Questions Of The Day Transcript - 17 October 2002
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 17 October 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Bali--Location of New Zealanders and Assistance
1. GRAHAM KELLY (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What steps has the Government taken to ensure New Zealanders in Bali are properly accounted for, and to assist with the situation on the ground there?
Hon. PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Within hours of learning of the bombing in Bali, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade established an 0800 number to enable people to register the presence of friends or relations in Bali. Ministry staff have been working on the ground, checking hotel registers to see whether any New Zealanders did not return to their accommodation after the night of the bombing. We have been checking the morgues to see whether they contain the remains of those about whom we have the most serious concerns. We are now going through customs and immigration information to check which people have come back from Bali, as against those people we believe were there. Finally, in relation to the second part of the question, New Zealand has been assisting both Australia and Indonesia with transport, medical supplies, and personnel. Further assistance has been offered, and we will respond positively to requests for help in areas that we are able to help in.
Graham Kelly: What are the latest figures on New Zealanders who have been accounted for or are missing?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: I preface my remarks with the comment that these figures change from time to time, as the information changes. The latest figures that I have indicate that 1,196 New Zealanders who were in Bali have been accounted for as being safe and well. There are currently 112 whose well-being we have been unable to confirm, and we are now making strenuous efforts to check with families to see whether they have reported in. The number dead or missing and believed dead, at this stage, currently stands at three. Of the New Zealanders who were injured, two are in hospital in Australia--in Brisbane and in Perth--one is in outpatient care in Australia, and the other four who were hospitalised there have since returned home and are receiving follow-up medical care here.
Dr Wayne Mapp: What steps did the New Zealand Government take, based on the intelligence warnings it had received about the risks of a terrorist attack against tourists in Bali?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: The only warnings about terrorist attacks received by New Zealand, or indeed by any of the countries, that I am aware of, that had nationals killed in Indonesia, were of a general nature and not specific to Bali. The concerns that we had were set out in our travel advisory of 30 September. They are very similar, in fact, to the travel advisories issued by the United States and by Australia. I have a note here that I received yesterday--and I seek leave to table it in due course--in relation to the State Department, which asks whether the United States had specific information of a planned bombing in Bali. The answer is: "The United States had no specific information of a planned bombing in Bali. If we had such information we would have issued a public warning regarding such a potential danger." The same situation exists in New Zealand.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is the much-vaunted very, very close relationship between the Prime Minister and the US administration--much vaunted in its lead up to the last election--the reason we have no warning from the United States about the Bali atrocities?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: Apparently the member did not hear my answer to the last question. I just quoted from a briefing by the State Department yesterday, stating that it had no such specific information. It could hardly, therefore, have passed on information it did not have. I assure the House that we have been told by our intelligence partners that we have received all material on terrorism relevant to our interests.
Hon. Matt Robson: What is the nature of medical assistance provided in Bali?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: New Zealand has a medical team, obviously, travelling with the C130, which is available for work in Bali if required, comprising two doctors and two paramedics. We have sent medical supplies to Bali, consisting of intravenous fluids, surgical dressings, and the like. More specialist medical personnel may be available to work in Bali, if requested. We are currently liaising with the hospital in Bali to see whether the provision of burns specialists to this hospital would be useful.
Sex Offenders--Child Custody
2. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: Does he believe that there are any circumstances under which convicted sex offenders should be given care of small children; if so, what are these circumstances?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): No, I do not.
Deborah Coddington: Can the Minister tell this House that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has never had any plans to knowingly place a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old in the custody of a convicted sex offender, and, given his claim that I have my facts wrong in this case, will he explain to the House exactly what facts he would like to question?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I take it that the member is raising the case that she raised yesterday. The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services social workers always consider the return of the child to his or her birth family, because that is what the law states and the public expects. But the paramount consideration is the safety of the child.
Georgina Beyer: What must the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services consider when furnishing advice to the Family Court regarding returning children to their family of origin?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The law requires that the paramount consideration is always the safety of the child. If safety cannot be assured, the children stay in care, or an alternative placement is found for them.
Peter Brown: Will the Minister answer Deborah Coddington's supplementary question and tell us specifically what are the matters in dispute?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I am not about to start talking about an individual case in this House. I have invited Mrs Coddington to do what I would invite any other member of this House to do--that is, if she has concerns about a case, she should simply come and work those issues through with me, as members would do with any other Minister in my position.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Why will the Minister not talk about this individual case in the House, when he has talked about it on radio and when, as a member of the Opposition, he often talked about individual cases in the House?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The one thing I have done is to ensure people understand that this case is before the court and therefore should not be talked about. Mrs Coddington would have been better to have come to talk to me in particular, because there are more issues to be canvassed here than she is aware of, obviously, because she is an ordinary member of Parliament.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister tell us whether he has undertaken to revise the steps to protect children from being placed in the care, and therefore at risk, of convicted sex offenders; if not, why not?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I repeat my earlier statement that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services has, under law, to ensure that the paramount interest served is that of the child. He will also know that the chief social worker has made it clear, following the Mikus case we have been discussing just recently--although I stress that no children were placed with Mr Mikus--that the department is ensuring it is checking all of its procedures throughout the country.
3. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: On what basis would her officials permit an individual claiming refugee status from an economically and socially stable country to remain in New Zealand for 18 months, without employment, and what costs are met by the New Zealand taxpayer in this situation?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Under New Zealand's obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, successive Governments have allowed such claimants to remain in New Zealand until the claim is determined and/or any appeal has been concluded. To minimise abuse of the determination system, the refugee status branch prioritises those whose claims are considered to be manifestly unfounded. The average cost of asylum-seeker claims is estimated at around $12,500, compared to a previous estimation of $30,000 per claim when there was an enormous backlog of claims.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Would the Minister please tell this country how on earth an Afghan could claim refugee status, come from a European country in the EU, such as, for example, Holland, be here 18 months, be looked after by the taxpayer, and not have been sent home from the day he first arrived, or was he escaping from molestation from his wife or something? Can we have the facts? Can we have that for the country's sake, the people's sake, and for the people who pay the bills--the taxpayer?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The individuals concerned arrived in New Zealand in March 2001 and therefore were subject to the same process that has applied for many, many years. The backlog of abusive claims of the asylum system that I had to resolve when I became the Minister were from Thailand, hardly a source country for genuine refugee claims.
Mark Peck: Why does New Zealand not simply use the turn-round provisions of the Immigration Act if there is doubt that a claim for refugee status is genuine, in the same way that others are turned around each year?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Because New Zealand is a signatory to the UN convention, which was included as an appendix to the Immigration Act by the National Government in 1999. Section 129(x) of the Immigration Act, inserted by the National Party reads: "No person who is a refugee status claimant may be removed or deported from New Zealand unless the provisions of Article 32(1) or 33(2) of the Refugee Convention allow the removal or deportation."
Hon. Murray McCully: What comparisons has she seen as to the success rate of refugee applicants in this country as compared to other countries, and what assurance can she give the House on that basis, that our regime is no less rigorous than other countries?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I have not brought any comparative data to the House, but I can say that the number of people claiming refugee status in New Zealand is falling, and has been falling since this Government took office. Also, less than 20 percent of refugee status applicants are confirmed as refugees under the convention in New Zealand.
Paul Adams: What steps has the Government taken to reduce the backload of refugees waiting to have their status determined?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: When I became the Minister, over 3,000 people were waiting to have their first hearing; today, we have reduced that figure to fewer than 300.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why does the Minister come to the House and try to blame every other party but Labour when the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees resolution, about which she speaks, was approved by the Labour Government of 1987, and then carried forward by the National Government later on; so why does she blame everybody else for the acceptance of this loopy policy?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: That is the first time I have heard the member confirm that it his policy for New Zealand to no longer be a signatory to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The point I need to make to the member is that what has changed with regard to the two individuals he referred to is that since 18 September--when we changed the operational instruction--there would have been a different approach taken at the border. We do insist on looking very carefully at matters of identity before we make the decision to issue permits. The reality is that most people who claim at the border are being detained while those checks are being made.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I attended the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee this morning, and the Minister was present. She gave us evidence of the number of people who have been detained. Her officials and she said there were 21 detained, and about 484 are walking around the streets. Now today she tells us that most people are detained. That is demonstrably, palpably false from this morning's evidence.
Mr SPEAKER: I cannot resolve that. It is a matter for debate.
4. Hon. ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader--NZ National), on behalf of the Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition), to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement to the House yesterday that New Zealand is in the best intelligence club; if so, did New Zealand receive the same intelligence as Australia which identified Bali as a possible terrorist target?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): Yes, the Prime Minister stands by her statement. The implication of the second part of the member's question is not, I believe, accurate. As the US Department of State has said, the US had no specific information of the planned bombing in Bali.
Hon. Roger Sowry: If New Zealand is in the best intelligence club, why did we not receive the CIA warning listing Bali as a possible target, when the Australians did?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the member could well be referred to the comments by Prime Minister Howard in the Australian Parliament yesterday. He stated that there had been no intelligence that specifically warned of a bomb attack in Bali on 12 October.
Hon. Richard Prebble: How can the Prime Minister say that they give exactly the same advice as Australia has received, when apparently--according to Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday--Australia received recent US intelligence identifying Bali as a possible target for a terrorist attack on Western tourists, but decided not to change his advice to Australian holidaymakers; and did we receive that intelligence report and decide to ignore it, or did the New Zealand Government not receive it?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I repeat what Prime Minister Howard told his Parliament yesterday--that the Australians had received no intelligence that specifically warned of a bomb attack in Bali on 12 October. We have also received assurances from our intelligence partners--in this case, of course, it is the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia--that we are seeing all relevant intelligence related to terrorism that may affect New Zealand's interests.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Prebble's question was very specific. "Did New Zealand receive particular advice?". The Acting Prime Minister gave us all sorts of information that might have been in the Australian Parliament, but did not answer that very important and quite specific question.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking to the point of order, I point out that I was asked about whether we received the advice Mr Howard received. I responded in terms of what Mr Howard said was the advice that he received. He did not receive any specific advice about a forthcoming bombing in Bali. Neither did we.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Did New Zealand receive intelligence advice with specific reference to Bali, as the Australian Prime Minister has suggested, or did we just hear one giant porker here yesterday?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In terms of the answer the Prime Minister gave yesterday in terms of what Mr Howard had said, that was based on Mr Howard's comments on Tuesday, when he said that the Australians had been unaware of any such intelligence in relation to Bali. So the Prime Minister's comments were based fully and squarely upon Mr Howard's comments at that point.
Keith Locke: Why would the American Government deprive us of any information about an impending terrorist crime, or any other crime, and if it did deny us such information, what would that say about the Bush administration's determination to fight terrorism?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am certain that the United States administration would not deny us specific information of that sort. Indeed, I go further than that, and refer the House back to the document tabled by my colleague Phil Goff. I quote from the State Department briefing yesterday: "United States had no specific information of a planned bombing in Bali. If we had such information we would have issued a public warning regarding such a potential danger. It would not have been necessary for an intelligence warning to have come, but a public warning would have been issued by the US Administration."
Hon. Peter Dunne: Has the New Zealand Government made any attempts in the last 24 hours to clarify with the Australian Government precisely what material was received by that Government, on which Mr Howard's comments may have been based; if so, what is he able to advise the House this afternoon about that?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Obviously, the Australians, like ourselves, do not divulge all aspects of their operational intelligence activities. So I am unable to give a further answer on that particular point. Equally, to be fair to members opposite, I have to state that we cannot state that we receive every briefing, every piece of intelligence the Australians receive, in the same way that they cannot state--[Interruption] No, he did not. They cannot state that they receive everything that we receive. We do not just simply get something to Canberra marked "Copy Wellington", and neither do they.
Hon. Roger Sowry: When the Prime Minister said there was no specific threat against Bali--a phrase used extensively by Ministers--can she clarify that that means Bali never appeared on a list of possible targets or as an example of possible targets, and if it did appear on a list, or as an example, why was that not counted as a threat?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I repeat, the United States has had no specific information of a planned bombing in Bali. Therefore, it could not have given us such specific information about a planned bombing. Had it had such information it would have been made public.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The questions from myself, the Hon. Richard Prebble, and the Rt Hon. Winston Peters have all been very narrow, asking the Prime Minister whether Bali appeared on any list as a possible target. They had nothing to do with whether there was a specific time and place of a threat. We know from the Australian Prime Minister that that was not the case, that Bali appeared on an Australian list as a possible target, without any time, date, or other details. The Prime Minister's attempt to answer every question by saying that because there were no specifics around it, therefore it was not there, does not answer the general question that has been asked. I invite you, Mr Speaker, to have the Acting Prime Minister answer the questions that are being asked, rather than answer them as he has interpreted them.
Mr SPEAKER: I have to assess whether the question has been addressed. I am not in any way responsible for the answer itself, or for the quality of the answer. I have assessed that the question was addressed.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You gave a very strong ruling on 3 October that if a Minister discovers an answer he or she has given is wrong, he or she has a duty to come down and correct that. I am trying to be as fair to the Prime Minister as I can be, but when one reads yesterday's Hansard transcript, it is quite clear that the Prime Minister was not aware that the Australian Government had received a report from the CIA, which listed Bali as a potential terrorist site. So when she gave the House the impression that New Zealand was getting the same information, and belonged to the same club, she was misleading the House. I listened to the answers given by Mr Cullen--and you are not responsible for his trying to avoid the facts--and we have to work out by implication that the New Zealand Government did not get that report. Following your ruling, I believe that the Prime Minister actually should have got up before question time and said to us that the impression she gave the House yesterday was wrong. One reason I say that is that is exactly what Prime Minister John Howard has done. In treating his Parliament and this issue seriously, John Howard has got up in front of the Australian Parliament and said: "The impression I gave to the Australian House that we were given no warning was not correct. In fact, we did get a warning and decided to ignore it." Following your ruling on 3 October, the Prime Minister should have risen and simply said: "I have told the House that the Prime Minister of Australia had had no warning. I have now discovered that he did." She should have then told us whether New Zealand received a warning or not. We are still a little bit in the dark as to whether New Zealand did get that CIA report and then ignored it--are we in or out of the club?
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: There is quite an important point lodged in the last part of that long speech, and that is in relation to what the Prime Minister's answer was yesterday. As I said in my answer to a question, that was based upon Mr Howard's own statements of the previous day. The fact that Mr Howard has changed his version of events somewhat between Tuesday and Wednesday does not affect the accuracy of the answer given by the Prime Minister yesterday and Wednesday. A correction from the Prime Minister is therefore not required.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is assuming that there is an error. Whether there is or not is a matter of judgment. The Speaker does not sit in judgment. If the Prime Minister thinks she has misled the House, then, of course, I expect her to put it right.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I could have put down it as a breach of privilege, but I just assumed that the Prime Minister would correct the record. The statement she made yesterday was very clear. She said: "I give the House exactly the same advice that John Howard gave the Australians yesterday." We are in a position where John Howard has now told the Parliament that the advice he gave yesterday was wrong, and he has corrected that. Apparently, it is perfectly OK for a New Zealand Prime Minister not to correct the record. It would be a good idea for you to suggest to the Prime Minister--or the person acting in her place--that the end of question time would be a good time to get up and correct the record.
Mr SPEAKER: In answer to an earlier question, the Acting Prime Minister said twice that he stood by the Prime Minister's answer given on the previous day. There is nothing more to say in a point of order, because I do not sit in judgment.
5. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour--Dunedin South) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: What new business opportunities does he expect to arise from the climate change policies he has announced today?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): There will be plenty of opportunities. The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development did a preliminary investigation involving just six companies, and came up with 32 potential business opportunities worth an estimated $350 million a year. Those findings just scratch the surface. Climate change policy will accelerate the development and use of innovative energy and environmental technologies. New Zealand business now has the incentives to make sure it is at the forefront of those developments, which have huge international markets.
David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister please explain to the House how the opportunities he has identified will be facilitated by the changes to the Resource Management Act that were announced as part of the climate change policy?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Key areas of business opportunity are energy efficiency and the development of new renewable energy sources and technologies. The changes being considered for the Resource Management Act include amendments to ensure that energy efficiency and renewables are given an appropriate priority in resource consent processes. The policy development on this will be completed quite quickly.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: What sort of Clayton's climate change policy do we have from today's announcement, which states that the Government will consider deforestation rights, consider incentives for sinks, consider Resource Management Act amendments for renewable energies, consider measures for small to medium sized businesses, and consider funding mechanisms for funding research into animal emissions; and how can we possibly ratify the Kyoto Protocol when there are so many considerations that will not be resolved until 2004?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Of all the nations that have chosen to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, New Zealand is at the forefront of policy development and has completed all the substantial decisions that need to be taken. That said, Kyoto policy in this country and in every other country will change, year after year after decade, just as it does with health, education, or the criminal justice system. Nothing is frozen in stone. This Government, transparently, is saying what other bits of work still need to be completed in the near term. There will be other bits of work we do not even know about, to be completed years hence.
Dail Jones: Why on pages 5 and 6 of the media briefing Climate Change Policy, under the heading "Business Opportunities Programme", is there no specific example of even one real business opportunity; am I to understand that that energy efficiency means setting up a new bicycle business; and is this climate change policy based on agricultural emissions, which is really a euphemism for the cow and bull farting problem?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: It is hard to know where to start, but the long and short of it is that the business opportunities that exist in New Zealand are significant. The forestry industry and officials were off shore a few months ago, and there is quite a lot of renewed interest in, for example, biomass cogeneration and biomass industrial heat production. But, more than that, next Wednesday I am heading off shore with a bunch of New Zealand companies to the United States and to Britain--they are going on to Europe, and I am going to India--in order to explore opportunities for improved emissions management, but also marketing opportunities. We expect there to be many of them.
Hon. Ken Shirley: With the Government assuming liability for deforestation under the announcements, but restricting it to the first commitment period only--that is, 2008 to 2012--does this mean that the owners of the thousands of hectares of commercial forest that are already planted and growing will have their carbon credits appropriated by the Crown on one side of the ledger but, on the other side, they will then carry the harvesting liability at least $25 a tonne and rising; and where are the business opportunities in that?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: No.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How does removing greenhouse gases from the Resource Management Act, which will tend to fast track thermal power stations, contribute to the Government's renewable energy and energy-efficiency targets?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The member misses the point that the Kyoto Protocol is a cap-in-trade mechanism. There is now no logical need for there to be a regional set of controls, when there will be a national set.
Larry Baldock: In the light of the policies announced today, what recommendations or actions does the Minister intend to take to address the concerns expressed by Air New Zealand about its ability to remain competitive when Australia and US airlines will not have an emissions charge, and could those actions include a negotiated greenhouse agreement with Air New Zealand?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: International aviation fuel is not part of the Kyoto Protocol.
6. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader--Green) to the Associate Minister of Commerce: Why did officials approve an exemption to the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996 for the import of asthma inhalers containing CFCs when CFC-free inhalers are already registered in New Zealand, and does he consider this exemption is consistent with the Government's growth and innovation strategy?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE (Associate Minister of Commerce): The decision was made because it was prudent and appropriate to do so.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why would any New Zealand business invest in new products to comply with environmental treaties, if competitors can be granted an open-ended exemption from the rule, and will he review the decision of his ministry as the Act provides for him to do?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: I respectfully refer that member to section 9 of the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996, and more particularly regulation 31, paragraph 1.
Clayton Cosgrove: Does the Minister consider this exemption is consistent with the Government's growth and innovation strategy?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: New Zealand has a high incidence of asthma sufferers. It is entirely consistent with the growth and innovation strategy to ensure New Zealand asthma sufferers continue to have access to appropriate and affordable medication.
John Key: Is the Minister aware of other parties in the House receiving briefings from multinational pharmaceutical companies that produce chlorofluorocarbon-free inhalers?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: I am given to understand that Glaxo, producers of chlorofluorocarbon inhalers at this moment, are negotiating with Pharmac. The coincidence of this question today raises the suggestion that the Greens are now lobbyists for multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Hon. Ken Shirley: Is the Minister aware that one of the three doses of Flixotide, being marketed as the replacement for Becotide on the basis of being chlorofluorocarbon-free, actually contains chlorofluorocarbon substances?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: I am aware that with regard to non - chlorofluorocarbon-free inhalers the medication contained within them is sustainable for a large number of asthmatics. I am also aware that the chlorofluorocarbon-free inhaler has some ingredients that would be inappropriate for present asthma-sufferers to administer to themselves.
Hon. ROGER SOWRY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Once again, we are about four or five questions into the day, and this is the second or third time this has happened. The Minister was asked a very specific question about whether or not he was aware that one of the three particular inhalers available and marketed as chlorofluorocarbon-free had chlorofluorocarbons in it. It is a pretty easy question to answer--yes, he is aware of it or no, he is not. What we got is that he is aware of a whole lot of other things well wide of the mark. The Minister can laugh, but at the end of the day question time needs to be taken seriously by Government Ministers--
Mr SPEAKER: Points of order will be heard in silence, and that includes members from all sides of the House. Please complete the point of order tersely.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Question time needs to be taken seriously, rather than coming into this House and answering completely different questions and thinking it is smart to avoid answering the questions. The one chance an Opposition has in this democracy is to ask questions in this House, and it is becoming farcical.
Mr SPEAKER: The member can note that the type of tactic used is not new, but it does not make it any better. I would like the member to address the actual question that was asked.
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: If the member cares to lay down a direct written question, I will inform the House accordingly.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was asked whether he was aware of it. He can quite safely answer "Yes" or "No" to that question.
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: No.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Should I take it from the Minister's answer to my previous supplementary question that when a multinational pharmaceutical company invests in a new product, in order to comply with international environmental treaties, it should be slapped in the face?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: We have to ensure that the product being promoted actually achieves what the promoters say it does.
7. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Further to his answer yesterday that "There is a difference between answering a letter and being formally informed.", how did he write his letter of 28 August 2001 to Prendos Limited without being formally informed of the leaking homes issue? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am not going to have that sort of comment made in this House by anybody--at all. I regard that as a personal reflection on a member of the House, and I deplore it very considerably. The next member who makes that sort of comment will be out the door.
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): Ministers receive letters on technical matters all the time. As is usual with such correspondence, this letter was referred to the Department of Internal Affairs, which, as it is involved in a range of technical issues, referred it to the Building Industry Authority to consider the matters raised in the draft response. Contrary to the claims made by the National Party in the House yesterday, a single-page letter, written by Prendos Ltd on 20 July 2001, does not comprehensively set out the problem. I encourage members to read the Overview Group Report on the Weathertightness of Buildings for a comprehensive analysis of this issue.
Dr Wayne Mapp: How does the Minister, when referring to a letter from an expert, sent to him and the Building Industry Authority, and a reply drafted by his officials on advice from the Master Builders Association, how does that count as not being informed on 28 August last year?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: One receives letters from a number of people claiming to be experts, over a number of matters. Of course I referred it to my officials, who drafted an answer for me.
Helen Duncan: Does the Minister know and are the experts agreed on the scale of the leaking house issue?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No, I do not. Some estimates have been made. For example, the overview group estimated the scale of the problem in the range of $120 million to $240 million. Prendos Ltd estimated the scale of the problem at over ten times that size--in the range of $2 billion to $5 million.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the Minister's office, and he himself, were advised of this issue, sufficient to fulfil any description of information being given to a Minister, a full year before he admitted it in this House this week, and, that being the case, why does he not simply get up in this House and apologise to New Zealand for what he did and said?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I received a letter dated 20 July 2001 from Prendos Ltd. I replied on 28 August 2001, with a letter prepared for me by officials, because they had the expertise to prepare the reply for me.
Stephen Franks: How can we be sure that the Prime Minister's backing of him yesterday over signing a letter on a matter he says he did not know about was not a quid pro quo for the Minister of Police's backing of her over signing paintings she did not paint?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I believe that question does not deserve an answer.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Since the Minister was informed last year by the Building Industry Authority that it stated in his letter of 28 August that the authority was considering changing the code, why has the Minister dithered on this issue for over a year, and thousands of homes have been built that will rot?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: In September 2001 I met the Building Industry Authority, and I can say that not one member of that authority raised the leaky homes issue at all.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to ask the Minister, Mr Hawkins, whether he regularly signs letter he never reads.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.
8. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour--Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What steps is the Government taking to address literacy needs in the workplace?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The 1996 international adult literacy survey shows that 40 percent of people employed in New Zealand are below the minimum level of competence required for everyday life and work, and 20 percent--over 200,000 people--are functioning at a very low level of literacy. Skill New Zealand's workplace literacy fund is one element in a package of initiatives that amounts to around $45 million over 4 years, designed to increase literacy skills. The interim report, which I am now seeking leave to table, highlights the success of those work-based initiatives.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jill Pettis: What does the report say about the benefits to participants and their employers?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: The report identifies benefits to both employers and learners, although it does highlight the fact that we need to get better at measuring the positive return on this kind of investment. But one unexpected benefit was the identification of leadership potential in workers that was formerly overlooked. One project reports that a participant had been signed up to a Modern Apprenticeship, and several others have been promoted to the position of team leader as a result of this investment.
Simon Power: Given that the interim report on the workplace literacy fund states that those who accessed the learning were predominantly Maori and Pacific peoples, is he concerned by the recent State sector Standards Board report into education in New Zealand, which stated: "Despite well heralded demographic and policy changes, the sector is slow in recognising the needs of Maori and too ready to accept failure and under-achievement."; if not, why not?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Like the member, I am concerned when I read reports like that, and that is why this kind of investment is so necessary.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Is the Minister aware that literacy expert Professor Warwick Elley, who was an official monitor of the 1995 study, has claimed that the passages used for English within that particular assessment were significantly complex and difficult, so that the figures that show up for illiteracy in the workplace, in both New Zealand and Australia, have been overstated?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No, I am not, but I would be happy to discuss that with the member.
9. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Police: What checks do the police make when clearance is sought from them for applicants seeking to settle in New Zealand?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Police checks are not sought for every person who comes to New Zealand prior to their arrival in New Zealand. If a person arriving in New Zealand claims refugee status, then security checks are sought by the New Zealand Immigration Service, and police comply with requests directed to them by the service. I also understand that the Security Intelligence Service has asked to undertake security checks.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given what the Minister has just said in respect of those who seek refugee status, how can he explain the case of two Afghan-born Dutch citizens, reported in this morning's Dominion Post, as having appeared before the Wellington District Court yesterday charged with fraud and supplying misleading information concerning their application for refugee status, and why did the police checks not expose these characters as the cheats that they are, who are ripping off the New Zealand taxpayer?
Mr SPEAKER: The member has referred to a case that is before the courts. I have the evidence of that in front of me. It is against the Standing Orders to refer an item that is before the courts. He can rephrase the question, but he cannot refer to the specific instance before the court.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you saying that this Parliament is to be subjected to a more rigorous standard of information than is the public of this country and the media? I have read yesterday's and today's press statements. They outline the details that I have here. For a start, every New Zealander who has got hold of the Dominion Post has read it. Are you saying that this Parliament has a standard that denies me from repeating what I have seen in a press statement to the whole public of this country, or what?
Mr SPEAKER: All I am saying is that the member has to abide by the Standing Orders, which, of course, I am obliged to uphold. Parliament is subject to a higher standard than the media. It imposes it on itself in this regard. However, the member can rephrase the question. I am sure that he is able to do so.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Before I carry on I seek leave to ask about this information as is written in the paper and available to all New Zealanders, including us.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to ask a question in relation to that information.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We cannot set aside the Standing Orders by leave, can we? It appears to me that he wants us to suspend the Standing Orders. The Standing Orders state that a member cannot ask a question about a matter in front of the courts, as much as we all might like to do so.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a perfectly valid point. Anybody can seek leave to set aside a Standing Order. If that is what the member was seeking to do, could he say that that is what he was seeking to do?
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: The member seeks leave to set aside a Standing Order of this House. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Mr Speaker--
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the member another question, in time.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I was asking a supplementary question when I sought clarification from you. I have not yet finished my supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member could rephrase it, I will allow him to do so.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: What on earth are these two cheats doing in this country for 18 months at the expense of New Zealand taxpayers?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: If the member wants an answer to that he should ask the Minister of Immigration.
Martin Gallagher: Is the Minister satisfied that the police are adequately resourced to respond effectively to requests from other agencies or jurisdictions concerned with border control?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Yes.
Hon. Murray McCully: Does the Minister expect police to read security clearances before they sign them, or can they sign them without reading them like the Minister of Internal says he signs his letters.
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I imagine they sign them.
Dr Muriel Newman: Could the Minister clarify for the House whether he expects the police, in signing off a clearance, to follow his example and put their signature on it without having read it; if not, why not?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I believe that when the police do their jobs, such as that, they probably do sign off, and it is probably checked by a supervisor.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why would he recommend, when I asked why these cheats have been in the country for 18 months at the taxpayer's expense, that I ask the Minister of Immigration, when this morning at the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee that same question was put, and she recommended that I come to see the Minister and the courts? Would the Minister either make up his mind what he is doing or resign?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: There appears to be confusion between the character requirements for onshore resident applications and security checks for border refugee status claimants.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave for the Minister of Immigration to answer that last question. The one before that seems like it was recommended by the Minister himself.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is that it?
Mr SPEAKER: The member can seek leave. The member cannot seek leave on behalf of somebody else. Please seek leave again so I can hear what the member asked.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to ask this question, right now, of the Minister of Immigration, as the Minister of Police recommends.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to ask that question. Is there any objection. There is not. Please ask it.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Would the Minister of Immigration tell me what on earth these two cheats from Afghanistan but with Dutch citizenship have been doing in this country for 18 months, ripping New Zealanders off?
Hon. Lianne Dalziel: The question as it was originally directed to the Minister of Police actually contained a fundamental flaw. It assumed that a New Zealand police certificate was required for people entering New Zealand before they arrived in New Zealand. The member seems to be confused between the two different requirements we make of the police. We ask the police to provide us with security checks for border status claimants at the border, and if someone has claimed refugee status at the border, then we refer the matter to the police and to the Security Intelligence Service for security checks. When somebody is applying for residence, and that person is already onshore in New Zealand, then the police merely provide a character check that shows whether they have offended while they have been in New Zealand.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has exceeded his quota for the day. He can have another question only by leave.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to ask a further question. Is there any objection. There is objection.
10. MURRAY SMITH (United Future) to the Minister for Courts: Is she satisfied the Waitangi Tribunal has adequate research funding to progress Treaty claims in a timely fashion?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON (Minister for Courts): Yes.
Murray Smith: If that is the case, why is the tribunal able to properly fund only the Gisborne claim research, and when will a similar level of funding be provided to Wairarapa, Whanganui, the East Coast, Rotorua, Wairoa, King Country, Taupo, Kaingaroa, Hawke's Bay, and the Bay of Islands, all of which are in the research planning or casebook research stages?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: Even if research funding was available for all those claims at once, the resources that would be required in terms of personnel, counsel, etc. would not be available to be able to hear all those cases at once. The claimants themselves would probably not be ready. Research funding is but one aspect of the process of the settlement of claims.
Russell Fairbrother: Could the Minister explain the process of research used by the Waitangi Tribunal for its inquiry into claims?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: The tribunal groups historical claims into districts for inquiry and produces a casebook of research. It is the casebook of research that falls into three main groups. The first is research commissioned by the Crown Forestry Rental Trust, the second is research commissioned by the claimants, with funding from the Crown Forestry Rental Trust or the tribunal or themselves, and the third is research commissioned by the tribunal and produced by external contractors or internal research staff. The Crown Forestry Rental Trust funds and commissions most of the research projects that make up the tribunal's casebook. The funding, in other words, comes outside the tribunal. The Crown also carries out its own research that may be required during the inquiry process.
Hon. Georgina te Heuheu: Is the Minister aware that the Waitangi Tribunal would need a further injection of funding of between $2 million and $2.5 million over the next 6 years to enable it to reach completion of the casebooks remaining, so that it could move forward on the hearings; if so, what does she intend to do about that?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: The new system that is being used by the tribunal to reach that objective of 2010 for casebook claims has been experimented with during the Gisborne inquiry. We are in the process, at the moment, of evaluating that. Extra funding of $500,000 has been available to support that. I have no doubt that extra funding will be required in the future after the evaluation is done.
Stephen Franks: What would she consider to be an ending of the grievance industry in a timely fashion, given that on the achieved rate of disposal, the 700 claims lodged will take at least another 400 years?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: As I have just explained, the tribunal is now grouping claims by district. It is actually preparing a casebook for a district. The number of claims that fall within that district will be heard. They will not be heard individually. That is why the tribunal's estimate is 2010, and I believe that is realistic. If we can make it before then, we shall. The process is also designed to make sure that those claims will be settled, and that they will be durable settlements.
Metiria Turei: In order to progress the treaty claims in a timely fashion, will the Minister commit to providing all the necessary funding to enable the process currently being trialled by the tribunal in the Gisborne hearings--and by all reports proving a success--so that that process can be effectively used in future tribunal hearings?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: That is a process we are undertaking at the moment. There is an evaluation of what happened at Gisborne, and, as a result of that, a business case will be prepared, if extra funding is required.
Murray Smith: What specific additional resources is the Minister prepared to make available to the tribunal for the report writing, given that there are currently only four persons in the report-writing team and that, under the new interlocutory process, team members are required to sit through the whole tribunal process?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: That is part of the evaluation of the Gisborne process, and if that evaluation identifies there will be need for more takers, then, yes, there will be.
Health Services--Primary Health Organisation
11. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: Does she stand by her statement in relation to access to primary healthcare that there are "so many inequities"; if so, how will her new Primary Health Organisation strategy address these inequities?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes. The aim of the strategy is to ensure that primary health-care is more accessible and affordable.
Heather Roy: Why then does the chairwoman of the Medical Association's general practitioners council say that up to 45 percent of people with high health needs and low incomes will miss out on the Minister's increased funding because getting cheaper primary health-care will depend on where one lives or on one's race, rather than on one's level of need?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: No funding formula is perfect. However, nobody will be worse off under this new system, and even in these early transitional stages, tens of thousands of people will be better off.
Steve Chadwick: What is the estimated number of hospital admissions each year that could be prevented by accessing primary health-care at an earlier stage?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: It is estimated that it could reduce admissions by some 60,000.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why has she deviated from the United Nation's convention that spells out that public health services should be delivered according to need, and instead has developed an unfair funding formula that can result in residents of the same street, with the same health needs, receiving different levels of care, depending on whether they sign up to a primary health organisation?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: No, I do not agree with what the member is saying, because despite the original misgivings people may have had about the primary health organisation formula, there is huge support right throughout the country for the formula, and it is believed it will improve the health status of people who in the past have had poor access to health services.
Dr Paul Hutchison:I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was clear and specific: why has she deviated from the United Nations convention that spells out that public health services should be delivered according to need?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I listened to the Minister, and she said she did not agree. She is entitled to say that.
Sue Bradford: What approach is the Government taking to the possible formation of primary health organisations across district health board boundaries, especially in larger urban areas like Auckland, where communities of interest addressing socio-economic inequities do at times transcend artificial geographical borders?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: It is expected that in the primary health organisation environment those providers that wish to form relationships and join together may do so, regardless of geographical boundaries.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware of particular specific initiatives that either are in the planning stage or are being actively pursued that target those who have been identified as not able to access appropriate primary health-care?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: I understand that there is also an interim formula that is being put together by IPAC, and that formula actually targets specific disabilities.
Heather Roy: I seek leave to table an article stating that general practitioners believe that delivery of the public health organisation system will lead to inequities, published in the Dominion Post.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that statement. is there any objection? There is.
Standards--Building Industry Authority
12. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Is he concerned that it took the Building Industry Authority almost a year to formally inform him about the leaky homes crisis, and how many times did he or his office follow up with the authority or the Department of Internal Affairs to ensure formal advice was forthcoming?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): Formal advice on the issue was provided to me on 30 April, 8 months after my response to Prendos in August 2001. During that time it is my understanding that the Building Industry Authority became aware that the weathertightness of the building steering group, referred to in my response to Prendos, was struggling to reach an objective analysis of the problem. The Building Industry Authority therefore took steps to initiate an independent analysis in late 2001. That resulted in the formation of the overview group on the weathertightness of buildings. Officials exercised judgment on the examination of complex issues, including when and whether they need to inform Ministers on such matters. The Building Industry Authority exercised that judgment and exercised leadership in setting up the independent overview group.
Dr Wayne Mapp: In the light of that answer is the Minister not concerned that the Building Industry Authority and its chief executive did not inform him of the inquiry until 30 April; notwithstanding that clearly it was a major event, why was the Minister kept in the dark, and is he concerned about that?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Obviously when I look back in hindsight, yes, I would have liked to be informed earlier.
Dr Wayne Mapp: In exercising the Minister's hindsight, would he like to exercise his foresight and change the building code to stop construction--or repairs--that use untreated timber and that have no ventilation, so that New Zealanders can have confidence that homes being built right now will not rot in the future?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Using hindsight, I most certainly would because it was under National that the changes came about, and the Labour Government will correct them.
Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you check the questions I think you will find one of my questions was by leave, and therefore not in the normal allotment, and I think you have unnecessarily cut us out of the last question for the day.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way. The member has had one more than his allocated number of questions. He had 11 when he usually has 10. That question was the question for which he asked leave, but, of course, that, as an extra question does not count in the total.
End of Questions for Oral Answer.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)