Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (National—Upper Harbour) on behalf of Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. I acknowledge that sometimes those statements and actions relate to things that are less so Government policy and more so the tragic events that we will face from time to time as nation. I am conscious of the fact that, whilst I’ve been in contact with the local MP, Anne Tolley, on the ground in Whakatāne, I haven’t yet had a chance to brief the leadership of the Opposition, and I am very open to answer any questions they may have.
Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you. Is she concerned that there are Kiwi families struggling with the rising cost of living, and that rents are up $55 a week?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In answer to the first question, yes, of course, which is why when we first came into office we did make the decision not to proceed with the last Government’s plans of tax cuts across the board, and instead to focus on bringing in a $5.5 billion Families Package targeted at those very families that we hold concern over regarding the cost of living and low and middle income earners.
Hon Paula Bennett: What affect does she think increasing rents are having on poverty in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, as I’ve said in this House many times before, housing costs are a concern for this Government, which is why we came in and were elected on a platform of stopping State house sell-offs, increasing State house builds as we have. We are building more houses than any Government since the 1970s. We have increased transitional housing places. We’ve expanded Housing First, which is targeted at the homeless. I have seen some of the estimates put out by the Opposition on rents; I do just again acknowledge that the measurement that tends to be most frequently used is the one keeps out the outliers and instead takes in the rent increases which have generated, roughly, on average, a $16 increase nationwide in the last year.
Hon Paula Bennett: When will we see the 18c to 32c a litre decrease in petrol prices that her Minister Kris Faafoi promised last week?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I don’t think that member is taking into account the full context of what the member would have been discussing at that time. Of course, references to the Commerce Commission report—which has demonstrated, I think, now on the public record that our sentiment that New Zealanders were being fleeced by fuel prices in New Zealand has been held up and reinforced by the Commerce Commission. As a result, we are progressing changes, which include more transparent wholesale pricing regimes, greater contractual freedoms to deal with competition issues, introducing an enforceable industry code of conduct, and improving transparency of premium grade fuel pricing. Those are just some of the initiatives that we believe will make a difference in the market.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will we see the 18c to 32c a litre petrol price drop before the election?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, actually, I stand by the Minister’s work to actually address issues which exist and have existed—from my recollection the Commerce Commission have said, really, over the past decade we’ve seen these issues. I think everyone in this House would want to see New Zealanders paying a fair price for their fuel, so I look forward to the support of the Opposition as we progress that work.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the Prime Minister drop the Auckland regional fuel tax, then, if she wishes to see petrol be lower?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, that doesn’t demonstrate why, for instance, in many parts of the country you’ll see New Zealanders paying a price that is higher than what someone in Auckland who experiences the regional fuel tax does. That is inexplicable in many cases and one of the reasons we want to do this work.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has she considered taking off the regional fuel tax to decrease the price of petrol that she seems to be concerned about?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, removing the Auckland fuel tax will not help people in regional New Zealand, who are often paying more than someone in Auckland will be.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will petrol prices decrease, as we heard from her Minister Kris Faafoi last week, before the next election?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That certainly seems to be the suggestion of the Commerce Commission report and that’s why we’re undertaking and expediting that work as fast as we can.
Jami-Lee Ross: Has her Government taken any action to condemn the excessive use of force by security forces against protesters in Iraq, which has seen hundreds of demonstrators killed in several parts of Iraq in recent weeks?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. I have been advised that our ambassador in Iraq has directly raised New Zealand’s concerns over human rights breaches relating to the demonstrations, and they’ve done so directly with senior representatives of the Iraqi Government. I also thank the member for the question. This is the first time I’ve been directly asked about those demonstrations. I would, again, reiterate New Zealand’s position: that we are a nation that supports the right to protest and the right for people to be able to peacefully demonstrate without the use of excessive force.
Jami-Lee Ross: Will the Government take any further steps to join with other nations—including Canada, France, the UK, the US, and the EU—in expressing further support for peaceful demonstrations in Iraq and opposing the use of deadly force against demonstrators?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In answering this question, I’m pleased to put on public record our position as a nation, which is, of course, in support of the ability of people to peacefully protest without, particularly, obviously, the use of potentially deadly force against demonstrators. I understand that many other nations have—under the banner of, for instance, the G20—made statements, and I put on record now New Zealand’s position, as we have done directly with officials in Iraq.