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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 12 September

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



Skills--Polytechnic Regional Development Fund

1. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour--Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): How will the recently announced Polytechnic Regional Development Fund assist skill development

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Up to $5 million will be made available to fund proposals that link up polytechs and their local partners in a bid to identify skills that relate to the needs of employers in the regions. To qualify for funding, proposals from polytechs and their partners will have to demonstrate consistency with the economic development strategy being developed by the region and the Government's tertiary education priorities. We are hoping that proposals will attract private sector investment. Perhaps Wanganui could lead the way.

Jill Pettis: In the light of that answer, what has been the reaction to the polytechnic regional development fund?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: It has been very good. The Association of Polytechnics in New Zealand called the fund an important initiative for growing the sector, and the Industry Training Federation has welcomed the focus on regional skills, because there are shortages in our regions and they see this as a way forward.

Simon Power: What specific role will industry training organisations play to ensure that polytechnics are providing nationally consistent programmes for each industry, while also ensuring that those regional skill needs the Minister speaks of are being addressed?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: That is an excellent question. The industry training organisations have the role of ensuring that across the country they are purchasing consistently from educators, including polytechnics. I have asked both polytechnics and industry training organisations to work more closely together than they have over the last 10 years, particularly to address regional skill shortages, and the member will know that the Tertiary Education Reform Bill, soon to be before the House, contains a number of changes to reinforce that trend.

Matt Robson: How will this fund assist the Labour-Progressive Government priority of industry development in the region?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: As a result of the policies of this Government, all of our regions are growing, and in many key industries we now have skill shortages. This fund will encourage a close relationship between polytechnics and industries so that they can grow these skills in the regions. Polytechs are an important source of knowledge and skills in the regions. This fund will ensure that they get out around those communities and address skill shortages.

Iraq--Military Intervention
2. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Would her Government support a United Nations-mandated military attack on Iraq to force it to comply with United Nations resolutions and sanctions; if so, why?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The Government will carefully consider any United Nations resolutions and provide whatever support is appropriate to assist in enforcing them.

Hon. Bill English: Given the seriousness of this matter, why can the Government not tell this Parliament whether it is working to support resolutions from the UN to mandate military action against Iraq?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: For some days now Ministers have been telling the House that the Government, like most other Governments, believes that the diplomatic process has yet to run its course.

Graham Kelly: Is the Government satisfied that New Zealand's position is also reflected in broad international opinion on this issue?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Government most certainly is thus satisfied. Most Western Governments like New Zealand, and most Governments in general, are indicating that the diplomatic process should run its course.

Hon. Richard Prebble: How does the Prime Minister square her answer that when it comes to Iraq, New Zealand is going to wait for events and to see what the majority of other nations are going to do before making up its mind, with her often repeated boast that New Zealand under a Labour Government is a leader, not a follower?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: New Zealand, like most countries, is waiting for those who say they have evidence to present it to the United Nations to determine whether anything different should be done from what is being done now.

Keith Locke: In the light of the Prime Minister's confirmation yesterday that it takes a consistent approach to the use of armed force against those countries that violate UN resolutions, would she believe it inconsistent for the Government to support armed action against Iraq when such a course has never been considered against Israel despite it flouting UN resolutions over many years?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Government has consistently ruled out supporting unilateral armed intervention in Iraq.

Hon. Peter Dunne: When the Prime Minister says that the Government is waiting for those who claim evidence of the military build-up to produce that evidence, does she mean that the New Zealand Government is simply waiting for the outcome of, events or does she mean that we are actively involved in discussions with other countries with whom we have good relationships, about the course of action to be followed?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: New Zealand diplomats are actively engaged with their counterparts in a range of overseas capitals in assessing what other countries' views are. As I say, some countries say they have evidence. They have yet to present it. I note that in a hearing in the US Senate 2 days ago, senior United States intelligence officials said that they had not compiled a thorough updated assessment on Iraq's biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons capacities for 2 years.

Ron Mark: When the Government does receive the evidence it is waiting for from those who claim to have it, could the Prime Minister tell the House which of the two coalition partners--United Future and the Greens--supporting her Government she will go to in order to seek a mandate to become militarily involved?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: There are two coalition parties: one is Labour and one is Progressive Coalition. There is a confidence-supporting party, which is United Future, and the Greens have a working agreement with the Government. The issue is, when will evidence be presented to the United Nations of the kind that some countries say they have? If such evidence is put to the United Nations, and the UN finds it convincing, it might at some point pass a resolution, at which point it might ask New Zealand and others to do something. It will be clear that there is quite a lot of water to go under the bridge yet.

Hon. Bill English: Does the Prime Minister intend that the Government will determine New Zealand's position on the basis of the evidence itself, or on the basis of what the UN thinks about the evidence?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: What is critical on a matter like Iraq is that the international community comes to decisions at the level of the United Nations. I am somewhat mystified as to why the Leader of the Opposition wants to be the first to declare war on Iraq when he would be better mending his own defences against Gerry Brownlee!

3. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Minister of Education: Is he satisfied there are adequate systems in place to ensure that timely communication occurs between schools, the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service and police, when young people are repeatedly absent from school?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): No.

Judy Turner: Will the Minister to commit to establishing a nationwide truancy database to ensure youths, like convicted teenage murderer Renee Kara O'Brien, do not slip through the cracks and miss out on early intervention, because of uncoordinated reporting systems between schools and other Government agencies; if not, why not?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: No, because I think the database needs to be more extensive than that. It should be a student database, not a truant database.

Mark Peck: Is the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service contacted when a student is repeatedly absent from schools?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: No. The main focus of a Non-Enrolment Truancy Service is on young people who are not enrolled. Therefore, the focus is on permanent absenteeism, rather than on those who go to school sometimes.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you tell us why we ended up with two Government questions in a row?

Mr SPEAKER: No, there were not two Government questions in a row. I made a mistake.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How can this Government claim that it is serious about the issue of truancy, when there were 7,500 non-enrolment truancies reported to the services in the term of the last Government, and not one single prosecution was pursued by the Ministry of Education?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: We will come to that question later on the Order Paper. I have--[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has not actually finished.

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am happy to assure the House that this Government has actively encouraged schools to use the Non-Enrolment Truancy Services system, unlike the previous Government.

Dail Jones: Does the Minister consider that the serious absenteeism or truancy problems in schools could be reduced with the overall coordination, assistance, and advice of a commission for the family?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: It may be useful, but it is not something I have previously contemplated.

Donna Awatere Huata: Why did the Minister waste time and money on the State Services Commission inquiry into truancy when he was able to predict its recommendation of a central database before it had even met, given that he had already promised to set one up while in Opposition and has spent the past 3 years dithering about it?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Unlike the previous National Government, which put $120 million down the dunny--

Mr SPEAKER: In addition to the Minister having used an infelicitous phrase, I want him now to come to the question asked.

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: This Government has learnt the lessons of crook computer projects that are not properly prepared and are not done on a modular basis. We are scoping things. We are doing it stage by stage, and the student end of it is the bit that is going first.

Ian Ewen-Street: What measures is the Minister taking to ensure that there are sufficient alternative options for mainstream schools to cater for those students who are not suited to the one-size-fits-all schools?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: There are a number of changes. One of them was the change to section 156 of the Education Act to provide for a different approach, integrating schools of a quite different type, and the alternative learning centres, which this Government extended massively in its last term, after their having been under-resourced by the National Government.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table an announcement made in 1999 about those alternative learning centres, and the funding that was committed by the previous Government.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.

Deputy Chief Censor--Appointment
4. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Can he confirm that a Deputy Chief Censor is to be appointed by 16 September 2002; if so, is there any significance in that date?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The matter is currently under consideration and is going through the usual appointment process. I hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.

Peter Brown: Has the Minister sought any advice whatsoever to determine whether he has a statutory duty to ensure that a Deputy Chief Censor is appointed--a vacancy that has existed for a considerable period of time, since October 1999?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The office has been without a deputy since Mr Bill Hastings, who previously held the position of Deputy Chief Censor, was appointed Chief Censor on 18 October 1999. In the intervening period, the Government has taken the opportunity to review this position, and has now concluded it will retain the position--unlike the National Party, which has lost lots of positions.

Dianne Yates: Does he have confidence in the work of the Office the Film and Literature Classification?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I have confidence in the people who work in the office, and the work they produce.

Judith Collins: Does the Minister take any responsibility for the 3-year delay in the appointment of a Deputy Chief Censor; if not, who is to blame?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I reviewed the need for a Deputy Chief Censor, and I came to the conclusion that there is a need for one.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister confirm that the current legislation clearly stipulates that there must be a Deputy Chief Censor, will he confirm also that there is a Cabinet paper in existence that indicates the Government wants to dispense with the position, that he has discussed that with the Chief Censor of Films; and was it the Minister's intention to do that without amending the legislation, which is why the position has been left vacant for such a long time?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No, no, no.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that Ministers are required to answer as they see fit, perhaps that is a judgment of the House and Speakers in the past and today, but when a Minister stands up and blatantly refutes the law that requires that there be an appointment, then he is blatantly misleading this House. The law requires their to be a deputy--

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The Minister has given an absolutely explicit answer to each of the three questions when he was only required to have two questions. He gave that answer, he has to live by that answer. I am not here to judge it, he has given that as an explicit answer.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I'm going to bring a breach of privilege against it.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member knows he cannot say that in the House. He can write to me if he wishes.

Early Childhood Education--Strategy
5. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Education: What are the key features of the Government's strategic plan for early childhood education?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Providing better information and support for parents and families; promoting better links between agencies, families and services, and between schools and early childhood; working with communities to increase participation; finding practical solutions to participation; increasing the numbers of qualified staff and teacher-led services; and strengthening research and review in this area.

Helen Duncan: How does the Government plan to meet the targets for the employment of registered teachers?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: By phasing in the requirements over the next 10 years, providing support to current staff to upgrade their qualifications, and promoting teaching in early childhood education as a career choice--including by incentive grants to centres to meet some of the costs of upgrading qualifications; recognition of prior learning so people who have previous experience can have credit for that experience; scholarships to attract people into teaching; and requiring release time. A review will be carried out in 2005-06, but already since this Government has come in, numbers in training have increased from 1,500 to 3,500.

Phil Heatley: Why does the Minister consider sixth form physics teachers and State kindergarten teachers to be equal in value when it comes to pay parity, while considering the same qualified kindergarten teachers, Montessori teachers, or k(tm)hanga reo teachers, not to be equal in value?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: If the member can find me an example of a kindergarten teacher with a bachelor's or a masters's degree in physics, and therefore available to receive the equivalent salary, which is a requirement--it is about equal qualifications not only service--then the member can come back to me and we will talk about it again.

Donna Awatere Huata: What does the Minister propose to do when private providers in poor areas are driven out of business by his strategy, which seriously handicaps them?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am informed by high-quality providers in poor areas that they absolutely support the drive to quality in training that this Government is leading.

6. Hon. Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National--Nelson) to the Minister of Education: How many prosecutions under section 24 of the Education Act 1989 has the Ministry of Education initiated this year for failure to enrol a child under 16 at school, out of the 4,048 cases referred to the Non-Enrolment Truancy Service so far this year?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): None.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How is it possible in this country for a 12-year-old boy like Bailey Junior Kuariki, convicted last Friday for the murder of Michael Choy, to have been absent from school for over 2 years, and for his ministry to have done absolutely nothing about it?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I want to take some care in addressing a particular case. I want to give the absolute assurance to the House that what that member said then was incorrect. That person had had considerable attention from the ministry, from the Correspondence School, and from a number of other agencies. I remind the member that that person started his absences--and his absences were extensive--when he was responsible for them.

Mark Peck: Who usually initiates prosecutions under section 24 of the Act?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Prosecutions are usually initiated by district truancy services, schools, or the police. I point out to the member that over half the referrals to the Non-enrolment Truancy Service last year turned out to be in other schools.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If there have been no prosecutions of the thousands of cases that would have surely led to a prosecution if the Non-enrolment Truancy Service was doing its job, then why bother to have a Non-enrolment Truancy Service in the first place if the intention is not to enforce the law against offenders?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: My objective for the Non-enrolment Truancy Service and the district truancy service is to get children to schools rather than to prosecute them for not being there. Those services have been exceptionally successful in that. Last year fewer children were not found and put into appropriate positions, both as a proportion of those referred, and absolutely fewer than the year that Nick Smith was responsible for it.

Donna Awatere Huata: When will the Minister increase the funding to the Non-enrolment Truancy Service, given that funding for every truant the service is currently looking for has dropped from $419 per child in 1997 to an estimated $210 per child this year?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: As the member is aware, a review of the whole truancy area is working now--a review that started about 3 months ago. I reiterate my comment that there are now fewer children with unresolved cases than there were when Nick Smith was responsible. It is not good enough yet, but it is much better than when National was in charge.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that the increasing practice by schools of suspending students for minor infringements is a contributor to non-enrolments; if so, does he support the proposal to establish an accessible right of appeal for students against board of trustee disciplinary decisions, to ensure fairness and natural justice is observed?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am not in a position to accept the assertion at the beginning of the question is one of fact. My understanding is, especially amongst MŽori students, and certainly within the initiative areas that the Government has focused on, those areas that suspended students the most, suspensions at actually down and not up.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister answer how it is possible for another 15-year-old girl like Renee Kara O'Brien, convicted last week for the murder of Kenneth Piggot, to have been absent from school since last year; and how many more serious crimes will be committed by children who are not attending school before this Minister takes the issue of truancy seriously?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: This Minister takes this issue very seriously.

Community Organisations--Court Costs
7. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Corrections: Does the Department of Corrections have a policy in respect of seeking costs from community groups that challenge its decisions through the courts; if so, what is that policy?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE (Minister of Corrections): No, the Department of Corrections does not have a set policy. That is a matter considered on a case by case basis.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister agree that it is totally inappropriate for the Department of Corrections to seek costs in the case of the proposed prison at Ngawha, against that impoverished community trying to stop the desecration of their wŽhi tapu, and a regional council simply doing its job; and, what is he going to do about it?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: The Department of Corrections lodged the application, believing it to be a necessary action at the time. I have since received submissions seeking a review of the decision, and have now decided to withdraw the action.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Would the Minister's department possibly seek costs from community groups around Meremere, who are challenging his decision to build a prison on a site at Springhill--which has no water, sewage, or transport, but has wŽhi tapu and now requires huge extra costs involving the removal of 1.5 million cubic metres of soil--and why does he not just move the prison to a suitable site, as the North Huntly Community Board offered his predecessor a site near Huntly, ``which would be supported by the local community because of the employment and economic benefits a prison would bring''?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: Going back to the beginning of that question--in terms of whether the department would seek costs against community groups in that area--as I have indicated, each case will be looked at on a case by case basis. I say to the member that he should sort out his own views on the matter, because he has been complaining about the current site being too far south of Auckland. As the site is in his electorate, I think, can I point out to him that Huntly is even further south.

Mahara Okeroa: In reviewing the decisions, what matters did the Minister take into account?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: I looked at the precedents and actions taken by Government agencies in seeking to recover court-related costs. Those showed that the Crown does not generally apply for costs in the Environment Court.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why would the Minister even be contemplating reviewing such a decision when he is happy to dish up $500,000 to buy off the opinion of local MŽori?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: This is a Government that listens to the people of New Zealand. I received submissions asking for that decision on the seeking of costs to be reviewed. I did review it, and that is why we have withdrawn the action.

Stephen Franks: Why would the Minister reserve the right to make case by case decisions on these matters, when the Labour Government is promoting in the Resource Management Act an abolition of the right for ordinary people, harassed by that Act's objectors, to recover costs at all?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: The Government, and its agencies and departments, always have to have available to them the full extent of the law. I, as Minister, have looked at whether this action should proceed, and have decided in this case that it should not.

Nandor Tanczos: In the light of the Minister's answer to my supplementary question--and I do thank him very sincerely for that answer--will he be reviewing the procedure used at the original decision to decide to seek costs against the local community groups at Ngawha, to ensure that costs are not again used to bully local opposition to department plans?

Hon. MARK GOSCHE: I do not believe that the department set out to bully anyone. It looked at the case, and at the applicants who appealed and put the Crown to some extra cost. On that basis it decided to seek that application. In reviewing it and in weighing it up, I believe that it is better for the Crown not to proceed. We do have to build prisons, because a great many people in New Zealand believe there is too much crime and we have to have tougher sentences. This Government has moved on that, and now has to have the prisons available to put the people convicted by the courts, into.

Dr Paul Hutchison: I seek leave to table a document from the Department of Corrections, which confirms its plan to excavate--

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

Domestic Purposes Benefit--Work Testing
8. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: Does Treasury support the removal of work-testing of recipients of the Domestic Purposes Benefit; if so, why?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The decision to move away from arbitrary work-testing was made on the basis of advice from a number of departments and agencies. Treasury raised a number of concerns, largely about the impact of the removal of work testing in the absence of--I repeat, in the absence of--other interventions designed to encourage movement off welfare. On balance my Cabinet colleagues and I were persuaded of the view expressed by my Ministry of Social Development that ``removing work test poses some risks that are unlikely to be realised if other proposed measures are put in place''.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The questioner asked for a simple answer; yes or no. You got a long, distended answer. None of it related to the question asked, and typically so, because the Minister intended to put his view, and Cabinet's view, on this decision rather than that of the advice they got from Treasury. We still do not know what the answer is. Frankly it is a waste of our parliamentary time.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. I heard him--

Hon. David Carter: He did not address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: No one will talk when I am speaking. That is the end of the matter or the member will be out. The Minister did address, in part, the question about saying Treasury put some objections. I heard him mention that point. The specific answer to the question was not given. I have to assess whether the Minister did address the particular question. I wonder whether the Minister might like to clarify that just a little bit further.

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The essence of my answer is that we received a range of departmental advice, and Treasury's advice was that in the absence of--I repeat, in the absence of--the measures that were put in place it would oppose work testing. We put those measures in place.

Dr Muriel Newman: Why did the Minister create the impression in the House yesterday that Treasury supported removing work testing of the domestic purposes benefit by stating: ``I do think a family-friendly policy like the one to do with the domestic purposes benefit is a very good way, and so does Treasury.'', when papers obtained under the Official Information Act show Treasury clearly opposed the removal of work testing, and stated: ``We recommend you do not support recommendation 3 to remove work testing obligations for the DPB.''?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The Government received a range of advice on this matter. Treasury's view was that it would oppose the removal of work testing in the absence of a range of measures that we, in fact, have now put in place.

Georgina Beyer: Does he agree with the view that the removal of the work test is anti-family?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Imposing an arbitrary work test on young mothers caring for children is anti-family; pandering to the darker sentiments of the anti-welfare lobby, as distinct from supporting parents, is anti-family; pushing children into poverty regardless of the consequences is anti-family--as Dr Newman would do. Dr Newman is certainly anti-family. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That last sentence was totally unnecessary to the sense of the answer and the Minister should withdraw that last sentence.

Gerry Brownlee: And apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I will make the decisions, not the member.

Gerry Brownlee: I object.

Mr SPEAKER: That member may do, and he will be out shortly, then he will not have any grounds for any objection at all. I want the Minister to withdraw that last sentence.

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

Hon. Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Offence was clearly taken at that statement from the Minister, and it would be normal in the--[Interruption] The member should withdraw and apologise. I put that to you.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for raising it in the courteous way that he did, and on reflection I think perhaps he is right. I will ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise.

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Why does the Minister believe that removing the work-test requirements and encouraging sole parents to stay indefinitely on the domestic purposes benefit is a good role model?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Nothing in this legislation encourages anybody to stay on a benefit. The legislation encourages people--in a way that the previous National Government did not do--to build their capacity and return to work at a time when family responsibilities allow. We are a pro-family, pro-parenting Government, unlike them.

Sue Bradford: Why is the Government persisting with the imposition of complex sanctions on domestic purposes benefit and widows beneficiaries when the Ministry of Social Development itself advises that the benefit system should be made much simpler, both for the sake of administrative efficiencies and also for the sake of beneficiaries themselves?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The Government's view is that the benefit system will only operate properly for those few people who may not cooperate with the requirements that are placed on them if there is a simple-to-operate sanction regime in place--and that is what we have done in this bill.

Judy Turner: Under the Social Security (Personal Development and Employment) Amendment Bill, are the original work-test criteria, tagged to the age of the recipient's youngest child, still applied as guidelines for case managers assisting folk towards employment?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The previous National Government's legislation requires that attention is paid to appearance on the domestic purposes benefit when the beneficiary's child is 6 and 14. The case management shows that in between those two points of activity, nothing else happens.

Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the report from Treasury advising against removing work-testing.

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

9. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National--Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: When does the Government expect to conclude negotiations to subsidise Glivec, and how confident is she that Glivec will be made available to New Zealanders in need?

Hon. TARIANA TURIA (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector), on behalf of the Minister of Health: Pharmac has advised the Minister that negotiations with the suppliers of Gleevec are progressing well, and it is hoped that an agreement to fund Gleevec will be reached.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does she believe this is an example of why Professor David Skeggs' study suggested New Zealand is losing ground to other developed countries in dealing with cancer, when Britain and Australia are funding this wonder drug for leukaemia, but New Zealand is not, and what will she do about it now?

Hon. TARIANA TURIA: As the member is aware, I am replying on behalf of the Minister of Health and have no delegated responsibility in this area. However, if the member puts a question down to the Minister of Health on this matter, I am sure that she will be happy to provide a response.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will we continually get into situations where a Minister stands up in the House, having had all morning to take briefings on the question in front of him or her, and say to the Parliament: ``I can't answer today. Put it in writing, and we'll see whether we can get you a written answer later.''?

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard that answer given for about 36 years on and off. I know that is a long time, but there has been no change in that practice in my time in Parliament.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In regard to the first matter raised by the Minister, she said she has been delegated the authority to answer the question in the House today. She has had a full 41/2 hours to get herself briefed on that issue and to answer the question in Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his point of order. The Minister's first sentence was incorrect. In the next sentence she went on to address the question, and she did that in a way that is often followed in this House.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How did the question get to a Minister who has no delegation?

Mr SPEAKER: If the member had listened to my answer given before, I would not have to repeat it. The first sentence in the Minister's statement should not have been made. When I heard it, I nearly rose, but the Minister went on to give an answer that addressed the question. The first part of her sentence is not in order.

Hon. Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I point out that in my response to the first question asked by Dr Scott, I answered the second question, as well.

Mr SPEAKER: I realise that. That is not really a point of order.

Dave Hereora: What processes does Pharmac follow when considering funding new drugs?

Hon. TARIANA TURIA: All new drugs are subject to clinical consultation and careful analysis, including cost benefit and eligibility criteria. Often, analysis is done following requests from patients, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians. Requests are a valid part of the process, but should never be the sole determinant.

Heather Roy: Can the Associate Minister confirm that the Minister stands by her statement earlier this year that New Zealand cannot afford a health system like the wealthier nations of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; if not, how can she expect to match Australia's free drug list, when that country is 30 percent wealthier than New Zealand?

Hon. TARIANA TURIA: The member would be best put to ask that question of the Minister, because she is asking me to stand by a comment that was made by somebody else, which I am not prepared to do.

Mr SPEAKER: I want the Minister to rephrase her answer. She is the Minister today, and she will answer the question as it has been asked. I ask her to commence her answer again.

Hon. TARIANA TURIA: I do not believe I can reply to that particular question, because I am being asked to reply to a comment made specifically by the Minister of Health. I cannot answer that question for her.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was obvious to this side of the House that the Minister of Education was giving the Minister advice. I seek leave for Mr Mallard to take a call, as he may well be better able to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I have seen people give a bit of assistance and advice on many occasions in this House. It is sometimes useful, but it should not be something that we see too much of.

John Carter: I was seeking leave--

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: He can't seek leave for another member to do something.


Barbara Stewart: What is the most important determinant when considering the addition of a new drug to the subsidised list--cost to the Government, or benefit to the patient requiring the treatment?


Dr Lynda Scott: With Gleevec being a drug that maintains a high quality of life for sufferers, extends their life expectancy, and has Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, calling it a wonder drug he is proud Australia can afford, will she act today to give New Zealand leukaemia sufferers the same chance at life as their Australian cousins; if not, why not?


World Summit on Sustainable Development--Johannesburg
10. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour--Dunedin South) to the Minister for the Environment: Which of New Zealand's objectives were achieved at the recently completed World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): There were concrete outcomes on a number of our key issues. Some examples were: agreement to restore depleted fish stocks on an urgent basis, phase out environmentally harmful fishing subsidies, acknowledge the special needs of small island developing States, agree to a target of halving those without adequate sanitation by 2015, and urge strongly for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by those who had not done so. The New Zealand delegation was actively involved in negotiations on all these matters.

David Benson-Pope: How has New Zealand recognised one of the main themes of the summit--namely, the importance of partnerships for achieving sustainable development?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: At the summit I launched a new partnership initiative with the Pacific region, worth $1.6 million, that will support projects in key sectors--such as energy, sanitation, waste reduction, and HIV/AIDS prevention. The New Zealand delegation was a model of the partnership approach, with local government, farmers, trade unions, MŽori, business, and even Opposition politicians playing an active role.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: With the key issue at Johannesburg being renewable energy, and our Resource Management Act ironically making it easier to get consent for a gas-fired power station than one from hydroelectric, wind, or geothermal, when will the Resource Management Amendment Bill, introduced by Simon Upton over 3 years ago, and which has languished on the Order Paper, in her name, for over 3 years, finally get resolved by this Parliament?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: I share the urgency of the member, and it is very much in the path of the Parliament's workload.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: At the World Summit on Sustainable Development did she vote to accept or reject clauses in the plan of action that would have allowed World Trade Organization agreements to override international environmental treaties--such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: I think the member is misinformed. The particular phrase was not ``overriding'' but ``in compliance with''.

Larry Baldock: Given the lukewarm stance of the World Summit on Sustainable Development towards the Kyoto Protocol, will the Minister reconsider the Government's decision to ratify, or at least postpone, New Zealand's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: Far from a lukewarm stance, the summit agreed and urged strongly for those nations who had not signed the Kyoto Protocol to do so, and it was interesting to see at the summit that Russia and Canada announced they would be signing soon.

Airline Pricing and Competition--Commerce Commission Reports
11. JOHN KEY (NZ National--Helensville) to the Minister of Commerce: What recent Commerce Commission reports, if any, has she received regarding airline pricing and competition in New Zealand?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): I have received the Commerce Commission briefing for incoming Ministers. The section that deals with the Fair Trading Act mentions the manner in which the airline industry advertises the cost of airfares as one of seven current issues of significance.

John Key: Why has the Minister not asked the Commerce Commission to conduct a full review of Qantas' pricing structure here in New Zealand, when independent analysis suggests Qantas is losing between $50 and $100 million a year with a programme of predatory pricing solely aimed at bullying this Government into selling a cornerstone stake in Air New Zealand?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: It is not my function to call for the Commerce Commission to undertake that inquiry.

David Parker: What is the function of the Commerce Commission in respect of pricing and competition?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The commission is an independent quasi-judicial body with responsibility for enforcement and regulatory control under a number of Acts. The overriding purpose is to promote market efficiency by fostering healthy competition amongst businesses, informed choice by consumers, and sound economic regulations.

Peter Brown: From listening to the answer the Minister gave to the supplementary question from Mr Key, am I correct in making the assumption that the Minister could not give a damn if Qantas is coming here with predatory pricing, and she will never show any initiative to refer something to the Commerce Commission?


Deborah Coddington: What reasons are there to believe that Air New Zealand is not being sacrificed to predatory pricing, because, as owner, the Government is doing everything possible not to alienate Qantas?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: It is very difficult to answer that question because it is such a stupid question.[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have allowed the question, and the question will be answered.

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: That is not the case. The issue in relation to predatory pricing is a matter that the Commerce Commission may take an interest in. That is something the Commerce Commission, I am sure, will make a decision on.

John Key: Can the Minister confirm the reason she has not referred Qantas to the Commerce Commission is that she is aware that both Air New Zealand and Qantas have teams working full time on a proposal for Qantas to buy a stake in Air New Zealand and then withdraw their loss-making planes, to the long-term detriment of all New Zealanders?


Immigration--Fraud, Pakistan and Australia
12. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Why did his department hire private investigators in Pakistan and Australia to investigate alleged cases of fraud involving applications for New Zealand citizenship and residency, and how much has the investigation cost to date?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The department received information indicating that the people concerned did not meet the requirements for New Zealand citizenship. The total cost of the Pakistani investigation was US$150. This person applied for permanent residency on 27 May 1998, and was granted permanent residence on 26 February 1999. The Australian investigation is continuing, and has a cost of A$1,630 to date.

Dail Jones: What is the Minister going to do about the report in today's Dominion Post that the Australian operation, as mentioned in my question, is more complicated and could lead to ``other things'', and can he clarify the nature of the Australian operations and the nature of these complications?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: It is an ongoing inquiry, and I am quite relaxed about the department following through, and when it reaches a conclusion, I dare say it will be reported to me.

Russell Fairbrother: Did the Minister receive any urgent applications for citizenship prior to the recent general election?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. I received one urgent application for citizenship from a person claiming to be a candidate standing for the New Zealand First Party, and I think that Doug Woolerton can confirm that.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is outside the scope of the question.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Point of order--

Mr SPEAKER: I have not finished. That is outside the scope of the question, and I ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise for that answer, as he knows that it was outside the scope of the question.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Point of order--

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have asked the member to withdraw and apologise.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to make a personal explanation about the matter that the Minister just raised, in the interests of correcting the facts.

Mr SPEAKER: Not a personal explanation, but the member has sought leave to make a statement. Is there any objection? There is not.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: The applicant in question had already lodged his application to become a New Zealand resident. That is the first thing. But with the announcement of an early election--or a snap election; having thrown in the towel--we were required to expedite the application, which we did, unlike Mr Robson over there who decided to become a New Zealand citizen 5 months after he had been a Minister.

Judith Collins: Does the Department of Internal Affairs have sufficient capacity in its investigations wing to fully conduct investigations overseas; if not, does he consider that that is a satisfactory situation?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The department investigates all cases where there is reasonable evidence to continue investigations.

Hon. Richard Prebble: Can the Minister confirm that New Zealand citizenship is something of considerable value, and will he give an assurance to the House that whenever there is a suggestion of somebody trying to become a New Zealand citizen by fraud, his department will fully investigate?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. Each year about four people are deprived of their New Zealand citizenship. This year to date two people have been deprived.

Dail Jones: When does the Minister believe that this investigation will be completed, and has he any idea of how much the cost is likely to be?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have any idea what the cost is likely to be, and it will be finished as soon as all the information has been evaluated.

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

© Scoop Media

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