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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 19 September

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 19 September 2002

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Health Services--Overseas Treatment

1. PITA PARAONE (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Since she became Minister of Health, how many individuals have been financially assisted to obtain treatment or operations overseas and what has been the total cost?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: Since January 2000, 161 people have received medical treatment overseas. The total cost, inclusive of travel and accommodation, is $3,248,242.

Pita Paraone: Does the Minister have any plans to increase the usage of overseas medical facilities in order to meet the growing demand for New Zealanders requiring medical treatment; if so, why; and, if not, why not?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: This Government is committed to providing health care in a timely fashion for all New Zealanders. Where there are shortages, as is occurring in oncology services, the Government is committed to paying extra money, if and where needed.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister specify key reasons for patients being sent overseas for treatment?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Our first priority is to the patient, and if the appropriate treatment is not available here, then we do consider treatment off shore. There are two reasons for doing this: firstly, workforce shortages, and, secondly, rare and specialised need.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why are we still seeing exactly the same problems with cancer patients waiting unacceptably long times for treatment, as demonstrated by Waikato cancer patients waiting 18 to 20 weeks for first specialist assessment, and large numbers of patients having to travel to Australia to use its private hospital system, as we have been seeing for year after year under this Labour Government?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Government accepts that there are pressures on the oncology services in this country, brought about not only by international shortages of specialists but also by the total lack of workforce planning by the previous National Government.

Heather Roy: Could any of those treatments or operations obtained overseas have been undertaken by the private health-care sector in New Zealand; if the answer is yes, why did that not occur?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Government has decided that the priority is to get treatment as quickly as possible for those patients. Australia, where access and capacity are available, is the best place to provide assistance for those patients to attend.

Pita Paraone: How many more New Zealanders will be required to endure the dislocation, stress, and trauma associated with having to travel overseas to gain the level of medical treatment necessary to obtain an improved quality of life; and for how much longer does the Minister intend to utilise health funding in this way?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: For as long as is necessary, and for as many as is necessary, to ensure that they receive timely oncology treatment.

Iraq--United Nations Inspection Programme
2. GRAHAM KELLY (NZ Labour) to the Prime Minister: What decision has the Government taken on the request from the United Nations to provide a contribution to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, established to ensure Iraq's compliance with Security Council resolutions on weapons of mass destruction?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The Government will be making up to 10 Defence Force medical and communications personnel available to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.

Graham Kelly: When will those personnel be expected to depart?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: A member of the New Zealand Defence Force will travel to Vienna early next month to take part in a basic training course for the commission, and that Defence Force member will then come home to train others selected for the deployment. The UN Commission has undertaken to give 60 days notice to contributors.

Hon. Bill English: Why has the Prime Minister made that decision ahead of a parliamentary debate when, in similar circumstances in 1998, the Labour Party suggested that the parliamentary debate should be held before a decision was made?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I am sure all members will be very pleased to hear of the New Zealand contribution.

Keith Locke: Will the Government use its very, very good relationship to influence the Bush Administration to cease its military build-up in the Gulf because that build up will endanger the weapons inspection team?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Like much informed international opinion, the New Zealand Government believes that diplomacy should take a chance first.

Hon. Peter Dunne: Is the Prime Minister able to give any assurances regarding the safety of the New Zealand personnel who will be involved in that undertaking?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Ultimately, the United Nations Security Council must be the guarantor of the safety of all those deployed intending to ensure compliance with its decisions.

Iraq--United Nations Inspection Programme
3. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she intend to make an announcement within two days to confirm New Zealand's involvement in the weapons inspection programme in Iraq, and how will the safety of any New Zealand inspectors be guaranteed?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The announcement has just been made. Safety will be enhanced by continuing to pursue a diplomatic course to resolve the issue.

Hon. Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that her only response to concerns about the safety of New Zealand personnel in Iraq is to say that she will hold diplomatic discussions with someone who might be hassling them?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: A little research would tell the member that all such personnel are accorded United Nations privileges and immunities, and that ultimately their security must be backed by the Security Council.

Hon. Ken Shirley: In keeping with the practice in other Westminster-based democracies, will the Prime Minister initiate a parliamentary debate with regard to New Zealand's involvement in Iraq; if not, why not?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: This involves the deployment of people to an inspection team. It is probably taking things a little far to suggest that every time this happens there should be a debate. However, if Opposition members are on the ball I am sure they will have put a letter in.

Keith Locke: What sanctions would the Government think it appropriate to apply to the United States if it proceeded with its invasion plans in a way that endangered the inspection team and was in violation of international law in the United Nations charter?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I would not foresee circumstances in which such action would endanger an inspection team.

Ron Mark: Will the New Zealand Defence Force personnel being deployed actually be deployed in Iraq or in other Arab states, and if they are to be deployed in Iraq as part of the weapons inspection teams, has she had any discussions with the Defence Force about possible exposure to depleted uranium and whether the fears expressed at the end of the Gulf war are things that she should be looking at right now in terms of protecting our personnel?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I would have to take advice on that, but one would assume that when the United Nations makes a request of this kind it is very conscious of the safety and health of those it is asking to participate.

Hon. Bill English: What kind of action does the Prime Minister believe the Security Council may have in mind to protect the activities of New Zealand personnel in Iraq and to guarantee their safe return?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: As I said earlier, New Zealand members of the United Nations inspection team would be able to be accorded all the usual United Nations privileges and immunities. It would be very unusual for those to be breached.

Youth Offenders--Parental Responsibility
4. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Following media reports that teenage murderer Daniel Luff's neglected childhood was part of the reason for a three year reduction in his non-parole period, does he agree that the parents or guardians of youth offenders share some of the responsibility for their actions?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Acting Minister of Justice): Yes, I do.

Marc Alexander: In view of the reported comments by Justice Young at the sentencing of teenage murderer, Daniel Luff, which stated: ``Part of the blame for your attitudes must lie with your parents and their self-indulgent neglectful lives'', will the Minister give a commitment that such parents will be penalised in proportion to their responsibility; if so how, and, if not, why not?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: There are provisions in the Crimes Act that hold parents to account if they neglect their children. I am not aware of the particular circumstances of the background in this particular case, but it is certainly the intention to see the Crimes Act provisions upheld.

Simon Power: What steps, if any, has the Minister taken to implement principle 10 of the youth offending strategy that relates to Strengthening Families and community connections for young people?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The Government has supported several initiatives such as Family Start and Strengthening Families, which encourage early intervention for at-risk children and their families. The youth offending strategy aims to improve existing support programmes for families by ensuring that the programmes are delivered by trained providers, have effective supervision, and accountability mechanisms.

Darren Hughes: What discussions are under way to ensure that parents with children at risk are catered for, under these early intervention programmes?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Discussions are under way with United Future to establish the family commission. I anticipate that the commission will want to look at issues around early intervention and the support of families of young offenders.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister tell the House whether, in negotiating issues of supply and confidence with the United Future party, its members insisted on legislative moves being taken by this Government to hold parents accountable for the actions of their children?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I understand that the basis for the development of a family commission is actually about providing the support that parents need in order to deal with children who are out of control.

Stephen Franks: Why, nearly 3 years after the Prime Minister's personal promise to ``crack down on youth crime'', have we seen no bill to end the scandal of useless family group conferencing for offenders and their so-called families which, in fact, are the cause of the crime?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I woke up this morning to listen on the radio to the Principal Youth Court Judge, who was being interviewed on that very point. He made the point that in fact youth crime had not increased, and that there were issues about the spread of youth crime in this country. He said that where agencies worked together, youth crime statistics were well down.

East Timor--Historical Briefings
5. Hon. KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader--ACT NZ) to the Prime Minister: Does she now accept that official documents clearly show that former Prime Minister Bill Rowling was advised by Foreign Affairs officials that Indonesian troops were infiltrating East Timor in 1975 and that contrary to her claim the officials did not mislead the Prime Minister?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No.

Hon. Ken Shirley: In view of the fact that the evidence confirms that her assertions were incorrect, will she simply now stop blaming former officials, admit her error, and say ``Sorry.''?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, I do not accept that at all. While I accept that the late Mr Rowling must of course accept responsibility for accepting advice, it is clear, when we look through these papers, that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was at all times at pains to defend Indonesian actions and put them in the best light it could.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Does the Prime Minister accept the truth of Minister Matt Robson's words in his press statement of 21 May 2002, when he quoted the former Prime Minister, David Lange, as saying: ``East Timor is off the agenda'', at a time that Prime Minister Clark was in Cabinet?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I am answering questions about something that happened in 1975. I have no idea what date the member is referring to, but, as the Leader of the Opposition said himself at the State luncheon today, there have been many mistakes made on East Timor by all New Zealand Governments.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister accept the version of Frank Corner, the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, that Prime Minister Rowling was advised on 8 October 1975 of the situation--that the officials' position was that they never accepted the proposition that the will of the people must be first ascertained--and if she does, will she consider apologising to the Foreign Affairs officials whom she claimed misled the then Prime Minister, or did she not sign the press release that said they misled him?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I think the advice tendered by the ministry was misleading from start to finish, in that it advised the Government consistently that it should do nothing to disrupt the relationship with Indonesia, nor indeed to take a different line from that of Australia--which was also concerned not to disrupt its relationship with Indonesia.

Hon. Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table extensive documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advice to the then Prime Minister in 1975--

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

Industry--Growth
6. MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader--Progressive) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: What reports has he received from his ministry on the growth in New Zealand industries?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Yesterday I met with the textiles, clothing, footwear and carpet industry task force, and I am pleased to note that export growth for these industries is currently over 6 percent per year, with forecast growth of around 11 percent annually inside 5 years. I also attended the screen production industry task force yesterday, which is confident of doubling foreign exchange earnings from $200 million currently to $400 million in 5 years, which does not take into account any of the income generated by The Lord of the Rings. Other task forces, including wood processing, design, biotech, and information and communications technology, which this Government is partnering, show similar strength and opportunities for growth.

Matt Robson: What reports has the Minister seen on addressing skills shortages in key growth industries?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Last Saturday I launched the new yarn and carpet cadetship scheme, developed by the industry, with the help of a $150,000 grant from Industry New Zealand. My colleague Steve Maharey and I announced funding of $5 million, over 3 years, for a regional development polytech fund, which is tied to industry training needs in regional New Zealand. In partnership with regions, this Government has also announced centres of excellence, which will be involved in industry training--including wood processing in Rotorua, food processing in Hawke's Bay, and wine making in Marlborough.

John Carter: Is the Minister concerned about his own department's view that at current growth rates New Zealand will fall short of returning to the top half of the OECD; if so, will this Government be serious about growth and make a real commitment to the growth of New Zealand businesses?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: If ever there were a Government serious about economic growth--in comparison with previous Governments--this one is. I might say that the advice is that on current levels, which we inherited from previous Governments, that may well be true, but I have just quoted to the House figures that indicate that the forecast growth is well above the rate we will need in order to get into the top half of the OECD.

Steve Chadwick: Is the Minister aware of growth in the wood-processing industry, and what options it may have in regions such as Rotorua?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Although previous Governments ignored the wall of wood descending on us, and the huge economic potential that had for jobs and export income, this Government has seized the challenge. The wood-processing industry is projecting that, by 2005, forestry will be New Zealand's largest merchandise export sector, and that there will be an increase of 20 percent in jobs. The Government, in partnership with industry, has created the Rotorua wood-processing centre of excellence, which will provide research and training opportunities for all New Zealanders who work in the wood industry.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, and our dependency on exports, is the Minister aware of the shipping industry review report, which stipulated just how our shipping industry should grow, and could he say when it will be implemented, because, since he became Minister, our shipping industry has shrunk?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I note with some concern that the New Zealand First Party is worried about us being dependent on exports. I would have thought that all New Zealanders, including everyone in this House, would be encouraging the Government to develop export markets and excellence in New Zealand's products. We will need air and sea transport to get those products off shore, and this Government is doing more than any previous Governments to strengthen the transport industry in New Zealand.

Paul Adams: What proportion of the growth in New Zealand industries does the Minister attribute to the Ministry of Economic Development's industry and regional development programmes, and what measurable evidence does he have to verify his answer?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: It is hard to compare existing programmes to develop the economy of New Zealand, because the previous Government did not have any. This Government has taken every single window of opportunity to drive this economy forward and is succeeding well beyond the dreams of Opposition parties, and to the absolute encouragement of all industries in New Zealand, who support this Government more than any Government in recent history.

Education Act--Exemption to Leave Early
7. Hon. Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National--Nelson) to the Minister of Education: How many students were granted an exemption to leave school early under section 22 of the Education Act 1989 in the year 2001?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Three thousand, four hundred, and sixteen.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How does he reconcile that fact with his press statement as Opposition education spokesperson: ``I believe many of the students being granted exemptions are truants. By agreeing to exemptions the Government is basically relieving its responsibility for these young people.'', with the fact that there has been a 1,400 increase since he has been Minister?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Because since I have been Minister there have been very tight procedures in this area.

Jill Pettis: Where did the 3,416 young people go after leaving school?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Six hundred and forty-three went into fulltime employment, 120 went to polytechnics, 2,652 went to the training provider courses--so much promoted by Nick Smith--and one went to university.

Metiria Turei: What processes does the Ministry of Education have to assist those young people exempted under section 22(b)(ii), that is, on the basis of conduct, in addressing their behavioural difficulties so that they may re-enter further education and training at a later time?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: No person is exempted on the basis of conduct unless that person has a place to go to. This Government is quite firm on that.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister now disown his press statement from Opposition when he said the numbers at 2,000 were far too great and needed to come down; or what other possible explanation can he give to the House as to why the numbers--in direct contradiction to his own statement--have gone up by 68 percent?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: That was far too many to go to Tory courses; ours are much better.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table Mr Trevor Mallard's press statement as Opposition spokesperson.

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

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you allow the last answer from the Minister to stand, and can we take a lead from that answer in the asking of questions?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I agree with the member. That last answer had one word in it that should not have been used.

Gerry Brownlee: It had a sentiment.

Mr SPEAKER: Just about every answer I have ever heard has a sentiment in it. Really! No.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue we have here is that the Minister was clearly being somewhat flippant with his answer. That aside, you are known to comment quite regularly on questions that are asked. You often say ``don't answer the first part'', or ``answer two of any of the three'', etc. You give a little commentary on the Opposition as question time goes on. It is now becoming apparent that when the Government transgresses, the Opposition has to make a point of order to get your attention every time. I cannot remember a case since the election where a Minister has been told that an answer or a word was inappropriate, before the Opposition made a point of order. I am asking for even treatment, so that when a Minister gives an answer that is outside the Standing Orders, you will sometimes take the initiative--just as you do when we ask a question--rather than us having to leap to our feet with a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I would like to think I do treat people even-handedly--in fact, I have had comments to that effect made to me by people from all over the House. I am not perfect, and of course I make mistakes. I will try to rectify that in the future.

Veterinary Drugs--Food Animals
8. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for Food Safety: Are any veterinary drugs, that are banned in Europe and the United States because of concerns about their possible effects on human health, able to be fed to food animals in New Zealand; if so, which ones?

Hon. JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture), on behalf of Minister for Food Safety: The following substances are not registered for use in Europe, but are able to fed to food animals in New Zealand. They are Furazolidone, _____________________ Any possible effects on human health are managed by appropriate controls and testing. I have no knowledge of veterinary medicine products banned for human health reasons by the United States.

Sue Kedgley: Why are chemicals such as Furazolidone and ___________ allowed to be given to food producing animals, such as pigs and chickens, in New Zealand, when they have been banned from such use in Europe and the United States since 1992 because they are thought to be carcinogenic, and because there is no safe level for their residues in food?

Hon. JIM SUTTON: The issue of implications for human health in the use of antibiotics with animals in New Zealand is thoroughly monitored and followed. All I can say is that our authorities are meticulous in this matter, and are influenced by pure, honest science, rather than campaigns by non-government organisations, which simply want to cause alarm, despondency, and fear amongst the public.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Is this an area that the Government is concerned about?

Hon. JIM SUTTON: Of course, which is why the situation is constantly monitored.

Dr Lynda Scott: Where does the Minister believe legal liability rests if a person should become sick as a result of eating food containing such veterinary drugs, which are banned in other countries?

Hon. JIM SUTTON: I have no view on that.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Government's recent warning to farmers not to use chemicals such as Furazolidone and ________ on animals if they are destined for export mean that the Government considers it is acceptable for New Zealanders to be exposed to those potentially carcinogenic compounds, but not our overseas customers; if not, why not?

Hon. JIM SUTTON: No. The same high standards are applied to food going into our domestic and export markets.

Building Standards--Public Inquiry
9. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: In light of recent reported comments by Don Hunn that ``There is so much feeling and anger around that only a public inquiry will give people a chance to have their say'', will he give an assurance that after he holds his meeting with leaders of the building and associated industries there will be a full public inquiry into leaky buildings; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): I do not think that it would be useful to call for a royal commission or judicial inquiry into this matter. We want answers as soon as possible. We do not want to wait for 18 months to 2 years for an inquiry to come up with the answers. I have asked the Government Administration Committee to look into a number of matters that I consider will benefit from the select committee examination. Those matters include the decline in the level of skills in the building sector, the level of detail to be provided with building consent applications in respect of water tightness, the inspection regime as part of the code of compliance of certification process, and the split responsibility of building certifiers and territorial authorities. The public will have their say.

Dr Wayne Mapp: On what basis can the Minister say that the select committee inquiry, controlled by Labour members, will be as thorough and comprehensive as a full public inquiry, particularly given that the terms of reference do not cover liability issues, and the need to develop a fast-track forum to resolve disputes that will be to the benefit of everyone concerned?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I can say that without doubt the select committee hearing will give people an opportunity to have a say. I have heard members on the other side talk about liability. Liability for shoddy builders does not lie with the Government. We will not support them. That party might want to. We will not support shoddy--

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may have given an answer to address the question, then went on too far.

Russell Fairbrother: Are any of the parties involved in the water tightness issue showing any willingness to tackle the problem?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. Local government leaders are meeting in Wellington next Monday to discuss the problem and possible solutions prior to the meeting with interested parties, which is being convened by the Building Industry Authority.

Brent Catchpole: Can the Minister assure the large number of people affected by the leaky house problem that they will be heard by the Government Administration Committee; if so, how much time will be set aside for those submissions to be heard; if not, why not?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister does not have any responsibility for what the committee itself does. However, this is an important issue, and I will allow the Minister to comment on it, but not in relation to what the committee does or does not do.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: By putting the issue to the select committee, it provides an opportunity for the public to have their say. The select committee is the master of its own destiny as far as that issue goes.

Deborah Coddington: Can the Minister assure the House that this Government will investigate compensation for New Zealanders whose new homes are rotting around them, or whose balconies are now safety hazards because of the removal of treated timber; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: It is not the Government's role to provide compensation. However, I am sure that at all the various meetings it will come up. I note that a member on the other side is in pain. He must realise that it is not the Government's job to provide compensation to those homeowners.

Sue Bradford: Given that one of the concerns raised in the Building Industry Authority report was that proper regulation of the building industry is not occurring, due to senior Department of Internal Affairs staff putting pressure on to minimise Building Act compliance costs, can the Minister assure the House that his staff will now change their message to ensure that proper inspection and regulation do occur?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am sure that will be one of the topics covered by the meeting of the industry, and I am sure that action will be taken.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister give an undertaking that any inquiry or action taken as a result of Don Hunn's report will take into account the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority's announcement that heat leaks resulting from poor building standards are costing New Zealander's $1 million per week; if so, how and when?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The meeting will consider all the points raised in the Hunn report.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Could the Minister give us an assurance that any such inquiry will include the 16th floor of Bowen House, which is leaking like a sieve, and this morning alone has seen one room collect 1/2 a bucket of water?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I can give that member no assurance. I cannot even assure him about his own party members.

Mr SPEAKER: That answer was not appropriate. The Minister can comment on the question and provide an adequate answer about this matter without having to make that sort of comment.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am not aware of any such leaks.

Dr Wayne Mapp: When the Minister says that all buildings built to the code are leak-proof, does that simply mean they meet performance provision E2.3.1 in the code: ``Roof and exterior walls shall prevent the inwards ______ of water that could cause undue dampness or damage to building elements.'', and does that not demonstrate the need to review the code itself?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: In a letter I received yesterday--18 September--from the Building Industry Authority, it states: ``I would like to elaborate my assurance to you in our meeting yesterday that no building that has been constructed in compliance with the building code has yet been found to leak.''

Suffrage Day--Government Achievements
10. DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour--Hamilton East) to the Minister of Women's Affairs: To mark New Zealand Suffrage Day, can she outline what the Labour-led Government has achieved for women?

Hon. RUTH DYSON (Minister of Women's Affairs): Yes I can. I have a list, and to name a few: we have introduced paid parental leave; we have improved access to childcare; we have addressed economic disparities that arise between partners when a marriage or relationship breaks down; we have launched the family violence strategy; we have removed the work test for sole parents receiving benefits, giving them more flexibility around parenting; and at the same time we are encouraging more women into industry training. Women now make up 23 percent of all trainees compared with only 13 percent in 1996.

Dianne Yates: Is the Government undertaking any new initiatives for women?

Hon. RUTH DYSON: As a matter of fact, we are. Again, there is a long list. Key initiatives include the development of a women's strategy to give a strong intersexual framework for addressing the complex social and economic issues that women face. We are working on a range of issues to develop economic independence for women, encompassing pay equity, more enlightened family policy, and better education and training opportunities.

Hon. Georgina te Heuheu: How do the comments of Labour's deputy leader, Michael Cullen, that all women on the domestic purposes benefit are to become ``scrubbers'' support women in New Zealand?

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not say that. I said that Judith Collins said it.

Mr SPEAKER: I have had an assurance from a member that the statement was not made. That assurance must be accepted.

Peter Brown: Will the Minister give us her opinion: if the Prostitution Reform Bill goes through, and as a result a lot more women become prostitutes, as is the experience in every other country where this law has been liberalised, will the Minister regard this as an achievement for women or for men?

Hon. RUTH DYSON: Although I did not sit on the Justice and Electoral Committee, which dealt with that legislation, it is my understanding that evidence from overseas countries showing increased protection for women in the sex industry, and improved health conditions, does not increase the demand.

Heather Roy: Does the Minister agree that the suffragettes fought for equal rights, not special rights, and the fight for equality has been so successful that now it is our boys who suffer, especially in the areas of education, welfare, and crime; if not, why not?

Hon. RUTH DYSON: No.

Sue Kedgley: Will the Minister take action in this term of Government to address--not just review--the structural discrimination against women that results in women workers earning 84c for every $1 that men earn, by establishing a proper pay equity commission, and, if not, will she at least increase resources for the new Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner to undertake pay audits and begin real work in this area; if not, why not?

Hon. RUTH DYSON: I would not want to preempt the outcome of the submission process that is currently being undertaken by the Ministry of Women's Affairs. Submissions close at the end of November on ideas for introducing pay equity into New Zealand, and I invite the member to contribute to that. Her contribution will be welcome.

Deportation--Convicted Murderer
11. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Immigration: Will she order the deportation of murderer Gay Oakes if she is released early from prison; if not, why not?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I do not have Gay Oakes' permission to talk about her case publicly. Until I do, I am not prepared to comment on the matter.

Stephen Franks: What assurance of respect can any victim of violent crime take from a Government that would contemplate not deporting, when the mother, brothers, and sisters of the murdered Doug Gardner are denied by the Minister's officials any information about the murderer's immigration status; are refused answers to simple questions they put about what law should apply; are told by the Minister's office that they cannot approach officials directly and must go through the Hon. Jim Anderton; and when I get no response to my written questions submitted on their behalf over 2 weeks ago and they need to know the answers before the parole hearing tomorrow?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I do want to comment on one of the several questions that were asked then. The questioner said that somebody had informed him that the family had to go through its Wigram constituency MP. That is correct. My electorate office--and I know that none of the ACT party has electorate offices, because they do not represent electorates--is funded by--

Hon. Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I know what the member is going to raise. I want that sentence taken out.

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: My electorate office is funded by the Parliamentary Service to service the people who live in that electorate. As Minister of Immigration, I have had to put in place very strict rules about my ministerial role, which is dealt with through my ministerial office here in Wellington. My electorate office is there to service the people of Christchurch East. I refer the member to section 112 of the Immigration Act.

Gerry Brownlee: Accepting that she cannot speak on behalf of Gay Oakes, if the Parole Board grants parole to Gay Oakes after she has served only 8 years of a life sentence, and the crime of which she has been convicted was committed within 10 years of her emigrating to this country, will the Immigration Service move to deport her?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I refer that member also to section 112 of the Immigration Act.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept that the Minister addressed the question, but in the interests of the public good, perhaps she could tell us why that section of the Immigration Act prevents her from answering a question in Parliament?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister properly addressed the question, as the member said.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If the Minister will not answer that question, will she, in similar circumstances, tell us that she will deport a 40-year-old man who killed the son of his so-called partner and brutalised her, who came to this country under false application procedures and has only had a job washing dishes in a restaurant, such was his lack of qualifications; and, if he is convicted, will he be deported at the end of his sentence?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Where an individual is convicted of a serious offence and is sentenced to jail, there is provision for a deportation order to be put before me, but a full submission is made and I have to consider it on a case-by-case basis. I cannot pre-determine a position or I would be in breach of the rules of natural justice.

Logging--Truck Driver Shortage
12. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Following media reports of a potential shortage of logging truck drivers, what initiatives, if any, is he considering to assist the industry to remedy this?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): I have seen the comments from the Road Transport Forum, attributing the shortage to a variety of factors, including competition from other sectors, and wage rates. The Government has already set minimum standards for truck stability, which should help. I understand that the forum is doing some research on driver shortages and wants to work with the Government in a cooperative way. I welcome this approach.

Mr SPEAKER: Normally the member would get a supplementary question but the party he is representing has had its quota. However, I am prepared to give him a supplementary question today, but he loses that one on the following Tuesday.

Peter Brown: I do not know whether to thank you or not, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The member can take his choice.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister share the view of the public that we should freight more logs by rail, and that now is the ideal time to repurchase the rail track, enhance it, and work with such groups as the Rail Freight Action Group to achieve this?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Yes, rail is an important part of the Government's transport strategy, particularly over long distances, as the member's question was probably referring to. However, there will always be a balance between road and rail. The options that the member referred to in the last part of his question are being considered.

Helen Duncan: What changes, if any, is the Government proposing to address the issue raised in the original question?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: As the forum has noted, there is already a training system in place to ensure that the qualifications people receive are of a high standard. The Government is proposing changes to the commercial driver-licensing rule, which should help drivers obtain a licence more quickly. This and other issues will be addressed as part of the cooperative approach between the industry and the Government.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Given that it takes 18 months to get a full class 5 truck licence, and it costs somewhere between $1,800 and $2,000, does he not believe that this is contributing to the trouble that companies have in hiring staff?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Drivers' licences are one of the issues that I think the industry will want to raise. We are proposing some changes, and we will be working with the industry to make sure that they work in the best interests of the industry.

Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that if we do not buy back the rail network, and invest in upgrading it and in its maintenance so that the bulk of log haulage can come about by rail, the wall of wood that we are all expecting will become a wall of heavy trucks on our roads, with a consequent effect on life and safety on the roads; if not, why not?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: There is a wall of wood coming, and that fact was identified by the Government when it developed a strategy to identify what things are coming at us--and not just that, but in terms of skill shortages and roading issues, as well. There will always be a balance between roading and rail, and that is the importance of the transport strategy, which the Government will be releasing later in the year.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister intend to consult the Land Transport Safety Authority regarding potential issues arising from having as many as 2,000 new and potentially inexperienced logging truck drivers on our roads in the next 5 years; if not, why not?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: We will be working with the industry but also in conjunction with the Land Transport Safety Authority, as well. This is an issue that needs to be addressed from an industry perspective, and I await the outcome of the research it is doing.

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

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