Questions Of The Day Transcript - 6 November 2002
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 6 November 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Genetic Modification--Coexistence in Agriculture
1. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: When did the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry presentation on how "conditional release" may assist in achieving coexistence between GE and other forms of agriculture first appear on its website, and how many days has the Ministry allowed for submissions from the time the presentation first appeared on the website?
Hon. JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture): The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry placed its paper, How Conditional Release May Assist in Achieving Co-existence, on its website on 21 October. The closing date for submissions is 15 November. This allows 26 days for comment.
Ian Ewen-Street: In the light of the landmark Court of Appeal ruling between Wellington International Airport Ltd and Air New Zealand in 1992, in which it was stated: "Consultation must be allowed sufficient time, and genuine effort must be made. It is to be a reality, not a charade.", will he ensure that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry engage in genuine consultation with stakeholders; if not, why not?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: Yes.
David Cunliffe: What is the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry consulting on?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: In response to the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, the Government charged the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with investigating and reporting back to it on the practicalities of a number of tasks related to establishing and maintaining coexistence between genetic modification (GM) and non-GM production. The ministry is seeking practical ideas about how an industry code of practice could be developed to ensure effective separation distances between GM and non-GM production, and how such a code of practice might be operated. The ministry is also asking for input into discussions on establishing nationwide networks of people for facilitating coexistence and requirements for a possible mediation service.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Does he agree with the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification that "different production systems should not be seen as being in opposition to one another but rather contributing in their own way to the overall benefit of New Zealand", and can he confirm that all amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, including provisions for conditional release, will be in place so that the moratorium can be lifted by 31 October 2003?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: Yes, I do agree with that comment from the royal commission. It is clear that organic agriculture and GM technology coexist successfully in many countries, and as notable an organic farmer as the President of New Zealand Federated Farmers, has attested to their compatibility.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: What are the implications under the present regulatory framework if, when the moratorium on applications for GE commercial release is lifted in October next year, the rules and regulations surrounding conditional release have not been promulgated in a timely fashion?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: The Government will ensure that the rules and regulations are promulgated in a timely fashion.
Ian Ewen-Street: In the light of the Minister's earlier answer that the website was posted on 21 October, why were the public not notified, and why does the official press release state that the website was uplifted on 1 November?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: I stand by my first answer, and point out that people have already had exhaustive opportunities to comment on all those matters during the process of the royal commission.
R Doug Woolerton: Can the Minister give an idea of what would happen in the future to New Zealand agriculture should GE never be allowed out of the laboratory?
Mr SPEAKER: That is wide of the original question but I will allow the Minister to comment.
Hon. JIM SUTTON: The Government accepts the wisdom of the royal commission's advice that we proceed with caution. My personal expectation is that people will become used to the idea of genetic modification as they see it applied in practice, and to the benefit of humanity. Obviously, it would not be to our advantage to exclude ourselves from that situation.
Public-private Partnerships--Prime Minister's
2. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What actions did she think she had approved for Dr Ross Armstrong, Kristy McDonald QC, and former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating following her meeting with Dr Armstrong on 17 September 2002, and her dinner at Vinnies Restaurant on 16 October 2002?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): From the 17 September meeting, a dialogue between Government and the private sector with any follow-up on detail being with Dr Cullen; from the 16 October dinner, none.
Hon. Bill English: Who did she think would pay the huge consultancy fees of those high-cost people, and what did she believe was the purpose of them meeting with her at Vinnies Restaurant?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I agreed to a dinner with the former Australian Prime Minister, for whom I have the greatest respect. I enjoyed the discussion on foreign policy and on his experience of public-private partnerships--end of story.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Was the Prime Minister aware at that point in time of the cost over a range of issues and portfolios of one Kristy McDonald QC; and, if she was aware of that, would she tell us now what the global cost is?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: My acquaintance with Ms McDonald is limited to having seen her in my office at 9.30 on 17 September, to seeing her at a restaurant that I did not know she would be present at, on 16 October, and coincidentally, having afternoon tea with her in Masterton with many other people at a youth art festival on 11 September.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Now that she has discovered that Dr Armstrong's proposal was crony capitalism and first-mover advantage, so serious that Dr Armstrong had to be asked to resign, has she made inquiries to find out who was paying for Mr Keating and Kristy McDonald, and can she give the House an unqualified assurance that neither of their fees has been paid for by the taxpayer or any State-owned enterprise; if she cannot, why has she not made those inquiries?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I have made no such inquiries. I suggest the member put down questions to the relevant Ministers.
Hon. Bill English: If she was so keen to discuss foreign affairs with Paul Keating, her good friend, why did she think Kristy McDonald QC was there, and Ross Armstrong, neither of whom are noted experts--and who did she think was paying the bills?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Who paid the restaurant bill, I would not have a clue. If someone wants to send it to me for my share, I will happily pay it.
--Terrorism Suppression Act
3. MARTIN GALLAGHER (NZ Labour--Hamilton West) to the Prime Minister: Why has she designated Jemaah Islamiyah as a terrorist entity under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The decision follows that of the UN Security Council on 25 October to designate Jemaah Islamiah as a terrorist organisation. Under section 31 of the Terrorism Suppression Act, listing by the United Nations is sufficient evidence for New Zealand to make a designation in the absence of evidence to the contrary. The Government has no evidence to the contrary.
Martin Gallagher: Is there any known presence of Jemaah Islamiah in New Zealand?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, there is not. None the less, the Government believes that designating this organisation as a terrorist entity will serve to deter New Zealanders from becoming inadvertently involved in its activities, participating in the group, and providing or collecting funds for it, as would making property or financial services available to it carry very heavy criminal penalties.
Dr Wayne Mapp: In my diverse statement in the Parliament last night that the confidential intelligence briefing to the Leader of the Opposition would allay concerns, does that now mean that New Zealand received the same intelligence information as Australia, which specifically mentioned Bali as a possible target for tourism; yes or no?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I am not going to, in this House, disclose details of what Australia received or of what New Zealand received. I want to reiterate what I know, which is that before 12 October there was no information suggesting a specific attack on Bali at this time.
Ron Mark: Noting her answer when she said that there was no presence of Jemaah Islamiah in New Zealand, can she give the House her assurance that there are no immigrants who have come into New Zealand who have had, in any way, shape, or form, contact with followers of Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: "No known presence" covers what the member is raising.
Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree that the evidence of Jemaah Islamiah's terrorism is still being debated, whereas there is credible evidence that the CIA has killed six people in a car in a missile attack in Yemen; if so, will the Government be designating the CIA as a terrorist organisation; if not, what is the use of the Terrorism Suppression Act if Governments can go around the world assassinating anyone they like?
Mr SPEAKER: I do comment to members that every member is entitled to ask a question in this Parliament. We have a democratic right to do so.
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I am sure even the Leader of the Opposition would want to disassociate himself from that comment. No, of course we will not be making such a designation of the CIA, with which we share an intelligence relationship. With regard to Jemaah Islamiah, it is beyond doubt that this organisation has been associated with a range of terrorist acts.
National Certificate of
Educational Achievement-Exam Papers
4. Hon. RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader--ACT NZ) to the Minister of Education: Can he give an assurance that every pupil who is sitting the NCEA exams in November will on exam day have the correct examination paper for the exam they have paid to sit?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): If the member is asking for an absolute assurance, that cannot be given, as it has not been able to be given in the past. There are 48 subjects, 90 externally assessed achievement standards, and more than 1 million examination papers, for 90,000 candidates in around 450 examination centres. As in previous years, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority is making every effort, based on the quality of data provided by schools, to ensure that schools receive the exam papers that the students have paid to sit. The authority is also working to make sure that the students go to the right place, at the right time. I am advised that the authority is taking all reasonable measures to ensure that the examination round runs smoothly.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I put it to the Minister that what he is really saying to the House is that there will be hundreds of pupils who have paid to sit the National Certificate of Educational Achievement who will turn up on exam day and find out they do not have a script, and we know this because on 9 October the New Zealand Qualifications Authority admitted to schools that the unintended updates to the file caused candidates' records to be deleted or subjects withdrawn, and schools that have approached the New Zealand Qualifications Authority have found pupils' names deleted completely, and other pupils have been put down for exam subjects that they did not pay for, including exams and subjects that the school does not even teach?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: One of the reasons that current information was sent out in October this year, as it has been sent out in October in years past, is so that schools can check that people are enrolled for their exact subjects. Last year 110,000 entries, out of 120,000, were done by way of computer and exactly the same process was gone through to make sure that people were lined up for the right subjects. It is slightly more complicated this year because there are more achievement standards than subjects, and therefore it is a bigger job for schools, I acknowledge.
Helen Duncan: What actions are planned by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to address any problems with the distribution of exam papers, if they occur?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: When any problems occur in the administration of examinations there will be procedures in place this time to ensure that candidates are not disadvantaged as a result of the problem they encounter. For example, spare packs of exam papers will be available at each examination centre and managers trained in their use. Additional examination material will be available from the school relationship managers in each of the main centres, who will be able to move quickly if there is a problem. A lot of sampling has been going on, and it will continue, to ensure that the correct papers are in the correct place. As Mr Prebble has pointed out, the qualifications authority has made accurate verification of the entry details a priority.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the 58,000 candidates for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement whose studies this year have been so messed up by this implementation debacle, noting that the Post Primary Teachers Association--his good friends--has said that it is close to a disaster, the Principals Federation has said that implementation has been diabolical and the person responsible should be taken out and shot, and the School Trustees Association describes it as a total mess, or is this Minister still deluding himself that there is not a problem?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Clearly, some of the implementation problems flow from a lack of resourcing, and a lack of preparatory work, when that member was the Minister.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Does the Minister stick by his stated belief that the recognised problems in the implementation of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, associated with computer software, are largely due to teachers inability to read?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I do not think that was the statement I made. I want to make it absolutely clear that the failure to pass on information within schools, which occurred during the limited action on the part of the Post Primary Teachers Association, has been the cause of quite a few of these problems; and teachers must face up to that fact.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer to the last two answers from the Minister. We can never get anything out of this House in the way of question time, that is helpful in terms of public information, if a Minister is able to, by way of an answer, attempt to refute the prior question by saying: "It all happened by cost underruns during your time.", when, in fact, the thing that Mr Smith was talking about was a policy of implementation for which the Minister, and he alone, and this Government are responsible. Now, the Minister is taking us back to pre-1999 and is getting away with an answer like that. I did not raise an objection at the time but if that practice is allowed, then what is the point of question time?
Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is, that was two questions ago. I listened very carefully to the last question by the Hon. Brian Donnelly. I thought the Minister did make an effort to address that question.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister give an assurance there will be a sufficient number of examiners for external assessments this year and in successive years, as other levels are introduced, given his pledge that approximately half of level 2 assessments next year will be external, in order to lighten the workload of teachers?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, but not in future years if people are attempting to run bursary and scholarship, as well as levels 1 to 3, and National Certificate of Educational Achievement scholarship.
Bill Gudgeon: Why is there a high rate of expulsion of Maori students from schools in Nelson, and why are Maori students leaving school earlier than recommended; if so, what is being done to rectify this problem?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am not aware of expulsion rates in Nelson, off the top of my head, and I am not quite sure of the current link to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. There is, however, a suspension reduction initiative, in particular for Maori students, that is being implemented in a number of places around the country. It has been particularly successful in closing the gap in reducing the number of Maori suspensions, and I would be happy to arrange for a briefing of the member on that subject, if he wishes.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the submission from the Post Primary Teachers Association saying the implementation has been close to a disaster.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
5. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour--Dunedin South), on behalf of LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour--Mana), to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What progress has been made in assisting people in rural communities to access public services?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): Government services are being brought closer to people in rural communities with the establishment of what are called heartland service centres. Last week the sixteenth heartland service centre was opened by myself and the Minister for Rural Affairs, Jim Sutton, through the good services of Mark Peck, who travelled to Gore to open that service. The heartland service centres reverse the trend of the 1990s, where public services were withdrawn from provincial New Zealand by the then National Government. This Government is restoring those services.
David Benson-Pope: Does the Minister plan the opening of further heartland centres?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Yes. Damien O'Connor will be launching the Hokitika centre this very Friday. There are proposals under way for another six communities to receive heartland centres. This Government is building a strong relationship with rural communities in places, for example, like Balclutha where the National Party withdrew all its services, including those of Bill English, who closed his electorate office.
Shane Ardern: In the light of the Minister's answer, can the Minister tell the House how closing rural schools, slashing isolation funding for school buses, starving rural general practitioners of money so that they go on hunger strikes, and not stepping in when health boards have major employment issues, such as in Taranaki at the moment, helps bring people close to public access to services?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I suggest that the member consult those around him, because they have a lot of experience in doing exactly that.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister explain how people in the rural community of Northland have been helped by funding by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services for the Kaikohe Disabilities Information and Resource Centre, which has shut down amid allegations of operation irregularities, misappropriated funds, and inappropriate travel--matters that have since been referred to the police--and since this is the second scandal in which the department has been involved in the last few months, where concerns have been swirling around for years, can he tell the House what steps he has taken to ensure that this is not the tip of the iceberg?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: In the interests of accuracy can I just say the following. The Kaikohe Disabilities Information and Resource Centre--also known as the Kaikohe Disabilities Resource Centre, according to the phone book--subcontracts with an organisation called the Te Whare Manaaki Tangata Disabilities Resource Trust in Kaikohe. That organisation seems to be the one that has closed down or is in difficulty. It has a contract for about $11,000 from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. The department last monitored that organisation in July and became aware of troubles in that organisation last week, and it is now investigating.
Ian Ewen-Street: What are the implications for access to public services for people living in isolated areas if they are unable to afford a telephone connection as a result of Telecom's recent decision to raise connection fees by upwards of 2400 percent in some isolated areas?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Of course, that is a question to take up with the Minister who has responsibility, but can I say that it is an issue if problems like that arise in terms of costs. It is one of the reasons that this Government is putting so much effort into issues like broadbanding in rural areas to make sure that rural people are connected with the modern economy in the modern world.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the Minister's answer saying that the department was looking into that issue last week, I seek leave to table a report that shows that the centre closed down last month.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that report. Is there any objection? There is not.
6. PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National--Whangarei) to the Minister of Fisheries: Why did he say yesterday, in answer to questions regarding allocation of scampi fishing rights, "Who is going to argue against fairness" when last year A P Duffy QC, representing him in the Court of Appeal, argued for him that the Ministry was not under a duty to act "fairly"?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Minister of Fisheries): Ms Duffy did not argue in the Court of Appeal that the ministry had no duty whatsoever to act fairly in determining fishers' access to fisheries. She argued that the ministry's duty to act fairly would be met if it made reasonable decisions and complied with the requirements of procedural fairness. As the member will know, Justice Thomas disagreed.
Phil Heatley: Which statement is correct: the Minister's statement made yesterday in the House, when he asked who will argue against fairness; the statement made by A P Duffy, who said, when representing him in the Court of Appeal, that the ministry was not under a duty to act fairly; or the Serious Fraud Office, which acknowledged that certain actions by officials were undertaken unfairly; who is telling the truth?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: On the issue of fairness, the member might like to ponder how one could increase one fisher's quota at the expense of another, when the other has a proven catch history. For example, Mr Panwarden, who would automatically receive about five or six million dollars' worth of property right if I introduced scampi into the quota management system now, is arguing that it would be fair if he had more than that. The question is who has less, why, and how?
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I listened very closely to the Minister's answer, as I am sure you and others in the House did. He spoke about the matter of quota. The question was very specific: it was about who is right about the matter of fairness. You may rule me out of order, but, in my view, he did not actually answer the specific question. The question was very specific, and the Minister might like to answer it.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: The problem with giving a detailed answer to the question was that the questioner had not listened to the first answer. He therefore repeated his first question, when the first answer had rejected the implicit assumption in the first question. When people get up and ask supplementary questions without listening to the answer, they cannot expect a great deal of response.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: The fact of the matter is that in the Minister's answer he gave his interpretation of what Duffy QC had said, when, in fact, the Court of Appeal--which is the second highest authority in our jurisdiction, anyway--felt moved to say that, indeed, the ministry itself has argued through its counsel that it had no duty to be fair. Whom are we to believe, when the Minister gets up and deliberately misinterprets a Court of Appeal's reference to evidence?
Phil Heatley: So the Minister knows exactly what I was asking, I will just clarify that I was simply asking why he said yesterday in the House that he is happy to be fair, yet, in the Court of Appeal, his Queen's Counsel said that the Minister does not have to be fair. That was argued. I will table those documents later.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: If the member had listened to the first answer, he would have heard the Minister tell him that that was not what his Queen's Counsel said.
Mr SPEAKER: That is where we get into a problem, because it is a matter of debate. I am allowing further supplementary questions on this. We will have a supplementary question now.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why on earth does the Minister rise in this House and give an interpretation of what the Queen's Counsel for his ministry said, when it is clear from the Court of Appeal's own comments that the Queen's Counsel argued the very converse, which was that there was no duty on the part of his ministry to be fair? Whom do we believe--him, or the Court of Appeal?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: In the answer to the principal question, I said the Queen's Counsel argued that the ministry's duty to act fairly would be met if it made reasonable decisions and complied with the requirements of procedural fairness. I also said that, as the member will know, Justice Thomas disagreed. Here is a reading from Justice Thomas' decision: "It is sufficient, she argued, if the decisions are reasonable and comply with the requirements of procedural fairness. I emphatically reject this submission."
Clayton Cosgrove: Does the Minister now recall a meeting with the Rt Hon. Winston Peters on fisheries matters as referred to by Mr Peters in a question on this issue yesterday?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Yes. Having drawn on my office records and the memory of the chief executive--
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a very serious matter. The question in no way relates to this matter that is before you on the Order Paper today. However, more significantly, I have served upon you and him a breach of privilege--
Mr SPEAKER: The member is not to refer to that here.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: That is what he is seeking to avoid. It is very serious if a Minister seeks to put the record straight at this late hour. He had all the time yesterday until 10 o'clock last night to get the record straight. He had every chance during the last 35 minutes to put the record straight, but now all of a sudden he remembers a meeting. He should be stopped on two grounds. Firstly, because it is not appropriate on this issue, and, secondly, it does not relate to the question that was primarily asked or to any supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: The second point the member made is the valid one. This was not related to the original question. Therefore, the question is ruled out.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I remind you of a ruling that you gave in this Parliament stating that if a Minister discovered that an answer that he had given was incorrect, the Minister was under a duty to correct the matter immediately. From what I am hearing now from the Minister, I take it that he is saying that he misled the House yesterday. If that is the case, then he should have come down and told us that yesterday when he found out, or at the beginning of question time. He now wants to interrupt question time to give it. I see you have ruled that out, but the member most certainly does have an agenda. I would like to have an assurance that a member cannot get away with that. It appears to me that if he is now telling us that he cannot remember an Opposition member coming to see him to lay a matter of corruption, then I am incredulous, and you know that I am incredulous.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: The member's incredulity has nothing to do with matters, at all. That frequently happens with that member. The issue was that yesterday the Minister--
Opposition Members: Oh!
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker--
Mr SPEAKER: If a member made an interjection that was out of order he or she must stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Members were shouting and yelling while I was speaking to a point of order. That is out of order, and I suggest that Opposition members, who make a habit of yelling every time they cannot do anything because of their incompetence, need to be pulled up.
Mr SPEAKER: The first point I want to make is that I want the member to come to the point of order.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: Yesterday, the Minister said: "Frankly, I can't remember." I remember his exact words in answer to a question. To then begin to say: "I have searched my office records", is not to deny a statement made the previous day that he could not remember. If the member cannot make the difference between not being able to remember and denying a meeting, then he has a real problem with the English language.
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon. Richard Prebble is perfectly correct. I made a ruling in the House that if a Minister discovered that there was something in an answer that he gave that was incorrect, then he should do the obvious thing and come to down to this House. However, there is a slight difference between the answer that was given and the comment that was entered into on a question that I ruled out, and that is where I have drawn the distinction.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why did the Minister and his department not follow the advice of Mr Justice Thomas, quoted on the Assignment programme, to go back and rectify the problem, and does he agree with former Labour Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer's comments that his lack of response undermines the whole judicial process?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The ministry and I are taking notice of the Court of Appeal. One of the things that we need to do in the first instance is to check back through all the records--10-year-old records--including records in the compliance section of the Ministry of Fisheries, to see if evidence of impropriety back then exists. That is ongoing now. It has been ongoing for some weeks. It will be, I hope, completed by the end of this year, and I am sure the select committee inquiry, if it is undertaken, will find the results of that useful.
Phil Heatley: In the interests of fairness, can the Minister assure the House then that all relevant catch and landing fishing records held by the Ministry of Fisheries will be made available to the select committee?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I see no reason why not.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table the Court of Appeal judgment of last year, where the Minister's QC argued the ministry did not have to be fair.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that judgment. Is there any objection? There is.
Phil Heatley: I also seek leave to table a Serious Fraud Office letter received a day before it was sent.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With regard to the question from Mr Cosgrove that you disallowed, it is very evident that the Minister wanted to tell the House something that related to his memory or recollection of a meeting he may or may not have had with Mr Peters. The question we have is simply based on the fact that although Mr Peters may be using his remedies, the rest of the House has a right to know whether the Minister thinks he misled the House.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I want to help out my colleague from Ilam in the South Island, and advise him that he will find the answer if he turns up at the Privileges Committee, where I have placed the matter.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I seek leave to table three letters. The first is from myself to the Rt Hon. Winston Peters, dated 30 October 2000, in which I refer to a meeting in my office.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: That's it. Come on.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is seeking leave to table a letter. Is there any objection?[Interruption] The Minister has to identify what is in the letter.[Interruption] There are the same rules in this House for everybody. Anyone who wants to table a document by leave always indicates what is in the document.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: We are already in the middle of a point of order.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: We are in the middle of him making an application for leave, and I want the same determination applied to him that you apply to every member on this side of the House when we seek leave, that is, to address the issue of who the letter was to and who it was from, and that is about the size of it. Anybody else behaving like that has been caught and stopped short on thousands of occasions, and we are not going to have this show pony try that one in this House now, when he can do it in the Privileges Committee, where I have asked it to be referred.
Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct, but I want to read the member Speaker's ruling 113/5: "In seeking leave to table a document members should not only succinctly describe what is in the document but also sufficiently describe the nature of the document to inform members." I listen to every application to table documents, and usually they are about a question that has been asked or a comment that has been made, and of course we know that they are usually trying to make the point again. Of course that is not necessary for the flow of question time and debate. But the member is right. The Minister has asked leave to table a document and given a letter.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The second letter is to Dr John Valentine. I wrote on 11 August 2000 in response to Tina Nixon telephoning my office, advising that she had certain information relating to misdoings in the Ministry of Fisheries.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The third letter is Dr Valentine's reply to me on 17 August, in which he confirmed that the Seafood Industry Council did not have any such information.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was pleased to hear your comment before that every member in this House is treated equally.
Mr SPEAKER: They are.
Gerry Brownlee: Therefore, I suggest to you that, notwithstanding the information and advice given to me by my friend Mr Peters on using the point of order method inappropriately, we are still in a position whereby a Minister has attempted to clarify a matter by using question time, and that is inappropriate. Clearly, the Minister has a message he wants to give to the House, and we are entitled to know whether he will make a ministerial statement, so that we will know whether he has misled the House.
Mr SPEAKER: That is entirely the wish of the Minister.
7. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Education: What funding support is available to community-based early childhood education services in low socio-economic areas?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Equity funding is one initiative the Government is using to help ensure that all children from all backgrounds can benefit from quality early childhood education. Eight million dollars has been made available this financial year, over and above the bulk funding that all licensed and chartered early childhood services receive. In March more than a thousand centres received the first equity funding payment, and this month a further 213 centres. Of the 1,334 centres receiving equity funding, 1,016 are in low socio-economic areas.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: How will the funding be used by services?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: It is up to each service receiving the funds to decide, but currently services are using it to buy extra curriculum resources, to assist staff in training, to upgrade qualifications, to improve staff-child ratios, to enhance professional development, and to provide transport assistance.
Phil Heatley: Is he then comfortable that under new occupational safety and health legislation those early childhood education centres in lower socio-economic areas could face fines of up to $250,000--quarter of a million--if a volunteer is injured while fund-raising for them, and probably fund-raising to supplement their equity funding; if so, why?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I suggest that the member get himself better briefed, as I have, and does not believe every outrageous allegation made by Roger Sowry.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that equity funding is not determined by the socio-economic level of the area of particular early childhood services, as the principle question suggests, but the income level and other factors associated with the families of the children in attendance; if so, why does he not prepare his patsies more carefully?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: It does not depend so much on the income of particular families, but the income from the mesh blocks that the families come from. Generally, that relates to where the centre is, but, as the member knows, some people travel to centres, and that has some quite interesting effects.
Donna Awatere Huata: Why does the Minister not set standards to be met by all early childhood education providers, and fund those that meet them, regardless of whether they are privately, State, or community owned, rather than funding substandard State and community-owned centres at a higher rate than those highly performing privately owned centres--in other words, why not fund for excellence, rather than reward mediocrity?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I refer the member to the research published today by Linda Mitchell that looks at quality standards both internationally and in New Zealand. I think the opposite of what that member has just asserted has been shown to be the case.
Metiria Turei: When will the Minister review all funding levels and systems to take into account the real costs facing early childhood services, as is recommended by the strategic plan working-group?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I am pleased to inform the member that the work has already started.
Marc Alexander: Can the Minister give an assurance that access to community-based early childhood education services in low-income areas will not be compromised as a result of his decision to require all teachers to hold diplomas, given the heavy reliance of these centres on volunteer support?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: The member might need a little bit of briefing in that area. The requirements for training relate to professional services, not voluntary services such as playcentres.
8. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Are the principles of fairness and natural justice for all New Zealanders a consideration when applications for residence by immigrants, asylum seekers or refugees are being processed?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): All decisions relating to residence applications are subject to the rules of natural justice. The Government takes into account the wider interests of New Zealand in determining residence policy.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If that is true, how much weight was given to these principles when assessing Mr Muhammad Saidi, a Moroccan claiming refugee status after having travelled to New Zealand on a false passport, who had admitted family links with Islamic fundamentalist groups and who had been suspected of people-smuggling and drug-trafficking; what are the qualities considered appropriate to qualify him as a suitable person to reside amongst us New Zealanders?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I have no information in the House this afternoon on that particular case. If the member would like to--
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Oh, yes you do.
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I beg the member's pardon? If the member would like to refer the information to my office, then I will investigate the allegations he has made. I note that I have written to the member about other allegations he has made. He does not provide me with the information.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There goes a classic response from the Minister, who is perpetually embarrassed by her incompetence. She knows full well that the complainants behind this allegation--and I will table it later on--
Hon. Phil Goff: Yet another one.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Yes. There are thousands of them. That is how useless the Minister is. That is how hopelessly incompetent she is. They are legion.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: This is a Minister and a ministry that have been advised on countless occasions and in hundreds of applications of the severity of the policy it is taking with regard to a properly qualified person. On each and every occasion, on the information I have, they have done precisely nothing. I will table these documents later on to show that the Minister again misled the House--
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. That is adding to the argument, and, of course, a member is permitted to do that in debate. But it is not a point of order.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I am holding here a letter dated 20 July 2001 to the New Zealand Immigration Service, copied to the Hon. Lianne Dalziel MP and signed off by her, in which she got all the information that I am about to refer to. She has just told the House that I have never provided information in the past when she has asked me. That is appalling.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is debating the correctness of a reply. It is not a point of order.
Dave Hereora: Did the principles of fairness to all New Zealanders play a part in the Government's decision to restrict access to benefits for recent migrants?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes. On 1 October 2001 this Government required family sponsors to sign statutory declarations accepting personal liability for benefits claimed within 2 years of arrival, and this has been effective in reducing dramatically the number of emergency unemployment benefit applications by recent migrants. I note that the previous Government did nothing.
Hon. Murray McCully: Was the Minister correctly reported in the Christchurch Press last month asserting that a significant number of refugee claims were "manifestly unfounded" and a "well-orchestrated scam" involving a small number of immigration agents; if so, does she have any plans to change the way in which those agents, and the applications they have lodged, are dealt with?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, and yes.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given what has gone on in respect of this question in the House today, why, in reply to a letter dated 29 August 2001 protesting the entry into New Zealand of a Moroccan man--a man whom I have just outlined as having refugee status, who had travelled here on a false passport, who admitted having family ties with an Islamic fundamentalist group, and who had been suspected of people-smuggling and drug-trafficking activities--did she advise, as Minister, that this individual "like everyone else is entitled to have his case fully heard, including appeals, to have access to legal assistance, and for natural justice and fairness to take precedence."; why has she been caught out again?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: If the member had listened, he would have heard me say that I did not have information about this particular case in the House. I said I had not brought matters down to the House, because how could I know which particular application the member was possibly referring to in a general question that did not name an individual? I refer the member again to the Immigration Act, amended in 1999 by the National Government, which requires that we accept and consider all claims for all refugee status.
Dairy Products--Domestic Prices
9. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour--Waitakere) to the Minister of Commerce: What reports has she received relating to the domestic price of consumer dairy products, including milk?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): I have received a report on the domestic price of consumer dairy products from the Ministry of Economic Development. This report follows on from a May report, and advises that the domestic prices of consumer dairy products have fallen since that time.
Lynne Pillay: Does the report recommend that controls be imposed at this time?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: No. The report states that in the absence of evidence of anti-competitive behaviour, coupled with falling prices and the safeguards that are in place under the Commerce Act, Government action is not required.
Hon. Tony Ryall: If the report had recommended it, would the Government have seriously considered price control of the domestic price of milk?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I have decided not to institute a control investigation. A recommendation from the Ministry of Economic Development officials to instigate an investigation would not have been the imposition of price control.
Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister accept now that if the Government had not allowed the Fonterra dairy merger to bypass the Commerce Commission, resulting in the near monopoly, consumers would have benefited months ago from cheaper milk, and taxpayers would not have been forced to fund this Ministry of Economic Development report?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: No.
Paul Adams: Despite the projected decrease in the price of milk to domestic consumers, is the Minister concerned about the dietary implications for children of the fact that milk is still more expensive in New Zealand than flavoured soft drink?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: In the press statement with the document we are releasing this afternoon, the Minister for Consumer Affairs advises she will continue to monitor the situation for the reasons the member outlines. I seek leave to table the Ministry of Economic Development's report on the domestic price of consumer dairy products.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
10. Dr LYNDA SCOTT to the Minister of Health: What price are New Zealanders paying for the record hospital deficit of $237 million?
Hon. RUTH DYSON (Acting Minister of Health): The Government has committed itself to a huge increase in health spending over the next 3 years to ensure that the health needs of New Zealanders are well protected. In the Budget this year, the Government announced an extra $3.2 billion in health spending over the next 3 years. Of the $6.12 billion of new spending since this Government came to office, $1.284 billion, or nearly 21 percent, has been allocated to Vote Health.
Dr Lynda Scott: Is the price that New Zealanders are paying for record hospital deficits that patients now have to be sicker to receive treatment; if not, why have district health boards been raising the points needed to have an operation?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: No.
Steve Chadwick: Is it intended to reduce the price New Zealanders are paying for health care?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: Yes, that is already happening through a number of primary health organisations that have been established in collaboration with district health boards, as part of the Government's commitment to primary health care. It is our intention to begin reducing the cost of health care for all New Zealanders over 65 years and under 18 years from July next year.
Barbara Stewart: Can the Minister explain how everything is in order when the weekend doctor in Taumarunui has been on a hunger strike because of the Government's failed rural health policy?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: No, I am not able to connect that particular individual's actions--for which I am not responsible--with the overall state of the health system.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is acting on behalf of the Minister today, how is it possible for her to say that she is not responsible?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, I made the point that I was not responsible for that doctor being on a hunger strike, that was the whole point.
Mr SPEAKER: That was the point I thought she made.
Heather Roy: Can the Minister deny that only six district health boards have had their plans approved for this year, despite that we were over a third of the way through with only one board getting the costs of its services funded, and, on top of last year's record deficit in 10 years, how can she claim to be competent as health Minister overseeing such a health-funding crisis?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: The member is correct, I cannot deny that.
Sue Bradford: Is the record deficit one of the potential reasons that district health boards are allegedly dipping into what is supposed to be ring-fenced mental-health money, and, if so, what does she plan to do about it?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: As I made clear in my answers to supplementary questions, led by a primary question from that member earlier this week, the issue was very clearly specified to district health boards that mental-health funding was ring fenced. In the event it was subsequently outlined in the House that district health boards did not understand and comply with that instruction, they are being required to.
Judy Turner: What factors does the Minister believe contributed to the current high deficit, and in response to those factors what strategies does the ministry have to reduce those?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: I can confirm that the deficits are not, as has been described by the current health spokesperson for the National Party, record, but compared with other percentages for Health and Human Services and Crown Health Enterprises are, in fact, less.
Dr Lynda Scott: My question gives the Minister a second chance to answer a previous question. Is the price that New Zealanders are paying for record hospital deficits that patients have to be sicker to receive treatment; if not, why have district health boards been raising the points required to have an operation?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: It does not matter whether the member did not hear the answer to the question she asked earlier, which was exactly the same, the answer was and is, no.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table a letter from the Hawke's Bay District Health Board stating that the points for hip replacement have gone up, for grommets have gone up, and for cataracts have gone up.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have quite a serious situation when a Minister answers a question saying that the deficits in the health sector are having no effect on services being offered: she then has another chance to answer the question, rather than reconsidering and saying that she had not seen the information, stands by her comment. We then see a letter from the chief executive of the Hawke's Bay Area Health Board tabled in the House that shows that in 3 years the points for hips, grommets and cataracts have gone up, and therefore people need to be in more severe pain, to be sick and to wait longer before they can have an operation because of the deficit. The issue I have is that I know the member answering the question is answering on behalf of the Minister, but it would have seemed more appropriate for her to say that she did not have that information in front of her. Otherwise we will have a situation whereby a Minister answers a question that is clearly wrong, and the Minister even nodded when the document was tabled, to indicate that she probably did know that the point system was being raised in those areas.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: That, of course, is a debating matter, not a matter in relation to the question. The Minister stated that the points system had not been affected by the deficits. Producing a letter stating that for three particular operations the points have been raised, in no way contradicts the answer given by the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: All I want to say is that that is a matter for debate and political criticism, it is not a matter on which the Speaker can rule.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With due respect I do not think it is a matter for debate. The Standing Orders--
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I have ruled on this matter--
Gerry Brownlee: Why cannot I bring up the Standing Order?
Mr SPEAKER: While I am on my feet the member cannot be on his feet. I want to say that I ruled quite clearly and specifically on advice that this was a matter for debate and political criticism. Of course, there can be criticism about that fact. The Minister gave an answer, it was not to the liking of the Opposition; that is often the case. Of course, that leads to debate, and we have a general debate coming shortly. But that is where the matter ends.
Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith: They talk in lies.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment.
Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith: I withdraw and apologise.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing Order 372, on replies, states that an answer should be given, if it can be given consistently in the public interest. Who arbitrates that? Surely, it is the Speaker. Does not that then mean that the Speaker has to exercise some judgment in this case? What we have, as pointed out by Mr Sowry, is a Minister who is trying to deny the fact that if one has a higher number of points, one is sicker. There is absolutely no other conclusion to be drawn for it. For the Minister to stand up in the House and say, simply, "No" is misleading the House, and, most certainly, not consistent with the public good. I would suggest that brings this House, these Standing Orders, and your role as the arbitrator of those Standing Orders, into disrepute.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance on this one. It does not bring my position into disrepute at all. What I have to determine is whether the Minister addressed the question. I do not judge on the quality of the answer. That is for debate. That is what we have a Parliament for. All I have to say is whether the question was addressed. It was. The Minister did not agree with the member's comment. The Minister is entitled to do that. The member is also entitled to say that is wrong, but that is where the matter ends.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One matter raised by the member was not addressed by you, and I think it is a very important matter. That is the matter of the Standing Order with warnings relating to "consistent with the public interest". The member is suggesting that you are the person responsible for ruling on whether an answer should be given, consistent with the public interest. It is for the Minister to decide whether giving an answer is consistent with the public interest, because only the Minister can have the information on which to base such a decision.
Mr SPEAKER: What I have to decide is whether an attempt is made to address the question. That I did, and that the Minister did.
John Carter: Mr Speaker, can you perhaps advise me and the House then, if I heard your decision correctly, that a Minister is able in an answer to give the House incorrect information, and that is to be accepted? It is not a breach of Standing Orders. That is what has occurred in the Minister's response.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I did not say that. The Speaker arbitrates whether the Minister addresses the question, not whether the answer is correct. I do not know the answer to that question. Quite often I listen to the question--I am not an expert in every subject--some I work out are obviously correct, some I have doubts about. On this occasion I say that I had to say "Was the question addressed?" It was.
Gerry Brownlee: What is the point then of Standing Order 372 if someone does not arbitrate on the issues of whether an answer is consistent with the public good, whether an answer carries some of the other suggestions there that you apparently cannot do, but the Government regularly does, and what is the point of having it in the Standing Orders if the interpretation of it is a matter for debate? Do we then debate whether we sit when you stand? Do we debate whether you have given the call to us or to someone else?
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: This is a very important matter. Let us read the Standing Order correctly: "An answer that seeks to address the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest." The question is, who decides whether giving that answer is consistent with the public interest? I submit to you that it has always been the ruling that that is a matter decided by the Minister. It cannot be decided by the Speaker, because the Speaker cannot possibly have the information that might determine that giving an answer is not in the public interest. In this case it is an irrelevant point of order, because an answer was given.
Mr SPEAKER: Two things. First of all, the Minister did not invoke the public interest defence anyway, so it is irrelevant in this particular case. Secondly, the House and public opinion arbitrate on the quality of the answer. It is not the Speaker's role.
Air New Zealand--Qantas
11. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: As the shareholding Minister, what criteria would he use if deciding whether to allow Qantas to acquire a stake in Air New Zealand and would his decision be made in advance of any deliberation by the Commerce Commission?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): As a shareholding Minister, any decision I make would be based on a consideration of how any proposal impacts on the financial well-being of the company, compared with what is likely to happen under alternative scenarios, and what both mean by way of cause for additional capital injections. That is distinct from national interest in aviation regulatory decisions that are made using other criteria, and also distinct from any requirement to obtain Commerce Commission clearance, if that is needed. My expectation is that an in principle decision by the shareholder will be made before an application was placed before the Commerce Commission. What happens subsequent to a Commerce Commission decision, in part, will depend upon the nature of that decision.
Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister then assure the House that during the forthcoming visit to Australia by the Minister of Transport, Paul Swain, there are no scheduled discussions between the Minister and any Australian Ministers or Government officials on the possibility of allowing Qantas to purchase a stake in Air New Zealand?
Mr SPEAKER: That is a question for the Minister of Transport. The Minister might like to speak?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am told by my colleague the answer is "Yes, I can give that assurance." But Mr Swain's role is a quite different role from mine. Mr Swain is the Kiwi shareholder. His interest is the national interest question, my role is as the shareholding Minister, and we are very careful about keeping those roles separate.
John Key: How does the Minister reconcile his answer to written question 11059 when he claims he did not brief United Future leader Peter Dunne on shareholding options in Air New Zealand, whereas Mr Dunne says on 4 October in the New Zealand Herald that he was indeed briefed by Dr Cullen? Who is lying?
Mr SPEAKER: Did the member make an inappropriate comment?
An Opposition Member: No, he didn't say that, he said --"Who's right?".
Mr SPEAKER: If the member said "Who's right?" that is perfectly correct. Sorry, it is not out of order. Is that what the member said?
John Key: No, I said--
Mr SPEAKER: No, he did not say that. He said something else, which he knows is out of order. The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise.
John Key: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: And I will be passing on to the next question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There have been occasions this week when you have required Government Ministers to stand and apologise--Mr Swain being one of them--for a little addition to an answer, but at no point did you decide that they were not able to answer a question and therefore lose their opportunity to put their particular spin on it. This is an important question. Mr Dunne is making claims that Dr Cullen has refuted. Dr Cullen is making claims that Mr Dunne will not substantiate. The House has a right to know. Notwithstanding the comment at the end of the question, which the new member has acknowledged was inappropriate, I think it most unfair that the question does not stand.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way. Because the member is a new member, on this occasion only I will allow the question to stand, without the last two or three words. But I say that in future I will be ruling out any question that has any deliberate breaking of the Standing Orders, such as a comment like that, and I make that a new Speaker's ruling.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I have had no briefing from Air New Zealand on any specific proposal I cannot have briefed Mr Dunne about any such proposal.
David Parker: Has his position as shareholding Minister in Air New Zealand impacted on his role as Minister of Finance in advising the Government on proposals for strategic shareholdings in the airline?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, this is a difficult constitutional matter. The shareholder in a public company has some clear duties to that company and to minority shareholders. The Minister of Finance has duties to protect wider national economic commercial and consumer interests, and to judge how a particular change in shareholding might impact on them. In order to avoid any suggestion that the two roles might conflict I have delegated my national interest responsibilities over Air New Zealand matters to the Hon. Trevor Mallard.
Rod Donald: Is the Minister interested in proposals from New Zealand individuals and institutions willing to invest in Air New Zealand to avoid Air New Zealand selling 25 percent of our national carrier to its main competitor and all the negative consequences and risks that could result?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, I am fascinated that the member yet again seems to know about a proposal that I do not know about as shareholding Minister in Air New Zealand. Secondly, I note that some of these individuals have a particular interest in other matters, which they do not wish to declare too publicly. Thirdly, the issue is not solely a matter of capital raising for Air New Zealand; it is about its long-term strategic positioning. The number of New Zealand shareholders the member is referring to does not provide that kind of strategic long-term interest.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister's assurance on 31 May, in a Radio New Zealand interview, that investment in Air New Zealand by Qantas would be acceptable only if it was compatible with "the profile marketing of New Zealand as a high-class tourist destination."; and, if so, what would this mean in practice?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member does put me in a difficulty because I have just explained to him that national interest questions are delegated to the Hon. Trevor Mallard. My interest is in the shareholding interest at this stage. If the member wishes to discuss the issue he should put down a written question to the Hon. Trevor Mallard as he is therefore able to answer that question.
John Key: I seek leave to table the New Zealand Herald article of 4 October from United Future leader Peter Dunne claiming he had a confidential briefing.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that newspaper article. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Finance generously said that he was happy to see the article, because he missed it. I wonder whether the leave could be put again.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the question again, since the member has asked. Is there any objection? There is not.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
12. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: Is it correct that, under the Interim Formula, Primary Health Organisations are funded less than a third for non Community Services Card holding European superannuitants than for similar Maori or Pacific Island superannuitants, despite the fact that they both live in a one to four quintile area, and does this still apply despite the fact that the European superannuitant may have equal health needs?
Hon. RUTH DYSON (Acting Minister of Health): The funding is capitated, rather than made available to particular individuals--that is, it is made available to the primary health organisation to provide care for its entire enrolled population, not to provide lower co-payments for some patients. The interim formula does target extra funding to improve access for high-need populations. No New Zealander is worse off under the changes outlined in the interim formula. The extra funding is to tackle longstanding health needs that have not been met in the past.
Heather Roy: How is it equitable that we will have thousands of superannuitants on exactly the same income with the same health needs, and doctors will get three times as much money for some, just because those patients are Maori or Pacific peoples?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: It is the considered view of this Government that the ongoing financial and social costs to New Zealanders of continuing to ignore the relatively poor health outcomes of low-income groups of Maori and Pacific peoples is not worth the cost to our country. We should not continue to ignore the financial and social costs.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In relation to question No. 11 and the answer, in terms of the tabling of the document, that document does not quote Mr Dunne saying he had a briefing. I did not think he would have done. It is a statement by Fran O'Sullivan, who said a lot of things about Air New Zealand that are not correct.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Nanaia Mahuta: Why is the Government looking to differentiate health funding?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: The reason for the differentiation is that the financial and social costs to all New Zealanders of continuing to ignore the poor health outcomes of low-income groups of Maori and Pacific Island peoples is not acceptable. We intend to see resources used in the best way, and that includes enabling local primary health providers to meet local health needs.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why has she continued to ignore the advice of doctors that the funding formula for primary health organisations is unfair and that basing it on "location, location, location" denies poor New Zealanders, in many other parts of the country, the opportunity to have increased access to cheaper care?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: That is not the case at all. The Government has agreed to adopt the recommendation of the Independent Practitioners Association Council priority patient proposal as a complement to the access and interim formula, which is quite the opposite from what that member suggests.
Sue Bradford: What indications can she give of progress towards the creation of primary health organisations, especially in districts with high-need populations, and is progress happening as fast as she would like?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: I regret that I do not have detailed information on the projected future progress of the implementation, but I agree with the insinuation in the question that progress in this area is probably never going to be fast enough.
Judy Turner: How long does the Minister expect there will be a need to use interim funding?
Hon. RUTH DYSON: That matter has not been finalised, but, as I outlined in answer to an earlier supplementary question, the Government has also agreed to adopt the Independent Practitioners Association Council priority patient proposal as a complement to the interim access formula.
End of Questions for Oral Answer.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)