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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 8 October 2002

Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 8 October 2002

(and Question 1 to Member)

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Secondary School Teachers--Laptop Computers

1. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Minister of Education: How does the Government's scheme to provide secondary school teachers with laptops address workload issues?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The scheme recognises the value of laptops as a teaching tool. Workload pressures are likely to reduce over time as the increased use of information and communications technology changes how teachers work. Teachers will have more immediate and direct access to online high-quality resources rather than having to continually develop resources themselves. Over time, that will result in a drop in workload. They will also have access to professional development opportunities and support, have the ability to use more effective communication within and outside the schools, and to use the technology to support planning, assessment, reporting, and classroom management. The laptops are voluntary.

Bernie Ogilvy: Does the Minister agree that the best way of reducing the workload of teachers and improving the teacher-student ratios is to use the $6.5 million that the Government is spending on laptops to employ 125 additional teachers?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I think that providing every secondary school teacher with the opportunity to have a laptop is a more effective use of Government funds than putting one extra teacher into less than 30 percent of schools.

Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell us when the laptops will be available for teachers?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The laptops will be available for delivery to most teachers in the first 2 weeks of term one next year. One group of schools is currently trialling the roll-out systems, and it has made some very useful suggestions for improvements.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How will workload issues for teachers be improved by the Minister's bizarre decision to have a combination of four different qualifications for sixth formers next year?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Although I am not absolutely certain that that is related to the question of computing, I will say that if people are teaching, the fact that there is a variety of assessment systems does not make any difference. As the member is aware, sixth form certificate is currently entirely internally assessed. For those schools that feel comfortable with the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, and which are up with standards-based assessment, and able to offer it, that will result in a reduction in their workload as far as assessment is concerned.

Donna Awatere Huata: Does the Minister agree with the 71 percent of 1,512 teachers who said they were considering leaving teaching due to the increased workload of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement; if so, what is his plan to reduce the National Certificate of Educational Achievement workload issues?

Mr SPEAKER: That is outside the original question, but I will allow the Minister to comment.

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I refer the member to the website, which now has about 40 pages on that subject.

Metiria Turei: Has the Minister read reports that teachers, if asked, would have preferred scarce education dollars to be allocated for purposes other than this; if so, when will he start to work in partnership with teachers?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The decision for that approach was made after extensive discussions with teachers and a wide variety of schools. It is really important that members of Parliament listen to leading professionals, rather than to a few whingers.

Building Standards--Mediation Service
2. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: When the House was told on her behalf last week that ``Formal discussions prior to the decision to proceed with establishing a mediation service involved those parties whose co-operation was necessary to make the service feasible.'', were homeowners included as one of those parties; if not, why not?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I am advised that representatives of homeowners were not part of the initial discussion regarding the establishment of an assessment and mediation service, partly because they were not being asked to provide funding. However, I am advised that consumer representatives were consulted as part of the original investigation by the overview group established by the Building Industry Authority, and are involved in determining details of the assessment and mediation service.

Hon. Bill English: Does she agree with her colleague the Hon. George Hawkins, who said to the House that he is not worried about helping out people who have $600,000 houses, and is that why her advice to homeowners remains ``Get a lawyer''?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Government is working to establish a proper assessment and mediation service, which will enable people to get their problems attended to speedily.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Is the Government taking any action, other than establishing the assessment and mediation service?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Yes, the investigation has raised a number of issues around the effectiveness of the building regulation and certification system. Ministers have asked officials to look at all aspects of this so we can consider where the policy changes need to be made.

Brent Catchpole: What action will the Prime Minister take to make sure that the homeowners do get a fair deal and that they are consulted directly?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The fairest deal is to offer the assessment service so that people can ring, register, get the problem looked at, and then they can be assisted to mediation.

Hon. Richard Prebble: If Opposition members of Parliament are able to organise public meetings with homeowners affected by the leaky building crisis, why cannot the Government organise a public meeting with the owners to find out directly what real assistance they want?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Homeowners need to be able to move to settlement; that is why the assessment and mediation process is being offered.

Sue Kedgley: How will any mediation process address the health risks to homeowners and workers who are exposed to toxic mould in leaky buildings, and what specific steps is the Government taking to protect the health of New Zealanders who are living and working with leaky buildings?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The health issues are solved by fixing the problem, which is what the assessment and mediation service is endeavouring to do.

Hon. Bill English: What message was she trying to send to homeowners when in the week that she told them to ``get a lawyer'' her Government spent $158 million on buying Auckland City Council houses and a promise to upgrade them?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The short answer is it is a much clearer message than the three positions of the National Party on the nuclear issue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 3.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Point of order--

Mr SPEAKER: I am ruling first. Please be seated. I would like the Prime Minister now to give an answer to the question that was asked, as well as that comment.

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The prudent advice when people have a civil dispute, as these are, is to see a lawyer, but the Government is prepared to support the funding of an assessment and mediation service to facilitate the process.

Economy--Reports
3. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour--Otago) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the state of the economy?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The economy is in good heart. It grew by 3.5 percent in the year to June. The survey of economic forecasts compiled by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research indicates that the consensus is that the growth in the current year will be higher than previously thought.

David Parker: What is the outlook for the economy going forward?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The ANZ and Business New Zealand have started a new survey of growth prospects in the manufacturing sector. The first result is particularly encouraging. The survey indicates growth across the whole range of manufacturing activity: production, employment, new orders, and deliveries. The strongest growth was in the index of new orders, which suggests that there is some form of momentum in current activity.

Dr Don Brash: When does the Minister expect Treasury to take note of his efforts to transform the New Zealand economy, and lift its long-term growth projections above 2 to 3 percent, or has it already taken account of those efforts?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Treasury's forecasts are in excess of that level, as the member ought to know, having previously had some small relationship with economic policy. The projections beyond that date are based on technical assumptions.

Gerrard Eckhoff: What is the Minister's view of the economic report by associate professor Robert Scholey of Auckland University, who found that New Zealand would lose trade as a result of a free-trade agreement between the United States and Australia; and how can his Cabinet colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade conclude that the ban on nuclear ships is not damaging our trade with America?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have had the ban on nuclear ships in place since 1985. Our trade with the United States has been growing rapidly over recent years.

Gordon Copeland: Does the data indicate that net migration, particularly since 11 September, has contributed significantly to our economic growth and therefore to the welfare of all New Zealanders?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes.

Immigration--Effect on MŽori
4. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of MŽori Affairs: What will be the impact of 54,700 new immigrants into New Zealand in the last twelve months on the economic, health and educational opportunities for MŽori?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of MŽori Affairs): I expect that the impact of new immigrants into New Zealand will have a positive effect on the current high rate of economic growth, and therefore all New Zealanders, including MŽori, will benefit.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister to possibly turn his attention to the facts, such as the report to Minister Dalziel from the Department of Labour saying that fewer than one out of two immigrants recently are engaged in the economy in a positive sense; and how does that possibly help the MŽori people waiting for health, education, and employment opportunities? [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Richard Prebble might like to stand, withdraw, and apologise for what is clearly an unparliamentary remark, then go out and wash his mouth out at the same time.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. That last comment is nothing to do with the point of order--

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: He is always saying it.

Mr SPEAKER: The last comment is nothing to do with the point of order, and should not have been made. I did not hear the member make a comment. Now that my attention has been drawn to it, I ask Mr Prebble whether he made an unparliamentary comment.

Hon. Richard Prebble: You had better rule on the matter, Mr Speaker. I would not have thought so. I asked the member why he always wants to ask race questions. This is a race question. It seems to me it is a perfectly valid point, especially as this member makes a point of attacking anybody who raises anything about MŽori. I just drew it to the attention of the House because that is exactly what he is doing.

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that he was at fault for interjecting while a question was being asked. I have ruled that that is out of order, and it is. I want the answer now from the Hon. Parekura Horomia.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Prebble conveniently left the letter ``t'' off his so-called explanation. He said: ``Why is the member always asking racist questions?'' He did not say ``race''; he said ``racist''.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I am not going to have this early on. I asked the member what he said. He admitted to what he said. I accept his word, and I expect the member to do so also, or else he can leave the Chamber.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to assure the House that I did not use the phrase that the member thought he heard, and, like him, I am opposed to members accusing other members of being racist or the like, but we can perfectly validly raise a point of order asking why the member is asking the country why immigration affects only MŽori.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought it was fair enough that the member made his comment on the point of order. There the matter rests.

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am informed that that member's statistics may be wrong. But can I get back to the three points he makes. In relation to the economy, it is growing as fast as it has ever grown in this country's history. In relation to education, we have been financing both the language resurgence amongst MŽori and increasing teacher numbers. In the health area, this Government has just last week confirmed that MŽori will benefit greatly from more affordable primary health-care. Four of the new primary health organisations are in areas with large MŽori populations--South Auckland, Tairawhiti, the Hutt Valley, and the wider Gisborne area. That means free health-care for children up to 18 years, and a cost of only $15 for adults.

Mr SPEAKER: The answer was too long.

Mahara Okeroa: How does the Government's immigration policy affect MŽori in the labour market?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: In the last 3 years there has been an increase of 46,100 more MŽori in jobs. This is 36 percent of the total New Zealand increase of 127,000. MŽori also made up 17 percent of industry trainees at the end of 2001, compared with 11 percent in 1996. I expect this trend to continue.

Hon. Murray McCully: Is the Minister really surprised that his ministry has done relatively little work on the impact of immigration in relation to MŽori economic development, health, and education, when, in relation to the Closing the Gaps programmes, which should benefit those areas as well, 3 years down the track and $400 million later we have yet to see any evaluation, any monitoring, or any benchmark?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: That information is available from both my ministry and other ministries, and the member, who is on that select committee, knows that.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why would the Minister give that last answer to the House when he knows full well that his ministry was before the MŽori Affairs Committee just last week, saying the reverse--the complete opposite; and how does he have regard to that when the MŽori Women's Welfare League, at its Gisborne conference just a week ago, passed a remit against immigration at that level?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: If that member had attended the MŽori Women's Welfare League's conferences, like I have every year for the last 20 years, he would understand that hundreds of remits are put forward by that organisation, and certainly that was one of them.

Building Standards--Mediation Service
5. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he accept the criticism of David Russell from the Consumers' Institute that the Government's leaky homes mediation service ``is a pretty weak proposal because the worst offenders are going to be able to walk away from it''; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): I do not agree with that statement. By working through the assessment and mediation service homeowners will be able to obtain an independent assessment of the nature of their problem and the likely solution, have a mediator bring all parties together to seek a solution to the problem; when mediation succeeds in finding a solution, avoid the time, cost, and anxiety of litigation; and, if agreement cannot be reached, identify the facts to assist them in seeking other redress or assessing further options.

Dr Wayne Mapp: What does the Minister have to say to Mr Jo La Grouw, chief executive of Lockwood Homes, who said about compulsory mediation, much less your Government's voluntary mediation--

Mr SPEAKER: It is not my Government.

Dr WAYNE MAPP: --the Minister's Government--``Try to get any of them into mandatory mediation scheme and see how many turn up to their first meeting.''?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the National policy on this just will not work.

Darren Hughes: Has the Minister seen any other reports of alternative plans to the leaky buildings problem; if so, what has been proposed?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, I have seen a proposal that requires homeowners to pay for their own assessment of their home that allows expensive barristers and solicitors to litigate claims in excess of $12,500 at the tribunal. That would also allow appeals to the High Court, then to the Court of Appeal, all at the homeowners' expense. This does not seem to me to be particularly cheap, quick, or informal. That is the proposal of the National Party.

Brent Catchpole: What concerns does the Minister have that the issues raised by David Russell with regard to leading to widespread financial crisis and many building companies going into liquidation?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I think everyone would be concerned if that was a fact. I do not think it is. We will be working with the people who have home problems, and I am sure the outcome will be good.

Deborah Coddington: Why should homeowners expect settlement from the mediation service when no one is actually required to turn up, and the Government has made Don Hunn the chairman, the same man who found that leaking and rotting homes are due to systemic failure?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government has not made Don Hunn the chairman.

Dr Wayne Mapp: In the light of the Minister's answers about mediation, does it not concern him that Greg O'Sullivan, whose firm Prendoss has over $30 million of work, says about the Government's initiative: ``It is poorly thought out and ill-advised.''?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: If people are after business that is the sort of line they give.

Marc Alexander: Having set up this ``first port of call'', can the Minister confirm whether he will set up any further ports of call for homeowners given that the good ship Liable is not likely to turn up to the first one; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The member is quite wrong. People are undergoing mediation through councils. I reminded the House last week that in Manukau 14 cases of mediation were proposed and eight of them had already been settled.

Deborah Coddington: I seek leave to table an article from the Dominion Post this morning that states that the Government has made former State Services Commissioner Don Hunn the chairman of the group.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article from the newspaper. Is there any objection? There is.

Mental Health--Services, Auckland
6. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: When will she release the review of Auckland mental health services that the Mental Health Commission was due to report to her on by 30 September 2002?

Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): A progress report was received by me last week. This indicated that the Mental Health Commission would provide a draft report to me on 18 October, and its final report on 31 October.

Sue Bradford: How will the acutely mentally ill people who have been held in police cells in Auckland over the last 2 weekends, as reported by a Waitemata District Health Board employee at a public meeting in Rodney yesterday, be included in events marking Mental Health Awareness Week, which is this week; does the Minister think that this ongoing use of police stations as a substitute for hospital care is appropriate?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, I do not think ongoing use of police cells is appropriate. Work has been done and is being done on ensuring that we provide more services for people. In fact, there are now additional beds being provided for forensic patients in Auckland. But there is still more work to be done.

Steve Chadwick: Will the Mental Health Commission's report simply provide the outcome of the review?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: No. The Mental Health Commission has spent extra time developing an action plan with time lines that range from things that need to be done immediately to long-term solutions.

Dr Lynda Scott: How many reviews will there need to be before we admit that the ideology of deinstitutionalisation has gone too far, and that many of those with a severe mental illness do not fit the---[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I will not have interjections during question time. I want Mr Ron Mark to stand and apologise for his actions.

Ron Mark: I apologise, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member to reask her question.

Dr Lynda Scott: How many reviews will there need to be before we admit that the ideology of deinstitutionalisation has gone too far, and that many of those with a severe mental illness do not fit the acute care community care model that is causing major workplace stress and is failing New Zealand families?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: When I became Minister of Health, there had been 72 reviews done under the previous National Government. What was needed was a commitment to implement the Mental Health Commission's blueprint of services, and to put money behind it. That is exactly what this Government has done.

Ron Mark: Given the answer to the previous supplementary question, when will the Labour Government join with the National Party in admitting that the whole philosophy and policy of deinstitutionalisation in its totality, as we see today, has failed; further, when will the Minister talk to the Minister of Police and start to find out exactly what the police on the front line are dealing with every weekend?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: I do not believe that deinstitutionalisation has failed in mental health. What did fail was the deinstitutionalisation of people without putting in place appropriate services and support. That party was in Government in the 90s and did not put a dollar in to help with it.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a classic one from the Minister again. She starts off by failing to admit, which she is entitled to so, but then she claims that we did it, when in fact everyone know that it was put in place from 1989 by Helen Clark and followed up by Simon Upton.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. That is not a point of order; it is a point of debate.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I am warning the member: this had better be a point of order and not a point of debate.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: My point of order is that the Minister is well outside the Standing Orders. She is bringing into her answers matters that are totally irrelevant and wrong, and she cannot give a brief and succinct answer.

Mr SPEAKER: She is not. That is a debating point.

Heather Roy: Will she take any responsibility for the serious problems with mental health services in Auckland and with MidCentral District Health Board, with MidCentral mental health and other staff striking in rejection of 6 percent pay rises, and will she acknowledge that part of the problem facing boards is that she has provided them with funding for only around 2 percent pay increases, as revealed in her papers released under the Official Information Act?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: It is the responsibility of district health boards to work with their workforce to determine what their pay increases will be. I will take responsibility for improving mental health services in New Zealand. The member might be pleased to know that in the last year 455 full-time community clinical positions have been added to mental health services. There are 236 additional full-time community non-clinical positions and 148 additional community positions in respect of children. There has been a 58 percent increase in funding for MŽori services, etc. I suggest that the member spend some time in getting her facts straight, as pointed out to her by psychiatrists last week.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister satisfied that the staffing shortages she cited when ordering the review will be addressed by recommendations in the report?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The progress report points out quite a number of issues, including staff shortages resulting from a lack of a workforce in New Zealand that has not been put in place. It also identifies a fragmentation of services, etc. The Mental Health Commission's report to me sets out a range of options it is looking at to address those issues.

Sue Bradford: Given that on 12 March this year the Minister stated that ``the Mental Health Commission and the mental health directorate within the ministry have a very good understanding of what the problems are around New Zealand'', why is it taking so long to put together and release the Auckland report, and why has direct action not been taken a lot earlier on adding acute and step-down beds for non-forensic patients?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: While the review has been carried out, step-down beds have been added in the Auckland area. However, the timetable of the Mental Health Commission in respect of its review has been very much in the hands of the Mental Health Commission. It did hope it would be completed by the end of September; it will be ready by the end of October. The reason it has taken a little longer is that it is not just a review, but it sets out, as I said, an action plan and time frames in which to achieve those actions.

Australia--Free-trade Agreement with United States
7. Hon. KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader--ACT NZ) to the Minister of Finance: What are the economic growth implications for New Zealand, and what would be the impact on our Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia, should Australia conclude a free-trade agreement with the United States and New Zealand fail to do so?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The only study I am aware of that looked at the effect on New Zealand of a separate USA-Australia free-trade agreement was carried out by the Australian APEC Study Centre. It concluded that an agreement would have a small positive impact on the New Zealand economy, but, of course, an enormous number of assumptions have to be made in any such study.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Would a free-trade agreement with the United States assist the goal of attaining 4 percent-plus growth per year, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne; if so, is his Government prepared to even consider reviewing the ban on nuclear propulsion, and if not, why not?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the issue of the impact in terms of 4 percent growth, the best estimate that has been made so far is about 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) addition to New Zealand's total GDP--not 1 percent addition to New Zealand's growth rate. The New Zealand economy grew a great deal more than that simply in the second quarter of this year. It represents about 3 or 4 months' growth at present growth rates. New Zealand, under this Government, is certainly not considering any change to the New Zealand nuclear ships ban position. I do note the Opposition has published three positions as at 1 o'clock today.

Graham Kelly: What has the Government done to check the results of the Australian study?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Treasury commissioned the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research to undertake further research into the possible impacts on the Australia and United States free-trade agreement on the New Zealand economy. The report is expected later this month.

Dr Don Brash: Who is correct: the Minister of Finance, who claims that our nuclear-free legislation is hindering the negotiation of a free-trade deal with the United States, or the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who is reported as saying that this legislation is not a defining issue in terms of the free-trade agreement?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: What I stated in response to a question from the Sunday-Star Times, and subsequent questions, was that the United States adviser to the President on international economic affairs stated that Australia was ahead in the queue because of its closer strategic relationship with the United States. That does not mean to say that the door is closed to a New Zealand - United States free-trade agreement. It should also be noted--[Interruption] I notice that the National Party's position is either to have an inquiry or have a conversation, or to assert that it is an icon of New Zealand policy. I assume that the combined electoral position will be to have a conversational inquiry about an icon. [Interruption]

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The ACT party is very interested to know the Minister's answer, but I was completely unable to hear it because of the amount of barracking that was going on.

Mr SPEAKER: The point raised is valid.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I would like to ask the Minister to repeat his answer.

Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to summarise his answer; this time there will be no interjections while he is doing so.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I made a ruling and that is it.

Hon. Roger Sowry: If we are to sit in silence, listening to the answer, I would ask that you enforce the rules of this House and ensure that the Minister talks about what he is responsible for, that you not allow the Minister to launch an attack on the National Party--things that he is not responsible for, making it up--and that you not let him turn his back on you, and for you to sit compliant.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: Speaking to the point of order, I want to say that my comments about the National Party's three-way position on this issue were in response to a barrage of interjections. If members had been able to remain silent for a few seconds I would have given a slightly different answer.

Mr SPEAKER: I now want the Minister to summarise the answer he gave to the National Party, so that members from ACT party can rightly hear the answer.

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If I can summarise the answer I gave, it is that the United States made it clear that Australia is ahead in the queue because of its closer strategic relationship. The door is not closed on a New Zealand - United States free-trade agreement, and I would have gone on to say it must be remembered that there is yet no announcement of US-Australia negotiations, and if they do begin they are likely to take a very long time indeed, given the range of issues that will be at odds between the United States and Australia.

Hon. Peter Dunne: Given our closer economic relationship agreement with Australia, what expectation does he have that in the event of any negotiations between the Australians and the United States over a free-trade agreement between those two countries, that the closer economic relations agreement here would inevitably become part of those negotiations?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not think there is any reason to believe at all that the closer economic relations agreement will be in any way an issue in Australia and the United States free-trade negotiations; there are much more difficult issues that will relate specifically to primary products in those negotiations.

Tertiary Education--Resourcing
8. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour--Dunedin South) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What reports has he received on the resourcing of tertiary education?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I have received the student loan scheme annual report, which has been presented to the House today. The report shows that for most borrowers loans are at a manageable level. The majority of borrowers owe less than $10,000 and will repay that sum in 10 years or less. About 23 percent of debts taken out since the scheme began have now been repaid.

David Benson-Pope: Has the Minister seen the Australian Productivity Commission draft report on tertiary resourcing?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I have. The report indicates that the Government's tertiary education reforms are returning New Zealand to the international mainstream. For example, New Zealand's resourcing levels now compare well with other countries. The new fee maxima system, which will mean that New Zealand will regulate student fees, brings New Zealand into line with all other nations surveyed. The limits on funding for private providers reflect what happens in international policy, where private training establishments either do not exist or are regulated.

Simon Power: Does he believe that his decision to offer such a small amount of money in return for a fee freeze by universities was correct, given the statement of the Chancellor of the University of Canterbury that ``It just makes life so impossibly difficult. We know all the things we could do, but we simply haven't got the funds to do them.''; if so, why?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I am sure that the Government took the right approach to the fee freeze. For example, under this Government, one leading university, the University of Otago, like all universities, has had an increase in its tuition subsidies for 3 years. It will receive a 4.5 percent increase again this year and it will also be able to access such funds as research moneys. Under the National Government, the funding was cut every single year.

Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister confirm that part of the resourcing of the public tertiary sector came from funding destined for private providers, and in the light of their reported legal action, can he deny that he ignored official advice and that he is now responsible for putting the Crown at risk?

Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I need to tell the House once again what is happening with funding for private training establishments. In relation to the Training Opportunities Programme, or the Youth Training programme, nothing has happened to their funding. The only change in funding has occurred in relation to equivalent full-time students and that has been capped at $146 million. Private training establishments are currently also accessing a $17 million pool for priority funding. I do not think they have much to complain about.

Government Superannuation Fund--Consumer Price Index
9. Dr DON BRASH (NZ National) to the Minister of Finance: Why did the Crown Financial Statements for the year to June 2002 note a change in the CPI assumption used to calculate the Government Superannuation Fund liability, and what impact did this change have on the Government's fiscal position for the year to June 2002?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The Crown financial statements reflect changes in the assumptions made by the Government Actuary when he calculates the Government Superannuation Fund pension liability each year. The change would have increased the liability, but it is not possible to say by how much. The actuary does not report on the contribution of each element that his overall changes and underlying valuation assumptions makes to the overall calculation of the liability. The total effect of all valuation assumption changes is to increase the liability by $246 million.

Dr Don Brash: Is it not true that the Government's financial statements for the year to June 2002 show on pages 7 and 12 an increase in liabilities on account of the Government Superannuation Fund of more than $500 million, because of an increase in the consumer price index assumption from 1.5 percent to 2 percent and ``flow-on effects the salary growth assumption''?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I am not quite sure what point the member is trying to make. The actuary made an assumption of the long-run inflation being 2 percent. That assumption change was made as a result of the _________ of inflation while the member was the Governor of the Reserve Bank.

Clayton Cosgrove: What other factors change the annual evaluation of the Government Superannuation Fund pension liability?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The liability changes when any one of a number of assumptions are varied. These include assumptions about future inflation, the discount rates applying to future liabilities, salary growth, withdrawals from the fund, mortality rates, investment returns, and so on. Evaluation changes in any one year often reverse out in later years.

Rod Donald: Why did Treasury fail to update the Government Superannuation Fund liability in its Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update, as it is required to do under the Fiscal Responsibility Act; and how much lower would the unfunded liability have been for the year to June, had the $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion gambled on the overseas sharemarket remained invested in Government stocks, as it used to be?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Off the top of my head I cannot answer the last part of the question. Regarding the first part, Treasury certainly was not in breach, in any shape or form, of the Fiscal Responsibility Act. I suggest the member reads the Act very carefully. Because of the time gap between the Budget and the election, there was not a requirement. In any case, the Government Superannuation Fund report, which he implicitly refers to, came in after the numbers for the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update were finalised.

Dr Don Brash: Why will the new policy targets agreement with the Reserve Bank not lead to still higher expected inflation, further loss to the Government Superannuation Fund, and further adverse movement in the fiscal accounts?

Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I can now understand what the member is trying to get at. If there were, in this case, an increase in the long-run rate of inflation assumed, that would impact not only on the expenditure side of the Government accounts, but also on the revenue side of the Government accounts.

America's Cup--Benefits
10. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour--Whanganui) to the Minister for the America's Cup: What reports has he received on the benefits to date of the America's Cup?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the America's Cup): The Government has received a report on the economic impact of the build-up to the 2003 defence to date. It indicates that, up to the start of racing for the Louis Vuitton Cup, there had been $65 million in total value added, and there were 1,470 new full-time equivalent jobs.

Jill Pettis: Which sectors of the economy have benefited from these activities?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: There have been quite a variety: the construction industry, although to a lesser extent than in the time of the previous cup; commercial accommodation and hospitality, housing and catering for crews; marine services; retail and entertainment; and transport, especially the international air travel of the greater number of the people who have come here already.

Hon. Murray McCully: Is the Minister familiar with the conclusions of the economic impact study done by external consultants in relation to the America's Cup event in 1999-2000; and is a similar report being commissioned to assess the economic benefits of the cup event on this occasion?

Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, and yes. Some of the same methodology has been used, and, I think that, in summary, we are at about the same point. But jobs, because they are ongoing jobs rather than construction jobs, are likely to be more sustained this time than last time.

Industry New Zealand--Drug Use by Workers
11. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: What impact, if any, has drug abuse among workers had on Industry New Zealand's wood processing strategy?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Drug and alcohol abuse was identified by the wood processing industry steering group--made up of industry and Government representatives--which I chaired, as one of the key barriers to the success of the industry. The survey from Canterbury University in the late 1990s, provided to me by the Forest Industries Council, suggested that 59 percent of silviculture workers were at that time regular or heavy users of marijuana. Forty percent of workplace fatalities were caused by impaired workers, mainly through the use of drugs or alcohol. With one worker killed every 51/2 weeks in the industry workplace, safety was, and is, a major issue.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is it correct that the Malaysian-based Samling Group, which owns Hikurangi Forest Farms near Gisborne, previously informed the Minister that it would not invest any more in New Zealand because there was a lack of workforce skills in young workers, who were ``turning up bombed out of their brains on marijuana''?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I think that is a colloquial description of the situation. The truth is that all the major forestry industry companies in Tairawhiti joined forces in an agreement that they would not employ workers who, pre-employment, were tested positive for drugs, and any worker who was involved in an accident of any kind, and tested positive to drugs, had to undertake a rehabilitation programme.

Matt Robson: What impact, if any, has drug abuse among workers had on Industry New Zealand's wood-processing strategy?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I have had information today from the Forestry Owners Council that the vigorous and thorough programmes it is running have been very successful and have improved workplace safety, morale, and productivity. The association has a long way to go, and I can say that the Government supports its efforts in making forests and wood-processing industries safer than they have been previously.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Question No. 11 asks: ``What impact, if any, has drug abuse among workers had on Industry New Zealand's wood processing strategy?'', which is also the supplementary question that Mr Robson asked. I want to know how it is that he can take up the primary question and ask it again, when I was getting quite a satisfactory answer the first time round.

Mr SPEAKER: There is no rule against that. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw and apologise for that comment.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I apologise.

John Carter: What action will he take to address the widespread concern amongst small-business people that the Government's industry support programmes are too numerous, confusing, and excessively bureaucratic?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: That is a long way from the original question. I have never known a time, either in Opposition or in Government, when the business community is in such harmony and is showing positive support for Government business programmes.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Has he had any reports of the progress being made to combat drug and alcohol abuse in the wood-processing industry?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: The industry, as I said, has combined together to make sure there is a very clear message given to those who want to work in the wood-processing or forestry industry: drugs and alcohol cannot be part of that industry's work programme, and anyone who indulges in drugs or alcohol is not acceptable as an employee of the industry.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Having regard to the importance of forestry in our future economic development, is the Hikurangi area traditionally seen as the heartland of New Zealand's Rastafarian movement, and is it synonymous with also high rates of marijuana usage?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I am aware of high rates of marijuana usage in a number of regions in New Zealand. The north of Auckland is one, and the East Coast of the North Island is another. What I can say is that the industries I have worked with, as Minister for Economic Development and Minister for Industry and Regional Development, are united in their concern about the use of drugs and/or the abuse of alcohol. Their acceptance of the fact that those substances impair the capability and safety of workers is absolute in all the companies I work with. There is a very strong anti-drug culture running through all those industries in those regions.

Question No. 12 to Minister
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National--Ilam): I wonder whether I could seek leave of the House to have this question transferred to the next sitting day, when the Minister might be able to answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.

Electricity--Supply
12. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National--Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Has he seen the statement ``The decline of the Maui gas resource means that New Zealand is now facing an unprecedented situation where, if nothing is done, there is a high risk of electricity shortages over the next few years.'' contained in the briefing paper ``Electricity Supply and Demand to 2015'' by Bryan Leyland; if so, what action is he taking to ensure such a shortage does not occur?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Energy), on behalf of the Minister of Energy: Yes, the Minister has seen Mr Leyland's paper, which despite the assertion that the current situation is unprecedented, has warned of imminent supply problems several times in the past. The fact is that current known gas reserves are likely to be sufficient, on conservative estimates, for the remainder of this decade at least. An internationally competitive exploration programme with the development of new fields is being encouraged by the Government. It will also be eased by open access to the Maui pipeline for non-Maui gas, which the Government will facilitate, and by the establishment of better market institutions for gas trading as a result of the Government's gas review.

Gerry Brownlee: In the light of that answer, why has Contact Energy put on hold its combined cycle gas plant planned for Otahuhu, and why has Genesis Energy postponed the development of its combined cycle gas plant at Huntly because it says there is not a long-term stable gas supply available; and can the Minister tell the House what new generation is likely to come on in the next 3 years?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The member might well like to talk to those private companies about why they have deferred, for the moment, their--

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One of those companies most certainly is privately owned, the other is a State-owned enterprise. The Minister really should understand what the Government is up to.

Mr SPEAKER: Let the Minister have--[Interruption] I cannot pull up everybody for every wrong statement they may or may not make. I am here to listen to the answer and whether it addresses the question. A further supplementary question can occur, and I will allow the member another supplementary question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think there is a difference between a mistake and a misleading statement. A misleading statement is what the Minister just gave the House.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: First, building new generation capacity is not the only answer to meeting our energy needs. Second, the member should think about talking to those private companies about their plans, and also to the State generator. But there is considerable generation capacity being considered, and it is well known that there are several schemes in the public arena. The Minister has received information about several other schemes, which are not yet ready to be publicly announced, and obviously as exploration continues in the gas area we will see considerable development there as well.

Russell Fairbrother: What new electricity generation is planned for New Zealand in the next few years, especially generation plant of significant size?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There may well be no rule that states that a member cannot ask a question that has been asked before. But does it not get rather pathetic when a Minister is asked a supplementary question as I just asked, and Mr Fairbrother asks the exact same question, the Minister gives me a waffly answer and then picks up a bit of paper for the prepared answer to the Government question?

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am looking forward to the opportunity of tabling a few papers at the end of this question, but I do want to say--as I repeated to the earlier answer--that various generators have announced plans in respect of generating capacity for the future, including hydro, wind, and geothermal. Other plans that have not yet been announced publicly have been disclosed in confidence to the Minister and to Government officials. It is expected that in 2005 a new combined cycle gas turbine unit will come into operation at Huntly, partially replacing the existing Huntly facility, and there is also advice about serious investigations and planning amounting to more than 2,000 megawatts of capacity over the next decade, including some of which will be put in place over the next 2 to 3 years.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, and noting that the Minister himself said in a speech the other day that ``in the absence of a dry year, the current system can meet demand for most of this decade.'', will the Minister confirm that he has no concerns over the running-down of our gas supply, or the lack of current investment in the electricity industry, and will he confirm that such things will not adversely affect the security of supply or unreasonably increase the price in the near future?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I will try to answer one or two of those questions. I will start with the security of supply issue. The Government is concerned that we have security of supply, and with the exception of where there is a dry year--which is extremely unusual--there are no concerns in regard to that matter. The interests expressed by the international exploration community in regard to the Taranaki deep water prospect, for example, shows we can have considerable optimism about future gas supplies in the years further out.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Does the Minister accept official advice that an additional 150 megawatts of power is required each year to keep pace with projected demand, and that the constraints and delays of the Resource Management Act are the greatest obstacle to meeting that supply target; if so, what will he do about it?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The first matter is that the figure of 150 megawatts per year has actually been exceeded. I think it has been about 300 megawatts per year in the last 3 years of new generating capacity. However, on its own, the new generation capacity is not necessarily the answer to future energy needs. Energy efficiency, and what happens in the retail markets etc. may well be a big part of the answer to the question. In answer to the third part of the question, as the member is well aware, the Government is already looking at some changes to the Resource Management Act, which may resolve some of what he might call the vexatious appeals.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Noting reports that the shortfall in gas for electricity could be met from renewable sources at a cost of between 6c and 8c a kilowatt per hour, and from energy efficiency at much lower cost, why does the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy not contain more ambitious targets, particularly for new renewable energy supply?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: As the member is aware, there has been a concentration on energy efficiency in recent times, which the member can take considerable credit for. I am particularly pleased with the standard the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority has made, in terms of publicly promoting the idea of energy efficiency and conservation as being a worthwhile alternative to generation. Certainly, conserving electricity, in terms of removing the need for generating capacity, is a lot cheaper than building new capacity.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree that an effective means for addressing potential electricity generation shortages would be to amend the Resource Management Act to allow direct referral to the Environment Court for projects of national significance, in order to speed up the consent processes for new electricity generation facilities; if so, when will he act on that; if not, what does he propose as an alternative?

Mr SPEAKER: There were four questions there. The Minister may answer two of them.

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: There were certainly a variety of questions. Any return to the idea of a national development Act would be anathema to most modern parliamentarians. [Interruption] In response to the rude interjections, I say there are some issues in regard to vexatious appeals. Thoughts have been expressed in the legal world about how that might be handled, and I am sure those are issues the Government will continue to take into account with regard to the Resource Management Act.

Gerry Brownlee: Given that this year we have seen the postponement of projects at Otahuhu and Huntly, and that we have seen the Government itself scuttle an excellent project at Dobson on the West Coast, can the Minister explain how much new generation capacity will be commissioned in the year 2002?

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: As most of those projects are conducted by private enterprise these days, I do not think the Government can be responsible for projecting which ones may or may not go ahead. In response to the member's question, I can say that the projected development of up to 2,000 megawatts over the coming decade would see considerable expansion of generating capacity. The Dobson project he was talking about is of a much smaller size than that.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not hear the last part of the Minister's answer because of people around him, who were obviously expressing some concern about it. Could we have that answer again? I think that is quite reasonable.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will repeat the last part of his last sentence.

Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: My comment in regard to the Dobson project is that, on a scale of the sort of generating capacity that is planned over the next several years, it is quite a minor project in terms of its overall size. I think it is something like 60 megawatts, out of a scale of around 2,000 megawatts in the total capacity of planned expansion.

QUESTION TO MEMBER
Building Standards--Inquiry into Leaky Buildings
1. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Chairperson of the Government Administration Committee: Does the committee intend to hear evidence on its inquiry into leaky buildings; if so, when?

DIANNE YATES (Chairperson of the Government Administration Committee): The Government Administration Committee has not yet made any decisions concerning the hearing of evidence on this inquiry.

Deborah Coddington: In the light of the chairperson's answer, when can homeowners expect to get some answers from the select committee inquiry?

DIANNE YATES: The committee is following the procedures it considers appropriate for an inquiry of this nature. The call for public submissions has been made, with a closing date of 21 October 2002. Once the committee receives the submissions, it will determine how it will deal with the evidence provided by submitters.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the member indicate whether the committee received a proposal to extend the terms of reference to include issues of liability, dispute resolution settlement, and compensation, and whether those were accepted by the committee?

Mr SPEAKER: Before the member answers, I warn her to consider whether she will disclose items that the committee has not had in public hearing.

DIANNE YATES: Such matters were before the committee.

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

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