Does he stand by his statement that by early 2010 New Zealand will be coming out of the recession “reasonably aggressively”?
Yes, I stand by my full quote from March 2009, which is the same one I used yesterday. I enjoy saying it every day that I get the opportunity to: “I think by the end of 2009 early 2010 this time next year we’ll be starting to come out of that and I think actually starting to come out of it reasonably aggressively, I’m more optimistic about 2011 than 2010 but nevertheless I think 2010 will be positive.” As I said yesterday, those statements have proved to be absolutely, entirely, 100 percent correct.
What responsibility does the Prime Minister take for an economy that has stalled, for revenue and employment that have not grown by the predictions that were set 6 months ago, and for a deficit that has ballooned out of control because of his tax switch, which, as Fran O’Sullivan said, was a fizzer?
That is right. The only thing the member has decided he will not do any more is the bus. We will not see him on the bus. I will talk about the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update for a moment, and pick up on the Leader of the Opposition’s assertion that growth has not been strong. The growth forecast to 2011 is 2.5 percent. What was it in 2009? It was 1.9 percent. What was it when the Government inherited it? It was minus 3.2 percent. What was it a year earlier? It was 2.1 percent. What was it a year before that? It was 1.7 percent. What was it another year earlier than that? It was 2.4 percent. In other words, we have to go all the way back to 2004 to get growth like we have had this year. Is it spectacular? No, but we are in the middle of a global financial crisis. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition has any comments he should make.
If everything is as rosy as the Prime Minister would have us believe, how does he account for the Auckland chamber of commerce survey yesterday of 1,000 firms that showed business confidence at the lowest level in a decade?
It reflects the fact that the international situation is difficult. People find that—
I always take polls with a grain of salt. The Leader of the Opposition probably should as well.
How much is the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update deficit track an improvement on previous forecasts?
That is a good question. The Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update deficit track shows the Government’s Budget coming back into surplus in 2015-16. That compares with the 2008 Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update forecast, in which Treasury was expecting a decade of deficits. Members will recall headlines such as this one: “Treasury books ‘sea of red …”. Two months later the updated forecasts were even worse, showing never-ending deficits and debt.
I am amazed that the member has made it past question No. 1; it is a miracle for Trevor. The long and short of it is that the deficit is coming under control.
Did the Prime Minister say 6 months ago that the deficit then was as high as it should be allowed to go, as reported in the paper this morning, and what excuses does he have for the fact that that deficit is now billions of dollars higher than he said it should be 6 months ago?
Six months ago I did not predict that there would be an earthquake in Canterbury.
I have called the Hon Rodney Hide—[ Interruption] Members are having a reasonably boisterous day because it is the last day of term, as one might say. But there is a limit to how boisterous it should be.
Would the member please take no notice of other members and ask his question.
Is that an order? Does it concern the Prime Minister that the Labour leader, Phil Goff, is so bereft of ideas that he is reduced to asking the same question day after day?
I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First of all, the question is, overall, out of order. Secondly, the Prime Minister has no responsibility for that.
Members can ask for opinions, but the dilemma with this particular question is that it made an assertion that was unreasonable and unfair, I think. I have no problem with members asking questions to seek opinions, but I think the question was somewhat unfair. I invite the member to reword the question to try to bring it more within the Standing Orders.
Has any consideration been given by the Government to providing the Opposition with more resources, given that the Labour Party is so bereft of ideas that day after day it asks the Prime Minister the same question?
Yes, there has been consideration, but one thing I have found with the Leader of the Opposition is that repetition helps him. If he just goes to bed at night saying: “Cunliffe, Cunliffe, Cunliffe”, he will eventually get it right.
I say to the National backbenchers, on this occasion, that a bit of fun is OK, but please—I have called the honourable Leader of the Opposition.
Why did the Prime Minister tell the House yesterday that his tax cuts for the wealthy had no effect on borrowing or on the deficit, when Treasury reported yesterday that they had, in fact, trebled the deficit to over $3 billion?
The Leader of the Opposition is completely off-beam there. If one has a look at the April 2009 tax cuts and the 1 October tax cuts, and adds them up over the 4-year forecast period, one will see that there is a net surplus of $132 million.
Yes. In particular, I have seen a fiscal strategy that runs a little bit like this. The first part of it is to bring in less revenue by taking GST off fruit and vegetables and by not taking dividends from electricity or State-owned enterprises. However, I have to say anecdotally that I asked the fruit and vegetable shopkeeper where I lived what he thought of that. He said he would rather pay three times more GST than have Labour back. That was the first thing he said. The second part of the fiscal strategy was to spend more than the Government is spending on a whole range of things, which includes the Superannuation Fund and research and development. The third part is to boast that one is going to pay off debt much faster than the Government is. That makes no sense—that is Phil Goff’s plan.
Does the Prime Minister take responsibility for the fact that although Australia created 54,000 new jobs last month alone, his gimmicks like the cycleway and the Job Summit have created no jobs at all?
How will it help New Zealand to come out of the recession when more than 96,000 New Zealand families face increased costs for early childhood education of up to $80 per week per child because of his funding cuts to early childhood education?
Firstly, I refute the assertion that it is 93,000 families. Secondly, it is an important point for the House to note that there is not less money going into early childhood education; there is more money going into early childhood education—[ Interruption] Yes, there is. Thirdly, they cannot have it all ways, can they? This Government has maintained entitlements and benefits to New Zealanders. It has had an impact on the deficit that Phil Goff was just moaning about, but the new alternative leader of the Labour Party wants to spend more money.
I say to members that I acknowledge it is the last day of term and it is bound to be a bit noisy, but I must be able to hear members.
Is he aware, then, of recently released survey results showing that 90 percent of centres will have to increase their fees to families; and why is his Minister of Education writing to early childhood education facilities advising them that they may wish to consider a new optional charge for 20 hours’ early childhood education?
I am aware that the Government is putting more money in early childhood education than any other Government ever has. The only survey I have seen recently is the one that showed Helen Clark going up in the polls and Phil Goff going down.
The question was very straightforward. The Prime Minister failed to address the question of survey results showing that 90 percent of early childhood education centres will have to increase their fees, and neither did he comment on the views of his Minister of Education.
If the member looks back at the primary question, she will see that it asked whether he stands by his statement of a certain date that New Zealand will be coming out of the recession reasonably aggressively. The member cannot expect the Prime Minister to have detailed information on early childhood education funding issues, given the primary question. The member asked him about a survey, and I think the Prime Minister answered about a survey.
I seek leave to table two documents. The first is an email to the Prime Minister from the Matua Plunket Kindergarten in Tauranga asking the Prime Minister’s advice on how it should deal with the funding cuts that he—
Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. [ Interruption] I take it a further point of order is being sought—[ Interruption] Look, this is the last day, but the member will not—will not—under any circumstance say that sort of interjection.
If the member wants to make a point of order, she should please do it or she will sit.
Can I do it in silence, as point of orders are supposed to be heard in silence.
I say to the member that she has one more chance. If she does not come to a point of order immediately, she will sit down. I ask members to respect the House and have the point of order heard in silence.
I seek leave to table a letter from the office of the Hon Anne Tolley to the Matua Plunket Kindergarten where she advises the kindergarten to increase an optional charge for early childhood education—