Questions Of The Day Transcript - 12 November
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 12 November, 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. GRAHAM KELLY (NZ Labour) to the Prime Minister: What further contributions is New Zealand making to the international campaign against terrorism?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): As I announced yesterday, Cabinet has approved the deployment of a New Zealand frigate to the Operation Enduring Freedom maritime interdiction from now until June 2003. A P3 Orion will provide maritime surveillance support for the operation for 6 months from April 2003 subject to suitable basing arrangements being made. New Zealand Hercules C130 aircraft have, during the course of the year, provided short-term transport support in and around Afghanistan. That support will continue next year; so too will New Zealand's offer of up to four staff officers to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Graham Kelly: Will the New Zealand forces being deployed have any role in any action against Iraq that is not mandated by the United Nations Security Council?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, this is an entirely separate operation with its own command structure.
Hon. Roger Sowry: How does the Government justify saying that the Orion that has been deployed is mission capable, when the Minister of Defence stated, in answer to written question No. 9795, that the Orion systems were ``old technology that does not provide the level of fidelity needed to meet contemporary requirements'', and ``the aircraft also does not have compatible communications capabilities that enable the sharing of information with other forces. These limitations would limit the Orion's ability to effectively participate in a combined operation.''?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Neither the Government nor the Defence Force has any interest in sending equipment that is not mission capable. At 10 past 12 today there was a briefing for Opposition parties, which was attended by a representative of the National Party, and this question was asked. I am advised that the Chief of Defence Force gave an absolute assurance that the Orion was mission capable.
Ron Mark: Further to Mr Graham Kelly's question, if the United Nations Security Council does subsequently mandate actions against Iraq, will this Government move to add to those personnel and resources deployed a further deployment in support of any United States - led initiative in Iraq?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I must stress that this is a very specific deployment with a very specific mission. I will refer back to what I have previously said in the House on this subject: the New Zealand Government, like most Governments, does not support unilateral intervention. If in the event the United Nations Security Council mandated action against Iraq, New Zealand as a conscientious member of the United Nations, would look to see if it could make a contribution.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Can the Prime Minister confirm to the House that a New Zealand frigate was our contribution to the Gulf war, and, should a US-led invasion of Iraq prove necessary, is it just a fortunate fact that we have repositioned our frigate to the Gulf?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The first part of the question is entirely hypothetical, because the US--like New Zealand, like all countries--is hoping that the diplomatic process will run its course and that Iraq will comply by Friday. As to the second part of the question, it is entirely a coincidence.
Keith Locke: How can she say that being part of mapping the position of every ship in the southern Persian Gulf, and forwarding that information to the Americans, would not be of use to an American invasion of Iraq, or does she think our Orion and our frigate will spend their time chasing the Taliban navy from landlocked Afghanistan around the Gulf of Oman?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: What I can say is that in the last month, from 1 October to 4 November, the naval group, under the Canadian leadership, made 23,223 queries of vessels in the area and undertook 348 boardings, which averages about 10 a day. It is a very busy area for ocean traffic, and there is, undoubtedly, use in the interception role that is going to be played; and, yes, they have found people connected to al-Qaeda.
Health and Safety in Employment
2. Hon. ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader--NZ National) to the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector: Has she carried out any consultation with the voluntary sector regarding the proposed health and safety in employment legislation; if not, why not?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector): There was an understanding between the Minister of Labour and my predecessor, the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, that the Department of Labour would undertake this consultation with the voluntary sector, and I understand that has happened.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Given that answer, why has she, in her role, not carried out any consultation at all, on the new health and safety legislation, with the voluntary sector, given that the legislation imposes fines of up to $250,000 on voluntary organisations?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: The role of my portfolio is to ensure that the needs of volunteers in the voluntary sector are understood within the Government, and that is a role I am exercising in relation to this matter.
Georgina Beyer: What groups were consulted, over this policy, by the Department of Labour?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: The department consulted a number of groups--
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the Minister has no responsibility for the Department of Labour, at all, one wonders how she can answer that question. That is a question that should be put to the Hon. Margaret Wilson.
Hon. Dr Michael Cullen: The Minister is responsible for the community sector, and that involves liaison with departments that consult the community sector, whatever their responsibilities may be. The Minister's responsibility is not clearly a departmental responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: That was not what was specifically asked by the member. What was specifically asked did relate to the Department of Labour.
Peter Brown: Is it acceptable to the Minister that under this new legislation, volunteers involved in activities, such as church decorating, fund-raising, maintaining church grounds, and the like, are covered by the legislation, all because the employing vicar is paid, and does she really believe that such legislation is necessary, because these folk have to go through safety training, safety committees, and all that sort of thing; if so, does she really believe that is fair and necessary?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: Yes, I believe there should be a duty of care on any organisation to consider the safety of its volunteers. That has always been the intention of the legislation.
Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister stand by Margaret Wilson's statement made last week, that volunteers will not be liable for prosecution, when the bill states that they will be; if she does stand by that statement, why?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: Yes, I do stand by the statement made by the Hon. Margaret Wilson.
Sue Bradford: Does the Minister see any reason at all to discriminate between paid and unpaid workers who do the same jobs and who face the same health and safety risks?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: There are guidelines and health and safety standards that are being developed right now through Volunteering New Zealand that will address that issue.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister recognise the characteristics that differentiate the community and voluntary sector from private or public-sector employers; if so, why does the proposed health and safety legislation treat them as if they were the same?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: I refer that member to my previous answer that there is a duty of care on any organisation whether it has paid employees or voluntary people working within it.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Has the Minister had any representations of support for the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill from voluntary organisations; if so, how many and from whom?
Hon. TARIANA TURIA: Voluntary sector organisations are expressing at least their delight that this Government has made them a priority organisation, which is something that when that member was in Government was not recognised, and if the member stops scaremongering amongst those organisations I am sure they will accept that what the Government is doing is in their interests also.
3. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Following last week's announcement that tax revenues were $358 million higher than forecast in the three months ending September 2002, what plans, if any, does he have for spending this?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): None. It would be inappropriate to enter spending commitments based on higher than forecast tax returns. Those are likely to be at least in part due to, first, timing effects, which may reverse out later in the year, and, second, most probably due to a higher than forecast growth rate. If one is to operate automatic stabilisers it would have to be done on the upside as well as the downside.
Larry Baldock: Given his comments in his speech yesterday, and the Government's commitment to improving our standing in the OECD, is he aware that New Zealand spends less per capita than many other OECD nations on road infrastructure, that efficient transport plays an important role in assisting economic growth, and will the Government give priority to that?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: New Zealand spends less per capita on roading, on health, on education, on law and order, and on a large number of things than a number of other OECD countries. Unfortunately, that is what being in the bottom half of the OECD means.
Clayton Cosgrove: What policy does the Government have toward fiscal and economic management, and what have the effects been?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government's policy is to maintain stable fiscal and economic settings. That allows the automatic stabilisers to work and ensures that the Government does not accentuate either the highs or lows of the economic cycle. The reward for this approach has been one of the strongest set of public accounts of the OECD, and in the June quarter the fastest-growing economy in the OECD, and the restoration of our triple A rating.
John Key: Will the Minister now consider cutting the corporate tax rate to compensate businesses for the increased compliance costs being heaped on them by this Government, including changes and proposed changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Service, local government, and the Holidays Act; if not, why not?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I notice that contrary to the forecast made by the Opposition in 1999-2000 the economy has grown strongly, we have low unemployment levels, and we have rising real-income levels within New Zealand. Given that the vast bulk of profits in New Zealand are paid out by way of dividends lowering the corporate tax rate will, first, merely affect timing for New Zealand residents, and, second, produce a windfall to overseas investors.
Peter Brown: Noting the Minister's answer to Mr Baldock's supplementary question, does the Minister not think it is only fair with such a tax windfall that some of that money that the petrol-using motorist pays into the consolidated account should go back into at least roading or transport-related matters, taking note of our railways and our roading and the demands that will be placed on them in the not too distant future?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I note that before the election the Automobile Association and the National Party stated that if the full cost of roading had to be borne by the excise duty, the excise duty would have to be double. I think that answers the member's question absolutely clearly.
Rodney Hide: Has the Minister given any consideration whatsoever to returning this money to taxpayers, through tax relief, especially since the Government's supporting partner, United Future, made a clear commitment to voters before the election to reduce the rate of company tax to 30 percent; and especially also since the Prime Minister's very own growth and innovation advisory board has, in a confidential report, advised that New Zealand must ``match the market in company tax and drop the rate''; or will the Government ignore that as well?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: To go to the lowest company tax rate around the world would be zero percent for certain purposes. Since the ACT party follows the principle that the personal tax rate should be the same as the company tax rate, that would also be zero--I invite the member to return his salary to the consolidated account.
Mr SPEAKER: I call question 4.subs - Qn 4 gets delayed.
Dail Jones: Mr Speaker, perhaps you may have overlooked the fact that the person asking the original question wanted a final supplementary, and maybe you did not notice Mr Baldock rising. I seek the leave of the House to enable him to have a final supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a fair comment. I did not see Mr Baldock rising. He has actually indicated, via his whips, that that is one of his questions. Is there any objection to him having a further supplementary? There is not. I call Mr Baldock, and apologise to him.
Larry Baldock: If the surplus continues throughout this year, is the Minister's reluctance to divert more of the revenue extensively collected from roading revenue to roading expenditure an indication that he does not consider the 15 percent of road deaths estimated by the Ministry of Transport to be caused by poor roading to be important?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. If I could go back to the original question, I think it is very important not to jump to conclusions about the fiscal outturn at this early stage of the income year. Almost certainly, there is an effect here from a higher than forecast growth rate. That would simply be expected to translate into a higher than forecast operating balance. There is some evidence that the corporate sector is now choosing to pay tax earlier in the year to avoid the possibility of penalties later in the year, which is why there is some expectation of some reversing out of this above forecast tax return so far.
Executive Director's Expenses
4. Hon. MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National--East Coast Bays), on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition), to the Minister of Broadcasting: Can the Minister of Broadcasting confirm the report in this morning's Dominion Post stating that the KPMG review of expenses claimed by Dr Ross Armstrong has been completed; if so, what further actions are proposed by himself or by TVNZ?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): I am advised that the KPMG review of expenses has been completed. The report does not find any evidence of inappropriate claiming by Dr Armstrong other than the claiming to his TVNZ credit card of seven items, which have been identified as personal expenses. These are the same items totalling $1,032.47 that were identified in the review conducted last Thursday by TVNZ's chief financial officer, and were repaid by Dr Armstrong on that day. Therefore, no further action is necessary. I give notice that I will table this report at the end of the question.
Hon. Murray McCully: In the light of the fact that Dr Armstrong enjoyed the unparalleled position of chairing three large State organisations, why did the Minister not request that the KPMG review cover the most obvious area for concern, by reviewing expenditure across all three organisations?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I am the Minister of Broadcasting, and I asked the board of Television New Zealand to ensure all expenses in relation to Television New Zealand were checked. It chose to do that through KPMG.
Russell Fairbrother: What process does Television New Zealand have in place for approving expenses incurred by board members?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: There are robust procedures in place. In May the acting chair, Craig Boyce, as chair of the finance and risk committee, instituted a system of having expenses vetted for the board's chair of the finance and risk committee.
Dail Jones: What processes are in place at Television New Zealand to ensure that the airfare of Paul Keating the former Prime Minister of Australia was not also paid for out of Television New Zealand's accounts?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I have just outlined what the review has done. It has ensured that this House, the public, the media, and everybody who has been interested in this issue now knows the expenses covered by Dr Armstrong, the chairperson of Television New Zealand, were inappropriate in seven cases. They have been repaid.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Is the Minister also able to assure the House that, when reviewing the expenses claimed by Dr Ross Armstrong, KPMG looked at the allegation that, as chairman of the State-owned enterprise Television New Zealand, he gave 10 Hobson Crescent, Thorndon, Wellington as his address for expense claims, but that as chairman of New Zealand Post he gave an Auckland address?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I cannot confirm those addresses, but what I can confirm for the member is that KPMG has looked at both domestic and international travel in relation to Dr Armstrong. As I said, it has arrived at the conclusion that there are seven inappropriate items, which he has repaid.
Hon. Murray McCully: If it was the case that Dr Armstrong had claimed for hotel expenses in Auckland through Television New Zealand, but that he claimed for accommodation in Wellington at the expense of New Zealand Post, is that a matter that would require further investigation, and will the Minister give the House his undertaking that he will look into that matter?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: If that was the case--and I have absolutely no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that it was--yes, that would have been picked up in this particular review in relation to these expenses. I know the National Party does not like Dr Armstrong, but I think it can now afford to stop the witch hunt and leave him alone. I seek leave to table the KPMG report into Dr Armstrong's expenses.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Iraq--United Nations' Recommendations
5. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Has she received any advice that means she has reconsidered her views, expressed on 13 September 2002, that the criteria for the use of force by the United Nations against Iraq had not been met?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No.
Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree that the recent United Nations Security Council resolution does not entitle the United States to take unilateral military action against Iraq if Iraq is found to be in breach of some aspect of that resolution; if not, why not?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, it does not. A process is set out in the resolution, and I am sure the member is familiar with it.
Tim Barnett: Is the Government satisfied with the process that the United Nations Security Council is following on Iraq?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Yes. The New Zealand Government, like most Governments, has supported the diplomatic process running its course. Our aim is to achieve, first, inspection, and then disarmament by Iraq in respect of any weapons of mass destruction it has. It is to be hoped that Iraq will comply with the resolution by Friday.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Does she accept that it is a bit premature for New Zealand to be ruling out any military contribution to a future strike on Iraq, and that it would be better to make such a decision after it is clear whether Iraq will fully accept weapon inspectors and after the United Nations Security Council has had the opportunity to make any further resolutions if there is non-compliance?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: What New Zealand and most countries have ruled out is any contribution to any unilateral action. What I have said before and what I have repeated in the House today is that if the UN Security Council mandated action, as a conscientious member of the UN, we would no doubt consider what contribution we might make.
Hon. Peter Dunne: What reaction does the Prime Minister have in terms of New Zealand's future policy to both the announcement overnight that the Iraqi Parliament has rejected the inspection proposals put to it and President Bush's comments on the Veterans' Day commemorations at Arlington Cemetery, that the United States was soon to lead a coalition of nations to topple the Iraqi regime? What are the implications of those two developments for New Zealand policy?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The latest I saw was that the Iraqi Parliament was still discussing the matter. Nobody thinks that the Iraqi Parliament has any particular authority to make decisions. I am sure that the president himself will make the decision. To date he has demonstrated ability to be a survivor, which would lead one to be optimistic that they would comply by Friday, as the Arab League Foreign Minsters have urged them to do, unanimously. Second, in respect of President Bush's comments, yes, he is keeping the pressure on. That is how I interpret the comments that the member refers to.
Keith Locke: Will the Government withdraw our Orion and frigate from Operation Enduring Freedom maritime interdiction force if the United States does invade Iraq without Security Council authorisation; if not, why not?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No. We have done a threat assessment of what the threat could rise to in that event. The threat assessment rises to medium from low, but this is a separate operation, separate purpose, separate command.
Ron Mark: In the light of this question and the subsequent questions that have been raised, does the Prime Minister not think that now is the time for this Government to implement those portions of the Inquiry into Defence Beyond 2000 report, which recommended that we increase the size of our infantry battalions so that we can increase the size of our defence capability in order that we can respond effectively when called upon to do so by our friends and allies?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I do not think that it is the overall size of the infantry battalions that is at issue here. What is at issue is that we are just completing 3 years of pretty large effort in East Timor, and our people are coming home to regenerate from that. One would have to go back a very long way to see anything like that scale of mobilisation, and it has been that length of deployment in those numbers that poses any constraint on anything New Zealand might want to do at this time.
Crime--Statistics of Ethnic Groups
6. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Does he keep any crime statistics on the following ethnic groups: Somali, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Scottish, Irish, Dutch or South African; if not, why not?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Police inform me that they keeping offender apprehension statistics, where ethnicity is defined by a number of ethnic groups, including Caucasian, Maori, Pacific, Asiatic, and other groups.
Ron Mark: Does the Minister not believe that it is inappropriate to record, collate, and publish nationwide crime statistics for Maori and not do the same for Somalis and Thais, and, further, if it is deemed acceptable for crime statistics on Pacific Islanders to be likewise recorded, why does the Government not do likewise specifically for Asians and Africans?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: No. The police do keep statistics for various groups, but sometimes the groups are so small and insignificant that it is not of value.
Martin Gallagher: Are members of the Asian community in New Zealand over-represented as offenders in police crime statistics?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: Not only are Asian New Zealanders some of the most productive people in our population, but they are also some of the most law-abiding. They make up over 6 percent of our population and represent only 2.2 percent of offender apprehensions.
Hon. Tony Ryall: What effect will the projected shortfall of 130 sworn police officers in greater Auckland over the summer period have on the country's rocketing crime rate this year?
Mr SPEAKER: That is rather wide of the original question but the Minister can comment.
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government is concerned about crime in the Auckland area, and is taking steps to make sure we have sufficient police. It all started when the National Party tried to cut 540 police out of the New Zealand police force.
Marc Alexander: Following on from the primary question, which related to crime statistics based on ethnicity, does the Minister also keep crime statistics for offenders based on their star signs, or does he believe that factors such as poor education and dysfunctional families are more relevant indicators of criminal activity than irrelevancies such as the colour of one's skin?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: The police do not keep any statistics based on star signs or any other information. It is not helpful in developing plans to apprehend criminals and cut crime.
Ron Mark: In the Minister's response to that question about the proportionality of crime statistics per head of population for Asian people, is he telling us that the crime rates of young Somali males, given their numbers in this country, are not disproportionate, and if he is not keeping the figures, how would he know?
Hon. GEORGE HAWKINS: I do not have specific information on Somali youth, but if the member likes to put down a question I will endeavour to get the answer if the police hold that information.
7. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour--Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What measures has the Government undertaken to ensure tertiary education remains affordable to students?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): For the third year in a row the Government has offered additional funding to tertiary education providers who agree to freeze student fees. All universities, all polytechnics, all colleges of education, and all wananga have accepted the latest offer; 201 private training establishments have also accepted the new funding. That means in 2003, for the third year in a row, students in these institutions will not face a rise in fees.
Jill Pettis: What responses has the Minister seen to the stabilisation of fees?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Students have been very pleased with the news. However, I understand that in Dunedin recently Mr Simon Power made clear his, and the National Party's, support for return to fee rises. Based upon fee rises in the 1990s, that would mean that students would have already ``enjoyed''--if I can used that word--a rise of $1,700, if National had been in power. Students will be very interested to hear of that latest attack on them by National.
Simon Power: How can he honestly believe that the Government's efforts to make tertiary education more affordable have worked, when under his stewardship, overall levels of student debt have risen from $2.9 billion to $4.7 billion, and a whopping 33,000 more students took out loans last year than they did in 1999?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Easily. The member will know that for the first time this year student debt levelled off, because of the policies of this Government.
Whanganui River Maori Trust
Board--Genesis Power Ltd
8. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Has she considered any negotiations between the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board and Genesis Power Ltd in relation to the claim over the Whanganui River; if so, what does she know of these negotiations?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): I commenced pre-negotiation discussions with the Whanganui iwi in January of this year for the settlement of their historic treaty claims. Those discussions centred on confirming a mandate, and were successfully concluded on 8 November. This now enables negotiations to commence. I have not been in the negotiations with the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board and Genesis Power. I have been briefed on the issues and I understand that the parties have been using their best endeavours to reach agreement.
Stephen Franks: Did the Minister not want to know whether Ken Mair's mob have dealt in good faith with Genesis Power, or does she not care that they have filed no evidence to support their appeal?
Hon. Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am offended at the description of Whanganui iwi and their kaumatua.
Mr SPEAKER: Perhaps the phrase could have been more felicitously expressed. Perhaps the member might like to rephrase the question, although technically, nothing is out of order with what he said.
Hon. Tariana Turia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Prebble said ``They are a mob.'' I would like him to withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter of taste. I prefer comments like that not to be made about people outside the House. But if that is the particular expression of the member, he has not made any comment in his question that is out of order.
Stephen Franks: Did the Minister not want to know whether Ken Mair's mob have dealt in good faith with Genesis Power, or does she not care that they have filed no evidence to support their appeal to the court, that the time has expired, sending a message to the scores of other individuals and iwi who have negotiated agreements with Genesis Power over 10 years that they are mugs, and should have simply ignored the lawful process and occupied land to panic the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and the Hon. Tariana Turia into suspending the legal process and appeasing that unlawful mob?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the Minister answers the question, I want to ensure that no reference is made to any court action that is at present proceeding.
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: My understanding is that the negotiators for the Whanganui negotiating committee have been in discussions, as I said, with Genesis Energy. Those discussions have been conducted in good faith. An indication of that is that they met yesterday and they agreed to meet today, and they are confident that they will reach some accommodation.
Jill Pettis: Could the Minister please further advise what the next stage is in negotiations with the Whanganui iwi, who are honourable people?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: The Crown expects to enter negotiations with the mandated representatives of the Whanganui iwi within the next 2 weeks to agree the terms of negotiation and to commence the substantive negotiations on the Crown's acknowledgment and the apology, and also to negotiate financial redress and cultural redress. A key issue, of course, for the negotiations will be the use and management of the river.
Hon. Georgina te Heuheu: What is the Minister doing to minimise the potential for more protest, similar to that at Moutua Gardens, by claimants feeling totally frustrated at this Government's lack of progress on treaty settlements?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: As I said, we have now concluded the mandate for the negotiations. The members of the iwi who are expressing their frustration, which is similar to my own frustration at the time these things take, are doing so in a responsible and lawful way. I understood that that was the foundation of our democratic society.
Bill Gudgeon: In the light of the negotiations with the Whanganui iwi and kaumatua in relation to the Wanganui river claim, would Maori be happy if part of the Wanganui river were to be diverted for energy purposes; if not, why not?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: If I understand the question, I cannot speak for the iwi, because we are not yet in negotiations on the substantive issues. I should imagine that the use and management of the river will be a matter that will be central to those negotiations.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree, given that the current actions of the Whanganui iwi are lawful and that the current negotiations are, in part, directed towards defending property rights, that criticism of the iwi is inconsistent with the classical liberal tradition?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: Yes. I could not have expressed it better myself.
Murray Smith: What assistance did the Minister give to the Whanganui iwi between January 2002 and November 2002 to assist them to obtain a mandate in a timely fashion?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: We undertook the normal arrangements. There was some funding that was available to assist the parties to be able to meet and to discuss their mandate. We also appointed negotiators, including someone with responsibility for the tikanga issues that arose.
Stephen Franks: Could the Minister comment on whether she thinks that it is consistent with good-faith negotiation to provide no evidence whatsoever to support an appeal that was lodged last year?
Hon. MARGARET WILSON: In my experience, it is not uncommon that litigants, once embarked upon an action, may not then wish to continue that action. That appears to be the case here, but I have no knowledge of the specifics of it.
Internet--Access by Population
9. DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour--Hamilton East) to the Minister of State Services: What reports has he received on New Zealanders' use of the internet?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): The GO2002 survey, in which 1,000 New Zealanders took part in October last year, shows that people in this country are well positioned to make use of the Internet in Government, in business, and in their domestic lives. A major finding was that 71 percent of those surveyed had used the Internet in the last month, which was the highest percentage of the 31 countries surveyed. The survey showed that 40 percent of New Zealanders had used e-government services in the previous 12 months, compared with a global average of 30 percent. High Internet usage, in combination with education initiatives and accessible infrastructure, means that it is much easier for the public to use Government services on-line.
Dianne Yates: What services are people likely to want to access through e-government?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Among the services people want to be able to access through e-government are the services of the Inland Revenue Department, Statistics New Zealand, passport services, legislation, health matters, local council services, and many, many others. The survey shows that people are looking to Government to provide high-quality services, in rural areas as well as urban areas, and 24 hours a day--a much better service than Government has traditionally provided.
John Carter: Is the Minister aware that the Internet address www.labour.net is registered to the Prime Minister's office, and is that an appropriate participation on the Internet, using public funds?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Last year I received an old ``snail mail'' letter at home from the Leader of the Opposition, which was posted out of Parliament with probably the same use of funds. The member might want to talk to Maurice Williamson, who has quite a lot of knowledge in this area. I want to give Maurice Williamson credit--
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Those comments are finished. We have a point of order.
John Carter: I thought my question was quite succinct and direct. It had nothing to do with the Leader of the Opposition or the member for Pakuranga. I wonder whether the Minister might address the question that I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: I heard the Minister address the question, and of course I agree with the member. The Minister started out in a way that did not initially approach the question, but he did address the question towards the end.
Hydroelectric Power Stations--Rangipo and
10. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National--Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: How much electricity do the Rangipo and Tokaanu power stations generate from the Whanganui River water currently subject to reconsent?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): About 300 gigawatt hours per annum, which is a little over 0.5 percent of total available generation in the country.
Gerry Brownlee: Is he concerned that New Zealand could lose the 360 megawatts of generating capacity from Rangipo and Tokaanu, stated in the Genesis report to be 4 percent of New Zealand's supply, unless the Moutoa Gardens protesters are given a big cheque?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The member's question is based--[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I want to listen to the Minister's reply. [Interruption] A comment was made and I overlooked it because there was a certain amount of--
Jill Pettis: Provocation!
Mr SPEAKER: Jill Pettis will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment.
Jill Pettis: I do apologise, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has asked a perfectly valid question. I want the answer to be given now.
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The member's question is perfectly valid, but it is based on a misconception that we would lose all the 360 megawatts of capacity out of Tokaanu and Rangipo. That, of course, is not the case because there is much more water flowing through that station than through all of the Whanganui River water, if indeed it were ever all rediverted.
Mark Peck: Does the availability of water for electricity generation vary nationwide, as a result of negotiation over water rights?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Indeed, it does. For example, last night I signed out a new agreement that involved the operating guidelines for the Manapouri and Te Anau agreement between Meridian and the guardians of the lakes, which will enable Meridian to hold more water at a higher level in Te Anau for longer than was the case before. That will, of course, increase generation capacity. These changes occur all the time.
Hon. Ken Shirley: What is the Minister's response to the observation that a State-owned enterprise paying $1.6 million to avoid objections on metaphysical grounds against water right renewals on the Clutha has led to a spate of copycat extortions, including Genesis on the Wanganui, taniwhas offended by Transit New Zealand at Meremere, and opposition to replenishment of coastal sands at Beachlands on the North Shore, and will his Government move to amend the Resource Management Act for the sustainable management of natural and physical resources, and not metaphysical?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The same response as has the board of Contact Energy to that suggestion. I quote a letter to the editor of the Dominion Post from Contact Energy where it states that it finds highly offensive the suggestion that the company has engaged in bribery in negotiations under the Resource Management Act. The letter goes on to state that the company takes its obligations to mitigate the potential environmental impact of its activities very seriously. It also notes that the company is negotiating with other groups, including Lake Hawea Irrigators Group and Otago Fish and Game, which, I might say in parenthesis, are interesting because they have a predominantly Pakeha membership and attract no public attention.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given the strength with which Wanganui iwi asserted their kaitiakitanga over the river in the last water-right hearings, and the 10 years' notice that Genesis has had of the need to renew these consents, what has the company done in those 10 years to encourage demand-side management or distributed generation to reduce pressure on the river?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I am the Minister of Energy, not the Minister for State Owned Enterprises so I have neither the information nor the ability to answer that question. However, the member has made a very interesting point--that is, that this particular part of our hydro-scheme was subject to a remarkably vigorous court case about 10 or 11 years ago. I think the Forest and Bird Protection Society fronted it, along with others, against Electricorp, as it was then called, and a substantial water loss occurred as a result of that.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Government settles the ownership of the Wanganui River in favour of the Moutoa Gardens protesters, who would Genesis need to get a consent from to use the Wanganui water, and how much does the Minister expect it would cost our consumers?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The Government is not involved in settling.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If that is to be the Minister's answer and you are to accept it, does that not fly in the face of the fact that the place has been crawling with people from Moutoa Gardens this morning engaged in negotiations with the Government?
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is a debating point. The Minister addressed the question.
11. Hon. BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Education (Special Education): Is current Government policy sufficient to cope with the ongoing education of teenage parents who had their basic formal education truncated due to the birth of a child?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Education (Special Education)): No. Government policy alone cannot provide for the range of needs that result from an unplanned birth of a child to teenagers who have not completed their formal education.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Why is it that the 11 current centres have staffing ratios ranging from 1:7 to 1:20, that some have management units and some have none, and why do all teenage parent centres have free access to the Correspondence School except for Whangarei, which is required to pay $850 per paper?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: My advice is that there are nine teen-parent units in the country. There are two alternative education programmes that are specifically designed for teen parents. I believe that this is an area that we should look at more carefully in terms of having consistency across the country.
Helen Duncan: What support does the Ministry of Education provide for teen-parent units?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Seeding funding is made available to support community groups interested in establishing a teen-parent unit attached to a local secondary school, and through their enrolment in the secondary school each student generates normal operational funding and staffing.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Why does the Government continue the myth that teenage parents, and others who have discontinued their mainstream education, are being catered for by the Correspondence School, when all the evidence is that these students need far more support than is available from the Correspondence School?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: Maybe the member would like to talk to the Minister who established them back in the late 1990s.
Dr Muriel Newman: In light of the concerns over the education and well-being of teenage mothers and their children, why did the Government go against official advice to make the domestic purposes benefit easier to get on and harder to get off, when Ministry of Social Development research identifies teenage motherhood and the domestic purposes benefit as risk factors for children, and statistics show that more than two-thirds of all teenage mothers who went on the domestic purposes benefit in the last decade are still there?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The fact that each teen-parent unit has an attached or closely associated registered and licensed early childhood centre that enables strong, early learning foundations to be set for the children of teenage parents, is actually about breaking the cycle, which is what that member is referring to.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: How does the Minister think the 11 current centres, which all seem to be treated differently by Ministry of Education officials, can possibly hope to meet the needs of approximately 27,000 teenage mothers who have given birth over the last 5 years?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The member makes an assumption that all teenage parents are enrolled in teen-parent units or in alternative education. There are a number of teen parents who are enrolled in mainstream school environments and are not enrolled in those separate units. There are only nine teen-parent units. They were originally established under the crime prevention unit. I do believe that we should be doing some further work on developing a strategy to ensure that a range of options is available to those young people so we keep them connected in the education system.
Secondary School Teachers--Industrial Disputes
12. Hon. Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National--Nelson) to the Minister of Education: Can he assure the House that there will be no further industrial action in secondary schools either late this year or early next year; if not, why not?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): No, because a decision to take industrial action is not mine.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Why is the Government refusing to use the alternative dispute resolution process to resolve the G3 equivalence issue affecting 2,000 teachers to avert further industrial trouble, when he was more than happy to use that process as an out 8 days prior to the general election, particularly as the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) has agreed to be bound by the panel's decision on the interpretation of what the panel meant for those G3 equivalent teachers?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Because this Government knows what a degree is.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Are secondary teachers able to take industrial action?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: PPTA members in secondary schools, by a vote of 88 to 12 percent, ratified a settlement package in August. They are now covered by a collective employment agreement, and unless there are some exceptions under the Employment Relations Act, which I cannot find for them, it would be unlawful for those teachers to take industrial action.
Bernie Ogilvy: In the light of his view that this year's industrial action by teachers contributed to the difficulties in implementing the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, can the Minister guarantee that the implementation of level 2 will be trouble-free in the absence of further industrial action in the year 2003?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I think if there is an absence of industrial action, there will be less trouble around level 2 of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. Always when one introduces a new qualification, there are hiccups and teething problems.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: In noticing that the Ministry of Education post-election briefing highlighted the shortage of both technology and information technology teachers, how will excluding those teachers from the pay settlement help address the teacher supply issues in those particularly important subjects?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Notwithstanding the information that apparently is being spread around, there is no pay cut for these teachers. These teachers are receiving two pay increases. This is what the Government is doing: for those teachers who are properly qualified, who have degree qualifications in this area, we are paying for their teachers college, their education experience, whereby we are paying them $10,000 to do it--in a way that the previous Government, I understand, was advised to do, and refused.
Donna Awatere Huata: I seek leave to ask an additional supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave can be sought. Is there any objection? There is.
End of Questions for Oral Answer.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)