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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 18 September

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 18 September 2002

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Beneficiaries--Employment

1. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour--Wairarapa) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What reports, if any, has he received on the placement of welfare recipients into paid employment?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The Ministry of Social Development measures how well it is doing in terms of the number of people placed into work that lasts at least 13 weeks. I recently received a report from the ministry that shows that the performance for the year 2001-02 has been very good. The report shows that 51,522 stable employment jobs have been created. That is a record for Work and Income New Zealand. It is above the target set for this year. I want to congratulate the staff of Work and Income New Zealand on these excellent results.

Georgina Beyer: What was the result in relation to longer-term job seekers?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The performance was particularly impressive for longer-term job seekers. A 14 percent reduction was achieved in the number of people on the job seeker register for over 6 months. This achievement reflects a healthy economy, low unemployment rates, and our focus on helping people from a benefit into a real, sustainable job. It also demonstrates the outrageous fallacy of National and ACT claims that beneficiaries do not want to work.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Is he concerned that a significant percentage of his so-called stable placements of welfare recipients end up back on the dole, given that in the previous financial year, of the 12,500 people who got jobs, nearly half of them, 5,300, ended up back on the dole before Christmas?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: As I mentioned before, the way we measure success is that people are moving into stable jobs; that is, for 13 weeks--3 months. We ensure people get a good start. We are achieving a much better result in getting people into work than was the case under the National Government at the 1999 election, when the unemployment rate was at 30 percent.

Peter Brown: In the light of those answers, would the Minister tell the House how many of those jobs are part time and how many are casual employment?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I refer to jobs that are over 30 hours a week, the measure of a full-time job; that is what a stable placement is.

Dr Muriel Newman: In relation to the placing of long-term unemployed, would the Minister explain why he supports the household labour force survey as the official measure of unemployment when it does not count somebody who has been on the dole for 2 years, as unemployed for 2 years, if he or she has carried out just 1 hour of work during that 2-year period?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: This Government supports the household labour force survey as does every other Government that has been in our position, because it is the international measure of employment and unemployment, which allows us therefore to compare ourselves with other countries.

Sue Bradford: What steps is the Government taking, if any, to provide individually tailored careers advice and vocational guidance services to everyone who registers as a job seeker with Work and Income?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: One of the things we have done over the last 21/2 years is to revive the connection between the Career Services and Work and Income, so that people who work with the Work and Income Service have access to careers advice of an individual nature to improve their chances of finding a job.

Judy Turner: Would the Minister please tell us whether the Government has identified which of the defined beneficiary groups are tracking down at the slower rates?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The slowest decline, in fact it would be an increase, is for invalids and disabilities beneficiaries. That group, across the world, has proven to be a difficult group to reduce in numbers. In our own country, for example, the ageing population means that that group tends to rise anyway. That is why during this term we will make that area of beneficiaries a priority for attention.

Iraq--Military Intervention
2. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government support the use of force to support the United Nations weapons inspectors if they are obstructed in carrying out their work in Iraq; if not, why not?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Force is always a last resort for enforcing United Nations' resolutions. My Government's view at this point is that the diplomatic process should continue to run its course.

Hon. Bill English: Does the Government agree with the view that further progress will depend on maintaining a credible threat of military intervention in Iraq, and, therefore, does the Government support the US stance in maintaining this credible threat?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government believes it is important to follow the diplomatic process, and to seek to establish weapons inspectors within Iraq. That the United States possesses overwhelming military force is apparent to anyone.

Keith Locke: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports of the present advocates of the use of force against Iraq, also calling for the use of force when Israel prevented a UN inquiry team from entering Jenin to investigate a massacre, or have they called for the use of force when Israel has not obeyed any other UN resolution?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I am not aware of any such reports, and to my knowledge they do not exist.

Hon. Richard Prebble: When the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Phil Goff, stated, as was reported on 14 September, that he expects that the United Nations Security Council will now set a strict deadline for Iraq to comply with UN requirements on weapons inspections, does that mean that that is the New Zealand Government's view or that he was just making a comment?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is fair to say that Mr Goff was commenting on the situation at that point, but since that point, of course, there has been a response from the Government in Baghdad.

Hon. Peter Dunne: Has the Government offered any New Zealand personnel to be available as weapons inspectors; if so, what response there has been to any such offer?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand has received a request to participate in the inspection. A Cabinet committee has considered the request favourably, but announcements on the details of any commitment will be made once those details have been worked through.

Hon. Bill English: What action will the New Zealand Government take if New Zealand personnel are obstructed from carrying out their role on behalf of the United Nations?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Clearly, from this distance, New Zealand will not do anything unilaterally.

Employment--Maori
3. MAHARA OKEROA (NZ Labour--Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Maori Affairs: What progress is being made to increase jobs for Maori?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): In the last 3 years there has been an increase of 46,100 more Maori in jobs. This is 36 percent of the total New Zealand increase of 127,000.

Mahara Okeroa: What initiatives have proven successful in helping young Maori get the skills they need for work?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: Currently, 47 percent of the Maori population is under the age of 20. Modern Apprenticeships and industry training are creating opportunities for our young people to learn skills on the job and to increase their earning capacity and income stability. The number of Maori participating in Modern Apprenticeships continues to rise.

Gerry Brownlee: How many?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: There were 536 at the end of June this year.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Is it not true that these results reflect the success of the closing the gaps programme that his Government has now scuttled?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: Let me remind that member that we changed the name because there was a whole lot of scratching around the proper positive issue. At the end of 2001, 11,315 Maori were participating in industry training.

Peter Brown: How many of those extra jobs revolve around casualised employment, and how many are permanent employment?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: As that member knows, I do not have the exact figures of casualisation. However, I know that his party may be heading towards casual employment in its new vocation.

Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the Government's spin with regard to Maori unemployment, how does he explain the fact that long-term jobless figures for Maori have gone from 16,480 when Labour was elected in 1999 to over 19,000 by last December?

Mr SPEAKER: The facts can be commented on, but not the first part of the question, which was out of order.

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: Most certainly that person understands our demographics quite clearly and the roll-on of that young population of 15, 16 and 17-year-olds. She needs to align those percentages with the roll-on percentage on to the labour market.

Metiria Turei: By how much does the Minister expect the school leavers' training and employment preparation scheme will reduce the gap between the Maori unemployment rate of 11 percent and the European unemployment rate of 3 percent, and what further steps will he take to ensure that that gap is quickly and permanently reduced?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: The biggest drop in this country for many a year has been in the Maori unemployment rate.

Murray Smith: When does the Minister hope to bring the level of Maori employment up to the New Zealand - wide average?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: As soon as possible.

Building Standards--Weathertightness of Buildings
4. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Will he hold a full inquiry into the building industry as recommended by Don Hunn in the Weathertightness of Buildings report released yesterday; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): A call for an inquiry was part of recommendation three of the Hunn report, which firstly recommends the meeting of leaders of the building and associated industries to discuss weather-tightness issues. I have asked the Building Industry Authority to convene that meeting in order to discuss the problem, and possible solutions necessary to address the issue of leaking buildings.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked a specific question about whether an inquiry was to be held. I suggest he address that, too.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am saying that it is premature at the moment.

Mr SPEAKER: There is no problem about the word ``premature''; that addresses the question.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask whether the Minister wanted to rethink his answer, given that he is reported, on radio this morning, as having ruled out an inquiry. The Minister, subsequent to the question being lodged, was reported as ruling out an inquiry, and now stands in the House and firstly evades the answer, and then, when pressed by yourself, says it is premature. I think the Minister should give the same answer to the House as he gave to the media.

Mr SPEAKER: The member may think that, but the Minister is not required to do so. The Minister addressed the question, and further supplementary questions can be asked.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Why does the Minister not now make a decision to hold a full inquiry, in view of the huge liability and health issues involved, and the reality that many people on low incomes will have difficulty in affording repairs to their homes?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The meeting I spoke about in the principal answer will address many of those issues. However, I can say that this Government will not stand behind ``flash Freddies'', ``whingeing Waynes'', and other builders who have made a mess of that industry. We will not stand behind poor workmanship.

David Cunliffe: Has the Minister received an assurance from the Building Industry Authority that no building constructed in compliance with the building code has yet been found to leak?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, I was given that assurance yesterday at a meeting with the chief executive of the Building Industry Authority.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister saying therefore that all those homes, which have been given code compliance certificates by various councils in Auckland and south Auckland, do not have leaks?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: All houses that comply with all the building requirements will not leak. It may be, however, that some building certifiers or inspectors have signed off houses that they should not have. That matter will of course be addressed at the meeting.

Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister agree that because it was the Government that made the decision to remove the requirement that treated timber be used in housing, this is an appropriate matter for the Commerce Committee to hold an inquiry about, as I have requested; if the Minister does not agree, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: What select committees deal with is over to the select committees, and cannot be influenced directly by me. However, I agree with that member's comments in a press release earlier today when she said that as it was the National Government that changed the rules regarding treated timber, National is partly responsible. I think that is absolutely true, and that that member should talk to Warren Cooper and Jack Elder.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Before the Minister leaps to respond to those calling for more toxic chemical treatment for interior timbers that should never be exposed to the weather, will he investigate the role of inappropriate design, shoddy construction techniques, and poor industry training in causing the leaks?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, I think the member knows exactly what is wrong: timber would not rot if water could not get to it.

Judy Turner: In the light of the report's recommendation that it would be necessary to review both the qualifications of building inspectors and building certifiers, why has the existing regime of poor qualification standards and subsequent industry performance been allowed to continue for so long?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The report came out yesterday. The Government is acting.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that the Minister says that all buildings built in compliance do not leak, why is it that the report did not deal with liability issues. Is it because, as the New Zealand Herald reported, Crown Law instructed them not to deal with that?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No.

Electricity--Supply
5. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Energy: Does he have any plans for ensuring electricity supplies will continue uninterrupted, and that sufficient new electricity generation will come on stream, following the projected early depletion of the Maui gas field?

Hon. PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): Yes, quite a lot of plans. The industry and the Government are actively involved in a number of initiatives to smooth the transition to the post-Maui era, including securing open access to the Maui gas pipeline, settling the redetermination of Maui--which is, of course, of particular interest to Methanex--and also the industry hopes to have proved up the Pohokura gasfield by about June next year.

Gordon Copeland: Given that industry leaders are publicly stating that the Resource Management Act effectively rules out many electrical generation alternatives to natural gas--such as wind and hydro--will he support amendments to the Act that would enable or speed up the development and construction of such alternatives?

Hon. PETE HODGSON: I think the issue about the Resource Management Act needs to be kept in some context. We have wind and hydro in this country, and some of it has been built subsequent to the passage of the Resource Management Act. However, the Government has already consulted on some aspect of changes to the Resource Management Act, and further consultations are likely to proceed this year. So the answer to the question is yes.

Gerry Brownlee: What reaction does he have to the decision made by the Minister of Conservation, the Hon. Chris Carter, to block the hydro generation project planned for the Arnold River on the West Coast, and does he see that he needs to have a great degree of accord with the conservation Minister, if New Zealand is not going to have major energy crises by 2005?

Hon. PETE HODGSON: I wrote to my colleague Chris Carter recently, asking whether land swaps are possible for hydro schemes under the present law. He has replied that they are but that reassigning an ecological area for the purposes of sale is not legal, and should not be.

Clayton Cosgrove: What new electricity generation is planned for New Zealand in the next few years, especially generation plans of significant size?

Hon. PETE HODGSON: Various generators have announced plans in respect of hydro, wind, and geothermal generation, and other unannounced plans are afoot. In 2005 it is expected that a combined cycle gas turbine unit will come into operation at Huntly, partially replacing the existing--Pohokura probably--Huntly facility, and some lines companies have, as yet, unannounced plans to build generation, because last year this Government turfed out some of the ridiculous constraints introduced by National.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, does the Minister agree that if New Zealand experienced a dry period--as we did, not that long ago--we would be facing major problems of supply at reasonable cost, and does he have the issue in hand; if so, could he advise this House exactly how?

Hon. PETE HODGSON: If we were to have a very dry year next year, like we did last year, we would again have some shortages or possibilities thereof. The only way to avoid that is to overbuild. We have had these experiences in 1991-92, 1975, etc. However, if we had a dryish year, the report from Transpower and further reports that are due to be released--and I am getting critiques done of those reports--suggest that in the middle of this decade we would start to run into difficulties, which is why a new combined cycle gas turbine in 2005 is not a bad idea.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Does the Minister personally support Transpower's Arnold River project, with its potential to generate 60 megawatts of non-carbon emitting power in a water-surplus region; if so, why does he not simply meet with his Cabinet colleague Chris Carter, the Minister of Conservation, to sort out the sustained rejection and opposition that is coming from that department?

Hon. PETE HODGSON: The Conservation Act, as it stands--as has been interpreted, apparently, in the High Court--is that one cannot reallocate or reassign conservation land of high conservation value to a low conservation value in order to sell it, in order to inundate it.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: The Government can change the law.

Hon. PETE HODGSON: That is the position of the current legislation. If the member thinks that legislation should be changed and that we should put hydro dams in national parks and places like that, he should let us know.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How does he intend to ensure that the momentum of the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy is maintained, if every predicted possible electricity shortfall is met by building large, new power stations with a strong, vested interest in running?

Hon. PETE HODGSON: At the heart of the member's question lies an assumption that somehow we spill hydro, in this country, and we do not. If we are not going to spill hydro, and we have a good demand-side response, then of course what happens is that the thermal station does not get used as much as it would otherwise. But the member is right to put emphasis on the demand side. The National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy will, if we can get it implemented in its entirety--it is currently on track--improve New Zealand's energy efficiency by 20 percent, by 2011.

Gordon Copeland: Has Genesis Power officially committed to building new capacity generation at Huntly?

Hon. PETE HODGSON: To the best of my knowledge, no, they have not, and I would be surprised if they did. They have yet, as I understand it, to secure gas contracts from Pohokura, and the reason they have not done that is that Pohokura has not been proved up. That is happening in June, and that is why I gave that member the information in my primary answer.

Educational Assessment--Systems for Year 12
6. JIM PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: What national assessment and qualification systems will be available for year 12 students in 2003?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): School boards will have the choice between level 2 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement and a transitional Sixth Form Certificate.

Jim Peters: Given the Minister's various U-turns over level 2 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, would he guarantee that he will not allow the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) to determine the present and future direction of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, and does he intend to give clear guidance to the many confused and concerned students and parents affected by the current uncertainty in the schools over this issue; if so, when?

Mr SPEAKER: The first clause in the member's question was out of order, but the rest can be answered.

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I expect to make a clear statement on this shortly.

Jill Pettis: What resources are available to schools offering the National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 in the year 2003?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Training available to schools next term will focus on generic assessment design for internal and external standards. There will be double the number of school relationship manager positions. Assessment materials are available on the web and in hard copy. Professional development support and materials are ready to be delivered, and I understand they have already been delivered to many schools that have done their training for level 2.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: What sort of Mickey Mouse education system is this Minister running, when, just 10 weeks out from the end of the school year, schools do not know the detail of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, or the new transitional Sixth Form Certificate, and when there has been no professional development for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 because of the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) ban, and when 70 percent of teachers agree with National, and every other party bar Labour, that the National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 should be delayed until 2004?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: We will run a comprehensive system next year. There will be choices available to school boards. Some schools feel they are absolutely ready to cope with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. There are some schools that do not have a tradition of standards-based assessment, and which got no support at all from the National Party to develop one. The National Party did not put one cent into training. This Government has put in over $20 million.

Hon. Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister confirm that the grades that schools will be able to allocate for the so-called transitional Sixth Form Certificate in 2003 will be based on school records prior to 2002, because there will be no School Certificate exams this year; if so, how much credibility will those grades have, particularly for schools with small year-12 cohorts?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: No.

Disabilities--Community Participation
7. MARK PECK (NZ Labour--Invercargill) to the Minister for Disability Issues: Has she received any reports on new initiatives to help remove the barriers faced by people with disabilities participating fully in the community?

Hon. RUTH DYSON (Minister for Disability Issues): Yes. This week in Parliament I have had the pleasure of launching the New Zealand Crippled Children Society's national disability awareness campaign, ``What Did You Say?''. The campaign, funded by lottery welfare and the Sutherland Self Help Trust, aims to raise public awareness about negative and demeaning language, which, tragically, is commonly used concerning people with disabilities. I commend the fact that representatives of other political parties attended the launch to show their support, as well.

Mark Peck: What specific objectives of the strategy are supported by the campaign?

Hon. RUTH DYSON: The campaign embodies the first two objectives of the New Zealand disability strategy. Firstly, to encourage and educate for a non-disabling society, and to ensure rights for people with disabilities. The campaign also supports the objective of fostering leadership by people with disabilities, given that it was initiated by, and features, people with disabilities.

Dr Lynda Scott: Will the Minister tell those who operate and work within disability workshops whether they will be pushed into mainstream community work, even if they do not want to be?

Hon. RUTH DYSON: I am happy to continue to work towards the implementation of the Pathways to Inclusion document, and if that member is not familiar with it, I am happy to send her a copy.

Sue Bradford: What is the Government doing--if anything--to address serious shortages of funding for Workbridge's supported employment programme over the rest of this year, given that things like help with modification of workstations are an essential element for many employers when they take on someone with a disability?

Hon. RUTH DYSON: Specifically, this year the Government put into the baseline budget for allocation to Workbridge the time-limited funding that the previous Government had allocated, and gave a substantial increase in addition to that funding. However, it is difficult to budget sufficiently in regard to Workbridge, because of course, job-support funds remain with individuals for as long as they keep that job. We would like them to keep their jobs permanently.

Sentencing--Violent Offenders
8. SIMON POWER (NZ National--Rangitikei) to the Minister of Justice: Is he confident that the sentencing and parole legislation he introduced is fulfilling his aim to ensure tougher sentences for violent offenders; if so, why?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Acting Minister of Justice): Yes. The Sentencing Act expressly states that offenders should receive the maximum penalty available for offending that is the worst of its type. Sentencing judges have already stated that that will inevitably increase penalties imposed for the worst cases of very serious offending. For the most serious cases of murder, where there is at least one significant aggravating factor such as the killing of a police officer, the court must impose a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of at least 17 years.

Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with Michael Choy's mother's statement ``They will get put away for a little while, and then they will be out, but we will never be able to forget it.''; if so, what steps will he take to ensure that killers are not released after serving 18 months in prison?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I advised the House yesterday that that sentencing took place under the transitional provisions of the legislation. This morning Daniel Luff was sentenced for murdering a policeman. The offence took place on 5 July, which was after the implementation of the new legislation. He received a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Russell Fairbrother: How do the transitional provisions in the new Sentencing Act apply to the sentence of murder?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The sentencing legislation has been in force since 1 July this year. In determining the sentence for murder committed prior to that date, a judge cannot impose a more severe sentence than a sentence that could have been imposed under the Criminal Justice Act.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister stand by his comments in this House on 23 April 2002: ``The Parole Board must not release someone unless there is no undue risk. The safety of the community must be the paramount consideration.''; if so, does that now mean that families of victims must get used to the murderers, who are now deemed to not be a threat today to the community, who are subsequently released after serving only one-third of their punishment?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The question began with a reference to murderers. Murderers receive life imprisonment. Under the Criminal Justice Act there was a non-parole period of 10 years.

Stephen Franks: Does the Minister agree with the university criminologist who said that punishment does not deter; if not, why would people believe that a minimum non-parole sentence of any length works when Gay Oakes, who had a minimum non-parole period of 10 years, is now likely to be let out after 8 years?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The issue of the non-parole period is not aimed at deterrents. It is specifically aimed at punishing those who take the life of another.

Murray Smith: Is the Minister comfortable that the consideration of minimum non-parole periods under the Sentencing Act can be ignored simply on the basis of the age of the offender, as has happened under the old legislation in the case of Michael Choy's murderers?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Those convicted of murder in the Michael Choy case were given life sentences.

Simon Power: Is the Minister concerned at the amount of judicial criticism of the Act, given that at least three judges have expressed concerns about the Sentencing and Parole Act; if not, why not?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I find it hard to believe that somebody has expressed concern about the Sentencing and Parole Act, when there is no such thing. There are two pieces of legislation. There is the Sentencing Act, and there is the Parole Act. The two Acts deal with two quite different aspects, and have different transitional periods. It is very normal, when new legislation is passed, that there will be a period when the judges will take care in assessing what was the intention of Parliament in interpreting the legislation. That is the judges' role.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister then clarify, are the public of New Zealand now required to get used to people being released from prison--having murdered or killed--after having served only one-third of their punishment because they are no longer deemed to be a threat to the community?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: There is now a provision in the legislation to take into account circumstances where a life sentence would not be imposed. Under the previous legislation a life sentence was always imposed. Now there is the provision in the sort of circumstances that we have seen--the tragic situation involving what is described as a mercy killing--where a life sentence does not have to be imposed. But in every other respect life sentences will still be imposed, and in the case of Daniel Luff, who was sentenced this morning, the 17-year non-parole period is something that would not have applied a few months ago.

Waihi--Land Subsidence
9. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader--Green) to the Associate Minister of Energy: What contribution has the Government offered to a compensation package for Waihi residents who have been told to leave their homes because of the risk from underlying cavities from past mining?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy): The Hauraki District Council is advising those people directly affected to vacate their properties. Work and Income New Zealand has been of tremendous help to those who have been advised to shift. Officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Ministry of Economic Development, have been meeting with the Hauraki District Council and the Waihi Gold Company to work together on a compensation package for the affected residents, and will report back to me as soon as a formula for compensation has been agreed upon, at which time I will seek Cabinet approval for a Government contribution.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Government investigated whether any other party may be liable for some of those costs, and in particular, has he sought any advice on whether blasting and de-watering at the current mine within a couple of hundred metres of the threatened homes could have contributed to past collapses and future risk?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I have read the Hauraki District Council's report and have discussed the effects of current mine workings with the council and the mining company. The underground working party report states that current mine work is not the cause of collapse. But I am also aware of the public comments of Dr Chris Buckley, and I have written to him asking for any information he has with regard to the veracity of his claims.

Sandra Goudie: What contribution will the Government make towards the reinstatement of the affected infrastructure in Waihi, such as roading, water, and waste water?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: We have had initial discussions with the mayor and the chief executive of the council. I do not think there is need for compensation at this point, as there has been no damage estimate put forward, but we will discuss that issue when some proposal has been put in front of us.

Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister agree that if Waihi residents are entitled to compensation, and as it was a green lobby initiative to remove treated timber from houses, then surely New Zealand homeowners facing a $240 million repair bill are entitled to the same?

Mr SPEAKER: That is getting rather wide of the original question, but the Minister may comment briefly.

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I fail to see a connection between poor building standards on developers' projects in Auckland and other places, and the collapse of old workings in the Waihi mine.

Janet Mackey: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had three questions from the Opposition and none from the Government.

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry. I know. I did not see the member rise. I will call her after I have called Jeanette Fitzsimons.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Government consider assistance to residents in the low-hazard zone whose homes do not have to be evacuated at present but might become impossible to sell?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Certainly, I am very aware of the concern of those residents, but I think the issue is one of confidence in the region and in the area. I am sure that, as we have already observed following the earlier December 2001 collapse, once those folk who are directly affected have been compensated and helped to find new locations, etc., property values and the desirability of those homes rapidly returns pretty much to normal. But it is an issue that we are keeping an eye on.

Janet Mackey: How can the affected residents, who have been advised to move, be confident that a proper process will be undertaken to properly compensate them?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: There are five private property owners who have been advised to move, whose homes are located in the defined high and medium risk zones, and the Earthquake Commission will be engaged immediately to help with valuation. That process will work similarly to the process that was adopted after the December 2001 event, although, of course, the settlement might be slightly different.

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise further. I had actually put ``L'' down on my list when I should have put ``N''.

Kiwibank--Consumer Deposits
10. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: What has the average customer deposited with the Kiwi Bank, and how does that average compare to the base-case projections provided to him and the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit by New Zealand Post Ltd when proposing to enter into the banking market?

Hon. MARK BURTON (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): Our most recent advice is that at this point, after 6 months of operation, the current average customer deposit is around $2,800. It was anticipated that customers would open their children's accounts first, then their own accounts, and, finally, consolidate their finances once they had evaluated Kiwibank. I am advised that these figures are converging towards the projection for the end of the first full year of business.

Rodney Hide: Is the Minister concerned that New Zealand Post's base-case projections put to the Government assumed an average deposit by customers of $6,000, and that, as he has accepted today, the figures are only $2,500, less than half of that; if not, what were the base-case figures, or does he not know?

Hon. MARK BURTON: Yes, I do know what the base-case figures were for the first full year. As I explained to the member in the answer to the principal question, we are dealing with the first 6 months of that first year.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took great care in putting this question down, and I have asked the Minister how that compares to the base-case projections. The Minister has told the House that he knows what they are, but he is just not prepared to share them with us. I cannot see how that can be an answer.

Hon. MARK BURTON: As the member knows, although he is often willing to divulge commercially sensitive information, I do not make a practice of it. I am saying to the member that the figure for the first full year is being converged upon by the current trend of deposits.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have heard the point of order. A perfectly acceptable answer was given in terms of the Standing Orders.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has raised the issue of commercial sensitivity. He is quite prepared to tell us what the figures are now, which must be what is commercially sensitive. He is not prepared to tell us what they were supposed to be, which certainly cannot be commercially sensitive.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance. It is entirely up to the Minister.

Lynne Pillay: What reports has the Minister received on the impact of Kiwibank on the banking market?

Hon. MARK BURTON: I know the comment made by the editor of the money magazine Good Returns, in relation to floating mortgage rate rises, that Kiwibank could become a very big player, and ``It is keeping the big banks honest.'' In addition, Consumers Institute chief executive, David Russell, has said that Kiwibank was ``forcing the big banks to review their offerings.''

Dr Don Brash: To what extent might Kiwibank's deposit base have benefited from a perception created by Mr Anderton when he was Deputy Prime Minster that depositors with Kiwibank could not lose their money because it was unthinkable that any State-owned enterprise would be allowed to fail; and will the Minister make it clear to the New Zealand public that there is no Government guarantee of Kiwibank deposits?

Hon. MARK BURTON: If the member wants to ask a question of Mr Anderton he should put a question to him, but I can say to the member, as I did this morning at the select committee, that the Government has made it very clear that there are no absolute underlying Government guarantees of any State-owned enterprise.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are happy to take up the invitation from the Minister, and put questions to Mr Anderton on this issue.

Hon. MARK BURTON: On what he said.

Hon. Roger Sowry: That is fine; on what he said about Kiwibank. I want an assurance that the Government will accept those questions, because in our experience Mr Anderton has no responsibility for Kiwibank, so we are not able to question him in Parliament, and the Minister knows that. The Minister is either trying to flirt with the rules of Parliament, or is being deliberately mischievous in the way he has answered.

Mr SPEAKER: To rule on the point of order, I will have a look at the questions when they are submitted, but I cannot prejudge the questions as such.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are just finishing our first session of a new Parliament with a new member of Parliament, and you advised us all to allow new members to ask questions. We all know that the Standing Orders do not allow a member to follow the advice given by Mr Burton. One cannot ask questions about Kiwibank to Mr Anderton. One cannot ask other members questions about their statements unless either they have ministerial responsibility, which Mr Anderton has none, or it relates to a parliamentary matter. This is not a parliamentary matter. That answer given by Mr Burton was him being silly, and I say that to say that to a new member of Parliament is to actually flout the advice that you gave the House.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I just want to rule on the point of order. The precise wording of the comments that the member made is, strictly speaking, correct. Mr Anderton can be asked in any number of fora about what he said--

Hon. Richard Prebble: Not in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: --I am just about to say that, if the member would give me the opportunity to do so--but in the House Ministers can be asked about matters for which they are responsible.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, we seem to be fine on rhetoric and low on substantial facts--

Mr SPEAKER: I am not having comments like that interspersed with the question. I want the member to come to the question.

Gerry Brownlee: Oh!

Mr SPEAKER: Well, we are going to have that.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can we take it, then, that we will not have answers interspersed with them, because we have had plenty of them today.

Mr SPEAKER: We certainly will not. I have been lax, and I am going to be very tough from now on.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that New Zealanders would be a lot more encouraged to bank with Kiwibank if the Government placed at least one account with the bank; and if he does accept that, what does he not advocate it?

Hon. MARK BURTON: I am sure they would.

Matt Robson: How many people have decided to open accounts with Kiwibank, and how does this number compare with the business plan?

Hon. MARK BURTON: As reported over the weekend, Kiwibank has stated that 60,000 customers have joined the bank, and it is signing an average of 500 customers per day, drawn from all income sectors. Sixty thousand customers, after only 6 months in business, is excellent progress in my view.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the advice of the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit to the Minister, in which the base case projections are included, showing that the customer deposits projected were $6,000 per customer.

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

Credit Legislation
11. NANAIA MAHUTA (NZ Labour--Tainui) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs: How does the Government plan to improve existing credit legislation to provide a better deal for consumers?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Acting Minister of Consumer Affairs): The Consumer Credit Bill was tabled in Parliament yesterday. The proposed reforms it contains are designed to eliminate some unfair practices by credit providers, discourage loan shark activities, and improve compliance with the law.

Nanaia Mahuta: How does this bill meet the needs of consumers without imposing undue compliance costs on business?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: This bill, in excluding business borrowing except for the existing reopening provisions for repressive conduct, will actually cut red tape and reduce compliance costs for those in the business of lending to commercial borrowers. For those in the business of lending to consumers, there may be temporary adjustment compliance costs around the transition to the new regime, but its simplicity and design mean that these are not ongoing, and represent a win-win situation for consumers and for business.

Sandra Goudie: Given the importance of protecting consumers through credit law, when does the Minister expect to see any legislation enacted, remembering that introduction is a far cry from enactment?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I look forward to that member's support, and her party's support, for an early passage of the bill.

Qantas--Commerce Commission
12. JOHN KEY (NZ National--Helensville) to the Minister of Commerce: Has she exercised her powers under the Commerce Act 1986 and communicated to the Commerce Commission her expectations for the criteria to be applied, if indeed Qantas does buy a stake in Air New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): No. The criteria that the Commerce Commission would apply to any business acquisition are specified in the Commerce Act. Under section 26 of the Commerce Act I am able to communicate statements of Government policy to the Commerce Commission, to which it would have regard in carrying out its analysis. These are statements of the Government's policies for a sector or the economy as a whole, and do not relate to the criteria the commission would apply in any individual case.

John Key: What assurance can the Minister provide members of the New Zealand travelling public that if Qantas does buy a stake in Air New Zealand, they will not be subject to the rocketing price increases similar to those experienced by Australian consumers after the collapse of Ansett Australia?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: As Minister of Commerce, the assurance I can give to the people of New Zealand is that such a proposal would have to be subject to Commerce Commission processes.

David Parker: What are the criteria the Commerce Commission would apply in considering any application concerning the acquisition of shares in another company?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The criteria the Commerce Commission would apply to any acquisition of shares would depend on the type of application. If the parties apply for a clearance, the Commerce Commission considers whether the acquisition will be likely to substantially lessen competition in markets in New Zealand. If the parties apply for an authorisation, the Commerce Commission considers whether the public benefits from the acquisition outweigh the detriments from the lessening in competition.

Dail Jones: In the light of the Minister's earlier answer that the Government has the opportunity to issue a statement of policy with regard to this matter, when can the House expect to receive from the Government a statement of policy to be forwarded to the Commerce Commission, because I am sure all New Zealanders are considerably concerned about the sell-off of Air New Zealand to an overseas company?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: If the member refers to section 26 of the Commerce Act, he would know that such an event would precipitate publication in the Gazette and the tabling in the House of Parliament.

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When is that going to happen? We do not want to know that it would be in a Gazette at some stage. Is the Minister so unsure of her job that she does not know?

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is a political comment.

John Key: Given the complete lack of interest by the Minister in either the current or future activities of Qantas in New Zealand, does the Minister now consider she has a conflict of interest--

Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to reflect on the first part of that question, and rule it in or out of order.

Mr SPEAKER: Quite often comments are made that are inappropriate. I ask the member to come to the question.

John Key: Can I speak to the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member may not, I want him to come to the question.

John Key: Does the Minister now consider she has a complete conflict of interest between her ministerial responsibilities and those of this Government as the shareholder; if so, will she be resigning as the Minister?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: No, and no.

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

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