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Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his answer to Oral Question No 1 yesterday in relation to unemployed 15 to 19-year-olds, “If we look at the household labour force survey, we see that there are 26,700 people in the 15 to 19-year-old category”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yesterday the Prime Minister corrected some answers he gave in oral question No. 1. Phil Goff had asked him whether he stood by his claim that 60 percent of young people not in education, employment, or training are actually at school or at university. As he has never in fact made that claim, and as the statement Mr Goff made—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon Annette King: You’re answering the wrong question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I say thank you to my colleague for helping. It was a very specific question about a number that the Prime Minister used, which is in the Hansard—and, as far as we could tell, it was uncorrected later—and it is a simple question: does he stand by that? It is nothing to do with anything that Mr Goff said.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear—
Hon Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Simon Power.
Hon Simon Power: Thank you, Mr Speaker, I appreciate that. My hearing of the Minister’s answer initially was that she said he corrected part of his answer, and then she went on to describe further, which actually does answer the initial part of the question that Mr Mallard had set down.
Mr SPEAKER: That would be possible as long as the answer that was corrected is the answer that this quote is taken from. I just want the Minister to be sure, because this quote is taken from an answer—I accept absolutely the point made by the Hon Trevor Mallard—and off the top of my head I cannot recollect whether that was the particular answer corrected by the Prime Minister. As long as the Minister is certain that that is the answer that was corrected by the Prime Minister when leave was subsequently granted to correct the answer, then the Minister’s answer is perfectly in order. But I do want her to be sure of that.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have been advised that the full quote was corrected yesterday by the Prime Minister when he came back into the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of the fact that he has corrected that, is he prepared to correct the next sentence of his answer, where he said “Of those, 60 percent are in school, university, training, or study of some sort, which leaves 15,000 in that category.”, given that 15,000 out of 26,700 is 54 percent, not 40 percent?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This gets to the crux of the problem, where the Opposition is talking at times about the unemployment rate, and at other times about the number of young people not in education or training, and that is why the Prime Minister needed to correct his answer yesterday. The question is whether we are talking about the unemployment rate or the number not in education, employment, or training.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very nice explanation, but again it was not of the question that was asked. I asked whether the Prime Minister stood by the figure of 60 percent—15,000 out of 26,700—and whether he stood by the fact that it was 40 percent, or whether, like most of us, he makes that 54 percent?
Mr SPEAKER: The quotes are taken directly from Hansard, as I understand it, and if they were corrected, the Hansard would show that. I ask the Minister to focus particularly on the supplementary question that the Hon Trevor Mallard has asked, because it did follow on exactly from this first statement that, of the 26,700 people aged 15 to 19, so many were in certain places. The question asked whether the Prime Minister still stood by that. I ask the Minister to be a little more specific in answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, please.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I seek clarification? I need the first bit to make sure that I am clarifying that quote. I need to know whether it is the unemployment rate or the not in education or training rate.
Mr SPEAKER: To avoid doubt, I ask the member to repeat his question, if that is possible, please.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I do repeat the question, and I am giving the member the full quote again. It is the next sentence in his answer, and I quote: “Of those, 60 percent are in school, university, training, or study of some sort, which leaves 15,000 in that category.” Given that, 15,000 out 26,700 is 54 percent, not 40 percent.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Prime Minister stands by the statement that 60 percent of 15 to 19-year-olds who are classified as unemployed in the household labour force survey are at school, university, or some form of training. Therefore, that is the answer to the question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he still believe that 15,000 out of 26,700 is 40 percent?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would not agree with the numbers the member has just given.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Did not the Minister answer it? She said that she did not agree with it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: She did not agree with the figures I gave. Does that mean—
Mr SPEAKER: Let us come back to order here. We had better not debate this. The member asked his question. He asked whether the Prime Minister still agreed with those certain figures, and I thought the Minister’s answer was that she did not agree with those figures, but I might be wrong on that.
Katrina Shanks: Does the Government consider youth unemployment rates to be a practically useful measure?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, because a full 60 percent of 15 to 19-year-olds who are classified as unemployed in the household labour force survey are at school, university, training, or in some other form of study, and are therefore not a particular concern to the Government. On the other hand, a lot of the young people whom we are most concerned about are not technically unemployed, according to the household labour force survey, because they are not out there looking for work. That is why the Government prefers to focus on the “NEAT” measure: that is, young people who are not in education, employment, or training.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he agree with Statistics New Zealand figures that show that 58,000 15 to 24-year-olds are not in employment, education, or training; if not, what is the correct figure?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Broadly, yes.
Hilary Calvert: Supplementary to the Prime Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I expect members to show some courtesy.
Hilary Calvert: Does he agree with the statement made by the Minister for Social Development and Employment in relation to youth unemployment that “we have seen a dramatic increase in the rate for 16 and 17-year-olds.”; if so, does he think this just confirms how disastrous Labour’s abolition of youth rates has been?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: For the first part, yes. For 16 and 17-year-olds, the unemployment rate has gone from 28.5 percent in June 2010 to 33.6 percent in June 2011. However, it is interesting that for 18 and 19-year-olds the figures were 20.7 percent in June 2010 and 20.7 percent in June 2011. Both figures are too high and of concern; that is why we announced the package of reforms that we did on Sunday.
Katrina Shanks: Who are these young people who are not in education, employment, or training?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Prime Minister talked in detail about the 16 and 17-year-olds who are not in education, employment, or training in his policy speech at the weekend. That leaves 18 to 24-year-olds. Of the 50,000 18 to 24-year-olds who are not in education, employment, or training—
Hon Members: 58,000.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: —18 to 24-year-olds who are not in education, employment, or training, I am advised that 70 percent are on a benefit of some sort, not including the domestic purposes benefit. They will be people who are on the sickness benefit, the invalids benefit, or the unemployment benefit. That brings us back to the need for welfare reform, which is what the Government has been focusing on. How can we get a lot more of these people off benefits and into sustainable work?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did he criticise Statistics New Zealand by saying its unemployment statistics are “of no value for me”, when he, in fact, got the figures wrong?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Prime Minister came in yesterday and corrected one of his answers to a question, which he is now standing by. The other answers he gave were all correct.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very direct as to why he criticised Statistics New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: But the member went on to say: “when he got his figures wrong”. The Minister, in answering the question on behalf of the Prime Minister, picked up on that statement included in the question and refuted it, which Ministers are allowed to do.