Questions For Oral Answer - 3 September 2002
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 3 September 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: How does New Zealand's health screening of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants for HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases compare with other migrant receiving countries?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): New Zealand compares relatively well. However, the health screening policy is out of date, which is why the Government is reviewing it.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: How can the Minister possibly reconcile what she has just told the House, and what she has been telling the country for months, with the statement from her own officials--in particular Chris Hampton, who headed her department--contained on page 48 of the briefing papers given to her by the Department of Labour, which said: ``Unlike other migrant-receiving countries, screening for HIV/AIDS is not routinely required, whilst chest X-rays to identify tuberculosis are required only from residence applicants and temporary applicants who intend to stay in New Zealand for 2 or more years.'', given that if her own officials are saying that, it is bound to be 10 times as bad?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I can reconcile it in the same way that that member can reconcile the fact that he was part of a Government that did nothing for 21/2 years.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There we go again. The Minister is unable to answer the question, but rather than making an attempt--even if it is limited, as usual--she decides to insult other parties in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. Her first words said that she could reconcile the answer given.
Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister been advised that over 400 Somalis were released without check in respect of the carrying of tuberculosis; if not, what led to that being reported the media last week?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: That is yet another unsubstantiated claim by the leader of New Zealand First, who has provided no evidence of that claim to me or to the public. He may have misunderstood another official report, as he did when he told the House last week that half of the refugees were carrying HIV. However, I did note that the member corrected his Hansard once that was pointed out to him.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Given that Australia has been testing potential migrants for HIV/AIDS since 1989 at point of source, why does New Zealand not insist on compulsory testing for those trying to enter New Zealand on a permanent basis, and when does she intend to do something about it?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: As I said in answer to the first question, we are reviewing the health-screening policy. Mandatory testing for HIV is one of the potential outcomes. I notice that the member said that this has been the case in Australia since 1989. The National Party was in Government from 1990 to 1999.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Given that the Labour Party has been the Government for almost 3 years, can the Minister explain why Australia, United States, and, I understand, Canada, screen would-be refugees for HIV/AIDS in the nation of origin, whereas in New Zealand the system grants refugee status and then they are screened; what is the point of doing it that way?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: That is a very good question. This Government has decided to move the screening of New Zealand's 750 quota refugees off shore. We are in the process of talking to the International Organization for Migration about the implementation of that screening.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that racially based stereotyping of new migrants as possessing diseases helps foster racial prejudice and discrimination against new migrant groups in this country?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I do.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Nowhere in the original question was there any statement about racial origin. No member has raised that. There was nothing in the answer given by the Minister. How on earth can that be a relevant supplementary question?
Mr SPEAKER: There is a much more valid reason. There is no ministerial responsibility, either. The member is perfectly correct.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why did the Minister tell a Radio New Zealand audience during the campaign that all the refugees and asylum seekers were screened off shore, and in particular, people from the MV Tampa, and then 5 minutes later had to admit that that was not true, that they were screened on shore, or have we just seen a pink pig fly past the window?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may comment on all but the last part of the question.
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I would like to see evidence of that statement being tabled in this House. I did not tell anyone that we screened off shore. I simply advised that we had provided funding in this year's Budget for screening off shore. It will be implemented as soon as we are able to arrange it with the International Organization for Migration.
2. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What is the Government doing to end regional and ethnic disparities in the delivery of the special benefit?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): Ethnicity is not, and never will be, a factor in the administration of the benefit. Nationwide statistics demonstrate that the ratio of MŽori and Pacific clients receiving the special benefit is about the same as the ratio for other groups in the country that receive benefits.
Sue Bradford: Despite the Minister's comment, can he confirm that the Ministry of Social Development's own report of March 2002 on this matter showed significant variation in special benefit according to ethnicity within, and between, service centres?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I can confirm that Ministry of Social Development figures show that MŽori make up 30 percent of all beneficiaries and receive 27 percent of all special benefits, while Pacific people make up 7.5 percent and receive 7.4 percent of special benefits. Ethnicity is not, and never will be, a factor in the administration of a benefit.
Dave Hereora: What is being done to improve the administration of special and other benefits?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Officials from the Ministry of Social Development have been working with beneficiary advocates and other community groups to ensure that all benefits are properly administered and that clients receive their correct entitlement nationwide. This process has already resulted in improvements in staff training, clearer information for clients, and a better administration of assistance. I am determined, as front-line staff in the Department of Work and Income are determined, that every New Zealander who requires assistance will receive his or her correct entitlement.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Given the Minister's statements before the 1999 election that he would fix the supplementary needs benefit discrepancies, why, 3 years later, are they not fixed, or was that, to quote from Mr Maharey, ``just something you say when you're in Opposition.''?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: A great deal of work has gone into ensuring that the administration of a discretionary third tier benefit is done properly, and I point out to Mr Sowry--who did not do this properly--that this work has seen a 33.8 percent increase in the number of special benefits paid in a year, and that is despite the introduction of income-related rents and the fact that unemployment is at a record low.
Sue Bradford: Does the Minister agree that the administration of special and other third-tier benefits is inefficient and costly, and that setting the core benefit rate at a level that meets basic needs would be much more efficient and less costly in the long run?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: In principle, I agree with that. One of the problems that occurred during the 1990s was that having slashed benefits by up to 30 percent the National Government then found it had to pile in second and third-tier benefits to ensure that people got adequate income. National did not administer that properly. We have been doing it, and, as the member knows, we are also looking at a simplified version of the benefit system so we do not have such a complex series of tiers of benefits.
3. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Transport: Is he satisfied that a full check of all Air New Zealand aircraft, both international and domestic, serviced by Air New Zealand engineering services, has taken place; if not, why not?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): Air New Zealand has advised that it has conducted a full inspection of its 747 fleet over the past 48 hours that has revealed no problems. Air New Zealand's safety record is second to none. The Government takes the matter of passenger safety very seriously, and that is why I met with the heads of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority yesterday, who have assured me that investigations into recent incidents are being undertaken.
Hon. Bill English: Why has a check not been done on all domestic aircraft that are serviced by the same engineering organisation as that which serviced the international aircraft where the problem occurred?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The Civil Aviation Authority, which that member supported when he was in Government, has advised it is standard practice, following an incident like this, that an airline should inspect all its aircraft of the same type as that involved in the incident. I have been advised that this has been done. Air New Zealand undertakes regular checks on all its aircraft as a matter of course.
Helen Duncan: What action has the Government taken?
Hon. Paul Swain: I met with the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority yesterday. They told me they are conducting a formal investigation into recent incidents. I have been assured that any matters requiring urgent attention will be dealt with immediately. The Government and the investigating agencies have taken these matters very seriously and the public can be assured that public safety is paramount.
R Doug Woolerton: What effects does the Minister think privatisation had on Air New Zealand's engineering services?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The engineering services of Air New Zealand are second to none. They are a very valuable part of that company and they have an envious record internationally.
Deborah Coddington: As the Government is now both the owner of Air New Zealand and the regulator of airline safety, can the Minister assure the House that if any more bits fall off Air New Zealand planes the airline will be grounded, or will he wait until a plane crashes?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I am not even going to bother with the second bit. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority are independent agencies of the Government, and they are independent for precisely the reason the member has raised.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A Minister is not entitled to tell the House that he is not going to bother answering part of a question. Surely, you will not decide that that was an answer, because that is a Minister deliberately declining to answer. He was asked a perfectly reasonable question. Now that the Government owns Air New Zealand, the House is entitled to have an assurance from the Minister that this conflict of interest will not prevent him from grounding the airline if he thinks that is required.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister is entitled to say what he said, given the nature of the particular part of the question.
Hon. Bill English: Given that Australian aviation authorities grounded Ansett on safety issues, when there were no incidents similar to this, has he considered the possibility that if another part of an Air New Zealand aircraft falls off he may ground the airline because of public concern?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: We have two independent agencies investigating this matter. They have assured me that if urgent matters come up during the process of the investigation they can take action immediately. One of those actions is to ground Air New Zealand.
4. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour--Dunedin South) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What initiatives is the Government implementing to address skill shortages?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): ``Skill shortages'' is an expression that covers a range of situations where an employer finds it difficult to find an appropriately skilled person. It may reflect recruitment difficulties, skill gaps, or an absolute shortage of skills. Specific skills in labour shortages have been identified in forestry, timber processing, agriculture, and fruit and vegetable growing, and the Government is working with all these sectors to address their needs. The Government is committed to ensuring that skill shortages do not form a brake on our economy.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled a number of times in the last week or so about the precise way in which a Minister should address a question. I would have thought that since this is a Government question to a Government Minister, this Minister might have given the House an answer. The member asked what initiatives there were, and the Minister never gave any; if they have not found any, he should say so.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave a perfectly adequate answer in terms of the Standing Order.
David Benson-Pope: What other initiatives is the Government implementing?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Education in training, industry and business development, immigration, and information initiatives are all making a contribution. My colleague the Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, has, for example, introduced a talent visa policy, a priority occupation list, and an occupation shortages list. In addition, industry groups such as information and communications technology have been allowed to recruit people from overseas with required skills. Pilot regional immigration initiatives are under way in Southland and Wellington.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Is one of the reasons employers are having so much trouble attracting people into work because 1,768 people are on the unemployment benefit whilst being registered as actors, artists, clowns, acrobats, MŽori cultural entertainers, and tattooists--[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have told members about interjecting during questions; that means everybody. Would the member restate the question.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Is one of the reasons employers are having so much trouble attracting people into work because 1,768 people are registered on the unemployment benefit as actors, artists, clowns, acrobats, MŽori cultural entertainers, and tattooists, and therefore not being work tested for the jobs that are being offered by employers?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why does the Minister mention the Minister of Immigration on the issue of skill shortages being filled, when the very report she received just recently from her own officials states, on page 10: ``The rate at which new migrants are employed is relatively poor.'', and gives a figure of 50 percent; and how many employers came to him asking for more taxi drivers?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No employer has approached me asking for more taxi drivers, but I am about to table a document, Skill Shortages: Stocktake of Initiatives, which is full of excellent plans and policies from the Minister of Immigration.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister accept that the real reason for the skill shortages since 1999 is that 50,000 skilled workers have left the country permanently; if so, what is his Government doing to turn round the situation to stop the brain and skill drain?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No, I do not accept that argument. I think more appropriately the argument would be that New Zealand is now moving through a phase where it is seeing itself shift from being a low-skilled, commodity-producing nation to being a higher-skilled nation. The demand, therefore, for skill is rising, and I applaud that. That is why, for example, we have set a goal of 250,000 people in industry training over the next 5 years.
Sue Bradford: Will the Minister reintroduce a universal student allowance to reduce barriers to access to training and education and increase the number of people gaining qualifications in a wide range of needed areas?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No. The Government is committed, however, to widening access to the allowance, because we want to ensure that as many students as possible take advantage of tertiary education.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table pages 10 and 48 of the briefing paper to the Minister, dated August 2002, setting out the disastrous state of employment of several migrants and the true state of health.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Bernie Ogilvy: Given that skill shortages are being felt most keenly in the health sector, what is the Government doing to recognise the qualifications of new migrants who may be able to help make up the shortfall in areas such as rural health?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The Government has done a number of things. Mr Olgivy will know that the Minister of Health has ensured that doctors can retrain in this country. The health practitioners legislation that is now being put in place will also ensure that people who come into the country can retrain, get the appropriate qualifications, and move into the health system. I seek leave to table a document from the Department of Labour, Skill Shortages: Stocktake of Initiatives, containing many very interesting ideas on immigration.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau
5. PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National--Whangarei) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What actions, if any, is he taking to ascertain the status of Te Hau Ora o Te Tai Tokerau Trust assets, and what actions, if any, is he taking to ensure that assets purchased with money from the cancelled Department of Child, Youth and Family Services contract are returned by the Trust?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The cars, computers, office equipment and other assets of Te Hauora o te Tai Tokerau Trust, or ``THOTT'', as it is called, were purchased with public funding provided under contracts with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services for the delivery of Family Start and Amokura family violence intervention prevention services to the families and children of Whangarei and Te Tai Tokerau. The Department of Child, Youth, and Family Services has on a number of occasions since 5 August written to the trust formally requesting that the assets be made available for use by an alternative provider of those services.
Phil Heatley: Why does the Minister have confidence that he will be able to recover taxpayer-funded assets from Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau, given that they have already sold off five vehicles in the last few days--an estimated $100,000 worth--and, possibly, office assets; and where is that money now?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: It may be helpful to the House to know that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has set a deadline of the middle of next week for ``THOTT'' to reply, as is required under their contract, and as is required of the Department of Child, Youth, and Family Services. Mr Peters, the lawyer for this organisation, has reassured the department that those assets are secure. Under the terms of the contract they are owned by ``THOTT''. I have also instructed the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to pursue all legal remedies if they are not satisfied that we are being dealt with fairly.
Georgina Beyer: What actions is the Minister taking to address Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau's under-delivery against its contracts with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and poor financial management?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I can cite three sets of actions that have taken place in the last month. On 2 August I asked the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services to commission an investigation of ``THOTT's'' financial management of the public funding it has received. On 5 August ``THOTT's'' approval as a provider under the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services was cancelled, and ``THOTT'' was advised that its Family Start contract was not being renewed and there would be no new contract for its family violence programme. On 5 August also the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services requested the assets purchased by ``THOTT'' from public funding it received under the department's contracts be made available for use by an alternative provider. I repeat that we will pursue all legal remedies if we not satisfied that we are being dealt with fairly.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Why is that in 2000 a million-dollar-a-year contract was given to ``THOTT'' for a MŽori family violence reduction programme without any contestability process; and why did alarm bells not start ringing about management competence when the programme was subsequently named after a bird, i.e. the Amokura or Frigate Bird, which is not a native to New Zealand and has been sighted here only 13 times in the last 150 years?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I will have to bow to the member's knowledge of bird life, and go back to the beginning of his question. The alarm bells for this organisation did, as he knows, start ringing towards the end of last year, when the organisation began the process of working with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, and in May they were advised they had 60 days, as under their contract, to prove that they were able to handle the money. They did not, and that was when their money was suspended.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of his statement in the House last week, regarding the trust's financial mismanagement, that: ``It is the money to do with the family services and the family violence programme that is in question. That is why, having checked the health funding, it is continuing.'', and given that the health contract was cancelled yesterday, what confidence can this House have in anything that this Minister says?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I stand by the comments that I made last week as being accurate. Subsequent to those comments being made, I think that the Ministry of Health has reconsidered what is happening with the organisation because of all the other problems that are being undergone, and has decided to cancel its contracts. But those comments were absolutely accurate last week.
Sue Bradford: Does the Government take any responsibility for community groups such as Te Hauora o te Tai Tokerau over-extending themselves to deliver badly needed services to their communities; and what measures, if any, is the Government taking to improve both the financial and human resource capacity of voluntary sector organisations?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, we do take responsibility for ensuring that groups can deliver programmes, which is why we have invested in both Pacific Island and MŽori groups, for example, to lift their capacity so they can take on programmes and deliver them effectively in their communities.
Phil Heatley: How come the Minister of Health can get assets passed back to the Northland District Health Board from Te Haura o Te Tai Tokerau Trust immediately following health contract cancellation, yet he is still arbitrating for months even while taxpayer-funded assets are being flogged off?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The arrangements between the Ministry of Health and ``THOTT'' and Child, Youth and Family Services and ``THOTT'' are distinct arrangements, and therefore differ in terms of their character.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table change of ownership papers for five vehicles paid for by the taxpayer, and flogged off under the Minister's nose.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
6. MAHARA OKEROA (NZ Labour--Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Education: What are the details of the Government's extension of the Te Mana programme?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Last week I launched a new television advertisement, CD rom, and a resource kit, that mainly targets young MŽori youth aged 12 to 18 years. The advertisement gives an example of how achievement at school leads to wider career options. The CD is a modern way of leading young people through choices relating to their futures, and the kit is a study guide to help students set goals, plan, and manage their time in order to succeed at school.
Mahara Okeroa: What are the key elements of the Te Mana programme?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Te Mana is a 3-year programme providing information and support to parents, family educators, young people, and, further, to second-chance learners. It is currently in its second year. The programme includes a media campaign showing role models who have achieved through education--all of whom have had a rough start--education community liaison advisers working directly with local communities and educators, and a free telephone number and follow-up service.
Phil Heatley: Is the Minister aware that of the new school entrants in 2001 only 6 percent of PŽkehŽ children had not had some form of pre-school education compared with one-fifth of MŽori and one-third of Pacific Island children; if so, what does he intend to do about that?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, and a considerable amount has been done. I can give the member a long list, including several million dollars worth of discretionary grants to increase the number of services, an enormous amount of extra funding for training--especially targeted at MŽori and Pacific Island services--and a lot of work on improving the quality of services, and getting services out of basements and halls, which was acceptable in the time the previous Government was in place. This Government has done more than any other Government for MŽori and Pacific Island pre-school education.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: What are the total costs and the expected outcomes of Te Mana, and how will those be measured?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I do not have the figures on the total cost but I am prepared to give them to the member if he approaches me. The outcomes this Government wants are a lifting in expectations on the part of families, youth, and teachers, as to the potential of young people, especially MŽori young people. The evidence shows that if those expectations can be lifted the kids will perform to expectations, but it is something the whole community has to work on together.
Donna Awatere Huata: Will the Minister concede that the only reason programmes such as Te Mana exist is because MŽori children make up the biggest group of poor readers in the developed world, and, having fallen behind in school and life then become the target of artificial programmes such as Te Mana to lift their horizons; if so, why does he not tackle the real issues instead of wasting more money on candyfloss PR campaigns like Te Mana?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: No, I do not concede that, because what the member said is not true.
7. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by his pre-election claim of 18 July that violence nationally was down 1.7 percent, sexual offences down 10.8 percent, drugs and anti-social crimes down 5.6 percent, dishonesty, including burglary, down 2.5 percent, property damage down 1.1 percent and administrative crimes down 0.5 percent, and what were the actual percentage changes for each of these categories for the year ended 30 June 2002?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes, I do. These figures were the most accurate that the Commissioner of Police could provide at the time following my request to him on 29 April 2002. It is appropriate that I use the most up-to-date information available. The percentage increase in the offence categories mentioned by the member are 2 percent, 13.6 percent, 0.1 percent, 3.1 percent, 1.7 percent, and 6.3 percent.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister accept that if his 10-month crime figures were correct, then during the 2 months over the election campaign, violence must have increased by 20 percent, drug offences by 28 percent, dishonesty by 31 percent, property damaged by 16 percent, administrative crimes by 40 percent, and sexual offences by a massive 135 percent, and in the light of these preposterous increases will he now admit that his crime figures released before the election were misleading to voters when compared to the official figures released after the election?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No. I point out to the member that, for example, the increase in sexual offending was 425 offences from 3,119 to 3,544. Eighty-five of those offences can be attributed to one offender. They are the historical reporting of crime. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I will not advise any member further today. If any comments are made during the asking of questions, then the member will leave.
Martin Gallagher: How does the recorded crime rate in the police case resolution rates this year compare with those of the previous 15 years?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The recorded crime rate--if the member keeps pointing he might learn something.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I acknowledge the point the member is going to make. Will the Minister just answer the question.
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The recorded crime rate for 2001-02 was 1,108 offences per 10,000 people. This is the second lowest level recorded since the 1987-88 financial year. Only last year, during the second year of the Labour-led Government when the recorded crime rate stood at 1,093 offences per 10,000 people, was the rate of crime lower. The rate of resolving crime is at its second-best level. Police are now resolving 41.8 percent of cases. This is up from 29.8 percent in 1991-92. Only last year, when the resolution rate was 42.9 percent, had the police done better than the year just past.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Why did the Minister take the unusual step of releasing 10-month crime figures before the election when the police advised him that these provisional statistics cannot be reliably compared to official statistics and that they would be subject to significant change, and, further, when did he first become aware of the trends in the official 30 June 2002 crime statistics?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I released them because they were more accurate than the claims of the Opposition parties.
Hon. Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As per your comments in the House last week, I believe that the Minister was asked a very specific question, and he did not answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member did address the question.
Ron Mark: Why, when the Minister was receiving briefings on a monthly basis from the Commissioner of Police, and further advice from him such as we have just heard, did the Minister continue in the election campaign to tell the voting public of New Zealand that crime statistics were down, when he clearly knew that to be untrue?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The figures that I was using were the latest available, supplied to me by the Commissioner of Police. However, I have to remind the member that they are the second best figures in the last 15 years, and if that member does not like it, he knows what to do about it.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard an interjection that, if I were to identify the member who said it, would result in that member being expelled from the Chamber. I do not want any interjections like that again. I am not naming the member concerned.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If we are referring to comments made outside the Chamber, which could now, in the light of the evidence, be taken as untrue, is that still the case? It is not referring to what the member is saying in here; it is referring to what the member has said in the past--
Mr SPEAKER: No, that was not the interjection I heard.
Marc Alexander: In the light of the increases in many categories of crime, can the Minister tell us what new initiative he intends pursuing to combat those increases, and what complementary strategies he envisages employing so that police can be more proactive; if not, why not?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: We will continue with the policing tactics that the police have used over the last couple of years, because crime is down to its second lowest point over the last 15 years. I will seek leave to table reports from the police that will make Mr Ryall steam up even more.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member seek leave to table something?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I seek leave to table papers that show the recorded crime rate per 10,000 people, crime resolution rates, and, also, what the crime figures were over the last 15 years. They show that a record high in the crime rate was recorded in 1996-97 under a National Government.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Air New Zealand--Aircraft
8. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Transport: Is he confident that adequate measures are being taken to ensure the safety of Air New Zealand passengers after incidents like the one on Friday night where an Air New Zealand plane lost a piece of wing-flap?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): Yes, I am. The Transport Accident Investigation Commission has told me it has begun a formal investigation into the incident. I have been assured that any matters requiring urgent attention will be dealt with immediately by both the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority. The Government takes public safety very seriously, as do the investigating agencies. Having said that, I also say that Air New Zealand's safety record is second to none.
Larry Baldock: How does the Minister reconcile the conflict of interest between the Government's ownership in Air New Zealand and its responsibility for the relevant safety and accident authorities currently investigating Air New Zealand?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: By the fact that the investigating agencies are independent of Government.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Does he believe that there is any link between the Government placing restraints on capital and pressuring Air New Zealand to cut costs, and Air New Zealand engineering reducing its costs by 221/2 percent over the last financial year and the parts of two aircraft falling off in just one week?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: No, and Air New Zealand has absolutely rejected those claims. It has said that it is not skimping on maintenance. I warn the member that scaremongering like this will do him no good at all. I remember that member going around before the election, saying that air points were going to be dropped. It turned out to be a load of bollocks, which is just like what that member tends to be talking all the time.
Mr SPEAKER: The last part of the Minister's answer was out of order. He will withdraw the comment.
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw.
Lynne Pillay: When does the Government expect to receive a report from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission into this incident?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I have been advised that investigations of this type do take some time because they often involve highly technical issues. However, I can assure the member that if any urgent action is required it will be taken immediately.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers, the answers to the earlier questions about Air New Zealand, and the fact that the Minister has admitted that only international planes have been inspected, what specific advice will he give to potential passengers that they should fly Air New Zealand because it is still the safest airline in the South Pacific?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Keep flying.
9. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Housing: Is everyone who applies for a State house treated equally?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE (Minister of Housing): Housing New Zealand Corporation operates a social allocation system for the renting of State houses to people in need. All applicants are treated equally under this allocation system. The allocation system takes into account income levels, current housing status, and residency qualifications.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why then has a Housing New Zealand official, along with a West Auckland District Social Services spokesperson, confirmed that refugees take priority over New Zealanders waiting for State houses, and that the problems are further compounded by an income-related rents structure that advantages refugees additionally over New Zealanders, who will now have to wait longer for assistance and may ultimately be denied access to housing that they were once entitled to?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: Perhaps we could put it into perspective. Last year, from 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2002, 185 refugee households were housed by the corporation. Housing New Zealand has something like 60,000 houses. Refugees are assisted in New Zealand into both State houses and private accommodation. We are very pleased as a Government to do that because we have a proud history in this country of assisting people who have fled from terrorism, fascism, and racism.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What support has the Minister received for the Government's housing policy?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: The New Zealand First housing policy stipulates that it believes that, ``all New Zealanders should have quality, affordable accommodation.'' I am pleased to see that the majority of its policy is in tune with the Government's housing objectives. I appreciate New Zealand First's support and congratulate Mr Donnelly on a fine job.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How does the Minister justify giving priority to refugees for Housing New Zealand houses, in the light of the fact that in Mangere alone the waiting time for the most urgent cases is 3 months, and that alone is a direct result of the Minister's income-related rents policy?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: The Government, and this country, have a proud history of helping refugees. The small number who are assisted into Housing New Zealand properties do put a very small amount of pressure on the waiting list--a waiting list that probably would not be there if, during the short period that Winston Peters and the National Party were in Government, 4,500 houses were not sold.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That Minister may not realise that he has been in Government for 3 years, and he should desist from trying to make comparisons he is ill-equipped, either in experience or intellect, to make.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a point of order.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister confirm that people have not really been treated equally with regard to State houses since the abolition of market rents; if not, what exactly is his definition of ``equally''?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: As I pointed out in my primary answer, there is a social allocation system. We do not want to help that member, who earns a lot of money, to get into a State house; we want to help people in need. If that is the definition of equality, then maybe the member is right.
Paul Adams: Can the Minister give an assurance that all Housing New Zealand rentals are monitored on a regular basis, to ensure that those eligible still meet the criteria so that misallocation does not occur?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: Obviously Housing New Zealand does thorough checks, wherever possible, to make sure that the tenants going into rental accommodation meet the criteria. Once they are housed, we do not throw them out if their circumstances change. There is some argument that that should happen, but it is not one that this Government agrees with.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: In the interests of fiscal information, would the Minister confirm the following: that Housing New Zealand manages 1,674 properties in Henderson, Te Atatu, Ranui, Helensville, Swanson, Massey, Sunnyvale, Glendene, and Kelston; that the need is far outstripping the growth of Housing New Zealand homes; and that Housing New Zealand's figures in west Auckland show that there are 1,466 people needing housing, a figure that is double last year's figure of 708--are those the true figures, and the crisis he is adding to with his refugee programme?
Hon. MARK GOSCHE: I am happy to check the figures the member has just quoted from. I have a number of written questions due to go out today that will add to those figures. I say to him is that, yes, there is a problem in New Zealand for a lot of poor people not being able to access State housing. If 11,000 houses had not been sold, that problem would not be so great.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the Western Leader of Thursday, 29 August 2002, setting out the views of the West Auckland District Council of Social Services and an official from Housing New Zealand Corporation.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. is there any objection? There is.
10. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Is she concerned about the trend, identified in Pharmac's post-election briefing to her for drug companies to increasingly target New Zealand doctors to encourage the prescribing of specific drugs; if so, what does she propose to do to stop this practice?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Yes. Doctors have always been targeted by the pharmaceutical industry to promote their products. Last year the Ministry of Health completed the review of direct-to-consumer advertising by the pharmaceutical industry and is implementing the recommendations from this review, which include tightening regulations under the Medicines Act.
Sue Kedgley: Will she consider requiring disclosure of drug company promotional expenses such as gifts to doctors and hospitals, as happens in some American States; if not, what exactly will the Government do to stop the unscrupulous targeting of consumers and doctors by drug companies trying to boost sales?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes, the ministry is monitoring international developments such as those identified by the member, and they are reviewing their applicability to the New Zealand environment. A number of things will take place in the review for the Medicines Act that would put restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising. I am happy to give the member the list of things that are contemplated.
Nanaia Mahuta: What action is Pharmac taking to ensure the wise use of prescribed medicines in New Zealand?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: As part of its doctor information campaign, Pharmac has been running programmes such as ``The wise use of antibiotics'', ``Take control of your cholesterol'', and ``Adult asthma management'' campaigns. It has also established a consumer advisory committee to provide a patient or health consumer perspective to Pharmac.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does she intend to increase the pharmaceutical budget for Pharmac for the 2002-03 year so that Pharmac can manage the increasing cost of purchasing exciting new life-saving drugs like Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukaemia, and if she does not intend to increase that budget, would she like to tell the 80 patients waiting for Gleevec why?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The 2002-03 budget is being negotiated at this time. I am pleased to tell the member that this Government increased Pharmac's budget in 2000-01, 2001-02. I ask her to compare that with the reductions made by the National Party in 1998-99 and 1999-2000, and then ask the question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, that is a classic answer from the Minister. She was asked what she would advise the 80 patients seeking Gleevec--a very serious group of people with a very serious and highly costly ailment to deal with--and she launches a tirade of political abuse at her opponents across the House. She should be told--
Hon. Annette King: Sit down, and be quiet!
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: The member should be quiet, too. I tell her to be a good girl.
Hon. Annette King: Take your pick.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: The member has not taken hers. Does that seem fair?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is making it very difficult for me. She is interjecting on a point of order and she should be leaving the Chamber. I presume the member wants to have her here because he wants an answer. Would the Minister be quiet.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: There is a very serious issue here. My office has been approached by these people. There are some, probably, in every electorate in this country--some more than in other electorates. The reality is that it is a very serious issue, and those people would like an answer. The Minister was asked what she would advise them, and she launched into a tirade of vituperative abuse against the Opposition party. It is neither fair nor right, and she should be asked to desist.
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Mr Speaker, you will recall that I was asked whether I was going to increase the budget for the 2002-03 year, which I answered. I then pointed out to the member that we were negotiating the 2002-03 budget, and what we had done to increase the budget in 2000-01, 2001-02, and compared it to a time when the budget was decreased. I answered the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member addressed the question. Whether it was satisfactory to the person hearing the answer is not my concern.
Heather Roy: Does the Minister feel that New Zealand doctors are sufficiently well informed to make intelligent decisions on their own prescribing?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: I have not had it put to me that the training that doctors have in pharmacology and therapeutics is inadequate. However, I imagine that some doctors ethics are not as good as others, and they are the ones that one would want to check. As far as I know, the overwhelming number of doctors in New Zealand are well trained to make such decisions.
Judy Turner: Has the Minister received any reports of incentives accompanying drug company presentations to New Zealand doctors to encourage the prescribing of specific drugs?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: It would depend on whether you could say doctors who are invited to pharmaceutical company conferences are being given inducements to prescribe. Some might say there is some inducement and there is some research that shows that doctors are influenced by drug companies, but whether it is related to an inducement is not necessarily so, but may be more related to the pressure that patients put on them for the prescribing, rather than so-called inducements.
Sue Kedgley: Given Pharmac's continuing opposition to direct-to-consumer advertising on the grounds that it does precisely what the Minister said--which is to increase pressure on doctors to prescribe certain drugs--and the fact that more than 18 pharmaceuticals were advertised directly to consumers in the past year, compared with only 10 over the last 3 years, will the review she spoke of also review the whole question of whether New Zealand should continue to allow direct-to-consumer advertising?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The review I spoke of has taken place. It was undertaken in the year 2000. The recommendations came to the ministry in August 2001, so what is being implemented are the recommendations from the review of direct-to-consumer advertising. That review said we should retain direct-to-consumer advertising, but put tighter restrictions in place. That is what we are doing.
11. RICHARD WORTH (NZ National--Epsom) to the Minister of Defence: Is he proud of the New Zealand Defence Force Annual Report for the year ended 30 June 2002; if so, why?
Hon. PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade), on behalf of the Minister of Defence: Yes. The annual report sets out the many achievements made by the New Zealand Defence Force for the year ended 30 June 2002, as well as setting out the challenges it still faces. As Air Marshal Ferguson noted in his overview of the report: ``This was an important year for the New Zealand Defence Force, and we can all be proud of the work that young New Zealanders in our military forces have performed to support peace and stability around the globe.''
Richard Worth: Is it a matter to be proud of that, as stated on page 51 of the report, ``little progress'' has been made on the review of armed forces pay, which was to have been completed 2 months ago?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: There is a lot to be proud of in that area. The pay increases of the last 2 years averaged 5 percent last year, and this year they averaged between 2 and 7.6 percent. That compares with less than 2.5 percent in each of the last 3 years of the National Government. We still have a long way to go, but we have made huge progress in giving decent pay increases to our service men and women.
Graham Kelly: In terms of the needs set out in the annual report, and the enormous backlog of capital acquisitions and inadequate operating funding that the Minister inherited from the previous Government, what expenditure is being committed to address those specific needs?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: There most certainly is a huge backlog of capital expenditure and needs that are set out in the report. That is being addressed by the increased expenditure of $700 million in operating funding available to the defence force over the next 10 years. In capital terms, there will be an extra $1 billion in capital expenditure on top of the billion dollars in depreciation.
Hon. Ken Shirley: Does the Minister agree with the conclusions contained in the study by the consulting group Cubix, showing that defence force personnel are, on average, paid 16 percent below market levels, and does he acknowledge that it requires an additional $45 million to correct that problem, which is more than double the figure contained in the annual report?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: Yes. The point I made in answer to the first supplementary question was that the pay rates of military personnel had fallen well behind the market rates over the 9 to 10 years of the National Government. We have started to address that with pay rises that are two to three times higher than those annually received under the last Government, and with a further pay review, which is being commissioned and will be ready by Christmas this year.
Gordon Copeland: Has the possibility of New Zealand contributing to a joint Anzac air force strike force ever been discussed with the Australian Government?
Mr SPEAKER: That is a little too wide of the original question. I try to be helpful to members who are having a go for the first or second time. If the member would like to rephrase his question, I will give him a chance.
Gordon Copeland: I rephrase that by adding that it was asked in the context of the annual report.
Hon. PHIL GOFF: One has to admire the member's initiative. The New Zealand and Australian defence forces do work very closely together in terms of the common defence policies that are pursued. In fact, the Minister of Defence is absent today because he is meeting his Australian counterpart in Wellington. As for there being a joint effort in terms of a strike force, it is not this Government's intention to reinstate the air combat wing.
Immigration--New Zealand First
12. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs: What reports has he received about the reaction of ethnic groups to New Zealand First's stance on immigration?
Hon. CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Ethnic Affairs): This morning I received a communication from a member of Wellington's ethnic community, who said: ``We, as New Zealanders, are deeply distressed.'' The communication also stated that New Zealanders new and old are voicing their concerns that that politically motivated tirade should stop. I seek to table a letter from Mr _____________, a member of the Wellington Ethnic Council, plus a number of editorials from New Zealand papers, including the Waikato Times, which states: ``There is no place for Peters' racism.''
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows he should seek leave to table documents at the end of the question. If there are two different types of documents to be tabled, the member had better sort those out at the end of his question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the end of his answer, the new Minister decided to throw in an allegation. I ask him to withdraw and apologise, because it is untrue.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I was quoting from the editorial from the Waikato Times, which said: ``There is no place for Peters' racism.''
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister knows, or he will learn very quickly that he cannot do that sort of thing. I want him to withdraw that comment.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I withdraw, although it is a quote from--
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister will stand, withdraw, or he is out.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I withdraw and apologise.
Pansy Wong: How does the Minister think ethnic groups are reacting to Labour raising the pass mark for general skill immigration category from 25 to 28, and now 29 points as a response to New Zealand First's anti-immigration stance?
Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. No, that question has nothing to do with this Minister. It has to do with the Minister of Immigration, and is very wide of the original question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen a report from the Race Relations Conciliator that states the following. ``Much to the dismay of many, I have been steadfast in stating that not only was there nothing racist about your statements but there was also nothing that would satisfy the legal benchmark of causing harm to particular groups of individuals. I have stressed that my views were based on our discussions and reading of your speeches, as opposed to some of the sensationalised media reporting.''
Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly, this Minister does not have responsibility for the Race Relations Conciliator, or any statement that he may make.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker. While he is giving you advice, I will give you mine.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that Mr McGee's advice is something and he does not have to be referred to. I shall make my decision. [Interruption] Will the member be seated, particularly if I am going to rule in his favour. He does not deserve it, having made those comments about me. I was going to rule that the point of order is not valid. The Minister will comment on the member's question.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: In listening to that member's question, the comment that first comes to mind is that successful integration occurs in a community that is tolerant, not intolerant.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have asked him whether he is prepared to respond to the report of the Race Relations Conciliator who has received countless complaints from all sorts of ethnic groups about my speeches. The Race Relations Conciliator excuses, or exonerates me, and blames the sensationalism of the New Zealand media. The Minister has been asked whether he has seen that report, not to comment on something else.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not the Minister's responsibility at all. He is to address the question that he was asked, and I allowed that in. If the Minister wants to make any further brief comment, he can do so.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I repeat what I said earlier. ``Successful integration occurs in a community that is tolerant, not intolerant.''
Keith Locke: Has the Minister received any reports about the protest outside Parliament today when New Zealanders from various ethnic groups expressed their anger at what they consider the racially divisive and repugnant policies of New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters?
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First, there was not a protest outside Parliament; it was a pretext. There were more people from the media than there were protesters. That is fact No. 1. Fact No. 2 is that the member cannot talk about racially divisive policies.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the last part of the member's question was out of order, but he is perfectly entitled to ask the first part of the question about whether the Minister had seen reports about the protest.
Hon. CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I have.
Murray Smith: What impact has New Zealand First's stance on immigration had on the contribution of ethnic groups?
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This will be a very interesting debate if members are allowed to ask Ministers to give their views and commentaries on New Zealand First policy, which we are happy to explain every day in this House. We will take leave now, if one likes, for the next hour, but not for Ministers.
Mr SPEAKER: I have to say to the Minister that that sort of thing can be used in the general debate. We are about to start on the Address in Reply debate in about a minute or so. However, it is not part of question time, because the Minister has no responsibility for the member's question.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You told us all that we should be helpful to new members. Yes, it is correct that Mr Smith's question was out of order. However, if members look at the question, they would find that it would be very easy for the member to get his supplementary question in order. All he has to do and put in front of his question ``What reports has he seen'', and then ask the question. At that point it cannot be any more out of order than the original question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a fair comment. Perhaps Mr Smith could rephrase his question.
Murray Smith: In the light of recent discussions about immigration to New Zealand, what effect has that had on ethnic groups coming to New Zealand in areas such as foreign fee-paying students?
Mr SPEAKER: I said no interjections during question time. Perhaps on this occasion the member can have another go on another day.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to discuss the ruling you gave stating that Pansy Wong's question was inappropriate and wide of the mark. The question set down on the Order Paper asks the Minister what reports he has received about the reaction of ethnic groups. Mrs Wong's question went further and asked him, effectively, what the reaction of those groups was, and then specifically pointed to Labour Party policy. Here is a Minister collectively responsible for Cabinet decisions, and to try to isolate something out from her question is quite unfair. She asked a reasonable question about how ethnic communities were reacting and what reports he had seen on that, relating to Labour's new points system.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member's own sentence, that Mrs Pansy Wong went further, is the key to that. She went outside the bounds of this Minister's responsibilities.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the following testaments to the soundness of New Zealand First policy. The first is from the New Zealand Herald, of all papers, of 6 July 2002: ``Watchdog slams fake refugees''. The second is from the Press--Warwick Rogers, of all people, supporting my views. The third, also from the Press of 23 July 2002, is L__________ talking about the rightness of these policies being raised. The fourth is an article by Denis Dutton, again in the Press, on the importance of this issue, and the fifth is from the Dominion Post of 16 August 2002, where perhaps the most prescient political reporter, Chris Trotter, expresses his views.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those articles. Is there any objection? There is.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With regard to your comment before, what supplementary does not attempt to go further than the question asked? You are being very unfair.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not, and the member had better not say that, as far as I am concerned. He knows full well that is not the case. Every supplementary question attempts to go further than the original question. Of course it does. The test is whether it is within the bounds of the overall question, and that was not.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am now tired of the member. He is not raising proper points of order about this issue.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We will go to the book, shall we, because the book is already clear.
Mr SPEAKER: The member had better have it correct.
Gerry Brownlee: Yes. Standing Order 372, dealing with answers given by Ministers, must, I think, give us an indication of how a question should be asked. This question, set down to the Government from a Government member, goes right to the heart of attempting to discredit another party's policy. So why can a member not ask a supplementary question about the effect the Government's own policy is having on ethnic communities? That is the essence of Mrs Wong's question, which has been ruled out.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member does not need to do that, because I will now enlighten the member. Pansy Wong asked a question about immigration policy.[Interruption] The member will stand, withdraw and apologise for that comment while I am ruling.
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Pansy Wong asked a question about immigration policy. The original question was about what reports the Minister for Ethnic Affairs had received. Immigration policy is for the Minister of Immigration.
Hon. Chris Carter: I seek leave to table a letter from Mr Karunam from the Wellington Ethnic Council.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is objection. It will not be tabled.
Pansy Wong: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not actually ask about Labour's immigration policy. My question was structured to ask--because the Minister has responsibility for ethnic groups--about the reaction from ethnic groups to the Government's response to New Zealand First's stance on immigration. So I actually did not ask him to comment on the immigration policy, and I thought the question was well within the boundaries. I sought to raise a point of order--I am a very gentle-speaking member and you probably did not hear me do that--because I wanted to know this: if a Minister can take responsibility for the reaction towards New Zealand First's immigration stance, then I thought he would also have responsibility to comment on the reaction of the same groups to Labour's response to New Zealand First's anti-immigration stance.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for her request for me to make a ruling, and I say to her that I still judge that the question itself was outside the original question asked. I can see that I am going to have a very close look at questions like this in the future. Maybe I have to look at the original question, but the question asked by the member herself went wide and asked about policy that rightfully should be asked of the Minister of Immigration.
Hon. Jim Anderton: I seek leave to table a report of the Race Relations Conciliator, accusing the New Zealand First anti-immigration campaign of being racist.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. It will not be tabled.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Anderton has got up and made a statement that totally refutes what I have just read out, which is in the words of Greg Fortuin, the Race Relations Conciliator. If he is saying that Mr Fortuin's letter is not the truth, and that what he has there is the truth, then somebody is lying, and I suggest it is not me, but him.
Mr SPEAKER: This is getting into the debating situation. Leave has been denied, and that ends that matter.
Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although it might be convenient for it to be ended now, and I think most of us would like that, something quite unparliamentary was stated by the leader of New Zealand First, and I ask for it be withdrawn and apologised for.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member whether he knowingly made an unparliamentary comment. I just want an answer yes or no.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: It is difficult to answer that. I asked him a question. I said that if Mr Fortuin's letter was true, then what he had already given to the House by way of a verbal description could not be true, and someone is lying.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that is all right. The member will now withdraw and apologise for that comment.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I apologise to Mr Fortuin.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am apologising for what?
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot accuse another member of lying in this House. The member knows that is an absolute fact as far as this is concerned. The member cannot accuse another member of lying in this House and has to withdraw that comment and apologise for it.
Hon. Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have been observing the point of order traffic here, and I note with some concern that where my colleague Mr Brownlee raised legitimate points of order regarding questions asked by his colleagues, you demonstrated some real impatience, almost to the point of threatening to throw him out of the House. Yet we see Mr Peters indulged on debating material. I have never seen the Speaker tolerate a situation where a member withdraws and apologises, takes a point of order and asks what he is apologising for, and then you answer the question. In my view, you need to deal even-handedly with the points of order. It is not my intention to allow Mr Peters to use points of order as a constant mechanism of debate over asking questions from Government Ministers, or checking their answers, or making some other point. You also seem to me to be far too tolerant of Mr Peters taking points of order over Ministers' answers. We do that sometimes. There is a Standing Order on which you have ruled dozens of times, and it is testing the patience of this House to have every answer questioned through the Standing Orders. Most of the answers are nonsense. They are not on the point and they do not give us the information we are after. That is standard practice for the Government but unfortunately it is in line with the Standing Orders. I am asking you to give us some indication of where the boundaries of this indulgence of Mr Peter's points of order lie.
Mr SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition has made a valid point. I think I did overindulge Mr Peters and I might have been a bit tough on Mr Brownlee. On this occasion I will reflect on what I said. I will read the transcript. I thank him for raising the point that he has raised.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions for Oral