Parliament Question Time February 12, 2009 1. CRAIG FOSS (National"”Tukituki) to the Minister for Infrastructure: What steps has the Government recently taken to help ease the sharpest impacts of the global recession and prepare New Zealand's economy for future growth? Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister for Infrastructure) : Our announcement yesterday of more than $500 million worth of quality building projects on schools, roads, and housing has been warmly received across the country, because it will make a real difference to communities and local businesses. In addition to our infrastructure package, we have already confirmed a programme of income tax cuts over the next 3 years"”passed before Christmas"”and sweeping changes to the cumbersome Resource Management Act, launched a $480 million package of tax and regulatory measures for small and medium enterprises, and are now working hard on providing better, smarter public services from our departments and ministries.
Craig Foss: What further measures will the Government take as part of its jobs and growth plan? Hon BILL ENGLISH: We will be announcing further infrastructure projects in coming months, and we are looking forward to the Prime Minister's job summit on 27 February, where we will pick up the best ideas for creating jobs and building a more productive, higher-income economy. Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister tell the House what the real, additional cost of his infrastructure mini-package is, over and above what was in the plans already announced by the previous Labour Government? Hon BILL ENGLISH: For the member's benefit I will point out the process again. The Government has set aside an envelope of about $4.5 billion over the next 3 years"”and he may remember his party criticising that aggressively back in August last year, when we announced it"”and yesterday took the first $500 million bite out of that $4.5 billion. We have never said it was all new spending; some of it is simply bringing forward projects that were already planned. Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] Mr SPEAKER: The member will be silent while a point of order is heard. Thank you. Hon David Cunliffe: Respectful of your direction to Ministers to attempt to faithfully answer specific questions with specific replies, I seek your guidance. The question asked how much was new spending. The Minister has now admitted to the House that much of it was not new spending, but he has not answered the question or addressed it. Mr SPEAKER: The Minister, in his reply, mentioned a couple of figures that give the honourable member some guidance in response to that, and he will have another chance, by asking further supplementary questions, to seek further guidance. Hon David Cunliffe: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker"” Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member may note that I have ruled that I am not"”[Interruption] I am not going into the detail, but the Minister mentioned at least two figures that I recollect in his answer, which gives some guidance. The member will have the chance to pursue that further. [Interruption] Hon Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take exception to the comments made by the member opposite. Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is quite correct. The member cannot imply that someone was not telling the truth. I ask him to withdraw and apologise for that. Hon Chris Carter: I withdraw and apologise. Craig Foss: Has the Minister seen or heard anything that remotely resembles an alternative plan to manage New Zealand through the recession that started under the previous Labour Government? Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have heard a number of mentions of an urgent, visionary, bold, cross-sectoral, comprehensive plan from the Opposition spokesperson on finance. He confirmed this morning that he might have something before an election, but he did not say which election. Hon David Cunliffe: Taking just one example, what proportion of the funding announced for the famous"” Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you know my point of order, Mr Speaker. A question should be a question, not a statement. Mr SPEAKER: The member makes a perfectly good point. The Hon David Cunliffe will please comply. Hon David Cunliffe: What proportion of the funding announced for the now famous KÅpÅ« Bridge yesterday is actually new money, and what proportion represents the new cost of bringing the date of that bridge forward by a few months or other cost increases? Hon BILL ENGLISH: If we count as new money projects that now have funding that were announced by Labour but were not funded by it, then pretty well everything we are doing is with new money. Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker"”[Interruption] Mr SPEAKER: The point of order will be heard in silence. Hon David Cunliffe: The Minister's reply neither addressed the KÅpÅ« Bridge"”and could not have done, because that was funded"”nor mentioned how much, which was the point of the question. Mr SPEAKER: The Minister, in answering the question, said it was not funded. I cannot adjudicate on whether that is correct. The member will have further supplementary questions to pursue that particular issue. Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I take it from that ruling that you are telling this House"”and, of course, your rulings on these matters must be taken as the gospel truth"”that the statement that something was not funded is not a factual statement, a point about which you can rule. Mr SPEAKER: The point I was making, for the honourable member's sake, is that the Hon David Cunliffe raised the issue of whether what the Minister had said was correct. That is not a valid point of order; I cannot adjudicate on that issue. If the member is not happy with the answer, he can pursue it further. Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take from what you are saying that when the Government says something is not funded, it really means an appropriation has not yet been passed, which, of course, has not"” Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a point of order, under any of our Standing Orders. He is most knowledgeable on the Standing Orders of this House, and that is not a point of order. Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. TÄ“nÄ koe, Mr Speaker. Maybe two nights ago I reiterated on behalf of the MÄori Party the standard we took last year in respect of the pronunciation of MÄori words. Unfortunately, some members were not in the House at that time, but the Speaker in the Chair at the time did ask all members to consider the pronunciation of MÄori words. In light of the fact that I did talk with my colleague Mr Garrett that night about the pronunciation of MÄori words, I ask that you give a general recollection of that discussion for the benefit of all members of the House today. Hon Dr Michael Cullen: First of all, it seems to me that if someone is going to raise that point of order, there must be a specific objection to a specific mispronunciation, and no such objection was raised. The second point is that we must allow for people making an honest attempt. I frequently hear English, Scottish, and Welsh place names mispronounced, not only in this House but even on television. Te Ururoa Flavell: Following Dr Cullen's objection, I say that I attempted to call a point of order at the time of the mispronunciation, but unfortunately others were ahead of me. That is point number one. Point number two is that the specific reference is to the KÅpÅ« Bridge. Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member. Obviously, all members will do their best to pronounce both languages to the best of their ability, and none of us are perfect in that matter. Hon Jim Anderton: Can the Minister advise the House how the removal of $700 million from the special account for the New Zealand Fast Forward research and development fund, and its placement back into the consolidated fund, will help to prepare New Zealand's economy for future growth; and can the Minister advise what has happened to the $700 million thus returned? Hon BILL ENGLISH: We felt that an arrangement whereby the Government borrowed $700 million to put into an account, which it would then use to buy Government bonds off the Government itself, was probably a waste of time. Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Is the Minister telling the House that the steps he has taken so far are likely to raise productivity from the miserable 1 percent growth that we had under the Labour Government to the 3 percent that we had during the 1990s; if not, will he tell us what extra steps he plans to take? Hon BILL ENGLISH: Some of the steps we have taken are directly focused on improving productivity. There is no single silver bullet, but the following are some of the measures I can quote to the member: the legislation for reductions in income taxation"”which I know he favours"”that we passed before Christmas; the small business package, which significantly reduces compliance costs; the legislation on the introduction of the 90-day probationary period, which we passed before Christmas; and the very significant revision of the Resource Management Act, which will be introduced to this House in the next few weeks. Hon Phil Goff: Why does the Minister, and indeed John Key, continue to claim that New Zealand's stimulus package is larger on a per capita basis than that of Australia, when Brian Gaynor points out that in fact Australia's package is 67 percent larger per capita than New Zealand's; and does he agree with Mr Gaynor's statement that historically Australia's bold and strong approach has been found to be far more effective than the "cautious and conservative" approach"”his words"”that the National Government is following? Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I am pleased the member asked that question, because Brian Gaynor is wrong. In fact, I will send the member a copy of an analysis that has been completed in the last week or so and shows that the extent of the stimulus to the New Zealand economy over the next couple of years is about the same size as that proposed by Australia. Hon David Cunliffe: What scope for increased infrastructure spending would the Minister have had if the previous Government had followed his advice and spent the surpluses in the good years, rather than investing them to pass on to his Government one of the lowest Crown debt levels in the Western World? Hon BILL ENGLISH: The previous Government did spend the surpluses. That is why in the 2008 Budget it had to go out and borrow $13 billion"”because of cash deficits. The other problem it created is that the whole area of infrastructure became so clogged up with regulation and misguided policy that it is hard to get decisive action.