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GDP Per Capita—Gap Between Australia and New Zealand

Wednesday 5 October 2011 (advance copy) Hansard source (external site)

Nash10. STUART NASH (Labour) Link to this
to the Minister of Finance

By how many percent has the GDP per capita gap between Australia and New Zealand widened since his Government took office?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) Link to this

In September 2008 Australian GDP per capita was 37 percent higher than in New Zealand. In June 2011 the gap was still 37 percent, so it has not widened. In fact, if we adjust the figures to reflect changes in purchasing power parity, as the OECD does, we see there has been a narrowing of the gap over that time, from 40 percent to 36 percent. Thank goodness this Government is starting to turn things round after 9 years of economic mismanagement under Labour.

NashStuart Nash Link to this

Is he aware that the $37 billion he has borrowed in less than 3 years is the fastest run-up in Government debt, in percentage terms, since the New Zealand Wars, and that the financing cost of the mountain of debt he has built up is now $10 million a day, with no growth to show for it?

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

In so far as the primary question was about GDP per capita, I guess if the Minister has the information he may answer that question.

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

I am aware that it is one of the more rapid debt build-ups and I am very pleased we did not take any of the advice of Labour to borrow a whole lot more money. Labour members need to understand that policy that is going to continue to increase—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

A point of order has been called.

NashStuart Nash Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was talking about Labour policy—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

There will be silence. The dilemma I have is that the primary question asked “By how many percent has the GDP per capita gap between Australia and New Zealand widened since his Government took office?”. The Minister gave some comprehensive information in answering that question. The supplementary question the member then asked was about borrowing or debt levels, which is significantly away from the primary question. In allowing the Minister of Finance to answer it, it is very difficult for me then to pull him back to a supplementary question that, really, was well away from the primary question. Just because a question is asked about an economic issue does not mean any economic issue is available for supplementary questions. The supplementary questions should relate to GDP issues and the relationship between Australia and New Zealand. That is why I am loath to pull up the Minister of Finance because his answer might not have been quite what the member wanted. I can be much more stringent on answers when questions are more disciplined.

KingHon Annette King Link to this

But his first one was.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

There has been an interjection, while the Speaker has been on his feet, that the first question was, and I will deal with it. The answer to the question was actually a very comprehensive answer. I heard all of the interjections come in when the Minister introduced the issue of purchasing power parity, but he was perfectly entitled to do that, because that is the way that the OECD looks at GDP per capita relationships. So there was nothing wrong with the answer. The Minister gave two sets of information. It was very comprehensive.

CunliffeHon David Cunliffe Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have previously ruled it out of order for Ministers opposite to discuss Labour policy, or attribute matters to Labour in answer to questions about the Government’s performance, or, in particular, forward-looking questions where data is available that could answer them. There have been several occasions today where straight, factual primary questions have been asked, and the response from Ministers has been to talk about Labour policy, which leaves us in a dilemma. Firstly—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I have heard sufficient from the member. It does not need me to explain to the member why he has to think more clearly about the questions being asked. The member is the finance spokesperson for the Opposition. If he asks questions to do with debt, there is no way I can stop a Minister. Debt does not just happen overnight. There is invariably—and I should not be giving a lecture to the finance spokesperson—a history associated with it. I cannot stop a Minister from reporting on that history. But I promise the member that when he asks a straight question that is clearly related to the primary question, I will try to pin Ministers down for him. I regret if I have given the member the impression that I am not doing that, because I feel it is my responsibility to do that. I apologise if he feels that I have not done that, but I do ask that he just think about the questions. Where questions relate to debt, it is very difficult to stop a Minister going back over the years where debt accumulates.

NashStuart Nash Link to this

Has he considered resigning due to his failure to keep his promise to close the gap with Australia, his failure to keep his Budget promises on growth, or for being the first finance Minister in 13 years to lead New Zealand—

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not going to interrupt, but the suggestion from the Prime Minister that “you don’t need to resign” I think was a bit outrageous on the second to last day. He has been here for a while and I think he—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I accept that at the moment the Standing Orders do not prevent members from raising points of order about the use of the word “you”, but we are heading to a situation where that should be a matter for the Speaker to determine, so that it cannot be used to interrupt questioners. But I would just remind members that the member is right, and I would remind the Prime Minister that every time he refers to “you” he is referring to the Speaker. I hope the Speaker is not responsible for some of the things that the Prime Minister has just been alleging, or about to do what the Prime Minister has been suggesting! Could Stuart Nash start his question again, please.

NashStuart Nash Link to this

Has he considered resigning due to his failure to keep his promise to close the gap with Australia, his failure to keep his Budget promises on growth, or for being the first finance Minister in 13 years to lead New Zealand into a credit downgrade?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

No. And that member may be saved the trouble of resigning, because despite what he thought was a secure place on the Labour list, he may well not be here in the next Parliament.

GilmoreAaron Gilmore Link to this

How has the GDP per capita gap between Australia and New Zealand changed over a longer-term period?

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

In September—[ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I ask the House to please come back to order. I do want to hear the answer.

EnglishHon BILL ENGLISH Link to this

Mr Speaker, that is because it is an interesting answer. In September 1999 Australian GDP per capita was 18 percent higher than New Zealand’s. By 2008 that gap had blown out to 37 percent. Again, if we adjust the figures in the way that the OECD does to reflect changes in purchasing power parity, there is still clear evidence of a blowout from 30 percent in 1999 to 40 percent in 2008. That is just one more measure of how far New Zealand’s economy went backwards under the stewardship of Labour.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Question No. 11, Nikki Kaye. [ Interruption] Jabs like that invariably are going to get interjections, and that is not very helpful to the order of the House.