“An extremely unparliamentary term”

MPs often get grumpy in pPrliament during question time, but Steven Joyce took that a bit further than usual today when he used what was described as “an extremely unparliamentary term”.

Government Financial Position—Debt and Measures to Address

2. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister of Finance: What is the Government’s plan for reducing net debt as a percentage of GDP?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): So far we have made very good progress in reducing the Government’s debt, as measured against the size of our economy. Net debt peaked at just under 26 percent of GDP, following both the global financial crisis (GFC) and the Canterbury earthquakes. It is expected to be around 24 percent of GDP by the end of this year. We are forecasting to achieve our short-term target of reducing net debt to around 20 percent of GDP by 2020. All this has been achieved after New Zealand was forced to weather the shocks of the global financial crisis and the Christchurch earthquakes, and, of course, more recently, the Kaikōura earthquakes. Supporting Kiwi families through these events resulted in the country borrowing significant sums of money—approximately an extra 20 percent of GDP.

Todd Muller: Once the Government has achieved its net debt target, what will the new medium-term goal be?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I announced last week that the Government will set a new medium-term fiscal target of reducing net debt to between 10 and 15 percent of GDP by 2025. We are a geologically young country and we are also a small country in an often turbulent world, so there are plenty of risks and shocks ahead of us. The GFC and the Christchurch earthquakes taught us that they come along at any time, and sometimes together.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will notice that the Minister of Finance is taking an extraordinarily long time to answer questions—for example, he was asked in the primary question: what is the plan for reducing net debt? It is not a history lesson; it is a question about the future plan.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why?

Mr SPEAKER: Because I asked him to resume his seat. I am the judge of the length of answers and I am judging the relevance of a subsequent supplementary question. The supplementary question was definitely in order. The Minister has every right to answer it, and I will judge whether the answer goes on for too long.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: You may well judge that, but I am entitled to raise under the Standing Orders a point of order and outline why some members of this House find that his answers are not satisfactory. We have an entitlement to do that. Yes, you can judge whether or not we are making out the case, but you will not stop us from making it out.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate the member’s point of order, but I am a bit confused because I would have thought that New Zealand’s resilience to natural disasters is a very important issue, not just for this House but for this country. The member may want to make a point about saying that it is not of interest to him, and that is fine. But I do think that most New Zealanders would consider our ability to respond to earthquakes and other natural disasters to be very important. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard quite enough from both members. As I have—[Interruption] Order! As I have said, I will judge the length of answers. I want them to be relevant, but I thought the subsequent supplementary question was an important one. I would have thought most of the House was interested in future net debt targets. Does the Minister wish to complete his answer?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Thank you. With net debt at around 10 to 15 percent of GDP, New Zealand would have the capacity to absorb more than one shock without extra taxes and without slashing people’s entitlements, and that is what will be important to New Zealanders.

Todd Muller: How achievable is a net debt target of between 10 and 15 percent of GDP?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This is achievable because the Government’s books are now in good shape, and rising surpluses are predicted over the forecast period. It is backed up by a New Zealand economy that has now experienced nearly 6 years of continuous growth, together with unemployment falling yesterday to 4.9 percent. This is one of the dividends New Zealand gets from an innovative economy that allows us to reduce debt so we can respond to whatever the future has in store not just for the current population but, of course, for our children and grandchildren.

Todd Muller: How will this new debt target help New Zealand respond to major shocks?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: You only have to look as far as the front page of the Wellington newspaper this morning to see the importance of ensuring that New Zealand has buffers against major shocks. It was suggested in that report that there is a new report produced saying that a major earthquake in Wellington would force the capital city to move to Auckland. I do not agree with that, and I think most Wellingtonians would not agree with that. The reality is that if you can afford to protect urban centres like Wellington after a big earthquake, then we do not have to consider moving the capital city. So, with sensible investments in infrastructure and prudent levels of debt, Mr Peters, then we can make sure that the capital city stays in Wellington.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What are you going on about now?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Grumpy old prick.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know there is a robust exchange in the House, but the Minister of Finance did use an extremely unparliamentary term to describe the leader of New Zealand First.

Mr SPEAKER: I heard the interjection; I did not hear where it came from, but now that it has been identified, I require the Minister to stand, withdraw—[Interruption] Order! The member is not yet in this position; he might be at some stage in the future. I require the member to stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.


Peters: “he’s got his own problems, he’s going through his hair… and a lot of people don’t like that when they look like him!”

Joyce: “aww nooo it’s just robust debate and he was being a fairly grumpy chap wasn’t he?”

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  1. Gezza

     /  May 5, 2017

    Both of them have got to go. 😡 Who else have we got? 😳

    • Gezza

       /  May 5, 2017

      If Joyce said that outside the house he’d get away with the defence of truth.

      • Pete Kane

         /  May 5, 2017

        Stop that sort of talk right there Buster G!

  2. Gezza

     /  May 5, 2017

    You got a problem, Sunshine?

  3. Wellington the best place to live in the World. Today’s headline. New Zealand as the best place in the world for happiness and prosperity, yesterday’s headline. Already forgotten by mid day! Meanwhile politicians with the biggest ego in parliament gets unnecessarily personal in insulting each other. Like some blog commentators!

    • Blazer

       /  May 5, 2017

      Wellington the best place to live in NZ…?..WHO believes..that…do you?I travel there frequently…the weather sucks.

      • Gezza

         /  May 5, 2017

        Well, I live her & I don’t believe it – but it’s only because of the large quake risk, and mainly the weather. If you could shift Welly & its harbour further north to where it’s a bit warmer no place could beat it.

      • I live there Blazer!! Look at the weather as it has been, not what the MSM and others report!

  1. “An extremely unparliamentary term” – NZ Conservative Coalition

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