Shaw versus English on the budget

James Shaw had his first confrontation with Bill English since the budget in Parliament yesterday.

3. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s decisions?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the Family Incomes Package in the 2017 Budget, which provides around $2 billion to support family incomes. It will benefit around 1.3 million families by an average of $26 a week. I am pleased to see that the member supports this decision, because it will help so many low and middle income earners with young families, and it is impressive that the Greens thought supporting those families was more important than supporting a dysfunctional and flailing Labour Party.

James Shaw: Does he stand by his Government’s decision in last week’s Budget to cut funding for rheumatic fever prevention when rheumatic fever rates are rising?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would have to check the details about the actual funding for rheumatic fever, but I can tell the member this: this Government set up the rheumatic fever scheme, with, I think, $60 million at the time. It has been innovative, it has had a significant effect on rheumatic fever rates, and the lessons from that have been applied to the new Better Public Services result around reducing hospital admissions for children for preventable conditions. So essentially we are taking the rheumatic fever scheme and applying it on a much wider basis, so that we can have more healthy children, and fewer of them going to hospital.

James Shaw: Does he stand by his Government’s decision in last week’s Budget to stop insulating homes at the end of this year?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: A law has been passed precisely to make sure that all homes are insulated where that is reasonably possible—

Phil Twyford: No—rental properties.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: . —all rental homes. I cannot help feeling that the Greens are running into the same trap as the Labour Party, and that is that now that those members have decided to vote against the Government on the confidence motion, they are trying to find reasons for that vote.

James Shaw: Can he confirm that the law that he just referred to—the change in the insulation standards that the Government introduced in 2016—is based on 1978 levels, will not come into effect for another 2 years, is lower than the current building code, and is lower than officials recommend for a healthy home?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I cannot confirm any of those things.

James Shaw: Has he seen reports that there are still 600,000 homes in this country with poor thermal performance, which are cold and damp in winter, and which make the people who live in them sick?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen all sorts of reports about the state of our housing stock. That is one of the reasons why the Government has legislated in the way that we have just described, and it is also a reason why we have now put in place for the first time systems for dealing with children, in particular, who show up in hospitals with diseases that may be related to the poor state of the house that they are in. The good news is that more new houses are being built than ever, the State housing stock has been significantly improved since this Government came into office, and the standard of houses in New Zealand is rising.

James Shaw: Does he agree with Otago University professor Philippa Howden-Chapman that home insulation is “a very, very good investment”; if so, why is he not funding it under his social investment programme?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member may be aware, the Government has spent hundreds of millions on subsidising the insulation of homes, and has come to the view that the best thing from here is to make it a requirement for all those who do own rental homes to insulate them. It seems to me, in the same way we do not spend money subsidising the spouting or hanging doors in homes, that that should be an integral part of the standard of the home.

James Shaw: If a 6:1 benefit-cost ratio to tackle a problem that puts kids in hospital 40,000 times and kills more people than the road toll every year does not meet the criteria to be considered a good social investment, what does?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are lots of proposals that meet the criteria for sound social investment, but, as I have already explained to the member, because of the significance of insulation, we have legislated to require insulation to a specific level in all rental homes.

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