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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 11 September

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 11 September 2002

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Iraq--Military Intervention

1. Hon. RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader--ACT NZ) to the Prime Minister: Following news stories reporting that President George W Bush will tomorrow in his address to the United Nations propose that an ultimatum be delivered to Saddam Hussein to re-admit United Nations weapons inspectors or face military action, will New Zealand support this course of action?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: As stated yesterday, New Zealand supports the diplomatic process running its course. Various proposals are currently being floated prior to the United Nations General Assembly, and New Zealand will give them all careful consideration.

Hon. Richard Prebble: Am I correct in interpreting the Prime Minister's answer has actually being that for the first time New Zealand will not support our traditional allies, the United States, Britain, and Australia, should they follow the course of action as I indicated in my original question?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On a number of occasions New Zealand has not supported United States military action.

Keith Locke: Does the New Zealand Government take a consistent position towards the use of armed force against those countries that flout United Nations resolutions?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. The Prime Minister has indicated that the New Zealand Government will consider any resolutions that are passed by the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council. The Government will take those into account in any response it may make to any requests.

Hon. Bill English: What representations, if any, has the Prime Minister received from her supporting parties, the Greens and United Future, with regard to her statements that New Zealand could make a contribution to military intervention in Iraq?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am aware of an interview in which Mr Dunne indicated that the United Nations should take action before New Zealand took any action. Those comments were perfectly consistent with the comments that the Prime Minister has made. I am not clear what comments the Greens have made in that particular context.

Hon. Peter Dunne: I take the Deputy Prime Minister back to his second but one answer relating to UN resolutions, and ask whether the Government is of the view that there are existing UN resolutions in place that would mandate military action against Iraq; if it is not of that view, is the Government working with other nations towards the preparation of such resolutions for that assembly?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is fair to say that on the first point there is a degree of legal argument and unclearness about the validity of the existing resolutions, given the lapsing of time. But given the fact that the absence of weapon inspectors now dates back some 4 or 5 years and no military consequences have flowed from that, the Government therefore takes the view that if there is to be any further action, there should be new United Nations resolutions that are appropriate to the present circumstances.

Ron Mark: Can the House take it from the Minister's previous answer that there have been no formal discussions on this very important issue between the Government and its coalition partners--the Greens and United; and is the House to understand that all of the Minister's comments and observations of their understandings and views will be passed via the media?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. As I said, I am not aware of what discussions the Prime Minister has had formally or informally with Mr Dunne, or with the co-leaders of the Green Party on this matter.

Question No. 2 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National--Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have spoken before about the rather pedantic way in which we are treated when we take questions down to the Clerk's Office. I notice that this question seems to have got through when it very clearly has three legs to it. I refer you to Speaker's ruling 119/4, following from which case there have been two occasions when the Speaker has said that an oral question cannot have more than two legs to it. The first words of this question ask for confidence in three separate matters, so I would suggest that the question is out of order.

Mr SPEAKER: No, it is not, because I read the question as asking what reports has he received. That is one question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you now telling us therefore that the Speaker's ruling 119/4 no longer stands?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not. I am saying that I will judge each situation as the question is presented.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If I may refer you to that Speaker's ruling--

Mr SPEAKER: I have read the Speaker's ruling, and I have made my comment.

Gerry Brownlee: I think there was an occasion last year when there was confusion between you and me over what Speaker's ruling we were speaking about. This ruling is extremely explicit. This question is equally as explicit, and I do not think there can be any doubt that it has more than two legs to it.

Mr SPEAKER: I am in no doubt about my view on this matter.

Economy--Confidence
2. CLAYTON COSGROVE (NZ Labour--Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received of confidence in the New Zealand economy, and sustained economic growth and continuing reductions in unemployment?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): In particular I can refer to the latest report from Business and Economic Research Ltd that the economy is in an uncommon period of steady growth. It notes that there has been no domestic policy lurches in the last 3 years, and it says that wide fluctuations in long-term interest rates and the exchange rate have been left back in the 1980s and 1990s. As well, the ANZ job advertisement account increased by 1.6 percent in August, and the ANZ chief economist expects unemployment to fall below 5 percent during the second half of this year. There is no one answer; the Government is doing superbly well.

Clayton Cosgrove: What other reports have commented on the favourable economic outlook?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I note with great interest that the report to the National caucus on the recent election campaign notes that an external factor in the election result was the--

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have ruled that answer out of order.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Minister recall the projection contained in his own Budget last May, which shows economic growth projected to decline from 3.1 percent this year, to 2.0 percent in 10 years' time; if so, what policies has his Government introduced since that time to change that projection?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I now understand a great deal more about the Reserve Bank in recent years. As the member ought to know, there has since been the forecast for the next 3 years, and the projections of what will happen in 10 years' time--

Hon. John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answers are meant to be directly to the question. There is no need for inferences or other such comments as the Minister made, and I would expect that you would pull him into order.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I made a mistake, and I would like the Minister now to answer the question.

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am happy to repeat the second part of what I said. There is a distinct difference between the forecasts for the next 3 years, and projections in 10 years' time based on technical assumptions. I would have thought the member understood that difference.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: In talking about sustained economic growth, has the Minister seen the material that supports the view that had New Zealand followed the incremental reform policy of Australia after 1984, rather than the wholesale economic revolution of New Zealand, we would be a third larger in economic size now?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I rarely agree with the member, but I think he is perfectly right in this respect. The Australian incremental approach, as opposed to our own ideologically driven approach, produced substantially better results. It should also be noted, of course, that throughout that period Australia favoured a strong immigration policy.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked about economic growth, and the Minister was doing a fine job on that question. Then he departed from the fact that Australia's immigration was 83,000 per year over the period about which we speak, which is a very low-growth immigration policy.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, it is a point of debate.

Cannabis--Law Reform
3. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Health: In light of the report of the Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, published last Thursday 5 September, that recommended that cannabis be licensed for production and sale, does she agree that it was premature for the Government to rule out cannabis law reform before our own Health Committee had reported on its inquiry?

Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): No.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree with the report, when it states: ``The continued prohibition of cannabis jeopardises people's health and well-being more than does the substance itself.''; if so, why is this Government prepared to put New Zealanders at risk by refusing to change the law, and if not, what evidence does she cite to reach a conclusion at odds with an exhaustive 2-year study undertaken in Canada?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs makes many recommendations. The member chose to highlight one of those.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As has been raised in this House many times, the Minister did not even attempt to answer the question I asked, which was quite a specific one.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, on that occasion the Minister did address the question, but I think she could add just a little bit more than she gave.

Hon. ANNETTE KING: I will repeat that the Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs made many recommendations. Any changes made would be a conscience issue in this House, and members could have the opportunity to do that should the member wish to put forward a bill.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does she believe that in the last parliamentary term Labour gave mixed messages to our young people that smoking cannabis was OK, hence the cannabis inquiry, but smoking tobacco was not OK, hence the Smoke-free Environments (Enhanced Protection) Amendment Bill, and that this had led to confusion and increased cannabis use; if not, why not?

Mr SPEAKER: Before the Minister answers, there were too many interjections while the member was asking the question, and they were from all over the House.

Hon. ANNETTE KING: No. The select committee inquiry that is taking place now, arose out of a select committee inquiry into the effect of cannabis on mental health. That inquiry was chaired by the National Party under a National Government, and its recommendation was that Parliament look at the legal status of cannabis. I refer that member to that select committee inquiry. She is poorly informed.

Dr Lynda Scott: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want to table something?

Dr Lynda Scott: No, it was about the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: I will caution members. I will not have points of order just about the debating points. The member is raising a point of order. I would like to know what the point of order is.

Dr Lynda Scott: The point of order is about the relevance of the answer to the question. I asked about Labour's last term; she talked about the National Party term the time before.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, she certainly did, and she also referred to Labour's term. She added something extra. I deemed that was part of the answer to the question.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to the House but it is just that the Opposition was making so much noise, I could not hear the statement of what the committee recommended.

Mr SPEAKER: No. Of course, this is my responsibility and I must take some share of the blame for this. I like to see questions asked without comment, I do not want to have to rule out all interjections while answers are given. Sometimes answers can be a bit provocative and I do not want to be unreasonable to the Opposition. On this occasion I think we will move on to the next supplementary question.

Craig McNair: Is the Minister aware that the same report concluded that not enough was known about the long-term and excessive use of cannabis; that it also stated that its use could affect adolescent development; and, noting those points, does the Minister believe that it is responsible for a member of Parliament to continually promote cannabis use?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question the Minister can answer because it is within her responsibility. The second part about another member of Parliament; that is that member of Parliament's responsibility.

Hon. ANNETTE KING: Since I received this question I have only had the opportunity to take off the Internet from NORML's newsletter the key points of this inquiry, so I cannot answer the member in terms of the other things it says, other than what is in the summary.

Judy Turner: Has she considered the overseas research reports that reveal that there is a 500 percent increase in overall incidents of major mental illness for those who use 50 joints or more in their lifetime, and did this consideration help influence the Government's decision to rule out cannabis law reform?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: There is much research that shows the impact of cannabis on mental health, including the inquiry that was undertaken during the period of a National-led Government that I mentioned in a previous answer. It does show a direct correlation between schizophrenia and cannabis. [Interruption]

Nandor Tanczos: In the light of the Canadian study's finding that legalisation would ultimately result in less recreational use of marijuana, what health grounds can the Government cite for maintaining prohibition?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: There is enough evidence to show that smoking cannabis does affect the health of New Zealanders, including cancer, and including effects on people with mental illness. In any decision about what should happen with cannabis, we ought to look at the evidence before we make decisions.

Peter Brown: I seek leave--for the Minister's enlightenment--to table the report my good colleague referred to.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Iraq--Military Intervention
4. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she agree with Prime Minister Tony Blair that diplomatic efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime must be backed by the certain knowledge that behind the diplomacy is the possibility that force could be used; if not, why not?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Force is always a possibility to back up United Nations decisions. Currently, like most other nations, New Zealand believes that diplomacy has yet to run its course.

Hon. Bill English: Does that mean New Zealand will, or will not, argue and vote for United Nations resolutions that mandate military intervention in Iraq?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand will carefully consider any resolutions that are put forward, and will discuss its appropriate response with other countries.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Is the House to understand from earlier replies that if Saddam Hussein defies United Nations resolutions long enough, they will no longer be legally binding, and, if that is the view of the Prime Minister and her Government, could she please tell us who gave that advice?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is not correct. It is more correct to state that the failure to assert and implement the United Nations resolutions creates some doubt about whether those resolutions are now a sufficient basis for military action--particularly unilateral military action. In any case, New Zealand favours joint action of any sort, rather than any form of unilateral military action, which is likely to have consequences elsewhere.

Matt Robson: Does the Prime Minister consider that diplomacy rather than force has been used against Iraq in the last 11 years, when the US and the United Nations have practised the most extensive sanctions ever placed on any country by the United Nations, and when there have been daily bombing raids in the last 3 years by the United States and Great Britain on Iraq?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is certainly correct that very strong sanctions have been implemented against Iraq. Equally, there has been continued military action, particularly the implementation and enforcement of the no-fly zones.

Labour Market--Outlook
5. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour--Wairarapa) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What reports, if any, has he received on the outlook for the labour market?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): I have seen a number of reports. They anticipate continued sustainable growth in employment, and foreshadow a further reduction in unemployment--down from the present level of 5.1 percent, which is at a 14-year low. As Business and Economic Research Ltd noted in a release issued today, the key element driving economic growth over the last 3 years is a reasonably stable economic environment. That has led to the emergence of a dynamic labour market, which has created jobs at a rate of 40,000 to 50,000 a year.

Georgina Beyer: To what extent has the Government policy contributed to that positive outlook?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: In 1996 we were told the only way to get unemployment down was to reduce the unemployment benefit and abolish minimum wages. Indeed, the Governor of the Reserve Bank at that time, Dr Brash, indicated sympathy for that prescription. This Labour-led Government has restored and increased minimum wages, and--far from reducing the benefit--we have taken steps to improve income adequacy for the unemployed. In that context, unemployment is tracking down. Dr Brash was wrong in 1996 and he is wrong now.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Can the Minister explain why, despite so much good news, 2,045 people have signed up for his ``artists for the dole'' scheme, describing themselves as actors, artists, clowns, acrobats, MŽori cultural entertainers, and tattooists, and when does he think that that number will begin to fall?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: As a result of the decline in unemployment, one of the things we have done with our policies is to begin to target areas where we think we can make some real progress. One of them is in the new burgeoning arts and cultural area, where large numbers of jobs are appearing. We are very proud, therefore, of the success of the Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment programme. We have room on the programme for 12 idiots who have left the National Party recently, if they wish to pursue that career.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will withdraw and apologise for the use of that word, which he knows I am referring to.

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The junior Labour whip made an interjection that I think was unhelpful for the order of this House, and I ask that she be required to withdraw.

Mr SPEAKER: I think that is appropriate. The member will withdraw that remark.

Jill Pettis: I withdraw.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. So now a member can withdraw or apologise just by sitting there. Is that right?

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the member stood up. [Interruption]

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If we are going to have people insisting on proper form, we do not comment on actions taken by a member in response to a point of order. That member decided to interject, quite improperly, about an action just taken.

Mr SPEAKER: He certainly did, and he will withdraw that comment.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Can I take it from the Minister's last answer that being an idiot is a qualification for his new artistic merit entitlement; if not, why did he say it in the first place?

Mr SPEAKER: I asked the Minister to withdraw that comment and apologise for it, because it should not have been made in the first place. If the member can rephrase the question in such a way that it does not use the word that has been withdrawn and apologised for, I will allow it.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Removing the epithet relating to the National Party, can I nevertheless take it that being an idiot is a qualification for his artistic merit entitlement?

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. We are getting ourselves into some difficulty here. I am allowing the member one more chance to ask the question without any reference to that particular word, which I have demanded be withdrawn, and apologised for, by the Minister. He has done so, and it then is struck out of the question and answer session.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister agree with the advice of Treasury to the incoming Government that the removal of work testing will cause benefit numbers to rise, making it even harder for employers to find workers; if not, why not?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do agree that the removal of work testing of people who have registered as job seekers would be a backward step. However, I do think a family-friendly policy, like one to do with the domestic purposes benefit, whereby we ensure that people lift their capacity and return to the paid workforce once they can balance their family and work responsibilities, is a very good way; so does Treasury.

Paul Adams: Given the finding in the briefing report from the Department of Labour that the number of people working for small firms has increased, relative to the decline in those working for larger firms, and the clear evidence in the report that suggests that paperwork and bureaucracy inhibit small businesses from taking on further staff, does the Government intend to cut compliance costs to enable those firms to grow; if so, what is the first area we will see results in?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, the Government is committed to ensuring compliance costs come down. My friend and colleague Mr Paul Swain is the leader of that particular strategy. In my own area, for example, one of the things we are trying to do when we work with small firms in relation to Work and Income New Zealand is to ensure that the paperwork is kept to a minimum. When they are taking on a person in an area like Modern Apprenticeships we move all the work from the employer if he or she wishes us to do so.

Dail Jones: How does the Minister reconcile the question and the answer we have just heard about production and compliance costs, bearing in mind that only yesterday the Minister and the party that asked the question supported increasing compliance costs when they supported payment of import levies that will hurt small businesses significantly?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I simply repeat my answer that this Government has been committed to reducing compliance costs. Paul Swain has been leading that strategy. I give you a concrete example, and that is the Modern Apprenticeships programme, where we remove all costs from employers if they wish us to do so.

Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table a report from Treasury that shows it opposes lifting the work test for the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Question No 6 to Minister
Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A press statement on this issue was released by the Prime Minister on 1 September 2001. I believe that that press statement, regarding the Norwegian vessel the Tampa, concerned issues outside immigration and wider Government policy. As a consequence, I ask that this question be in the name of the Prime Minister, not the Minister of Immigration, for specific reasons. They are set out in that press statement, and I made it very clear that it was the announcement and the reason behind it that I was seeking an answer to, from the Prime Minister. As in the past, for reasons I could understand then, the issue was taken out of the Prime Minister's hands and put in the hands of the Minister of Immigration. But it is a bigger and larger issue than that, as I am sure will be elicited from the answer to the question in the first place. That answer, I am certain, will show that there are wider criteria, because I have evidence to prove that there must have been wider criteria on this issue. That is why I asked the Prime Minister the question, and I want to know why it was shifted to the Minister of Immigration, when it covers issues wider than immigration itself.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: Clearly one refers to page 115 to 116 of Speakers' Rulings. It is entirely within the competence of Ministers to decide whether a question should be transferred, and the judgment that applies there is the judgment of the Minister to whom the question is directed. Further to that, under Speaker's ruling 116/2, that may involve some necessary textual changes, a ruling by Mr Speaker Kidd in 1998. Speaker's ruling 116/1 states: ``Ultimately, the Speaker could refuse to permit a question to be transferred to another Minister for answer if the responsibility for a subject is so primarily held by a particular Minister as to mean that the transfer of the question would be an abuse.'' If you looked at the question, having seen the original version of the question, the actual substance of the question--what is being asked about--is how many of these people the Government has taken in during the last 12 months, and what method and standard of assessment were followed when reaching each decision to do so. That is an administrative and policy matter that is entirely in the competence of the Minister of Immigration, and the Prime Minister is perfectly justified in having the question transferred to the Minister of Immigration. There can be no suggestion that, in terms of Speaker's ruling 116/1, there is an abuse involved in doing so.

Mr SPEAKER: The transfer of this question has been brought to my attention. I appreciate that the announcement was made by the Prime Minister, but the announcement relates to a matter of Government policy that is within the ministerial responsibility of the Minister of Immigration. Ministers are responsible for deciding which Minister answers a question. In this case, either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Immigration can quite properly answer it. The Government has decided that it will be the Minister of Immigration, and that is that. This is not one of those situations where only one Minister could be responsible, and where, therefore, a transfer can be refused. The announcement is the preface to the question as drafted. The question does not actually start until the word ``how'' on the third line.

Immigrants--Nauru Island Detainees
6. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Following the Prime Minister's announcements that the Government had resolved to grant refugees/asylum seekers held on Nauru Island residence in New Zealand, how many of these people has the Government taken in during the last 12 months, and what was the method and standard of assessment followed when reaching each decision to do so?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): New Zealand initially agreed to take up to 150 asylum seekers from the Tampa for determination. One hundred and thirty-one asylum seekers were transferred from Nauru to New Zealand in September last year. As a result of that decision, their claims were determined in accordance with the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Since that time, a further 17 Tampa family link cases have been brought to New Zealand, and a further 91 cases, determined either by the Australian authorities or by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who came as mandated refugees under the quota.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: How does the Minister square the statement in respect of 131 and 17 with the fact that, just this day, it has been announced in Australia that 66 only of 506 asylum seekers on Nauru qualify, or that, of the people who were, in that round in April, decided upon from the Tampa, who were Afghans, the 292, only seven qualified? How do we have such a minimalist percentage coming out of Australia at the behest of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, yet hundreds are accepted by her and her Government in this country; and how do they possibly qualify against the Australian criteria or the UN criteria?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The comments in the news media this morning about 66 of the 506 asylum seekers refer to those who were found at review to be refugees. It does not include those who were already determined to be refugees either by the Australian authorities or by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We did say at the time that we selected people from the Tampa group to come to New Zealand for determination, that we had deliberately selected those more likely to be granted refugee status as they were family groupings or they were unaccompanied minors. We also made the point that this determination, this series of determinations in New Zealand, was made before the Taliban regime fell.

Taito Phillip Field: Has the Minister seen any reports that comment on the speed of determination processes when dealing with asylum seekers who do not have a genuine claim for refugee status?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority stated that it was not possible to prevent the unscrupulous from lodging abusive claims, but it went on to say: ``All a system can do is to ensure that such claims are fast-tracked in order to remove incentives created by delay.'' This is a ringing endorsement for this Government's determined efforts to reduce the backlog that existed when we took office in 1999.

Hon. Murray McCully: Of the 35 to 40 asylum seekers flown from Nauru to Fiji on Thursday of last week, escorted by Australian officials, and stating that they were stopping temporarily in Fiji before moving to New Zealand, how many have now been approved to enter New Zealand as refugees, and are any of them ex-Tampa asylum seekers?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not have advice on that information. If the member would like to put down a question, I will respond to it.

Hon. Richard Prebble: Is the Minister now publicly prepared to admit that if she had followed the advice given to her, by myself and others, that, instead of granting the Tampa boat people refugee status she had given them temporary permits, as New Zealand did with people from Fiji after the coup, the reality would be, given the situation in Afghanistan now, that few or perhaps none of the Afghans who have been given refugee status, which they now have for life, would actually qualify?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: No.

Keith Locke: Could the Minister confirm the information I gained at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre on Monday that many of the Afghan asylum-seekers from Nauru are from the Hazari nationality in central Afghanistan, a nationality that suffered brutal treatment at the hands of the Taliban regime, and have in that regard a good claim for asylum?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I cannot comment on people's claim for asylum. I can say that all of the people who have come to New Zealand from Nauru in this last intake, which is the September quota intake, have mandated refugee status under the convention by either the Australian authorities or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Does the Minister understand how ridiculous her claim is, which she has just made, that her policies are receiving ringing endorsement, when in fact the Refugee Status Appeals Authority points out that these people can apply under a series of appeals for 8 years, and the potential cost to the Crown alone will be $30 million in benefit payments alone--forget about all the rest, the legal aid and other costs; why are we not, as is the case in Blair's Britain, paying to send them home because they simply do not qualify in their case and in the case of the UK, at a cost of œ2,500 per person; why is she not following the sorts of policies that are being followed in Australia and Britain, given the warning by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, appeals to which have only a 3 percent success rate at any point in time?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The determination process that we have in New Zealand is regarded worldwide to be one of the most robust systems of determination of refugee status in the world. The jurisprudence that has been developed by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority is one that I will stand up and defend in this House, as will, I believe, members of previous Governments who have been responsible for these matters. What the member completely overlooks is that we have an obligation to process claims that are made. In the Fiji example that was given, temporary permits were not issued on the basis that they had claimed refugee status; it was to prevent claims for refugee status being lodged.

Mental Illness--Stigma and Social Acceptance
7. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour--Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made on reducing stigma and improving outcomes for those with mental health illnesses?

Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am delighted to see that the Ministry of Health's Like Minds Like Mine project, to counter the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness, has won the prestigious gold award in the public service category in New Zealand's first EFFIE (Effective Advertising) awards. The ministry's research shows the messages people are taking out of the advertising campaign, featuring well-known New Zealanders with experience of mental health, are that 34 percent think mental health is not shameful, 32 percent think mental illness can happen to anybody, and 29 percent think New Zealanders should show support, tolerance, understanding, and respect for those with mental illness--a good start in changing attitudes.

Steve Chadwick: Why is it so important to reduce stigma and improve outcomes for those suffering from mental illness?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The blueprint for mental health services in New Zealand says that one of the biggest barriers to recovery is discrimination. That is why stopping discrimination and promoting respect, rights, and equality for people with mental illness is just as important as providing the best treatment and therapies. The project recognises that one in five New Zealanders will experience mental illness in any given year, and the vast majority of people recover, raise families, hold down jobs, contribute to their communities, and do not commit violent crimes.

Dr Lynda Scott: How does the lack of resources--demonstrated by provincial centres making do with half the mental health workers they require and suffering from critical shortages of psychiatrists--plus claims that mental health funding is being spent elsewhere by district health boards, improve outcomes for those with a mental illness?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The member will find that the problem is not a shortage of funding. It is certainly a shortage of resources in terms of human resources. We have a shortage of psychiatrists, mental health nurses, and psychologists. We are trying to improve that situation as fast as possible by training more and ensuring we have people coming into New Zealand to work in our workforce while we try to plug those gaps.

Heather Roy: How has the Minister reduced stigma and improved outcomes by spending $13 million of taxpayers' money on the Like Minds Like Mine strategy at the expense of adequately caring for acute mental health patients, when there have been patients sleeping on mattresses on the floor at Wellington and Hawke's Bay hospitals, and sleeping in hospital corridors at Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The expenditure on the Like Minds Like Mine programme goes back a number of years. That project has been accepted as being a very important one. As I said, the blueprint and the Mental Health Commission have said that one of the big problems is discrimination. However, I am pleased to tell the member that since we became the Government an extra $257 million has been committed to mental health. I would put that record against anything that ACT or National could do.

Sue Bradford: When will the urgent report that was promised months ago into the Auckland shortages of beds and services appear, given that the situation up there is not improving outcomes for people with mental illness?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The report the member is speaking of is one that has been carried out by the Mental Health Commission. I am advised that it is due any day.

Transport Accident Investigation Commission
8. Hon. ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader--NZ National) to the Minister of Transport: Is he confident that the Transport Accident Investigation Commission is capable of discharging its responsibility as an independent body, given the lack of funding and high staff turnover identified in the commission briefing papers; if so, why?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): Yes. I have confidence in the commission, which received additional funding this financial year to investigate transport accidents in New Zealand. However, as the briefing notes, there are wider issues relating to potential overlap of agencies' duties, duplication of work, and resourcing. Those issues, which have been around since 1995, are currently under review. It is also important to note that the Government has guaranteed Transport Accident Investigation Commission funds to cover a large investigation, should one arise.

Hon. Roger Sowry: How can the Minister be confident of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission's independence, when its current media contractor has recently started working for Air New Zealand, and does this not provide a serious conflict of interest?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I have a great deal of confidence in the independence of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, primarily because that is the way it has been established--at arm's length from the Government. However, the issue of independence is one of the issues that is being addressed by the current review.

Lynne Pillay: What is the purpose of the review?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The purpose of the review is to determine whether New Zealand's investigative practices could be improved and whether available resources are being used to contribute to improved safety outcomes. The review is covering the roles of various agencies involved in the investigation of accidents and incidents in the transport sector.

Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister accept the advice from the commission that a conflict of interest regarding ownership and regulatory matters has intensified risk for accident in air and rail transport; if so, what has he done about it?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I am aware of the issues that have been raised by the commission in that report regarding independence. As I have said before, this is one of the matters that is being addressed as part of the review process.

Peter Brown: How many investigations did the Transport Accident Investigation Commission fail to undertake last year because of lack of resources or lack of ability, how many did it undertake in total, and of those how many were not up to the required standard?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I do not have that information in front of me. If the member wants to put down a question I would be happy to answer it.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Does the Minister accept that there is a serious conflict of interest in a media contractor, contracted to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, working for Air New Zealand; and, if so, will he act?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: No, and no.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I seek leave to table the briefing papers to the Minister, where the commission spells this out and identifies it as a serious conflict of interest.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I seek leave to table the terms of reference for the Transport Accident Investigation Commission.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Homicide--Youth Offenders
9. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Is he concerned about the recent spate of murders perpetrated by youth offenders with a history of involvement in petty crime; if so, what steps, if any, will he take to address this issue?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Justice): Yes, this Government is concerned and we have taken steps to deal with the issue. Thirty youth offending teams, made up of the police, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, as well as local health and education authorities, are currently being set up in each region. They will share information and coordinate early interventions to prevent at-risk youth from progressing to more serious offending.

Marc Alexander: Given that the offenders in both the Michael Choy and Kenneth Pigott murder cases have a history of truancy, alcohol use, and anti-social behaviour, why are parents not being held to account for their children's descent into criminal activity?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: We are undertaking a review of the Kurariki case in order to establish where the failings existed in the system so that we can introduce early intervention measures and hopefully prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that no new funding is available to establish youth funding teams, that youth offending teams have not been established to perform a new function, and that all youth offending teams will do is ensure Government agencies perform their existing core business?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: No.

Stephen Franks: What was the effect, as shown in the youth crime figures, of the Rt Hon. Helen Clark's 1999 credit-card promise to crack down on youth crime, and why would anyone listening to the Minister today, whether MP, victim, or young thug, expect those bureaucratic teams to work any better than the Prime Minister's broken promises?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: There has been a reduction in reported offending for young people. The difficulty is that what these cases, and they are serious cases, do identify is that there are breakdowns in more than one area, and it is not limited just to the area of police intervention; in fact, we need to be looking at the education system and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, in order that we can prevent these things from occurring again.

Ron Mark: Did the United Future Party, when negotiating so forcefully its very deep and in-depth social policies as part of the coalition agreement with this Government and with this Minister, ask for, demand, and get an undertaking from the Government that it would introduce legislation to hold parents accountable for the behaviour and the crimes of their children?

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether one could seek an assurance from the member that when he was using those descriptions about United Future he was not being ironical, because if he was being ironical he was out of order, but because he was not being ironical and that was a genuine tribute to United Future, then he is totally within order on the question.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that technically the point of order is correct, but I will ask the Minister to comment because it is a rule that we should not have ironical comments, and I presume that the member was not using them in an ironical way.

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I was not involved in the negotiations with United Future over the confidence and supply agreement, but I would imagine that was an issue that was in the party's mind when we were asked to consider the Commission for the Family.

Tim Barnett: How will the Government monitor progress with youth offending teams in providing a coordinated response to youth at risk?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: A youth justice leadership group representing Government agencies in the youth justice section will monitor the progress of youth offending teams. In the future cases like Bailey Junior Kurariki would be examined by the relevant youth offending team to identify the areas where greater intervention was required. I am sure that the family commission, when it is established, will want to play an active role in this area as well.

Otago University--Public Finance and Fees
10. SIMON POWER (NZ National--Rangitikei) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What is his reaction to the statement of Dr Graeme Fogelberg, Vice Chancellor of Otago University, who says that if Otago accepted the offer of a 4.5 percent increase in funding in return for a fee freeze, services would deteriorate further, and given this statement, does he still stand by his decision to freeze fees?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The 4.5 percent offer is part of an $80 million package of new initiatives benefiting tertiary institutions in 2003. It includes research funding, centres of research excellence and e-learning funding. I would therefore encourage the University of Otago Council to accept the offer as a means of increasing its income rather than relying on fee increases, as it would have to under National.

Simon Power: Has he seen the statements by Graeme Fogelberg of Otago University: ``I find it difficult to see how the Government can expect us to maintain levels of service with such pathetic levels of funding.'' and ``For this Government to pretend that it is funding universities at an adequate level, quite frankly, is farcical.'' Given those statements does he still stand by his decision to freeze fees?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The Labour-led Government has increased institutional funding by almost 10 percent over a 3-year period. Tertiary institutions will receive more than $200 million in additional funding during this year, based upon student rolls, increased funding rates, the Strategic Change Fund, and centres of research funding. In contrast, that member's party slashed spending in the 1990s by 29 percent. I know who I would back.

Helen Duncan: Does the Minister believe that there is a continuing need to ensure fees are at an affordable level?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do. Affordable fees are good for students and good for institutions. Much of the increase in students at university since 1999 is due to fee stabilisation. I reject Mr Power's call for an increase in fees as the way forward.

Hon. Brian Donnelly: As the 4.5 percent increases applies only to the 70 percent of course costs that the Government funds, and therefore represents in reality a 3.15 percent, or thereabouts, increase, which is less than the combined imported and domestic inflation of universities, how does he dispute Dr Fogelberg's statements?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The 4.5 percent does, and is intended to, compensate institutions for inflation across all student and tuition funding. I repeat that it is only part of the funding. They are also eligible for a range of other pockets of money. This year, for example, that university would have received at least $3 million from the Strategic Change fund. The total amount of money needs to be understood for those institutions. I repeat to that member that the choice of not doing this, as suggested by my Opposition colleague, is to allow student fees to go through the roof again. This is better compensation.

Metiria Turei: In the light of the University of Otago's $20 million surplus, which is almost a 7 percent return on revenue last year, why does the Minister think that the university would have to reduce services with a 4.5 percent increase in funding?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The University of Otago is an incredibly well-run institution that has been declaring surpluses. I certainly hope that with the kind of increase anticipated here, which is the biggest in at least 12 years, the university would not reduce services.

Simon Power: How can the Minister possibly stand by his decision, when in his own ministry incoming briefing papers it was stated: ``Both the polytechnic and university sectors are currently on average not meeting minimum surplus thresholds. Half of the public tertiary institutions are not generating enough surplus to support strategic change or even maintain long-term viability.''?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: That is exactly why this Government has committed to a rising level of funding for institutions after 9 long years of being starved by the National Government.

Therapeutic Productions--Trans-Tasman Agency
11. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: Has she or her officials undertaken consultation with other political parties in order to establish the extent of support for the Government's proposed Trans-Tasman Agency to regulate therapeutic products; if so, what was the result of this consultation?

Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): No.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister aware that more than 30,000 New Zealanders signed my petition requesting that regulations that govern dietary supplements not be brought under a proposed single trans-Tasman agency, but that they be regulated in New Zealand on the basis of New Zealand legislation; if so, will she listen to the voices of 30,000 New Zealanders and drop her proposals to regulate dietary supplements through a trans-Tasman therapeutic goods agency?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes, I am aware of the petition, and I need to inform the member that the Government has made no decisions on a joint agency between Australia and New Zealand to regulate pharmaceuticals, medical devices, or dietary supplements. However, a discussion document has gone out for input from New Zealanders. We now have the submissions on that document. I have yet to receive the report from the ministry. Based on that report, Government would consider the proposal. I need to assure the member that we have made no decision.

Jill Pettis: If the Government decides to proceed with a trans-Tasman agency to regulate pharmaceuticals and therapeutics, will the Minister consult with other political parties over this issue?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: Of course, we would. All parties would have the opportunity to consult. If we decided to go down this track it would require legislation and a treaty to be signed between New Zealand and Australia, which would be part of the consultation required from this Parliament. We would not proceed unless we had the support of the majority of this House.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister support my view that an inquiry should be held into the proposed trans-Tasman agency to regulate therapeutic products to fully explore this proposal's impact on New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: I understand that this morning the Health Committee decided to hold such an inquiry. I have no difficulty with its proposal. That is up to the committee. I look forward to its terms of reference.

Mr SPEAKER: I caution the Minister. I presume that that decision was taken in open session.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The National member on the Health Committee, Dr Lynda Scott, tabled the terms of reference that she drew up today and was told that she was not allowed to talk about the outcome of the decision of the committee. She was given that instruction firmly by the Chair of the committee, who was very keen that following the vote that the Government control the press release and not the Opposition. For the Minister to now use the House question time to announce such a decision is right outside the Standing Orders.

Hon. ANNETTE KING: I withdraw and apologise for that remark. I was not aware that that was the case. I had received a verbal briefing from members of the committee that this had been on the agenda. I have made an error. However, having announced it, I do not think it means that it has not been agreed to.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not the issue. The issue is raised as a point of order and the member was absolutely correct in what he said. I have to emphasise to all members, including members who have not had experience in this House, that issues before select committees are the responsibility of that select committee unless, and until, it reports to the House. Up to that moment, if a decision is made by the committee that has not been reported to the House, then, of course, it goes outside the Standing Orders. The Minister has withdrawn and apologised for the particular point that she made, and on that ground I have accepted that apology, but it does not in any way abrogate the point that was made by Mr Sowry.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to rethink your statement to the House because if what you have said is correct, then this is a secret inquiry. Here we have a committee that has decided to have an inquiry. Under the Standing Orders it does not need to come back to this House for approval for that. The committee has decided that it will have an inquiry into this business about whether we will have the same drug rules as Australia. Obviously, the committee must be able to communicate that to the public. Once the committee has made that decision, it also cannot be made secret by the fact that the chairman is dilatory in putting out a press statement. The rules are that if an inquiry is decided on, and set up, that knowledge can be imparted to everyone else. We all know that the Government got rolled. It will have an inquiry into that matter, and of course members of the public need to know that. Otherwise, how could they make submissions?

Mr SPEAKER: I am very interested in what the member said, and I refer him to Standing Order 238. That is perfectly correct. The chairman of a select committee or subcommittee may, with the agreement of the committee, make a public statement to inform the public of the nature of the committee's consideration of a matter. I would hope that that will be done, but that does not in any way affect the ruling that I gave on Mr Sowry's point of order, which was a perfectly correct one.

Heather Roy: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was not a general agreement from the committee that the--

Mr SPEAKER: That is precisely what I am trying to say. That information is something that cannot be reported to the House until the committee agrees to do so. That must not be done; it is technically a breach of privilege. I say to the member that as far as I am concerned, I appreciate that she is in her first few weeks in the House, and I will overlook that on this occasion.

Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I suggest to you that this whole shemozzle that we have got into could have been prevented if there had been a certain tightness in the asking of the supplementary question by Ms Kedgley. That supplementary question referred to __________. It referred to the select committee inquiry. There was reference to ``the suggestion of'', and if that had been held more tightly, this situation would not have occurred.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I am afraid that on this occasion that suggestion is not very helpful. I listened very carefully to what was said, and the Minister acknowledged her mistake, withdrew, and apologised for it. There the matter rests.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The reference to Sue Kedgley was incorrect.

Sue Kedgley: I would ask him to withdraw it. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: He did withdraw that comment.

Barbara Stewart: What are the specific drivers or reasons for the Minister appearing to be besotted with Australia's demands to dictate New Zealand's standards when it comes-- [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I am trying to listen to the member's question. There was other conversation going on. Would the member please re-ask the question, but it must not be ironic in any way. It must be a straight question. Please ask it, and I will listen.

Heather Roy: What are the specific concerns for the Minister, who appears to be so concerned with Australia's demands to dictate New Zealand's standards when it comes to the natural health products harmonisation exercise; or are they merely an extension of her desire to have Australia become the primary health-care provider--as has now become the case with cancer treatments for so many New Zealanders?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: I would be very happy for Australia to pay for our primary health-care. That would be a great innovation. However, I am not besotted with Australia. I need to report to the House the idea of a joint regulator of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and dietary supplements, which arose out of discussions that took place in 1999 with the Hon. Wyatt Creech and the then Minister of Health of Australia. When I became Minister I took up those discussions and looked at what was being said. It was being proposed that we had a joint agency for the regulation of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and therapeutic goods. We have looked at whether we should do it; we have made no decision.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise again with you the ruling that you have made. I have taken another look at the Standing Order, and I think that we have an interesting situation. I want to put it to you because I am aware that Heather Roy, one of the ACT MPs who was wanting to ask a supplementary question. She wanted to ask a supplementary question that would have been in order but it would have included the fact that a select committee had organised an inquiry. On listening to your statement, I believe that you gave the impression that that would be out of order unless the chairman had made a press statement. I want to suggest to you that that is not so. I am already informed that the chairman has made a press statement, so that might bring it within order, anyway. But, even if the chairman had not, I suggest to you that once a select committee makes a resolution to set up an inquiry, it must be a matter under Standing Order 238(2): ``The committee or subcommittee may make its proceedings available to any person for the purpose of assisting in the committee's consideration of a matter.'' The only possible way of interpreting this matter is that once the committee has said it is to have an inquiry, it must be made public. I draw this to your attention because it is very clear that there are a number of committees where the Government members are in a minority. So a number of inquiries will be held that Government members do not want. Well, so what? They cannot stop them by saying: ``Well, we've got the chairmanship, and even though the committee has voted for an inquiry, the chairman won't make any public statement. So--ha, ha--there is no inquiry.'' That cannot be right. The proper interpretation must be that if a committee once says it wants to have an inquiry it has, in effect, and for that matter, opened it to the public. That should be able to be reported to anyone, including this House, and we ought to be able to ask a question of its relevance to the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to clear up one point--that is, the chairman must act on the direction of the committee. If the committee decides to set up an inquiry, and there is a majority decision, the chairman must do what the committee says the chairman must do. There is no way of being able to hide that decision. The chairman must act on the decision of the majority. There is no doubt about that particular point. But Mr Roger Sowry wants to continue this with another point.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I thank the member for his point of order, because it certainly added new information. My understanding at the committee this morning was that, having voted the way it did, it decided that the chairman would issue a statement next week, once the terms of reference were decided. Now we have the situation where the chairman has issued a statement today.

Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the chairman of the committee to comment.

STEVE CHADWICK: The committee resolved this morning that I would put out a statement to the press, which has been done. Lynda Scott sought clarification that she could speak as an individual member on behalf of her party. That has been done.

Mr SPEAKER: Having heard from the chairperson of the Health Committee, and I perhaps should have done that right at the start, and that is my mistake, I will now allow any questions about the inquiry since it has been announced.

Heather Roy: Does the Minister support the decision made by the Health Committee today, and announced by the chairperson, to have an inquiry into the trans-Tasman agency to regulate therapeutic products?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: I have no problems with a select committee inquiry into this issue. I will be expecting support from the ACT party, having read its policy to move to the acceptance of qualified overseas drug evaluations rather than repeat testing in New Zealand. A joint regulator would mean--

Hon. Ken Shirley: The policy covers dietary supplements, not drugs.

Hon. ANNETTE KING: But this covers drugs. The member does not know what he is talking about. It covers drugs, medical devices, and dietary supplements. ACT's policy is to enable the overseas decisions to be made for New Zealand, as well. It is written in ACT's policy.

Sue Kedgley: Would the Treaty of Waitangi be recognised in any treaty between Australia and New Zealand setting up a trans-Tasman agency, and is there provision for that to happen; if not, why not?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot answer that. We have not got to that point in any decision making.

Students--Educational Potential
12. NANAIA MAHUTA (NZ Labour--Tainui) to the Minister of Education: How does the Government intend to ensure all students reach their educational potential?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): By making sure children and young people have the opportunity to participate in quality education. This includes targeting support for some learners who, through individual circumstance, have difficulty reaching their educational potential. It means a focus on literacy and numeracy, and on increasing participation in early childhood education services. It also means a considerable boost for gifted education, a trebling of professional support, and a fund of over $1 million for innovative programmes. There will be extra professional support for teaching and learning, increased numbers of teachers in classrooms--a total of 3,500 by 2007--and qualified staff in early childhood education services.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister outline what will be the measures of success of these initiatives?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: There will be four outcomes that are important: that all New Zealanders have strong learning foundations including language, communication, and numeracy skills; that we have successful school leavers with the knowledge and skills for ongoing participation in society; that all school leavers are motivated and self-directed life-long learners; and that New Zealand leads in knowledge creation and innovation.

Phil Heatley: How does continuing to fail to act on the huge increases, year after year, of children referred to the Non-enrolment Truancy Service help prevent future truants from failing to reach their educational potential?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am surprised that the member is not aware that this Government has pushed very heavily for a much higher level of referral for truancy than the very low levels of referral and high trigger points accepted under the previous Government.

Donna Awatere Huata: Mr Speaker--

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, ACT has had its quota of questions for today.

Larry Baldock: In the light of the widely held view that early education helps students achieve their educational potential, does the Minister have plans to cope with the huge demand that will be placed on kindergartens if current plans to give pay parity to kindergarten teachers result in the closure of many private providers of early childhood education centres as a result of their inability to compete economically without Government assistance; if not, why not?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: No. I seek leave for Donna Awatere-Huata to ask a question seeing she has an interest in this area.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the member to ask a question. Is there any objection? There appears to be none.

Donna Awatere Huata: Will the Minister accept an approach from ACT for a multiparty accord to reduce truancy, given that both the National and Labour Governments have failed to keep their promises to set up a central database to reduce truancy; if not, why not?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The member's given is wrong, but if she has some particular suggestions in the area of truancy, I would be happy to receive them.

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

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