Questions Of The Day - 29 August 2002
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 29 August 2002
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Radio--National Pacific Network
1. TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (NZ Labour--Mangere) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs: What progress has been made with the establishment of a national Pacific radio network?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE (Minister of Pacific Island Affairs): I am pleased to announce that the first national Pacific radio network will go live to air on Saturday at 3 p.m. Niu FM will soon broadcast throughout New Zealand, reaching 85 percent of the population. This is a tremendous achievement for the Pacific community and a credit to the National Pacific Radio Trust Board, which got this project up and running in only 10 months. The Government has supported the 4-year pilot with funding of $7.7 million.
Taito Phillip Field: What are the expected benefits to New Zealand from this network?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: The national network provides a vital link for all Pacific people to tune in and to find out what is happening throughout the country and to access information that is relevant and of benefit to their lives. Pacific music, languages, and stories will be showcased on this network and will be heard by all New Zealanders. New and existing Pacific broadcasting talent will be fostered by Niu FM.
Gerry Brownlee: Why has it taken so long for there to be any real progress on the Pacific radio network, and as the cost of it has almost doubled since its inception can we expect the same to happen to the youth radio network?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: Perhaps that member would like to talk to Arthur Anae about the progress made under this Government compared to the one that he was once a part of, and, sadly, was thrown out by the National Party. I am not sure whether Mr Brownlee has read his briefing notes properly, but I am unaware of any increase in the cost since it was announced 10 months ago.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: What actions has the Minister taken to have Tagata Pasifika reprogrammed, back to its former Sunday morning slot, while still retaining its midweek, late-night slot--a situation that the Minister has confirmed is desirable?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: The original reprogramming, confining the programme just to Thursday night, was something all Pacific members of Parliament took up with Television New Zealand. As a consequence it is rebroadcasted at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and I have had no complaints from the Pacific community as yet, even though it is screened a little earlier in the morning than previously.
Deborah Coddington: How can the Minister justify spending $7.6 million broadcasting to places like Gore, when this money would be better spent on literacy programmes to help the 53 percent of Pacific Island children in New Zealand schools who cannot even read above basic levels?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: I can justify it easily as it is something the community in New Zealand has asked for, for many, many years, in terms of getting the stories, languages, culture, art, and music of Pacific people on to the air. That is something that the Pacific community would celebrate, even though some mean-spirited people on the other side of the House--who have never been near a Pacific person in their lives--would reject.
Auckland District Health
2. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: Can she give an assurance that the proposed cutting of up to 70 medical, surgical and other staff by the Auckland District Health Board is not driven by Government under-funding, since she has been the Minister of Health; if so, why is the Board proposing to make such cuts?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes, and, according to the chief executive officer of the Auckland District Health Board, the reduction in staff is needed to help manage its projected deficit without directly impacting on patient services.
Heather Roy: Why does the Minister deny that the board's proposed cuts are driven by her underfunding of all health boards last year, when her own official papers--forced from her under the Official Information Act--prove that $120 million, nearly one-third of all new health money, is revenue catch-up?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: It is because this Government has not underfunded the Auckland District Health Board.
Dr Lynda Scott: Is the Minister aware that the Auckland District Health Board's projected deficit for next year is $90 million, and $105 million for the following year; if so, what assurance can she give that we will not see more cuts to medical and nursing positions?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The deficits for this coming year and the following year have not yet been decided. We are working with district health boards in terms of what those deficits will be, but I make no excuse for ensuring that district health boards use their money wisely and well for patients--something that did not happen in the past.
Dianne Yates: Is there any evidence of Government underfunding of the Auckland District Health Board since she has been the Minister?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: No. In 1999 the Auckland District Health Board revenue totalled $585.7 million. In 2001 this increased to $827.7 million, and will rise again next year to $876.2 million.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question the member asked was on the issue of a shortfall, not income streams. That Minister made no attempt to answer the question, and is repeating information we all know. There is a significant shortfall, so would she please tell us what it is.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, she did not.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member be seated. I have said the Minister addressed the question. I listened to the answer carefully, and she did so.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I am saying she did not.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member is wrong.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am telling you now, with that explanation, what would have been clear on the face of it. She was asked to address the issue of a shortfall--
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. I want to say to the member that I have given a ruling, and that ruling stands.
Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS: I am asking you to clarify how you came to that ruling, on the plain meaning of the words that the member used in the question relayed to the House, and on the plain answer from the Minister, which failed, in my view and, I believe, in the view of my colleagues here, to address the issue. I would like you to explain how you came to that judgment. I am surely entitled to that.
Mr SPEAKER: Will the member be seated. That is the last time I will hear from the member on this question. I judged the member addressed the question. I am not going into debate about the quality of the answer. That is not my job.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister give this House an assurance that health services in Auckland will not be compromised in terms of the quality of health care and the services offered, and that waiting times will not be increased?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: I believe that the chief executive officer of the Auckland District Health Board gave that assurance this morning.
Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister to give her assurance.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a fair comment. I will ask the Minister to address that point.
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Any assurance I give is through the district health boards. That is how they work.
Sue Kedgley: Given that the two factors the Minister identified in the House yesterday as the reason for the skyrocketing district health board deficits--namely, wage increases and the declining value of the New Zealand dollar affecting the cost of supplies--are likely to continue for the foreseeable future does she expect district health board deficits to continue to skyrocket; if so, what is her funding strategy to cope with this; if not, why not?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The funding strategy, which was set out in the last Budget by the Minister of Finance, details a 3-year funding path that increases funding each year over the next 3 years.
Judy Turner: Do these staffing cuts mean that there is an increased stress and workload on remaining staff?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The chief executive officer of the Auckland District Health Board said this morning that he expects fewer than 10 clinical staff to be losing their jobs, and many of them may well be put into other jobs where there are vacancies. He does not believe that it will put stress on other staff, after all there are a number of vacancies that are not filled now, and he is looking at these positions as ones that can be filled by other staff.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the Auckland District Health Board's projected deficit, showing a deficit next year of $91 million.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was no objection, including from yourself, to the tabling of that last document. It sets out the very answer to Dianne Yates' question, which was on the shortfall.
Hon. Annette King: No it doesn't.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Yes it does, $91 million.
Hon. Annette King: She asked about revenue.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: See what I mean? Why would we allow that document to be tabled, were it not essential for the public's understanding, and MPs' understanding as well, of the original question asked by Dianne Yates?
Mr SPEAKER: This is debating material.
Heather Roy: I seek leave to table an official document showing revenue catch-up in health of $120 million over each of the next 3 years.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Genetically Modified Corn--GeneScan Australia
3. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader--Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Were definitive tests ever completed by GeneScan Australia to quantify the presence of 35S promoter in Novartis corn following GeneScan Australia's 5 December 2000 memo to Novartis saying "samples received . . . do contain trace contaminating levels of Bt11"; if so, does the Government have copies of these test results?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Acting Minister for the Environment): No. The scientists and officials working on the issue at the time analysed 10 samples and concluded that "taking further samples and analysing them in accordance with the proposed protocol is unlikely to provide significantly improved or certain information over what already exists." They also concluded that "with a high degree of confidence, if present at all, there is unlikely to be more than 0.04 percent GM contamination present."
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given GeneScan Australia's statement in its memo that: "Our standard operating procedures dictate testing to the point of a definitive result."; and given that that is what appears to be going on with the latest batch of contaminated corn, why did the Minister prefer to rely on advice from officials that further testing would not help?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: For the second time this question time the member has, perhaps unwittingly, quoted out of context. When she said in her original question: "samples received . . . do contain contaminated levels of Bt11", the full sentence reads: "Consequently, one may draw the conclusion that samples received", etc. Of course, as always in this issue, there is confusion over the desire by a scientist to maintain his or her integrity and not give a "No" unless there is a "No" proven--and science can rarely prove a "No"--and, secondly, ongoing confusion about the difference between confidence and tolerance.
David Cunliffe: Has the Government detected genetically modified (GM) corn seeds at the border; if so, what happened to those shipments?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Yes, the Government has detected GM sweetcorn seeds at the border. Since introducing a testing protocol in August 2001 we required the destruction of one shipment of corn seed--other than the one that was discovered a couple of weeks ago--that was known to contain traces of GM corn seed. We also required the destruction of two shipments of sweetcorn seeds because the importers were not prepared to pay for the GM testing.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister accept that due to the technical limitations of testing for GE contamination it is impossible to be absolutely certain that imported seeds are GE free, and what does the Minister intend to do about the recent reports that it is highly likely that New Zealand has been importing GE seeds for years?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The issue of whether New Zealand has been importing GE seeds for years is, of course, speculative, because if it were ever proved, we would not. It is entirely possible that GE seeds have been brought into New Zealand, in the same way that it is entirely possible that the painted apple moth arrived. It is not Government policy to have any level of tolerance, whatever.
R Doug Woolerton: What guarantees can the Minister give the House that GM seed can be kept out of this country?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: By the same logic, no certain guarantees. We can offer certainty that where a seed consignment has been tested, if there was any positive result, the seed consignment is destroyed without further notice.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Can the Minister confirm that approximately $60 million hectares of GM crops are grown worldwide, including, in round figures, 40,000 of GM in Australia, and that a policy of zero tolerance of modification contamination in New Zealand is both unrealistic and inappropriate, and results in excessively high cost to our wider security budget?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Biosecurity issues remain a matter of great import to this country, but, by that member's logic, because snakes can be found on every substantial land mass around this globe, we must therefore put up with their inevitable introduction here. I do not agree with that.
Larry Baldock: What role does the Minister think the continuing political uncertainty of genetic engineering (GE) played in the Wrightson group's decision to suspend investment in genetic research in New Zealand, and what are the potential costs of that decision for the New Zealand economy?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Wrightson has been involved in GE and non-GE research for a very long period of time. There is nothing to stop Wrightson from continuing with GE research, should it choose to do so. However, it would need to have certainty that there was a market other than New Zealand, because if there was to be a market in New Zealand it would have to pass the most comprehensive and precautionary system in the world. That is not say that it would not, but, logically, it does mean that Wrightson may want to look to other markets first.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister deny that the GeneScan memo makes it clear that the 35S promoter, an indicator of Bt11, had been found, and that the uncertainty expressed was about the level of the contamination, not its existence?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: If the member was to read the report carefully, she would see in the last sentence of the penultimate paragraph--the very one she quoted in her first supplementary question--the kernel of the issue. It is that this laboratory has standard operating procedures, which dictate repeat testing, to the point of a definitive result. That is difficult when science can rarely a prove a "No".
Auckland District Health
4. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National--Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: What assurances, if any, can she give the people of Auckland that health services provided by the Auckland District Health Board will not be cut, and that patient safety will not be compromised, as a result of plans to cut up to 70 positions to reduce its deficit?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The chief executive of the Auckland Health Board has advised he has done a lot of work to target only areas in which the board can be confident that patient safety will not be compromised, and that most of the positions are non-clinical. None of these changes will affect areas where there are currently vacancies that must be filled.
Dr Lynda Scott: What is the Minister's response to Mr Ian Powell, the Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, who said: "It is not a question of if the quality of patient care would be reduced, but how and where."?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: I believe Mr Powell made those comments before he realised that we were talking about fewer than 10 medical staff, and that some of those staff will be filling other positions.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister explain what the Auckland District Health Board's staffing levels were in June 2000 and what they are now?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: For the 1999-2000 financial year, 6,509 people were employed, compared with almost 7,000 today. In other words, there are 363 more people being employed by the Auckland District Health Board today than when National was in Government. At the same time, the overall volumes of patient care have remained static.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Does the Auckland District Health Board have a deficit; if so, what is it, and what will she do about it?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes, it does have a deficit. It is about 6.9 percent of its total budget. It has yet to reach the dizzy heights it did under the National Government, when it reached 15.7 percent of the total budget. As the member has said, he knows what all the figures are, so I say to him that he can read them.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer is trifling with the House in an extravagant way. The Minister has been the subject of a dispute in question No. 2. We come to question No. 4, and she was asked specifically for a figure, which she refused to give. The figure she gave was a percentage of the total expenditure in respect of the Auckland District Health Board. We are subject to a member who is already tabling a document that shows a figure of $91 million. Will the Minister confirm that? If not, this will become a total waste of Parliament's time.
Mr SPEAKER: The member did address the question. She was asked three questions. She gave, I think, an answer of yes or no to one of them, which was an absolute answer. Then she gave a percentage figure. I am not here to judge whether that answer was satisfactory for the purposes of the debate but whether it addressed the question asked. It did.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: My question was: does the district health board have a deficit; if so, what is it? I did not ask what percentage of its total expenditure it is, but what is the figure.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question that was asked.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree with the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists that the district health board's plans need an independent audit by clinical staff before they are implemented in any way, shape, or form, and, if so, will she instruct the board to carry out such a clinical audit before any cuts are made; if not, why not?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: My understanding from the chief executive officer is that the proposed changes to 70 staff positions will now be subject to wide consultation with the staff of the district health board for their input. I think that is probably what they really want--to have some input--and that is what they have been given.
Heather Roy: Why does the Minister persist in denying that these cuts in staffing are the direct result of her underfunding of the health system?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Because the revenue figures I gave to the district health board show that we have not underfunded the Auckland District Health Board, but we do expect it to live within the revenue that it is given.
Dr Lynda Scott: What other cuts to services of the Auckland District Health Board will be made to achieve the $25 million in efficiency gains required by her Government this year, when the cuts we have heard about today are only $15 million of that $25 million?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The Auckland District Health Board has not identified any cuts to services in pursuit of the $25 million. But I do note that the chief executive said on Morning Report that there are still areas where he believes the board can make efficiency gains, and that he will certainly not be compromising or affecting the delivery of patient care or quality. Maybe that member does not believe the chief executive officer, but I think he has a lot of credibility.
Immigrants--Integration of Ethnic
5. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs: What steps has the Government taken to help ethnic communities integrate successfully into New Zealand society?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Ethnic Affairs): There are a number of initiatives that this Government has undertaken. In 1999 we pledged to appoint a Minister for Ethnic Affairs to act as an advocate for ethnic communities. We have done that. We also began a process of reconciliation with the Chinese community to heal past hurts. Measures have been put in place to allow members of ethnic communities to access Government services more effectively. One example is the planned telephone interpreting service.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Has the Minister seen any media reports suggesting that members of ethnic communities feel vulnerable as a result of comments made by some members of this House?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I have seen media reports suggesting that members of ethnic communities do feel threatened by the political stance taken by Mr Peters. For example, in a recent report in the Christchurch Press a businessman said: "It has given me food for thought. We came here for our children. I thought I could contribute, but the comments from Winston Peters portray a New Zealand that does not want us." Does this Government care? Yes we do.
Pansy Wong: Does the Minister appreciate that there is a difference between ethnic communities and new migrants, and does he have any evidence that the descendants of Chinese New Zealanders who came here in the 1860s do not integrate successfully into New Zealand society?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: There are a number of questions there, but I would just like to comment that members of ethnic communities in this country do see themselves as having a commonality of interest, whether they arrived here yesterday or 100 years ago.
Dail Jones: What does the Minister see as the best way to help these ethnic communities today, when other ethnic communities--such as the Dalmatian gumdiggers in North Auckland, the Chinese in South Auckland and in Otago, the Indians in South Auckland, the Lebanese Croatian winemakers in West Auckland, the Poles in Taranaki, the Danes, Italians, Greeks, and Dutch, not to mention the Welsh--have made significant contributions to New Zealand without the need for any of this contribution from a Government, and have integrated successfully over the years?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: Throughout the history of New Zealand steps have had to be taken to help migrant communities. I would just like to remind that member that we once had a poll tax on Chinese migrants, which we have addressed.
Rodney Hide: Would the Minister agree that an understanding of democracy is a big part of ethnic communities integrating successfully into New Zealand society, and what sort of signal does he believe his Government is sending when it resolutely refuses to meet or even acknowledge the presence of the leading advocate of democracy for China, Mr Wei Jingsheng, who is observing, today, democracy in action.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I am not sure whether we have digressed from an ethnic affairs question into a political foreign affairs question, but I enjoy close relations with the Chinese community and hope to continue to do so.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is very clear that my question was in order, because you allowed it. You allowed the Minister to answer the question by suggesting that my question was out of order, which in itself is a breach of the Standing Orders, and then he refused to answer my question, which was actually quite clear.
Mr SPEAKER: No, he did not do that. He suggested the question was political, and he is perfectly entitled to do that in his reply. That is a debating matter.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: It had better not be challenging my ruling.
Rodney Hide: No, it is not challenging it. I would never do that. I seek clarification on the Standing Orders. Is it acceptable for a Minister to stand up in the House, where I thought the Labour Party still supported democracy, and declare a legitimate question to be political and therefore dodge answering it?
Mr SPEAKER: Members cannot insist on Ministers answering to their satisfaction, nor can they put words into Ministers' mouths. The Minister addressed the question.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just like to remind the House that my colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Goff, met with that individual last Saturday.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps, not even now but perhaps tomorrow, you might be able to indicate--
Hon. Parekura Horomia: There won't be anyone here tomorrow.
Gerry Brownlee: Well, on the next parliamentary day, you may be able to indicate to the House how--
R Doug Woolerton: This is truly a fight amongst the heavyweights.
Mr SPEAKER: Were the interjection not one of genuine humour I would have come down on the member, but please, no interjections during points of order.
Gerry Brownlee: Perhaps the member may declare a winner.
Mr SPEAKER: Carry on, please.
Gerry Brownlee: Perhaps you might be able to tell the House how it is that it can be acceptable to address a question by saying: "That's political so I am not answering it."?
Mr SPEAKER: If that had been what the Minister had said, I would have jumped in straight away.
Paul Adams: Can the Minister please inform the House whether, as part of the integration process, recently migrated members of ethnic communities, upon arriving, have since had access to basic health-care?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: This Government is looking at as many ways as possible of facilitating the integration of new migrants into our society.
Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 6.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It seems that the Minister particularly had a go at me in his answer. I fam asking for a chance to ask him one supplementary question, in the interests of fairness.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way: the member can have the supplementary question, but that comes off his total at the end.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: That is not so bad, because it still leaves us with two in credit.
Mr SPEAKER: At the moment the member is in credit, so he can have another supplementary question now.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why is the Minister repeating the kind of diatribe, as he did, from some Christchurch businessman, when Mr Choudhary and others have made complaints to the Race Relations Conciliator about my speeches over many years--including the last campaign and up to this last day--and every one has failed?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: In answer to that question I would just like to remind that member that in a speech delivered in Christchurch in June of this year to mark International Refugee Day, the Race Relations Conciliator, Gregory Fortuin, said that his cellphone lit up like a Christmas tree every time Mr Peters opened his mouth.
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is not a satisfactory answer. I want the Minister to now address the question that was asked.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: Could the member please repeat his question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I am asking that Minister why he is repeating the diatribe of some purported Christchurch businessman and others like Dr Choudhary, or members of his former council, who have complained over many years to the Race Relations Conciliator, even up to yesterday's speech in this Parliament, yet not one of those complaints has been found to be substantiated by the conciliator?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: In my reply to Mr Peters' earlier question I quoted a Christchurch businessman. I have here many quotes from individuals from different ethnic communities in New Zealand--
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Answer the question.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I am. What I have been trying to tell this House is that the comments of Mr Peters, particularly those during the recent election campaign, have caused considerable distress among ethnic communities in our country.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One expects that when Ministers are chosen, they have a reasonable degree of intelligence and ability to answer the questions that are asked. Maybe I was expecting too much, but this Minister has been asked a question now, specifically twice, and he refuses to even attempt to answer it, but he repeats something else he wants to read from because he has not got the intellectual grunt or the integrity to answer the question honestly.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance, and I do not need any comments.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I do not want any comments from the guy with the dyed hair, either.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any comments from the member, either. The member has raised a point or order and wants me to rule on it. The Minister was asked why, and he gave his reasons. He may or may not have agreement from members of the House but he gave his reasons.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the last part of that point of order, Mr Peters questioned the integrity of the Minister. That is out of order, and he should be required to withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member did question the member's integrity he will withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If I did, which perhaps I did, I withdraw and apologise, but I think I was questioning the integrity--
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member knows that he just withdraws and apologises, and that is it.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I know that, but I might be able to explain a point of order. I thought I was questioning the integrity of Mr Robson's hair dye.
Mr SPEAKER: That is out of order, too, and I am getting a little tired of this.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answer just given by the Hon. Chris Carter appears to contradict decisions made by an Officer of Parliament. How can you rule that that answer is acceptable, when answers given in this House should be consistent with the public good? Is it in the public interest and consistent with the public good for a Minister to contradict an Officer of Parliament?
Mr SPEAKER: The person concerned is not an Officer of Parliament.
Immigrants--Third World Diseases
6. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does she regard it as part of her immigration portfolio responsibilities that she must make every endeavour to ensure the health of the New Zealand population is not endangered through refugees and asylum seekers wishing to enter New Zealand carrying third world diseases; if not, why not?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Yes.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If that is so, why does one read in the August 2002 edition of the New Zealand Medical Journal, in Volume 115, results that specify that on an analysis of over 900 people in Auckland, the New Zealand medical fraternity found psychological illnesses of 38 percent, Mantoux skin test positivity of 36 percent, TB infection requiring further treatment of 18 percent, 15 percent who required further X-ray monitoring; and rubella at a massive 86.9 percent; all Third World diseases--
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please come to his final comment. It has been quite a long question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: How can the Minister blandly answer "Yes", that she is caring for the health of the New Zealand population when that is the kind of introduction of Third World illnesses that she is condoning in New Zealand today?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The difference is that I have read the New Zealand Medical Journal article, and what it actually states is that of asylum seekers who were screened in New Zealand in the calendar years 1999 and 2000, 1.1 percent had HIV; 3.6 percent showed signs of old TB infection, and less than 1 percent had active TB. The 87 percent of those who had antibodies to rubella would probably match New Zealand's general population, and, indeed, members in this House.
Matt Robson: Has the Minister seen the reported suggestion that New Zealand should deny entry to any asylum seeker who returned a positive test for an infectious disease at the border; if so, what is her response?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, the New Zealand Herald carried an article on Friday last week with that suggestion. The difficulty is that many tests take days for laboratory results to come through, and there is neither legal authority nor facility to detain asylum seekers at the border for that reason. A denial of entry to New Zealand to an asylum seeker under those circumstances would also breach New Zealand's obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Dr Paul Hutchison: In the light of the recent study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal that showed that 17.4 percent of new HIV cases diagnosed in 2000 were amongst asylum seekers, will the Government be instigating a thorough programme of testing of all migrant applicants at point of departure, and will she give a date for that to happen?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: As the member is aware, we have instigated a full review of the health testing arrangements that apply to all permanent residence applications, and to people who are going to be in the country for more than 2 years. This year's Budget has funding for offshore screening of our quota refugees.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Is the Minister aware that the Immigration Service's website states that all applicants to migrate to New Zealand and people applying for permits have to fill out a declaration that they are of an acceptable state of health, and if the visa officer has any doubt the matter must be referred to the ministry's own health consultant; if that is the case, given the figures pointed out by Mr Peters, does she have confidence that that is happening or are we being told that everybody has satisfactory health unless they are a refugee, in which case apparently it is against some UN convention to prevent ourselves carrying out a test that is carried out for every other immigrant?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Mr Prebble again adds to the confusion. He is unable to distinguish between those who come here on temporary permits and those who come here for permanent residence. The health requirements are for those who apply for permanent residence or those who come here as students, or for those who are under work permits for 2 years or more. It is not the intention of this Government to require the 1.9 million visitors who come here every year to produce health tests to come into the country.
Keith Locke: How is the mental health of asylum seekers enhanced by detaining virtually all of them when they arrive at our airports, usually for weeks at a time?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The report referred to in the first question did identify 38.4 percent with symptoms of psychological illness, so the question the member raises is a good one, but the bottom line is that that dates back to 1999 and 2000. When I became the Minister of Immigration over 3,000 people were waiting to have their first assessment. We now have that figure down to less than 600, and we are having those first-level determinations occurring within months of their arrival in New Zealand. That will do more to reduce the anxiety of those who are genuine asylum-seekers and enable New Zealand to get rid of those who should not be abusing our asylum process.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why is the Minister trying to make out that those figures are about the norm for New Zealand, when with respect to active tuberculosis the New Zealand rate is--[Interruption] I am talking about active tuberculosis, Minister. Keep quite and listen to the question, will you! [Interruption] Well, I cannot guarantee that she will learn something, but we might.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to members that I said that questions were to be heard in silence. The Minister is on her last warning.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why is the Minister trying to make out that the norm for New Zealand is about the same for these people, when, in the case of active tuberculosis the figure is 12.4 people for every 100,000, whereas for asylum seekers it is 1,333; or, in the case of HIV, under this diagnosis, 21.1 percent contributed to the New Zealand figure in 1999, and 7.4 percent of the 2,000 HIV figure for New Zealand came from those refugees; why is she claiming that is just normal for the New Zealand population as well?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The comparison I drew in my original answer was with the 87 percent who had antibodies to rubella. That was the one that I said was most relevant to New Zealand because 10 year old or 11 year-old girls in this country are vaccinated against what is commonly known as German measles. I seek leave to table the New Zealand Medical Journal article on the health status of asylum seekers.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I seek leave to table a copy from the Immigration Department's own website saying that all immigrants must be of an acceptable standard of health.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement
7. MURRAY SMITH (United Future) to the Minister of Education: Why did he not introduce Level 1 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement by way of a pilot scheme amongst willing and properly resourced schools in order to avoid the current implementation difficulties?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)), on behalf of the Minister of Education: Level 1 was deferred for 1 year. A package of resourcing including two extra days professional development for teachers has been made available to support the implementation.
Murray Smith: Can the Minister guarantee that the so-called leading schools that opt for level 2 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement next year will be representative of all secondary schools in terms of decile rating and staff:student ratio; if he can give that guarantee, how will he achieve that, and, if not, how will he be able to have any confidence whatsoever that level 2 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement will work in the non-represented schools?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The Minister cannot give that guarantee, for the obvious reason that lies behind the member's question--that is, that schools themselves will choose whether they wish to carry on with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. However, I point out to the member that from the work that is going on at the present time--for example, from the New Zealand Qualification Authority's visits to the 85 schools visited so far--we are finding that they are extremely well prepared for implementation. Ninety-two percent of secondary school departments report that they can easily adapt their systems to introduce the qualification. I think the figures show that schools are well prepared.
Phil Heatley: Does the Minister stand by his statement of 9 August 2002, not many days ago, that the calls to have level 2 of the National Certificate of Educational Certificate deferred were educationally unsound--that is the reason he gave--given his recent decision to make level 2 optionally deferrable for schools and students?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The Minister stands by all his statements.
Jill Pettis: What action has the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority taken to reduce workload?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The ministry and the authority are looking at a variety of ways to reduce workload, including sharing the good practices that are appearing in schools. Practices identified so far include allocating some available teacher relief time to heads of departments on a rotational basis, sharing templates and recording and reporting procedures with other schools, and varying the timetable to enable staff to get together to allow local clusters to meet and discuss what they might do.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Given that grades for Sixth Form Certificate are generated by the previous year's School Certificate marks, how will grades be generated, now that we have no School Certificate, from level 1 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement if Sixth Form Certificate remains at all in 2003?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: That is always a good question, and the answer partly rests upon whether a decision is made in the near future. The Minister is to receive a report on this in terms of what the status of Sixth Form Certificate will be next year. But the member is right: we need to have a successful roll-out of level 1 in the sense of creating grades, and for students then to move on through to their other subsequent second and third years. In relation to the certificate, that decision has yet to be made.
Deborah Coddington: Will the Minister accept personal responsibility when today's National Certificate of Educational Achievement guinea pigs, our children, find when they leave school that their qualifications are worthless on the international job market?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I want to reassure the House that the move to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement is a good move. It will introduce into this country a 21st century approach to assessment. It will allow us to know that children are excellent, whether they get merit, and what they actually learn. I do not think there is a member who understands education in this House who does not want to see this system succeed--
Gerry Brownlee: Look into it. It's embarrassing.
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: --and Mr Brownlee would be one of them, because his party started this qualification. The only difference is that we resourced it; the National Party did not.
Ian Ewen-Street: Following on from the earlier question about the excessive workload on teachers as a result of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, can the Minister inform the House when teachers can expect to get some practical assistance in reducing these workloads?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: It is one of the points that has become a serious point around the National Certificate of Educational Achievement that the majority of teachers support this qualification, but as we have moved through the imputation phase we have found that some teachers are reporting that they are working harder than they probably need to do. At the present time we are holding meetings around the country that have already thrown up the kinds of points I mentioned earlier to try to reduce their workloads. As I mentioned in my answer to the primary question, two extra days are being made available for professional development.
Jim Peters: Is the Minister aware that in a new level 1 subject, technology, that recently 96 percent of the national assessments were invalid, as is also questionable, the validity of other assessments on other subjects, and in view of the Minister's comments how can he say that level 1 is a National Certificate of Educational Achievement level of status and integrity?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I am personally not aware of the issue that the member has raised, but I am sure if he has evidence to back that up he could bring it to my or to the Minister's attention and he will deal with it.
Military Strike on Iraq
8. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National--Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: What steps has he taken to protect New Zealand's petroleum fuel supply in the event of disruption to oil production that would result from a United States military strike on Iraq?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): There are two main steps. Firstly, New Zealand is a member of the International Energy Agency, which requires member countries to hold a minimum of 90 days stock of oil or oil products. I understand that recently stocks were in the region of 110 days reserve supply. Secondly, New Zealand is approximately 35 percent self-sufficient in oil, which provides a further buffer against international supply shortages.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister aware that the figure he has just quoted is 2 years old, that New Zealand's energy needs now mean that we have only some 70 days supply, and can he assure the House that a country 5 weeks down the supply chain will not suffer shortages if the United States attacks Iraq?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I very much doubt that the member's question was predicated on fact, but if it is I am happy to look at it.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have had a lot of say today about how you interpret Standing Order 372. In answering that question the Minister breached that Standing Order quite considerably by starting with what can only be described as an inference or an imputation. He then failed to answer the question that was asked. I ask you to consider that, and suggest that he might be required to answer the question properly.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: In speaking to the point of order, I can say that in answer to the primary question I said that recently New Zealand stocks were in the region of 110 days supply, to which in a supplementary from the member the suggestion was that New Zealand's stocks were at 70 days supply because of growth in oil use over the past 2 years. That occasioned me to reply that I very much doubted that the member's facts were accurate.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a perfectly reasonable reply as far as complying with the Standing Orders is concerned.
Clayton Cosgrove: Have the International Energy Agency measures ever been called into play; if so, when?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Yes, they have, once. During the 1991 Gulf crisis the International Energy Agency emergency measures were invoked. On that occasion New Zealand drew on its reserve stocks, and also oil production was increased at Waihopai. New Zealand retail prices increased far less than the corresponding international prices as a result, although they lifted significantly, none the less.
Hon. Ken Shirley: What is the Minister doing to avert the looming crisis in our gas supply, which will be greatly compounded by any disruption to our petroleum fuel supplies?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: It is not immediately clear to me that one will compound the other. However, the truth of the matter is that New Zealand's long use of the Maui gasfield is now drawing to a close, and that recent estimates would suggest it is drawing to a close 2 years earlier than people had earlier suggested.
Hon. Ken Shirley: Next year?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: No, it is not next year. That means that New Zealand is about to move to a phase--we may want to call it the post-Maui era--when, like most other nations--
Hon. Ken Shirley: What are you doing about that?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: --we will be doing three things: moving to other forms of generation in the New Zealand context, particularly renewables; moving to improved demand responses--the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy--and moving to the use of gas, not from one field, but from many.
Keith Locke: Following on from the original question, in the light of possible petroleum shortages what steps are being taken to reduce car use, for example, putting a moratorium on the construction of new, urban motorways, and putting the money saved into improving the availability of public transport?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: There is not a lot of point in having good public transport when there are no motorways on which traffic might run.
Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister aware that the US is currently filling its strategic reserves by some 700 million barrels, and that the US Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, has notified European allies to stock up and fill their reserves; and has the Government he is part of received from our very, very good friends, the US, similar advice?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Yes, yes, and through the media, yes.
9. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour--Otago) to the Minister of Customs: What reports has he received concerning the importing of class B amphetamine-based drugs?
Hon. RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): The Customs Service has reported that so far this year it has seized the equivalent of 161,000 tablets of MDMA, a class B illegal drug, known on the streets as Ecstasy. That is over twice the amount seized in the whole of 2001, and 16 times the amount seized in 2000. In addition, the Customs Service is seizing increasing amounts of other amphetamine-type substances, including metha-amphetamine. The estimated street value of the drug seized over the last 4 months is between $17 million and $20 million.
David Parker: How many drug couriers have been apprehended?
Hon. RICK BARKER: Since May the New Zealand Customs Service has apprehended 10 drug couriers. One, a Mr Benny Lam, has been convicted and sentenced in the Auckland District Court to 91/2 years' imprisonment. The rest are awaiting further court hearings. Couriers are using a variety of methods including internal concealment, the strapping of drugs to their bodies and clothes, and concealing the drugs in packages in their luggage.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Can the Minister confirm the official police crime statistics--which National released at lunchtime today--that show a 33 percent increase in hard drug crimes in the last 12 months--
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is clear that he cannot, because he is not the Minister of Police. This question is addressed to the Minister of Customs, and hard drug offences are nothing to do with the Minister of Customs. Those are offences against the Crimes Act.
Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the member to word his question so that it involves the Minister of Customs.
Hon. Tony Ryall: In the light of the official police crime statistics--which National released at lunchtime today--that show a 33 percent increase in hard drug crimes, why has it taken the Government so long to wake up to the burgeoning metha-amphetamine crisis in this country?
Hon. RICK BARKER: Quite contrary to what that member says, the Government is wide awake to that problem. I also want to confirm to members that the advice I have from the police is that in the year 1998 there was one illegal laboratory found by the police, while this year, to date, the police have found 60 such laboratories. We are on the job, doing the work.
Nandor Tanczos: If the Minister is genuinely concerned about an increase in the importation and use of hard drugs, does he agree that the over $20 million a year spent on arresting people for cannabis offences--mostly for personal use--would be better spent on targeting the importation, manufacturing, and wholesaling of hard drugs?
Hon. Rick Barker: The resources deployed by the police and customs is a matter for those agencies. I say to that member that the importation of hard drugs can in no way be used as a stalking horse for his argument to legalise marijuana.
Lotteries Grants Board--Funding for Volunteer
10. RICHARD WORTH (NZ National--Epsom) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Will the Government make up the shortfalls in funding for Water Safety New Zealand, Royal New Zealand Coastguard Federation and Surf Life Saving New Zealand as a result of their slashed cash grants from the Lotteries Grants Board?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): For the year 2002 the Lotteries Grants Board made grants of $893,500 to Water Safety New Zealand, $880,000 to the Royal New Zealand Coastguard Federation, and $1,550,000 to Surf Life Saving New Zealand. That is less money than each had previously received, but is a higher percentage of the Lotteries Grants Board's pool overall.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am looking for a ruling on this question. The question begins: "Will the Government make up the shortfalls . . . ". At no time in that answer was any attempt made to answer that specific question about a shortfall.
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have any details of what the shortfalls of private operations are.
Richard Worth: May I help the Minister? Does the Government accept the assertions of those groups that I have nominated, that the result, which is a cut for the Water Safety Council of 36 percent, for Surf Life Saving of 18 percent, and for the Coastguard Federation of 24 percent, could be an increase in the death toll by drowning?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The Lottery Grants Board had to make cuts, because there is less money from gambling. Lindsay Tisch was on the board that made that decision.
Helen Duncan: Who has overall responsibility for water safety?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The issue has been raised with Government, and we are looking at it.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that the Minister has had this question since 10 o'clock this morning, which is now over 5 hours ago, what on earth is he, as a Minister, and his staff doing to try to provide some responsible accountability to this Parliament?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I can assure that member that the Government is not responsible for the total funding of water safety in New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Coastguard Federation, or Lifesaving New Zealand.
Richard Worth: When is it planned to move to a system that will ensure stable funding flows for voluntary groups that carry out essential public services such as water safety and such tasks that depend on Government funding to be carried out, so that water safety for New Zealanders and tourists alike will not be compromised?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Unlike the last Government, this Government is looking at the issue. The last Government did nothing.
11. MATT ROBSON (Progressive) to the Minister for Economic Development: What reports has he received on the issues and work there is to do in order to continue to build New Zealand's economy, regions and industries?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development): Yesterday I released the briefings I received from the Ministry of Economic Development and Industry New Zealand. They provide an excellent picture of what has been achieved in less than 3 years, and options this Labour-Progressive Government has for the next term of office. The most recent National Bank regional economic survey shows that 10 out of the 14 New Zealand regions grew at over 4 percent in the last 12 months, three at over 3 percent, and only one below 2 percent. That is a magnificent record in comparison to recent achievements.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the interests of us knowing exactly who comprises this Government, and given that Mr Anderton said the name of the Government was the Labour-Progressive Government, perhaps we could find out what party he is standing for these days, so we might have a rough idea--
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will be seated please. That is an irrelevant point of order, and not really contributing to this question time.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: In the last campaign various political parties ran under various names. We were all asked by the Clerk's Office what name we would like to go under officially in this Parliament. I understand that at that point in time, for the seventh time, Mr Anderton changed his party name to being the Progressive Coalition. If it is to be the Labour Party ? Progressive Coalition, then perhaps he should refer to it as being the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: I have been informed by the Clerk that he refers to himself as the Progressive party for the purposes of this coalition.
Matt Robson: What do the briefing papers state about making assistance easier for business to access?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: The Labour-Progressive or Progressive Coalition Government continues to take business growth seriously. I am pleased to see that Industry New Zealand has indicated a strong commitment to growing a portfolio of world-class New Zealand businesses. Building on current assistance measures, the Industry New Zealand briefing calls for industry programmes that concentrate on three areas in particular--high growth, high impact potential businesses and projects; the removal of impediments to business growth and development; and services for new company start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
Hon. Tony Ryall: What will the Minister and his department do to address the fact that many in the business community hold the Government's schemes and initiatives in low regard, because they have funding criteria that do not fit their needs, paper work that is frustrating, and one estimate that suggests that there are 32 different funding agencies within the Government's business and innovation strategy?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: That kind of mix was inherited by this Government. It has moved to make the business assistance programmes more integrated. It is moving rapidly in that direction. I remind the member who asked the question that one of the reasons he will have to look in the mirror for the performance of his party at the last election is the refusal of regional New Zealand to go back to the policies that a National Party followed, and their admiration for the integrated regional and industry development programmes of this Government.
Hon. Dover Samuels: Has the Minister seen any reports that the regional development policies of this Government has benefited regions such as Northland or assisted MÄori job seekers into real sustainable employment?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I am pleased to say that the recent National Bank regional economic survey shows that Northland has the fastest economic growth of any region in New Zealand. I am sure that will come as good news to the National Party's regional spokesperson who is No. 15 out of 27, rather than No. 3 in this Government. Of course, the member will be aware of the Northern Advocate's report: "Upbeat as north booms to top in New Zealand".
Dr Bernie Ogilvy: What further advice does the Minister require before he can decide on the final details of the proposed merger between Trade New Zealand and Industry New Zealand?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: That matter is before the Government currently, and all of the relevant Ministers, ministries, and agencies are engaged in that matter.
Rod Donald: What percentage of Government purchasing is currently coordinated through the Industrial Supplies Office of Industry New Zealand, how many Government departments now use that service, and what measures are in place to increase import substitution to help build New Zealand's economy, regions, and industries?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I do not have the specific answers that the member would like, but I will get them for him if he produces that to me as a written question, or on advice for oral answer, subsequently. I can say that the previous coalition Government more than doubled the resources of the Industrial Supplies Office, and that extra resource has resulted in a larger number of New Zealand jobs being created and New Zealand contractors assisting tenders for Government projects than was previously the case when the Industrial Supplies Office was being run down into virtually no contribution to the New Zealand economy whatever.
Glenfield Tavern Armed
12. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Police: Did the Glenfield police respond promptly and effectively to the 4 August armed robbery of the Glenfield Tavern, during which the manager was shot and seriously wounded?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes.
Dr Muriel Newman: Will the Minister give a guarantee to this House that the Glenfield Police Station will not be closed or moved against the wishes of the local mayor, community and community board; and does he accept that this is a litmus test of the Government's pledge of working in partnership with local communities?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: This Government will ensure that Glenfield is properly policed. Any move to Becksley House will align the Glenfield police with a number of other police service providers, including the highway patrol, strategic traffic, youth education services, traffic inquiries, and traffic support, as well as to extra staff.
Hon. Tony Ryall: What impact will his pledge to Glenfield have on the latest police crime statistics that show crime is up in every category: violence, sexual offences, drugs, dishonesty, and vandalism are up to record levels in the history of New Zealand; and how does this support his and the Prime Minister's claim before the election that crime was coming down?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government is not satisfied with having just the third-best police figures in the last 10 years--having a bronze medal is not good enough, we want a gold medal. But in respect of Glenfield I can say that in Glenfield the police have reduced burglaries by 46 percent and, of course, overall crime has reduced by 5.4 percent in the last 3 years.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister tell us what impact the loss of so many experienced police--971 just in the last 22 months, by some estimates--has on the police effectiveness and promptness in emergency situations, and what is being done to stem such a loss in experienced manpower?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The attrition rate for the New Zealand Police is about 5 percent. That is good compared to what it has been over the last 10 years.
Question No. 8 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National--Ilam): I seek leave to table two documents, one showing that New Zealand imports 44.6 billion barrels of oil a year, and the second showing that loss of those imports would leave us with less than 70 days supply in New Zealand.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to
correction and further editing)
End of Questions for Oral Answer.