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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 7—Finance

7. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by the decision-making process for funds allocated from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, particularly given the context of needing to respond swiftly and in real time to a one-in-100-year economic shock caused by a global pandemic.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he answered yes yesterday to the question “Is he satisfied that adequate due diligence and judgment were applied by Ministers to the Government’s decision to grant $11.7 million to the Green School?”, was he saying Ministers got the judgment right in allocating money to the school?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As has been recorded already in the House today, the project received a very high rating from Crown Infrastructure Partners in the process that they went through in whittling down the projects from 1,900 to 800. The process from there involved Ministers putting forward their views. The public record is very clear now on what occurred.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So is his associate finance Minister wrong to be apologising for this decision, in his view?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That’s entirely a matter for the Associate Minister of Finance.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Was he advised of the email from a Green Party staff member to ministerial offices, including his own, relating to the $3 billion shovel-ready fund, as reported on Newshub last night, which said, “Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated.”?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Clearly, that email was received by my office. The final signatures were put on the final elements of that programme. One thing I would note is that that email, I believe, was sent around about 7 August, as the member said. Projects were being announced from 1 July.

Michael Wood: Does he think that the decision-making processes in relation to this fund compare well to other decision-making processes, such as building a sheep farm in the middle of the Arabian Desert?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Indeed, there has always been examples—

SPEAKER: No—no.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree that when his colleague Chris Hipkins says the Green School funding was one of the Green Party’s ” ‘wins’, if you like, from the shovel-ready projects”, it risks giving the impression that the $3 billion fund is another slush fund to be allocated to the various governing parties for political purposes?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I don’t. As I’ve said, there were 1,900 applications for this particular fund. Crown Infrastructure Partners whittled those down to just over 800. Ministers then went through a process to come up with a little bit over 150 projects. It was given a very high rating by Crown Infrastructure Partners.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: With the scale of Government spending now, isn’t it more important than ever to demonstrate to New Zealand that decisions are made on the basis of need and effectiveness rather than wins for Government parties?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We stand by the record of this Government in helping businesses and households through a one-in-100-year shock. We have been consistent in our advocacy for that. There are others who have flip-flopped. There are others who want to cut $80 billion worth of spending out of our public services. I stand behind our record—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Another lie.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —of responding to this pandemic.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise, and he’s very lucky to stay here with that deliberately offensive remark.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given the fact that the House rises today and that the remedies that are available to members when a misleading statement has been made to the House are somewhat closed off, what would you suggest that I do, given the offence I took at the remark by Mr Robertson?

SPEAKER: That gives me very broad scope, Mr Brownlee, but I think I won’t give you that sort of advice.

MIL OSI