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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 2 October 2002

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 02 October 2002

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Alcohol--Under-age Drinking

1. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour--Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Justice: What message did he give to liquor retail outlets about the sale of alcohol to under-age purchasers at his meeting with them on Monday?

Hon. PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Together with the Minister of Police and the Associate Minister of Health, I met with representatives of the liquor retail industry on Monday to draw to their attention, evidence from survey and police operation data that there was an unacceptable level of non-compliance by their members with the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol to under-age purchasers. We told the industry that it needed to do more to ensure that its members came into compliance with the Act, and that failure to do so would bring stronger police and liquor licensing agency enforcement.

Tim Barnett: What was the response from industry representatives?

Hon. PHIL GOFF: All representatives there acknowledged the unacceptability of the current non-compliance statistics. From some--in particular, supermarkets--there was an immediate and positive response that pledged the initiation of further action to improve the performance of staff in asking for evidence of age cards. From others the response, I have to say, still falls short of absolute commitment to improve their performance. In these areas, I hope that deterrent enforcements from police and liquor licensing agencies will compel a change.

Simon Power: What message has the Minister given to the Minister of Police, George Hawkins, about resourcing police properly so that liquor laws can be enforced with confidence, and that those who break the law will be prosecuted?

Hon. PHIL GOFF: I have been in direct communication with the police, and they have never raised with me the issue of lack of resources as being any impediment to enforcing the law. The law can and should be enforced, but in the first instance, it is the liquor industry that gave an undertaking to this House in 1999 that it would enforce an age 18 level. It is the police and the justice system that actually do so, and liquor licensing, is, of course, a back-up to that.

Ron Mark: Why has the Minister and his Government been so soft and so slow to deal with this issue--the liquor industry's proven failure to meet its obligations, and the failure of the Minister of Police to meet his obligations--when the negative consequences of their actions and inaction are impacting so severely on our young people daily and nightly throughout the country?

Hon. PHIL GOFF: The Government has been neither soft nor slow in acting in this area. As soon as the evidence came through, both through the pseudo patron survey and through the police sting operations, we have acted. We have insisted that the industry get its act together. We are not entitled, neither the Government nor the Minister of Police, to instruct the police on operational matters, but we have drawn to their attention that we expect the law to be enforced. The evidence shows that the number of enforcement procedures taken in the last year has more than doubled.

Nandor Tanczos: What steps is the Minister taking to stop the liquor industry from advertising and marketing to under-age drinkers, as in the recent release of "mud-shakes" in the school holidays--particularly given his previous indication of sympathy for the idea of banning alcohol advertising on television and radio?

Hon. PHIL GOFF: There is no evidence that it is specifically targeting under-age drinkers through those advertisements, but my colleague Jim Anderton has drawn attention to the fact that the advertising of ready-to-drink, spirit-based alcohol, is selling at a cheap price and that the coincidence of advertising that with the start of the school holidays was most unfortunate.

Murray Smith: Does he agree that for some liquor retailers his message will inevitably fall on deaf ears, and, should that prove to be the case, what specific legislative options is he prepared to consider?

Hon. PHIL GOFF: In terms of legislative options, all options in regard to liquor issues, in the end, are on an individual vote before this House. In 1999 the House decided, in its wisdom or otherwise, to lower the drinking age to 18. I, and many other members of the House, at that time, made the point that to lower the drinking age without having a proper structure in place to deal with the problem of youth alcohol abuse was unwise. This Government, through setting up a taskforce, is now moving on the issue of putting in place measures to tackle the wider problem of youth alcohol and drug abuse.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: For the benefit of the Minister, I seek to table the police advice to the select committee at the time, saying it would not have the resources to deal with drinking age at 18 years and under.

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

Educational Assessment--Year 12
2. DONNA AWATERE HUATA (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Education: What information has been provided to schools to assist them to decide what qualifications to offer Year 12 students next year; and does he consider this information sufficient to allow schools to make an informed choice?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Most board chairpersons and principals will have received a letter from the chief executives of the Ministry of Education and the Qualifications Authority outlining the options available to year 12 students next year, including the National Certificate of Educational Achievement and Sixth Form Certificate (Transitional). There is information on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and Ministry of Education website on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. School Relationship Managers, doubled in number, are available to help schools with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. Sixth Form Certificate is not new. Schools have already had a lot of experience in awarding internally assessed grades for Sixth Form Certificate. Guidelines for ranking students as a basis for allocating grades for Sixth Form Certificate are issued every year by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. This year will be no different.

Donna Awatere Huata: What advice does the Minister offer principals who have to choose between an interim sixth form certificate, which the New Zealand Qualifications Authority advised him a month ago: "Does not meet quality standards for national qualifications", and level 2 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, for which there is now only one term left in which to train teachers at the same time as they are trying to cope with the final and most difficult term of level 1 implementation, and that 77 percent of teachers voted to delay, anyway; so what advice, if any, can he offer principals?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: My advice to principals is that if they consider that their staff have done the work and understand standards-based assessment, then they should continue with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.

Mark Peck: Who in schools will make the decision about what qualifications year 12 students will do next year?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The decision is made by the school board of trustees. In making such decisions, good boards will consider the advice of the principal. Most importantly, they will be thinking about the best educational outcome for their students.

Simon Power: What sort of education system is he running when students have no idea what qualification they will do next year, and there is total confusion about whether teachers, boards, principals, or, heaven forbid, parents, might have some say in what qualification is offered next year?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Most students in the fifth form at this time of year do not know for sure what qualification they are sitting the next year. That is because they would not have sat the examinations.

Hon. Brian Donnelly: Given that there have been no school certificate examinations in 2002, could the Minister explain exactly how the sixth form certificate grades will be generated for 2003, and does he consider such a mechanism robust for schools with small year 11 and 12 rolls?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Schools will be asked to look at their previous range of grades. If schools want to stay within the previous parameters they will be able to do that. If they want to vary the approach that has been taken as to the spread of grades, then they will approach the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and it will be moderated.

Genetically Modified Cattle--Controls
3. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister for the Environment: What controls has the Environmental Risk Management Authority placed on AgResearch Limited's GE cattle experiment, and why?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): From the reports I have received, the Environmental Risk Management Authority has imposed a range of conditions on AgResearch's application--such as provisions to ensure the security of the animals, the prevention of any accidental entry into the food chain, and limiting the potential for horizontal gene transfer. The Environmental Risk Management Authority is obliged by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act to place controls to protect the environment, to ensure the health and safety of New Zealanders, and to ensure that the benefits of research outweigh the risks.

Larry Baldock: What are the potential medical benefits of the genetically engineered (GE) cattle experiment for multiple sclerosis sufferers, and what would be the effect on them if the Green Party and other ill-informed environmental interests delay or stop this research through court action?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered.

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: I understand that there may be benefits for multiple sclerosis sufferers from the production of therapeutic proteins in the cows milk.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she agree that the Environmental Risk Management Authority produced a highly considered and technically complete decision on AgResearch's development application, and why does her Government wish to review the Environmental Risk Management Authority in view of the royal commission having expressed confidence in it?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The Government wants to make sure that the Environmental Risk Management Authority has the capacity to meet the demands placed on it by the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.

Jill Pettis: What factors does the Environmental Risk Management Authority have to consider in assessing applications of that kind?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The Environmental Risk Management Authority must assess the benefits and risks of an application. It can approve the application only when the benefits outweigh the risks. In addition, the authority is obliged to place controls on the work, as outlined in schedule 3 of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Why are the compliance costs of applicants so high as to be almost prohibitive for organisations, other than the very largest of the New Zealand science industry, when compared with every other country conducting similar research?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The cost is a necessary price of a thorough examination of applications and of community involvement. Also, the Government is constantly working towards cost reduction with the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, as evidenced by regulations we placed earlier this year, and also evidenced by work that is put up to be discussed in our recently published discussion document.

Hon. Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that the Environmental Risk Management Authority also has to consider all other possible means of doing such research; if so, does that not open up endless opportunities for litigation against that approval?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: No.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given that it was the previous experiment with cattle that claimed a connection with multiple sclerosis that has however never been demonstrated, and given that this particular approval does not even state the genes to be used, or the proteins to be produced, how can any possible connection with multiple sclerosis be claimed by anyone?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: I understand that the Environmental Risk Management Authority went about examining, as it was asked, alternative methods people made applications for, or protested about, in relation to the research on multiple sclerosis. It considered those and found that no other method was more practical, or more safe, than the one it gave approval to in the end.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I really appreciate that the Minister has now answered the previous questioner's question, but that was in answer to Brian Donnelly's question about alternative methods. It was not in answer to my question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may care to comment briefly on the question asked by Jeanette Fitzsimons. I am happy to give the member another go.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: My question was about the lack of any claimed connection between this experiment and multiple sclerosis, given that the genes to be used, and the proteins to be produced, are not specified anywhere in the application.

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The inference I take from the member's question is that she would like every piece of intellectual property to be released when it is put forward in an application to the Environmental Risk Management Authority. We are absolutely considering that question--not in this particular case--in the discussion document that was put out last week.

Building Standards--Civil Proceedings
4. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he agree with the reported comment of Derek Firth, former head of Simpson Grierson's construction and energy law department, when he said "When the public is confronted with a crisis of the proportion of [leaky homes], such statements as `leave it to the courts' or `leave it to the legal process' are as mischievous as they are hollow."; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The Government has not said that the only option for affected people was to go to the courts. That is, however, always an option for some people to pursue. From the day the Hunn report was released, the Government has been working proactively, and methodically, to find alternative ways for those disputes to be resolved. We did not want to respond with a knee-jerk reaction. Unlike the laughing hyenas on the other side of the House, we have made announcements today about the mediation service.

Hon. Bill English: Why does he not consider a mediation process dreamt up in 3 days a knee-jerk reaction, and why would anyone who may possibly be liable turn up to mediation that is not compulsory or binding, and at which, by his own definition, they can agree or agree to disagree?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: As a Government, we are setting up a mediation process and we will use ways to encourage people to come to mediation, because the alternative is for them to be taken through the court system. I would suggest that mediation is a lot cheaper than going through the courts.

H V Ross Robertson: What steps is the Government taking in response to the Hunn report to address concerns over leaky buildings?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government is taking a three-pronged approach. Firstly, we have been working methodically to find ways to assist those who currently have leaking buildings. We have made announcements about this today. Secondly, we are looking at wider building industry issues, such as those relating to insurance cover. We are talking to parties with an interest and monitoring these issues. Thirdly, we are working on initiatives for the future. We need to ensure that the regulatory system under the Building Act is strong enough to ensure that these problems are not repeated.

Dail Jones: Taking into account the Government's suggestion that there should be a mediation service, what assistance will the Government give all those owners of leaky homes who are mortgaged up to the hilt and cannot afford to pay $1,500 to $3,000 for a building inspector's report to assist them in a mediation, or $1,500 to $3,000 for a lawyer's or other person's assistance in a mediation, making the mediation process totally unworkable, and would it not be better for the Government to spend the mediation money on granting those people legal aid so they can get a building inspector's report, get legal advice, and try to resolve this through the disputes resolution process without any further delay?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The mediation process will follow initial screening to identify leaking buildings, followed by an assessment to establish the exact cause of leaks found. Local Government New Zealand and the Master Builders Federation have offered to help with this service.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I wonder whether the Minister could clarify his answer--the House takes it that the Government is no longer saying to a young homeowner faced with a leaky house and a huge bill to leave it to the courts, so what is the Government specifically saying to a person, let us say, in a $300,000 house which leaks, and which is now worth only $200,000, so that person has no equity to borrow and is faced with a $30,000 bill; what is the Government saying that that person should do?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: First of all we are saying that there will be a mediation service set up to help those people, and those people will get assistance so they can get their case before it.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister think that an industry already running for cover is likely to contribute to the just-released mediation process, or is there an intention to pursue those deemed responsible and make them financially accountable if they do not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Those people who will be before mediators will prefer that, rather than using the court system. If we need to have other methods to encourage them to get to mediation we most certainly will.

Hon. Bill English: Why did he yesterday turn down the opportunity to put in place through this House a compulsory and binding process through a tribunal, proposed by National, in favour of a weak-kneed mediation process that was dismissed by a homeowner at our lunchtime meeting today in Wellington as a total waste of time?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: This Government has come up with a proposal that is far better than fiddling with a bill that is set up to do something else.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Would the Minister tell the House and the country why he believes that the two most culpable bodies--which are sure to be local bodies because of the issue of compliance and codes, and the lead builders--would turn up to a mediation process?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Because they would rather be at a mediation process than before the courts with the costs that are there.

Royal Commission on Genetic Modification
5. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour--Wairarapa) to the Minister for the Environment: What progress is the Government making in response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Excellent progress. For example, Sir Paul Reeves has been appointed chair of the Bioethics Council, and the remainder of its membership will be confirmed later this month. Research programmes are under way into the economic, environmental, and social impacts of genetic modification. Last week the Government released a discussion paper on improving the operation of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act for new organisms, including proposals in response to the recommendations of the royal commission.

Georgina Beyer: How does the public discussion document the Minister mentioned respond to the royal commission?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The royal commission found that the regulatory framework for genetic modification was sound, but recommended some enhancements. This discussion puts forward options for implementing some recommendations, including establishing a new category of conditional release for genetically modified organisms, streamlining application processes for genetically modified medicines and low-risk research, and extending the grounds for ministerial call-in.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Does she agree with the royal commission's finding that the current Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act requires the overcoming of some of the most arduous hurdles in the world to succeed with a research application, and will her Government commit to ensuring that in its proposed new legislation, compliance costs and time lines related to research applications are kept to an absolute minimum, unlike its highly tangled amendment to the Act earlier in the year?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, I agree that the royal commission said that. I also say that there are proposals in the discussion paper specifically designed to streamline the process for low-risk applications in order to reduce the administrative compliance costs of those conducting research. I would refer members to the regulations, not the law passed earlier in the year, that have already lowered costs.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Can she confirm the widespread reports that the bioethics committee will in fact be dominated by those Maori and interest groups totally opposed to genetic modification?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The final membership of the Bioethics Council is still to be confirmed. The terms of reference specify that the council should include members with knowledge of tikanga Maori. That is appropriate given the strong interest of Maori in bioethical issues.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What progress has the Government made in implementing the recommendation of the royal commission that food animals should not be used to produce pharmaceuticals, particularly in the light of the decision yesterday by the Environmental Risk Management Authority to grant a wide ranging consent to AgResearch to use cattle in just this way?

Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: As I understand it, the royal commission advocated against us using animals as bioreactors, but that did not prevent the situation yesterday, which was to do with nutriceuticals.

National Certificate of Educational Achievement--
Confidence in Minister

6. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Education and his handling of the NCEA, given the statement by PPTA President Jen McCutcheon "There has been a total implementation failure at Level 1.", and this morning's editorial in The Dominion Post stating "This situation is not only grossly unfair, it is unprofessional and unprincipled."; if so, why?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes. My opinion is different from that of the editorial.

Hon. Bill English: Could she confirm that the statements made by the Post Primary Teachers Association president and in the editorial reflect the widespread opinion of the parents of the young people affected, and why does the Government not care at all about parents' views on this matter?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, I could not confirm any such thing. This year, schools have been implementing the National Certificate of Educational Achievement professionally, and I am sure that will continue to be the case.

David Benson-Pope: What steps is the Government taking to make the introduction of further National Certificate of Educational Achievement levels easier?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: For a start, the Government provided $20 million of new funding to resource the implementation of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, whereas the previous Government had expected it to be done within existing funding, which was clearly impossible.

Hon. Brian Donnelly: Is the Prime Minister claiming that there has been no implementation failure at Level 1, and if she is unable to make such a claim, how can she reassure the public that there will be no such failure in the implementation of Level 2 next year?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Unless I have missed something, students will be leaving the fifth form with their National Certificate of Educational Achievement if they have qualified for it.

Donna Awatere Huata: Why does the Prime Minister still have confidence in the Minister of Education, who claimed in October 2000 that pushing ahead with the implementation of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement would "avoid dual systems, trialling, and procrastination" when next year there will be a dual system and trialling, when teachers are being trained at the last minute, and when guidelines for the grade-pools will not even be ready for 2 months--2 weeks before the end of the school year?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: My confidence in the Minister rests on the fact that he knew the time line set by his predecessor simply could not be met, and postponed it until it could be.

Metiria Turei: As a result of this failure to successfully implement a new policy, will the Prime Minister be instructing all her Ministers to improve their consultation processes and relationships with key stakeholders to ensure policies are successfully implemented by working in partnership with those who are actually implementing them, and not merely dictating what should happen?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Minister of Education did the best that he could to implement a decision from his predecessor, but I want to agree with the substance of the member's point, which is that education must be seen as a partnership between Government, parents, teachers, students, and school trustees. If we look at it in that perspective, it is better than going head on as the last crowd did with bulk funding and the rest of it.

Hon. Bill English: Given that the Prime Minister does appear to use her own words to dismiss almost the whole of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement debate, why does she now endorse dual systems, trialling, and procrastination for our 16-year-olds who face a jumble and a confusion of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement and the Sixth Form Certificate process, when the Minister himself has no idea whether it will work?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): It is only the Leader of the Opposition who is confused. They are both valid qualifications.

Building Standards--Untreated Pinus Radiata
7. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader--Green) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Has he received any reports or advice indicating that the Government allowed the use of untreated pinus radiata for structural purposes in houses as a result of reported "pressure from the Greens ..."?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): I have seen a media statement from Deborah Coddington suggesting that as a result of pressure from the green movement, the previous National Government presided over a change whereby untreated Pinus radiata was allowed to be used in timber framing. I had no knowledge of the Green Party or of the green movement trying to lobby the Government to allow for the use of untreated timber framing.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has he seen the report in the latest New Zealand Listener quoting the Timber Industry Federation that the change was driven by the forestry companies seeking consistency with the Australian standard, and is this an example of how we should beware of Trans-Tasman harmonisation without first considering the effects on New Zealand?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The answer to the first part of the question is yes, and I want to tell the House that if Pinus radiata is used as dried framing and is kept dry because other building constructions are accurate, then it is seen as as durable as any other building material.

Darren Hughes: What work is the Building Industry Authority doing in looking at this issue of untreated timber in framing?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: It is working on a proposal on the use of untreated timber, which will go out for public comment shortly.

Dr Wayne Mapp: What is the Minister doing with the Building Industry Authority in fixing up the building code in respect of houses that are being built right now; or is he saying to them: "After they rot, go and see the voluntary mediation services."?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am not saying that.

Deborah Coddington: In the light of his response to the Green Party's obvious support of treated timber, will this Government now revisit the West Coast Accord and allow sustainable logging so we can get some hardwoods into housing framing?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: This Government is not into environmental vandalism.

District Health Boards New Zealand--Pharmacy Guild
8. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: What action is she taking, if any, to resolve the ongoing difficulties between District Health Boards New Zealand and the Pharmacy Guild, given that the date for the implementation of an agreed settlement, 1 October, has now passed with no resolution between the parties?

Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Under section 33 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act, the Minister of Health is specifically excluded from any involvement in the settlement of this matter. However, I am pleased to advise the House that both parties reached an understanding following their consultation yesterday on a proposed settlement that will now be considered by their respective memberships.

Heather Roy: Given that District Health Boards New Zealand and the Pharmacy Guild have reached agreement, what will she do if individual district health boards reject it and decide on different patient-benefit arrangements, given she has developed the contract and may not be able to enforce a nationally consistent benefit?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: There are a range of options open to the Minister of Health, including the issuing of a section 88 notice.

Lynne Pillay: Has the Minister received any reports regarding the settlement of the negotiations?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes, this morning the Pharmacy Guild contacted my office. The guild indicated its pleasure at the settlement, and acknowledged the hard work of all parties and the constructive manner in which the district health boards had engaged in the negotiations.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is this contracting mess between the ministry and district health boards--

Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to rule whether the first phrase of the question is within the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it is. I ask the member to carry on.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is this contracting mess between the ministry and district health boards, where community pharmacists are being batted like a shuttlecock in a bureaucratic game, caused by poor planning by the ministry, and district health boards being underfunded for pharmacy, or does no one actually know?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: What I can tell the House is that that member does not know, because the ministry is not involved in the contract negotiations.

Sue Kedgley: Further to the Minister's comments about invoking a section 88 notice, does she agree with the president of the Pharmacy Guild that allowing district health boards to dictate the terms of the supply of pharmacy services through a section 88 notice, which does not impose any obligation to take into account any consultation, would be a draconian method of doing business, and will she ensure therefore that this does not happen?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: A section 88 notice must be consulted on before it can be implemented. Therefore, a section 88 notice could not be implemented immediately unless consultation did take place.

Judy Turner: Is there any truth to the rumour that pharmacists have had to agree to forfeit any back payment in order to get the new contract implemented?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, I could not tell the member that.

School Leavers--Employment Training
9. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour--Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What reports, if any, has he seen on programmes to assist young people to make the transition from school to work-based education and training?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I have seen a report on the second phase of the implementation of the Gateway programme. Gateway broadens educational opportunities for senior secondary school students in decile 1 to 5 schools, with workplace learning opportunities for students integrated into their study programme. For example, schools have developed links with local industry, resulting in students in the workplace gaining credits on the national qualifications framework. The second phase of the Gateway programme expands the number of schools participating, from 24 to 62 throughout New Zealand, one of which I am pleased to advise the member is a school in her area, Wanganui City College.

Jill Pettis: How effective has the programme been?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: A recent evaluation showed that participating schools and teachers have learned a lot about providing effective, integrated workplace learning for their students, and indicated strong employer support. Students are gaining full-time employment as a result of the Gateway programme smoothing the transition from school to work. Of those who participated in 2001, 26 percent went into full-time employment, while a further 69 percent carried on to further education and training.

Simon Power: Will the Minister be continuing with his current moratorium on new funding for private training establishments, given that they were the destination of choice for 15.3 percent of Maori school leavers and 23.3 percent of Pasifika school leavers who went on to further education in 2001; if so, why?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No, the moratorium will be lifted by the end of this year.

Immigrants--Screening
10. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is she confident that the screening process treats all immigration applications solely on their merits?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Acting Minister of Immigration): Yes.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given the Minister's answer, has she seen advertising in overseas newspapers by immigration consultants promoting New Zealand as "You cannot go wrong, safe choice, migration guaranteed success destination.", or the Asia Business Chronicle of June this year "Kiwi soft touch attracts potential Indian migrants.", or The New Zealand Herald article of July this year from the Refugee Status Appeal Authority stating that the whole refugee situation in this country is a scam; and, why, given those headlines from here and abroad, should we believe a thing he says?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I have not seen the advertisement the member refers to. However, I assure him that all applications made to the New Zealand Immigration Service are dealt with on a very fair basis, and the basis for its decision-making is an assessment of the individual cases on their own merits, the Immigration Act, our Government's residence policy, and our immigration policy, and, of course, finally, administrative law rules on fairness and natural justice.

Graham Kelly: What recent initiatives has the Government undertaken to address the issues of people abusing the immigration system?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Along with the ongoing investigation of all complaints, the Immigration Service has boosted the number of staff in its investigations unit from one person to four.

Hon. Murray McCully: Can I take it from the Minister's original answer that he is telling the House that the Samoan quota in the Pacific Access Category Applicants is subject to the same criteria as other applicants for residence in New Zealand; if that is not the case can he tell the House on what basis different criteria apply in those two categories?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am sure that as a past Minister, that member is aware of the historical implications and commitments made over the Samoa quota.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why would the Minister give the answer he gave to two questions, when the Department of Labour officials paper to the Minister of Immigration in August this year set out that the investor category was "a failure" and that the investor-entrepreneur category had, when the research was done, that 46 percent were not able to be found, and 26 percent had gone for the last 6 months? Given that, and the massive skills disparity that has been claimed to have been sorted out, how can the Minister possibly stand in the House as a responsible Minister and make those outrageous claims of being in control of his department and its policy?

Hon. DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I make those claims because they are true.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The snake-oil merchant over there made a very bad--

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The member knows there are ways to raise points of order, and I will always give him the right to do so, but I want him to raise it as a point of order without breaking the Standing Orders. [Interruption]

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: The Minister over there, Mr Maharey, made a comment that is completely out of order.

Hon. Steve Maharey: It was not me. I never said it.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Well, who was it then?

Hon. Phil Goff: It was me.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Well, he can get up.

Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the comment but if the Hon. Mr Goff did so it is out of order, and he will stand, withdraw and apologise.

Hon. Phil Goff: I withdraw and apologise.

Building Standards--Certifiers' Insurance Cover
11. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What action will he take to ensure that the building industry is not paralysed by delays in certification of buildings arising from the withdrawal of insurance cover for some certifiers?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): I met with representatives of the building certifiers yesterday. Today, along with the Hon. Trevor Mallard, Acting Minister of Finance, I met with Chris Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of the Insurance Council. We understand that the withdrawal of insurance cover from building certifiers is not a blanket action being taken across the industry. Individual insurance companies will decide under what terms they provide cover, based on risk assessment. We understand that the reaction so far is limited to independent building certifiers and their future cover for this particular issue. At this stage only one building certifying company has lost cover. We do not believe that the building industry will grind to a halt as a result of the insurance issues raised so far. We will continue to talk to those involved in this issue, and to monitor the issue closely.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that thousands of houses are certified by private certifiers, and many of these are part built, including those certified by A1, what guarantees can he give the owners of these properties that the houses will be certified and able to be occupied?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The default system is that the territorial local authority will provide certification for the owners.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What will happen if independent building certifiers no longer have insurance cover?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The default position is that local authorities take over certification work. We will be talking to Local Government New Zealand about the ability of local authorities to handle this work. Manukau City Council has already said that its community can be confident that the council will live up to its responsibilities under the Building Act and progress inspections and certification of jobs that are handed back to it.

Deborah Coddington: Will he instruct the Building Industry Authority to review its decision to allow untreated timber to be used by the industry, which it compulsorily levies and is now in tatters; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Earlier I said that the Building Industry Authority had put out for discussion on this particular matter, and once that has been done it will make its decisions.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What action does he propose to ensure that in future buildings are not signed off without an inspection, especially when they do not comply with the code?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: There are rules around that, which may perhaps not have been enforced strongly enough. The industry is now aware of that, and I am sure that the future development that we plan will ensure that people can have some confidence in the certifiers.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that there are already homeowners who are suffering delays in certification, what assurances can the Minister give that the local authorities will be able to certify in a speedy and expeditious manner; homeowners are waiting?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not know whether the member was listening earlier when I said that the default system goes back to the local authorities. Manukau City Council, for one, is responsible and doing that, and I am confident that local authorities throughout New Zealand will follow the law.

Road Toll--Accident Prevention Policy
12. DAVE HEREORA (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What steps, if any, is the Government taking to reduce the road toll?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): The road toll in New Zealand is coming down due to the good work of the police, Land Transport Safety Authority, and other agencies. Figures released yesterday show 21 road deaths for the month of September--the lowest figure for any month since current records began. But the Government is determined to do better. Last week the Minister of Police and I unveiled a $22 million package of road safety initiatives aimed at reducing the road toll. These initiatives include, among other things, new funding for the police to target rural drink-driving, Auckland motorways, and heavy vehicle safety.

Dave Hereora: What changes are planned, as a result of the strategy, to the community road safety programme and road safety advertising?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The community road safety programme has demonstrated how active community participation in road safety can be successful. The package announced last week will enhance the programme. Road safety advertising will also receive extra funding to fund driver education. This advertising will focus on educating drivers on how to avoid "failure to give way" crashes, which are the third largest contributing cause of crashes after speeding and alcohol.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Will he be taking the advice of the police and introducing regulations to require warning signs on railway crossings on private roads in order to avoid another level crossing accident like the one last Friday, which tragically cost two Palmerston North youngsters their lives; if not, why not?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Issues relating to road safety such as that are being considered.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, and noting that road deaths are down but injuries are trending significantly upwards, can he assure the House that the desired targets will be met, despite the fact that apparently we have a number of Chinese now driving around on roads who have never had a test, and driving on fake licences?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Given the whakapapa of that member's leader I can understand the interest in this question. It is true that the road toll is coming down, and the targeted hospitalisations are set to come down as well. We believe that the funding is sufficient in order to achieve that.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister accept that there is a limit to the amount the road toll can be reduced by focusing predominantly on mistakes made by the nut behind the wheel; if so, will he use more of the revenue collected from road users to make the building of better roads a more significant component of the Government's road toll reduction strategy?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Yes, getting the road toll down relies on a number of things; education is one. But the member is right, there is a limit to that. Engineering of motorways is an important issue, and with the Government's announcements in February, significant more money went into road construction and engineering in order to do just the thing that the member talked about.

Pansy Wong: Can the Minister provide figures as to how many fatal or non-fatal car accidents were caused by Chinese tourists or New Zealand Chinese?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: That is a thoroughly good question. The fact is that records are not kept that way; we keep them only under the category of what are called foreign licence holders. Last year foreign licence holders contributed two fatalities, which is about 0.6 percent of road fatalities in New Zealand.

Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am slightly reluctant to ask you to reconsider a matter that I am sure you considered carefully earlier. I am not asking you to make an instant decision, but to review the tape of the supplementary question of Dr Lynda Scott. In my opinion--and I know you did not immediately share it--it contained two pejorative comments, and breached both Speaker's rulings 126/4 and 126/7. I ask you to take that under advisement, and to come back to me on it.

Mr SPEAKER: I can do that right now. Of course the member has a valid point, but if I were to pick up every single comment that was ever made in this House, there would not be more than about three words said before I had to stand up. I usually try to be reasonable in these matters, and to keep the flow of questions going. I thought that the Minister who answered the question that was asked gave a perfectly adequate and full answer. She herself acknowledges that.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: In the interests of helping Pansy Wong, I would like to table the transcript from Morning Report of an expert in the Otago region, which points out that 40 percent of the accidents he deals with are from foreign--

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

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

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