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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 15 October 2002

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-13 15 October 2002

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Mental Health--Inpatient Admissions

1. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: Has she given district health boards in the Auckland region any directives under section 32 or section 33 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 as to what course of action they should take when a mentally unwell patient requires inpatient admission and there is no bed available; if so, what are those directives?

Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): No directions have been made under those provisions of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act, in relation to the provision of mental health services by district health boards in the Auckland area.

Sue Bradford: How does the Minister plan to respond to the request for such directives, contained in a letter dated 25 September this year, from the general manager of the Waitemata District Health Board mental health services, to the Director of Mental Health, in which he states that "Failure to urgently address this problem could well result in an unavoidable tragedy and/or significant claims against the DHB."?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: District health boards do not require a directive to provide services; they are required to do so by contract with the Ministry of Health and with me--including the provision of acute inpatient services in their own areas. But, where there is no bed available, they are at liberty to transfer patients to other regions.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Has the Minister received any preliminary indications of mental health services needed in Auckland from the Mental Health Commission review; if so, what do they say?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes, I have received a progress report on the Mental Health Commission's review for the Auckland area. It notes that one of the most important gaps in services is rehabilitation beds, so that provision for people who require acute services can be made within patient services, and that those who can be moved to rehabilitation services have beds available.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister believe that going from 10,000 inpatient psychiatric beds in the 1970s to just over 1,000 beds today is the cause of our acute bed shortage for inpatients, and is she prepared to admit that the process of deinstitutionalisation has now gone too far; if not, why not?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The problem with going from 10,000 inpatient beds to 1,000 beds is that there was no, or little, provision made for people who do not need to be locked up in old mental asylums. No, or little, provision was made by the previous Government, and I wonder why, now, National members are asking whether the process of deinstitutionalisation has gone too far. If it has gone too far in 2002, it must have gone too far by 1999. The National Government did not address it then, but, fortunately, this Government takes mental health seriously in terms of funding and the provision of a mental health workforce to provide it.

Dail Jones: In view of the predicted district health board deficits of $237 million, how can the Minister ever expect this Labour Government problem relating to mental health patients having to use prison cell beds, to be resolved, unless this minority Labour government does something to increase funding to district health boards?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The member may not be aware, but funding for mental health services in New Zealand is ring-fenced. In the Auckland area alone there is $229.6 million in baseline funding, an additional $22 million for forensic services, and an additional $10 million for blueprint money. That funding is ring-fenced, regardless of deficit. However, one of the major problems--

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why then sell it?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: --and the member asks the question across the House--is that if we do not have a workforce to provide the service, we cannot spend all our money. One of the sad things that happens in mental health is that we provide money but we cannot spend it all.

Heather Roy: In the light of several reports and articles confirming huge financial pressure on Auckland's three hospitals and their mental health services, can the Minister give a guarantee that psychiatric patients needing inpatient care will not be discharged early by doctors pressured by her underfunding of hospitals and by staff shortages?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: Decisions on clinical services are provided and made by clinicians, not by politicians.

Sue Bradford: What is the Minister's response to the statement in the letter of 25 September from Mr Davies that he believes detaining people who are mentally unwell in police cells could give rise to potential claims for unlawful imprisonment under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act; and is there any intention to lift capacity in the Auckland region quickly enough to deal effectively with the current crisis outlined in the New Zealand Herald yesterday?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: As that member knows, one of the reasons I asked the Mental Health Commission to carry out a review was to ensure we had the appropriate services in Auckland. As the member also knows, that commission has done that, and I received the review at the end of the month. As I said to her in the House last week, the review includes an action plan for us to improve those services. What is needed is very much guesswork at the moment. The review provides us with that way forward, and we are committed to ensuring that we take those options provided to us.

Sue Bradford: I seek leave to table a letter concerning the retention of mentally ill people in police cells in Auckland, dated 25 September.

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

Terrorism--Strategic Environment
2. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: In light of the Bali terrorist bombings, is it still her view that New Zealand exists in an "incredibly benign strategic environment"; if so, why?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): That statement was made in relation to direct threats from any other country, and still applies in that sense. This Government, however, has never been complacent about the possibility of terrorist attacks, and will continue to do everything in its power to protect New Zealanders from such threats, and to contribute to international counter-terrorism.

Hon. Bill English: Can she confirm that her description of the environment as "benign" was because of this Government's belief that there were no threats to New Zealanders' security, and does she regard the Bali terrorist bombing as a threat to the security of New Zealand and New Zealanders?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: It is important for the member to update his perceptions of what "security" amounts to in the current age. Conventional State versus State security is not at issue here. What is at issue is the threat to security posed by international terrorist organisations of a non-State kind, which range across international borders.

Tim Barnett: Will the Government be reviewing its defence policy, in the light of the bombing in Bali?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, because what the attack reminds us of is that these threats come from terrorist elements ranging across States, and not from traditional warfare conducted by States. We will be maintaining strong counter-terrorism measures, and further legislation is planned.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: How does she expect anyone to believe that the Government is anything but complacent about the issue of terrorism, when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that only seven of the 292 Afghans who left the Tampa for Nauru Island were genuine refugees and the remainder imposters, while she gaily took 150 of the same people off that vessel and brought them to New Zealand?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Without seeing the great relevance of that to the primary question, can I say that New Zealand applied the international criteria to assessing the asylum seekers it accepted for processing from the Tampa. No one has ever questioned the way in which those criteria were applied, and I believe those people were correctly assessed by professional immigration officers.

Hon. Richard Prebble: Could the Prime Minister clarify whether she was saying that she did regard the Bali terrorism bombing as a threat to New Zealand; if so, how can she possibly claim that one can split intelligence information away from military, especially as the best source of intelligence--the United States--does not make such a split?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: New Zealand is an important cooperating partner with the United States intelligence. We share information with the United States and other traditional partners. We put a very high priority on that form of cooperation.

Keith Locke: Has the Prime Minister had any advice that an air combat force would be of any use in preventing the sort of terrorist attack we have just seen in Bali? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Everyone is entitled to ask their questions and have them heard in this democracy, and I have laid that down. There will be no interjections while a question is being asked.

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The member makes a fair point. I make the observation that the terrible and appalling terrorist attacks of September 11 were committed against the world's only superpower and a great military power. Its military might could not prevent those attacks, and that is why, in the wake of the attacks, the United States, like New Zealand and other nations, has beefed up its intelligence and border protection measures.

Hon. Peter Dunne: In the light of that answer, is the New Zealand Government satisfied with the way in which international intelligence networks have operated prior to this weekend's tragic events?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: There has probably been more cooperation than ever before, but clearly, within Indonesia itself there is a lack of capacity to deal with the threat internally. If New Zealand, like Australia, like the US, and like others in our intelligence-sharing arrangement, can be of any greater help to Indonesia, we will offer that help to endeavour to improve its capacity.

Hon. Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm her earlier answer to this House that she sees no connection at all between the loss of lives, or a threat to lives, of New Zealand citizens in the bombing at Bali and her precious foreign and defence policy stance, and why does she think they have nothing to do with each other?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Perhaps I can make it clear for the member again that there is a difference in how we combat State-to-State tension, as against the problems generated by transnational terrorists operating across borders.

Bali--Location of New Zealanders
3. GRAHAM KELLY (NZ Labour) to the Prime Minister: What steps has the Government taken to help locate and identify New Zealanders in Bali, in the wake of the recent bombing?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Staff from the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta went to Bali immediately and have since been joined by staff from another New Zealand post. They have been locating and identifying New Zealanders to ensure that they get the assistance they need. They are also engaged in the very sad task of endeavouring to identify missing New Zealanders in Bali's morgues. On behalf of the Government I express our thanks to those professional diplomats and to our defence attach‚ from Jakarta. A hotline was immediately set up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to receive calls from families and friends of New Zealanders thought to be in Bali. Over 2,000 calls have been logged.

Graham Kelly: How many New Zealanders have been located?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: To date, 753 New Zealanders who have been in Bali have been confirmed as alive and well. Officials are still following up on the whereabouts of a further 551 of whom, as I said in the ministerial statement, the fate of three is of particular concern.

Hon. Bill English: When may we know whether the three to whom the Prime Minister referred have been found?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: When someone who was believed to have been in the vicinity of the bombings has not been found at this interval after the attack, obviously concern mounts. Unfortunately, the remains of many of those who died are very charred and almost beyond recognition. I do not think I can say that it will be an early task to identify.

Terrorism--Anti-terrorism Legislation
4. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence that her Minister of Foreign Affairs has passed "tough new anti-terrorism laws", and that he fulfilled his reported September 2001 commitment to fast-track that legislation; if so, why?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes. The House passed all remaining stages of the Terrorism Suppression Bill last week, which prohibits membership of terrorist organisations, and allows the Government to stop the flow of funds to terrorists. Those measures were called for by the United Nations Security Council. Further legislation will be introduced later this term to make it even more difficult for terrorists to operate in New Zealand.

Hon. Bill English: Is the Prime Minister so badly informed about her own legislation that she does not know that the Terrorism Suppression Bill does not, in fact, forbid membership of a terrorist organisation, and that it remains legal in New Zealand to be a member of al-Qaeda or any like organisation?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I operate on advice and by having answers like that prepared. The Minister advises that participation in these organisations is prohibited. I personally would have interpreted that as membership.

Martin Gallagher: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am finding I have huge difficulty in hearing the Prime Minister's answers on a matter of great gravity.

Mr SPEAKER: So am I, but I heard the answer.

Martin Gallagher: What further legislative measures are planned?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: As previously announced, the Government is preparing legislation to ensure that domestic law meets the requirements set out by the United Nations Security Council. That legislation will include the criminalising of various terrorist acts, such as the unlawful possession of plastics explosives or nuclear material, or an attack on our food or biosecurity systems. It will also enhance the powers of border agencies to participate in international information exchange, and it will strengthen extradition measures.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister tell the House and the country what procedures have been put in place since September 11 to ensure that there is investigation into the possible links between asylum seekers and terrorist groups, and that there is a review of all existing asylum cases, to determine whether possible links have gone unexamined, and, given the enormous stress on the Immigration Service--with record levels of immigration--how that will be done?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: As the member knows, it is not the practice of the Minister in charge of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service to comment in any detail on the operations of intelligence--

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a deadly serious issue, and the Prime Minister is engaging in an absolute cop-out. I am not asking for any information other than to know what immigration procedures have been put in place since September 11 to examine the connections between any asylum seeker in respect of terrorism, and particularly with regard to his or her past. Every other Western nation is doing that, save this one.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister had not finished her answer. She was addressing the question, and she will continue with her answer.

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The measures taken to identify people of concern are exactly the same as when that member was Deputy Prime Minister.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister wasted the first half of her question trying to demonstrate that she was not responsible. You found that totally forgivable. She then concluded the question with a criticism of myself as Deputy Prime Minister, when, as everybody in Western society knows, the fact of the matter is that September 11 has brought the dawn of a terrible new age. None of what she said relates remotely to the question. In regard to the seriousness of that question, I am surely entitled to better than that--as is the country.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I think the member is being overly sensitive if he took the Prime Minister's answer as a criticism of him. Even if it were, that is perfectly in order within an answer to a question. The member asked a question, and the Prime Minister gave an answer that was in two parts. Firstly, she said that she does not comment on intelligence operational matters, though we might care to think that vetting matters in relation to immigration--which might relate to terrorism--has an intelligence component within it. Secondly, she said the broad measures in place are the same as those that were in place when he was Deputy Prime Minister. That is a fact.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to rule on the point of order. The Prime Minister said it was not her practice to comment on intelligence matters. That is her answer. She is entitled to give it.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Do our tough new anti-terrorism laws ensure that we now share top-level defence and intelligence information along the lines of that existing between the US and Australia; if not, what is the main impediment to New Zealand accessing that level of intelligence?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: We do share top-level intelligence information and, indeed, are such a close and trusted partner that we hosted a conference last year, which led to questions in this House.

Keith Locke: Can the Prime Minister assure us that her future anti-terrorist legislation will not include a provision similar to that in legislation currently before the Australian Parliament that an intelligence organisation can detain a citizen for some time, simply on the basis of a suspicion that that person may possess some information on terrorism.

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Our intelligence agencies do not have enforcement powers, as such. Those powers reside with the New Zealand Police. I do not have a detailed knowledge of the Australian legislation, but I would say that New Zealand wants its legislation to be effective.

Hon. Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that even if the immigration process were to find that an asylum seeker was a member of a terrorist organisation, such as al-Qaeda, that would be perfectly legal in New Zealand under her tough anti-terrorist legislation; and why is she so complacent about the bombings in Bali that she thinks nothing has to change?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: If we were to find that an asylum seeker was participating in such an organisation, of course, that would bar them from being accepted as a refugee and an entrant to New Zealand.

Taxis--Standards
5. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What has the Government done to improve the standards of the taxi industry?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): After consultation with the taxi federation I recently announced the introduction of a new area knowledge and English language test, which toughens up the requirements for would-be taxi drivers. The new test has a higher oral component to test language skills, a greater emphasis on map reading, and a section on devising alternative routes to key destinations. The new test is in response to industry and public concern about the standard of English and area knowledge amongst some taxi drivers.

Helen Duncan: Is the Government planning any further initiatives in this area?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Yes. To improve passenger safety, the Government is also considering introducing an operator safety rating system to rate the safety performance of all transport operators, including taxis. This information will be made publicly available. In addition, the Government will also introduce legislation to clamp down on taxi fare evasion, and to make changes to the driving hours and log book system to help simplify the existing system and make it fairer.

John Key: Why have the promised legislation changes involving taxi runner offences, operator safety rating systems, and driving hours log books, been delayed until next year, when the Government originally promised the legislation would be in the House before Christmas, and is this a sign of the real commitment this Government has to those reforms?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The answer to the second question is definitely not. The reality is that we are making progress as fast as we can. But this is another example of National deciding to have all sorts of principled ideas in Opposition, when it did nothing about it in Government.

R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister explain how we got into this situation, where many taxi drivers in our major cities have a limited knowledge of English, are hard to comprehend, and need instructions on how to reach one's destination?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: It is due to a number of things, but one has been the testing regime. That is the reason that these changes are being made to improve the testing regime, and it is about improved public safety.

Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister provide any further details on the taxi operator safety rating proposal?

Hon. PAUL SWAIN: Under the proposal, system individual drivers and/or transport companies will be rated on data collected over a 12-month period, such as crash involvement, transport-related convictions of drivers and operators, pass/fail rates of vehicle inspections, and the outcome of police stops. The suggested ratings will be unsatisfactory, conditional satisfactory, and superior. Operators who receive an unsatisfactory rating will be suspended from operating for 28 days and then rated again. This could also apply to an entire company.

Immigration--Dependents
6. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Of the 5,974 people remaining in New Zealand as at 30 September 2002, despite having been declined their application for refugee, asylum or immigrant status, precisely how many are dependants of applicants?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Of the 2,553 residence applicants remaining in New Zealand, 1,481 were principal applicants and 1,072 were dependants. Refugee status claims may be made only by individuals. New Zealand Immigration Service data does not therefore enable the identification of which of the 3,421 failed refugee claimants remaining in New Zealand are part of family groups.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why did the Minister tell this House last week that dependants were included in the 5,974, yet turn up today and admit she has no idea, nor has her department, how many are dependants of the category that are not immigration-status seekers; why has she misled this House?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not recall the detail of the particular question that the member asked last week, but the point I am making is that the figure does include dependants. The only figure I cannot identify within the particular statistics that have been provided is the number of individual refugee claimants who are part of a wider family group. In 1999, the member may be interested in knowing, the rules were changed so that group claims for refugee status could no longer be lodged; they had to be lodged as individual claims.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have raised a number of points of order on this question, and particularly on this issue. On 1 October I asked a supplementary question on the issue; on 3 October I asked three questions on the issue; and, again, on 10 October, I asked a question on the issue. I have asked two questions today, and I am still none the wiser. I do not believe that a Minister should be allowed to come along, having had weeks of advance notice to give the answer to this House, and be allowed to get away with this absolutely disgraceful level of non-accountability. I have never seen the likes of it, and I am asking you, Mr Speaker--

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. You have had quite a long time.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I want to finish. I want it heard.

Mr SPEAKER: You have had quite a long time.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I know I have, but I have an entitlement.

Mr SPEAKER: Come on, hurry up.

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

Mr SPEAKER: You are in a point of order.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I will take my time, and as long as I like, to explain what is a serious issue here. I have asked eight questions.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I am in charge here, not the member. I determined the member was taking too long with the point of order. I had worked out what his point of order was after about two or three sentences, and he was using debating material. That is not permitted in a point of order. Please conclude your point of order.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: To conclude my point of order, I was asked by that Minister to leave the House and have this matter debated, or discussed, with her. I took considerable time to have it explained, according to her, right down by the lifts in the Beehive. She said at that time that all the dependants were within that figure, and that she would be able to get an answer for me. I warned her that I would be asking this question again. I am back here today, I am now in my eighth question, and no one is any the wiser, including me. I do not think that is a fair or proper standard of Western democracy accountability.

Mr SPEAKER: I just want to say that the Speaker cannot conduct an inquest into how well a question has been answered. It has never been done in my time, or in the time of any other similar Parliament. That is not for the Speaker's judgment.

Dianne Yates: Of the 5,974 people referred to in the primary question, how many would be currently eligible to sponsor dependants or other family members into New Zealand for residence, given the fact that they themselves have been declined refugee status or residence?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: None.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why on earth would that question be allowed, when I am referring to existing applicants and their existing dependants within this country, and up gets the member for the Hamilton East electorate, asks about dependants not yet here, gets an answer to that question--a total deviation from the main question--and now, after 11 questions, we are still none the wiser?

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a supplementary question. I was trying to follow it. I ascertained to my own satisfaction that it dealt with part of the original question, a very, very short answer was given, and it was a precise answer.

Hon. Murray McCully: What steps has the Minister taken to ensure a tougher line on the detention of asylum seekers from high-risk countries, given her admission that a significant number of those who have been declined refugee status have remained here illegally?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The member will be aware that we have changed the operational instructions that apply to the detention of those who arrive in New Zealand, first, on 18 September, then subsequent to the High Court decision we again changed the policy. Significant numbers are still being detained at the open facility at Mangere, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has just provided a report that supports the use of the open detention option.

Metiria Turei: What programmes, if any, are in place to ensure that those dependants who are children are provided with appropriate educational opportunities, and how many of those children are in such programmes?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: That will depend entirely on the lawful status of their parents.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Does the Minister expect this House to believe that refugee and asylum seekers are in this country and who have filled out forms, forms that have seen them initially declined, yet those forms do not contain any reference to dependants, and that being the case, why on earth can she not answer the question?

Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: As I explained before, in 1999 the rules were changed. They were changed when the Hon. Tuariki John Delamere was the Minister of Immigration. The way the rules were changed was that there was no longer an instance of a primary applicant or claimant for refugee status on behalf of the whole family. Individual claims had to be lodged for each member of the family who claimed refugee status.

Dentistry--Secondary Students
7. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Minister of Health: Has she received any reports concerning shortages of dentists who are prepared to contract to district health boards to provide services for high school age students?

Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): No, I have not received any recent reports that concern shortages of dentists who are prepared to contract to district health boards to provide services for high-school aged students.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware of dentists listed for parents as district health boards - contracted practitioners who refuse to enrol students unless their parents are existing paying clients; if so, how does she plan to address this?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: For some time there has been a disagreement between some dentists and the Ministry of Health with regard to their contracts. However, last year we introduced a new adolescent health service agreement that was designed to update the general dental benefits. This new contract includes significant funding increases and a widening in the scope of treatment to be funded. I am pleased to say that many of the dentists now provide services under this contract.

Georgina Beyer: What are some of the initiatives that are being undertaken to address the shortage of dentists?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: I have agreed in principle to the establishment of a bridging programme for overseas dentists who were brought into New Zealand between 1991 and 1995 and were not eligible to practise. The Ministry of Health is investigating this option, which I hope can commence early next year.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister believe that the 59-page legislative and bureaucratic contract, plus the fact that some dentists felt they would actually be out of pocket if they accepted the contract for high-school students, has led to this problem, and what is her advice to parents with children who cannot get treatment?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, that did not lead to the problem. If the member would like to look back to the history of this, she will find that it started under Jenny Shipley when--

Gerry Brownlee: Here we go!

Opposition Members: Same old story!

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The member asked the question. If she asks the question she will get the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: An answer will be given. I allowed a certain amount of comment. I would now like to hear the answer.

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The member asked me whether the problem arose from the new contract. I said "No". If the member would like to know the history of the problem of dentists contracting to do general dental benefits, then she will find that it occurred under Jenny Shipley when she was the Minister of Health. Dentists could not get an agreed contract, dentists from Manawatu and Horowhenua withdrew from the contract, then they started to withdraw all around New Zealand. I am pleased to say that the new contract with, more money and more services, has been accepted by a wide number of dentists. It will work when in the past it did not work.

Barbara Stewart: What is the Minister doing to ensure that the situation described in the Eastern Courier on 11 September 2002--namely, that wealthy international high-school students in Howick and Pakuranga get dental treatment that costs thousands of dollars paid for by the taxpayer while they are studying here--is stopped as soon as possible?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: A person would not be eligible for dental services under the general benefit scheme unless he or she were on a visa that allowed that person to receive services in New Zealand, which I believe is a visa that is longer than 2 years. If that persons's parents are permanent residents of New Zealand, then all that family is entitled to the same services that citizens of New Zealand receive.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that an extremely high percentage of dental graduates immediately head off overseas to pay off crippling debts of $50,000 to $100,000, that this places pressure on dental services in the provinces, and that the real solution to this problem is to write off, reduce, or eliminate student debts; if not, why not?

Hon. ANNETTE KING: The issue of student loans, bonding, sponsorships, and so on, is being addressed by my colleague the Hon. Steve Maharey. However, it is fair to say that it was this Government that reduced the cost of fees for dental students. We halved them when we became Government. That had been one of the disincentives for young people going into dental training under the previous Government.

Barbara Stewart: I seek leave to table the article Students Cash in on Dental Care from the Eastern Courier.

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

Terrorism--Internal Security
8. Hon. ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader--NZ National) to the Minister of Police: Following the terrorist bombing in Bali, what steps, if any, have the police taken to upgrade New Zealand's internal security?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): The issue of internal security is a matter for constant review by the police and other relevant Government agencies. Police act on intelligence they receive from several sources.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Given that answer, I ask the Minister what steps, if any, have been taken to identify potential targets in New Zealand, and what steps have been taken to improve security at those targets?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am not about to tell the House about specific targets, although I can say that the police are aware and constantly update their information.

Mahara Okeroa: What resources has the Government provided to enhance the counter-terrorism capability of the New Zealand Police?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government has established 26 fulltime-equivalent sworn police positions to provide ongoing security at New Zealand's six major airports; it has established a permanent police terrorism, investigation, and intelligence group; and it has established police liaison posts in Washington, DC, and London to enhance intelligence gathering, and ensure the coordination of operational response on terrorism.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Are all refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants in recent times required to have completed a full police clearance from their country of origin for the Immigration Service, as was the case in former times; or have we brought in thousands with no such police clearance?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: People get clearance from the police, but I have to say the police are very careful to make sure that New Zealand's borders are kept free of terrorists.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister whether, as a part of our internal security, there is a requirement for refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants to come here with a police clearance from their country of origin. I have not received an answer, at all. I think we are entitled to know.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: People who come from overseas to settle in New Zealand are required to have a police clearance.

Dr Muriel Newman: Will the Minister tell the House whether he believes that New Zealand's lesser status with the United States than that of Australia makes us less likely to be a terrorist target, or more likely?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: New Zealand takes its role in this very seriously. It is not a matter of comparing one with the other. We are putting in the effort to make sure that every precaution against terrorism is being taken.

Keith Locke: Could the Minister comment on how useful a police clearance would be for a refugee fleeing a repressive regime like that in Zimbabwe, Iraq, or Burma; how appropriate would it be to seek a police clearance in those cases?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the member already knows the answer to that question.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not satisfactory. I would like the question addressed.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Of course, clearances from some countries are regarded as of more value than, perhaps, some others.

Marc Alexander: To what extent are agencies such as the Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau responsible for the security of New Zealanders keeping the police briefed and informed, and is the Ministry of Civil Defence brought into such consultations; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are extremely well informed, and we get information from all sorts of sources, both internal security services and externally. That is why this Government has placed senior police officers in Washington, DC, and London, as well.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Is the Minister satisfied that the police have all the powers they require to combat terrorism under the Terrorism Suppression Act, or does he believe the Act should be reviewed in the light of the recent attacks?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The police are well satisfied with the powers they have. They have not requested further legislation. This Government has already moved on the issue, with the legislation that was passed last week and a bill that will be before the House shortly.

Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was quite specific. It was not about whether he had received advice from the police, but whether he, as Minister of Police, was satisfied that the polices have all the powers they require under the Terrorism Suppression Act. I invite the Minister to answer that part of the question. There was only one question, which was whether he was satisfied.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister addressed that in his answer.

Hon. Roger Sowry: The Minister stood and said that the police had not requested any extra powers. That was not the question that was asked. The question was whether the Minister, as the Minister holding the warrant, was satisfied that the police had all the powers they require.

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I am satisfied that the police have all the powers they have requested. I am satisfied with their work in this area.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: In the light of the Minister's assurance of police clearances, I seek leave to table the cases of the triple murderer who came into this country, the necrophiliac who came into this country, and the rapist who came into this country, on the basis that they could not possibly have had a police clearance.

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

Suicide--Youth Statistics
9. Hon. MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader--Progressive) to the Associate Minister of Health: What reports has he received on the latest available statistics for youth suicide?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Associate Minister of Health): I have today received the latest youth suicide statistics, which are for the year 2000. I can report to the House that there has been a notable decline in youth suicides. In 1998, 140 young people took their lives. In 1999, the number was 120. The latest figures show that this number has declined to 96 in the year 2000. Although suicides by young males have remained at the same level as in 1999, the good news is there was a significant drop in the number of female youth suicides, from 37 in 1999 to 15 in 2000. New Zealand's youth suicide rate has now decreased for 5 consecutive years in both absolute numbers and in the rate per 1,000 young New Zealanders. Although this is good news, the Government takes seriously the response to youth suicide, and I hope to announce further moves to strengthen youth suicide prevention through the Youth Suicide Prevention strategy.

Hon. Matt Robson: What steps are being taken by the Government to minimise the level of youth suicide in New Zealand?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Every young life saved is an important achievement for any Government, and this Government is committed to the New Zealand Youth Suicide Prevention strategy. A wide range of initiatives exists to support young people and to provide additional help and guidance for them and their families when they need it. There are also specific initiatives that aim to prevent suicide among young Maori: ongoing high-quality research projects and a national suicide prevent information service to support these efforts. However, one has to acknowledge that there are always gaps in those services, and there is room for improvement.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is he aware that the Health Committee was told by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research that a large number of those tested for drugs post-suicide found THC from cannabis, and are any studies being conducted to quantify exactly how many youths who do commit suicide have been using cannabis; if not, why not?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: There are a number of suicide projects, including probably the most prominent one, in the Canterbury area, which has been going on for a number of years. Strong connections have been made between substance abuse, including cannabis, and mental illness, which is, in 90 percent of cases, associated with suicide. So there are a number of complex factors and, as the member has mentioned, a connection is being made between drug abuse--and cannabis is one of those drugs--and suicide.

Dr Lynda Scott: Are any studies being done?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Many studies are being done. The most prominent one is being done in the Canterbury area, and it has been going on for many years.

Mita Ririnui: What specifically is the Government doing about the high rate of suicide amongst Maori?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: As I said, a number of initiatives have been taken that aim to prevent Maori youth suicide, which is among the highest of the suicide rates in this country. Some have been established since 2000, such as the Ministry of Health Community Development Project, which is implementing part of that strategy. We hope to see positive effects from those initiatives in data that become available in future years. I am sure every member of the House is committed to preventing suicide in young Maori people.

Paul Adams: Does the Minister agree with the opinion of Dr Annette Beautrais, main investigator on Christchurch school of medicine's Canterbury suicide project, that the two factors that most often lead to youth suicide attempts are depression and substance abuse; if so, will he introduce a national youth substance abuse initiative, as Australia has done?

Hon. JIM ANDERTON: As I have already indicated, mental illness, including depression and drug abuse, is commonly associated with youth suicide. A number of initiatives are being looked at by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Youth Affairs, which are advising me and other Ministers about progress we can make in this area.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that Dr Lynda Scott, I think, inadvertently misrepresented what the Institute of Environmental Science and Research reported to the select committee, I seek leave to table the report to the select committee--

Mr SPEAKER: This is not the time or place to do that. This is in relation to question time, and the member has not sought a question on this particular issue.

Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure I understand your ruling. I was seeking leave to table the report that a member referred to in her supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: Now that the member has said that he is seeking leave, that is very much easier for me to deal with. The member is seeking leave to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.

Terrorism--Internal Security
10. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does the Government have any plans to increase surveillance and border security within New Zealand following the weekend bombing in Bali?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The Government introduced a number of new measures following September 11, including increased funding for the police, customs, the Immigration Service, and the intelligence agencies to strengthen surveillance and border security. These counter-terrorism measures will be kept under review in the light of the Bali bombing and other international developments.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that in recent months New Zealand border security and detection have been so lax that convicted killers, fraudsters, rapists, triple murderers, and even a necrophiliac have been permitted entry into New Zealand, after the measures about which she speaks, what confidence can any New Zealander have that a determined terrorist or group of terrorists has not entered this country just as easily already?

Rt Hon. Helen Clark: The reality is that people with ill-intent will try whatever means they can to penetrate the borders of others. That is why we put a very high priority on the measures we put in place on information-sharing with other police, intelligence, customs, and other agencies overseas to endeavour to protect our people as best we can.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Prime Minister assure us that any improvements in border security will not be modelled on the United States' situation, where some 1,200 non-citizens have been secretly detained, mostly for long periods over the last year, but have not subsequently been charged with any terrorism offences?

Rt Hon. Helen Clark: I am not aware that New Zealand secretly detains, but what I would say in respect of the United States is that after the appalling attacks on it, I do not think anyone would blame it for being somewhat cautious about who it admits.

Hon. Richard Prebble: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the best way of having great border security would be to close down the total tourism industry, but if we are not in favour of doing that, the next best action would be to share intelligence with our allies and friends?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I completely agree with the analysis of the member.

Hon. Roger Sowry: Given her comments in January this year that the Prime Minister "did not want New Zealand to be a soft touch, a safe haven, where terrorists could base themselves.", why does she not increase surveillance at the borders since the terrorist bombing in Bali?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The New Zealand Government and its agencies consider that it does everything possible at this point to maintain adequate surveillance and border protection. I am advised that, subsequent to the original question in question 10, the people the Rt Hon. Winston Peters mentioned all came as visitors from visa-free countries.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Can the Minister outline--so the country can be assured--how many cases of increased surveillance between links of asylum seekers and terrorist groups have taken place, and what the Department of Labour officials were saying when they said, after the Tampa refugees came to this country, that there was enormous pressure on the department to then do its work?

Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: There is no way a Minister would stand in the House and say publicly how many people are under surveillance. However, I will say, that with people like asylum seekers, like refugee applicants, we undertake all possible checks we can through our international linkages with other security agencies, Interpol, etc. We do everything we can, as do other like-minded countries with similar values, to protect ourselves.

Building Industry Authority--Chief Executive
11. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he have confidence in the chief executive of the Building Industry Authority; if so, why?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): The chief executive is responsible to the board of the Building Industry Authority, not the Minister. Issues relating to responsibility will be worked through in an appropriate manner.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Why does the Minister not accept the editorial comment in the New Zealand Herald of 12 October: "The blame must lie with those that administer the code, the Building Industry Authority. Its recently appointed chairman must accept responsibility on behalf of his board, and heads should roll, the first being that of longstanding Chief Executive, Mr Porteous."?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: It would be a sad day if we allowed the New Zealand Herald leader writer answer for the way this country is governed.

Gerrard Eckhoff: In the light of the Minister's reply to question No. 5, on October 8, when he stated: "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.", is the Minister telling the House that he alone does not yet know what the real problem is; if so, is he the only person in New Zealand who does not know the problem?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No and no.

Murray Smith: Does the Government accept that it fully supported the National Party's deregulation of the building industry in 1991, and is therefore as much to blame as National for the current debacle; if not, why not?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I have had people tell me that Sir George Chapman was Chairman of the Building Industry Authority from 1992 to about 2000. All sorts of accusations are going around, and I have decided to work through the problem and deal with any blame later on.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that the chief executive knew about the issue for 4 years, chose not to tell the industry and the public, and since the Minister last week said in the House that he believes that blame needs to be allocated, why does he still have confidence in Mr Porteous?

Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The reason I am waiting is that we are working through the problem, and I must say that not only did Bill Porteous know about it 4 years ago, but George Chapman did as well.

Murray Smith: I seek leave to table an article in the Dominion Post this morning regarding regulating the building industry.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article, is there any objection? There is objection.

Maori Television Service--Chairperson
12. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Maori Affairs: Does he have full confidence in Mr Derek Fox as board chairperson of the Maori Television Service; if so, why?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): Yes, I have full confidence in Mr Fox. He has played an integral role in consolidating the service and getting it to this point.

Rodney Hide: Has the Minister not yet received the Maori Electoral College's letter to him dated 31 August, in which the college declares no confidence in Mr Derek Fox as chairperson; or does the Minister think that he is now smarter than the college and can discount the college's considered opinion?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: I certainly have received two notes from the Electoral College making that point. I would remind that member that the composition of board members does not generally have consensus all the way through. There is a testing about Mr Fox's chairmanship but I am comfortable with that.

Dave Hereora: What role will the Maori Television Service play?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: The service will be an important vehicle for promoting Maori language and Maori perspectives on this nation's life and culture. That will make it unique, and while the establishment of an indigenous television is a complex matter, I am confident that it will be of benefit to all New Zealanders.

Hon. Murray McCully: Having previously assured the House that Mr Fox would receive only $36,000 a year for his service as chair of the Maori Television Service, why did the Minister take a paper to Cabinet, earlier this year, to enable Mr Fox to be paid over $69,000 as chairman, and to be hired as a consultant at $720 a day as well, when it was abundantly clear that the Maori Television Service would not meet its June on-air date?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: As that member is aware, there was general agreement in Cabinet on that issue. I also say that there is a narrowness in the ability of Maori available to develop this forum, and that member, when he was in charge of this forum, did not make sure that there was proper session planning to ensure that there were enough Maori around with the capability to develop, and to aid and abet that station.

Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise it under Standing Order 362, which relates to quoting from documents. I understand the Minister did quote when he said that he had received a document, and that the people had no confidence. Therefore, I would like him to table that letter from the Maori Electoral College to him.

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Minister whether he quoted from a document?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, I did not.

Murray Smith: Given the Minister's response concerning the letter from the Maori Electoral College, exactly what consultation did he have with Maori concern Mr Fox's appointment prior to that appointment being made?

Hon. PAREKURA HOROMIA: Endless.

Dobson Hydro Scheme
13. Hon. Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National--Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Specifically who did he consult with prior to his decision to reject the Dobson Hydro development on the West Coast?

Hon. CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): I have no application for hydro development for Dobson in front of me. My predecessor, the Hon. Sandra Lee, did. I have looked at her decision recently and have no reason to review it.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How does the Minister reconcile his speech given last week in which he said he wanted a close, personal relationship with local government, that good decisions require a partnership, that he was about dialogue and personal contact, and he would be a responsive, open-minded, pragmatic, and approachable Minister, with his decision in the Christchurch Press of 17 September to reject the Dobson hydro scheme without any consultation, without any dialogue, and without any contact at all with the mayors of Nelson, Marlborough, Tasman, and the West Coast, or were his words to local government just weasel words?

Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I stand by those words, and I am proud to report in this House that I recently visited the mayors of Tasman district, Nelson, and Marlborough.

Darren Hughes: With regard to the Dobson hydro scheme, is a large proportion of the ecological area, which would be flooded, covered in gorse?

Hon. CHRIS CARTER: The Department of Conservation report that at least 10 percent of the land is covered by gorse. It is not possible to restrict flooding to the gorse areas alone.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Did the real Minister of Conservation, Kevin Smith, substantially influence his decision to block the Dobson hydro scheme--

Mr SPEAKER: The first three or four words of that question were not necessary. Would the member now ask the question. The words "real Minister" are not appropriate.

Hon. Ken Shirley: Did his adviser, Kevin Smith, substantially influence the Minister's decision to block the Dobson hydro scheme, and why does the Minister continue to take advice from this extreme zealot?

Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I seek advice from many people, but I would like to be on record that I have full confidence in my adviser, Mr Kevin Smith.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How can the Minister tell the House that he has made no decision, when in the Christchurch Press of 21 September he said: "I have no intention of entertaining that idea with respect to the Dobson hydro project.", and how does he reconcile that with the statement by his ministerial colleague: "Mr Carter has not put a stop to the Dobson hydro electric project. The scheme is still being properly considered."?

Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I have not put a stop to the hydro scheme at Dobson, because I have received no such application.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Would the Minister agree that swapping one area of land inside the conservation estate for another outside it, and then destroying the former by flooding it, results in a net loss of biodiversity, which is contrary to the New Zealand biodiversity strategy?

Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I would agree.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table an article: "Carter says no to power scheme plan".

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

Hon. CHRIS CARTER: I seek leave of the House to table three photographs from the Dobson area illustrating the unique, indigenous flora of that area; there is not a sign of gorse.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those photographs. Is there any objection? There is.

End of Questions for Oral Answer.

(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)

ENDS

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