Parliamentary question: Tourism - credit crunch impact
11th Feb 09, 2:12pm
Question 12. February 10, 2009 [Uncorrected transcript"”subject to correction and further editing.] 12. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) on behalf of Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour"”Hauraki-Waikato) to the Minister of Tourism: Does he agree with the statement that there need to be "short-term steps" to "reduce the impact of the international credit crunch on the tourism sector so it is strongly placed to achieve growth", if so, why? Hon JOHN KEY (Minister of Tourism) : Yes, I agree with the full quote, which is from the National Party's tourism policy and actually states: "take the necessary short-term steps to secure the stability of the banking system, and reduce the impact of the international credit crunch on the tourism sector so it is strongly placed to achieve growth as markets improve." I certainly hope the member is not about to suggest that the New Zealand banking system is unstable. Charles Chauvel: Given that, as the Minister has acknowledged, the statement in the primary question comes from the 2008 National Party manifesto, will he undertake to the House to honour the manifesto promise that his Government will ensure a reversal in the 1 percent decline in tourist numbers experienced by New Zealand in 2008? Hon JOHN KEY: The member can rest assured that I will do everything possible to ensure that the New Zealand banking system is stable. Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not my question. I do not think the question was addressed; it certainly was not answered. The question was not about the banking system at all. Hon JOHN KEY: If the Labour Party wants to doctor quotes from the National Party, it should expect the answer it got. Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr SPEAKER: I think I have heard enough on this. I do not think the House needs to waste more time on that. The Prime Minister made a perfectly fair point. The quote was barely a full quote, so the member cannot expect much other than a political answer. I invite the member to ask his further supplementary question, should he wish to. Charles Chauvel: Does the Minister agree with the statement that tourism is "quite a low-value part of our economy"; if so, why? Hon JOHN KEY: The tourism industry is extremely important. That is why I chose to take it as a portfolio and why I chose not to have it a long way down the ministerial order, as the Government that the member once represented did. Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister whether he agreed with the statement and, if so, why. He did not answer that. Mr SPEAKER: The member has been around for a while now. When members ask for opinions, they know they cannot expect explicit answers. I made it very clear today that when members put down detailed questions, I will endeavour to ensure that members and the public of New Zealand get sensible answers to those questions. But where opinions are sought, members cannot expect precise answers. Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister aware that it was John Key, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, who called tourism "low value" and suggested that the problem was that "people just don't get paid enough from it"; if he is aware of that, why does he not heed the former Opposition leader John Key and give the thousands of tourism workers on the minimum wage more than a measly 9c an hour increase in their wage? Hon JOHN KEY: It is reasonably well known that one of the challenges for the tourism industry is to try to increase the yield in that industry, and that is something we are doing. It is also true that a lot of people who work in the tourism industry are paid the minimum wage. They would have been pleased yesterday to receive an increase of 50c per hour. They will also be very pleased that we are a Government that has a sense of balance and is not putting their jobs at threat. Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table the article in Mountain Scene from February 2007 in which Mr Key said that workers in tourism just do not get paid enough. Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House. Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister of Tourism confirm, in a way that the Minister of Labour was unable to confirm, that in fact the real increase after the effect of inflation has taken place for workers in the tourist industry was 9c an hour, or $3.60 a week, which is not even a fraction of the block of cheese that the Prime Minister used to talk so fondly about? Mr SPEAKER: That is a fair stretch from the question, but I am sure the Prime Minister is capable of handling it. Paul Quinn: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am a bit confused. I thought I heard you agree that leave to table papers should be sought at the end of supplementary questions. We have just had a supplementary question after the honourable MP moved to table a piece of paper. Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a perfectly valid point. But it is not a matter of the Standing Orders; it is a matter of courtesy to members. The fact that the member sought to table a document prior to the question by the honourable Leader of the Opposition is not a matter of order; it is a matter of courtesy. My concern was that the honourable Leader of the Opposition's question was somewhat stretching the primary question, but I am sure the honourable Prime Minister can handle it. Hon JOHN KEY: There is no debate that the increase in the minimum wage is there to reflect the increase in the CPI, and, of course, in real terms it is not large. But the point here is that it represents a 4.2 percent increase. The minimum wage in Australia was reviewed on 1 October 2008; it was a 4.1 percent increase. I think that workers in New Zealand will look to this Government and say there is a sense of balance here and that it is increasing their pay to take advantage of the situation that there is an increase in the CPI. I make the point that maybe the Leader of the Opposition should go and read his own party's manifesto, because what it actually states is that, in these difficult economic times, the minimum wage should be increased either relative to the CPI or average wages. Guess what? That is what we did. Hon Phil Goff: Can the Minister quantify that the real increase in wages that he granted yesterday to low-paid workers in the tourism industry was actually 9c an hour, or $3.60 a week"”yes or no? Hon JOHN KEY: I can confirm that yesterday someone who works 40 hours a week got $20 as an increase. I can also confirm that he or she will almost certainly get a tax cut. I have made no attempt to argue otherwise than that the increase is relevant to the CPI. The member will not find any debate on that on this side of the House. Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier, when the Minister of Labour was asked to quantify a sum, you said that my colleague the Hon Trevor Mallard should have raised a point of order because the Minister did not address the question in that way. You have just heard the Prime Minister do exactly the same thing. I presume that the same rule that affected Kate Wilkinson also applies to John Key. Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to have any further contribution on that. The honourable member tests my goodwill a little. The clear difference is that the Hon Trevor Mallard put down a clear question on the Order Paper. The Minister had a significant amount of time to prepare an answer for it. In the case of the honourable member's supplementary question, it was stretching the primary question. I did not stop him from asking it, and I allowed the Prime Minister to answer it. The member then asked a further supplementary question on the basis of the Prime Minister's answer, and received a further answer to the question. I believe that there has been a fair balance in the exchange on that final question. But I repeat, for the benefit of members of the Opposition, that in relation to the Hon Trevor Mallard's question earlier on today, I think it was a valid point that where a question is so clear in the way it is put on the Order Paper, members of the public can expect an answer to be given to it. Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You appear to be setting down some reasonably stringent standards for the way in which questions are asked and answered. I ask you, at the end of proceedings today, to look at the Hansard record of the question and then, particularly as the question is about "short-term steps" to "reduce the impact of the international credit crunch on the tourism sector", at how we got on to the debate about a 9c an hour increase, or whatever it might have been. I think that really does stretch the process on this question. Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any further assistance on this matter. I do not want to take up further time of the House. Had the Prime Minister not wished to answer the question, he could have made it very clear that he believed the question was out of order. The Prime Minister seemed to answer it with some enthusiasm. That entitled the Leader of the Opposition to ask a further supplementary question, and I believe that is the way the House should flow, in good order. We do not need to get too precious and pedantic about these things. I repeat what I said earlier: where primary questions are laid down clearly, members of the public expect an answer. When Ministers are answering questions, they can expect that the answers they give may be further questioned by members of the Opposition.