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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. I particularly stand by our decision to ensure New Zealanders receive a full course of COVID-19 vaccine in the clinically recommended time frame, which is why today we’ve announced that over half a million New Zealanders are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We must remain vigilant, especially in the face of variants of concern, but this Government’s actions continue to support our recovery but also continue to support the health of New Zealanders.

Hon Judith Collins: Can she confirm her Government’s method for detecting if emergency housing applicants are gang members is, as her Minister for social development said yesterday, “To ask. It’s on the form.”; and does she think a gang member will answer this truthfully?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said yesterday, I think the most important thing that we need to focus on is ways that we can get around the original design of the use of motels by the last Government, which did not give us the flexibility to ensure that we were placing with care children against those who may have other housing needs. And so we’re working hard to do a redesign of the system that allows for that. Fully contracting entire facilities and case managing in that way, as we’re doing in Rotorua, is, I think, a model for how we may do things in the future. But, again, our focus is on housing people and housing them safely, and, of course, we take into account who they are housed alongside.

Hon Judith Collins: Why is her Government not simply using information from the Gang Intelligence Centre to identify gang members and prevent 4,000 children living alongside gang members, four years after she took office?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I would point to the fact that we are working very hard to ensure that when we are placing people, we are doing so safely. Again, if the member wishes to criticise the way in which our emergency housing system is operating, as it relates to motels, her Government was the first one to design it. So if she believes that it’s not utilising other agencies, then that, I would put to the member, is because of the way in which it was first established.

Hon Judith Collins: What does she say to the 4,000 children currently growing up in dangerous motels who were told, when she became Prime Minister of New Zealand four years ago, that New Zealand would be the best place in the world to be a child?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I point to the fact that there are 43,000 fewer children living in poverty, under the housing cost measure, because of this Government. I would point to the indexation of benefits, the most significant benefit increases since benefits were established; the fact that we changed the way the in-work tax credit applies; that we established the BestStart payment; the reinstatement around the training incentive allowance. We’ve seen some of the most fundamental reforms to our benefits system for decades, and I’m very proud of that. Does that mean the work is done? No. We will continue to build houses as fast as we can to redress the issues that have been building over many decades, including the decade in which that member was in Government.

David Seymour: How many doses of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine does the Government have ordered, and when will they be onshore in New Zealand?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Janssen vaccine was, obviously, only approved by Medsafe today. So there is still a decision to use—a process that needs to go through Cabinet. My understanding is that those orders are in the vicinity of 2 million, but, again, I’d say to the member that Cabinet needs to make decisions around the usage of those vaccines, but they do provide choices and opportunities for New Zealand.

Hon Judith Collins: Can she commit to have no children living in motels with gang members by this Christmas, four years after she took office?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I don’t want any children living in motels at all, and that in fact is the goal of this Government. We have, of course, over the last quarter, housed 1,700 people from the register, and when you look at the churn over many quarters, in the December quarter, we’d housed 2,100; the September quarter, 1800; and then across the March quarter again before that, 1,860. We continue to house people as quickly as we can while we build houses and create transitional housing places, but I cannot tell the member how long it will take us to solve the mess she left us.

Hon Judith Collins: How much longer does she anticipate mental health workers will be forced to care for some of the most vulnerable patients in the country in clinically unsafe conditions, as stated by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, I can only make assumptions about what the member or, indeed, the referral there that’s been made to clinically unsafe environments. But I can make an assumption, having seen some of those environments myself, across, for instance, the Waikato or across Mid-Central, that those are facilities that we are working to rebuild. That includes Waikato, Lakes, Mid-Central, a refurbishment at Tairāwhiti, and Waitematā. And, of course, that comes out of the Budget funding that we put in only in 2019.

MIL OSI