Questions Of The Day Transcript - 5 November 2002
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 5 November 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Immigration Service-Conflict of Interest
1. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does the New Zealand Immigration Service have any safeguards in place to ensure staff have no conflict of interest when dealing with any contracts for service?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Yes.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If that is the case, can the Minister confirm whether Chris Hampton, General Manager, New Zealand Immigration Service, is the same Chris Hampton who was a shareholder and former director of private information technology company, Biz A to Z, and is it true that that company, with its former and current shareholders, has obtained from the New Zealand Immigration Service contracts for service amounting to tens of thousands of dollars?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, and no.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. They say that brevity is the soul of wit, but this is ridiculous. The reality is that I asked the Minister in my primary question whether there were safeguards, and the answer was yes. I then asked whether it is true that the general manager, Chris Hampton, is involved in such an information technology company.
An Hon. Member: Yes.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Well then, how can there be safeguards? [Interruption] I will get to the third point, do not worry about that.
Mr SPEAKER: Specific answers were given to the questions concerned.
Dianne Yates: Is the Minister satisfied with the standards applied when contracts are let by the New Zealand Immigration Service?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, we have guides relating to contracting in the Department of Labour, and we have the Immigration Service code of conduct--both of which require the identification of conflicts of interest.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is this Minister saying that a company established by New Zealand Immigration Service personnel, including Chris Hampton, can, by way of contracts and sharing of information, get an exclusive and unique relationship with the department, and is that sort of nepotistic and insider behaviour all kosher to this smiling, incompetent Minister?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I refer that member to the questions that Rodney Hide asked me last year, where he asked whether any payments had been made by the Immigration Service to a company called Biz A to Z, and the answer was no. There are no contracts with Biz A to Z.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table, first of all, the company establishment of the company about which I have spoken this afternoon.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a second document, which sets out the contract involvement of this company with her department.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I seek leave to table the report that I was given, showing that Chris Hampton and Peter Servos identified conflicts of interest, that there are no contracts with Biz A to Z, that there is a contract with another company related to Karen Chenoy, who is the contractor involved, and that all of this information was disclosed and no improper behaviour has occurred.
Mr SPEAKER: I just want to say to the Minister that I heard what the Minister said. The Minister went on for far too long, and I did not require her to do so. Is their any objection to her document being tabled? There is not.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On the first day of this session I raise an issue again, where you saw fit to stay in your chair throughout the Minister giving a very long point of order, whilst a few moments earlier you quickly rose to your feet to stop the leader of New Zealand First, midway through his point of order. I seek from you a degree of fairness, that when a Minister deliberately ignored you and carried on for quite some time, that you take the same action that you would take with the Opposition.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a valid point of order, I criticise the Minister for her performance.
2. Hon. PETER DUNNE (Leader--United Future) to the Prime Minister: Is she confident New Zealand has sufficient domestic counter-terrorism resources to prevent or respond effectively to any terrorist threat that may arise?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, the New Zealand Police is the agency with the prime responsibility for domestic counter-terrorism. I have been advised that there are sufficient resources within the Police--assisted by the Defence Force as required--to respond to any threat and to conduct counter-terrorism operations within New Zealand. It would be silly to withdraw the SAS from an active deployment to assist at this time, as the leader of the Opposition suggested.
Hon. Peter Dunne: In the light of that answer, and the Prime Minister's last comment, I ask her what confidence she has, and what assurances she has received, if any, that the deployment of the SAS in Afghanistan has the widespread support of the House?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: When this matter was debated in this House around a year ago, all parties, as I recall, with the exception of the Greens, supported that deployment. I would hope that situation still prevails, notwithstanding an excess of ``Mao'' time, a trip to China that had bizarre effects on the Leader of the Opposition last Friday.
Hon. Bill English: What actions has the Government taken since the Bali bombing to upgrade New Zealand's counter-terrorist capability, given the public concern about a heightened level of terrorist threat?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: As the member knows the Government announced a package of new counter-terrorism measures and spending in January. I have just returned, as have two other Ministers, from the APEC Summit where New Zealand also signed up to new secure trade initiatives, which involve border and trade security. I am confident that this Government meets these responsibilities very responsibly.
Tim Barnett: What initiatives has this Government undertaken to improve our ability to prevent terrorist attacks?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: As I indicated, the Government announced a package of measures in January, and we did undertake a comprehensive review of counter-terrorism after the September 11 attacks. Of course, new legislation was also enacted, more is coming, and ongoing work is being undertaken to strengthen border control.
Ron Mark: How can the people of New Zealand have any confidence in the priority that she and her Government allocate the provision of resources for the fight against domestic counter-terrorism when they read headlines in The Dominion Post that show that the SIS continues to be overstretched and under-resourced, that it receives a budget of only $16 million, whilst on the other hand she blithely hands out $40 million in foreign aid to Indonesia?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The member would know that an aid programme has been in place in Indonesia for many years, including when his party was in coalition with the National Party. The member would also know, if he looked at the trend of spending on the SIS, that under this Government it has improved quite considerably.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Will the Prime Minister confirm that the most important resource in counter-terrorism is intelligence, that New Zealand has been receiving almost no military intelligence from the United States, and that the distinction between military and terrorist intelligence is artificial; given those facts, is it not correct that the best way to secure New Zealand is for this country to re-activate our active membership of ANZUS, and given that is the case why do we not do that?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I agree with the member's first point, which is that intelligence is the front line. I remind the member that when he was a member of the fourth Labour Government certain decisions were taken that lead to some types of intelligence not being shared with New Zealand. However, I have given the House an assurance, as have other Ministers, that matters that impact directly on New Zealand and are brought to the notice of our intelligence partners, are shared with us.
Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree with the Customs Service that there are huge privacy issues associated with some of the counter-terrorism measures coming out of the APEC meeting that she referred to--namely putting fingerprints and other diametric information on passports--and what is she doing to address those privacy concerns?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: There are always privacy concerns when one is dealing with these issues, and that is why the Terrorism Suppression Bill was before a select committee for a long time as Parliament wrestled with how to get the balance right. I am confident that we do get it right in New Zealand.
Hon. Peter Dunne: Which Government intelligence agencies are responsible for assessing counter-terrorism intelligence, and what confidence has the Prime Minister in their ability to do so, given changed circumstances in the light of the Bali incident?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: We have a range of agencies that work on the issues. Obviously the Security Intelligence Service, the Government Communication Security Bureau, and the domestic and external security coordination team, and we also have the External Assessments Bureau. All of these agencies have a role to play.
Partnerships--Prime Minister's Response
3. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What was her response at the meeting of 17 September 2002 to the proposals put to her by Dr Ross Armstrong regarding public private partnerships?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): My response to the high-level discussion was that dialogue with the private sector was a good idea, and that any follow-up on detail should be with the Minister of Finance.
Hon. Bill English: Why did she work so hard to have her office give the impression that this was not her responsibility, that the meeting had been held because she had been badgered, and that Dr Armstrong's problems were nothing to do with her, when he said himself that he had approval from the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Leaving aside that series of cliches, let me be clear that the meeting was held at Dr Armstrong's request. The consequence was exactly as I said in my first answer.
Helen Duncan: Does the Government regularly involve private sector people in policy development?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Of course it does. The Government maintains close dialogue with sectors across the community and encourages input into policy development by those with specialised knowledge. Unlike some in the Opposition, we do not see anything wrong with Ministers exchanging views with the private sector.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister expecting the country to believe that she was going to have a meeting with someone as high as Paul Keating, a former Treasurer and Prime Minister of Australia, that she knew nothing about the events that were being discussed before the meeting, and that she kept no record after the meeting, or did we just see a pig fly past that window?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I am not suffering from the same illusion as the member. I enjoyed my dinner with Paul Keating, and a wide-ranging discussion.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall question No. 2 on 18 February 1999: ``In light of the Cabinet Office Manual provisions that Cabinet Ministers `must conduct themselves at all times in the knowledge that their role is a public one; appearances and propriety can be as important as actual conflict of interest in establishing what is appropriate behaviour', ''; and given that the Independent on 30 October stated: ``It is simply not credible to suggest that when Armstrong brought Clark, Keating, and Auckland barrister Kristy McDonald together in Vinnies Restaurant in Herne Bay on the night of Wednesday 16 October, he remained silent about the progress that he had made in drawing together all the elements of the scheme''; would she not consider that she has not met the standards set down in the Cabinet manual?
Mr SPEAKER: The question was a long one, but I will allow it.
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I most certainly have met the standards. There was a high-level discussion, a great deal of which was about foreign policy.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Prime Minister assure Parliament that any public/private partnerships for new land transport infrastructure will avoid the problems seen in Australia and elsewhere, where the risk has been carried by the public sector and excessive private profits were made by the private partners, along with numerous lawyers, negotiators, underwriters, and others, who clipped the ticket?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: It is exactly Australian experiences like that, which make it valuable to talk with Mr Keating.
Hon. Peter Dunne: Could she indicate precisely what activities of Dr Armstrong in this affair were deemed by the Government to be improper, and led to the pressure being placed upon him to tender his resignation?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Specifically, the implication that there might be private benefit from being involved in the dialogue.
Hon. Bill English: Is it now the Prime Minister's position that she had full knowledge of what Dr Ross Armstrong was doing, which he describes as: ``The benefits for participation is to contribute to the development of policy and legal framework for PPPs that not only will work and be in the public interest, but will open up huge opportunities for their businesses''?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: When the matter was raised with Dr Cullen and me by Dr Armstrong, it was agreed that dialogue with the private sector was a good idea, and that the details should be taken up with Dr Cullen.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the Prime Minister might want to reconsider her answer, given that earlier on she said that the dinner at Vinnies Restaurant involved a high-level discussion with Mr Keating, mostly about foreign policy; but a bit later said that it was Mr Keating's expertise in public/private partnerships and his knowledge of the details of them that made that dinner so important. Which one was right?
Mr SPEAKER: That is a debatable matter.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The noise level was sufficient that I was unsure whether you ruled out that question. I thought it was an extremely important one.
Mr SPEAKER: The member raised a point of order, not a question.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Oh! Could we have it as a question?
Mr SPEAKER: Now, come on.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Could I have leave to have it put to the Prime Minister as a question?
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Hon. Richard Prebble: It certainly sounded like a question, to me.
Mr SPEAKER: It didn't to me.
4. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: When will she release the review of Auckland mental health services, for which a draft action plan was originally expected in August 2002, and which she stated in the House would be provided to her in final form by 31 October 2002?
Hon. RUTH DYSON (Acting Minister of Health): When it has been received, and I have had a chance to read it. I have no interest in, or intention of, delaying its release.
Sue Bradford: Is one of the reasons that mentally ill people have been held in Auckland police cells over the last few days, the high likelihood that the three Auckland district health boards have spent Government funding allocated for mental health, on other things, and are they under investigation for this?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: Issues like that will be addressed in the review, and that is certainly one of the possibilities.
Steve Chadwick: Who is responsible for writing the report?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: The Mental Health Commission--an independent organisation--has done this review.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why did she not absolutely guarantee that ring-fenced mental health money was used to provide mental health services, when funding was devolved to district health boards, and is this syphoning-off of mental health money one of the reasons that Auckland mental health services are under such pressure, once again being treated as a Cinderella service?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: The district health boards were given clear directions on a number of occasions regarding the ring-fenced money, and now it is clear they did not understand that. That issue is being addressed.
Ron Mark: Is the Minister aware that every week police officers are having to deal with mentally unwell people in their custody, and that in Christchurch, in particular, the police often are being told, when they are calling for mental health services to take these people off their hands and put them in appropriate accommodation, that there are no beds available for them and that the best thing the police can do is to keep those people there, because at least they will be under observation; if so, what is she doing about it?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: Yes, I am aware of it, because that issue is often raised either through the media or directly as a question in this House. As has also been addressed in responses to those same questions, considerably more money has been put in to providing mental health services, including step-down facilities and acute beds, particularly in the areas the member noted.
Heather Roy: Can the Minister guarantee this House that a lack of mental health beds and inadequacies in the mental health system are not endangering psychiatric patients and members of the public?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: No.
Sue Bradford: Why was the Minister able to state to the House on 8 October, in response to questions from me, that ``There are now additional beds being provided for forensic patients in Auckland'', and ``step-down beds have been added in the Auckland area'', when she was unable to answer specific written questions confirming the existence of any new beds in replies to my written questions on 25 October?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: The reason for that is that the specific information that the member required was not available by the due date, and I certainly regret that, but that information has now been provided to the member.
Sue Bradford: I seek leave to table the Minister's answers to written questions about extra mental health beds in Auckland, in which she says that the information is not yet available.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Judy Turner: Has the Minister asked for the review to include specific details regarding the temporary housing of mental health patients in non-designated facilities.
Hon. RUTH DYSON: The review was instigated by the Mental Health Commission--an independent organisation. But I am sure that issues such as that will be included in it. It is a comprehensive review of all mental health services in the Auckland region.
5. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National--North Shore) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: On what basis does he assert that the Government was not warned about the rotting homes crisis until April this year, given the previous Minister of Internal Affairs had been advised of the problem by Labour member Ann Hartley in May 2000, and he had personally signed a letter to Mr O'Sullivan of Prendos on the issue in August 2001?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs: On the basis that statutory responsibility for advising the Government on issues relating to building control lies with the Building Industry Authority. That is one of its key functions.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why was the Building Industry Authority allowed to suspend its internal accountability inquiry just 2 weeks ago, given that Dr Cullen is now blaming the authority for not keeping Ministers informed?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the latter point, I note that the member himself issued a press statement just a few days ago calling on the Building Industry Authority to explain why it did not inform Ministers of the situation.
Lynne Pillay: What step is the Government taking to assist homeowners affected by leaky building syndrome?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is providing a free advice and assessment service through a specially designed website and a toll-free line. We are also establishing a dispute resolution service to provide people with a low-cost and efficient means of getting redress. Entry into that system and the initial assessment is free. Mediation will cost a flat $200 fee; adjudication $400. Persons moving from mediation to adjudication in the event that mediation breaks down will have to pay only the $200 difference.
Brent Catchpole: In the light of the fact that the Government appointed the Building Industry Authority and that therefore the Minister is responsible for the authority's incompetence over the leaky house syndrome, why has he not asked for their resignations, and why will not stop hiding behind his earlier statement that he did not know anything about it before 30 April 2002; and why will he not do the honourable thing and resign himself?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the Acting Minister, let me say that calling for resignations should not become a habit.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleague is asking why this Minister who appointed the board is not now taking responsibility for it, whereupon he said that calling for resignations by Ministers is a very bad habit.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I did not say that.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Yes, the member did. Well, words to that--
Mr SPEAKER: Points of order will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: No attempt whatsoever was made to sheet home the accountability of these appointments by this Government, and that sort of answer is ridiculous.
Mr SPEAKER: His resignation was called for. He is entitled to respond to it. He did so.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not care; you can tease out of it what you like, but my colleague is asking: ``You appointed the board; why don't you take responsibility for it?''. He also asked: ``Why haven't you sacked them?''. There was no answer whatsoever.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say that I have to judge whether the Minister addressed the question. I have judged that he did.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I uphold what you say on that point. I had difficulty actually hearing Dr Cullen, but I thought that he was failing to answer as the Minister. That is a point that you can call him up on. He cannot say: ``Well, now that they have been asking for resignations, I am the Acting Minister.'' When he gets up he is speaking on behalf of the Minister, and we would really like to know, while he is speaking on behalf of the Minister, why the Minister does not feel the need to resign.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the acting Minister since approximately 8 a.m. on Sunday, I feel no need to resign over the leaking building syndrome.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Prebble is right. The question is asked of the Minister, and when the member is answering as the Minister, he is considered the actual Minister. Perhaps he would like to rephrase the last sentence of his answer.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Rather than rephrase the last answer, I will try to answer the first part of the many parts of that supplementary question. It is quite simple. Because a Minister appoints a board, he or she is not responsible for its failure to give advice.
Deborah Coddington: Which is more culpable and needs to go--a Building Industry Authority disregarded by the Minister, or the Minister himself, who has ignored advice from his own party members, and does not read his correspondence, and who, despite all that, believes he is fit to be a Minister?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister has not disregarded any advice from the Building Industry Authority. If the member had cared to read through the 11/2 boxes of information put out yesterday--which the National Party has failed to do, even though it had it all weekend--she would have discovered that the Building Industry Authority did not give the Minister any advice until April this year.
Mike Ward: Is the Minister not concerned that the proposal to treat oil timber framing to ______ level will not prevent the growth of the dangerous mould stachybotrys or the disintegration of skirting boards etc., and what does he intend to do from now on to make sure that weather is kept out of buildings?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Never mind the weather. My understanding is that the Building Industry Authority is considering, and is likely to promulgate very soon, a return to the ______ standard for framing timber. The only concern is to make sure that the industry is capable of meeting that requirement in the short term.
Murray Smith: Can the Minister confirm that the fact that exterior coating systems are not waterproof, and that there is a problem of moisture ingress where such systems have been used, has been known within the industry at least since January 1998, which was during National's term in Government?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, ingress of water through walls is not something that is confined to monolithic cladding systems. If the member has an old house with weatherboarding on it, I advise him not to take the weatherboards off and look at the water stains on the inside.
Murray Smith: I seek leave to table a January 1998 bulletin from the Building Research Association of New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that successive Ministers of Internal Affairs have received letters--and in particular George Hawkins, who signed a letter on August 2001--how can the Minister possibly maintain in this Parliament that he did not receive notice until this year?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is a good question with a good answer. If the member cares to read the answer prepared by the Building Industry Authority, he will see that it signally fails to bring to the attention of the Minister the potential seriousness of the problems that were emerging.
Special Air Services--Withdrawal from
6. JANET MACKEY (NZ Labour--East Coast) to the Prime Minister: How has the Government responded to calls to withdraw the SAS from its current deployment in Afghanistan?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The Government's reaction to the call from the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the SAS from deployment in Afghanistan right now is one of amazement. We consider that deployment to have been an important part of New Zealand's commitment to the international campaign against terrorism. Our forces have been commended by no less than the President of the United States and the chair of the joint chiefs of staff for their work. We believe New Zealanders should also be proud of what they are doing.
Janet Mackey: When will the SAS troops return home?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The SAS will come home when they can no longer reasonably be rotated because of the small size of the force, and not because the Leader of the Opposition has had an attack of the willies.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Government assure the New Zealand public that it will increase defence spending in the same way as Australia and the United Kingdom so that we can maintain a decent-sized Special Air Services force both in Afghanistan, also in New Zealand, and in the region to protect ourselves against terrorism?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Special Air Services is at a size where it can make a good contribution overseas as well as maintaining a necessary degree of protection at home.
Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree that the resources devoted to the Special Air Services operation in Afghanistan would be better spent on a replacement unit devoted to helping remove some of the 5 million landmines that are killing and wounding so many Afghan people and that just recently wounded three of our own soldiers?
Rt Hon. Helen Clark: It is not a matter of either/or. As the member will know, New Zealand has a very good anti-landmine capacity. We have helped in other countries, including currently, as I recall, in Laos. It may be one of the ways in which New Zealand can help in Afghanistan in the future.
Ron Mark: Would the Prime Minister not agree that in actual fact deploying the Special Air Services to kill al-Qaeda terrorists is far better than waiting for them to tread on a landmine?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Government is satisfied that the Special Air Services is doing a very good job as part of the international effort against terrorism, a key part of which is to root out al-Qaeda in the Taliban.
Dr Wayne Mapp: I seek leave to table a document prepared by Parliamentary Library today that shows that Australia has increased its spending 15 percent in the last 2 years, the USA by 18 percent, and the UK by 3 percent, but New Zealand reduced it by 13.2 percent.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
East Timor--Troop Transport
7. Hon. KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader--ACT NZ) to the Minister of Defence: Why has the Government agreed to bringing our troops home from East Timor on a hired Egyptian plane against our troops' and their families' expressed wishes?
Hon. MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): New Zealand Defence Force troops will return to New Zealand on an AMC Aviation airliner chartered, in the normal manner, by the United Nations, at the conclusion of the New Zealand Battalion group's commitment to peacekeeping in East Timor. New Zealand officials have, in negotiations with the United Nations, made clear New Zealand's expectations that a credible operator, meeting recognised international operations and safety standards, would be contracted. Egypt Air has been chartered by AMC Aviation to fly the Airbus A310, and is a member of the International Air Transport Association. I am assured by the New Zealand Defence Force, following its consultations with the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority, that there are no security, air worthiness, or other concerns relating to this flight.
Hon. Ken Shirley: If AMC Aviation is so reliable, why did the Government not use that airline to carry the group of New Zealanders to Cairo for the recent El Alamein commemoration services, as, if what the Minister says is true, then it would have been more cost-effective, more reliable, and the people would not have been left stranded on the tarmac in Brisbane after the first leg of the journey?
Hon. MARK BURTON: As I said in the primary answer, the United Nations contracted the AMC Aviation charter flight. The New Zealand Defence Force used the 727. I will not stand in this House like the member who just resumed his seat and use it to take cheap potshots at the good people of the New Zealand Defence Force.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to look at that answer and advise whether it meets the Standing Orders requirements for a Minister to finish off his answer by claiming that Mr Shirley had taken a cheap potshot at the Defence Force. In fact, he had done the exact opposite. He asked why troops could not be brought back in a recognised carrier.
Mr SPEAKER: I listened to the answer. It is one of those marginal ones. A comment was made that is often made, but on reflection perhaps I should have ruled that last answer out.
Hon. MARK BURTON: Can I clarify the point, because the member, in his question as I heard it, referred to a completely different journey by a different flight, and implied the use of the Boeing 727 owned and operated by the New Zealand Defence Force. If that is not correct I apologise.[Interruption] I have not finished answering the member's question. I am giving another answer to the question.[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: This is speaking to a point of order and I am hearing it. I was listening to the Hon. Mark Burton who, I assumed, was speaking to the point of order, and I was allowing him to do so.
Hon. MARK BURTON: As I say, if I misunderstood the intent of the question I apologise, but if the question related to the use of this particular airline, I reply that it is an internationally recognised airline.
Hon. Ken Shirley: I certainly did take offence at being accused of taking a cheap shot, because the very point I was making was that we could have provided better services for our people, and I was highlighting the fact that the equipment of our armed forces has been run into the ground.
Mr SPEAKER: That, of course, is introducing--
Gerry Brownlee: Four years of Labour.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, I am on my feet. There might be 4--I think it is 3--years of Labour, but the member may well be asked to leave the Chamber if he keeps on interjecting when I am on my feet. The point of order comment made by the member was advancing a debating argument rather than speaking to the point of order.
Mark Peck: Has the Minister received any other information relating to the use of Egypt Air?
Hon. MARK BURTON: Yes, I have. I am advised that Egypt Air flies to major cities across five continents, including such security-conscious airports as Sydney and Los Angeles. I note that Egypt Air has been previously used by the UN, in November last year, to fly New Zealand Defence Force personnel returning to New Zealand from East Timor following the 4th Battalion Group rotation.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why does the Government not listen to the concerns of the soldiers themselves instead of dismissing them as emotive, pay the extra, and get an airline that the soldiers have confidence in?
Hon. MARK BURTON: I think it is important that when concerns are raised, members of this House show some measure of responsibility not to further raise the concern of families and loved ones. I point to that member's colleague and the defence spokesperson for National, who, I have to say, took a responsible and well-informed line on this.
8. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour--Dunedin South) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: When and why did New Zealand make a commitment to support energy development in North Korea?
Hon. PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): New Zealand's decision to support energy development in North Korea was part of an international effort to prevent that country using a form of nuclear energy that allowed production of weapons-grade plutonium. The decision was made in 1995 by the then National Government to pay around $500,000 a year towards heavy fuel oil, and the payments have been made each year since, including 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999. All of this makes rather astonishing and bizarre the comments made by Nick Smith, a member of the National Government through that whole period, that these payments were an outrage and were made by Helen Clark.
David Benson-Pope: Is the support New Zealand has given to Korean energy development organisations consistent with the need, as Dr Smith puts it, to ``join with allies like the United States to toughen up on ratbag States like North Korea.''?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: New Zealand's contribution to the Korea Energy Development Organisation, as Dr Smith will be aware, was made at the request of, and with encouragement from, the United States. New Zealand, however, intends to terminate its support for the organisation, unless the uranium enrichment programme recently disclosed in North Korea is ended and that country complies with its international commitments to stop nuclear proliferation. In pursuing that outcome, New Zealand will respect the views expressed by the United States, Japan, and Korea, the major contributors to the Korean Energy Development Organisation, that this matter is best resolved by dialogue rather than by rhetoric.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why has the Minister not written directly to the North Korean Government condemning the flagrant abuse and demanding back the money, instead of playing local politics, when my colleague has pointed out that North Korea is in flagrant breach?
Hon. PHIL GOFF: It is blatantly obvious to everybody in this House that the only person who has tried to play political party politics with this issue is Mr Nick Smith himself, who has fell on his nose in just the same way Bill English did in calling for the SAS to come back from Afghanistan.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table my column in which I made it very plain that every member of this Parliament should be concerned that taxpayers' money is being used wrongly to develop North Korea's nuclear--
Mr SPEAKER: Leave has been sought to table that column. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon. PHIL GOFF: I seek leave to table a comment made by Mr Nick Smith who said that the Sunday News was not a rigorous intellectual newspaper, and his column proves it.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Scampi--Quota Management System
9. PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National--Whangarei) to the Minister of Fisheries: Will he delay gazetting his decision in principle to bring scampi into the Quota Management System in 2003 until after the Primary Production Committee has completed its inquiry into the scampi fishery; if not, why not?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Minister of Fisheries): I need to decide in the next week or two whether to gazette my decision in principle to bring scampi into the quota management system, and if so, on what date. Before making those two decisions, I hope to have seen the final terms of reference for the committee's inquiry, and to have had time to consider the legal, and other, advice available to me.
Phil Heatley: What good reason is there for the Minister to gazette, or legislate, besides avoiding inconvenient--I think he said--``protracted delays'', given that that treats the decision of the courts, the State Services Commissioner's independent investigation, and his own colleagues on the select committee inquiry, with contempt?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: On the contrary, there is no rush. The first attempts to introduce scampi into the quota management system were in 1996 or 1997, or thereabouts. I have to decide whether to introduce scampi into the quota management system, and if so, whether I choose the date of 1 October 2003, 1 October 2004, or some other date. That is hardly a rush job.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Does the Minister believe that there is corruption in the Ministry of Fisheries?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: No, I do not. The allegations of corruption levelled at current ministry officials have been examined by the Serious Fraud Office and an independent barrister commissioned by the Solicitor-General. Both the Serious Fraud Office and the barrister have found that the officials do not merit further investigation. I note, too, that the State Services Commissioner has said that he, too, considers the allegations to be without foundation.
Gerrard Eckhoff: While considering when to gazette, has he received from the Rt Hon. Winston Peters the evidence of corruption that the member told the House, on 24 April, he had in his possession; if not, what conclusion does the Minister draw?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Mr Peters has made numerous allegations that he has information to hand. To the best of my knowledge, neither I nor the ministry have received any such evidence, though it is true that we have received a large number of affidavits from sources other than Mr Peters.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Is the Minister denying my going to his office and privately seeing him on a number of matters to do with fisheries, on which he ordered an in-house investigation, and then told me that everything was OK; yes or no?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Frankly, I cannot remember.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand the member's passion, but I think Mr Peters cannot call across the House: ``You lying sod''. Probably the right thing for him to do would be to table the information so that we could all judge.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member made that comment, I did not hear it. If he did make the comment, I want him to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: It had better not be about this matter that I have asked the member to withdraw--
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: It precisely is. I am entitled--
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member to please be seated. I will not warn him again. Members have to withdraw and apologise for a comment that is out of order. They cannot then proceed to raise the issue by way of a point of order. That is not done.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I tell you for one last time that I will not intimidated by you when I am legitimately raising a point of order. I seek to make a personal explanation. That is within my right. I seek leave now to do so on the matter the Minister talked about.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is seeking leave to make a personal explanation?
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Yes, I am. I do not have my diary notes with me now but I recall very, very well seeing this Minister privately in his office on a matter to do with the fisheries and my concerns about certain bureaucratic behaviour. He knows full well that his staff will confirm that. He knows full well who was there at the time. To come to this House and say that he does not know or that he cannot remember is really outrageous.
Mr SPEAKER: Unfortunately, that is getting into debating material. That in no way justifies the member calling across the House the comment that he did--in no way at all.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am just trying to be helpful. If the member believes what he does, then, given the situation, the Standing Orders state that a member cannot raise a point of order, and the like. He should put down what is called a letter of privilege.
Mr SPEAKER: Exactly. I do not want that commented on here, the member is absolutely right.
Phil Heatley: Why does the Minister continue to have confidence in the ministry's current officials, given that they are largely the same officials who operated during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and given that he is so mindful of the terms of reference of the select committee inquiry into allegations of corruption within the Ministry of Fisheries that he wants to include them in the Gazette; why is he so confident in his officials?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I have confidence in my officials and that, frankly, is the beginning and end of it. I have no reason to believe that they have done anything corrupt, although allegations that they may have should be brought to me at the earliest possible opportunity, in order that they can be investigated as fully as I am able.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister believe that it is important for the allocation of fisheries quota to be carried out, and to be seen to be carried out, in a fair manner; if so, how will he ensure that this is the case when scampi quota is allocated?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Who is going to argue against fairness but, like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder and that is what is at the heart of this set of court cases and the furore surrounding them. The long and short of it is that if there were a change in allocation, there would arise a new set of people who would consider themselves to have been badly done by.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the Court of Appeal ruling in which Mr Hodgson's officials argue they had no duty to act fairly.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Phil Heatley: My question to the Minister-
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has had two supplementary questions. I call question No. 10.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I beg the member's pardon. I called the member as I thought he was going to ask to table a document, not because he wanted a supplementary question. The member knows the rules.
Phil Heatley: With all due respect, I have not said what my point of order is.
Mr SPEAKER: The member started to ask a question.
Phil Heatley: No, I started to ask a question and you closed me down. I then asked for a point of order, and you assumed that my point of order was regarding the fact that you closed down my supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member give us what his point of order is.
Phil Heatley: That is exactly what I am trying to do. My point of order is that it is usual in this House for the person who asks the primary question to ask the last supplementary question. I thought I had asked the last one, after all the questions had been asked, and then you allowed Jeanette Fitzsimons to ask a supplementary question, so I simply seek the leave of this House to ask a further supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: I determine the order. Occasionally I do not see that the Greens have the right to ask a supplementary question. Normally, the Greens would have got it ahead of the National member. There is nothing wrong and nothing unusual about doing it the other way round. I will make that decision. The member has sought leave to ask another supplementary question. Is there any objection? There is objection.
10. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is he seeing any signs that the increased number of Asians in the Auckland region is putting pressure on Auckland police?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Police: Demand for police services is predominantly driven by population. Any increase in population tends to result in increases in calls on the police for service. However, I am advised that members of the Asian community are under-represented in terms of offending in New Zealand, and indeed make an extraordinary contribution to New Zealand's economic and social development.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Am I to assume from the Minister's comments that he has no awareness of the Shore News community newspaper's article of Wednesday, 30 October, under the heading ``Asian teens run amuck'', which goes on to state: ``Foreign students are running amuck on the Shore and police are being left to pick up the pieces while absentee parents have no idea what their kids are getting up to.''; and what is he going to do about that?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I am aware of that article, and particularly where the newspaper spells amok wrongly. I am also aware that there is another comment from a teacher at the Shore English School of Language, who says that these teenagers are facing ``normal teenage problems''. There are many demands on police resources, including things like late-night activities from New Zealand First members of Parliament, and the police respond as best they can.
Mr SPEAKER: That last sentence was out of order. The member will withdraw it.
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw.
Mr SPEAKER: And apologise, please.
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: And apologise.
Dave Hereora: What factors have been identified as putting pressure on police resources in recent years?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The Minister is advised that the biggest factors included the previous National Government's $100 million INCIS white elephant, and Bill English's proposed $24 million cut to police funding. By contrast, the current Government has increased funding, from $861 million to $960 million. This Government is serious about tackling crime in New Zealand, unlike the previous lot.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Given that the Minister has told this House every 6 months, for the last 3 years, that he would get the understaffing crisis in Auckland under control, did the Minister release figures last week that show that Greater Auckland City will be 130 front-line staff short during the America's Cup and over the very busy summer period in Auckland, and what will that do to arrest crime in our major city?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: There are issues to be addressed in Auckland, and this Government is tackling the issues by putting more resources into things like recruitment. However, I do think that National's call to bring the SAS home is a bit of an overreaction.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of police conviction rate statistics, which show that MŽori convictions are nearly nine times that of Asian rates, five times that of European rates, and double that of Pacific Island rates, can the Minister tell the House what strategy he has in place to address MŽori crime that would substantially reduce New Zealand's unacceptably high crime rate?
Mr SPEAKER: That, of course, is outside the question itself. The Minister may reply very, very briefly.
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The Minister has made many, many pronouncements on how this Government will be tackling crime rates generally across the country, including the groups that the member raised.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister confident that the police are being adequately resourced to protect the safety of all citizens; and, if so, can the Minister explain why a private citizen in Christchurch felt impelled to take the initiative of creating a safe zone for Asians, given the increase in racially based harassment there and the climate of fear, fuelled in no small part by the rhetoric of certain politicians?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: In answer to the first part of the question, yes, I am. I am not aware of the case the member raises, but I do say that some of the scaremongering and fearmongering by certain politicians in this Parliament does not help race relations in this country, and I ask them to stop it.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why has the Minister given the House an assurance about the Government's serious attitude towards police numbers, when Mr Hawkins, the Minister, on 17 October gave the House an answer, saying that the sworn target police numbers for the North Shore, Waitakere district, fail by a number as high as 38; why make those nonsensical statements when the facts do not bear him out?
Hon. PAUL SWAIN: The answer did address that there are concerns and that the Government is addressing them by putting in additional resources, including recruitment.
Hon. Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table an official police document showing that Greater Auckland will be over 130 front-line officers short during the highly security conscious America's Cup race.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the police conviction rates by ethnic group.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Ron Mark: I seek leave to table a press release from George Hawkins dated 13 January 1997 New Zealanders Deserve Better For Their Police Force, which states that the Government should do more to recruit police for Auckland.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
11. CLAYTON COSGROVE (NZ Labour--Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the state of the New Zealand economy?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): It is time to drop our customary modesty. The GDP figures for June show New Zealand with the fastest-growing economy in the OECD; the September tax out-turn shows the tax take is running 3.5 percent ahead of the pre-election fiscal update forecast, and, finally, Moody's has returned New Zealand to a triple A rating for the first time since 1983. What National lost Labour has regained.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Members of this House and the public cannot possibly hear answers over a barrage--[Interruption] I want to finish what I want to say--of clapping from the Labour Party, coming from the back bench in particular. I want to hear the part where Mr Cullen says the share market is still at a lousy 2,000. I missed it.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member knows that is not a point of order.
Clayton Cosgrove: What other evidence has he seen of support for, and confidence in, the Government's handling of the economy?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The latest National Bank Business Outlook shows confidence rebounding, and the own activity measure, which is regarded as a more reliable indicator of growth, is firmly in positive territory with almost 90 percent of respondents expecting their further prospects to either improve or remain steady over the next 12 months.
Dr Don Brash: Can the Minister confirm that the long-term growth projections detailed in his May Budget are not sufficient to see New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD; and can he also confirm that that means we would not be able to afford the same quality of health and education services as those who live in faster growing economies?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot. However, what I can confirm is that the removal of the failed policies of the 1990s and a more growth-friendly monetary policy under this Government will assist in returning this country to the top half of the OECD. I note that The Economist has, on at least two occasions, praised the changes to the policy targets agreement, much criticised by the member opposite.
Stephen Franks: Why was the Minister so modest that he did not deal also with the recent reports of increasing income inequalities, and wage increases for Government employees at twice the rate of workers paid from private funds?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That last point is certainly completely untrue. The control of wages in the public sector has been quite severe over recent years, and is a problem the Government faces on the fiscal side.
Gordon Copeland: Is the Government planning any measures to encourage high levels of business savings with a view to increasing the capital funds available to New Zealand businesses in order to further stimulate economic growth; if so, what specific measures are planned, if not, why not?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government is looking at a number of measures in relation to savings, certainly in relation to employment-based superannuation, superannuation in general, and the attraction of overseas investment. Of course, while the great majority of New Zealand corporates pay out nearly all their profits by way of dividends, a cut in the corporate tax rate would not increase savings but merely change the timing of taxation.
Hon. Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a report showing that the change in New Zealand's Moody's credit rating has nothing to do with our credit worthiness, and everything to do with the reclassification of the definition.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose, is there any objection? There is objection.
Special Air Services--Withdrawal from
12. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does the Prime Minister agree with comments by the Hon Bill English in an interview with Global News and Sport last Friday that ``with a higher level of threat to New Zealand the SAS should really be back in this part of the world''; if not, why not?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No, and I understand that Mr English no longer agrees with his comments either. However, I do note paradoxically that the member who asked the question was the sole supporter of Mr English's call to bring the SAS back home now. My reason for disagreeing is that withdrawing the SAS in mid-deployment is not only unnecessary but would also send a bizarre message to those we work with in the campaign against terrorism.
Keith Locke: Would it help reduce the confusion of members like Mr English if the Government lifted its blanket suppression on all information on New Zealand's role in Operation Enduring Freedom so that we did not have admissions like that from Mr English to Global News and Sport that ``We don't know what role the SAS is playing in Afghanistan''; if not, why not?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Alas, helping Mr English would not be quite that easy.
David Cunliffe: Is there any case for bringing the SAS home now?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No. The SAS is in the middle of an active deployment. The call to bring the SAS home now was ill considered and calls into question the judgment of the person who made it.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Prime Minister confirm that she told the House today that the SAS would have to return when troops can no longer be rotated, and does that not prove that the 13.2 percent decrease in defence spending over the last 2 years must be reversed to protect the security of our country?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: This Government has been working to make up the 18 percent cut in real terms that occurred in the 1990s under the National Government.
End of Questions for Oral Answer.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)