Questions of the Day Transcript 10 October 2002
Questions 1-12 10 October 2002
(and Questions 1-2 to Members)
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour--Wairarapa) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What reports, if any, has he received on the state of the labour market?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): I have received the Job Ads ANZ Focus survey for September. The report shows that job advertisements increased by 1.1 percent in September, consolidating gains made earlier in the year, with job advertisements running at a national average of over 30,000 per month. As the ANZ Chief Economist David Drage has commented: ``This is consistent with further employment gains, and we expect that the unemployment rate will fall below 5 percent before the end of 2002 from the 14-year lows of 5.1 percent at present.''
Georgina Beyer: Is the expected growth in employment sustainable?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Strong job growth in the past 3 years has not resulted in high wage growth. Despite employment growth of 3.1 percent in the year to June 2002 and unemployment falling to a 14-year low, wage growth as measured by the quarterly employment survey was 2.4 percent for the public and private sectors combined. There is no evidence that the modest price inflation we have seen, which is within the bounds of the policy target agreement, was the result of strong employment growth and wage inflation. Therefore the guess is that it is sustainable.
Hon. Roger Sowry: What is the Minister doing to ensure that there are no further redundancies, given that in the last 3 weeks over 380 staff lost their jobs at Kinleith, 120 staff lost their jobs at Hugh Wright, and just yesterday Pegasus Health announced that they may make 20 percent of their head office staff redundant?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I am working with my colleagues to ensure that the 104,000 jobs created since this Government came into office continue so that those people have opportunities in the labour market
Dr Muriel Newman: How does the Minister reconcile his claims with the fact that this year 53,000 work days were lost through strike action, costing $7.5 million, compared with 13,000 days last year, costing $2.7 million, and can he deny that the statistics of lost productivity will escalate in the new work stoppage figures expected out this afternoon.
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I simply do not agree with the analysis by the member, so the answer is no.
Sue Bradford: What steps, if any, is the Government taking to increase the income position of the increasing number of very low-wage workers, so that job growth is not only sustainable but workers actually earn enough to support themselves and their families?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I think one of the most important things that has happened under this Government is that we have proven the myth wrong that minimum wages are raised at the cost of jobs. In fact, this Government has consistently raised the minimum wage for adults and for youth, and seen more jobs appearing throughout the country.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I seek leave to table a report showing that today 80 staff will be laid off at Bay of Plenty Meat Packers in Tauranga. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call Question No. 2, I want to say that the Minister has advised me that that she has a slightly longer answer than usual, and that will of course reflect itself in the question.
2. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What was the precise number of permanent and long term non-New Zealand migration arrivals into New Zealand, for the year ended August 2002, and what does that figure represent as a percentage increase over the previous year ended August 2001?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Permanent and long-term arrival statistics are collected by Statistics New Zealand from the arrival cards filled out by all travellers to New Zealand who indicate that they intend to be in New Zealand for the next 12 months. Therefore it is not possible to give a precise number, as people granted temporary permits will be included, and people who subsequently change their status will not be included. Statistics New Zealand figures for August show that there were 69,700 permanent long-term non - New Zealander arrivals in the year ended August 2002, compared with 51,100 in the previous year, which represents a 36 percent increase. This figure includes students, visitors and workers who intend to be in New Zealand for a year or more.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why is it that the Minister has so much difficulty giving precision to her answers, when Statistics New Zealand, on page 3 of its most recent report, sets out under the heading ``Permanent and Long-Term Migration'' by country of citizenship, under the second category, non-New Zealand arrivals, that figure of 69,700--another 36 percent increase; what is it about those figures that she finds so difficult to have told the House about today, or any other prior time?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The member has not asked me questions about permanent and long-term arrival statistics prior to today. All his previous questions have been around permanent residence approvals by the New Zealand Immigration Service. They are two different sets of statistics.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With due respect, I think I am entitled to at last lay a complaint about that sort of evasiveness. My question was precisely drafted to refer to permanent, long-term, and non - New Zealand migration arrivals, all of which come from Statistics New Zealand under its headings. I am surely entitled to rely on that; instead, you are told she is going to give a long answer. She did not answer the question until the very last moment, and tried to distinguish its actuality from how she might interpret it. We are not interested in that, we are interested in facts. The figures are 69,700--a 30 percent increase--and that is all we all need to know.
Mr SPEAKER: That last sentence was a debating point. The first sentence was, did the Minister address the question? Yes, she did.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: It had better be a point of order and not a point of debate.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: It is not a point of debate. I raise a point of order because today I brought down the Hansard of previous debates on this question when Mr O'Connor was answering the question. I asked four times what the dependant numbers were in respect of the immigration numbers. I am prepared to give you these copies, and after four questions and numerous points of order I am still none the wiser. Question time on such a simple fact is reduced to the nonsensical vagaries and vagrance of this administration then we might as well pack up and forget about question time.
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Speaking to the point of order, I do acknowledge I have made a mistake in the numbers. It should have been 69,700, referred to in my question. It does not change the substance of the answer I have given.
Mr SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I say that the member did address the question, and I now want the supplementaries.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the Minister is now looking through her numbers and has admitted that she has given a long answer containing the wrong numbers, she now has the right numbers. I would have thought that it would be appropriate for you to invite the Minister to now give the same answer containing the right numbers.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, that is a fair enough request.
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Rather than going back over the full answer, which explains why the precise number cannot be given in terms of Statistics New Zealand's own advice, I will simply record the second paragraph of my answer. That reads: ``Statistics New Zealand figures for August show that there were 69,700 permanent and long-term non - New Zealander arrivals in the year ended August 2002, compared with 51,100 in the previous year, which represents a 36 percent increase. This figure includes students, visitors, and workers who intend to be in New Zealand for more than a year.'
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the member who asked the primary question had to waste his supplementary on giving the Minister the answer and getting her to check her figures, which she has now done, it would be appropriate if you went back--given that she has corrected it--to the primary question asked, and ask her for his supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: I rule that the question was addressed. The member can have another question or two if he wants it.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What was the number of permanent and long-term New Zealand migration arrivals and departures for the year ended August 2002, and what do those figures represent as a percentage increase over the previous year ended August 2001?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The Statistics New Zealand figures for August show that 25,300 New Zealanders returned on a permanent or long-term basis in the year ended August 2002, compared with 21,600 in the previous year, representing a 17 percent increase. There were 43,800 departures for the year ended August 2002, compared with 61,600 departures the previous year, representing a 29 percent decrease--a net percentage increase of 46 percent of Kiwis coming home or remaining in New Zealand.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to know how it is that that question was even allowed in the first place, seeing I dealt with the non - New Zealand arrivals. That is the only point of relevance to me in the primary question, and the secondary question, whereupon we jump from foreigners to domestic people, mainly New Zealanders, so how does that relate to the question I am asking?
Mr SPEAKER: It does not and it should not have been allowed, and I apologise.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would also like to raise with you an issue to do with the accuracy of the answers that have been under dispute time and time again when addressing this Minister on this issue. How can those answers be accurate when all three were rounded to the nearest hundred.
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, I do not know the answer to that question. I will have a look at it but I do not think that is a point of order.
Hon. Murray McCully: Is the Minister aware that official Statistics New Zealand figures show that for 2000, 2001, and 2002 August years combined, skilled migrant arrivals in New Zealand totalled 48,549 as against skilled departures of 57,859, a net loss of 9,310 skilled people, over the 3-year period; if so, does the Minister accept that those figures require some improvement?
Mr SPEAKER: I allowed the previous question when perhaps I should not have done so. This question strays outside that which the original question asked. I will allow the Minister to comment briefly, but the Rt Hon. Winston Peters will have another chance.
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I refer the member to Statistics New Zealand hot-off-the-press figures for external migration, August 2002, and suggest that he read the detail of the difficulty that Statistics New Zealand has in recording what is skilled and unskilled, when most people do not fill out that section of the card.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that the net result of those arrivals, when subtracted from departures, is 54,700--the latest figure from the department--how does she explain such a huge influx into New Zealand against, for example, 82,000 for Australia, with a population over 20 million; 250,000 for the UK, with a population of over 59 million; and 800,000 for the USA, a population dramatically over 200 million; how can she reconcile that absolute deluge of immigration as opposed to other similar First World economies?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: As I pointed out to the member in the primary answer, those figures include people who are in New Zealand as students, visitors, and workers, who indicated on their arrival cards that they intend to be in New Zealand for 12 months or more. I seek leave to table the technical notes attached to the external migration statistics to assist members to read them. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the student numbers of foreign students in this country, which are dramatically above the 69,000, which makes it very difficult to explain what the Minister is talking about. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
3. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Following her advice to the House yesterday that there is a "review of the Building Act taking place currently", when did that review begin and can she confirm submissions closed on 17 October 2001?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The review of the Building Act was announced in 1999 and terms of reference were developed through 1999 and 2000. That was under the previous Government and this Government. A public discussion document was released in August 2001. Submissions closed in October 2001. The review process is continuing. Officials are taking into account recent developments such as the report of the overview group on weather tightness in the papers it is putting forward to Ministers.
Hon. Bill English: In the light of the information that the Government has been reviewing the Building Act for over 3 years, and the fact that the Building Industry Authority has had a report, the Auckland House Cladding Survey, since December 2000, how does she justify the fact that her Government did nothing for 3 years while thousands of homes rotted?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In fact, as I said, the public discussion document was released only in August of last year. Officials have been analysing the material since that time. That means that we will have to take a little while longer on that particular part of the review and we will have to take into account the recent overview report on weather tightness. It would be incomplete to do the existing review without taking into account the new information.
Martin Gallagher: Can the Minister further clarify how the Government is addressing regulatory issues raised by the overview group on the weather tightness of buildings?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The overview group is still to finalise the chapter of its report regarding the Building Act and Building Regulations and their implementation. Any recommendations arising from that will be considered as part of the ongoing Building Act review. An officials group has already begun analysing other regulatory issues arising from the report, and action on those is a priority. The top priority, of course, is to get in place a mechanism that will enable homeowners who suffer problems with their buildings to obtain remedy and justice.
Hon. Richard Prebble: As the Government's record in passing legislation concerning timber is not good--the Forests Amendment Bill has been on the Order Paper since the last century; since July 1999--can the House conclude that the new Building Act might be passed by, say, 2012, and how will that help homeowners?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The new Building Act will not help existing homeowners at all. I do note that the existing Building Act, which obviously has a number of problems, was absolutely strongly advocated by that member as the solution to all the problems in the building system.
Hon. Bill English: What does the Prime Minister have to say to homeowners who now know that the Government has known about this problem for 3 years at least--
An Opposition Member: Four.
Hon. BILL ENGLISH: Certainly 3, but has suddenly decided to make a priority out of setting up a hopeless mediation service?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is determined to set up an effective mechanism to ensure that homeowners have redress in relation to inadequate building. I would note that as yet there is not a single case that suffered from so-called ``leaky building syndrome'' where the building code has been adhered, and a master builder has been employed.
Hon. Bill English: I seek leave to table the Auckland House Cladding Survey, which concluded in 2000 a 75 percent defect rate for buildings less than 10 years old. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
4. MARK PECK (NZ Labour--Invercargill) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received regarding the effects for students of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The New Zealand Council for Educational Research interim report is titled From Cabbages to Kings. The findings show that the introduction of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement has triggered fundamental changes to how schools meet student learning needs and positive support for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement - related changes to options and courses offered to students.
Hon. Bill English: Is that about cabbages?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: That member has not made much progress. I think he is more half a cabbage. He is certainly half the cabbage he was when he became the leader.
Hon. Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Education should not be allowed to get away with saying what he has just said about the Leader of the Opposition. If it was on the other foot, I am sure he would been asked to withdraw.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, please sit down. That comment should not have been made. The first part of the answer was perfectly in order as I was listening to it, right up until the point when there was the interjection. That is one of the problems one gets with interjections.
Mark Peck: Who was involved in the research for this project at the school level?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The principal and heads of department at each school were interviewed, and all year 11 students surveyed. The schools selected were of a similar size and represented diversity of student groups. They range between decile 2 and decile 8 and reflected a geographical, rural, urban mix. An interesting factor was that the National Certificate of Educational Achievement was stretching the most able students, as well as providing qualifications for those people described as ``cabbages''.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: One of the member's own colleagues was interjecting, which is against the rules, and one other colleague. They will be going out if I hear any more.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Just a moment. I have had enough for today. Questions will be asked in silence. I will now call the Hon. Dr Nick Smith and I want to hear his question only.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Did the Minister consult with Labour members of the Education and Science Committee before they voted against an inquiry into the implementation of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement; if so, what was his advice to those Government members?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I think that is possibly a breach of privilege, and I do not think that I should comment on it.
Mr SPEAKER: If the question was asked about a matter that was before a select committee, and has not been reported to the House, then of course the question cannot be asked.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the question could be asked if it was put slightly better. The member was really asking whether the Minister instructed Labour members on the Education and Science Committee to vote against an inquiry. That is perfectly in order. Of course, we all know that he has, so let him acknowledge that.
Mr SPEAKER: That may well have been the case. If the member had asked it that way, it would have been in order, but he did not.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Is it true that the report shows that the National Certificate of Educational Achievement has enhanced the importance in the eyes of students and parents of English, mathematics, and science programmes as fundamental to future success, and that excellent grades were seen as being harder to attain than under previous systems, thus making a mockery of claims that the National Certificate of Educational Achievement is dumbing down the curriculum?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I would have had trouble giving a better synopsis myself.
Donna Awatere Huata: If the National Certificate of Educational Achievement is as good as that report suggests, why did 77 percent of rank-and-file teachers vote to stop level 2 proceeding next year, and the Post Primary Teachers Association vote for ``a carefully controlled and monitored pilot'', and why have Maori parents been reported as saying that their children are not being allowed to sit the National Certificate of Educational Achievement and are being forced back to unit standards, and in spite of that attempt to raise their school results artificially, why are principals like Paul Cole and Susan Hassall saying that good schools have an unfair advantage, because the National Certificate of Educational Achievement is such that an excellent at a poorer school is less highly regarded than a pass at a high-achieving school.
Mr SPEAKER: That question was too long, but I am interested to know the answer. The Minister may comment on it if he may.
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am happy to comment on the question. Using the National Certificate of Educational Achievement approach, that would have been no credit.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the New Zealand First member was allowed to ask a sycophantic question and to get a sycophantic reply, and then a genuine question is asked and the member is not given a proper reply at all--
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will be seated while I am standing. I think, on reflection, that the Minister might like to give a slightly fuller reply than that.
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: It is quite clear that level 2 has always been done school by school. That has always been the arrangement. It has always been internally assessed. Approximately half of the level 2 assessments next year will be external assessment. That will result in a lightening of workload, and also in better moderation between schools.
Bernie Ogilvy: Can the Minister explain how schools will deal with students who achieve some, but not all possible, credits at level 1, and who go on to level 2 in some areas but not others within a particular subject, when the report on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement reveals that this issue is ``yet to be fully understood, let alone resolved''?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Level 1 is not a prerequisite for level 2 in any subject area.
Mr SPEAKER: I call question No. 5--
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know this is an unusual approach, but there was an inference in an earlier question from a member, which I think you ruled on, and he might want to ask the question again in the terms you suggested. I would like to suggest that he ask for leave to do that, because the Government will not oppose it.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member like to seek leave?
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to ask a further supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to ask a further supplementary question. Is there any objection. There is not.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I thank the Minister. Does he agree with Otago University senior education lecturer, Howard Lee, who told the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) annual conference: ``We have a very, very shaky qualifications structure, and I urge you to be aware of the research. The Ministry of Education is not aware. Is the Minister?''?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am aware of the speech that the person made. He is not a person with a reputation in the educational assessment area that has reached me, and I have had discussions with a number of people with very good reputations at Otago University in this area, who are supportive.
5. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Will the Building Code be amended following tomorrow's Building Industry Summit, so that potential home buyers can be assured that the thousands of homes due to be completed over the next six months will not leak or rot; if not, why not?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The purpose of the summit is to focus on how the building industry can improve its performance in three key respects: the skill level of people, the building methods and materials, and the need for a greater level of accountability and responsibility in the industry. I expect positive outcomes from the meeting about the role the industry can play, and there are bound to be changes in several areas.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will the Minister ask for the resignations of the chief executive and the chair of the Building Industry Authority, given that the chief executive said today on radio that he knew of the problems 4 years ago, and did not think he should warn any member of the public, despite the fact that a key function of the authority is ``to provide information and advice on building controls to all sectors of the building industry and the public''?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: This Government is setting about solving the problems, and we--[Interruption] I tell Bill English that I was answering the questions 10 years out. We are dealing with the problem at the moment; blame will be looked at later.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I listened very closely to that Minister's answer, and I fail to see which part of the question he actually addressed. The question was whether he would ask the chairman or chief executive to resign.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the last clause of the Minister definitely addressed the question.
Mita Ririnui: Is the Minister aware of any companies that have changed their building plans due to concerns over the leaky buildings issue?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes, I am advised that Taradale Properties has changed several plans to improve the weathertightness of its buildings. The company says it has changed building techniques, designs, and choice of materials, on new residential developments worth $100 million.
Brent Catchpole: In the light of the answer the Minister gave earlier to this question, will he explain to all those people who have leaky homes why he ignored reports in May 2001--I have them here: ``The house rots as industry quarrels'', May 26 2001, and ``Coping if the rot sets in - a guide to homeowners'', May 30 2001--sat on his hands, and did nothing while another 40,000 homes were built in that style?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I was first advised by the Building Industry Authority of the problem just a few months ago.
Deborah Coddington: In the light of the Minister's answers, when the Building Industry Authority knew 3 years ago that its shoddy performance standards concerning durability meant that houses were leaking and rotting, why did he not use his powers under the Building Act and direct the authority to amend its approved documents?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I was not the Minister 3 years ago. I think there was a National Minister.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister tell us whether the upcoming review of the Building Act will include any assessment of designers' liability in utilising poor weathertightness design techniques and unproven materials in an effort to cut costs; if not, why not?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am certain that will be one of the aspects looked at.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given the revelations of the role of Carter Holt Harvey in getting the standard for timber framing changed, what does the Minister plan to do to ensure that timber companies with a vested interest are no longer allowed to have a vote over building standards that are supposed to protect all New Zealanders--not the profits of timber companies?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Tomorrow I am meeting with representatives from Carter Holt Harvey.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that the Minister has just stated that he will allocate blame later--presumably for the late advice in April this year--why does he have confidence in the chief executive and the chair of the board of the Building Industry Authority?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I think it would be inappropriate to take action until the select committee inquiry is over, and then, of course, we will listen to what committee members say and take the necessary action.
Sue Kedgley: Will the Minister discuss with building industry representatives at tomorrow's meeting the risk to workers who are exposed to toxic mould in leaky buildings, and the urgent need for industry guidelines to advise them how to protect themselves from those risks; if not, why not?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: At tomorrow's meeting a large number of areas will be covered, and I will be interested in receiving a report on that meeting and the outcomes from it, including health issues. Rt Hon. Winston Peters: In an effort to assist the Minister I wish to table today's Herald article that says there are 14,000 rotting homes in Auckland--
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I want to say why I am tabling it.
Mr SPEAKER: When I say ``Order!'', please be seated. You said that you wished to table an article in the Herald, and you indicated what it was about, so that is sufficient. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have frequently heard members of Parliament, on the question of whether leave is given to table a document, ask for a full explanation. I was seeking to give that, not to offend the Chair, and I wish I could finish my statement. That is all.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard the member quite clearly say that it was an article in today's Herald concerning this matter. That is surely enough.
6. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Police: What was the percentage of total Government spending on the Police in the 1999/2000 year, and has the percentage of total Government spending on the Police gone up or down in comparison with this financial year?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am advised that the percentage of total Government spending on the police in the 1999-2000 year, and the out-years, is as follows: 5.46 percent, 5.09 percent, 5.06 percent, and 4.99 percent. In dollar terms Government spending on the police over the same period increased from $861 million to $960 million.
Dr Muriel Newman: Using adjusted figures, why has the Labour Government cut the percentage of Government spending on police from 1.9 percent of total Government spending when it came into power, to 1.7 percent this year, resulting in increasing crime rates, an explosion in drug and gang offences, and chronic police shortages, which has led New Zealand to having the lowest proportion of police officers in the Western World?
Mr SPEAKER: I have talked about interjections while questions are being asked, and that includes everybody. I want the member to ask the question again.
Dr Muriel Newman: Why has the Labour Government cut the percentage of Government spending on police from 1.9 percent when it came into power, to 1.7 percent this year, resulting in increasing crime rates, an explosion in drug and gang offences, and chronic police shortages, which has led New Zealand to having the lowest proportion of police officers in the Western World?
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If everyone is to remain quiet, at least the statements in the question should bear some relationship to the facts. The questioner started off with a set of numbers on the percentage of Government spending that were completely different from those given by the Minister.
Hon. Richard Prebble: The fact that the figures given by the member asking the question are different from the Minister's figures does not mean that Muriel Newman's figures are wrong. Given this Minister's record it is far more likely that his figures are wrong. He probably did not even know that police expenditure as a percentage of Government income was actually appalling.
Mr SPEAKER: The last comment was not in order. I want the Minister now to address the question.
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: There were a number of questions, but the fact is that gross domestic product is increasing significantly in New Zealand. It illustrates the strong performance of the New Zealand economy under a Labour-Progressive Government. I also want to say that crime is at the lowest level on a population basis--the second lowest in the last 15 years. I will repeat that because those members might not have heard. Crime is at the second lowest in population terms over the last 15 years. That is pretty good.
Mahara Okeroa: What advice has he received regarding current police staff numbers, and how does this compare with previous staff levels?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am advised as of yesterday that there were 7,273 sworn officers and 2,052 non-sworn staff, a total of 9,325. This compares with the 7,065 sworn officers and 1,753 non-sworn staff as at 1 December 1999, a total of 8,818. Police have the ability to fund existing staff and provide services because this Government has increased police spending to well over $960 million this current financial year.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Why did overall reported crime rise 2 percent in the last year and violence by 18 percent in the Bay of Plenty and in Auckland, where less than one in 10 burglaries is ever resolved?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The reason that crime went up is fluctuation. However, I tell that member that during the period of the National Government violent crime went up over 70 percent. That is what happened. Burglaries have dropped from a high of 96,000 to just over 60,000. Labour is doing far better than National ever could.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: You have called up members in this House on a number of occasions in terms of interjections on questions, and occasionally in relation to other matters. We are having a barrage of hooliganish noise from members opposite in response to almost every answer that is being given.
Mr SPEAKER: The point certainly has some validity. I think there has been too much interjection. I now want there to be fewer interjections. I appreciate that there can be some interjection and comment made, and the Minister in his answer had to make some comments, and I allowed them. But I would like there to be a smaller number of interjections in future.
Hon. Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I share your desire for order in the House, but the House will continue to work in the way it always has, and that is, if answers are comprehensible and sensible they are listened to with some respect. If they do not have either of those characteristics or accuracy, then a Minister is inviting disorder, as is happening. While this matter is ultimately in your hands, my advice to the Government would be simply to answer the question sensibly, and we will have order in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: If that were the case it would be a wonderful solution for everybody and certainly all those people listening over the radio. All I can say is that I observe what happens in this House, and I like to let the flow go a little, but I think the amount of interjection was too considerable at the end of the last question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that the Minister gave the reason for the rising crime in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty as fluctuation, why on earth is he blaming a large proportion of the ethnic community for this crime rise?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have figures on the ethnicity of people committing crime. But I am always very sorry when people start to look at the Asian population in Northland and blame them. It is too simplistic.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is to do with misleading the House. Is the Minister telling the House that the Government keeps no statistics on Maori crime?
An Hon. Member: He didn't say that.
Ron Mark: He said ``on ethnicity''.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. That is not a point of order at all, it is a statement.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With your background in grammar and an understanding of the English language does not ``ethnicity'' also encompass Maori? Are Maori not an ethnic group? The Minister has told the House that the Government does not keep figures on ethnic groups.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard clearly what the Minister said. It was a statement. I do not comment on the accuracy of answers. I have to see whether the Minister addresses the question. He did. Supplementary question, Metiria Turei--
Ron Mark: Do they keep stats on Maori crime?
Mr SPEAKER: I am now going to ask Mr Ron Mark to withdraw and apologise for interjecting when I called a particular question. He knows he cannot do that during the asking of questions.
Ron Mark: I withdraw and apologise to you, Mr Speaker.
Metiria Turei: Why, when Ministers claim to be worried about the methamphetamine explosion in New Zealand, did police spend 280,000 sworn police hours at a cost of $20,183,000 investigating cannabis offences over the last year, compared to the $185,000—
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just because members do not like a question's content does not mean to say they can start guffawing and making rude noises, as members of the National Party did during that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. I was looking to see who was responsible, and had there been one particular person, he or she would have left the Chamber by now. Please start the question again.
Metiria Turei: When Ministers claim to be worried about the methamphetamine explosion in New Zealand, why did police spend 280,000 sworn police hours at a cost of $20,183,000 investigating cannabis offences over the last year, compared with only 185,000 sworn police hours at a cost of $13.5 million on investigating all other drugs combined?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are busting more methamphetamine labs than ever before. Marijuana smoking and possession etc. still happens to be against the law in New Zealand. The police follow the things that the Commissioner says should be focused on, and marijuana is one of those things.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister tell us, firstly, whether changes in the number of police and Government spending will compromise the safety and security of New Zealanders, and, secondly, whether the changes are a result of a reviewing process, backed up by coherent strategy; if so, can the Minister share that strategy with us?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The number of staff at any one time varies according to the number of people leaving the service and entering the training college. However, the numbers I gave in an earlier answer show that policing is at a record high in terms of police staff.
Ron Mark: Does the Minister recall his press release of 13 January 1997, where he bemoaned the fact that the Auckland police were operating with a shortage of 122.75 police officers, and that Auckland would never achieve replacement levels unless ``there is a significant improvement in salaries''; if so, does he not now accept that, because he has not increased salaries after 3 years, Auckland is now 130 officers short, and that he has fallen short of Jack Elder's standards, who at least put 500 extra police on the beat?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have had two wage increases while I have been the Minister of Police.
Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to table a press release dated 13 January 1997, from Mr George Hawkins, entitled ``New Zealanders Deserve Better From the Police Force.'' Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a report that shows that fluctuations in crime have produced 2 record years of violent crime in New Zealand. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table two documents. The first contains figures showing Government expenditure, which shows the proportion of Government spending on police has dropped. The second is a report of comments made by Greg O'Connor, the president of the Police Association, showing the impact of Labour's interference in the police force. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
7. PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National--Whangarei) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What has he done to monitor Te Hau Ora o Te Tai Tokerau Trust, following Plunket ending its partnership with the Trust in September 2000, and subsequently raising concerns with the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services about the Trust's practices?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): I am happy to table a document that sets out in greater detail the monitoring arrangements that occurred following the dissolution of the partnership arrangement between Plunket and Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau. In brief, actions included changes in the trust, changes to the management arrangements, and a tightening of monitoring arrangements. The member should also be aware that the police are currently conducting a criminal investigation relating to Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau, and that other civil orders are before the High Court. I seek leave to table that document. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Phil Heatley: Given the thickness of the document and the comprehensive monitoring, how was the Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau trust allegedly able to gamble $100,000 of taxpayers' money in a shonky scheme, which was called fraudulent by the Securities Commission, and which was promising returns of 10 percent per month, right under the Minister's nose?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The document is slim because I know the reading skills of the member. This matter is before the police.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment.
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise for that. In response to the substance of the question, I say that the matter is now before the police.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Given that problems with Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau were brought to the Minister's attention last year by myself, will he concede that his officials responded far too slowly to this issue, and that, in doing so, they put quite large sums of taxpayers' money seriously at risk?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I acknowledge the role that the local member played in this matter. He has been a very good member on behalf of people in his area. He was one of the people who brought this to the attention of the Government. The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services behaved in this case as it does in all others. It tried to work its way through with the organisation to ensure that services continued. However, I am on record as saying that, in the end, I think it was just a tad too generous with this organisation, which is why I insisted the matter went to court and that the assets were frozen.
Hon. Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite the Minister to correct his answer. I think he was referring to the local member--
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Dave Hereora: What specific actions did the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services take on receipt of advice from Plunket, and since?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The key actions included changes in the trust, changes to management arrangements, and the tightening of monitoring arrangements. In mid-2001 the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services withheld $700,000 due to underdelivery of its Family Start contract. When performance did not significantly improve, the contract was suspended, and finally cancelled. As I mentioned before, civil proceedings have taken place to freeze assets and moneys. Other issues, such as the one raised by Mr Heatley, are before the police.
Judy Turner: Could the Minister give us his opinion on whether he is concerned for the future development of primary health organisations, given that we will have departments suing for reparation of inadequate services, rather than having the Government investigate the claims, and is that attending to families who sought help from the trust, when legal procedures may see the trust closed down?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister cannot be asked for an opinion on something for which he does not have responsibility.
Phil Heatley: What action will the Minister take to recover misspent monies, which were intended for Northland's at-risk families?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: As I mentioned, matters relating to what appear to be allegations of misspent money are before the police. We have also taken civil action to freeze all assets and money.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a statement from the Securities Commission dated 4 September, which says that investment in this scheme was a no-brainer. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
8. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any advice on the potential conflict of interest between the Government's role as the principal shareholder in Air New Zealand and its duty to ensure, for the benefit of consumers, adequate long term competition in both New Zealand domestic and inbound/outbound international flights?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The potential conflict was acknowledged in the Speech from the Throne, which noted that ``Air services are of increasing importance to both trade and tourism.'' It also confirmed that ``Any proposal from the board of Air New Zealand for changes to its present ownership profile will have to meet national interest tests, and pass existing competition tests without any form of intervention by the Government.'' Gordon Copeland: As principal shareholder, is the Government prepared to ask the Air New Zealand board to explore the option of equity and debt capital fundraising from the market, thus perhaps negating the need for the sale of a shareholding stake to its major competitor, Qantas?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government awaits a proposal from Air New Zealand. I notice yet again that __________ has reported that a deal is imminent. That is the fourth time in the last 6 months that such a deal has been reported. I think I will know that a proposal is imminent when ___________ has not published an article on it for some months.
David Parker: What national interest test might be applied in addition to competition tests?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand has interest in maintaining certain frequencies and routes for air transport services, in protecting bilateral landing rights that have been negotiated with other Governments, and in maintaining the brand of a national flag carrier. These national interest considerations will guide the Minister of Transport in exercising his rights and obligations as the Kiwi shareholder in Air New Zealand.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Did the Minister hold a confidential briefing for the Hon. Peter Dunne on the proposed sale of a stake in Air New Zealand to Qantas; if that is the case, how long can he continue to claim that he has no knowledge of this?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. Again, I think it would be useful if the temperature was lowered on this issue and the level of fever that some people seem to suffer on it was reduced so that they could see realities.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard an interjection then that was totally out of order, and I want the person who made that comment about telling the truth to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you ruling that an interjection, ``Tell the truth'' is out of order?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I am, and it has been out of order for all the 351/2 years I have been in this House. The member ought to know that. That sort of smart comment is just about sufficient for me to ask him to leave the Chamber. He should know better.
Peter Brown: Noting those answers, and noting that there have been numerous reports that a deal is imminent, and that the chairman of Air New Zealand has had talks with representatives of just about every political party, does the Minister not think it is about time he went and approached Air New Zealand, found out some information about what is going on and reported it back to the House, and take on board the United Future people's idea?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There are, effectively, two separate questions there. Air New Zealand will tell me what the proposal is when it is ready to go public with it. By the very nature of our existing law, I cannot know what any proposal may be until Air New Zealand is ready to go public with it, otherwise I would be in breach. But can I also say, in terms of any specific proposal, that it is market sensitive and it must be made available to the market in general as soon as it is ready to proceed. [Interruption] No, the member does not understand. Secondly, as a shareholder, in terms of this issue of going to the private markets, the Government has to avoid being seen to be tipping or promoting shares in the company it itself owns. The Government will not be taking any actions that might conflict with its obligations under the Companies Act or the Securities Act, or conflict with Australian or New Zealand stock exchange listing rules. Let me repeat that as far as I am aware, no proposal is imminent, and the fevered speculation--from the Leader of the Opposition and various other so-called experts on aviation in this country--has been completely wrong on every occasion it has been uttered.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Does the Minister of Finance acknowledge that his real obligation is to this Parliament; and given the importance of Air New Zealand and the importance of competition, and the fact that a minority share would be a very substantial transaction--perhaps $400 million--will he give an undertaking to this House that he will not sign or agree to any sale before he brings the matter to this Parliament, especially since he represents a minority Government?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I cannot sign or agree to any sale and that then happens. There are complications--[Interruption] The member will shut up. There are competition tests that will have to be met via the Commerce Commission.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: That wasn't the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Smith will leave the Chamber. I am sick and tired of those comments. [Interruption] Will the member leave the Chamber. He will not make any comment. Hon. Dr Nick Smith withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: All the shareholder can do is indicate support for a proposal going through that process. I should further add that there is a clear division of responsibility amongst Ministers. I am responsible for the shareholder interest. Treasury advice in relation to competition matters is handled by my colleague Mr Mallard, because otherwise I am conflicted. The Kiwi shareholder interest is operated by the Minister of Transport.
Hon. Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may recall some weeks ago we had a discussion here on what I think is a vital matter for this Parliament, and that is the question of whether, as the Minister has stated, he is constrained in answering questions in this Parliament by New Zealand law, by stock exchange rules, and by a new element introduced in the discussion today. For the first time a Minister is saying he is constrained by the listing rules for public companies in Australia on the Australian stock exchange. I put it to you that that is really starting to stretch it. We did not get, and I would like to seek, a considered discussion, or ruling, if that is what is required, from you on the first contention that the Minister is constrained in answering questions in this Parliament by laws that this Parliament has passed. I would also like you to take that further to deal with the issue of his now saying he is constrained by laws that the Australian Parliament has passed. I feel that that takes the issue a great deal further than the last time we discussed it. This issue will continue to be a matter of public interest. As my colleague from New Zealand First pointed out, the chairman of Air New Zealand has been briefing political parties, and I would expect that we will hear more from the company. There will continue to be public speculation, and questions will be continually asked in this Parliament to obtain on behalf of the public the information Parliament feels it is entitled to. So I seek your consideration.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Mr Speaker, I think you need to be very careful about how you respond to this because the member is inviting you to rule on something that I have not claimed. What is underlying this is a continual claim by members opposite that I am withholding information because I am saying I am constrained by certain legislation and by certain rules. The important point, as I have said many times, is that if members want to take a breach of privilege on the issue that I am withholding information they are perfectly able to do so, but I am not withholding information at all. I do not have any proposal in front of me in relation to changing the equity ownership of Air New Zealand. Therefore I am not withholding any information from the House. All I am saying is that in public duties, not necessarily in this House, I am constrained in certain respects, certainly in terms of tipping within the sharemarket, as the persons who holds the shares on behalf of the Crown. I can assure the member I have no intention of sitting on a proposal without revealing that to the House because if a proposal is received, that will have to be put in the public marketplace in any case.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: The leader of the National Party has raised an interesting point, but I am not at all certain that he is right in the manner in which he raised it. You will recall that an allegation, on this issue, was made against the Prime Minister to the effect that she was engaged in insider trading. One cannot have it both ways. The reality is that Dr Cullen is, as the finance Minister of this country, constrained as to what he may do, particularly on a serious allegation of insider trading, for which, being the massive majority shareholder, is an allegation almost certain to be made. But we need in this Parliament, for the sake of members of Parliament, some clarity as to what are the rules that govern what a Minister may or may not answer on, so that questions are not needlessly asked--questions which the Minister is constrained from answering at any given point in time until he has a certain proposal, at which point, would be still subject to going to the Commerce Commission anyway. Then we might clear up this issue.
Hon. Richard Prebble: The Leader of the Opposition raises a very good question. I think that you should not answer it today, but should give it some careful consideration, because when we listened to the point of order today, members have become confused, with respect. One, most certainly, with regard to tipping and the like, and the allegations, they were made regarding a Prime Minister's press statement. The rules that apply to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance speaking outside this House are quite different to the rules applying inside. If Ministers were to be hauled in front of the Commerce Commission because they were giving information to this House about a company owned by the taxpayer, I believe that would be a contempt. While privilege is not defined in our Standing Orders, when we look at 397 there are examples of contempt, and it is quite clear that anything that prevents Ministers from being able to discharge their duty--and their duty is to reply to questions asked by members--is a contempt. When I listened to the answers from the Minister of Finance--the question I asked him was not as he said in the point of order--when I asked him whether he was prepared to give an undertaking, before the Government would make a decision or action on this matter, would he be prepared to debate the matter in the House, he started to tell me that he was restrained. I say to you that you should say to him that no, he is not. He most certainly has free speech, and he can tell us exactly what he intends doing with the shares, and to heck with the stock exchange and its rules.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the members for their comments. This is an interesting question. I want to say that I did give a very lengthy ruling on this. I refer members to the recent booklet that has been put out, in 2001, volume 592, at page 9009. What I said is: ``The Speaker cannot require an answer to be couched in one form rather than another. It is entirely a matter for Ministers to decide how they answer questions, as long as they remain within the Standing Orders.'' It is up to the Minister to decide how he answers. It is his judgment as to whether he feels constrained, not mine. My job is to ensure that he addresses the question, and he did address every single question that I heard today.
Hon. Bill English: Perhaps we can make progress on this matter. I raised two points. The first is that it would help the House to understand the situation if the Minister did not claim that it was not his choice. To stand up in the House and say that he cannot answer in a certain way because of the rules of the Australian Stock Exchange makes it sound as if it is the Australian Stock Exchange that determines the proceedings of this House. That will not be the case, particularly in the case of that stock exchange. The second point is that the House is bringing to this issue, experience it had last year when the Government was in the process of bailing out Air New Zealand. At that stage the Minister also kept saying he had no proposal, so he was not obligated to answer any questions. It turned out when the information gained under the Official Information Act was released that the Government had extensive information of a highly incriminating kind, which it had kept from the House by saying that it did not have a proposal, therefore there was no question to answer. Again I say to the Government that it should not test the patience and the order of the House endlessly by adopting the same tactic as it did last year, which it used to hide information, which was of public information to the House.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I take personal offence at that. If the member had any basis for that claim he should have taken a breach of privilege action at the time, and did not do so. The member also needs to listen carefully to answers that are given. At no stage have I said that I cannot answer because of legislation. The member, Mr Prebble, is absolutely correct in that respect. In terms of the proceedings of this Parliament, I can answer in certain circumstances, and no outside force can prevent me from answering. But it still may be in the public interest that I do not answer. I remind the member of the answer I gave very carefully on one matter towards the end of questions. As a shareholder the Government has to avoid being seen to be tipping or promoting shares in the company it owns. The Government will not be taking any action that might conflict with its obligations under the Companies Act or the Securities Act, or that conflict with the Australia and New Zealand Stock Exchange listing rules. That is not to say that I cannot give an answer, if I had the information, which I do not, in any case, because there is no proposal. It is simply saying that I would not choose to do so because it would conflict in any case with obligations elsewhere. That is a matter for the public interest. If the member cares to read Speakers' Rulings he will find that a Minister can decline to give an answer on the grounds of the public interest.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I thank you for your drawing our attention to that ruling--and it is absolutely correct--but, with respect, it was not the question that is being raised. Actually, Dr Cullen has grasped the point that is being raised. I think what Dr Cullen said is absolutely right, that a Minister can--and it fits in with your ruling. Of course, at that point you as Speaker cannot direct anyone. Perhaps I should withdraw saying ``To heck with the stock exchange and its rules.'' The point I was making, with regard to that--
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: Ha!
Hon. Richard Prebble: Well, I think it is important that you, as Speaker, say this. It appears to me that there are people outside this House who think that they can create rules in the Commerce Commission, or in the stock exchange to direct this House. They are mistaken. It is a question then of judgment by the Minister as to whether he thinks his responsibility lies to this House, to the shareholders, to the stock exchange--and those are all matters which a Minister must balance. But I think it is important that the Speaker reiterate publicly that we have free speech in this House, and if the Minister thinks it is in the public interest to reply to a question, then that is his duty to do so.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member is absolutely right, and I thank him for his contribution. Anybody in this House has free speech. That is the first thing I have to do when I go to the Governor-General. I have been to the Governor-General twice, having been elected by this House. There is no doubt that there is free speech. I want to reiterate, it is up to the Minister how he answers. It is his judgment as to whether he has any constraint, or he feels any. He makes the decision and he stands by that answer
Gordon Copeland: In view of the media reports, can the Minister confirm, or otherwise, whether he has received any advice concerning a proposal for Air New Zealand to sell a 20 percent or 25 percent stake to Qantas?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I certainly received lots of advice on that, not the least from certain stockbroking firms and various other who have vested interests in these matters. If he means, in an official capacity, have I received advice that there is such a proposal? No. The advice I have is not very much different from that in the public arena--that Air New Zealand and Qantas are in discussions about future possible arrangements.
9. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Health: What is the effect of the number of permanent and long term non-New Zealand new immigrant arrivals on New Zealand's health system as at the end of August 2002 and in particular, Auckland's?
Hon. RUTH DYSON (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: It is not possible to quantify the exact effect, but it can be assumed that the effect would not be great, due to two points: firstly, the lawful status of the individuals to whom the member refers; secondly, the ability to charge for health services to those not included.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Can the Minister comprehend my astonishment at that answer, given that when the National Government was running a lower immigration regime, she said of it that National was following ``an ad hoc approach to immigration, placing huge pressure on schools, hospitals, and housing--particularly in Auckland--and contributing to the worst state of intolerance and antagonism towards the immigrants in recent history''; why now has she changed her mind?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: In answer to the primary question, can I understand the Minister's confusion--regrettably, yes.
Steve Chadwick: What benefits has the New Zealand health system received from permanent and long-term non - New Zealand immigrants?
Mr SPEAKER: I have asked the member to leave the Chamber. He will leave.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: You were not specific about the length of my time out of the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I will be specific, if the member wants me to be, right now--until 4 o'clock.
Hon. RUTH DYSON: Aside from the obvious economic contribution that immigrants have made to the taxation base that supports our health system, New Zealand has been well served by a large number of immigrant health professionals, particularly doctors and nurses. As at 31 March 2002, 12,584 medical registered practitioners were in New Zealand, of which 4,985, or 40 percent, were trained overseas.
Hon. Murray McCully: Is the Minister aware of any concerns expressed by Auckland health authorities about the costs of servicing the needs of refugee migrant groups, and their impact on health budgets; if so, what are those concerns?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: Yes, there have been concerns raised, and those are matters being dealt with in discussions that are of an ongoing nature, between the Ministry of Health and the district health boards, and also between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Immigration.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Again, will the Minister explain how she has done such a huge somersault in intellectual understanding of the issue, when she berated National when it was running a high immigration regime, in particular in claiming that immigrants placed huge pressure on schools, hospitals, and housing, went further, to say that people were left out on the fringes, promised also that the lower-paid target was much closer to New Zealand First at 15,000, when ours was 10,000, and if that is not enough, why then do she and her colleagues oppose Ken Shirley's member's bill on overseas trained doctors, or is there an ``h'' word for all this?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: In my view, having a health system that is funded through Vote Health or by direct charge to an individual who is not included in the original calculations for the Vote Health budget, is a sensible basis on which all people in New Zealand have access to the health services they need.
JOHN CARTER (Senior Whip--NZ National): In view of the fact that neither Dr Smith nor the Minister to whom the question was put are present, I seek the leave of the House to hold this question over to the next question day.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is. I call question 10. I call the Hon. Nick Smith--I am sorry, I call Shane Ardern.
Hon. ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader--NZ National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure the Leader of the House was indicating that he did not object to that process.
Mr SPEAKER: All right. I will take the leave again. Is there any objection? There is not. The question will be held over.
Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First): I seek leave to table a press statement under the heading ``Labour plans to stem migrant flow'' printed in the Dominion Post. One Annette King--I am not certain whether she is the Minister of Health now--contributed to it. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
10. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour--Waitakere) to the Minister of Transport: What is the Government doing to ensure that the transport system assists regional and economic development in Northland and East Cape?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): This Government has done a great deal to assist regional and economic development in New Zealand. Yesterday, I directed the board of Transfund to provide Northland and East Cape with 100 percent funding for regional development land transport projects from the regional development output. This direction will ensure that we will all benefit from the wall of wood and the spin-offs such as increased investment in the regions, which will create jobs and boost local economies.
Lynne Pillay: Why have East Cape and Northland been chosen as regions of particular importance?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: My colleague the Minister for Economic Development, Jim Anderton, has done a tremendous job developing the wood processing strategy. From this work, Northland and East Cape have been identified as two priority regions because of the volume of wood coming on stream shortly. The direction to Transfund gives these regions the opportunity to develop this resource.
John Key: Why, given the vital importance of the Orewa to Puhoi motorway to the Northland region, has he excluded projects in the Rodney District Council area?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The member is talking about the wrong output and a different fund. This is about regional economic development, a special fund that was established by this Government to promote regional economic development in various regions of importance in the country.
Paul Adams: Will the Government's proposed roading legislation do anything to speed up the road procurement process in a way that will assist economic and regional development in areas like Northland and East Cape; if so, what?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Yes, the Government intends to introduce, before Christmas, land transport legislation that will do a range of things. It will look at making sure there is more long-term planning and more flexibility for Transfund, promoting tolling and private-public partnerships, as well as cementing in the funding we have got, established from the Moving Forward package in February. All of this is very good news for New Zealand.
Mike Ward: Can the Minister assure this House that the projects being funded will facilitate the carriage of forestry goods from existing railheads, as well as their carriage by road?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Yes. In this particular regional development fund, alternatives to roading scheme funding is available, so applications can be made, for example, for rail. There is also an alternatives to roading scheme fund available that has been topped up as a result of the Moving Forward package, and I expect that to be utilised for rail and other forms of transport over the next few years.
11. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity: What is his response to the reported statement by Ian Gear, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Project Director of the painted apple moth eradication programme in Auckland, to the Waitakere City Council on Monday 6 October that he could not assure councillors that the spray Foray 48B was free of genetically engineered ingredients?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS (Associate Minister for Biosecurity), on behalf of the Minister for Biosecurity: Mr Gear was taken by surprise by that question, hence his response. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has now consulted the spray's manufacturer, which has advised that it does not knowingly use ingredients containing genetically modified (GM) material.
Ian Ewen-Street: Does the Minister agree that the public has an inalienable right to know what they are being sprayed with, so that in the event that GM materials are present in the spray, they can take steps to avoid the possible effects of increased allergic reactions and respiratory problems that may arise from these GM materials; if not, why not?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: There are two questions in that. The first one is the inalienable right to know. The public does not have an inalienable right to know, if it conflicts with intellectual property. Secondly, on the question of whether the spray contains GM and may affect foods or crops, I am confident that there is no deliberate use of genetically modified material in the spray. More than that, the process of making the Foray 48B spray is unlikely to leave a DNA presence and therefore unlikely to have any effect on horizontal gene transfer.
Dianne Yates: Why is the Government spraying part of Auckland with this product?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The painted apple moth has been identified as a significant risk to both commercial and indigenous forests in New Zealand, as well as a potential risk to public health. That is why we are endeavouring to eradicate it.
Shane Ardern: In the light of the Green Party's fears of Foray 48B being genetically modified, does the Minister support the Green Party proposal to use burnt ashes, copper-filled pipes, or any other form of witchcraft to drive the apple moths back to Australia; if not, why not?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: I am not responsible for the Green Party's propositions.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Has the Minister received any constructive suggestions from the Green Party as to how this pest could be eliminated from New Zealand in a cost-effective manner?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The campaign to eradicate the painted apple moth has been going on since 1998. There have been a number of suggestions made by reputable scientists, and there have been a number of problems to do with those, some of them to do with finding the appropriate pheronome. We are endeavouring--and have done the reviews constantly as we go through this process--to make sure that we eradicate, and that we do it in a way that is safe for the people of Auckland, is cost-effective, and gets rid of the damned painted apple moth.
Ian Ewen-Street: If the Government is going to allow the manufacturer of Foray 48B to continue hiding behind the veil of commercial sensitivity, will it hold that company liable for any adverse human or environmental impacts the widespread spraying of Foray 48B in west Auckland may cause; if not, why not?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The formulation of Foray 48B is a trade secret. Release of that would jeopardise future access by this Government to other essential and environmentally friendly sprays. I am aware that the member concerned has told the Primary Production Committee that he has a list of all the ingredients. If he has, he should speak up and put his money where his mouth is.
Shane Ardern: I seek leave of the House to table a media document that is headed: ``Painted Apple Moths Laugh all the way to the Waitakeres'' dated 20 September.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that press release. Is there any objection? There is.
Ian Ewen-Street: I seek leave to table the document referred to by the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: No, a member can only ask for leave to table his own document.
Ian Ewen-Street: It is my own document. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
1. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Chairperson of the Government Administration Committee: Will she be requesting that the Minister of Internal Affairs appear before the committee in its inquiry into leaky buildings; if not, why not?
DIANNE YATES (Chairperson of the Government Administration Committee): The committee has not made any decision as to whether the Minister of Internal Affairs should appear before it on the committee's inquiry into leaky buildings.
Deborah Coddington: Has the Minister instructed the select committee not to include his appearance in the terms of reference?
Mr SPEAKER: It is not within the power of the member to answer that question.
Deborah Coddington: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As a new member I think I am entitled to rephrase that question as you have given other new members the opportunity to rephrase their questions.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is a new member, and I want to be reasonable about it, but she cannot ask a question: ``Has the Minister done anything . . . ''. The member must ask a question that relates to the responsibility of the chair of the committee, but I will allow her to have another go.
Deborah Coddington: Can the chair of the committee inform the House what the terms of reference are for the inquiry?
DIANNE YATES: The terms of reference have been published in all the newspapers and have been made available to the public.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will the chair of the committee ensure that the previous Minister, Mr Mark Burton, is called before the committee so that we can find out what he knows or perhaps does not know about this issue?
DIANNE YATES: I remind the member, who has been a part of that committee, that the responsibility for governing this inquiry rests with the committee, and that it can and will proceed in whatever manner it sees fit.
2. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee: When will the Conveyancers Bill be reported back to the House?
TIM BARNETT (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): I thank the member for her question. The Conveyancers Bill is a member's bill in the name of Janet Mackey. Its report date is 29 November 2002.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of that fact, and the fact that the submissions on the bill closed on 13 February 1998, could the chairman inform the House the reason that the bill has been delayed in the committee for over 41/2 years?
TIM BARNETT: Indeed, the evidence in the committee was heard by May 1998. An interim report to the House was presented on 17 November 1998. The then the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Tony Ryall, advised that the National Government intended to introduce a Government bill in early 1999. Since then the committee has requested, and the House has granted, extensions to the report dates in anticipation of a Government bill.