Today's questions of the day concerned: Life Means Life – Australian Criticism – Treaty Principles – GDP Growth Targets – Prostitution And Police - Sentencing Reform Bill – Meningitis – Palmerston North Gang Housing – Disability Strategy – Hilmorton Hospital – Afghanistani Reconstruction – Auckland Police & Burglary
The following are paraphrases of today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised till some days after the event.
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS
JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: Has he received any reports on policies of life sentencing without parole; if so, what do they say?
A: I have seen a number of reports. One from a right wing associate professor of law from Otago describing National Party policy as “unthinking policy at its worst”, “counterproductive”, and saying that it might make murderers more brutal. (Also quoted Guyon Espiner and Rosemary McLeod from the Sunday Star Times.)
Q: Given these examples (list of bad murderers), surely really bad offenders deserve to be sentenced to life without parole?
A: Every example given by the member was of someone convicted under a National Government who made no change to the law. We think change is necessary and so we are making some. There are people who deserve to spend all their life in prison. The important thing is that the new legislation requires the parole board to consider risk to the community.
Q: How long will the fiction that ten years means life imprisonment be maintained?
A: The member is clearly not a criminal lawyer. There is a minimum period for parole in the current system, but an offender can be held for life if necessary. We are strengthening these provisions.
Q: How much would life means life cost?
A: We have voted $90 million over four years to keep dangerous offenders locked up for longer.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: What representations were made to the Australian Government to request that Ministers avoid criticising the Government's policies in this election year, and why were those representations made?
A: There is a longstanding agreement not to interfere in each others politics. Occasionally there is a gentle reminder given. There was one such reminder provided last month in Canberra. This convention should apply across the board. But from time to time politicians stray, when they do it is very rarely helpful.
Q: Have Helen Clark and John Howard had a disagreement about what each other says?
A: No. They have enjoyed a very healthy relationship.
Q: Is the real reason the PM is not prepared to answer this question because there is no way she is going to tell Mr Howard the things she told the NZ Herald yesterday. This is Australian bashing at its worst.
A: Every member of this house knows the PM is on her way to this meeting as we speak, and therefore the reason she is not here to answer this question is obvious.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Are the principles for underlining the treaty settlement process published in a press statement from the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations on 20 July 2000 what the Government understands to be the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and if not, why not?
A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) No. Because they are the principles for the practical process of settling historical claims.
Q: Why then would she not answer my question yesterday?
A: There is no conflict. The member is confused.
Q: Will the government be publishing the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
Q: What are these principles?
A: As the PM said yesterday the process of interpreting the principles of the TOW is an ongoing matter. The PM said yesterday that over many years governments have attempted in good faith to act with the treaty.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What level of GDP growth does the Government need to achieve, and by when does it need to be achieved, in order to meet the objective in the Prime Minister's statement of returning New Zealand's per capita income to the top half of the OECD?
A: (Paul Swain on behalf) The level of GDP growth required depends on how fast other countries grow. The number is therefore indeterminate.
Q: What does this mean?
A: That we have an objective to get into the top half of OECD rankings. The only way we are going to get sustainable growth in NZ is if the people of NZ return a Labour Government. That goes without saying.
Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): When will a broader description of growth be available that differentiates between pollution and production?
A: Our objective is to get into the top half using traditional means of measuring GDP.
SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:
Q: What is the Police's current policy on the control and prosecution of prostitutes?
A: To prosecute within the provisions of the current law.
Q: Why was a raid conducted on a small private brothel in Newton on January 19th?
A: The police act on information and they accord their priorities according to the information they have.
Q: Will the police focus on violent crime towards prostitutes?
A: The police accord priorities for operational reasons without asking the minister. Being a person who doesn’t know much about prostitution, I am more than happy to leave this matter to the police.
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: Why does the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill confine judges' power to set non-parole periods for any offence other than murder, and reduce the minimum preventive detention period to five years?
A: Minimum parole periods for crimes other than murder are seldom used. New rules will have better effect than old rules. In relation to the second question, preventive detention will soon be far more flexible.
Q: What about Norm Withers mum?
A: Any individual who committed an offence like that used to be released at two thirds of their sentence, regardless of the risk they posed, after this bill they will be able to be held till the end of their sentence if they pose a risk of reoffending. Preventive detention means that a person is effectively given a life sentence.
Q: Can he explain why he buckled to Mr Robson’s proposal for a minimum parole of one third for violent offenders when he wanted 50%?
A: For any prison term of less than two years 50% is the minimum. For terms of over 2 years the rules have been substantially changed.
(Wayne Mapp – leave to table two documents – granted.)
JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What action has the Government taken to address the impact of meningococcal disease on New Zealanders?
A: I recently announced a $100 million plus initiative to develop a vaccine to immunise young NZers. This is a key measure to combat a disease that has resulted in 184 deaths.
Q: What has been done to improve immunisation rates generally?
A: Last week I released a handbook. I also announced last week that the immunisation database would be rolled out in July.
Q: Why can the MOH not provide accurate immunisation rates?
A: The member is wrong. We have put lots of effort into immunisation. One of the problems has been not having a database. The previous government was asked to fix this. They did nothing. We have.
Q: Is she concerned that her moratorium on GE technology might delay research into this area?
A: There has been only one application for Xenotransplantation in NZ, it had nothing to do with meningitis, it was denied because of concerns about endangering NZers in the future.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:
Q: What steps will be taken by Housing New Zealand to evict Black Power and Mongrel Mob gang members from taxpayer-subsidised rental housing in light of reports that 15 neighbouring families, fearing for their safety, have now asked to be relocated?
A: Housing NZ will enforce the law under the residential tenancies act. Housing will not be able to be used for criminal activity or intimidation.
Q: What weight will the Government give to the rights of these neighbours?
A: Housing NZ and every Government agency will use the full force of the law to deliver the residents of Highbury a safe neighbourhood. It is up to all of us to get behind he community in Highbury.
Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Can he confirm that under Income Related Rents these two gangs are receiving more than $100 a week in subsidies?
A: No I can’t. Clearly HNZ has a difficult situation. They will use the law to evict any tenants that have broken the law.
Q: Murray McCully (National): Is HNZ hiding behind legal reasons from looking after the rights of these 15 families?
A: I understand HNZ is dealing properly with this issue. Unlike the member I am not a bully towards HNZ.
STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:
Q: Has she recently received any reports on progress in implementing the New Zealand Disability Strategy?
A: Yes I have. I have released a progress report on the strategy. It shows that even though the strategy is in its first year, significant progress has already been made.
Q: Does she feel the philosophy in the strategy will destroy sheltered workshops? And why do intellectually disabled support organisations feel their concerns are not being addressed?
A: I have seen no such criticism. As far as workshops are concerned, we seek to ensure that disabled people who are working receive a wage.
Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Did she give approval for the closure of Tupuna Villa during the Canterbury District Health Board's industrial dispute at Hillmorton Psychiatric Hospital; if not, did the Ministry of Health give approval for its temporary closure?
A: No and no.
Q: Does she believe that the 32 long stay patients from this unit were used as pawns in an industrial dispute.
A: No. There was only one person who tried to use the patients as pawns. It was that member. Yesterday I launched new mandatory standards of care for providers. This is the first time outcomes have been proscribed.
Q: What is her response to learning that the next-of-kin were not notified of the movement of their kin till three days after they were moved?
A: I cannot comment on that specific case. I can say that clinical assessment was carried out on patients before they were moved, contrary to statements from that member.
KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance) Matt Robson:
Q: Has he received any reports from his ministry on the Tokyo Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan and what did these reports advise?
A: Yes. NZs presence at the conference signalled our commitment to work with Afghan authorities to help rebuild a shattered nation.
Q: What assistance have we offered?
A: We have provided humanitarian assistance to refugees here in NZ. $1 million to the rebuilding fund. We have also provided $250,000 of ODA , and offered a C130 and several military personnel for demining and construction.
Q: Would the government support an expansion of the war against terror?
A: NZ has already indicated that it will judge each action in the war on a case by case basis against the principles of international law.
Q: Is Kevin Campbell in favour of bombing Afghanistan?
A: No Alliance MPs were in favour of bombing Afghanistan. They were in favour of a legal and appropriate military response.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): What reports has he seen on how much it will cost to rebuild Afghanistan following the American bombing campaign.
A: The overall estimate for the rebuilding of infrastructure has been $1.3 billion. That is the cost of one stealth bomber. NZ has made an offer to assist with demining, but there is no shortage of assistance in this area.
Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:
Q: Is he satisfied at the level of priority the Police give to burglary investigations in Auckland?
A: No. I am a hard person to satisfy. However I think excellent work is taking place. I am advised that police are attending 80% of burglaries in good time.
Q: Can he confirm that police only attended a burglary which occurred six days before the RSA robbery and murder a day after the Mt Wellington RSA robbery? Can he confirm that this burglary was committed by one of the RSA robbers? And is it true that nothing was done in spite of the fact that police knew the identity of the burglar?
A: I will not get involved in discussing evidence before a court to satisfy the political whim of the member. I have been advised that very encouraging results in the burglary area are being achieved by the NZ police.