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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): Mr Speaker, kia orana. Yes. In particular, I stand by the drop in our unemployment rate to some of the lowest levels in over a decade: 4 percent. The number of people unemployed fell by 12.4 percent, the largest quarterly percentage fall since the household labour force survey began in 1986, and this, combined with two record-breaking quarters of people cancelling their benefit to go into work, shows how effective this Government’s recovery plan is and how well we are managing the economy while keeping New Zealanders safe.

Hon Judith Collins: So why are there 68,000 more New Zealanders on the jobseeker support benefit than when she became the Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, despite some of those record numbers, undeniably we have seen significant impacts on certain sectors of our economy because of COVID-19. But the fact that we have seen record numbers moving from jobseeker support into employment, or fall from our main benefits into employment, particularly in seasons where we don’t usually see that level of movement, is heartening. It demonstrates that programmes like the Flexi-wage and like Mana in Mahi are all making a difference in supporting employers to use the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and to bring on people who may otherwise not have received job opportunities.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she agree with her transport Minister, Michael Wood, that “Auckland [would] not [be able to] reach its potential” without the cycle bridge she may or may not be about to cancel?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We absolutely have to bring different modes of transport and transport options between the North Shore and the central city. That is key, and I would have thought that the member would have agreed with that too, given, of course, her advocacy around a second harbour crossing. We remain committed to improving and increasing the different modes of transport between the North Shore and the central city. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! OK, I’m going to just do a general warning now. After yesterday, there were a lot of complaints about the noise from one party drowning out the responses from Ministers. I’m not going to have that sort of complaint after today’s, because we’re going to have only reasonable interjections.

Hon Judith Collins: When she said that the Mongrel Mob – led Kahukura programme pilot showed “signs of success”, what were they?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That was based on the pilot programme that was run the year prior, which demonstrated that in a short pilot that was held, there were no dropouts, a 100 percent drug-test pass rate, and 80 percent met all court and probation obligations. Obviously, it was a short period of time, but if we wanted to look beyond that programme, we could look to the programme that the National Party funded, which was very similar, which was called the Hauora Programme. They funded the Salvation Army, who worked with the Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob to establish the programme. Clearly, in Government they had one view; now they’re in Opposition, they clearly have another.

Hon Judith Collins: Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a difference between the Salvation Army and the Mongrel Mob?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, and I’m also clear that they weren’t—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! That’s enough—Mr Doocey in particular.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, and I’m also clear that both worked together to form a policy and programme that was shaped entirely for the use of Mongrel Mob members. Again, I stand by my statement that the member obviously takes one view in Government and a vastly different one in Opposition.

Hon Judith Collins: Is she aware that the final application for the Mongrel Mob – led Kahukura programme was made just two weeks after the pilot was finished? Does she think two weeks is long enough to evaluate the success of a meth addiction programme?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Firstly, I dispute the premise of the member’s question. We have funded an organisation called Hard2Reach. The member should be familiar with Hard2Reach. Her Government funded it also, through Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) and MSD—again, yet another example of when in Government the member has one view, and when in Opposition takes a vastly different one. I acknowledge also when the member was the Minister for Ethnic Communities, she also had no issue with celebrating the use of the word “Aotearoa”.

Hon Judith Collins: Ooh! What information did she seek on the participants in the Mongrel Mob – led methamphetamine programme before she approved its funding?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I will correct the member. The organisation that is funded is called Hard2Reach, an organisation that was funded through TPK contracts and MSD contracts when the member was in Government—demonstrating that they have been around for some time. The member asked a question around the process around the proceeds of crime. My recollection, and with some prompts, I received some information around the proceeds of crime programme in February. I asked for additional advice on the outcomes of the trials that the member references and also the perspective of the police. What I received in return was confirmation that the local police in the Hawke’s Bay supported the programme. That formed the basis of my and other Ministers’ approval of the funding.

Hon Judith Collins: How can the participants be “hard to reach” when eight out of 10 of them were already under the active care of the corrections system?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the member well knows from the funding of the Hauora programme, successfully navigating those individuals engaged in criminal activity voluntarily through drug rehabilitation programmes is no easy feat. The member will know that from her time in Corrections, or has she forgotten now that she is in Opposition?

David Seymour: Does the Prime Minister trust Harry Tam, or was his statement “Jacinda seems to trust me.” incorrect?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Our contracts are based on just that—contracts. Our providers are obliged to deliver on them. I don’t rely on trust; I rely on agreements and contracts that set out our expectations. If they are not fulfilled, they are not funded.

Hon Judith Collins: Was she aware when she signed off $2.7 million for the Mongrel Mob – led programme that participants would be doing gardening at Notorious Chain Dog president Sonny Smith’s house?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely reject the premise of that question, as I have corrected the member many times on. On the second point, this programme—I’ve had that question raised with me. The first part of funding for this programme was only delivered on 15 July. It is specified in the contract that it is for establishment cost. Future funding is specified as being around drug testing. Those elements of the programme required around medical interventions—it is all clearly set out in budget line items and in the contract. If it is not fulfilled, then the contract is not fulfilled.

Hon Judith Collins: Does she now regret cancelling National’s successful methamphetamine action plan in 2018, given the methamphetamine problem in New Zealand seems to have got remarkably worse under her watch?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Just to clarify: is that the methamphetamine programme which had a Notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob funded for drug addiction and treatment? Just to clarify—just to clarify—is it that programme? Because, based on the member’s question, she would cancel her own action plan.

MIL OSI