NATHAN GUY (National) : Wow! Gosh, was not that a stupid address from the member Ashraf Choudhary? That member has been sitting in this Government over the last 8 years and I ask him why, under his stewardship in the Primary Production Committee, the number of employees in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has gone up from 1,200 employees in 2003 to 1,650 employees. Why cannot that member tell us the reason for the increase? When that member came into Parliament 15 employees in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry were earning over $100,000, and now there are 160 earning that amount. Why has this bloated bureaucracy suddenly arisen under Labour? I say to that member’s colleague whom he is in coalition with—
Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
NATHAN GUY: I think it is appropriate to start from where I concluded at the dinner break. We were talking about the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and in particular I wish to talk about how this bulging bureaucracy has grown under Labour. The example I gave is that in 2003 the ministry employed 1,200 workers, but that number exploded to 1,650 in 2007 and 2008. We still do not know what the productivity level of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is, because that is not measured.
Under Labour, government bureaucracy has grown 50 percent in the last 7 years. The salaries in the public sector are also ballooning and outstripping the private sector. The important point for Minister Goff to realise is that when Labour came into office in—when was it—1999, 2000, there were 15 staff in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry earning over $100,000. Now the salaries in the public sector are outstripping the private sector, and there are 160 employees in the ministry earning over $100,000. That is an increase of 967 percent, I say to Minister Goff.
We know that agriculture is the engine room of the economy; 50 percent of export earnings comes from the primary production sector, as does 10 percent of our total GDP. I thought it was interesting to touch on the fact that much of New Zealand is under a drought. That is causing a lot of issues for the primary production sector right across the country. The Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Forestry likes to be seen getting about, talking about the drought, and to be seen doing something. For those who are interested, on Friday he was over in the Wairarapa. The headline in the Wairarapa Times-Age that greeted the drought-stricken farmers in the Wairarapa was “Drought ‘not the end of the world’, says Anderton”.
I cannot believe that the Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Forestry would turn up to a drought-prone area like the Wairarapa and say that. The Wairarapa has suffered a compounded effect because it had a drought over the last 12 months, then a very, very dry and tough winter, and now another drought is compounding it, and the Minister is turning up in places like the Wairarapa and saying that the drought is not the end of the world. I just cannot believe that. I have had several emails from that core constituency group who are so perturbed that the Minister is turning up all around the country and saying that the drought is not that terrible.
I ask the Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Forestry what he is doing to help this sector. What is the Minister doing to roll out infrastructure like broadband so that these rural communities can connect with the rest of the world? What is the Minister doing to reduce tax so that these people are not suffocated by high taxation? What is the Minister doing to try to remove all the red tape and bureaucracy facing our primary production sector? I tell the Committee and the listeners out there that the answer is zippity doo da. The Minister is turning up and speaking to all these forums about the drought, but he cannot wield any weight in Cabinet and cannot produce—
Hon Darren Hughes: Any rain. Yes, I know, he is a major failure.
NATHAN GUY: That is right; he cannot produce any rain. He cannot do anything, actually, to help the primary production sector, apart from turning up and having an absolute talkfest. What the Minister should do is reduce tax. I seek leave to table the front page of the Wairarapa Times-Age.
The CHAIRPERSON (H V Ross Robertson): Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is objection.