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Watch: Peters steps in for Luxon; Nats MP apologises for 'unparliamentary remark'

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Mar 2024, 2:03PM

Watch: Peters steps in for Luxon; Nats MP apologises for 'unparliamentary remark'

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Mar 2024, 2:03PM

The Government has fielded questions today during Question Time following the release of its draft transport plans, while a National MP has apologised for an “unparliamentary remark” he made in the House.

National MP Tim Costley apologised today for a remark he made during a debate in the House on Thursday.

It’s understood Costley’s comment came during debate of the Local Government (Facilitation of Remote Participation) Amendment Bill during which the Otaki MP said: “Geez, we had it during the last one; you were getting told how long you’re allowed to stay in the shower. I don’t like the thought of Grant Robertson inspecting me in the shower, quite frankly!”

A spokesperson for Labour said Robertson had contacted Costley directly about the comments after they were made. As a result, Leader of the House Chris Bishop and shadow leader Kieran McAnulty had spoken and agreed Costley should apologise.

Minister and leader of the House Chris Bishop said he thought Costley’s comment was offensive and he could see why Robertson thought it was. He wouldn’t elaborate on why.

Acting PM Winston Peters will fill in for Prime Minister Christopher Luxon at Parliament, due to Luxon’s trip to Australia to meet Asean leaders.

Transport Minister Simeon Brown has defended the government’s move to hike vehicle registration fees by $50 and impose fuel tax increases from 2027, denying National had broken its promise not to increase fuel taxes this term.

Brown was questioned by Labour’s transport spokesman Tangi Utikere, who said the registration fee increase was a form of tax so National had broken its promise.

Brown said National had only promised not to increase fuel taxes and road user charges in this term. He said that was in response to the cost of living, but the tax increases after that point were needed to fund transport in the future.

The registration fee increase was needed to help pay for the roads.

“And this Government will ensure that the money goes to building and maintaining the roading network, not cycle bridges across the Auckland harbour.”

Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee faced questions during Question Time today. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone
Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee faced questions during Question Time today. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee says she will be making another presentation to Cabinet in the coming weeks regarding the struggling state of the news media industry, highlighted by the recent announcement that Warner Bros Discovery would close Newshub in the coming months.

She went head-to-head with Labour’s broadcasting spokesman Willie Jackson, who accused her of having “disappeared” from public reporting after some news organisations reported how their requests to interview Lee had been declined.

Lee responded by saying Jackson clearly hadn’t seen her comments made during an interview with The Spinoff, alongside public comments made in the normal practise of ministers speaking to the Press Gallery.

Central to the argument was the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, which the industry said would mean big companies like Google and Meta would be compelled to provide much-needed cash for the local news they benefited from featuring.

Jackson questioned why Lee didn’t support the bill, to which Lee said she was waiting for the bill to be considered by select committee and then assess it.

She then took aim at Jackson, the former minister, saying he could have passed the bill but “failed to do it”.

Lee also criticised the millions “wasted” on the failed merger of TVNZ and RNZ which “achieved fat zero”.

She restated her commitment to helping further a thriving media industry and said she would be presenting to Cabinet in the coming weeks on the challenges the industry faced - something she was asked by Luxon to do this week.

In Luxon’s absence, Peters took questions from Opposition leaders Chris Hipkins and Marama Davidson who pressed Peters on the Government’s various repeals and its plans for the free school lunches programme.

Hipkins pointed out the repeal of the Māori Health Authority came in the same week the Government repealed world-leading anti-smoking laws, putting more Māori at risk.

Peters claimed Hipkins’ characterisation was “demonstrably untrue”, to which Hipkins said: “Here comes the tobacco lobbying talking points” - a common jibe Labour has used on this topic.

Peters replied: “No, here comes the truth.”

Davidson focused on the free school lunches programme, the funding for which minister David Seymour said he wanted to cut by between a third and a half, claiming there was waste in the programme.

Peters and Davidson went back and forth over the findings of a PISA report into the impact of ensuring kids at school didn’t go hungry.

Davidson quoted findings that achievement dropped when kids came to school hungry. Peters said this was a “misnomer” and that fixing achievement is more related to addressing truancy.

Peters defended Seymour’s intention to assess the effectiveness of the programme, saying it would ensure every cent was spent well.

Luxon’s trip today was delayed by a breakdown of the Air Force’s Boeing, which meant Luxon had to take a commercial flight instead.

Labour and Green MPs will ask questions of Transport Minister Simeon Brown after his release yesterday of the Government’s draft plan for transport.

That included roading priorities, and plans to increase vehicle registration fees by $50 a year, as well as setting out fuel tax increases from 2027 onwards. National had promised not to increase fuel taxes in the 2023-2026 term, but has set out a 12 cent increase in January 2027, followed by a further 6c a litre in 2028 and 4c a litre each following year. By the end of the next parliamentary term, the Government will have raised fuel taxes by 22c a litre.

The Government also plans to increase traffic infringement fines and to ask police to boost their enforcement on the roads.

Broadcasting Minister Melissa Lee will face questions from Labour’s Willie Jackson – a former broadcasting minister – as Lee comes under scrutiny over her response to the news that Newshub faces closure in June unless a white knight investor comes forward.

This morning, Lee said she had updated Cabinet on Monday on both the Newshub closure and on TVNZ’s annual result, showing its total revenue had slumped 13.5 per cent in the last year and a net loss of $16.8 million for the six months ending December.

TVNZ has flagged further cost-cutting to try to address that.

Lee said this morning that she had asked officials to come back to her on the issue of transmission costs – one of the areas Newshub had earlier asked for relief on. Lee has not yet said whether the Government will shift to supporting the Fair Digital Bargaining Bill, which addresses the issue of social media giants using news content, saying only she would consider it after a select committee process.

Ahead of Question Time, Speaker of the House Gerry Brownlee has made a ruling saying points of order raised in the House must be done so with the accompanying rule an MP thinks hasn’t been abided by - something prompted by several instances of MPs complaining about the frequent use of points of orders, including by Peters.

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