7 Jun 2018

Davis under fire for 'vacant' performance in Parliament

7:27 pm on 7 June 2018

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has given a "vacant" and "complacent" performance at Parliament, refusing to answer basic questions about his portfolio, National MPs say.

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Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

National MP Todd McClay described it as "possibly the worst performance of any minister in any select committee ever" and demanded he be recalled.

"He was vacant, not just complacent," he said.

"He frankly couldn't answer a single question. I think the tourism industry deserves much, much more than non-answers from a non-minister."

Mr McClay said the public deserved answers about a budget worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The committee now needs to consider whether it got the detailed response it needs ... and if not, this minister should come back before the committee."

The select committee's chair, National MP Jonathan Young, said that was a possibility "if we feel that we're quite dissatisfied with the level of information that we've received".

"Prior to the Budget, they kept saying 'you'll have to wait and see'. And here we are, investigating the Budget, and we're getting 'you'll have to wait and see' again.

"That's just totally unacceptable," he said.

MPs would read over the transcripts before deciding whether to recall the minister, Mr Young said.

However, that would require a majority vote in the committee which is unlikely as it has an even split of five government MPs and five opposition.

Mr Davis was questioned by the committee about a range of topics including the international tourism levy which Labour campaigned on before the election.

Pressed for details about the levy, Mr Davis repeatedly told the National MPs they'd have to "wait and see".

"We're quite confident that we won't have a problem in attracting visitors to New Zealand."

Ministry officials confirmed that they did not believe the proposed levy or the $6 million drop in the tourism budget would affect rising visitor numbers.

Mr Davis objected several times to Mr McClay describing the proposal as a "border tax", eventually refusing to answer a question.

"Sorry, we're not implementing a tax, but if you want to rephrase the question..."

At one point, Mr Davis accused National MP Jacqui Dean of being "a bit hysterical" for asking about the impact of minimum wage rises on small business.

"What if there's no jobs for [New Zealanders]?" Ms Dean asked.

"I think you're being a bit hysterical about that, to be honest. There will be jobs."

Ms Dean shot back that the comment was "offensive".

Mr Davis was also asked by the chair Mr Young whether the government had any plans to attract tourists to specific regions.

"Do you have a plan?" Mr Young asked.

"Yeah, of course," Mr Davis said. "Of course we have a plan."

Asked when he would share that plan, Mr Davis said "not at this stage" and "in due course."

"I think that's an inadequate answer and I'm very disappointed," Mr Young said.

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