There was a continuation of a running battle between Metiria Turei and John Key in Question Time today.
Later after a “feed the kids bill in her name (that she took over from as Hone Harawira) was defeated in Parliament by 59 votes to 61 at its first reading, @metiria tweeted:
This is not an issue of feeding hungry kids or not, it’s a matter of how much and how kids should be given food in schools. The Question Time exchange illustrates this.
[Sitting date: 18 March 2015. Volume:704;Page:5. Text is subject to correction.]
4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that the principals of decile 1 to 4 schools he has visited have told him “the number of children in those schools who actually require lunch is the odd one or two”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes , because that is what principals have told me.
Metiria Turei : How can it be correct that only the odd one or two kids in low-decile schools require lunch when KidsCan says that, on average, 23 percent of the children in the schools it works with are in need of lunch every day?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, I believe it to be true, and one of the issues I raised with the Minister of Education today was to ask her whether she, in her travels as the Minister of Education in the last 3½ years, had had the issue of lunch in schools raised with her. She told me that it has either never been raised or has been raised extremely infrequently.
Metiria Turei : Is the Prime Minister telling the House that the low-decile schools that he has visited do not have the same needs as other low-decile schools that KidsCan works with?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What I am telling the member is that, firstly, the Government has been working with a number of private sector organisations to provide breakfast in schools, and about 800—791, I think—schools out of 2,500, approximately, have taken that up. Secondly, I think there will be some children who go to school without lunch, but I think that number is actually relatively small. In some cases it will be one or two; in some cases it will be a few more, but I do not think it is as widespread as the member is purporting it to be.
Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document from KidsCan showing that it is now feeding 15,000 students a week across 448 schools, an average of 33 children in each—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The document is now being described. The date of the document would be useful.
Metiria Turei : The date of the document is 3 March 2015.
Mr SPEAKER : March 2015—is there any objection to that information being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document prepared by my office on the schools that John Key visited from 2013 to 2014, showing that of the decile 1 schools and decile—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. This is an effective way of making a political statement. It does not have the purpose of informing the House. It will not be tabled.
Metiria Turei : Which of the decile 1 and 2 schools that John Key visited—Māngere Central, Waimate Main, Flaxmere, Huntly, Huntly College, Manaia View, Pt England—told him that only one or two of their kids needed feeding every day, when each of those schools have a lunch programme provided by either KidsCan or some other charity in their community?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, by definition, I suppose, if they already have lunch provided, then actually they would not raise the fact that they need lunch, so that is rather self-defeating. Secondly, it may be lost on the member, but I have been the Prime Minister since the end of 2008. The question the member asked was for the 1 year from 2013. But in the interests of trying to get to the bottom of this debate, at 1.41 this afternoon I took the liberty of ringing the Minister of Education. I said: “Please ring for me three schools that are decile 1 or 2 and ask them how many kids have not come to school today with lunch.” That was done completely randomly and with no information. Here are the facts. Phillip Heeney of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou , Ruatōria, a decile 1 school—people are free to ring the school—
Metiria Turei : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption ] Order! Every member has a right to raise a point of order. It will be heard in silence—[Interruption ] Order! The member will resume her seat. I repeat, because I was interrupted, that every member has a right to raise a point of order. This one will be heard in silence, but I sincerely hope that it is a valid point of order.
Metiria Turei : That was not an answer to the question that I asked. I asked—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member will resume her seat. It is very much an answer to the question the member asked. She can shake her head, but it is me who has got to adjudicate on this. It was a very full answer; it was quite a lengthy question. The House will later on today devote a considerable amount of time to this issue, and I feel it is in the interests of the House that the Prime Minister be allowed to complete his answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As I said, at 1.41 p.m., with absolutely no knowledge, these are the facts. At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou school, Ruatoria, decile 1, how many children came to school today without lunch—answer, zero. Barbara Ala’Alatoa, Sylvia Park School, decile 2—one to two kids, maybe. Iain Taylor, Manurewa Intermediate—decile 1 school, roll of 711—maybe 12. Yes, there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low.
Metiria Turei : So why, then, did the Prime Minister refuse my invitation to visit Windley School this morning, where we fed with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, some 50 kids at lunchtime; where Windley School says it feeds some 50 every day, Kelvin Road School some 50 every day; Cosgrove Primary up to 40 kids every day; Hay Park around 12 kids lunch every day; and Kelston Girls’, which was recently on Campbell Live showing just how serious the problem is—why will he not come with me to visit those schools that do have a problem so that he can see it for himself?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As I said to the member last week when she was trying to tell this House that 90 percent of children went to school without lunch, and had to then come back and apologise for being wrong, I am happy to go to a school of my choosing. Secondly, I note that the member, when she tweeted the picture, did so with an apron for the KickStart Breakfast programme that the Government is running. This is a Government that has provided 3.4 million breakfasts. This is a Government that is working with the private sector to help deliver that, from Fonterra through to Sanitarium. They are the same breakfast programmes where principals tell me—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The answer now is long enough.
Metiria Turei : I seek leave to table a document from the Parliamentary Library showing that the GST on $1.29 is 19c not 2c.
Mr SPEAKER : Again, the purpose of tabling documents is to inform the proceedings of the House. Members know current GST rates. I am not about to put that leave.
Metiria Turei : Why does the Prime Minister continue to mock and downplay the seriousness of the problem, maintaining yet again that only the odd one or two kids need lunch at school when schools know he is wrong, KidsCan knows he is wrong, and more important, the kids who come to school hungry know he is wrong?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The Government has been very focused on this issue for a long period of time. It is actually proud of its record. It has extended Fruit in Schools for a huge number of children. It provides breakfasts in schools alongside the private sector. This is an issue that, as I said to the member and I repeat again, I raise with pretty much every school I go to, and the same response is what I always get—about 15 percent of kids want to take up the breakfast programme, a very small number need lunch, and when they come to school without lunch the school provides them with lunch. It does so out of its breakfast programme for the odd lunch it provides. At the end of the day I think the member actually does a disservice to the fantastic parents and caregivers out there, the overwhelming bulk of whom actually do provide their kids with breakfast and lunch. They do a damn good job, and the member should stop telling them that they do not.
Metiria Turei : Given that the Prime Minister missed the opportunity this morning to talk with parents, charity workers, and the kids over a lunch programme, will he commit to visiting Windley School—and if not Windley School then to any school that KidsCan suggests he goes to visit—and making the peanut butter and jam sandwiches for the kids—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption ] Order! The question is too long. The Prime Minister can answer the essence of the question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have been to numerous schools where KidsCan has been in operation. I have been to those schools with Julie on numerous occasions. This is actually the Government that gave KidsCan $500,000 more for raincoats, and $900,000 more to deal with headlice. We are providing extensive support. But I will say this. I went to one of the schools where every child was given a raincoat, and, yes, we fully supported that. The argument around that is that children do not have raincoats. So I actually asked about 20 of the kids: “Do you own a raincoat?” Every single child told me: “Yes.” So it is great they have got another one, and we support KidsCan and we are giving them money, and we think they are a great charity, and they are doing good work, but just because you give kids a raincoat does not mean they did not own one beforehand.