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Vulnerable Citizens—Prime Minister’s Statements

Tuesday 10 May 2011 Hansard source (external site)

King3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Does he stand by his statement that “low-income New Zealanders are being looked after by a National Government”?

KingHon Annette King Link to this

In light of that answer, what does he say to Mrs Alexander, interviewed on Campbell Live last night, whose basic grocery items have increased in price by 20.4 percent—going from $123.30 per week to $148 per week in just 8 months?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

The first thing I would say is that I did not actually see the Campbell Live show—but then, mind you, I do not see Coronation Street either, unlike the Labour caucus. But—

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I apologise to the honourable member. The member will resume his seat for the moment. Members are entitled to call a point of order, and when members make unhelpful comments in answering questions it will tend to lead to disorder. Members are entitled to call a point of order and for that to be heard in silence. My patience is wearing a bit thin with some Government members on these points of order. They might not like the point of order, but a member has a right to call one as long as it is a point of order. If it is not a point of order I will sit the member down very fast, but the member has a right.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I think it is fair to say that standing up and sitting down fast is not quite what I can do—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I apologise to the honourable member.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

—and there is no disrespect in my not sitting down quickly. My point of order is a simple one: that gratuitous comment about the television habits of Labour members, especially with regard to a foreign-made programme, was unnecessary.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I think that is a perfectly fair point. The question asked whether the Prime Minister had seen a certain programme and what he had to say about that. Admittedly there is some licence there, but a comment as gratuitous as that will always lead to disorder.

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. From memory, Coronation Street has been on for 50 years. I am surprised that the Labour—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

No, no. That was not a point of order. It would be a terrible thing for the Speaker to deprive the Opposition of the chance to question the Prime Minister—let me put it that way. I do not want to deprive the Opposition of that opportunity, but we will not have any more of that. The Prime Minister, though, should answer the question he was asked.

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I did not see the Campbell Live show, but one thing I am advised is that the family was still eligible for Government programmes such as Working for Families and accommodation supplements, and, if they had a mortgage, their mortgage rates would have gone down. Apparently, as the show showed, there are fluctuations in grocery prices, and apparently this month the grocery prices would have been lower.

KingHon Annette King Link to this

Does he stand by his statement, as reported on Campbell Live last night, that after the tax cuts “no one will be worse off”; if so, how does the Alexanders’ $11-a-week tax cut go anywhere near to compensating for the $25-a-week increase in their food costs alone?

KingHon Annette King Link to this

How does the Alexanders’ $11-a-week tax cut go anywhere near to compensating for the $25-a-week increase that they have faced in their basic food costs?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I do not know the personal circumstances of the family, and I cannot confirm that it was an $11-a-week tax cut. I have learnt not to trust the member’s numbers.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I have been tough on Government members, and it applies to the Opposition too when a point of order is being heard.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

Again, it is a question of whether the Prime Minister should make that gratuitous flick at the member, when I think that 80 percent of the members in the House know that the member is quoting direct figures, which would be easily authenticated if the Prime Minister wanted them to be.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Of course, the Prime Minister does not know that. When members ask this type of primary question, then quote details in respect of a particular person, they cannot expect any Minister to answer, unless we have that information. If I get too tough on Ministers when responding, this place would get boring. We do not want Parliament to become a totally boring place. I have pulled up the Prime Minister a couple of times on gratuitous comments, and I think we have to be a little bit reasonable. This is a place where there is a bit of give and take, and where a few comments that are perhaps barbed are hurled across the House. If I try to stop all of that, it will destroy the character of the place. I just ask members to be reasonable. I am not sure that that was totally unreasonable.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Maybe I did not express myself clearly enough in the original point of order. I think it is fine for people to dispute the figures or to say they have not seen them, but to say a member is not to be trusted is an implication that is likely to lead to disorder.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I hear the member on that. I ask Ministers not to do that. There is no problem with their disputing figures, but on the issue of saying a member cannot be trusted, I accept the point that the member makes.

KingHon Annette King Link to this

What message is he giving New Zealanders when he refuses to visit a food bank and refuses to meet with Melissa Voice from Timaru, who asked him to walk a week in her shoes, then refuses to appear on Campbell Live to talk about the cost of living, after a very thorough investigation by TV3 on the real issues that New Zealanders are facing at the moment?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

One of the criticisms from the Opposition—and there are many—I have received in my time as Prime Minister is that I spend a lot of time around New Zealand. I spend a lot of time visiting New Zealanders in their places of work, their homes, and their places of enjoyment, and I think I have a good sense of what New Zealanders are going through.

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