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Economy—Government Policies

Wednesday 28 September 2011 Hansard source (external site)

Goff1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) Link to this
to the Prime Minister

Does he stand by his statement on TV3 yesterday that “we may just muddle through” the current economic situation?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) Link to this

I stand by my full statement, which was made in response to a question about a global double-dip recession and was as follows: “You can’t rule it out, but I think the general feeling from Bill is that while the atmosphere and the mood is very dark in the United States and in Europe, that we may just muddle through, and I know a number of the major economic commentators don’t think that there’ll be a double-dip recession. But what we are in for is a period of volatility—I suspect extreme volatility—in certain parts of Europe.”

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

When he also said yesterday: “Unemployment is starting to fall—not too bad.” had he read the latest National Employment Indicator for July, which shows that nearly 5,000 jobs were lost in New Zealand in that month alone?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

No. Can I tell the member, because I will assume he does not know this and that is why he is giving the wrong information, that the National Employment Indicator is not a full indicator of all jobs in the economy.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Oh, it never is.

KingHon Annette King Link to this

Always changing the goalposts.

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Actually, we are not changing. The consistent position we have always taken, and which the member took when he was in Government, is the household labour force survey. The number of people employed in New Zealand now is higher than ever before in New Zealand’s history. We have not lost jobs in this country; we have created jobs.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Does the Prime Minister also think that it is not too bad that Ministry of Social Development figures show that under his watch the number of 18 to 24-year-olds on the unemployment benefit for more than a year has risen by 733 percent? Is that not too bad?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

As always with the member, I would need to check his statistics, because they are almost always wrong.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a tradition, and I think it is in repeated Speakers’ rulings, that members take another member’s word in this House. That was a very clear quote. It was a very clear indication from the Leader of the Opposition, and the Prime Minister was clearly not doing that.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I hear the member’s point, and he is quite correct that members should take another member’s word. The dilemma during question time, of course, is quotes that may or may not be in context and figures that may or may not be in context, and that is why I can sometimes understand Ministers challenging figures. But perhaps they can be challenged in a less objectionable way, if the Prime Minister disagrees with the figures. The language used in disagreeing was perhaps not helpful.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Maybe I can help. I seek leave of the House to table a set of figures compiled from, I think, about seven or eight parliamentary written questions that demonstrate just what I asserted to the Prime Minister—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Could the House be told the source.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

The source is written questions Nos 6058—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

No, who compiled them?

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

They were compiled by my office from these parliamentary questions, and I can read them out—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

We do not have a practice of tabling answers to written questions, because they are available to all members. We should not be wasting time on that. In fairness on this whole issue, a question had been asked but it was interrupted with a point of order. I will now ask the right honourable Prime Minister to answer the question, but not using the provocative language that he used, even if he does disagree with the figures.

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

All I can say is that I cannot confirm the figures. When one is in my job, then one learns very quickly not to necessarily accept statements that are made. The Labour Party yesterday said that 47,000 fewer people had jobs in New Zealand. That is not true. The household labour force survey shows that employment is higher in New Zealand than it has ever been before, with 2.215 million New Zealanders in employment, which is higher than 2.210 million—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I think we have heard sufficient, because the question was actually related to social welfare figures. I think we have heard sufficient on that.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Supplementary question, Mr Speaker—

TremainChris Tremain Link to this

Get it right this time, Phil.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have just received an interjection across the House suggesting that I did not get it right. I have offered to table the statistics, the answers from Ministers, to show that I did.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The House will settle down. There is no need to be too thin-skinned today. I just ask the House, actually, today to show a little respect to this place. A New Zealander lost his life this morning. We do not make New Zealanders proud of us if we behave like a bunch of schoolkids. I just ask members to be mindful of that today.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Does the Prime Minister also think that it is not too bad when he looks at Statistics New Zealand’s latest figures, showing that nearly 100,000 New Zealanders have left permanently or long term to go to Australia under his watch, when on the basis of the same problem—of emigration to Australia—he demanded a vote of no confidence in Helen Clark when the departure figures were much, much lower?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Firstly, the member forgets the number of New Zealanders who have come back in that time, which, again, is a fault in his logic. Secondly, it is not true to say it was lower. Over the period of the Labour Government about 300,000 New Zealanders left for Australia. I go back to my overall point. Let me quote from the BNZ, as one example, on the overall economy. It states, in relation to GDP data: “we prefer to interpret today’s figures as confirming”—

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

This is question time, where questions are answered. The right honourable Prime Minister might wish to make a point, but he has to wait until a question asks about that point.

AndertonHon Jim Anderton Link to this

Has the Prime Minister received, as Prime Minister, any reports of billboards appearing around New Zealand claiming that he, as Prime Minister, is “Building a brighter future”; and will he be replacing that slogan with the words “We may just muddle through”?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I think the world may muddle through a global recession, but one is not sure. In terms of building a brighter future, let me, for the edification of the member, give him this graph from Treasury. It is compiled by someone, but it is from Treasury. It is a sign of GDP growth around the world. Here is Australia. Here is New Zealand, above pretty much every country in the world. With the backdrop of a global financial crisis and three major earthquakes in Christchurch—a more significant event as a percentage of GDP has not occurred in any natural disaster in the world—New Zealand has grown faster than the United States since this Government has been in office, faster than the eurozone since this Government has been in office, faster than the UK since this Government has been in office, and faster than Japan since this Government has been in office. Relative to pretty much everyone else, it is a brighter future.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Before I call the honourable Leader of the Opposition I just remind members that visual aids can be used by members to support their speeches, but not to flash around the House willy-nilly. A senior member should know that.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

When Statistics New Zealand shows that in recent months we have seen the highest-ever emigration from New Zealand permanently to Australia, why does he not accept his own advice, which he gave to Helen Clark, and resign?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Because a reasonable proportion of those people have left Christchurch.

BoscawenHon John Boscawen Link to this

Supplementary—[ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The Hon John Boscawen deserves to be heard.

BoscawenHon John Boscawen Link to this

When he told the House just a few minutes ago “We have not lost jobs in this country; we have created jobs.”, was he aware of a recent Department of Labour report that showed that unemployment amongst 16 and 17-year-olds was about 4,000 higher than it otherwise might have been, as a consequence of, firstly, Labour legislating to cut out youth rates and, secondly, National refusing to support Roger Douglas’ member’s bill to reinstate them?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I am aware of the Department of Labour report and I am prepared to accept that that is one factor, but I think there are a number of factors taking place. I go back to the member and say that that is right—recessions have a disproportionate effect, typically, on lower-income people and young people. But the good news for New Zealand is that employment in this country has never ever been higher. It has never ever been higher.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Has he actually looked at the National Employment Indicator figures from Statistics New Zealand, which show, in fact, that in the latest figures for July the number of filled jobs is 46,710 fewer than was the case in October 2008? Will he examine his figures again, or at least look at these figures?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

The member can, if he wants to, look at a subset of employment in New Zealand, but if he wants to look at the—

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

People who’ve got jobs are a subset!

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

If he wants to look at a subset of employment in New Zealand he is welcome to, but if he wants to look at the overall economy, then I go back to the member and say that the household labour force survey shows that there are more people in employment in New Zealand than ever in New Zealand’s history.

BennettHon Paula Bennett Link to this

I seek to release a report that was put out today from Jobs Online, which shows that the number of job vacancies advertised online on both SEEK and TradeMe increased by 6.3 percent for August 2011.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to check that the Minister is not trying to fool us and table something that is already on a website, unless, of course, she is like Mr Heatley, who has taken embarrassing figures off the website today.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The member will resume his seat. The member was using a point of order to score a political point, and I do not think that is very appropriate. If the material the Minister is, I presume, seeking leave to table is on the website, we do not do that, because it is available to all members. Can I check with the Minister whether it is available on the website.

BennettHon Paula Bennett Link to this

It may be available on a website. I have just a printed report. [ Interruption]

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

A point of order is being considered. I want to make certain for the House, because I do not want to breach our conventions, as the Minister is seeking leave to table a document. Is this Jobs Online not a Government agency?

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Why does the Prime Minister not just acknowledge that in the real world people are struggling to find jobs? When we read today that when a New World supermarket was opened in Kaiapoi, 870 people applied for 45 full-time and 45 part-time jobs, does that not show the Prime Minister that people are struggling to find work under his economic mismanagement?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

Of course people are looking for jobs. The good news, as the Minister just demonstrated, is that an increasing number of jobs are coming online. I think what New Zealanders would say, though, is that they will be pleased that employment has never been higher in New Zealand than it is today. They will be pleased that they have a tax system that is finally rewarding them, that they do not have a Government that is piling costs on them, that we are building infrastructure, that we are reforming the economy, and that we are reaching out to make New Zealand stronger. For the most part, if anyone is in denial, it is the Opposition. It is in denial about how tough the international conditions are and, relatively speaking, how well New Zealand is doing.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Does the Prime Minister think that it is not too bad and that we can muddle through when growth in the last quarter for New Zealand was 0.1 percent, and when I recall him 2 years ago promising an aggressive recovery from the recession?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

For a start, I am more than happy to table the graph that shows New Zealand’s GDP growth since my Government has been in office outstripping basically every country in the world on this graph other than Australia. But that graph is from Treasury, so maybe tabling it will be rejected. Secondly, in relation to the point made by the member, let me read this from the BNZ in relation to GDP data: “There is a lot of noise in the data at the moment that is, and will continue, creating substantial quarterly volatility in GDP readings. In our opinion, you need to smooth through this. This being the case, we prefer to interpret today’s figures as confirming that activity is growing on average around 0.5% per quarter over the last three quarters. Hardly spectacular but light years away from recession.”

BoscawenHon John Boscawen Link to this

Given that the Prime Minister has just told the House that employment has never been higher, does he accept that employment amongst 16 and 17-year-olds could have been at least 4,000 higher as a consequence of not having the youth rates abolished by the Labour Government—rates that were not reinstated by the National Government—as was conclusively shown by that Department of Labour report?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

I cannot confirm that. I can confirm the existence of the Department of Labour advice that it may well have been higher if youth rates were there, but I cannot confirm that that would have been the number. I can confirm two things. First, I can confirm that employment has never been higher in New Zealand’s history than it is today, at 2.215 million. The second thing I can confirm is that when the Opposition said unemployment would go to 11 percent, it was wrong. Unemployment went to 7.1 percent. When the Opposition said 20,000 people would be unemployed in Christchurch, it was wrong. The whole way through, Opposition members were very, very, very good at forgetting all of their predictions, which have been wrong.

GoffHon Phil Goff Link to this

Remember the Job Summit? What did the Prime Minister deliver from that?

KeyRt Hon JOHN KEY Link to this

The Job Summit? Let us talk about the United States. Unemployment is at 9.2 percent, officially. The unofficial unemployment rate is 15 percent. Let us talk about unemployment in Europe. It is considerably higher than it is in New Zealand. So New Zealand has come through the same situation—

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I seek leave to table a printout from the Department of Labour website of the Jobs Online statement that Paula Bennett just quoted from.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Under the circumstances, leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

MallardHon Trevor Mallard Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will note that the Minister said it was not on the Government website.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

That is—[ Interruption] The House will settle down. That is not a point of order. The House heard the points being made previously. That is not a point of order.