister to the first question, that answer was definitely in order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is something particularly disturbing about the Prime Minister’s answer, because it would appear that any Minister can make this claim and say: “Not in my capacity as a Minister.” Around about now, we have got no accountability at all in this Parliament if you allow that to stand.

Mr SPEAKER: In regard to the very first question that was asked, the Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to answer it in the way he did. He is then responsible for that answer. Further supplementary questions have been asked that attempt to tease this issue out. They are equally in order.

Dr Russel Norman: Why did he tell Cameron Slater that the dead man’s mother was the same woman who sometimes confronted him at Pike River meetings?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not going to describe conversations I have in capacities other than those as Prime Minister.

Dr Russel Norman: Was Cameron Slater correct when he said that the Prime Minister told him that the dead man’s mother—so these are the Prime Minister’s own words—was “ … the same woman f—ing feral bitch that screams at him when he goes to Pike River meetings.”? Is Cameron Slater correct that that is what the Prime Minister said?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I made clear at the time that that was not correct.

Dr Russel Norman: Is it not the truth that until theDirty Politics book came out, he chose to have regular dealings with Cameron Slater, a man who is a hired gun for the tobacco industry, whose blog subjected a public servant to death threats, and who celebrated the death of a car crash victim, calling him a feral?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Over the time I have been Prime Minister, the answer to that question is no.

Dr Russel Norman: Is it appropriate for the Prime Minister or his staff to use an attack blogger like Cameron Slater as a platform to “get their message out”, as the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman described it on 12 December last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government and Ministers do talk to bloggers, for a variety of reasons. The reason we talk to social media is that they are part of the overall media that communicates with New Zealanders. That would be no different from other political parties. I have seen that member quoted on numerous blog sites. One assumes that he and his office talk to them, and I am sure he and his office probably talk to Nicky Hager.

Dr Russel Norman: Did he instruct his staff to cease all links with Cameron Slater after the blogger accused an alleged sexual attack victim of bringing it on herself, or after Slater described a car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die? Did the Prime Minister direct his staff to cease all contact with Cameron Slater after Slater made those comments?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he not think that he should set a standard for the Prime Minister’s office by directing his staff to cease all contact with the attack blogger Cameron Slater, after Cameron Slater accused an alleged sexual attack victim of bringing it on herself, and Slater described a car crash victim as a feral who deserved to die? Would it not set a standard for the Prime Minister’s office to direct his staff to no longer have contact with Cameron Slater?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have made it clear that we do not endorse many of the stories or comments that are run by a range of different bloggers, but, no, I will not be instructing my staff to do that.

Dr Russel Norman: Is he saying it is business as usual for the Prime Minister of New Zealand and his staff to deal on a regular basis with the most vicious and notorious blogger in New Zealand and for his staff to leak information to that blogger in order to intimidate public servants and silence his political opponents?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not believe that to be an accurate statement.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask that after question time you review the overall question here today, because I suspect this issue is going to arise again around the distinction between the Prime Minister’s other capacities and his capacity as Prime Minister. The issue that I would like you to consider—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.

Chris Hipkins: —is that, in fact, it is the content of the communications and not the means by which they are transmitted, or the hat that the Prime Minister claims to be wearing at the time that he makes the communication, that is at issue here. So if the Prime Minister is communicating with someone about matters relating to his role as Prime Minister and about activities he has undertaken as Prime Minister, then they are, by nature, prime ministerial activities that he should be answerable for. So I ask you to give some further consideration to the interchange today, and, in fact, perhaps come back with a more substantive ruling on the matter, because it seems to me that the Prime Minister could stand up and give any answer to any question and say: “Well, I wasn’t doing that as Prime Minister.”, and therefore would not be held to account.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it has been well established in this House for a very long period of time that Prime Ministers wear a variety of different hats, and that includes as leader of the National Party, and can include as a citizen. I fondly remember sitting in this House for years hearing Helen Clark saying that she made statements, or had conversations, or undertook actions as the leader of the Labour Party. I happen, for the record, to use my Ministerial Services – funded cellphone to ring my wife. When I ring my darling wife and when I put the cat out at night, I do that in my capacity as a husband, not as Prime Minister. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. In regard to the very first point Chris Hipkins raised, I certainly give an assurance I will review the interchange today. As to the appropriate course of action following that review, I will be bound. If it is necessary to come back with a further more substantive ruling, I will consider doing so.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. [Interruption] Order! We just need to get the rules straight for everybody. This is a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.

Dr Russel Norman: Thank you for that ruling. Given that it related to my questions, I would just like to make one point with regard to the point that Mr Hipkins made, which was that the issue was about John Key acting as Prime Minister—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: What’s the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Dr Russel Norman: The point of order is that it is relevant to this question because he was acting as Prime Minister in the Pike River capacity. That is why it is relevant to this question.

Mr SPEAKER: The attempt to raise a point of order is not actually adding to the situation. I have given an assurance following the point of order raised by Chris Hipkins that I will have a look. I always review the transcripts of question time. As to what action may then be required, that will be determined by the conclusions I make in that review.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order? I have dealt with this matter. If it is a fresh point of order I am happy to hear it, but we are not going to relitigate this matter any further.

Dr Russel Norman: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order?

Dr Russel Norman: Yes. Mr Speaker, while you were on your feet, and several times while I was trying to make a point of order, the Prime Minister interjected even after you had directed him not to. It seems to me that if we are going to have order in this House, it is very important that the Prime Minister in particular should set an example of not speaking while the member with the call is trying to speak.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a reasonable point of order to raise. I did not actually hear the Prime Minister continuing in a conversation. I did hear it from another frontbencher of the Government. The member is making a fair point. I do not want to get into a habit of ejecting many members on any day, but points of order should be heard in silence, particularly when I call the House to order and ask for the point of order to be delivered. For members to continue to interject is going to create problems and leave me with no choice but to ask that member, be it a Minister or a Prime Minister, to leave the Chamber.

Housing—Government Priorities and Policies 4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Housing: Does he agree with the statement from the Speech from the Throne that the Government will “have a focus on housing in this Parliamentary term. More special housing areas will be created—and therefore more new housing developed—as a result of Housing Accords signed between the Government and local councils”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): Yes, because it was a very good speech.

Phil Twyford: How many houses have been completed in the special housing areas and have people living in them?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There have been 294 building consents granted. There have been 46 resource consents granted for 617 sections. There has never been a record kept of houses with code compliant certificates, not under the previous Government or the Government before that. What I would say is that there is a housing build going on in Auckland as a consequence of our policies.

Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a very straight question. In fact, Auckland Council, who is the partner in the Auckland Housing Accord, has been talking publicly about the number of completed houses. It simply defies credibility that the Minister says that he does not know how many houses have been completed.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Minister, because he did not say that he did not know; he said there were no records kept, which I found quite a surprising point. I will hear from Dr Nick Smith.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Auckland Council has said that six houses have been completed in one of the 80 special housing areas. It too has said that there never has been a record kept of the number of code compliant certificates on houses that are completed.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I invite the member to ask a supplementary question, it seems now that the first question has been answered as to how many houses have been completed. It is six.

Phil Twyford: Was he embarrassed to hear comments made by property developer Jon Maplesden that many developers signed up to the special housing areas simply to increase the capital gain on their property and have no intention of building houses any time soon and reports that land in some special housing areas is now selling for three times its earlier value? Why did he conceal this information from the public while he was so busy trying to blame councils for the failure of his policy?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The 80 special housing areas that have been granted in Auckland, we know, is a good policy, because the member Mr Twyford said on the platform in the election campaign that it was such a good policy he would be keeping the housing accords and special housing area initiative. It is true that when areas do get special housing area status, the value is going up, but I would point out to the House that a block of dirt in Flatbush inside the metropolitan urban limit sold for $800,000 in 1998 and in 2008 sold for $113 million—more than a hundred times the price—because of the stupid policy of the metropolitan urban limit that that member has consistently backed.

Phil Twyford: I did not back it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! When I rise to my feet, it is important that all members resume their seats. Supplementary question, Phil Twyford.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: No wonder you want a capital gains tax.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Phil Twyford: A very good policy, capital gains tax.

Mr SPEAKER: Just ask the supplementary question.

Phil Twyford: Does he stand by his statement that it will take some years for the market to respond to the special housing areas, and at the rate of five houses a year how many years will it take to meet his target of the 39,000 houses he promised Aucklanders?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The building consent figures show that in the last year 7,200 houses have been built in New Zealand, double the rate when we became the Government and the highest rate for 7 years. We know that the number of resource consents for housing is at the highest level for 10 years. We know from the GDP data that the residential building construction market has grown faster in the last year than it has in the last 20 years. We know from the employment data that the number of people working in residential housing is the highest for 10 years. That shows a housing building boom by anybody’s measure.

Phil Twyford: Will he concede that the average monthly building consent rate under National is 32 percent less than it was under the last Labour Government and 46 percent less in Auckland?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am happy to share the exact numbers with the House. In the last 3 months of the previous Government, housing consents in New Zealand averaged 1,000 a month—1,000 per month. In the last 3 months we have done 3,000 a month. That is double. But let us talk about Auckland. In Auckland in the last 3 months of the previous Government, we averaged 200 a month. In the last 3 months, we have averaged 600 a month—a trebling. Not bad. I will settle for that.

Phil Twyford: I seek the leave of the House to table data from Statistics New Zealand that shows that the building consent rate is 32 percent less under National than it was—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Statistics New Zealand information is available very easily to all members.

Joanne Hayes: What progress has the Government made in developing new housing at Hobsonville in Auckland, and how does this compare with progress under the previous Government?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Hobsonville development is progressing at pace. Two hundred and thirty houses have been completed and another 208 are under construction. Two new schools have been built and a new ferry terminal has opened. This contrasts with the previous Government, which turned the first sod in 2002 and 6 years later that was all it had done.

Housing—Number of New Builds 5. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Building and Housing: What advice has he received on the monthly rate of new house builds from when this Government was first elected in 2008 and the current rate?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): As I just informed the House, we have basically doubled the rate nationally from 1,000 houses a month to about 2,000 a month, and in Auckland we have trebled it from an average of 200 a month when we became the Government; now we are building 600 new houses a month.

Alfred Ngaro: How are the Government’s measures like housing accords and special housing areas helping to build momentum in increasing housing supply?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There are four steps required to convert bare land into housing. The first is a plan change, and I am advised that that normally takes 7 years. We are doing it with special housing areas in 7 weeks. The second stage is gaining a resource consent for a subdivision. The average period that that used to take was 2 years; the average period in the special housing areas is

2 months. After that stage, you need to construct the roads, the sewerage, the water, the drainage, and the power and the telecommunications infrastructure, and that is being completed in a number of those special housing areas. Then you require a building consent—

Denis O’Rourke: Why did it take 6 years?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: For the benefit of the member opposite, it is delightful to see that we have doubled the rate of housing building, and it will just be great to have the support of parties like his.

Alfred Ngaro: What further initiatives is the Government planning to ensure that a greater proportion of new homes are in a price range affordable for first-home buyers?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Prime Minister announced in campaign 2014 the Homestart grant scheme, which will provide $418 million of support over the next 4 years for first home owners, starting from 1 April next year. The Homestart scheme specifically targets first-home buyers and will help an estimated 90,000 young New Zealanders to get access to a first home.

Phil Twyford: Discredited by all the commentators. It failed in Australia. Treasury advised against it.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This is about increasing housing in the affordable range for those Kiwi families that aspire to get ahead under a National Government. For the interjecting member, I think it is about 1 million who voted for our plan and about less than half that who voted for that lot’s plan.

Prime Minister—Statements 6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he stand by his statement of 13 October: “I would certainly describe my style as open and transparent.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is true, why did his Government withhold the two child poverty reports for 17 months in an abuse of the Official Information Act?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member really should direct that to the responsible Minister; it was not in my office. But I think I am correct in saying—I could stand corrected—that it was because it was a work in progress and there were particular reasons as it was going through that process.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the Hon Jim McLay’s comment in this House when the Official Information Bill was being passed, and he said: “The underlying philosophy of the bill is that official information should be made available unless there is good reason for withholding it.”, and that being the case, why has he admitted on 15 October to using delaying tactics for political purposes?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the evidence that he did admit that on 15 October.

Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of this evidence?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a Radio New Zealand transcript.

Mr SPEAKER: No. That is also available to all members. Does the member—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, he’s just denied it, for goodness sake!

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard that. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why are US congressmen kept well informed about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations whilst New Zealand parliamentarians are kept totally in the dark on this matter?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, every system is different, so I cannot speak for what happens in the United States. But what I can say is that in New Zealand it has been a longstanding tradition for free-trade agreements to be negotiated behind closed doors, essentially, until the point an agreement

is reached, because we do not believe it is in the best interests to be discussing those in the public domain because it weakens our bargaining position.

Iraq—Deployment of New Zealand Special Forces 7. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour – Mt Roskill) to the Prime Minister: Why has he changed his pre-election commitment not to deploy New Zealand Special Forces to Iraq to his post-election statement that deployment is “definitely an option”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): This is a rapidly evolving issue, and countries including New Zealand are having to consider the issue as it intensifies. The increasing threats from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the global response will require New Zealand to carefully consider this issue. Therefore, officials are preparing advice for Ministers and Cabinet to consider a range of options, including humanitarian, diplomatic, and military contributions. I would stress that no decisions have been taken at this time. As members know, my least preferred option is to deploy the SAS, but I expect it to be part of the range of options. Over the last few months countries around the world have been considering their contributions to the coalition to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and New Zealand shares the international community’s outrage at its brutal actions. We have seen clear evidence of what this group is capable of doing.

Hon Phil Goff: When he said on 16 June, without any qualification, that he ruled out New Zealand special forces being deployed to Iraq—even in an advisory capacity, he said—where in that assurance did he warn New Zealanders that straight after the election suddenly sending special forces to Iraq was definitely an option?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, let me make it clear: that was the best information and advice I had at the time, and I believed it to be correct at the time. What I can say is the issue is evolving. I stand by the view that I have expressed, which is that sending the SAS is the least preferred option of the Government, but as I have said when I have been asked these questions, the Government will get a range of options presented to it. We do not pick and choose those options that are presented to us; we pick and choose the options we ultimately want to deploy.

Hon Phil Goff: When he told the country last week that the New Zealand Chief of Defence Force was attending just a regular meeting in Washington, is he telling the House that neither the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Ministry of Defence, or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had informed him that President Obama would be addressing that meeting and the specific purpose of that meeting was to map out a strategy of military commitments to that war when that was in the International News Services wires 12 hours before he made that outrageous comment?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is only outrageous if it is incorrect, and it was absolutely correct. We were not aware that President Obama was going down to speak to the meeting and taking the White House press corps with him. That has been confirmed by the Chief of Defence Force.

Hon Phil Goff: Why does his believe that Western-led military intervention to remove ISIS will be more successful than Western-led military intervention to remove oppressive regimes in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011, both of which he supported and both of which were spectacularly unsuccessful, with disastrous unintended consequences?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, given the member’s previous roles, the differences between the situation in Iraq today and then will, hopefully, not be lost on him. In 2003 there was a situation where there was action taken to oust a regime. Whatever one thinks of that, that was the view that was taken against a regime that was believed to be oppressive. The current situation is quite different in Iraq. It is one where the Iraqi Government is actually asking both the United States, I think, and countries from around the world to give them support against ISIS. ISIS is an organisation that we have designated as a terrorist group. ISIS is an organisation that I believe presents both international, regional, and domestic threats. It may be extremely convenient or easy for the member to be in Opposition and to not care about the responsibilities that I have as Prime

Minister, but I am not going to walk away from those responsibilities. I think that member should himself be very, very careful indeed about the claims that he makes, because I can assure the member that the actions I will be taking are those that are in the bests interests of New Zealanders, even if he can afford the luxury of not doing so.

Hon Phil Goff: Why does it make sense for New Zealand to be part of a so-called coalition of the willing of 22 military countries represented at the meeting in Washington and to make a decision to put the lives of New Zealand soldiers at risk, when two members of that coalition of the willing, NATO ally Turkey and American ally Saudi Arabia, have both supported ISIS, and Saudi Arabia, in fact, is the major provider of weaponry and funding to the ISIS terrorists?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is not the Saudi royal family who are in that position. There may be individual people who live in Saudi Arabia who happen to—

Hon Phil Goff: They allow it to happen.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, if the member is aware of what Saudi Arabia is doing, then he must also be aware that they gave half a billion dollars of humanitarian aid and are seriously considering what their next steps might be to combat ISIS. You cannot rule out that there are individual people who live in Saudi Arabia who happen to believe in the particular form of Islamic faith that ISIS is following. I will go back to the original point. In the end, the Government will consider what is in the best interests of New Zealanders. The Government will act to do the right thing by New Zealanders even if he, as the spokesman for the Opposition, chooses to ignore what the right thing for New Zealanders is.

Ebola—Readiness and Response Planning 8. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Health: Is he confident that New Zealand is prepared to deal with a case of suspected Ebola?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I am. Although the risk that Ebola poses to New Zealand remains low, we are treating the situation very seriously and taking every precaution to keep New Zealand protected. I am receiving daily updates on the situation from both here and abroad, and officials are constantly updating the comprehensive measures that are in place as part of the international response to the threat of Ebola. I would like to recognise the hard work of officials, doctors, and nurses and all those involved in preparing New Zealand to respond to this threat.

Simon O’Connor: What particular measures are being undertaken as part of the comprehensive preparation in place to protect New Zealand?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: It is worth noting that this is not just a Ministry of Health response to keeping New Zealand protected. The Ministry of Health is working with Immigration New Zealand and the Customs Service to constantly monitor and update protections at the border. Officials are running specific Ebola-readiness activities, coordinated across 20 agencies, to model New Zealand’s whole-of-Government response.

Hon Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. How does he propose, in the event that Ebola might reach these shores, that we ensure that access to health services is equally available for everyone, particularly for vulnerable communities, many of which include Māori, Pasifika, and those on low incomes?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The comprehensive steps we are taking are to protect all New Zealanders. There are more than 200 isolation rooms to deal with suspected cases, right across all district health board hospitals, and four specialist units, one of which, of course, is at Middlemore Hospital in South Auckland. There is also extensive engagement across the primary health sector to ensure high levels of awareness and preparedness, and of course this Government has worked very hard to increase access to primary care for all New Zealanders.

Hon Annette King: Is he aware that Queensland, our nearest neighbour, with a population about the same as New Zealand, has three isopod units to safely transport Ebola patients to high-level isolation; how many does New Zealand currently have, and are more to be provided?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: We have four units, and we are currently in the process of implementing their deployment in New Zealand.

Simon O’Connor: What capacity is there across the health sector to deal with a suspected case of Ebola?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The health sector is well prepared. There are more than 200 negative pressure isolation rooms across all district health boards around the country, with specialist Ebola treatment facilities in Auckland, Middlemore, Wellington, and Christchurch. Guidelines for health professionals in hospitals, public health, primary care, and pharmacies have been distributed by the Ministry of Health. Relevant public health services are expected to undertake timely and effective management of ill travellers at borders, and all public health services are expected to manage routine public health activities including contact tracing in response to a suspected or confirmed case.

Student Achievement—Investing in Educational Success Programme 9. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Education: What recent updates has she received on the progress of the Government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success initiative?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): I recently received an update that shows momentum and enthusiasm are growing as we implement this initiative to raise teaching quality and school leadership to deliver a better education to every student. This is evident by the keen interest already being shown in the process to form these new communities of schools. It is also very clear from what I have been hearing as I have been up and down the country visiting schools and talking with parents.

Dr Jian Yang: What has she heard from others about the importance of this initiative in lifting achievement for kids?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have also been hearing and receiving a lot of other support. For example, the Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand has said: “Let’s keep the best teachers in the classroom. Let’s share the best practice that we’ve got in communities of schools.” The Ngā Kura-ā-Iwi has described the initiative as a winner, potentially transformational, and providing a real solution to improving achievement for kids. A top chief executive has said: “It’s the encouragement of inspirational teachers that sees kids from tough homes lift their sights”. That is why we are continuing to do the work that needs to be done and that gets this right for kids, their parents, and their schools.

Prisons—Staff and Prisoner Safety 10. MIKE SABIN (National – Northland) to the Minister of Corrections: What announcements has he recently made to help improve safety for frontline corrections officers in our prisons?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): Yesterday I announced the release of a tender for 1,000 on-body cameras for our front-line corrections officers. This follows a successful 6-month trial for these cameras conducted in high-security Rimutaka Prison and maximum-security Auckland prison. We want prisoners focused on their own rehabilitation through education, skills, and training, and not on causing disruption to other prisoners and staff. Front-line correction officers are well trained and resourced to deal with difficult situations in our prisons, but we remain focused on continually improving the safety of our staff and prisoners. These cameras will be another measure available to de-escalate what can sometimes be highly tense situations.

Mike Sabin: What did the 6-month trial of on-body cameras in both Rimutaka Prison and Auckland prison reveal?

Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: When we compared the average rate of prisoner-related incidents during the 180-day trial with the same 180-day period during the previous year, there was a 15 to 20 percent reduction in both trial units. This was compared with a 4 to 5 percent reduction for the wider trial prison sites. The trial also revealed that the use of cameras reduced the severity of incidents and allowed staff to use the footage in their debriefs as evidence of misconduct, in staff development and prisoner coaching. As I said in answering the primary question, we want prisoners focused on their own rehabilitation and working on learning, upskilling, and training for a productive and meaningful life outside prison.

Judith Collins—Inquiry into Compliance with Cabinet Manual 11. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour – Wigram) to the Prime Minister: What are the allegations that led to him establishing the Chisholm inquiry into the allegations regarding Judith Collins and a former Director of the Serious Fraud Office?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): The allegations are that during her time as Minister of Police, with responsibility for the Serious Fraud Office, Judith Collins acted inappropriately to undermine the then director of the Serious Fraud Office, Mr Adam Feeley. These allegations have been totally rejected by Miss Collins, and she asked that I establish an inquiry so her name could be cleared. I was happy to oblige. I do not believe it is in the public interest for me to make any further comments while the inquiry is still in progress.

Dr Megan Woods: Is he still expecting the findings of the inquiry to be reported back to him by 28 November 2014, and when does he expect to publicly respond to it?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, yes. In terms of the second part of the question, I am not sure at this point.

Dr Megan Woods: If the inquiry clears Judith Collins of the accusations, will she be reinstated to his ministry forthwith?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have made that clear. The answer is no, not forthwith.

Dr Megan Woods: Has he received specific information about Judith Collins’ conduct as a Minister since the initiation of the inquiry into the matter; if so, what is the information?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

Dr Megan Woods: What factors, including any other activities of Judith Collins not included in the inquiry, are preventing him from giving a guarantee to reinstate her to his ministry?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: People are appointed to the ministry when I feel it is appropriate that they are and when we have an opportunity. As the member will be aware, we have just announced a new Cabinet line-up. That is where it stands at the moment.

Immigration Policy—Numbers 12. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he have an ideal number of migrants coming to New Zealand; if so, what is that number?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): I do have an ideal situation for migrants coming to New Zealand and it is quantifiable, but not in a single number. My ideal is: as many international students as want to come and study at our tertiary institutions; as many tourists who want to come and enjoy our beautiful country; as many skilled migrants as is necessary to fill the skill demands that we have; and, because migration data also includes New Zealanders coming home, as many New Zealanders who want to come home and contribute to this country’s social and economic development.

Ron Mark: As the Minister has just admitted to the House that he has no clear idea of what an ideal level of immigration is—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Ron Mark: —does he not realise—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a point of order, and no one should be surprised.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The Standing Orders are very clear on what must be, or should be, in a question. Equally, they are clear on what there should not be. Statements of supposition that were a statement, effectively, at the beginning of what we hoped would be a question are not inside the Standing Orders and should not be allowed in this Parliament.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The problem with that complaint is that the Minister did say that he did not have an optimum figure that he could give the House. He admitted that he did not have that figure. He referred to tourists and he referred to students, none of which was part of the primary question, and so, frankly, he is guilty by the statement he made.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The Minister made it clear that he did not have an ideal number, but he had a series of scenarios that were acceptable. For the member to characterise the start of a question as there was an admission, etc., etc., it is not an acceptable way to ask a question in this House.

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard enough. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. Strictly interpreting the Standing Orders, all questions should start with a question, but if members also take the opportunity to review Hansard today they will see that on many occasions members take the opportunity to add an introduction, which I have been relatively lenient in allowing. But, as the member who is asking the question will have noted, when he starts a question like that, it will inevitably lead to disorder. So I invite the member, if he wants to ask a supplementary question, to now rise and ask a supplementary question without the additional comments about a Minister having no idea, etc.

Ron Mark: Thank you, Mr Speaker; thank you, Gerry. Does the Minister, noting that he has not given an ideal level of immigration to the House today, realise that uncontrolled immigration is forcing Kiwis into queues for hospital beds, queues for housing, and queues for jobs, and is driving down Kiwi wages?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I think it would be helpful to assist the member by describing what migration definitions informed the permanent and long-term migration data that he sees. A migrant includes somebody who is here for a short time, for a long-term temporary basis, and permanently, and New Zealanders returning home. The member describes an out-of-control or uncontrolled permanent residence migration by foreigners. That is not true. We have a planning range of between 45,000 and 50,000 residents per year, and in the 5 years to 2014 we have not met that range because migration policy is demand-driven, and the demand during the recession has not been there. So I reject the assertion that it is somehow uncontrolled immigration.

Ron Mark: Is it not a fact that a Government using open-door immigration policies is likely to drive down wages and living standards, and when will he admit that we—New Zealand—are on track to replicate exactly what is happening in the United Kingdom right now?

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I simply reject the prefacing comments about uncontrolled migration. We have very strict immigration policies, which are labour market – tested for temporary visa holders and are very well controlled for permanent residence visa holders. I note that permanent residence visa numbers presently are 20 percent below the 2006-07 numbers that existed when that member’s party was supporting Labour on confidence and supply.

Ron Mark: So if the number of people coming into New Zealand, as reported recently, in 1 year is such that it translates into a need for 8,000 new homes just to meet their requirements, and the Minister of Building and Housing has just told the House today that he has managed to build six houses this year—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are now getting to the stage where it is a speech. Ask the supplementary question.

Ron Mark: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What is the whole-of-Government plan to cater for this level of immigration in terms of infrastructural needs, in terms of housing needs, and in terms of

catering for the hospitals and their extra workload? What is this Government’s population plan for New Zealand?

Mr SPEAKER: Hon Michael Woodhouse, in so far as he has ministerial responsibility.

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: As I think I have already explained, the migration data on which the member bases his question include working holidaymakers; international students; people who are going to help us rebuild our second-largest city; and, above all, Kiwis coming home. Yes, they need houses, and this Government does have a plan to fix housing supply, but I reject the inference that this is somehow some kind of peril that we need to be managing.


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Gordon Campbell on Pharmac, Gough Whitlam and Sleater-Kinney Tue, 21 Oct 2014 08:13:27 +0000 Column – Gordon Campbell

Ridiculous reported comments on RNZ this morning by Trade Minister Tim Groser, as he sought to dampen down concerns about yesterdays leaked draft of the IP chapter of ther Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.

Gordon Campbell on Pharmac, Gough Whitlam and Sleater-Kinney

by Gordon Campbell

Ridiculous reported comments on RNZ this morning by Trade Minister Tim Groser, as he sought to dampen down concerns about yesterday’s leaked draft of the IP chapter of ther Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations. According to Groser, ‘extreme’ positions are common at the outset of negotiations, and these get whittled down over the course of negotiations. Fine. Except that we’re not at the outset of these negotiations. The outset was six years ago, and negotiators were hoping to have some sort of ‘framework’ deal finished in time for the APEC meeting in a few weeks’ time. These ‘extreme’ positions are what we’ve reached near the intended end of the negotiations.

Still, Groser did promise that the cost of medicines would not rise as a result of the TPP trade deal. Great. But this is not what politicians in other countries are saying. In an article headlined “TPP Agreement Will ‘Definitely’ Raise Medicine Costs” Malaysian legislator Charles Santiago said flatly yesterday that ‘the cost of medicines will definitely increase’ if a TPP deal is completed. That would not be an unusual outcome. The recently concluded EU/Canada trade pact for instance, will also significantly raise the cost of medicines in Canada and for the same patent extension reasons.

Good to see that New Zealand is among those countries pushing back against the IP proposals – which not only include the extension of drug patent terms and conditions, but some truly horrendous proposals to criminalise both (a) copyright infringements and (b) the release of information about corporate trade secrets, even if there is a public interest involved in the information being made public. Yet it remains unclear what New Zealand would regard as an acceptable trade-off for its IP positions. As mentioned in this column yesterday, the US was only last weekend pressuring Japan to make partial concessions on dairy trade. New Zealand would be one beneficiary. Re Pharmac, it would be more re-assuring if Groser would rule out any trade-offs on the IP chapter in return for enhanced market access for our dairy products to Japan.

Once again, the leaked draft has torpedoed one of the justifications for the cone of secrecy under which the TPP talks are being conducted. According to TPP apologists, the talks have to be kept secret because that’s how you negotiate; you need to keep your cards close to your chest. Bullshit. In the bracketed parts of the draft that signal which points are still in contention, the negotiating position of each country is spelled out. The negotiators know exactly what every other country is proposing, and exactly what its sticking points are on every single item still in contention.

Moreover, the corporations who have bought access to the texts also know the progress to date; it is their insider information that provides the basis for their lobbying. The only people who don’t know what’s going on are the general public. Incredibly, the public will be kept in the dark about any detail of how the TPP was negotiated for four years after the pact is concluded. Just how this condition could possibly be compatible with any proper parliamentary ratification of the TPP s easily answered: it wouldn’t be. With the TPP, the government is not only trading away national sovereignty, but the integrity of our parliamentary process.

The death of Gough Whitlam is a reminder about why New Zealand should become a republic. Democracy remains at risk from the ancient powers of a distant monarch. Anyone who thinks the monarchy is a nice, rather quaint way of ordering our affairs can look across the Tasman and see how the Queen’s representative can readily sabotage and dismiss a democratically elected government.

Whitlam was in power for only one term. In fact, that’s the striking thing about his obituary in the Guardian. Think about how little Helen Clark accomplished in three terms of office. Whitlam did all of this in just one three year term:

In a rapid program of reform it called “the program”, the Whitlam government created Australia’s national health insurance scheme, Medibank; abolished university fees; introduced state aid to independent schools and needs-based school funding; returned traditional lands in the Northern Territory to the Gurindji people; drafted (although did not enact) the first commonwealth lands right act; established diplomatic relations with China, withdrew the remaining Australian troops from Vietnam; introduced no-fault divorce laws; passed the Racial Discrimination Act; blocked moves to allow oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef; introduced environmental protection legislation; and removed God Save the Queen as the national anthem.

Sleater-Kinney returns!
In this month’s Werewolf music column that was dedicated to Sleater-Kinney, I talked about the “Run Fast” track from Kathleen Hanna’s comeback album with the Julie Ruin – but then mistakenly linked to a song by the Canadian band Alvvays. Got to put that right. So here’s “Run Fast” for real. It’s a fantastic song about growing up, growing wild, surviving your friends, surviving with them…Lovely video, too.

Big news though is…Sleater-Kinney has reformed, eight years after they went into hiatus in 2006. There’s a new album due in January, they’re touring again and a new single that’s recognisably them. Good as the single is, it will be just a shadow of how it will sound live. IMO, this is the greatest live band – ever. One reason why Sleater-Kinney is so beloved is the sense of community they embody. On stage, Janet, Carrie, Corin create something way beyond what they could ever do as individuals. And it’s the happy feeling that the collective power of this great, great band is once again going to be unleashed on the world that has S-K fans doing cartwheels. Crap video from Miranda July, though.


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Speech from the Throne: State Opening of Parliament, 21 Oct Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:38:25 +0000 Speech – Governor General

Following the General Election, a National-led Government has been formed with a majority in the House on confidence and supply. Confidence and supply agreements have been signed between the National Party and, respectively, the ACT Party and …Speech from the Throne
Delivered by His Excellency Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand, on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament, Tuesday 21 October 2014

Honourable Members of the House of Representatives.

E nga Mema Honore o te Whare Paremata o Aotearoa, tenei aku mihi mahana ki a koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Following the General Election, a National-led Government has been formed with a majority in the House on confidence and supply.

Confidence and supply agreements have been signed between the National Party and, respectively, the ACT Party and the United Future Party. A Relationship Accord and confidence and supply agreement has been signed with the Māori Party. These agreements will enable the Government to operate in an effective, stable and inclusive manner.

Honourable Members, the Government has a comprehensive policy agenda and a substantial legislative programme that it will put before the House in the forthcoming session.

The Government is focused on returning to surplus and its long-term fiscal objective remains to reduce net core Crown debt to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020. Around $1 billion of the operating allowance in each Budget will be used to increase spending, with the remainder set aside for tax reductions and further debt repayment, depending on economic and fiscal conditions at the time.

ACC levies will be reduced in 2015, and more reductions are expected from 2016, as the three levy accounts are now fully funded.

The Government’s plan to build a more productive and competitive economy, supporting more jobs and higher incomes, is set out in the Business Growth Agenda. This contains around 350 individual initiatives. These initiatives will be progressed, and more will be added, in this term of Parliament.

The Government will continue to pursue high-quality trade agreements, including negotiations with Korea and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while ensuring that New Zealand’s best interests are always served. More investment will be made in New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, to expand the number of businesses it works with and increase its international footprint.

The Government will continue to provide the environment and incentives to increase business-led research and development, with a goal of raising this to 1 per cent of GDP by 2018. More funding will be provided for the R&D grant programme. The Government will also establish a Food Safety Science and Research Centre, as well as four additional Centres of Research Excellence, with one of the Centres focused on Maori research.

The Government will progress legislation to increase flexibility and fairness in the labour market, extend flexible working arrangements and improve collective bargaining. The enforcement of New Zealand’s minimum employment standards will be strengthened, and paid parental leave extended from 14 weeks to 18 weeks by 2016. Legislation to improve health and safety at work will be progressed.

The Government will complete the implementation of the Financial Markets Conduct Act, and will progress legislation to strengthen competition laws, and improve the accounting and audit industries.

The overhaul of Inland Revenue’s business systems and information technology will continue, which among other things will make tax compliance faster and easier for businesses.

Net migration to Australia has dropped considerably and the unemployment rate in New Zealand is lower than that across the Tasman. The Government will arrange job fairs for New Zealand employers in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, to recruit skilled expatriate New Zealanders to return home and work in areas where there are shortages.

Job fairs will complement the Government’s skills training programme here in New Zealand, which involves strengthening and improving foundation learning, vocational training and tertiary education. Additional investment will be made this term in training more engineers, creating 2,000 more places in Maori and Pasifika Trades Training, and launching three ICT Graduate Schools.

The Government will continue its programme of investment in modern infrastructure.

In this term of Parliament, a number of projects in the Roads of National Significance programme will be completed, including the Waterview Tunnel, the Tauranga Eastern Link and the Mackays to Peka Peka route north of Wellington. The Government will progress the remainder of the Roads of National Significance programme, together with a package of state highway projects in Auckland and across the regions. New funding will be allocated for urban cycleways.

The Ultra-Fast Broadband programme will be extended to reach 80 per cent of New Zealanders. In addition, $150 million will be set aside to improve mobile coverage and broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas.

Honourable Members, the Government believes that balanced and sensible management of our natural resources can meet environmental responsibilities while creating economic opportunities.

The Government will continue to encourage petroleum and mineral exploration while adhering to strong environmental and safety provisions. This approach includes investment in new data acquisition projects such as aeromagnetic surveys and petroleum basin analysis.

Investment in regional water infrastructure will continue, to help these projects get underway. New water storage and irrigation projects can make land more productive and boost exports, while at the same time providing positive environmental outcomes.

The Government is committed to improving water quality and the way fresh water is managed. Water reform will continue through advancing the recommendations of the Land and Water Forum. The Government will also introduce a requirement for dairy cattle to be excluded from waterways by 1 July 2017. Coupled with this, the Government has set aside $100 million to voluntarily buy and retire areas of selected farmland next to important waterways to create an environmental buffer.

Legislation will be introduced to amend the Resource Management Act to provide more certainty, timeliness and cost-effectiveness around resource allocation decisions. The Environmental Reporting Bill will also be progressed.

The Government will introduce legislation to improve the responsible use, management and conservation of New Zealand’s ocean environment. This legislation will allow for a wider range of marine protected areas, including recreational fishing parks in the Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds.

The Government will work with international partners to put in place a comprehensive new global agreement on climate change by the end of 2015. It will also continue to participate in international research programmes, with particular emphasis on the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases. The Government will invest additional funding to encourage and support new forest planting, and will continue to focus on managing New Zealand’s emissions.

Honourable Members, the Government will continue to deliver high-quality public services. It will remain focused on getting results, seeking new and better ways to deliver public services, and continuing to contain and reduce costs.

The Government has 10 priority goals and targets in the areas of long-term welfare dependency, supporting vulnerable children, boosting skills and employment, reducing crime and improving interaction with government. Good progress is being made on these targets, and two of them – in the areas of crime reduction and educational achievement – will be made more challenging.

The Government is committed to helping more people get off a benefit and into work. It will work to reduce the number of people receiving a benefit and reduce the lifetime costs of the welfare system. Legislation will be introduced to extend the Youth Service approach to 19-year-old sole parents, and to many other 18- and 19-year-old beneficiaries who need more support, or who are at risk of long-term welfare dependence.

As agreed with the Māori Party, ongoing investment will be made in Whānau Ora. The Government will continue to have a focus on poverty, especially child poverty, and will coordinate cross-government activity in this area through the Ministerial Committee on Poverty.

The Government will also have a focus on housing in this Parliamentary term.

More special housing areas will be created – and therefore more new housing developed – as a result of Housing Accords signed between the Government and local councils. Changes to the Resource Management Act will assist housing supply in the longer term.

The new KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant will be introduced next year to double the support a first home buyer can get if they are buying or building a new home, which will encourage the supply of more affordable new housing. House price limits around the country will be increased. Legislation will also be introduced to allow first home buyers to withdraw their KiwiSaver member tax credit to put towards a deposit. The Government’s extended home insulation scheme will make another 46,000 low-income households warmer and healthier.

The Government will continue working to ensure that vulnerable New Zealanders have access to good quality housing, whether those houses are owned by Housing New Zealand or by community housing providers. The Government sees community housing providers playing a greater role in the provision of social housing over this term of Parliament.

The Government will extend free doctor’s visits and prescriptions to children under 13. More will be invested in lifting the number of elective surgical procedures, particularly hip and knee operations, and in creating new, primary care multi-disciplinary teams to help people in pain from bone, muscle and joint conditions.

A new cancer treatment target will be introduced, for 90 per cent of patients to receive their first cancer treatment within 62 days of being referred by their GP. And the Government will invest extra funding to allow hospices to expand their care and services across the wider health system.

As agreed with the United Future Party, the implementation of the National Medicines Strategy will continue, including the enhanced role of pharmacists in medicines management and primary care.

The Government will extend the Enabling Good Lives approach so that disabled people have more choices, controls and flexibility over support and funding in their everyday lives.

The Government will this term implement its initiative to raise teaching quality and school leadership to deliver a better education to every student. This will keep the best teachers in the classroom, and establish new teaching and leadership roles to spread best practice across communities of schools.

The Government will also provide more in-class support to special needs students, by funding up to 800,000 more teacher aide hours each year. More funding will be supplied to support deaf and hearing-impaired children, and a contestable fund will be established for schools to establish or enhance Asian language programmes.

The Government will continue its work to lift participation rates in early childhood education, with a target of 98 per cent of new entrants in school having previously attended an early childhood centre. The Government also has a target of 85 per cent of 18-year-olds achieving a minimum of NCEA Level 2. Significant investment will be made in new schools and classrooms, including major projects in Auckland and Christchurch.

As agreed with the ACT Party, the Government will further develop the model, and expand the trial, of Partnership Schools to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged students.

The Government will continue to focus on crime prevention. The crime rate is at a 35-year low, and violent crime, youth crime and re-offending are all declining. Across law and order agencies, a stronger response will be developed to prevent family violence, including a focus on gangs and gang lifestyles. The Government will progress legislation to address cyber-bulling, organised crime and online child abuse. It will progress the Parole Amendment Bill, introduce a Public Protection Order Bill, and intends to progress reform of the Privacy Act.

Every publicly managed prison will be made a working prison by 2017, so prisoners can take part in a 40-hour week of rehabilitation and reintegration activities. Specialist after-care will be delivered for those released or paroled prisoners who have undertaken a drug treatment programme while in prison.

Honourable Members, the Government recognises that Māori face unique opportunities and challenges in maximising their economic potential. This is reflected in the creation of a new ministerial portfolio of Maori Development. Reforms to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act will be progressed, so Maori land can be governed effectively and profitably for all its owners. The Government will also continue to resolve outstanding Treaty of Waitangi settlements, and intends for all willing iwi to have deeds of settlement by 2017.

Starting next year, New Zealand will take its place on the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term. This will be a challenging time for the Security Council and New Zealand is determined to make a positive contribution and in particular to represent the perspective of small states.

The Government is committed to a strong security and intelligence community which operates within a clear legal framework and with the security of New Zealanders at its heart. Under legislation passed last year, a review of the intelligence and security agencies, their legislation, and their oversight, will commence by 30 June 2015.

The Government has already commenced work on a review of settings in relation to foreign terrorist fighters taking part in, or returning from, conflict zones. The rapid rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant poses international, regional and local risks which the Government will respond to in a responsible way.

As has been well-signalled, the Government will put a possible change of New Zealand’s flag to a public vote this term. There will be no presumption of change, but there will be a very open process which will welcome and encourage full public input and debate.

Honourable Members, the Government is continuing to stand beside the people of Canterbury as good progress is made on the earthquake rebuild. The rebuild will continue to occupy a great deal of Government attention in this term of Parliament. Big strides will be made this term on anchor projects and horizontal infrastructure. Next year, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will be brought into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and a transition plan developed to hand over CERA’s responsibilities and powers in an orderly way.

Honourable Members, over the course of the forthcoming Parliamentary session, other measures will be laid before you.

The Government is privileged to have won the trust and goodwill of New Zealanders for a third Parliamentary term, and will seek to re-earn that trust and goodwill every day over the next three years.


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Gordon Campbell on the latest TPP leaks Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:34:08 +0000 Column – Gordon Campbell

The release by Julian Assange on Wikileaks of the draft Trands Pacific Partnership chapter on intellectual property including drug patents – contains some pretty disturbing evidence about whats still on the table.

Gordon Campbell on the latest TPP leaks

by Gordon Campbell

The release by Julian Assange on Wikileaks of the draft Trands Pacific Partnership chapter on intellectual property – including drug patents – contains some pretty disturbing evidence about what’s still on the table. The leaked drafts pertain to the May 2014 negotiating positions and enable comparisons with the August 2013 positions that Wikileaks released last November. Wikileaks overview of the new data is available here.

It includes this observation:

The new US-tabled Article QQ.E.20 will force Parties to enact an automatic monopoly period (marketing exclusivity) for life-saving drugs, with a choice for the groups to decide for definitive inclusion within the treaty of 0, 5, 8 or 12 years. Experts state that the United States is pushing for the maximum 12 years, with the countries’ Ministers to decide as the IP negotiators cannot agree on this controversial issue.

If the US is successful in their bid, or if even the alternative 8-year period comes into place, the Obama Administration will have gone back on its promise to make cancer drugs affordable, having previously pledged to reduce the monopoly period on biotech drugs from 12 to 7 years. This will mean patients needing these drugs will remain with hugely expensive medical bills for years to come.

This attempt to strengthen the patent rights of Big Pharma will be of particular concern to poorer countries struggling to afford drug treatments for communicable diseases. To mitigate such concerns, there is also parallel evidence in the May 2014 drafts of a continued push for shorter drug patent terms in poorer countries, and for longer ones in developed countries. If passed, this would mean that the cost burden of making affordable medicines more readily available in the Third World would not be borne by the drug companies, but would be transferred to developed countries, such as New Zealand.

Other elements in the draft text would impact directly on New Zealand’s ability to protect Pharmac. Though complex, it is worth slogging through:

Also new in the May 2014 text is a “drug company-friendly” version of the TRIPS agreement for compulsory licensing of vital drugs patents….. In theory, by issuing a compulsory licence, a government can authorise cost-cutting generic competition with patented drugs, in exchange for royalty payments to the patent holder. It is a key tool to promote affordable access to medicines…

Wikileaks sets out how this tool currently works within articles 30 and 31 of the existing TRIPs agreement.

Article 30 is a 3-step test that is restrictive in what it grants exceptions for, and is open to interpretation with regards to procedures for doing these tests. Article 31 (referred to in the August 2013 text and now gone) is the one generally used on all compulsory licensing for HIV and cancer drugs. Whilst it is more restrictive, it is limited to cases where patent holders are paid, so as long as a drug qualifies (as most HIV and cancer drugs do) it is possible to get an exception to the patent held by big pharmaceutical companies, breaking Big Pharma’s monopoly on life-saving drugs.

Within the TPP however, it is now being proposed to scrap this mechanism:

However, the new version of the text of the TPP IP Chapter has deleted the option to use this assessment procedure, requiring many judgement calls on aspects such as how this might “prejudice” the patent holder. This will mean that the procedure is more restrictive and open to interpretation, and therefore lobbying and manipulation.

As a result, this could further expose Pharmac’s internal decision making to legal challenge, in the name of the greater ‘transparency’ that Trade Minister Tim Groser seemed willing to unilaterally concede in statements he made just before the Auckland round of the TPP, in late 2012. The dangers posed to Pharmac’s operations by all of this benign sounding ‘transparency’ were spelled out in this Werewolf article.

There is some good news as well. The extent of bracketing in the draft text shows that in this chapter – as in so much else within the TPP – the big issues still largely remain deadlocked. On the evidence of the May 2014 draft, New Zealand has been pushing back against some of the IP provisions being promoted by the US and Japan. However, the trade-off for moving on IP that would definitely entice the Key government and its TPP negotiating team would be if there was any movement on greater access to Asian agricultural markets, particularly for our dairy exports. On the weekend, the Japanese media reports on the TPP-related Japan/US bilateral talks included a tid-bit of information of direct interest on that score to New Zealand:

The two sides tried to achieve a breakthrough on thorny issues such as Japan’s market-opening measures for agricultural products and bilateral automobile trade ahead of a ministerial meeting for all 12 states in the TPP negotiations in Sydney later this month.

According to informed sources, the United States asked Japan to eliminate import tariffs on part of dairy products, one of Japan’s five key [farm trade] categories. (My emphasis.]

Even for key items that Washington has broadly agreed to let Japan keep tariffs, such as beef, U.S. negotiators are seeking sharp tariff cuts.

So, on the brink of the TPP round due to kick off in Canberra and Sydney, the US has been trying to wrest a partial concession on dairy trade from Japan, presumably in order to sweeten the pot for New Zealand. The TPP may still be something of a mirage, but it is a decidedly ugly one.

Library Love
Talking of texts, what about books? Kimya Dawson is an acquired taste. Many of her songs are so desperately cute, they’re the aural equivalent of eating the whole darn bag of chips. Somewhat surprisingly, her recent collaborations with Aesop Rock have been no exception. (They do a song called “ Delicate Touch’ that uses the “Delicate” cycle at the laundromat as a metaphor for her entire emotional life. Awww. ) On the upside, she and Aesop R. also do this little hymn to libraries.


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Experts Condemn Possible TPP Trade-Offs as Talks Resume Sun, 19 Oct 2014 13:57:17 +0000 Press Release – AFTINET

Mps, Public Health And Copyright Experts Condemn Possible TPP Trade-Offs as Talks Resume in CanberraMps, Public Health And Copyright Experts Condemn Possible TPP Trade-Offs as Talks Resume in Canberra

When: 11 AM Monday, October 20
Where: Parliament house lawn, in front of the public entrance
Speakers: Kelvin Thompson MP (ALP), Senator Peter whish Wilson (Greens), Dr Patricia Ranald, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, John Edwards, (MSF) Doctors without Borders, Dr Matthew Rimmer, ANU.

“As Trans-Pacific trade negotiations begin again in Canberra this week, the leaked intellectual property draft text shows that US proposals which would mean higher prices for medicines and less rights for internet consumers are still on the table. The US also wants special rights for foreign investors to sue governments for damages if a change in law or policy harms their investment, which would undermine future laws to protect health and the environment. The danger is that the Coalition government has said it is prepared to agree to some of these proposals in return for increased US market access for agricultural products,” Dr Patricia Ranald, Coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network said today.

Kelvin Thompson MP, Deputy Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties added: “When it comes to trade agreements, we need to ensure they don’t undermine our national sovereignty. I do not support the inclusion of investor rights to sue governments in trade agreements. We do not need, and are crazy to have, this handbrake on government.”

Jon Edwards, Advocacy Manger MSF Australia said: “If this trade deal includes provisions which give even more rights to pharmaceutical companies to restrict competition and innovation then millions of patients in the Asia Pacific will suffer.“

Dr Matthew Rimmer, from the Australian National University College of Law said, “The copyright maximalist regime in the Trans-Pacific Partnership could crush freedom of speech, innovation and competition in Australia.”

Senator Peter Whish-Wilson said: “Australians have every right to be concerned about the way this deal is being done behind closed doors. The leaked documents indicate that the government is on course to hand over protections for human rights, public health, the environment and internet freedom. The Greens will continue to strive to bring this deal out into the open.”


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