NZ First, Labour fizzle in Parliament

Parliament returned from a recess yesterday. Metiria Turei kept herself in the headlines – see Turei versus Tolley on benefit fraud – but Labour and NZ First failed to fire in Question Time.

Winston Peters began by trying to rake over the Barclay issue.

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on the Todd Barclay matter; if so, how?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did he feel the need to interfere in an employment dispute between another MP and a staffer?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have no responsibility for that matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why, on the Barclay issue, was he in constant communication with Glenys Dickson over a long period of time?

Mr SPEAKER: Again, in so far as there may be prime ministerial responsibility, the right honourable Prime Minister.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have no comment to make on that, but I am surprised that after the member’s tour of the regions 8 weeks out from an election, this is the biggest issue that he has found.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Talking of the most important issues, why does he keep changing his story on the Barclay matter?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have not.

That was a waste of time and opportunity.

Next up was Andrew Little, targeting one of National’s biggest vulnerabilities, housing.

2. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence that his housing and social Ministers have homelessness under control, given the number of grants for emergency housing has almost hit 30,000 in nine months, when only 1,400 were expected for the whole year?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes, Ministers are doing a good job. The 30,000 grants apply to around 8,000 actual people, because a number of them get successive grants. Over the past year the Ministers have overseen the first ever direct Government investment in emergency housing, amounting to more than $300 million and supplying up to 8,000 places for transitional housing.

The member cannot have it both ways—on the one hand, criticising the Government for not doing enough and, on the other hand, criticising the Government for spending too much money.

Andrew Little: Does he stand by his statement yesterday that “I don’t know why people are complaining” about him spending $140,000 a day putting homeless families in motels. Does he not understand that he caused this crisis by selling and knocking down thousands of State houses and not replacing them?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is simply wrong in his assertion about State housing. There are more State houses than ever, and I am pleased to say that the Government has taken a large number of initiatives, including the Housing Infrastructure Fund designed to ensure that tens of thousands more houses are built.

Andrew Little: When a study from Yale says New Zealand has the worst homelessness problem in the developed world, is he going to admit—without ducking and diving all over the show—that after 9 years his Government has failed in its basic duty to put a roof over people’s heads?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: If there is any failure in basic duty, it is the basic duty of the Opposition to be a good critic of the Government, which it has certainly failed in. Even Yale University itself says that the absence of an internationally agreed definition of homelessness hampers meaningful comparisons. In other words, the comparison is meaningless.

Andrew Little: Does he feel any responsibility for the children doing their homework by torchlight in cars, for the families sleeping in freezing garages, or for the homeless people dying on park benches?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is why the Government has gone to all the trouble of investing $300 million in emergency housing for the first time ever and setting out on a number of major initiatives to ensure that tens of thousands of new houses are built both by the Government and by the private market.

Andrew Little: Given that overseas speculators are driving up housing costs, will he ban those speculators from buying our homes; if not, why is he protecting overseas speculators rather than the homeless in New Zealand?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is time that the Opposition stopped blaming New Zealanders with Chinese-sounding names for what goes on in the housing market. In case the member has not noticed, house prices in Auckland are flat to falling.

Andrew Little: Can he explain why, when we have the worst homelessness problem in the developed world, his latest move as Prime Minister is a $400 million tax cut to the richest 10 percent? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think we do have the worst Labour Party in the developed world—I do not think there is any doubt about that.

It went on a bit but Little achieved little to nothing.

Grant Robertson had a go at Steven Joyce.

5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Why is it a higher priority for him to cut taxes for members of Parliament than it is to invest more money than is in Budget 2017 into health, housing, or education, or to immediately restart contributions to the New Zealand Super Fund?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): It is not. Budget 2017 invests $7 billion over 4 years into sustaining and expanding public services for a growing country. At the same time, it invests massively in new infrastructure. It also, at the same time, brings debt down as a percentage of GDP and, at the same time, presents a Family Incomes Package that particularly targets low and middle income earners. That is the benefit of having a strong and growing economy as a result of this Government’s strong economic plan.

Grant Robertson: Why is it his priority that the top 10 percent of earners get $400 million a year in tax cuts when our health system, housing system, and education system are so overstretched?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is literally wrong, and he can keep running the same talking points but it is interesting that obviously the public of New Zealand is not believing them, and that is because the Government is putting an extra $3.9 billion in the health sector this year, taking the budget to something like $16.8 billion a year in health. Interestingly, I have seen reports of other parties’ proposals for health expenditure, and the Labour Party is proposing to spend less—less—next year, in its campaign, than the Government is actually spending in additional health expenditure this year.

Then Chris Hipkins tried attacking on Barclay.

10. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all of the statements that he has made, or have been made on his behalf, in this House regarding the Todd Barclay case?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): Yes.

Chris Hipkins: When he stated in his answer to oral question No. 2 in the House on 20 June that “I would expect any Minister who became aware of possible breaches of the law to bring it to the attention of the authorities.”, was he aware of any allegations regarding breaches of the law by Todd Barclay that he had not brought to the attention of the police?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have made extensive comment on those matters already.

Chris Hipkins: Does he agree that it is “slippery deceit” and a “disgrace” for a Prime Minister not to tell the police everything they know about a matter under investigation, and that to avoid and refuse to tell the truth is a lie; if so, given those are his words, has he told the police everything he knows about the Todd Barclay matter?

Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is prime ministerial responsibility—the right honourable Prime Minister.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have commented extensively on that.

Chris Hipkins: Did he use a Ministerial Services – funded phone when he discussed Todd Barclay with Glenys Dickson, and was that conversation recorded by Todd Barclay?

Mr SPEAKER: Again, in so far as there is prime ministerial responsibility—the right honourable Prime Minister.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have no responsibility for that matter.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is responsible for whether he used a Ministerial Services – funded phone for that conversation.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister has given his answer to the question that was raised; the question has been addressed.

Chris Hipkins: Does he agree with the statement “This behaviour from someone in such high office is unacceptable … No wonder they are denying health cuts, pretending there is no crisis in education, and acting like we have no law and order problem. It is not leadership to cover up and hope it all goes away.”; if so, given he was the one who made that statement, why will he not live up to his own words and fully and honestly answer questions about his role in the Todd Barclay saga?

Mr SPEAKER: There are two supplementary questions there; the Prime Minister can address one or the other.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The matter has been covered extensively by a 10-month police investigation.

Why NZ First tried to take over the Barclay embers when it was predictable that English would avoid giving any more on it is hard to understand, it was a futile use of Question Time.

And Little and Robertson did virtually nothing to hold the Government to account, instead giving the Ministers opportunities for free shots at Labour.

Turei ruled the return to Parliament, with the rest also rans.

Leave a comment


  1. David

     /  26th July 2017

    Did Little really say we have the worst homlesness in the developed world, this is seriously the worst opposition party NZ has ever experienced. Albeit enabled by the media who without any scrutiny report we have 30,000 homeless people.

    • PDB

       /  26th July 2017

      30,000 homeless people the huge majority of which…………….live in homes.

  2. Corky

     /  26th July 2017

    PM, Billy English is ageing badly. His face seems to be sagging onto his chest. He needs a Cacai Clinic facial- plenty of essential oils followed by a good zapping to tighten his skin and muscles. What’s the use of tying Andy in knots come election debate time when everyone is looking at your face and wondering if it’s going to fall off?

  1. NZ First, Labour fizzle in Parliament — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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