Question 8. February 10, 2009 [Uncorrected transcript"”subject to correction and further editing.] 8. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour"”Hutt South) to the Minister of Labour: What will be the gain in real income per week, adjusted for inflation since 1 April 2008, of a full-time worker on the minimum wage, as a result of the Government's decision on the 2009 minimum wage increase? Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour) : The 50c increase in the minimum wage announced yesterday is intended to maintain the real income and purchasing power of people on the minimum wage. Hon Trevor Mallard: Why do the figures that the Minister supplied to Cabinet include theoretical job losses in firms as a result of an increase in the minimum wage, but do not recognise jobs created as a result of the economic stimulus of such an increase? Hon KATE WILKINSON: Protecting jobs is our priority. We believe that we have struck the right balance between protecting jobs and preserving purchasing power.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to ask the Minister to address the question. [Interruption] Mr Speaker, is he allowed to do that? Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member knows he must not interject during a point of order. The member is raising a valid point of order. Hon Trevor Mallard: There was a very clear question about the figures supplied; the member read from an answer that did not relate to the question asked, and did not come close to addressing it. Hon Gerry Brownlee: The Minister gave an answer to the question. She most certainly addressed the question. The interesting thing is that Mr Mallard alluded to some documents; he should table them, if he wants to be taken seriously. Mr SPEAKER: Members, I will do a slightly unusual thing here. I am going to go back to the question laid down by the Hon Trevor Mallard. It is a very clear question. I invite the Minister to answer the Hon Trevor Mallard's question given on notice. Hon KATE WILKINSON: In making a decision on the minimum wage, consideration was given to much documentation that had been provided. The minimum wage is a balancing act, and we took all figures and information into account when making that decision. Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did the Minister change her mind as to whether there should be increase in the minimum wage? Hon KATE WILKINSON: The member is assuming too much. There was significant consultation throughout the process of the minimum wage review, and the decision was made based on that consultation and based on the information received. Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have been very clear that you want Ministers to answer questions; in fact, you have asked the Minister twice now to answer this question. The answer is a number. A number has been asked for. The question is very, very explicit, as you yourself said. On neither occasion has the Minister come up with the number that has been asked for. She has given us a bunch of words. She has not even addressed the question. Mr SPEAKER: I think this is a very interesting question, and I want Ministers to take note of it. If one reads the question laid down by the Hon Trevor Mallard, one sees that it is a very clear question. The Minister had time to prepare an answer to that question. It would not take a large amount of departmental time to prepare an answer to that question. I note that the member asking the question did not seek my assistance when the substantive question was answered. He sought my assistance following the answer to the first supplementary question. If he had sought my assistance following the answering of the question laid down, I would have been tougher on the Minister in requiring her to answer it. But I cannot be the judge of whether the member is satisfied with an answer. I want to make it clear to Ministers that where a question is as clear as this question is"”it is probably one of the clearest questions on the Order Paper today"”I expect Ministers to answer it, unless they consider it not to be in the public interest to do so. We heard the honourable Prime Minister today say that to answer a particular question would not be in the public interest, and that is a perfectly legitimate answer. If a Minister decides that to answer a question is not in the public interest, I will accept that. But where a question is as clear as question No. 8 on today's Order Paper is, I think New Zealanders expect Ministers to answer it. However, I point out again to the honourable member Trevor Mallard that he did not seek my assistance at the first answer. I think we need to leave the matter there for today, but I think I have made it very clear to Ministers that when questions are as clear as that, I think New Zealanders expect Ministers to answer them. I have made it clear now. I have intervened, and I do not expect this issue to be taken any further. I thank Dr Russel Norman for raising his point of order. I think I have made it very clear to Ministers what I as Speaker expect. Unless there are further supplementary questions, I will move on to question No. 9. Hon Trevor Mallard: On how many occasions did the Minister honour the mana-enhancing arrangement with the MÄori Party and receive representations from MÄori Party Ministers on the minimum wage, and how many of those were in writing? Hon KATE WILKINSON: The minimum wage review included extensive consultation, including consultation with other parliamentary and Cabinet colleagues, including a call for submissions. The views expressed were all given careful consideration. Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have two points. First, I called for the submissions; the Minister did not. But the important point is that I did not ask about Cabinet Ministers, which the Minister referred to in her reply; I asked about MÄori Party Ministers, who are not Cabinet Ministers. She did not address that question. Mr SPEAKER: I think I have assisted the honourable member as far as I can today in respect of answers to questions, and"” Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the point when submissions were called for"”and I called for the submissions"”there were no MÄori Party Ministers. They cannot be caught in that group of people that, as part of the review, was asked for submissions, because it happened in September and October of last year. This is a very specific question about a group of people who were not Ministers before the election, and are not Cabinet Ministers, which was what the Minister discussed. She did not, therefore, address that question. Mr SPEAKER: The member will be aware, of course, that the Minister has no responsibility for matters that took place before the election. What I am prepared to do on this occasion is to allow the honourable member to ask a further supplementary question. I invite the member to do so. Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The extra question should come off the Labour Party total, because that member has been in the House for a very long time, and he would know from his 9 years of experience of dodging all sorts of questions that quite often questions are asked the answers to which are not appreciated. The Minister made it clear that in terms of the part of the process she was responsible for there was consultation on a widespread basis. That should stand as an answer. Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient on this. I have made it clear. I have already decided to allow the member a further supplementary question, because I want to make it very clear to members, and to Ministers in particular, that where questions as clear as this one are laid down on the Order Paper, the public of New Zealand has the right to an answer. That is why I am allowing the member a further question. But I point out to the honourable member Trevor Mallard that he cannot ask the Minister about matters that took place prior to her becoming the Minister. Hon Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker, can I make it clear that I am not. On how many occasions did the Minister honour the mana-enhancing arrangement with the MÄori Party and receive representations from MÄori Party Ministers on the minimum wage, and how many of those were in writing? Hon KATE WILKINSON: Extensive consultation was undertaken in relation to the minimum wage review, and I am satisfied that that consultation was sufficient for a rational, reasonable, and fair decision on the minimum wage to be made. Dr Jackie Blue: Has the Minister seen any reports with regard to the minimum wage? Hon KATE WILKINSON: Yes. I have seen a report from Trevor Mallard hinting that the Opposition wants to raise it to $15 an hour. I have seen a report from Phil Goff demanding a raise to $13. I have also seen Labour's election manifesto, which promoted an increase to $12.65. Perhaps the Opposition members should sit down and work out who is actually in charge of their decisions. Hone Harawira: What steps will the Government introduce to meet the MÄori Party call that the minimum wage be increased to $15 an hour, and when will it be achieved? Hon KATE WILKINSON: As with the review of the minimum wage, all economic conditions at the time are taken into account. We are informed and advised that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour may result in the loss of up to 17,000 jobs, and our priority is job protection.