Questions Of The Day Transcript - 1 October 2002
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 1 October 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Building Standards--Crown Law Office Report
1. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Why will she not direct the Minister of Internal Affairs to release the Crown Law Office report on the leaky homes issue, given that she has said it was ``very clear'' there was no Crown liability, and does her statement cover Crown agencies such as the Building Industry Authority?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): My advice is that it would be inappropriate to release the legal opinion as it is covered by professional legal privilege.
Hon. Bill English: Does the legal opinion include consideration of the role of the Building Industry Authority over the past 18 months; and does it give any opinions as to whether it has fulfilled that role adequately?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The statement I made was comprehensive, but I am not prepared to waive privilege and release legal advice whenever it relates to anything topical.
Russell Fairbrother: Is the Government considering facilitation mediation on that issue?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Government is working with interested parties to develop proposals aimed at assisting homeowners affected by that problem to access mediation. Announcements will be made as soon as the details are finalised.
Deborah Coddington: In the light of the Prime Minister's replies, why should New Zealand homeowners--whose new houses are rotting around them--believe the Prime Minister's advice today about Government ``facilitating mediation'', when, just last week, the best advice she could give was ``go to a lawyer''?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I am surprised that ACT has joined the National Party in wanting the taxpayer to pay for people's bad buildings.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: What liability, or, at least, moral responsibility, does she think should be borne by those who constantly advocated and implemented deregulation and lower compliance costs for the building industry in the National Government of the day, which undoubtedly led to slack construction standards?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: That, indeed, is a very interesting question. Another factor, which the member might have mentioned, is that, with the disappearance of apprenticeships in the 1990s the standard of workmanship was not what it should have been. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: An interjection was made that referred to either me or to Mr English, and it was offensive. The member will beware, and not make any more interjections this question time.
Hon. Bill English: Why is the Prime Minister trying to give the impression that mediation on its own is a solution, when that mediation will not be compulsory, and the results will not be binding?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I think mediation facilitated through a Government-initiated process would be a very good idea, and much more sound than trying to accept liability as the National Party wants to do.
Government Superannuation Fund--Investment Policy
2. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader--Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe that the Government Superannuation Fund Authority has so far achieved its first objective ``To implement and maintain a diversified, well managed investment portfolio which, over the long term, enhances the net worth of the Fund to the Crown, significantly outperforms a portfolio invested entirely in New Zealand Government Stock and has risk characteristics such that there is a low probability of a substantial adverse impact on the Crown accounts in any one year.''; if so, why?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Finance): Yes, because in the long term a professionally managed diversified fund has the best prospects of enhancing the net worth of the Crown.
Rod Donald: Was it prudent and best-practice management for the Government Superannuation Fund Authority to invest approximately $1.2 billion in the international sharemarket, which has since resulted in a loss of $315 million on the value of those shares immediately after September 11 and the Enron crash, especially when the fund could have earned $238 million if the investment had all been left in Government stocks?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: This is a professionally managed fund. It clearly did not do well over this particular period. I am sure that the fund managers will keep looking at the shape of their investments. But to suggest, as the member is, that money be stuck under the blanket the way the Greens want to do it is just silly.
Clayton Cosgrove: Has the investment portfolio operated by the authority had a substantially adverse impact on the Crown accounts in the last financial year?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: No. The accounts of the authority have not been published, but I am advised that the portfolio produced a small pre-tax profit in the last financial year. The operation of the tax laws on investment meant that there was a moderate after-tax loss but, of course, from the point of view of the Crown accounts, tax paid by one Crown entity is tax received by the Crown overall in another account.
Hon. David Carter: Will the investment criteria for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund be similar to the investment criteria for the Government Superannuation Fund; and is the Minister therefore concerned about the ability of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to return 9 percent per annum under current global economic conditions?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: In the last full year that the previous Government was responsible for the Government Superannuation Fund, the fund made a net, above-inflation gain of 1.75 percent. That gain is not good enough for investments of taxpayers' funds, and it is quite clear that, over the long term, a properly diversified fund has much better returns. I challenge the National Party to go out to its financial mates. It should ask John Key, who knows that is true.
Peter Brown: Noting the Minister's answers, particularly those to the Greens, I ask whether the Minister accepts that now is a difficult time to invest in overseas equities, and we would be better off to invest in New Zealand infrastructure, and, indeed, to put some of the money in Kiwibank?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I see divided opinion from the benches opposite on that particular suggestion. If we knew when markets were bottoming out, and in which direction interest rates were headed in the medium term--internationally and in New Zealand--we would be a much better-off economy than we are now.
Hon. Richard Prebble: From the Minister's replies, and in particular from his reply to Mr Carter's question, can the House take it that the Government does intend investing the $615 million at present in the New Zealand Superannuation Fund in exactly the same way that it has been investing the Government Superannuation Fund; if that is the case--and the Minister confirmed that the loss in the last year would be $125 million--how can he say that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund is guaranteeing that superannuation will be available when people retire?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I think that the answer to the question in the middle is ``no'', but I think the member is also aware that there is a double arm's-length relationship in respect of this matter. This Government will not be directing the fund into particular investments, in a way that the Greens and others are asking.
Rod Donald: Has Frank Russell Co. New Zealand Ltd, the investment adviser for the Government Superannuation Fund Authority, which advised that 44 percent of the fund be invested in overseas shares for the year to June, which is advising that 52 percent be invested in overseas shares for the year to 2003, and which is projecting a return on those shares of 9.6 percent, been shortlisted for the same role for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I do not know.
3. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Immigration: How many people who have sought immigrant, refugee or asylum status over the last three years have been declined and subsequently left the country and not withstanding the decision to decline, how many have remained in New Zealand?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Acting Minister of Immigration): New Zealand Immigration Service records indicate that 4,406 initial refugee-status claimants and 3,810 onshore residence applicants have been declined in the 3 years to 30 September 2002. Of those, an estimated 2,242 have since departed New Zealand. Of the remainder, most are in New Zealand on valid permits to work, study, or await the outcome of their appeal.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Can the Minister tell me out of the two figures he has given--4,406, and 3,810--how many people are back in New Zealand at this time? That was the original question I asked the Minister. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The closing part of my question was very clear. He has had 4 hours to work on it. It asked how many had remained in New Zealand. Can I have my first question answered properly.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened to the member's question and I listened to the Minister's answer, and I thought that three figures were requested and three figures were given. But if the member wants to elucidate that in a supplementary question he is entitled to do so.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister again, after another 4 hours of delay, what number remain in this country, based on the question that the Minister was asked at 10 o'clock this morning?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I think the figure is 6,179 people remain in this country.
Jill Pettis: What is the Government doing to reduce the incidence of overstaying?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: New Zealand is one of the few countries that attempts to measure its overstayer population. This Government has invested more than $3 million over the past 3 years to reduce the time that refugee status claimants have to wait for status determination, and thereby reducing overstaying.
Hon. Murray McCully: Given that less-stringent operational instructions have been issued to immigration officers in relation to the detention of asylum seekers following the recent decision of Justice Baragwanath, is it not inevitable that these will result in increasing numbers of declined asylum seekers remaining in New Zealand; if so, what steps does he propose to take in relation to it?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I do not accept that it will mean that more asylum seekers will remain in New Zealand. The Government will work on this policy, along with its general programme of immigration and its obligations to the United Nations convention for refugees.
Paul Adams: Of those people who have sought refugee status over the last 3 years, how many are still waiting for their status to be determined, and what steps is the Minister taking to reduce waiting times for people applying to the New Zealand Immigration Service for their refugee status?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The Government has committed $3 million expenditure, as I stated before, to ensure that waiting times for people making a claim for refugee status is reduced, and so that their first determination can be established and therefore they can move on with their lives, with some certainty.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: What percentage would he think was reasonable, aligned with the 6,179 who remain, in terms of their dependents; is one entitled to say that of the 6,179 there will be a further 2,000 dependents, which is normal, and, if so, why was that figure not given to the House?
Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Each of those applicants is determined on a case by case basis, and it is very difficult to ascertain how many dependents may be linked to the original claim.
Court of Appeal--Minimum Non-parole Periods
4. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour--Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Justice: What is the implication for the use of minimum non-parole periods following the Court of Appeal decision on the Hayden Brown case?
Hon. PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The Court of Appeal overturned the decision made by the High Court in the Brown case not to impose a minimum non-parole period beyond one-third of the sentence. The court decision makes it clear that a longer minimum non-parole period of up to two-thirds of the sentence, or 10 years, should be imposed in sufficiently serious cases in order to punish, deter, and denounce the offending. This decision supports and clarifies the intent of the legislation, providing appropriate guidance for future cases, without any need at all to amend the legislation.
Tim Barnett: What is the new test determined by the court for the use of longer non-parole periods?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: The court decision establishes the principle that a non-parole period should be imposed when the offence is sufficiently serious, and when ``release after one-third of the sentence has been served would represent insufficient denunciation, punishment, and deterrence in all the circumstances''. The test does not require the offender to pose a danger to the community, but rather points to the sentence needing to constitute a sufficient response in the eyes of the community. The decision suggests that non-parole periods will be imposed in the most serious cases.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Does not he consider it serious, the case of one of the killers of Waitara grandfather Kenneth Piggot--sentenced to 8 years, 3 months in prison--qualifying for parole in less than 3 years?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: If the member had read the decision of Justice Priestley in that case, he would have seen that the Justice gave his reason for not imposing a minimum non-parole period as being the quite minimal part played by the offender in the offence. I would not want to comment beyond that degree, because this matter may be subject to appeal to the Court of Appeal.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If it is the judge's fault, can the Minister tell me, could he have made that decision to leave it as it was, without his first changing the law?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: In the past, of course, the defendant would have been automatically released at two-thirds of the sentence, regardless of the risk that is posed by that offender. Under the new law there is a flexibility. The relevance of the Court of Appeal decision is that that flexibility will be used to apply minimum non-parole periods where those are justified in serious cases.
Donna Awatere Huata: Does the Minister acknowledge that if his new law had set out clear sentencing guidelines in the first place, five of our most senior judges would not have had to sort out his contradictory and confusing new sentencing laws; if not, what will it take for him to admit that he botched up?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: A lot more than the logic applied by that member. The bench of five Court of Appeal judges showed that the intent of the legislation, as I have argued it to be, has been upheld. Justice Priestly has further said in the court that the Sentencing Act is, in most areas, a huge improvement on the mishmash of law that applied prior to 1 July. This law is both clearer and tougher on the worst offenders, a point agreed to by most judges, lawyers, and other members of the legal fraternity.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister of the opinion that the imposition of non-parole periods has been in accordance with the intent of the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act; if so, is it not contrary to the demands implied by the referendum, if not, when can we expect an amendment?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: The court decision shows quite clearly that the Sentencing Act and the Parole Act are in line with the vote of the referendum in 1999, in three areas: it pulls up the sentences, because the maximum sentences will now be applied to the worst offending; secondly, it abolishes the automatic release at two-thirds of the sentence, so that an offender can stay in prison to the very last day of his or her sentence, if that is required for the safety of the community; finally, this decision now shows that minimum non-parole periods will be applied, where required, in the worst cases.
5. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: On what date was he first advised by officials from the Department of Internal Affairs or the Building Industry Authority that there were problems with leaky buildings, and what specific actions did he take as a result?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The presiding member of the Building Industry Authority wrote to me on 30 April 2002, informing me of the concerns about leaky buildings and the actions it was taking in relation to the problem. Those actions included appointing the Overview Group led by Don Hunn. I supported the authority's actions.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister confirm that the Building Industry Authority was commissioning reports on leaking cladding systems and rotting buildings in the year 2000; if not, why was he not aware of that?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The first time the Building Industry Authority contacted me about this was 30 April, as I said in my original answer.
Darren Hughes: Does the Minister plan to make any further announcements about the Government's response to the leaking homes issue?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes. I expect to be able to make an announcement later this week.
Dail Jones: Is the Minister aware that the problem of leaking homes has been around for about 5 years--although the National Party appears to have only just discovered it--that about 5 years ago it was reported in the New Zealand Herald, for example, and that the main way of resolving the problem is to take appropriate action against the council or the builders, and what steps will the Government take to assist homeowners in desperate straits, who need some assistance to take such action?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I agree with the first part of the member's question: the National Party did preside over some terrible disasters. However, this Government will be making its response later this week.
Deborah Coddington: Can the Minister explain why the Building Industry Authority takes compulsory levies from the industry through building consents, but clearly has not reviewed New Zealand's Building Code, as it is required to do in return?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: It does take funds. It is very clear that it is working extremely hard on this problem. Some of the problems were perhaps brought about because of the change of attitude of previous Governments.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister received any advice that boric-treated timber will stand out any better than kiln-dried timber under conditions of constant saturation, as has been the case in the badly constructed buildings?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I have been told that the timber that is not treated is all right if it is not exposed to water.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave for the Minister to be given an extension of time to answer that question in full. I cannot bear to wait for a full explanation of what he is trying to tell us.
Mr SPEAKER: No. Much as we might have enjoyed the first comment, no-one can seek leave on behalf of another member.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given the extensive newspaper reports, particularly in the Minister's own city of Auckland, why was he not been asking the Building Industry Authority about the problem of leaking and rotting buildings with monolithic claddings?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: For the same reason that that member was not asking that question many years before, when he was in Government.
Students with Dependents--Income Support
6. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour--Mana) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What active steps is the Government taking to provide income support for unemployed students with family dependents?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): From today, additional help will be available for students with dependents who face financial hardship at the end of the academic year. A new student allowance transfer grant will pay those students a transitional payment during the stand-down period between the end of their student allowance and the start of their benefit. The Government has committed $5.1 million over 4 years in this year's Budget. Members who want that information may need to contact the SOLO computer system link to get that brochure.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: How many families will benefit from the student allowance transfer grant?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Every year a large number of students with dependent children finish their study and require either income support or employment. This year we estimate that up to 3,700 families may be eligible for, and benefit from, the student allowance transfer grant.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Why is he focusing on extra taxpayer support now, when as an Opposition MP, he is on record promising jobs for students, or was that, to quote him, ``Something you say in Opposition.''?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The focus of this Government has been explicitly on ensuring that there are jobs for students during the Christmas break. So successful have we been, that is where we will continue to put the bulk of that money to support students so that they can work and earn a living over that break.
Sue Bradford: Alongside the new student allowance transfer grant, will the Government be putting more resources into vocational guidance and assistance to unemployed students to get into employment?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The answer is yes. One of the most successful innovations last year went under the name of Snap, which was a programme that ensured that students who were doing specific kinds of degrees would get jobs in the area of their expertise. That has now been transferred to Student Job Search, a service that has been highly successful in working with the ministry to get students jobs, and that will help them even more.
Bernie Ogilvy: Given the Minister's concern for the impact of student income support policies on families, does he intend to restore access to the emergency unemployment benefit to all students to alleviate the financial burden on their parents?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: As for the question raised by Mr Sowry, we have been very successful in ensuring that students are able to get paying jobs during a break from study. On top of that, we are now paying well over 20,000 students the unemployment benefit student hardship to ensure that nobody goes into financial hardship during that period. I repeat that we have been very successful in getting jobs, and that is where we will continue to put our efforts.
Crime--Statistics at Election Campaign
7. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Police: What crime statistics did he have for the 2000/2001 year when he put out his pre-election release claiming ``New Zealand's overall crime rate had dropped 2.4 percent in the last 10 months'', and why did he say ``the figures showed a vastly different situation to current Opposition scaremongering that would have New Zealanders believe the crime rate is spinning out of control''?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I have had the provisional crime statistics supplied by the Commissioner of Police. The figures contained in that report were released publicly in full, following a request by that member's party. Official police statistics show crime is at its second lowest rate in 15 years.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister deny that the papers received under the Official Information Act show that he deliberately misled the New Zealand public 2 weeks before the election, by using incorrect--
Mr SPEAKER: The word ``deliberately'' cannot be used. The member can re-ask the question without that particular word.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister deny that the papers received under the Official Information Act show that he misled the New Zealand public 2 weeks before the general election by using incorrect provisional figures in order to create a drop in crime, when he had the correct figures available, which showed that crime was rising, and, given this misrepresentation, how can the public of New Zealand possibly have confidence in him as Minister of Police?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The figures I used were provided by the Commissioner of Police, and, of course, the official figures came out in July, some time after the election.
Martin Gallagher: How do the police's official recorded crime and case resolution rates in the year 2001-02 compare with previous years?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The police figures demonstrate that the recorded and resolved rates of crime for the year 2001-02 were the second best in 15 years. There were 108 offences per 10,000 people. This is the second best result since the 1987-88 financial year. The police resolved 41.8 percent of cases in the year 2001-02. The best resolution rate was achieved in 2000-01. The worst resolution rate of 29.8 percent was achieved in 1991-92, and National was in power then.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Since the Minister is so happy to claim the credit when crime drops, does he accept any responsibility for the 18 percent increase in violent crime in Auckland in the last 12 months, and for the fact that crime overall has increased for the first time in years under his stewardship?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: What I do take credit for is having the very best results ever and the second best results last year, and although there is a problem in Auckland, the police are addressing it.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister tell us how he would characterise the recent spate of murders involving ever-younger offenders, and how that would be at odds with the crime rate spinning out of control?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I regret the number of serious offences young people have been involved in. However, this Government has taken action to wrap around these young people. That member is quite mistaken if he thinks that crime is out of control, because these figures are the second best in 15 years. They are better than the National Party achieved, and in the 9 long years, we saw crime go up over 70 percent.
Ron Mark: Does the Minister not accept that the deteriorating crime statistics have only been added to through lowering the drinking age--legislation that he voted for--and, in hindsight, does he not now regret his decision to vote for that legislation?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The crime statistics, if the member cares to look at them, show that alcohol-related offences are down, and of course I do not regret that. I have been in communication with the industry and the police to try to make sure those under 18 do not receive alcohol. But I have to say it is parents who are the main providers of alcohol.
Dr Muriel Newman: Is the Minister denying to this House that when, before the election, he released the provisional figures for the 10-month period in the year 2001-02, he had the official figures for the year 2000-01, which gave him the month-by-month figures, and which showed a completely different picture from the one he gave the New Zealand general public?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The official crime stats were released in August, and I received them in August, and in fact the Opposition released them before we did.
Hon. Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a report from the New Zealand Police to the Minister of Police, enclosing those provisional statistics, advising that they should not be released for that sort of purpose.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I seek leave to table a graph of the reported crime rates, which shows the downward trend, and, of course, the provisional crime stats to 10 June 2002.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the official crime statistics, which were given to the Minister before the election and show that crime in fact was rising.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those statistics. Is there any objection? There is.
8. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour--Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What new initiative has the Government introduced to improve access to primary health care?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): This is a red-letter day for primary health care in New Zealand. The first six primary health organisations have been established and funded, marking a significant change in the way our health services will be delivered. It will mean cheaper health care for thousands of high-need New Zealanders. It will mean more people accessing health care at an earlier stage, and it will mean better health outcomes for many New Zealanders. These are the first steps towards a much better and fairer system.
Steve Chadwick: What reports has the Minister seen regarding the access funding formula for primary health organisations?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: I have read the transcript of the interview on Morning Report this morning, in which Dr Jonathan Simon from First Health said the advantage of the access formula is that it is going to give access to people who have not used health services particularly appropriately in the past, and who have ``found the cost of visiting doctors too great, and often sat on diseases until they became quite advanced, and waited until things got out of hand and had to go to emergency departments.''
Dr Lynda Scott: Why did the Ministry of Health's own briefing papers to the incoming Minister of Health state: ``The way that PHOs will be funded will not treat all like individuals in the same way'', and why has she persisted with an unfair funding formula that will be divisive to New Zealand health-care?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The original funding proposal had a formula that meant that the funding went to people under an access formula, meaning high-health need, low income. However, through work with the independent practice associations and with the College of General Practitioners, we have managed to put in place a complementary formula, which ensures that we can have a roll-out of primary health organisations and funding right across New Zealand over a number of years. That is much fairer than the old community services card, which that party supports and did not put money into year after year.
Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept the contention of the New Zealand Medical Association, which believes that in the area selected as many as 20 percent of the people who are not in the low-income, high-need bracket will be able access cheaper health care at the expense of people in other areas who are in the high-need, low-income bracket; if she does accept that, how does she say it is fair? Are we not all in the one country?
Mr SPEAKER: The first two questions can be asked.
Hon. ANNETTE KING: For the member's benefit, at the moment we have a three-tier health system: the people who have the community services card get subsidised health-care; people who have a high use health card get even higher health-care; and anybody who earns a dollar over $19,650 pays the full cost. What we are bringing in over time is a fairer system, based on health need, and based on the needs of children and people over 65 years of age. I suggest those members read the formulae.
Mr SPEAKER: I just have to observe--and I have had letters about this--that when answers are given, I do want to hear most of the answer. We do not need the constant shouting; it is not polite.
Matt Robson: How does this announcement meet the coalition Government's campaign commitments?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The coalition Government is committed through its vision for primary health-care to keeping people well within their communities. We promised to reduce the cost of health care for at least 300,000 New Zealanders this year, and we will. That includes people on low incomes with high health needs. The next priority of both the coalition partners, starting from July next year, is to provide affordable primary health-care for children under 18 years of age and all old folks over 65 years of age, right around New Zealand.
Judy Turner: Will there be any disadvantages to those under doctors who are not enrolled with a Primary Health Organisation?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, there will be no disadvantage, because those patients enrolled with doctors who are not in Primary Health Organisations will continue to have access to the community services card, which will be enhanced to improve its uptake until such time as funding is rolled out right around New Zealand.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that, specifically related to this policy, not one person in Tauranga will benefit?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, that is incorrect. In fact, working on the interim formula, many people in Tauranga who are considered high-need would be able to access services. But even more important for that member is that from July next year, any Primary Health Organisation established in Tauranga that has folks who are over 65 years of age and all children who are under 18 years of age will receive affordable primary health-care. I hope that member will go out and welcome that.
Sue Kedgley: Who will be eligible to enrol at an access Primary Health Organisation, and will it be essentially a form of zoning, similar to that in use for schools?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Any person can enrol at an access Primary Health Organisation that is within his or her area. No, it will not be a form of zoning; however, a process is being worked out with district health boards and the provider groups to ensure that huge influxes of people will not come from outside their own areas. We are not setting a zoning policy, but we are working to ensure that there is not so much growth within a Primary Health Organisation that it becomes unable to handle it.
Heather Roy: In response to a question previously asked, can the Minister deny that her formulae for funding Primary Health Organisations guarantee that some households in low-income MŽori or Pacific Island - dominated communities earning over $80,000 per year will get cheaper access to doctors than some households earning $30,000 per year that happen to be in a higher-income community; can the Minister deny this and how is it fair?
Mr SPEAKER: Two of those three questions can be answered.
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The answer is yes, in the interim. However, there are thousands of New Zealanders who earn over $80,000 who have access to the high use health card getting cheap health-care now. I have not heard the ACT party saying that that is not right.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the advice to the incoming Minister detailing the unfairness of this current scheme.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that advice. Is there any objection? There is.
Health Boards--Budget Controls
9. DAIL JONES (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: What practical steps is she taking to ensure district health boards live within their incomes?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The responsibility for district health boards to live within their incomes belongs to the chairs and the members of the boards. They are very clear--and it is their responsibility to ensure--that they must deliver health services within their budgets. The extent to which they meet this responsibility is monitored by the Ministry of Health. That involves the ministry reviewing draft annual plans and Crown funding agreements, and working closely with the boards.
Dail Jones: How does the Minister intend to support the Waitemata District Health Board's chair with the proposal for a new set of health initiatives to service the needs of Chinese clients who have specific needs or disabilities, which the chair claims requires $500,000 immediately and with more money being needed to meet the needs of this group, as its numbers are rapidly increasing?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: It is up to individual boards to look at their health needs. One of the requirements of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act is that the boards carry out a health needs analysis so that they know what their health needs are, then to provide appropriate services for them. I am told by Waitemata District Health Board that the small project that it has put in place for the Asian people of that district has been funded out of the money it already has.
Nanaia Mahuta: How many district health plans have been signed, or are close to being signed?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: To date, progress in signing draft district annual plans for 2002-03 are as follows: five have been signed; three are awaiting final agreement between Treasury and the Ministry of Health and are expected in the near future; four are very close to being signed; and nine are awaiting resolution of issues between the central agencies and the boards.
Dr Lynda Scott: How can district health boards meet the Government's Budget 2002 directive, which accepts only district health board deficits of $80 million yet the draft plans forecast $200 million, without reconfiguring services, reprioritising services, or re-engineering services, all of which are health cuts by any other name?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: From the prediction of $200 million, it is already down to about $168 million and going down, because the boards are working with the Ministry of Health to look at a range of options, including the way they provide services. Of course, that member would like to have services cut so she would have something to talk about.
Lottery Grants Board--Water and Mountain Safety
10. MIKE WARD (Green) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Has he received any reports on the way reductions in funding from the Lottery Grants Board to water safety services and the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council could affect the quality of water and mountain safety services and the number of lives lost in mountain and water accidents; if so, what is his response?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): There has been a letter from Water Safety New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Coastguard Federation, and Surf Lifesaving New Zealand outlining the potential impact of reduced funding on these organisations and the services they provide. The four safety groups combined received more than $4 million funding for this financial year, which is more in terms of a percentage of the funding available than they had received previously, although less in dollar terms.
Mike Ward: In the light of the fact that the transport areas cost a life at, I think, $3 million, and considering the value of life that is likely to be lost as a result of the cut to services, why has he not already funded the shortfall--$1.8 million seems like money well spent?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I have to say that few people would disagree. However, although I have responsibility for the Lottery Grants Board, I do not have any direct say over the allocations by the individual committees.
Helen Duncan: What overall percentage of the money going to the Lottery General Committee did outdoor safety organisations receive this year, compared with last year?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: This year, outdoor safety organisations received 78.19 percent of the total money that went to the Lottery General Committee. Last year, they received 56.72 percent of the lottery general funding.
Judith Collins: Given the reduction in funding that will be available from the Lotteries Commission, what other sources of funding has the Minister considered for water safety services and the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I have responsibility for the Lottery Grants Board; I do not have responsibility for funding what are essentially private organisations. The Government is sympathetic towards these groups, and we are looking at ways in which we may be able to help.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Does the Minister agree with the Minister of Education that beach education is best taught within the school curriculum; and, if so, can he explain how the 20,000 children who are to lose their beach education programmes will be catered for in schools--in other words, how does one create waves and rip tides in swimming pools?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: While I think that is a wee bit outside my portfolio area, I have to say that I almost always agree with the Minister of Education.
Mike Ward: Why is it OK to spend vast sums of public money to save lives and prevent accidents if people are driving a car, but not if they are swimming at a beach or walking in the hills?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I know of only a few beaches that have traffic on them--Ninety Mile Beach is one. However, I think that member is confused as to my role as Minister of Internal Affairs. My responsibility lies with the Lottery Grants Board. Can I say to all members that the funding has gone down because not enough people are buying Lotto tickets.
11. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National--Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Why has she decided to base the price people pay to go to the doctor on location, and not on individual patient need or ability to pay?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): There are some very deprived parts of the country with poor health status that have not been well served by past targeting arrangements like the community services card. The establishment of four more primary health organisations today targets some of these areas to have low patient fees. This continues the implementation of the primary health-care strategy, which over time will give all New Zealanders access to good affordable health-care.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why will a millionaire living in Gisborne who enrols in a primary health organisation pay less to go to the doctor than a poor person with high health needs living in Marlborough or Canterbury who goes to his or her local general practitioner?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: As I explained in previous answers, with the two formulae that I have put in place, the person who has a higher health need in Marlborough, or any other part of New Zealand, will receive a higher payment. However, under the arrangements that are in place now, a person who is a millionaire and has a high-user health card can get subsidised health-care every day of the week under the system National put in place.
Dave Hereora: What reports has the Minister seen about the decision to use the access formula as one method of funding primary health organisations in high health-need, low-income areas?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Again I refer to the excellent comments made by Dr Jonathan Simon of First Health IPA, who said that his organisation saw an immediate need to start creating a new model of health-care delivery that can fundamentally address inequities in our society. Dr Simon described the new funding as a unique point in our history to rebroker a new model of health-care delivery. He said that his independent practitioners association considered it a matter of enormous importance to get on with the job right now.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why should a Minister of the Crown, such as Trevor Mallard, who lives in a State-provided house in a primary health organisation area, pay only $10 for his visit to the GP--
Mr SPEAKER: Order! When I call ``Order'' and a point of order is raised the member does not continue with his question.
Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the member looks at the records of interest tabled in the House, the member will know that I do not live in a taxpayer-provided house. I live in my own house, I live in my family's home, and I get sick of ACT nonsense.
Mr SPEAKER: The member should know that that initial question was not in order.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the member says he is living in his own house that is all right. However, the question asked is still perfectly valid, and gives a good example to ask why a person on a Minister's salary should get a subsidy from the taxpayer. That is a perfectly fair question, and to give a specific example of someone who lives in an area, I would have thought Mr Mallard would be proud of his working-class connections.
Mr SPEAKER: If that is the question, and it had been asked in a different way it might have been valid, but it was not in order the way it was.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why is she quoted in The Dominion Post as saying it is ``mischievous and dishonest'' of doctors to express their concern about the unfair funding formula, when all doctors want is increased access for their poorer patients based on need, not location?
Mr SPEAKER: I am sure the word was ``mischievous'', but I will ask the Minister to answer the question.
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes, it was ``mischievous'', and I was not commenting about the access formula, I was commenting that they had said that doctors visits would be restricted to 6 minutes. Interestingly, the Chief Executive of the Medical Association telephoned my office this morning to say that The Dominion Post did not report them correctly.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise quite an important point of order because you are making a new ruling, which considerably limits the Opposition, and considerably assists the Government. Today, we have heard you tell New Zealand First that its members are not allowed to ask another question, so, regardless of their merit Opposition questions are now under a quota, and no previous Speaker used to do that. Now we hear you rule that because you did not like the question you have decided that a political party cannot ask it. The question that was being asked by my colleague was perfectly valid. I have often heard in this House a statement--Mr Anderton specialises in it--pointing out what a Minister gets, and then, against the equity when we raise a question, where is the equity of a Minister being able to get a taxpayer-subsidised visit to the hospital? That is ruled out. My member is not allowed to restate the question, and we are under a quota. I want to know, do we have a new question now, or, in effect, are we allowed to ask only seven questions in the House?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows there are two parts to his question. The first part is about the allocation of questions. I have told members how many questions they are to be allocated for question time, that is a set number and will not be exceeded. As regards the second point, as the member was making his second point of order Mr Eckhoff was standing, and I was going to give him the opportunity to restate his question. I now ask him to do that.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why should a Minister of the Crown, who lives in a primary health organisation area, pay only $10 for a visit to his or her general practitioner, whereas if he or she lived in, say, Karori, would pay $45-odd, and how does that reduce the inequalities in the provision of primary health care?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The so-said Minister of the Crown would first have to enrol with a primary healthcare organisation that covered that area. However, under a Labour Party - Progressive coalition all New Zealanders will finally have affordable primary health care--even Mr Eckhoff will be eligible.
12. Hon. PETER DUNNE (Leader--United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any proposals from the board of Air New Zealand regarding the purchase of a shareholding by QANTAS?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Finance): No.
Hon. Peter Dunne: What steps is the Government taking, or considering, to encourage New Zealand institutional investment in Air New Zealand as an alternative to a possible Qantas shareholding?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: On behalf of the Minister, and to the best of my knowledge, none.
David Parker: Has the Government laid out any preconditions relating to a possible shareholding by another airline in Air New Zealand?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The Minister of Finance has made it clear that he is willing to consider proposals that involve another airline entering into a strategic arrangement with Air New Zealand, and that could involve an equity stake. Any proposal would have to be in the long-term strategic interests of the air line. Air New Zealand would have to retain effective control of its destiny, and the Government would have to retain majority ownership of Air New Zealand.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Does the Minister understand that in allowing Qantas to gain a foothold in Air New Zealand he condemns the national flag carrier to the life of a marginalised regional airline.
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: If and when a proposal is submitted to the Government--whether it is submitted, and the timing--is a matter for Air New Zealand. The criteria the Government will follow for evaluating such a bid, both from an ownership and a regulatory point of view, have been clearly spelled out. If the member does not understand that already, I suggest that he has a decent chat to Belinda Vernon, who does.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
End of Questions for Oral Answer.