Ron Mark has returned to Parliament after a six year absence. He had previously been an NZ First MP from 1996-2008 and has been touted as a potential successor to Winston Peters as party leader.
In Parliament’s first Question Time this term he was inauspicious with the twelfth question directed at Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, where he seemed to overrate his abilities.
[Sitting date: 22 October 2014. Volume:701;Page:13. Text is subject to correction.]
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.
A basic stuff up – has Marks forgotten how things work or was he deliberately trying the Speaker on?
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.
Peters tries to support Mark.
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.
A comprehensive ruling against Mark that not even Peters tried to argue with.
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.
It’s a nonsense to claim we have uncontrolled immigration. Year to year migration numbers are hard to control due to the freedpm for new Zealanders to l;eave and return, but apart from that immigration is closely controlled.
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?
No, it’s not a fact, it’s an absurd claim. Mark must know this is a nonsensical assertion. This is a dishonestly misleading line of attack or ignorant of basic facts.
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—
Is this approach rustiness, ignorance or arrogance? The video below may give an idea which.
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?
His final question is far too general and not specific to the Immigration Minister’s responsibilities.
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.
It looks like Mark (and his research team) has to get up to speed quickly if he is going to make a serious mark this term.
The NZ First MPs who have resumed from last term may not appreciate being leapfrogged in the party pecking order, especially when the question is wasted like this.