Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s actions and policies?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, particularly our Government’s $300 million investment in Taranaki Base Hospital announced last week. The Government is investing record amounts into infrastructure, including $1.7 billion set aside in Budget 2019 for upgrading our hospitals and health services, which, of course, after nine years of neglect is much needed.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept her Government’s policies are responsible for almost 1,400 more gang members this term?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many more patched gang members are there in New Zealand since her Government took office?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’d like to ask the member how many he takes responsibility for when he was in office. The existence of gangs in New Zealand is not a new problem, and it’s naive of anyone to suggest so—particularly, I would also add, this is a Government that is bringing in more police officers. We will reach the 1,800 goal, a significant proportion of which are dedicated to organised crime.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don’t get many supplementary questions these days, and that one wasn’t answered.
SPEAKER: Yes, it was.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister remember the promise to bulldoze the gang headquarters down the day after the election, and, if so, what happened?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely accept that across the other side of the House, there is often tough talk when it comes close to election year.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she asked for an estimate of how much extra cost to the taxpayer gang members are having in terms of benefit payments?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: A number I have asked for is the number of full-time police that we have, and there are now 9,723—the highest ever number of front-line police officers. If you’re looking for a Government that takes these issues seriously, it is this one, and we are also the Government that increased the penalties for the manufacture of synthetic drugs as well, because we take these issues seriously.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Government reach its 1,800 police officers target this term?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think gang members who are on the run from the police should be able to claim benefits?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I note that, actually, the policies that we have now in this regard are exactly the same as when the member was last in office.
Hon Paula Bennett: Supplementary.
Dr Duncan Webb: Oh!
Hon Paula Bennett: Does her Government—
SPEAKER: Order! Who was that? The member will withdraw and apologise.
Dr Duncan Webb: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does her Government have a target for reducing the number of gang members in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No one wants to see an increase in gangs. The suggestion that anyone would want to see that is ridiculous. But rather than setting targets, we’re actually doing something about it with extra front-line police officers, who are targeting organised crime.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with her Minister of Police, who earlier in this term stated that they would not make the 1,800 new police target and instead it was an aspirational target?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The reason, of course, that we’ve been cautious is simply to ensure that we don’t recruit people who aren’t right for the job. But, as I say, we have the highest number of front-line police officers ever under this Government, and we are making very good progress towards the 1,800.
Hon Stuart Nash: Has the Prime Minister seen reports of the fact the previous Government wanted to deliver 880 police over four years and this Government has delivered more than that number in under two?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by the answer to her question about three questions ago, when she was asked if she would make the 1,800 target of new police this term and she answered our leader, “Yes.”?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m reflecting on that question, which was the same question asked by the leader of the National Party. Now, with respect, if we’re allowed to just duplicate the very same question over and over again, this House becomes a nonsense.
SPEAKER: Yes. I appreciate the point that the member’s making, but I think that if that’s the outcome that the Opposition want from their supplementaries, then they have the right to have it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that on 7 November, the Minister of Police will be announcing the next tranche of 60 trainees to graduate, which will take the number past 1,700 under this administration?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is referring to the significant increase in the number that we have trained, and we absolutely stand by that. Under this Government, we now have the highest ever number of front-line police officers, and that’s something we’re proud of.
Hon Stuart Nash: Has she seen reports that under the last five years of the previous Government, police numbers actually dropped by over 70?
SPEAKER: If she had, it would be something that she has no responsibility for.
Hon Paula Bennett: Can we expect, in the police target of 1,800, an announcement in the next few months the same as KiwiBuild, where we’ll have to see a reset because they simply can’t reach the numbers?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If that member doesn’t want to see more police officers train for the front line, that’s her issue.