Select committee membership

Select committees

Much of the work of the House of Representatives takes place in committees made up of a small group of MPs.  These committees examine issues in detail, from government policy and proposed new laws, to wider topics like the economy.

There are 12 subject select committees and 5 specialist committees.  Select committee business items that were reinstated by the new Parliament have been published in the business list for the relevant committee.  Reinstated business resumes at the legislative stage it had reached at the close of the 51st Parliament.  Please note each committee may choose to reinstate inquiries and briefings from the 51st Parliament

Determinations of the Business Committee for 15 November 2017

Agreed, That the members of each select committee be as follows:

1. Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee: business development, tourism, Crown minerals, commerce, consumer protection and trading standards, research, science, innovation, intellectual property, broadcasting, communications, information technology

  • Tamati Coffey, Labour Party
  • Hon Jacqui Dean, National Party
  • Paul Eagle, Labour Party
  • Hon Christopher Finlayson
  • Gareth Hughes, Green Party
  • Melissa Lee, National Party
  • Clayton Mitchell, New Zealand First
  • Parmjeet Parmar, National Party
  • Hon Aupito William Sio, Labour Party
  • Jonathan Young, National Party

2. Education and Workforce Committee: education, training, employment, immigration, industrial relations, health and safety, accident compensation

  • Sarah Dowie, National Party
  • Hon Paul Goldsmith, National Party
  • Hon Nikki Kaye, National Party
  • Marja Lubeck, Labour Party
  • Denise Lee, National Party
  • Jo Luxton, Labour Party
  • Hon Tim Macindoe, National Party
  • Mark Patterson, New Zealand First
  • Jamie Strange, Labour Party
  • Chlöe Swarbrick, Green Party
  • Jan Tinetti, Labour Party

3. Environment Committee: conservation, environment, climate change

  • Hon Maggie Barry, National Party
  • Marama Davidson, Green Party
  • Jenny Marcroft, New Zealand First
  • Deborah Russell, Labour Party
  • Hon Scott Simpson, National Party
  • Hon Dr Nick Smith, National Party
  • Erica Stanford, National Party
  • Angie Warren-Clark, Labour Party
  • Poto Williams, Labour Party

4. Finance and Expenditure Committee: economic and fiscal policy, taxation, revenue, banking and finance, superannuation, insurance, Government expenditure and financial performance, public audit

  • Kiritapu Allan, Labour Party
  • Andrew Bayly, National Party
  • Rt Hon David Carter, National Party
  • Tamati Coffey, Labour Party
  • Hon Steven Joyce, National Party
  • Barbara Kuriger, National Party
  • Willow-Jean Prime, Labour Party
  • Deborah Russell, Labour Party
  • David Seymour, ACT Party
  • Fletcher Tabuteau, New Zealand First
  • Duncan Webb, Labour Party
  • Michael Wood, Labour Party
  • Lawrence Yule, National Party

5. Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: customs, defence, disarmament and arms control, foreign affairs, trade, veterans’ affairs

  • Hon Gerry Brownlee, National Party
  • Golriz Ghahraman, Green Party
  • Hon Willie Jackson, Labour Party
  • Hon Todd McClay, National Party
  • Hon Mark Mitchell, National Party
  • Simon O’Connor, National Party
  • Louisa Wall, Labour Party
  • Duncan Webb, Labour Party

6. Governance and Administration Committee: parliamentary and legislative services, Prime Minister and Cabinet, State services, statistics, internal affairs, civil defence and emergency management, local government

 

  • Virginia Andersen, Labour Party
  • Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, National Party
  • Paul Eagle, Labour Party
  • Hon Peeni Henare, Labour Party
  • Brett Hudson, National Party
  • Raymond Huo, Labour Party
  • Stuart Smith, National Party
  • Jian Yang, National Party

7. Health Committee: health

  • Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, National Party
  • Liz Craig, Labour Party
  • Matt Doocey, National Party
  • Anahila Kanongata’a Suisuiki, Labour Party
  • Shane Reti, National Party
  • Hon Nicky Wagner, National Party
  • Louisa Wall, Labour Party
  • Angie Warren-Clark, Labour Party

8. Justice Committee: constitutional and electoral matters, human rights, justice, courts, crime and criminal law, police, corrections, Crown legal services

  • Hon Amy Adams, National Party
  • Virginia Andersen, Labour Party
  • Chris Bishop, National Party
  • Andrew Falloon, National Party
  • Raymond Huo, Labour Party
  • Matt King, National Party
  • Greg O’Connor, Labour Party
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour Party

9. Māori Affairs Committee: Māori affairs, Treaty of Waitangi negotiations

  • Marama Davidson
  • Jo Hayes, National Party
  • Harete Hipango, National Party
  • Nuk Korako, National Party
  • Jenny Marcroft, New Zealand First
  • Todd Muller, National Party
  • Adrian Rurawhe, Labour Party
  • Rino Tirikatene, Labour Party

10. Primary Production Committee: agriculture, biosecurity, racing, fisheries, productive forestry, lands, and land information

  • Hon David Bennett, National Party
  • Hon Nathan Guy, National Party
  • Jo Luxton, Labour Party
  • Kieran McAnulty, Labour Party
  • Mark Patterson, New Zealand First
  • Rino Tirikatene, Labour Party
  • Tim van de Molen, National Party
  • Hamish Walker, National Party

11. Social Services and Community Committee: social development, social housing, income support, women, children, young people, seniors, Pacific peoples, ethnic communities, arts, culture and heritage, sport and recreation, voluntary sector

  • Darroch Ball, New Zealand First
  • Simeon Brown, National Party
  • Hon Kris Faafoi, Labour Party
  • Jan Logie, Green Party
  • Hon Alfred Ngaro, National Party
  • Greg O’Connor, Labour Party
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Labour Party
  • Hon Louise Upston, National Party
  • Hon Michael Woodhouse, National Party

12. Transport and Infrastructure Committee: transport, transport safety, infrastructure, energy, building and construction.

  • Darroch Ball, New Zealand First
  • Hon Judith Collins, National Party
  • Marja Lubeck, Labour Party
  • Ian McKelvie, National Party
  • Chris Penk, National Party
  • Alastair Scott, National Party
  • Chlöe Swarbrick, Green Party
  • Michael Wood, Labour Party
  • Hon Meka Whaitiri, Labour Party

Specialist committees:

1. Business: facilitates House business, decides the size and composition of select committees, grants extensions to the report dates for bills before committees, and grants permission for members’ votes to be counted while they are absent from the House.

2. Officers of Parliament: makes recommendations to the House on the appropriations and the appointments of the Auditor-General, the Ombudsmen, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

3. Privileges: considers questions of privilege (see Parliament Brief, ‘Parliamentary Privilege’).

4. Regulations Review: examines the legal instruments variously known as ‘regulations’, ‘delegated legislation’, and ‘subordinate legislation’, made under delegated powers in an Act of Parliament.

  • Kiritapu Allan, Labour Party
  • Simeon Brown, National Party
  • Liz Craig Labour Party
  • Hon Jacqui Dean, National Party
  • Andrew Falloon, National Party
  • Duncan Webb, Labour Party

5. Standing Orders: House procedures and practices.

On Chloe Swarbrick’s maiden speech

The youngest MP in Parliament is Green Chloe Swarbrick.It is very early days in her political career, she has a lot to learn and perhaps a lot to achieve.

Here is her maiden speech in Parliament.

Transcript: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA1711/S00099/chloe-swarbrick-maiden-speech.htm

Some responses to this from Reddit, which includes references to Golriz Ghahraman.

ProVagrant:

The message I took was more like “I want to change politicians’ awareness of people” – or something along that vein. Have I misread?

I found the speech meandered quite a bit. Too many unconnected anecdotes. I have kids in intermediate school so I’m familiar with this style of writing being the designated proofreader 🙂

It will be interesting to see how she will influence parliament, and vice-versa.

The Zizekiest:

To be fair the speech itself was a little bit too over the place to have a clear, coherent, single message.

I think the take away is this:

  1. Politicians are too distanced from the reality of issues they deal with
  2. This needs to change
  3. The way to change this is for ordinary people to get more involved in politics
  4. To get more people involved in politics we need to change their perception of what politics is

So, in a way, the speech was saying “we need to change people’s awareness of what politics is, so that we can change politicians’ awareness of people.”

IDK, all I can say is I hope the Green party don’t pay for speech writers.

burgercake:

cool if you could point out the examples of progressive policy change where New Zealand has led or followed fast (universal suffrage, recognition of indigenous rights, legalisation of homosexuality, marriage equality being good examples) have progressed without some level of discomfort particularly from the swathes of people who turn out to oppose them I’ll be waiting, but I suspect I’ll be waiting for a while

scatteringlargesse:

What is awful is her statement that “we’ve been ahead of the policy curve – leading where all others eventually follow”.

Even apart from the sadly typical “holier than thou” Green attitude it’s just wrong. I don’t see everyone following their policy to outlaw and not even consider GM foods. I don’t see everyone following their policy to not regulate alternative medicine. I don’t see everyone following their policy to impose tourism levies. I don’t see everyone following their policies to impose capital gains tax.

xxihostile:

Watched her entire speech, it was incredibly moving and she is such an eloquent person. So glad that she is in parliament.

burnt_out_dude:

I must be one of the few people that isn’t really a fan of Chloe or Golriz. Both seem to be stereotypical social justice warriors that are out of touch with reality. Rather than focus on real problems in NZ Golriz seems obsessed with Manus Island – there are hundreds of millions of people around the world in much worse situations than them.

Also does she ever open her mouth without playing up the refugee angle. Apparently her parents were middle class Iranians – certainly not persecuted dissidents or refugees struggling to survive. When they fled to NZ the war with Iraq had already been over for several years.

Chloe used to make more sense with her focus on actual issues – now she is all over the place complaining about white male privilege etc. If white male privilege exists I’m still waiting to benefit from it. Next time I’m living out of my car I hope white male privilege helps me get a good night’s sleep.

Seriously why are there so many wackos on the left and right. I’d settle for some politicians that focused on real problems in NZ with some decent evidence based policies. (Sadly it seems like Gareth Morgan is not going to be that person).

AristocratesSR:

She’s not saying that all men are better off than all woman. It’s a topic of averages, and the simple fact is that on average women face more discrimination for their gender than men. The wage-gap, sexual assault – even look at our female leaders. How many times is Jacinda Ardern called a horse? Paula Bennett, a pig? Helen Clark a number of things all pertaining to a looks, which men rarely suffer from.

Primus81:

You got any links/source on the white male privliege thing? I’m curious because I haven’t seen those arguments been made.

I’ve found her complaining seen middle/old white men being over represented in parliament, which I don’t think anyone would disagree with somewhat

although myself I think part of that issue is because of the ‘age’ and the ‘male’ demographic, since younger people and females are under represented. With other ethnicities besides Maori having only grown significantly in the last 20 or 30 years and being made up alot by recent immigrants, you can’t expect them to all have representation as fast as they immigratel. it also has the issue if these ethnicities are only located in very few city electorates, and not widespread around the country it’s hard to sell to the public for voting, that they represent NZ.

chajman:

Last year Chloe Swarbrick was running for mayor in Auckland. She had a number of sound policies (that she developed in collaboration with various experts and ordinary Aucklanders), including a reform of the rating system and several other proposals that were capable of attracting people from across the wider political spectrum. She focused on uniting, rather than dividing people.

It is a bit disappointing to see that over the last year she has become much more of a partisan social justice warrior and a walking megaphone shouting empty or polarising slogans than someone interested in building bridges, stimulating calm debates and proposing reason-based solutions.

She used to propose real reforms. Today she runs much more murky crusades, fights (via empty slogans) against “white privilege”, “patriarchy” etc. Maybe her voters like this kind of stuff, but it’s pretty clear (at least to me) that her strength and attractiveness during the mayoral campaign was in policies that went beyond these polarising ideological battles.

justpeachy42:

i mean they’ve literally joined a political party for the purpose of trying to put in place workable solutions to solve real problems facing nzers – whether you agree with their politics or not, you cannot deny that the green party has not, in the past, passed and assisted to pass a large amount of legislation that has done exactly that. now they’re a part of that, so what exactly is your issue?

they’re legislators now, does it get any better than for actually being able to create systemic change for nzers? what would you rather they spent their time doing if you hate them being in parliament so much but still insist that they come up with workable solutions to change nzers lives?

also, maiden speeches are not policy speeches – they’re to introduce yourself to parliament and to nz. it’s common practice that you talk about yourself and your life, and what motivated you to get into politics so that people get a feel for who you are. nobody uses their maiden speech to set out their plan for their next members bill in detail.

There are a lot more comments than that, this is just a bunch of discussion prompters.

Swarbrick may be a new generation politician – a different generation even to Jacinda Ardern, but she has to learn how to work in Parliament, with with her constituency and with MPs from other parties.

A plea to Ardern on Paid Parental Leave

Both Labour and National are playing politics on Paid Parental Leave.

Labour insisted legislation needed to be passed under urgency – with a plan to increase PPL by four weeks next July, and by another four weeks in 2020 (for a total of 26 weeks). That doesn’t sound very urgent.

Then National proposed an amendment – to give parents the choice how they shared that leave – one parent could take it all, or one could reduce theirs while the other could get some leave too.

This was opposed by Labour who said they wouldn’t allow leave for the mother to be reduced, even if she wanted to. That’s nuts.

A more solid argument is that it would require re-writing and more work, and that should be dealt with at another time. But given that there is no real urgency making a good bill better should be given some sort of priority.

Duncan Garner slams Labour:  Pathetic, petty and poor form, Labour. Dads matter too

So why is it just for mums? Why can’t families split the 26 weeks so mum and dad can share it, spend time together, bond with baby? Because Labour says it’s best for mum to have 26 weeks with baby. Bullkaka. Plunket says flexibility would be good. Stop while you’re well behind.

What is Labour to be telling us what’s best for our families? It has no right. No-one is asking for a dollar more. We just want flexibility for mum and dad to take the time together. I would have taken it – it would have been so very welcome.

No, this is a case of Labour throwing its toys out of the cot. Labour can’t see past its own nose on this one.

It doesn’t want to pick up the flexible approach because it’s National’s idea. Plain and simple. It can’t be seen to be accommodating the baby blues when the Nats saw red over paid parental leave in the first place.

This is truly pathetic from Labour on an overall policy that most support.

Nothing National is asking for will cost more, it’s a disgraceful, short-sighted, pathetic and petty decision by Labour to deny families the chance for mum and dad to share the early weeks together at home.

Of course National is grandstanding. Yes, their record on this issue is poor. But on the flexibility argument they are right.

All it takes now is for Labour to listen.

All this happened while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was out of the country.

But now she’s back she could fix it. The PM could say families are too important to get this wrong. As a father, Jacinda Ardern, I urge you to do it.

Are you really a positive new government that cares for people and doesn’t leave people behind?

If you are all that, then do the right thing. Allow families the right to decide their own future.

I know you’re planning to make it flexible later anyway, so do it now. Give families the right to choose, after all, it’s their life, their baby. Over to you now Jacinda. What will it be?

Will Ardern step in and do something about this? She was asked about it in Question Time on Thursday (edited transcript):

Hon Paula Bennett: Why is the Government opposed to parents having flexibility in how they use their paid parental leave?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I thank the Opposition for bringing forward their suggestion. I personally see merit in the amendment they’ve suggested; that’s why we’ve said we’ll look into it next year.

Hon Paula Bennett: Why doesn’t the Government then send the bill to select committee to consider the changes, given that they do not take effect until 1 July 2018?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The current legislation that’s been considered under urgency has gone through a select committee process twice. That’s why we’ve suggested—[Interruption] That’s why we’ve suggested that…

Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave to move a motion to refer the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill back to the relevant select committee for further consideration.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that process? Yes, there is.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can the Prime Minister explain, then, why she would not allow this bill to go back to select committee, when there is plenty of time for that to be done? She’s often stated about their preference to have Parliament actually exploring things well. There’s plenty of time for it to go to select committee, and they could actually explore these changes there.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve actually said, I see merit in what the Opposition have put forward, which is why I’ve given an undertaking that we will look into this issue further and use further opportunities when we’re looking at other employment legislation—if it proves to have merit.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think that her intentions to look at this at a later date are good enough for those families who will suffer financial hardship because they won’t have the opportunity to simultaneously take paid parental leave when there may be causes where a woman is unwell or the baby is unwell and both parents need to be at home?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think parents will appreciate that unlike the last Government, we’re extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks. I think it’s disappointing, given the vehemence that the member’s showing, that she didn’t use the opportunity when in Government to pursue this issue.

Hon Paula Bennett: So does the Prime Minister think she knows what is best for individual families, with all their uniqueness; and if not, why not simply, instead of having good intentions, do what is best and allow flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For clarity, again, I have already said I see merit in the idea, which is why we are undertaking now that our first priority is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks. We will then look at the idea that’s been brought forward by the previous Government. I have to again say that if this was an idea that they felt so passionately about, the last nine years would have been a good opportunity to do it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would she and her Cabinet and the Government be so much more wise and informed on this matter had the Opposition put in place this policy in the last nine years?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister is absolutely right; this is an issue that could have been pursued in the last nine years. In fact, I do need to point out we reached out to the member who put up the Supplementary Order Paper and she’s refused to collaborate with us on her very suggestion.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can I simply say, what does she suggest then to these dads and same-sex partners—what does she suggest that they do if they want to support these new mums and their babies but can’t afford unpaid leave, and would benefit from paid parental leave with flexibility?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I will say again, we are going to look into this issue because, as I’ve already said, we see merit in it—we see merit in it. Our first step, however, is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, which is a milestone we should all be proud of.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does she accept that she’s actually the Prime Minister that could take action and do something—instead of just talking about intentions and whether something has merit, she could actually do something about this?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Taking action means, within our first 100 days, pursuing 26 weeks’ paid parental leave, which was an issue the previous Government not only voted against; they vetoed.

Is it too late to change the bill?

Or will the pragmatic Prime Minister add a worthwhile amendment?

 

 

A problem with Kelvin Davis

There is no doubt that Jacinda Ardern stepped up into the role of Labour leader, and stepped up further in post-election negotiations, as new Prime Minister and generally in her role in international politics (Manus aside).

Not so Kelvin Davis. It seemed to be a good idea to appoint him deputy to Ardern, he had appeared to be a good prospect, he complimented Ardern and he strengthened Labour’s Maori mana.

But Davis always seemed uncomfortable in the role. Some initial swagger was swept aside after he made some poor comments, and he slipped into the background, probably by design of Labour’s campaign.

He has been forced into the foreground again over the last week as acting Prime Minister when both Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were overseas. Davis was unimpressive fronting for the Government in Parliament this week. He stonewalled without conviction.

Jo Moir at Stuff talks tough: Labour has a problem – the trainwreck of acting prime minister Kelvin Davis

For the last week, Kelvin Davis has been acting prime minister and it’s been nothing short of a trainwreck.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy, Winston Peters, have been cutting deals and forging relationships on the international stage in Vietnam and the Philippines, Davis has been left back in New Zealand to handle the day-to-day business.

Before embarking on this week-long mission, Davis was pretty cool and calm about the whole thing and even described the role as a “figurehead” position.

In this column a week ago, I congratulated Davis for doing an excellent job of saying absolutely nothing, but nobody seriously thought that was a strategy Labour could keep up.

Roll on to Tuesday and Davis was back in the House facing Opposition Leader Bill English on statistical steroids as he did what he does best – stringing together sentences with enough jargon and numbers to make a Treasury report look like child’s play.

National worked out a long time ago that Davis was the weak link in the Labour leadership team and the party is in overdrive finding every way possible to expose that.

Every question Davis had thrown at him on Tuesday was answered first in muffled tones by ministers Phil Twyford, Chris Hipkins and Grant Robertson. Davis then stood up and repeated the answers.

I hadn’t noticed that. Question 1 from Tuesday:

You can see it at times here, with Robertson prompting Davis on some answers and appearing to act as his minder.

The ministers didn’t even try to hide the fact they were doing it and Davis blatantly looked to them every time before rising to his feet.

It was like a seriously bizarre game of Chinese whispers that started at Twyford and ran along the front bench until the message was received by Davis.

That wasn’t noticeable on video but must have stood out from the press gallery.

Wednesday arrived. It was a new day; perhaps a new strategy? Not a chance.

There were only two political stories anyone was interested in that day – North Korea and the Government’s net debt target, economists having warned billions would need to be borrowed over the coming years.

As the media gathered on “the tiles”, where ministers are questioned on their way into the House, Davis strode across the bridge toward journalists on his own.

Davis got thrown to the pack and desperately tried to keep his head above water.

Asked what year Labour wanted to reduce net debt to 20 per cent of GDP by, Davis stumbled around before spluttering “over the economic cycle”.

Unconvinced, the reporter asked again, yes, but what year?

Red-faced and out of his depth, Davis conceded he had lost and switched to straight-up honesty, saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that”.

This is a key policy of Labour’s and, yes, it’s hard to remember lots of numbers and years but Davis was presumably well prepped on this topic and still didn’t get across the line.

Was Davis prepped? Or is he just being left to flounder by Labour?

Things didn’t get much better in Question Time. The Opposition had not one but three questions lined up for Davis to put him under pressure in a number of portfolios.

But that’s not before he had made a clarification to the House, after saying the week before in answer to a question about the cost of additional police that “those costs have been finalised”.

Actually, “those costs have yet to be finalised”.

This isn’t just a problem with Davis. There seems to be a problem across Labour with different stories on a number of topics – there appears to be a lack of communication and knowledge on key policies.

In Question 1 on Wednesday Davis tried a different strategy – he gave all his answers in Maori, which mewant that many people listening would not know what he said, but again they were vague and ‘in due course’ answers. Nothing answers.

The problem Labour has is that Robertson is the obvious person to be acting prime minister and actually there’s no reason he can’t be.

Peters is barely ever going to fill that role because chances are if Jacinda Ardern’s out of the country, then, as foreign affairs minister, he’s likely to be too.

Labour needs Davis to remain the party’s deputy leader because his promotion to that role ahead of the election was a smart one and no doubt went a long way to helping it win all seven Māori seats.

A smart campaign strategy – once they worked out that Davis needed to be kept in the background. But not so smart it seems when it comes to governing.

But the party can’t sustain the cringeworthy chaos on display of late and it needs a new plan by the time Ardern and Peters jet out of the country again.

Ardern can appoint Robertson in the acting role and keep Davis as deputy leader. It’s messy, but not as messy as what was on display last week.

Failing that, the Government can choose who answers questions in the House on behalf of the prime minister.

If Ardern is away, then Robertson needs to be nominated as acting leader for the purposes of the House at least. It doesn’t solve the issue of press conferences but it gets halfway there.

Labour obviously has a problem with Davis, who is more than struggling.

They have wider problems with mixed messages over a number of policies, so overall their policy decisions and communication needs to improve.

Ardern and Peters are back in the country so the Davis problem can be forgotten for a while, but if Davis can’t step up into a leadership role then Labour need to seriously look at his position.

Robertson must be frustrated, he looked like he was squirming in Parliament each time Davis got up to speak.

Fiscal fight continued

Steven Joyce continues to push Minister of Finance Grant Robertson on expected net debt in relation to Labour’s pre-election fiscal plan. Joyce had been widely criticised for suggesting their was an eleven billion dollar hole in the plan. Robertson was adamant Labour’s plan was sound and accused Joyce was scaremongering.

Yesterday from Stuff: Economists see Government debt rising billions more than Labour’s plan

In Opposition Labour laid out a fiscal plan which would borrow around $11 billion more than National had proposed, but still cut debt as a share of the total economic output from 24 per cent to 20 per cent by 2022.

The plan formed a major point of contention during the election campaign, as National finance spokesman Steven Joyce was widely mocked for his claim that Robertson’s plan had a major “fiscal hole”.

But bank economists, who monitor the likely issuance of government bonds, are warning of pressure for Treasury to borrow billions more than Labour had signalled because of new spending promises.

The fiscal situation continually changes, but there was always a likelihood that spending would increase due to coalition bargaining.

ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie

ANZ has forecast that Labour will borrow $13 billion more than Treasury’s pre-election fiscal update maintained the former Government would over the next four years, although around $3b of that would go to the NZ Super Fund. This would see net Crown debt at 23 per cent of gross domestic product, 3 percentage points higher than Labour’s plan.

Outgoing ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie said the estimates for new spending were “conservative”, including an assumption that the new $1b a year regional development fund would come entirely from existing budgets.

“[S]pending pressures are all headed one way – and a lot depends on the economy holding up.”

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert

BNZ has also indicated it expects borrowing to be stronger than Labour had flagged. Strategist Jason Wong said the half year economic and fiscal update would probably show “in the order of” an additional $2b-$3b a year in bond issuance in the coming years.

BNZ senior economist Craig Ebert said the figures were hard to determine so early in the term, but borrowing “could amount to a number of billion dollars” more than Labour had outlined.

“Some of this is taking place in a little bit of a vacuum still, because we’ve heard a lot of policies but it’s still a little unclear which ones have been confirmed confirmed, as opposed to just strongly proposed,” Ebert said.

ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley

However ASB chief economist Nick Tuffley now forecasts that unemployment will eventually fall to 3.9 per cent by 2021, while wage growth would gradually rise to 2.8 per cent by early 2020, on the back of both lower migration and plans to hike the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021.

Tuffley said based on its forecasts, and the assumption that Labour was able to stick to its spending plans, ASB was forecasting borrowing would be $1b higher than Robertson had signalled.

“Any slippage in [spending plans] will mean more debt issuance,” Tuffley said.

Joyce questioned Robertson about that in in Question Time yesterday, joining a patsy (question 1):

Tamati Coffey: What objective does the Minister have for core Crown net debt?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As indicated during the Speech from the Throne, the Government is committed to reducing net debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years. Progress towards this will be set out by the Government during the usual Budget reporting cycle to the House, starting with the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, before Christmas.

Hon Steven Joyce: Has he seen amongst those reports the economic forecast from ANZ chief economist, Cameron Bagrie, who calculates that the Minister , in fact, won’t be able to meet his own Budget responsibility rule No. 2, to keep net debt below 20 percent of GDP, even with some rather heroic spending assumptions?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have seen those reports and I disagree with them.

Then in question 3:

Transcript (slightly edited):


3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm core Crown net debt was $59.5 billion at 30 June 2017, and that it is his intention as Minister of Finance to increase net debt to $67.6 billion by 2022, as laid out in Labour’s pre-election fiscal plan?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I can confirm that at 30 June 2017 net core Crown debt was $59.48 billion. I can further confirm that it is this Government’s policy to reduce net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years. As the member knows, the exact dollar amount of debt in each year will be determined by the Budget process.

Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a question written down on notice, and I don’t believe the Minister of Finance answered the second part of the question. He talked about something about 20 percent of GDP, but he didn’t actually answer yes or no to whether it was his intention to increase net debt to $67.6 billion by 2022.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Speaking to the point of order, I’m not sure if the member heard the last part of my answer, where I did specifically address the question of what the exact dollar amount might be.

Hon Steven Joyce: He didn’t answer the question. Nobody is any the wiser as to whether, actually, he will allow net debt to get to $67.6 billion by 2022, as laid out in Labour’s pre-election fiscal plan.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, Speakers’ rulings are pretty clear in this area. I think somewhere around page 171 is the ruling that members cannot demand a yes/no answer, and I’m just about confident enough that the former Minister of Finance understands that these figures might be affected by growth figures.

Hon Steven Joyce: Sorry to prolong things, Mr Speaker, but actually it is possible to say whether it will be higher or lower or about that figure. It is a question on notice—it’s not a supplementary question—and I do think that the Minister of Finance could be a bit more specific as to that number, given that prior to a certain date in September he was actually accusing people of showing an affront to democracy for—

Mr SPEAKER: OK—[Interruption] All right, OK. I think where I’m going to leave it is that I might be slightly more liberal, as long as they are direct, on the supplementaries, if the member wants to drill down that way.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister confirm that the pre-election fiscal update forecasts net debt to reduce to $56.2 billion by 2022, meaning that his forecast of $67.6 billion is over $11 billion higher than in the pre-election fiscal update?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that those were the numbers in the pre-election fiscal update. What we have discovered is that those numbers did not take account of the need for increased spending in education capital expenditure, health capital expenditure, or a range of other areas.

Hon Steven Joyce: Is the Minister then saying that, actually, he expects to increase debt significantly higher than $67.6 billion because of his concerns about the matters he raised in the previous answer?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The commitment of this Government has been that we will reduce net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP. The member well knows, from having prepared a Budget himself and being beside someone else who’s prepared Budgets, that the exact dollar figures for debt are never decided until later in the Budget process.

Hon Steven Joyce: Why doesn’t he agree with the ANZ analysis of 7 November that concludes net debt will be billions of dollars higher than he has forecast, and that he will breach his own Budget responsibility rule number 2 to reduce net debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years, particularly as he’s just told the House—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member’s finished his question.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Because nothing that I have seen, in terms of the advice I’ve got to this point, would point to that, and because this Government is committed to reducing debt as a percentage of GDP—20 percent—within five years of taking office.

Hon Steven Joyce: If he doesn’t like the ANZ’s commentary, does he agree with the comments from the Bank of New Zealand on Monday, who stated that Labour’s election campaign budget was just too tight to be credible; if not, what does he think the BNZ has got wrong?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What this Government has committed to is a set of Budget responsibility rules, and we will work within those. We made commitments before the election to address the social deficits in health, in education, and in infrastructure, and we will do that. I make no apology for having a slower debt track than that Government if it means that we build affordable houses, contribute to superannuation, and invest in our regions.

Hon Steven Joyce: Just to be clear, does he commit to meeting all the Government’s promises, including those in his coalition agreement and his agreement for confidence and supply with the Green Party, and also the Speech from the Throne, while increasing net debt by only $11 billion, from what it was going to be, over the next five years?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I absolutely stand by those Government commitments and the Budget responsibility rules that we have put forward.

Hon Steven Joyce: Does he commit to meeting all the Government’s promises, including those in those coalition agreements from the Speech from the Throne, not in relation to a percentage of GDP but by increasing net debt by no more than $11 billion relative to the pre-election fiscal update over the next five years? A very specific question.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The final exact dollar figures, as the member well knows from the Budgets he’s been involved in, will be decided later in the Budget process, but we remain 100 percent committed to our goal of reducing net debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years.


No doubt there will be continuing questioning on Government spending and deficits.

Minister of Health on colonisation and youth suicide

In an interview with NZ Herald new Minister of Health David Clark linked youth suicide with colonisation – New Health Minister David Clark on youth suicide: We have a problem and we need to talk about it

Labour campaigned on mental health and pledged the return of the mental health commissioner and an inquiry into mental health.

Terms of reference and other details around the inquiry were yet to be settled, Clark said, but forecast it as wide ranging, considering issues of colonisation and poverty.

He spoke of “hardship, or the after-effects of colonisation, or trauma in their own lives or personal histories”.

He was questioned about this in Parliament yesterday.

Hansard transcript (slightly edited):

7. Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the Minister of Health: What quantifiable health service improvements, if any, will his policies deliver?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): This Government is committed to providing affordable access to quality healthcare for all New Zealanders. This will happen in many ways; there are too many examples to list. However, to pick just one, I can tell the member that more people will be able to access affordable primary healthcare.

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: By exactly how much will he lift the number of elective surgeries above the 174,000 delivered in the past year, given his commitment to increase access to elective surgery?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I will not be rushed into committing to specific targets. I want a health system that is honest and transparent with targets not like the previous Government’s one, which was pumping statistics by performing Avastin injections and skin legion removals that could have been done in primary care.

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very direct question. If he doesn’t have an answer, he should just say so.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I probably was a bit slack letting him go on after he answered the question in the first sentence.

Matt Doocey: By how much will he reduce the suicide rate over the next three years now that his Government has taken responsibility for the rate, as reported in the New Zealand Herald yesterday in the article entitled “… New Health Minister pledges change on youth suicide”?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: One suicide is one suicide too many. I do not believe it will be possible to eliminate suicide in the first term of this Government, but we are committed to lowering the rate of suicide in New Zealand, and I am looking forward to beginning the mental health inquiry.

Dr Shane Reti: What did he mean exactly by his statement to the New Zealand Herald yesterday that addressing colonisation will be an important part of his mental health inquiry?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: That is one factor that I said to the New Zealand Herald I expect will come up in the inquiry.

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Can he explain the improvements his policies will have on the link that he believes exists between colonisation and youth suicide?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This Government will commit to a mental health review—an inquiry, a ministerial inquiry—and that inquiry I have asked to be broad. It will cover a variety of topics, including the one the former Minister has raised, and I expect it to provide answers that will help us to provide mental health services that New Zealanders need.

It was a topic that the Minister raised in his interview with the Herald.

New Zealand has an alarmingly high level of youth suicide, and of all types of suicide. The annual suicide toll is now over 600, far higher than the road toll that has had huge funding to try to reduce it.

It is an urgent problem that needs action faster than a general mental health review, and the causes of suicide are much wider than just mental health. Many of those who commit suicide are never in the mental health system.

“I do not believe it will be possible to eliminate suicide in the first term of this Government” – it won’t be possible to eliminate suicide in any time frame.

“…we are committed to lowering the rate of suicide in New Zealand…” – as was the last Government, without success.

“…and I am looking forward to beginning the mental health inquiry” – I’d like to see more urgency and action than that.

Finlayson: negotiations ‘essentially a fraud’

Chris Finlayson, who was Attorney General  in the last government and is now Shadow Attorney General, was scathing of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and the coalition negotiations in his Address in Reply speech in Parliament yesterday.

He says that “the negotiations after the general election were essentially a fraud”, and that National has “dodged a bullet”.

From draft Hansard:

I do want to comment a little bit on the campaign. I normally stand up and say here that it’s great to be back, but it’s kind of good to be back.

I would much rather be on the other side than where I am here, but I have to say I’m in that category in the National Party that said we dodged a bullet, because while I have some regard for some of my New Zealand First parliamentary colleagues, I have absolutely no regard for the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and I have had no regard for him from the time I acted for the National Party caucus in the early 1990s, when he was removed from the caucus for disloyalty.

Old habits don’t change very quickly. He has made absolutely no contribution to New Zealand, in my view, and it is becoming abundantly clear, as Judith Collins said recently, that the negotiations after the general election were essentially a fraud.

So I believe we’ve dodged a bullet, and I’m very happy that the National Party conducted itself with propriety and dignity.

Last week from Newshub: Winston Peters ‘not genuine’ in coalition talks – Judith Collins

Judith Collins says the post-election negotiations between her party and Winston Peters appear to have been a fraud.

It was revealed on Thursday the New Zealand First leader’s legal action against journalists, the head of the Ministry of Social Development, a number of National MPs and their staff was filed the day before the General Election, which was held on September 23.

Ms Collins told The AM Show on Friday morning it now appears Mr Peters was playing the National Party, and never intended to sign a coalition agreement with them.

“At the time, we were very much convinced on our side there were genuine negotiations going on. But I’ve got to say, it’s not looking like it was quite so genuine anymore.”

“I think Winston Peters should really explain himself to the public because there were a lot of voters who were disappointed in his decision,” said Ms Collins.

“I think New Zealanders are owed an explanation. Was he being genuine, or was it just a play?”

I think voters are owed an explanation, but I doubt that Peters will give a straight answer.

The first call in Court on Peters’ legal action was on Monday. Stuff – Winston Peters’ lawyers aim sights at journalists involved in leak:

The NZ First leader’s legal team served court papers last week on nine people including former National Party government ministers, journalists and a government department chief executive over the leak which occurred in the leadup to this year’s election.

Peters’ lawyers are requesting documents from the parties named in the legal action to try and get to the bottom of where the leak came from, and who was involved.

The first call for Peters’ case was heard in front of Justice Anne Hinton on Monday morning at the High Court in Auckland. It was a largely procedural hearing, with all parties represented by lawyers.

Peter’s legal counsel Brian Henry told the court some of the journalists who were leaked the story may have been politically motivated, and not neutral reporters.

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy and Newshub journalist Lloyd Burr were both served documents as they knew about the leak before it became public.

“The situation is about an illegal act, not dirty politics. When it comes to the journalists, it is our understanding some of the journalists were not ‘journalists’ but political agents,” Henry said.

“This was a political set up from woah to go,” he said.

Henry said they were considering challenging the pair’s journalistic privilege.

Justice Hinton told Peters’ lawyer they will need to file documents with the court detailing exactly what they are alleging against the parties involved.

Justice Hinton set down a hearing for March next year where it will be ruled if the parties will need to disclose the documents.

In a statement on Monday morning, the National Party said: “The National Party people named all continue to refute any suggestion they had any involvement in the leak of this information and will be responding accordingly.”

With this action planned since before the election coalition between NZ first and National seems an unlikely outcome of negotiations, or if it had happened it would have started with a degree of tension and toxicity.

On making his announcement after extended negotiations Peters had claimed that the decision to support a Labour led Government was made 15 minutes before making the announcement.

Perhaps that refers to a decision on something like ‘will we accept what Labour has offered us or push for more?’.

 

Inquiry into abuse of children in state care

The Labour Party has made a commitment to set up an inquiry into the historic abuse of children in state care, something National had refused to do when in government.

Labour Party:  Taking action in our first 100 days

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care

In February this year an open letter called for an inquiry:  Prominent Kiwis call for independent inquiry into claims of abuse of children in state care

Prominent Kiwis have banded together to demand an independent inquiry into the claims of sexual and physical abuse of children in state care.

The Human Rights Commission has spearheaded an open letter to the Government, published in today’s Herald, calling for a comprehensive inquiry and a public apology to those who were abused, and their families, in what is described as a dark chapter of our history.

Among the 29 signatories of what now underpins the “Never Again” petition to the Government are Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner and former National MP Jackie Blue, former Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements, and the Otago University dean of law, Professor Mark Henaghan.

The background to their call is:

• In 2001 the Government issued an apology and compensation to a group of former patients of the former Lake Alice psychiatric hospital, after a report by a retired judge who had interviewed them and found their claims credible.

• The issue spread to former patients of other asylums and the Government set up a confidential listening service for them to speak of the abuse they had suffered.

• Former state wards made claims for abuse in state care and a listening service was created for them.

• The head of that service, Judge Carolyn Henwood, recommended creating an independent body to resolve historic and current complaints.

• The Government last year rejected that recommendation.

Greens supported this letter and an inquiry: Greens support call for inquiry into state care

The Green Party backs today’s open letter from the Human Rights Commission and others calling for a government inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, and for a formal apology to be made to the victims.

“There is a growing list of organisations and people who are calling for a government inquiry into the abuse of children in the state’s care. It seems everyone but the Government realises that an inquiry and a formal apology are essential to helping the victims find some sense of closure, and to ensure that children in state care now and in the future are protected from abuse,” said Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie.

“The prominent New Zealanders signing this letter today have seen the effects and heard the evidence about the abuse of children in state care, and because of that they are calling for an inquiry and apology.

“Not every child in state care suffered abuse, but the fact that so many did means that it is crucial that there is accountability from the system that perpetrated this abuse.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin is now Minister for Children and was interviewed about an inquiry in the weekend – The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Tracey Martin


Lisa Owen: Now, the new government’s committed to an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care. The move’s been welcomed, but there are few details that have been released so far. So how will it all work? We’re joined now by the new Minister for Children, New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin. Good morning, Minister.

So, the inquiry — what are you thinking? Will it have the power to compel witnesses?

Tracey Martin: And all of these details, unfortunately, are still to be worked through. So I’ve had two meetings with officials to clarify what are our options, what sort of inquiry will it be, will it have those sort of powers, who will we consult before we even scope out the cabinet paper, for example, to take it to cabinet. So at this stage, I can’t answer that question 100%.

Lisa Owen: It’s on your 100 day plan.

Tracey Martin: It’s on the Labour Party’s 100 day plan that this government will deliver, yes.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, and so you’re part of that.

Tracey Martin: Yes, we are.

Lisa Owen: So in terms of that, you’re running out of time to come up with these answers, so what are you thinking, though? If not having a solid idea, do you think it would be the best-case scenario to be able to compel witnesses?

Tracey Martin: It’s not something that I’ve traversed at the moment with the officials. The major priority that we had was actually around making sure that within the 100 days, so the 4th of February is the close-off date — 3rd, 4th of February is the close-off date that we’re talking about — that we will have in place a basis for an inquiry that will provide an opportunity for those who have been victims to come forward with comfort to be able to express their truth, to be able to be validated in that truth and to feel that they have received the justice and the validation that they need. So those are the things that have been the driving part of the conversations at this stage.

Lisa Owen: Okay, because the brief is to get it set up in the 100 days.

Tracey Martin: Yes, that’s right.

Lisa Owen: So will the inquiry have the scope to attribute blame?

Tracey Martin: Well, it’s one of those things. If you look at the Never Again campaign, that was never a driver. It wasn’t about finding somebody or something to hang some guilt on. It was about making sure that the truth was told, that we bravely face actions that took place in this country that harmed individuals and that those individuals received an apology.

Lisa Owen: But the victims want truth and accountability, so will there be accountability through this inquiry?

Tracey Martin: I guess what I’m driving at is basically saying that if you put out the truth, there are going to have to be recognition by the state that this is what happened to these people and they were under the care of the state at that time. If you’re asking me are there going to be people that are then going to be charged or held accountable through the justice system, I can’t make that statement, because I’m not in charge of the justice system.

Lisa Owen: What period will the inquiry investigate?

Tracey Martin: Well, at this stage, that’s part of the scoping that’s being done, and I don’t want to actually pre-empt that. There are at least 20 organisations that the officials are now talking to before we take a proposed scope to cabinet.

Lisa Owen: So you mentioned an apology. There will definitely be a formal apology from the government?

Tracey Martin: Again, I can’t make that commitment on behalf of the government. I can tell you where I’m coming from.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, tell me where you’re coming from.

Tracey Martin: So, where I’m coming from is if we stand in our truth and we bravely say, ‘This is the reality that happened to these New Zealanders under the care of the state,’ then the state has a responsibility to acknowledge that, to own it and therefore there should be an apology. But I don’t speak on behalf of the whole government. That has to go to cabinet.

Lisa Owen: Who do you think would be the appropriate person to make that apology, then?

Tracey Martin: I don’t know. I had this question asked of me on Te Karere as well. I don’t know. Because I’ve been in the job two weeks, let’s be clear. I don’t know whether it would be appropriate for a minister at my level, whether it should come from the Prime Minister, whether it should even be bigger than that.

Lisa Owen: What’s your gut feeling? Should it be the Prime Minister?

Tracey Martin: I think if we’re going to take responsibility for what is actually going to come out in this inquiry, and we have a very clear idea of the sort of the incidents that are going to be exposed, then it’s a very, very serious— it’s very serious acts that have taken place here, and I think it needs to be dealt with at the highest level.

Lisa Owen: So Prime Minister, then, in your view. So do you think that you will set up some kind of independent authority, a permanent independent authority, like the IPCA, to monitor treatment of kids in care and the actions of the ministry? Is that something you would like to see?

Tracey Martin: Yes, I think there is a need for that. I think it’s that transparency that we’re hoping to actually— Part of what Oranga Tamariki, the reason why it was set up by the previous government and part of the direction of travel it’s in now is to make sure that we are more transparent, that we are working more closely with our communities, that the voice of children is heard more often. And so an independent body whereby complaints can be taken, I think, would be a really good and transparent thing. It would help both the ministry and our children.

Lisa Owen: How much will is there to do that?

Tracey Martin: I think there’s quite strong will to do that.

Lisa Owen: So you’re quite confident you can get that over the line?

Tracey Martin: I think— Well, I’m fairly confident about my argumentative skills, so I believe that it would be in the best interest of children.

Lisa Owen: So Labour supports it, basically, is what I’m asking.

Tracey Martin: At this stage, again, I haven’t taken it to cabinet, but I believe the will is there to actually say there needs to be this level of transparency.

 

Strong start by Speaker

Trevor Mallard should have been well prepared for taking over as Parliament’s Speaker. He has been waiting to take over for several years, and he has an extensive knowledge of Parliamentary procedures and rules.

He preceded the opening Oral Questions with a statement:

Oral QuestionsSupplementary Questions

Mr SPEAKER: Before the House comes to the first question time of the 52nd Parliament, I would like to make some comments on how I intend to preside over oral questions. I have circulated this to members earlier in the day.

I expect primary and supplementary questions to be asked without interjection. Oral questions are an important mechanism for holding the Government to account, and, at a minimum, the House should be able to hear the questions being asked of Ministers. Strictly speaking, members are entitled to speak without interruption at all times, but the House has consented to some interjection to enable members to seek information—Speaker’s ruling 58/1.

In my view, oral questions will proceed more effectively if questions can be asked without interjection. Barrages of interjection other times, including during answers to questions, will continue to be out of order.

Supplementary questions are given at the discretion of the Speaker—Speaker’s rulings 172/1 and 172/3. In recent times, the Speaker has given an indication to the parties of the way they may allocate questions. I have continued that practice, and I have also indicated to the three smaller parties in the House that they are able to use their supplementaries across a week.

However, I do intend to use supplementary questions to encourage good behaviour from those asking and answering questions. Where no attempt is made to provide an informative reply, I’m likely to award the questioner additional supplementary questions.

Where questions are misused, I may reduce the number of supplementary questions available that day to the offending party, or I may increase the allocation to an opposing party. I aim to ensure a freer flow of questions and answers without the Speaker being so involved. I will still call on members to ask primary questions, but where a Minister’s asked an oral question he or she may answer immediately without waiting for a call from the Speaker.

After the primary question, I will simply nod to the member asking questions to indicate for them to continue with supplementaries. I will only call a member when inviting a different member to ask a supplementary question.

This was a sensible and clear way to kick things off. Mallard then followed up by preceding in an even handed manner, allowing questions to proceed without being dominated by bad behaviour. He laid down the law quickly.

During Question 1:

Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I’m just going to start right now. Who is the member who interjected then? Right, there’s an additional question to the Opposition.

And:

Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Government stand by—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The chief Government whip, I think, interjected, or someone around her did. There is a further supplementary to the Opposition.

During Question 5:

David Seymour: Oh, yes, I would. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Kris Faafoi: Where’s your friends, David?

David Seymour: Well, you find friends in the most unexpected places.

Mr SPEAKER: Was that you, Mr Faafoi?

Hon Kris Faafoi: Yes, it was.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, Mr Seymour gets an extra supplementary.

Both those rulings were against Labour MPs.

In between Labour’s Leader of the House tried to swing one their way:

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier on, you awarded additional supplementary questions to the Opposition for Government interjection during their questions. Just a point of clarification on your earlier—well, actually, no, a question: does that apply when interjections are made by members of the same party during questions, as we had just before?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it does, but I think, as the Minister is aware, I am slightly deaf in my left ear, so I didn’t hear any interjections.

Funny.

There were some interjections through Oral Questions, but they weren’t allowed to dominate due to the Speaker showing he was prepared to penalise disruptive behaviour.

It made for a much better session in Parliament.

Another ruling:

Rt Hon Bill English: My question to the Prime Minister is this, then: are there other commitments that were made during the election campaign and in the Speech from the Throne that are now open to revision and later decisions?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are committed to implementing what the Governor-General has said in the Speech from the Throne.

Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify: it’s been the practice in the House for some time that a member answering on behalf of another member should clearly identify that. I didn’t want to interrupt the question, but can you clarify whether that is still the case?

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister answered the question.

He was correct, Davis was Acting Prime Minister as opposed to speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister.

In Question 3:

Hon Steven Joyce: I’m sorry, Mr Speaker, but just to be clear, the Minister released a fiscal plan prior to the election—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will sit the member down now and ask him to ask a question. Speaker Hunt used to have an old saying that questions start with a question word, rather than something else.

Another clear ruling in Question 3:

Hon Tracey Martin: In the 51st Parliament, the last Speaker made it very clear that the Government was not responsible for the manifesto or the policies of a political party. Can I ask for a ruling on that, please?

Mr SPEAKER: I’m happy to answer that. I think the member has been quite careful in the way that he has phrased his questions, asking whether the member was standing by the figures or still agreed with the figures. I think that is something that is acceptable. They’re a set of figures—it doesn’t really matter where they come from, and it’s a question of whether those figures portray the current position of the Government. If that was not the case, I would have ruled out the original question.

The Speaker also twice ruled that an an answer could be adduced by omission. In Question 3:

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister then confirm that he doesn’t at all stand by the numbers he presented in the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to the election?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is currently going through the usual process of putting together a Budget. We are absolutely confident that we will deliver a Budget that is in line with the Budget responsibility rules that were outlined in the Speech from the Throne and that will deliver to New Zealanders a fair share in prosperity. As I said in my primary answer, the final numbers are the subject of the normal Budget process.

Hon Simon Bridges: It’s simply this. The question was straight, really: whether he stood by the numbers they had pre-election. There really wasn’t any attempt to answer that specific question.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not going to take any further comments on that. Both the asker of the question and I thought that there was a very clear response.

Avoiding answering can be assumed to be a negative response.

In Question 5:

Hon Nikki Kaye: Given the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday, that all people are entitled to care and compassion, will he guarantee that he will personally visit all of these partnership schools or the sponsors of the proposed schools prior to making any decisions about the future of some of our most disadvantaged children?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I have been clear that we will deal with all of the issues around charter schools on a case by case basis and in good faith. The negotiations around potential changes to the contracts or arrangements will be conducted by the Ministry of Education and not by Ministers.

Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a very simple yes or no—will he visit the schools of these most disadvantaged children—and he didn’t answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER:  Similar to the advice that I gave to the Hon Steven Joyce earlier, I think, by omission the answer was actually clear.

So a very promising, firm and fair start by the Speaker.

Minister of Finance refuses to commit to campaign promises

In the first Question Time (Oral Questions) in the new Parliament the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson was asked repeatedly whether he would stand by his fiscal statement made prior to the election. Robertson repeatedly refused.

Crown Expenses—Fiscal Plan

3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm it is his intention as Minister of Finance to ensure core Crown expenses do not exceed $81.9 billion in 2017/18, $86.1 billion in 2018/19, $88.2 billion in 2019/20, $91.8 billion in 2020/21, and $96.1 billion in 2021/22, as specified in the Labour Party’s pre-election Fiscal Plan?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I can confirm that it is my intention for core Crown expenditure as a percentage of GDP to be within the recent historical range. As to the exact figures in the member’s question, I cannot confirm those as, of course, they are subject to detailed Budget decisions and revenue forecasts that are yet to be finalised.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can he confirm that he stands by his statement from 4 September this year, and I quote, “Labour’s Fiscal Plan is robust, the numbers are correct and we stand by them”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that the Budget that this Government is putting together will be robust and it will deliver on a commitment that this Government has made to ensure that all New Zealanders share in prosperity.

Michael Wood: What else, in addition to managing core Crown expenditure, will guide the Government’s approach to responsible fiscal management?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will observe the Budget responsibility rules as indicated in the Speech from the Throne: namely, delivering a sustainable operating balance before gains and losses; reducing net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within 5 years; and ensuring a fair and balanced progressive taxation system. We will also never forget that the purpose of a strong economy is to give every New Zealander the chance to share in prosperity, and we will never be satisfied while children live in poverty or families sleep in cars.

Hon Steven Joyce: Does he stand by his statement also on 4 September, and I quote, that “Our operating expenses are above the line and are clearly stated.”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Budget that this Government will prepare will be clear about what we are spending and where the revenue for that is coming from.

Hon Steven Joyce: So that’s a no. Can I also ask: does he stand by his statement, and I quote, “We have quite clearly put in the spending requirements to meet the promises we have made. Our fiscal plan adds up. We are absolutely clear that we have the money to meet the commitments that we’ve made.”, also on 4 September?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government will prepare a Budget that shows how we will pay for the important commitments that we have made to ensure that every New Zealander benefits from economic prosperity.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the Minister of Finance then confirm that it is not his intention to necessarily ensure core Crown expenditure does not exceed $81.9 billion this current financial year, $86.1 billion in the next financial year, $88.2 billion in 2019-20, $91.8 billion in 2020-21, and $96.1 billion in 2021-22? Can he confirm that’s not his intention, even though it was specified in the Labour Party’s pre-election fiscal plan?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can confirm that we will keep Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP in line with the historical range.

Hon Steven Joyce: Can the finance Minister then confirm that he doesn’t at all stand by the numbers he presented in the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to the election?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is currently going through the usual process of putting together a Budget. We are absolutely confident that we will deliver a Budget that is in line with the Budget responsibility rules that were outlined in the Speech from the Throne and that will deliver to New Zealanders a fair share in prosperity. As I said in my primary answer, the final numbers are the subject of the normal Budget process.

Hon Steven Joyce: I’m sorry, Mr Speaker, but just to be clear, the Minister released a fiscal plan prior to the election—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will sit the member down now and ask him to ask a question. Speaker Hunt used to have an old saying that questions start with a question word, rather than something else.

Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: It’s a fresh, genuine point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Right.

Hon Simon Bridges: It’s simply this. The question was straight, really: whether he stood by the numbers they had pre-election. There really wasn’t any attempt to answer that specific question.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I’m not going to take any further comments on that. Both the asker of the question and I thought that there was a very clear response.

Hon Steven Joyce: Is he saying that the actual numbers written on the Labour Party’s fiscal plan prior to this election, which he and his colleagues defended vigorously during the election campaign, are no longer relevant? The comments he has made suggest that he will put whatever numbers he likes in front of the public in due course in the next Budget.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have been absolutely clear that the commitment that we have made is that Government expenditure as a percentage of GDP will remain in line with the long-run historical trend. Members on the other side of the House well know that we will now be looking at new revenue forecasts and, indeed, new growth forecasts. They will determine the exact numbers that are presented. But we are very clear on this side of the House: our number add up.

During the campaign Robertson had also been absolutely clear about commitments on expenditure and the robustness of Labour’s fiscal plan.

From PDF of Labour’s  fiscal plan (3MB).

LabourFiscalPlan

Obviously coalition agreements and changing fiscal situations can force changes on a Government.

But the Opposition has kicked off by establishing a clear separation between campaign promises and what the new Minister of Finance is prepared to commit to at the start of his tenure in charge of the country’s finances.