Questions Of The Day Transcript - 19 November
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 19 November, 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Treaty of Waitangi--Article Three
1. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader--NZ National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by the statement in the Speech from the Throne in December 1999 that Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi implies equality in the rights of citizenship; if so, why?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes. That article states that Maori are to be extended all the rights and privileges of British subjects. I am advised that in modern New Zealand that equates to an undertaking to ensure that Maori have the same rights and duties of citizenship as other New Zealanders.
Hon. Bill English: Can the Prime Minister explain to the House why she supports local government legislation that will allow councils to determine separate representation for Maori, and which sets out a whole raft of additional means by which Maori can participate in local government?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: It is important that the treaty's principles around consultation and participation are respected in the legislation, and that local government should do its very best to include Maori in its decision-making. In respect of the issue of Maori representation on local authorities, there was a long debate in this House about the Bay of Plenty Regional Council request to have such representation. The local government legislation provides that in future there will be procedures for local government itself to come to such decisions.
Mahara Okeroa: What reports, if any, has the Prime Minister seen on the rights of citizenship?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I have seen a report of a quite extraordinary speech given this morning by the Leader of the Opposition in which he seems to be competing with the leader of New Zealand First to see who can attack the treaty the most.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister help this Parliament, every local government agency, every Governmental agency, every school, and every hospital by telling us precisely what those principles are that she so gaily speaks about when she talks about the Treaty of Waitangi; can we have today the definition of those principles that she is asking everybody else to abide by, but apparently which she cannot describe herself?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: As I advised the member before, the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal have commented from time to time on what the principles are understood to be. However, I want to say that the courts guidance on this matter suggests that such principles as commonly understood would include a principle of partnership, a principle of act of protection, and a principle of redress. Clearly, the first understanding is relevant to local government.
Stephen Franks: In view of the policy and the treaty statement of the same rights and privileges, how does discrimination and privilege written into rules as diverse as the Trade Marks Bill, the funding formula for public health organisations, as well as the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2), differ from naked racism?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I would think by drawing on the understanding that the courts and the tribunal have reached as indicated in my previous answer. I must say that the general understanding is that the treaty sets up a balance for the Crown that it should strive to protect the unique place and taonga of Maori, while respecting the need for all citizens to be equal.
Nandor Tanczos: Does the Prime Minister think that her Government is meeting its article 3 of the Treaty of Waitangi obligations given that the New Zealand living standards 2000 report states: ``Maori living standards are on average lower than most New Zealanders. One in two Maori families and one in two Maori children live in hardship.''?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No New Zealander can take pride in those figures, and that is why this Government has pursued a programme of reducing inequalities.
Hon. Bill English: What specifically are the reasons that the Government is promoting separate representation for Maori in local government?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The Government is not promoting it. The Government has set out legislation that enables local government itself to promote it if it wishes. I realise the Leader of the Opposition is totally destabilised by coming a poor third, but he will never out-compete the leader of the New Zealand First on Maori bashing.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will not sit by while this Prime Minister accuses me of Maori bashing. Firstly, in real terms I happen to have more Maori members of Parliament in New Zealand First than any other political party ever, and, secondly, I thought you would have risen to your feet instantaneously when the Prime Minister was out of order, or do we have two rules here?
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has raised a valid point of order. The last comment of the Prime Minister was unnecessary.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know it is unnecessary. Is she going to be asked to withdraw and apologise like everybody else?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. I will ask the member to withdraw and apologise for the last comment.
Rt Hon. Helen Clark: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon. Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Of course the comments were directed at me as well as Mr Peters and I seek a withdrawal and apology as well.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I remind the honourable leader that a withdrawal and apology is to all members of the House.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Having regard to my first question to the Prime Minister in respect of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, are those principles she outlined the principles of this Government and her administration or merely of the courts and she has no idea whatsoever, and if that is so, how come, if nobody in the English-speaking world was in partnership with Queen Victoria on 5 February 1840, the Maori people were the day after that, on 7 February 1840?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: They are not the principles of the Government. They are what the courts understand to be the principles of the treaty.
New Zealand Living Standards 2000 Report
2. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Labour: In response to the New Zealand Living Standards 2000 Report prepared by the Minister's officials in the Ministry of Social Development, that showed a significant minority of New Zealanders faced severe hardship, does she support lifting the minimum wage to $10 per hour as a means to raising living standards and reducing hardship; if not, why not?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Acting Minister of Labour): The Minister of Labour has a statutory requirement to review minimum wage rates by 31 December every year. My officials are currently conducting this review. Submissions have been received from key stakeholders, and I expect a report on these in the near future. I will consider the results of the review and make recommendations to my colleagues.
Sue Bradford: Would not a substantial increase to the minimum wage result in a rather greater improvement to the lives of families than the establishment of yet another bureaucracy such as the Commission for the Family?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: There are two quite separate issues here. Significant improvements--as have already occurred--in the minimum wage are important to low-income families. The Commission for the Family is another approach that can focus on important areas to do with the family. Both are important.
Georgina Beyer: What factors are considered in the review?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: In making recommendations, a number of objectives and criteria are taken into account. These objectives, previously agreed by Cabinet, are fairness, income protection, income distribution, and work incentives.
Katherine Rich: In the light of the finding of the New Zealand Living Standards report that people in work have better living standards than those on benefits, does he accept that increasing the minimum wage will reduce the number of jobs for low-skilled unemployed, and that he would be better reintroducing work testing for all beneficiaries and National's policy of a 90-day trial period for employment if he really wanted to make a real difference to the living standards of the poor?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I do not think it would come as a surprise to anyone in this House that generally people in work are better off than people who are unemployed.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister agree with the criteria developed by the Ministry of Social Development that if a family believes it cannot afford Sky television that contributes to the family being categorised as living in poverty; if so, can the Minister shed light on exactly when an item that most New Zealanders consider to be a luxury became a measure of poverty?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: I do not accept that, nor do I accept that people who are unemployed should be made to develop edible panties, as that member used to suggest.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Hon. Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National--Nelson): This question was set down for the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. The point I wish to raise is that when I look at the delegations that are provided for the Associate Minister, it includes so much of the arts, culture and heritage portfolio that it is almost impossible to have a question of the Prime Minister with respect to that portfolio that she holds. So I seek leave for the question to be taken by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.
Mr SPEAKER: There is a perfect right to delegate.
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): As the Associate Minister cannot be here, I will be delighted to answer the question.
Welcome Bay, Tauranga--Wahi Tapu
3. Hon. Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National--Nelson) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: Does she support the decision of the Historic Places Trust to register 180 hectares of land at Welcome Bay, Tauranga as wahi tapu; if so, why?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage), on behalf of the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: The decision was made by the Maori Heritage Council of the Historic Places Trust. It has the statutory independence to make such decisions. The Maori Heritage Council and this specific power were established in law in 1993 by a previous National Government. The Associate Minister's views are irrelevant.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: Noting the historic heritage review of 1998, and the amendments included in the Resource Management Amendment Bill that remove these powers and give them to councils and make them subject to the Environment Court, why did she, as the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Culture, instruct the select committee to remove those reforms that would not see this sort of injustice in Welcome Bay, Tauranga?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Firstly, Ministers cannot instruct select committees; secondly, this matter is delegated to the Associate Minister, thirdly, as the member well knows, the only statutory protection for wahi tapu can come from a district council listing it as such under the Resource Management Act.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was such a hoot to the point No. 1, which is that Ministers cannot instruct select committees, that we down the back could not hear point No. 2. Could we just hear what point No. 2 was?
Mr SPEAKER: That is a fair question. Could the Prime Minister repeat the second point?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Yes, point No. 2 was the question that was directed to me, rather than the Associate Minister, who the member knows has the delegation for dealing with the Historic Places Trust.
David Parker: Is the Associate Minister aware of any other expressions of support for the protection of wahi tapu?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Strangely enough, I am. In 1998 Dr Nick Smith, as the Minister of Conservation, said that the continuing loss of wahi tapu was a national tragedy.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Why did the Prime Minister say that select committees cannot be instructed, when she, in fact, wrote to the select committee on this very matter? Second, is it fair that vendors who are Maori sold this property in 1965, without restriction, to now go a Maori group in the Historic Places Trust and place a restriction on that land? What is fair about that, and what will she do about that implicit unfairness?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: My understanding of the 1993 legislation is that the Maori Heritage Council can make that designation. What that means is that, if someone wants to develop the land, he or she applies in the normal way to the council, the council consults the trust, the trust comes back to the council, and the council considers its recommendations. The council decision-making is paramount.
Hon. Ken Shirley: What steps, if any, does the Minister intend taking to protect the rights of freehold property owners to use and enjoy their land free from the imposition of intolerable and unjustifiable constraints imposed by statutory bodies such as the Maori Heritage Council of the Historic Places Trust?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: My understanding of the last National Government's legislation is that that designation does not, in itself, prevent development, because in the end the resource consent goes to the council. The council consults the trust and it takes the trust's recommendations into account, but it is not obliged to follow them. The council's decision making is paramount.
Larry Baldock: Will the Government consider making it mandatory for local authorities to consult landowners before decisions are made that affect potential use of their property; if not, why not?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I think the process is a little bit the other way around. If someone wishes to seek a planning consent he or she goes to the council. The council considers it and the council makes the decision.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: What does the Minister say to the four property owners affected, who have invested their life-savings in their land, when this wahi tapu--the largest ever put in place by the Historic Places Trust--restricts them from building on or developing their land, and when right next door the applying iwi have a trust deed that enables them to build, to develop, to log, and to subdivide their land in the same area?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: My understanding is that what the Maori Heritage Council has done does not have that effect. It requires that when the planning consent is sought by the owners, they go to the council, which then consults the trust, and the council makes the decision.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table a letter from the Minister for the Environment to the Local Government and Environment Committee, instructing that the heritage reforms would not proceed.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that letter to be tabled. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the trust deed of the iwi that have applied for the wahi tapu.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Agreement with United States
4. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour--Dunedin South), on behalf of JANET MACKEY (NZ Labour--East Coast), to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: What reports has he received about the prospects of a New Zealand - United States trade agreement?
Hon. JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): I have seen many commentators reported in news articles who have been markedly positive about the prospect of a New Zealand - United States trade agreement.
David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister please tell us which report he viewed with the greatest interest?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: Certainly. I draw the House's attention to comments by the National Party trade spokesman, confirming that any mention of New Zealand would be a huge coup for Helen Clark. That is one comment I would like to endorse.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Since the Government announced, on Monday last, that it would commit a frigate and an Orion aircraft to the Gulf--looking as if it had, in fact, joined the US coalition, and which was, coincidentally, just 3 days before the announcement--why does the Government continue to insist that it would never even consider modifying the nuclear-free legislation in order to conclude a free-trade agreement with the United States?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: I can advise the member that US trade representative Bob Zoellick had decided what to notify the Congress of before the New Zealand Government made a decision on the frigate.
Dail Jones: Are the prospects for a New Zealand - United States trade agreement enhanced by the reference to New Zealand in the letter from the United States representative Robert Zoellick to the United States Senate, advising that the Bush administration was commencing negotiations for an Australia - United States free-trade agreement, and, in the light of that development, what is the Government's current view of the prospect of New Zealand being included in an Australia - United States free-trade agreement?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: New Zealand's prospects were undoubtedly greatly enhanced, and we were given a clear indication of a route forward with our advocacy in that respect.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Is there amongst the reports that he has received about the prospects of a New Zealand - United States trade agreement the report of 6 October, quoting the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, acknowledging that the anti-nuclear law is now a factor in Australia being ahead of New Zealand and admitting that as one reason ``why they would deal with Australia first''; if so, is that the route we have to take to go forward that he is referring to?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: Dealing with the last question first: no, that is not the route, and this Government has no intention of selling out New Zealand's nuclear-free policies for trade purposes.
Rod Donald: What price is the Government willing to pay for a free-trade agreement with the United States: removing import tariffs protecting vulnerable industries; granting unfettered US ownership of land and businesses; lowering the standards of genetic engineering labelling; slackening quarantine standards for poultry, pork, and table grapes; dropping plans for local content on television and radio; restructuring Pharmac; or any of the other expectations in their report?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that question was too long. The Minister may comment briefly on it.
Hon. JIM SUTTON: When New Zealand signs a closer economic partnership agreement with the United States, it will be because that is in the best interests of both countries.
Gordon Copeland: Is he aware of comments by a Mr Robert Hathaway, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington that New Zealand's anti-nuclear stance has no bearing on the free-trade agreement, and has he had similar comments from other US officials?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: I am aware of those comments, but I would acknowledge that the nuclear issue does form part of the context of the overall relationship between the two countries.
on Equal Opportunities
5. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her comments, ``We want all New Zealanders to enjoy access to opportunity and we want members of ethnic minorities to enjoy economic and social status on a par with that of other New Zealanders.''?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, who would not?
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that comment, does that access to opportunity to enjoy economic and social status on a par with other New Zealanders include entitlement for a refugee family of four to be in receipt of New Zealand taxpayer-funded benefits totally $945 net per week, or $49,152 each year after tax, and for this to have gone on for 2 years or more; and how precisely does that situation represent parity or equality for the New Zealand taxpayer?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Unfortunately, a number of New Zealand - born families are on benefits for longer than that. The important point is to try to get everyone, as quickly as possible, off benefits and into useful employment.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What initiatives is the Government undertaking to ensure that ethnic minorities can settle well in New Zealand?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: A number of settlement projects have been funded with a particular emphasis on gaining better employment outcomes, and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, among a number of organisations, has been particularly helpful.
Hon. Murray McCully: Does the Prime Minister agree with the views expressed by the Mayor of Auckland, the Hon. John Banks, in this morning's New Zealand Herald, in relation to the local government legislation currently before the House, that: ``Special provisions for Maori are potentially divisive, and we need to encourage all ethnic groups to take part fully in council affairs.'', if not, why not?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: No, I do not agree with that for the kinds of reasons I outlined in answer to question No. 1.
Marc Alexander: Does the Prime Minister agree with the sentiment expressed in the following statement concerning race relations that: ``New Zealand is not a monotonous garden where every flower is the same; it is a garden where the diversity of the blooms enriches the view.'', and is she surprised that it was made in this House on 5 June 1979 in the maiden speech of one Winston Peters?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I must commend the member on his research, and say that the sentiments expressed in that quote are very worthy. I am only surprised that the member at the time did not go on to quote Mao Tse Tung ``Let a thousand flowers bloom.''
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that this family's gross income equates to approximately $65,000 per year, an income twice that of which 75 percent of New Zealand's working population currently receives, exactly where is the fairness and equity in that, and when did the working population of this country ever give her permission to make those thoroughly prejudicial payments on behalf of people who were originally outsiders?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The member knows from his time as Deputy Prime Minister that refugees have entitlements to benefits and will be judged on the same criteria as other people in New Zealand.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a document showing the income of this family, which sets out exactly what is going on in the name of this Prime Minister.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
6. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National--Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Have any district health boards increased the number of points which reflect the level of disability or sickness patients require to get an operation; if so, which ones?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): While work is under way, there is no nationwide points criteria being implemented for most operations in New Zealand, with the exception of gynaecology and ophthalmology, which were established in September 2000. Therefore, district health boards increase and decrease points on a regular basis, depending on acute demand, workforce availability, and reallocation between services. Since comprehensive records of the points began being used by boards, and became available under this Government, overall the actual points needed for an operation are trending down.
Dr Lynda Scott: Can the Minister explain why Midcentral Health has increased the points needed for a hip replacement from 65 in 2001-2002 to 90 in 2002-2003, meaning the patient has to be significantly more disabled, or in a great deal more pain, to have access to surgery in a public hospital; if not, why not?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: As pointed out, the reasons boards increase their thresholds are many and varied. For example, she may well find that that board overproduced in terms of the contractual arrangements it had for that financial year. So, if it carries out more of one particular type of operation it will do less for another. Boards must balance what they do within the funding they receive.
Steve Chadwick: What has this Government done to ensure national equity of access for treatment?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: When I became Minister there was no way to compare levels of access throughout the country. The first nationally consistent clinical priority and criteria were implemented on 30 September 2000. Work is now under way to provide nationally consistent points in all elective procedures, with 29 sets in various stages of national implementation. That never happened under a National Government.
Heather Roy: In relation to district health board services, can the Minister deny that Birthcare North Harbour being closed at Christmas is part of desperate attempts to reduce Waitemata's deficit, despite the fact that tomorrow she is personally presenting an award to its twin facility, Birthcare Parnell, and why is she not intervening to retain that important high-quality maternity service?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The reason the district health board in Waitemata is no longer contracting with Birthcare is that recently I opened a brand new maternity service in its hospital. It does not need the capacity. It is required to use the capacity that taxpayers fund as its first priority.
Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that referring patients to the active review assessment system set up by the Government is serving as a way of manipulating and artificially keeping down waiting lists, and that many patients on active review are either waiting until they are sick enough to get on to a waiting list, or until sufficient funding is available to treat their illness; if not, why not?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The active review part of the waiting time is to ensure that those people who do not reach the criteria for an operation are actively managed by their general practitioners. That compares with a waiting list of 89,000 when I became the Minister. Some of those people had died, some had had their operations, but none of them had the certainty that they would have an operation.
Judy Turner: What assurances can she give that disability and sickness patients will receive accurate information from district health boards about the number of points they have been allocated and the length of time they will be required to wait before surgery?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: That is a very good question. Today the Ministry of Health launched a world-first website in which elective services can be used by patients by looking up the website. Health professionals, patients, and the public can track and respond to the services on a nationwide level. We are putting that service out there so that people can see how well we are doing, rather than hiding and never producing it, as happened under the previous Government.
Dr Lynda Scott: Can the Minister explain why Midcentral Health has increased the points needed for a cataract operation from 20 in 2001-02, to 29 in 2002-03, meaning that a patient has to be more disabled and sight impaired to get an operation under her Government?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: As I said in my first answer, boards increase and decrease the points as required, including workforce availability and the number of acute admissions. It is interesting that the member did not quote any boards that had decreased the number of points required. In fact, the overall trend shows that the points required are going down, not up.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the financially sustainable thresholds, otherwise known as points, of Midcentral Health.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
7. GORDON COPELAND to the Minister of Finance: What is his response to recent Bank of New Zealand projections that New Zealand has ``practically no chance'' of achieving a four percent annual growth rate over the coming decade?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): I think the main reason cited in the report for Mr Alexander's pessimism is his view that we are not capable of addressing the skills shortages in the New Zealand economy. I do not share that pessimism. We have policies to upgrade the responsiveness of the immigration system to skill shortages, to improve the focus of post-school education and the training system on labour market needs--[Interruption] I doubt that under the new system Mr Peters would ever have been let into the country--and to increase investment in training skills and development.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree that there is a close link between economic growth capacity and the quality and efficiency of transport infrastructure; if so, what steps will he take to ensure the transport network is properly funded so that it can meet New Zealand's economic growth imperatives, rather than create impediments to growth like Auckland's billion-dollar-a-year gridlock?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Firstly, the increase in excise duty rates earlier this year has enabled a lowering of the cost-benefit ratio, so that more projects have been able to proceed. Secondly, the criteria being applied are being revised so that that enables congestion to be weighted more heavily within the system, and, thirdly, the Government is due to introduce legislation to enable public-private partnerships on roading, which will enable extra capital to be applied to roading developments where alternatives apply.
David Cunliffe: What drives economic growth, and what is the Government doing to improve our growth rate?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The major factors driving growth are the quantities of labour and capital used in production, and improved in terms of their effectiveness. That involves, therefore, improvement in total factor productivity. The key issues we are addressing are: firstly, skills levels; secondly, infrastructure; thirdly, attraction of investment; fourthly, new trade agreements; and, fifthly, expansion of innovation and its application to new businesses.
Dr Don Brash: When the Bank of New Zealand questions why someone would choose to invest in ``a fast growing Australian economy with close links to the most successful economy in the world, rather than a shy, politically correct backwater, more intent on erecting barriers to business growth than removing them'', does that cause him to question his support for amendments to occupational safety and health, and local government legislation, and proposed changes to the Holidays Act?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I look at those countries with much higher per capita gross domestic products (GDPs) than New Zealand, and I notice that, almost without exception--there are just one or two--every one of those countries has a far higher level of protection for workers, longer holidays, better health and safety protections, and, indeed in many of those cases, a higher level of Government spending--but none of that news ever reached the Reserve Bank in the 1990s.
Rodney Hide: Is the simple response to the BNZ's pessimism not provided in the Hon. Jim Anderton's reply to question for written answer No. 12296, in which he declares that his job machine's investment of $75,000 into the Warehouse is for a project that he says will return 233 percent each and every year, and that it would not take too many projects like that to rocket New Zealand's growth rate above 4 percent; or does the Minister of Finance not believe the fantastic returns being touted by the Hon. Jim Anderton, either?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I support everything my colleague Mr Anderton says. I do, however, have some doubts about the jobs machine occasionally wasting money on ACT MPs or on organisations associated with ACT MPs. Even so, we have to accept that occasional mistakes are made by any Government organisation.
Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree that ensuring existing wealth is fairly distributed should be a higher priority for a Labour-led Government than economic growth, especially in the light of the revelations in the Ministry of Social Development study that one in five New Zealanders is living in hardship, and an even higher proportion of Maori and Pacific Islanders are struggling?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As a long-time student of poverty and social democracy, might I say there is a simple conclusion: nobody has ever more fairly distributed a cake that is not growing, and policies designed to stop economic growth will not help in more equal redistribution.
Larry Baldock: Given the link between economic growth and transport infrastructure, and in the light of the Minister's comments to the National Press Club last week regarding public-private partnerships that: ``All other things being equal the Government should be able to borrow at a more advantageous rate than a private consortium,'', will he give an undertaking that in future Transit will be given the required permission to forward-borrow for road construction; if not, why not?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, it does not make sense, by and large, for subsidiary organisations to be borrowing from within the Government. The Government as a whole obtains the best borrowing of any Government organisation.
8. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: How many investor and entrepreneur category applicants, successfully granted residence, has the New Zealand Immigration Service investigated to ensure the conditions under which residency was made and granted, have been met in full?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Successful applicants under the entrepreneur category are granted residency. Investor applicants are granted conditional residency, on the basis that the investment remains in New Zealand for 2 years. If the investment requirements are not complied with, the residence permit may be revoked. I am not aware of any revocations under this category at this stage, although I am aware that around 8.5 percent of applications are declined at first instance and a small number of current applications are being investigated for fraud.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a long answer but it does not in any way address my question, which was: how many in this applicant category have been the subject of investigations? That is pretty simple stuff, and the Minister has done everything but answer me.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has addressed the question. The member may now have a supplementary question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I contest that. I am asking for the number, and the Minister has clearly said that she does not know or will not answer. We are not going to get anywhere in this House on substantive matters that go to the core of the taxpayers' immense payments of hundreds of millions of dollars if we cannot ask a Minister a plain question and get a plain answer. Is it one, two, or everyone? Could we please have an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The Minister did address the question. If she said she did not know, that is addressing the question and in fact the answer she gave I judged was addressing the question. The member may have a supplementary question if he wishes.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If, as the Minister is clearly refusing to answer the House, but we can take it by way of conclusion because of her diffidence that none of these people is being investigated, then is she surprised that according to the Dominion Post 55 percent of those entering New Zealand under the investor category simply could not be found, and given her possum in the headlights performance on the Assignment programme--
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: --why does she not just plain resign?
Mr SPEAKER: We do not have to have those sorts of comments made. The member can perfectly justifiably say, ``why doesn't she resign?'', that is perfectly in order, but the other part was unnecessary to the question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am warning the member.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: You can warn me, Mr Speaker. I know what you did last week and I am going to make a point very clear to you. I do not intend, nor does my party, to be intimidated by any ruling from you on this matter when we are carrying out our functions under parliamentary proceedings and the Standing Orders. I asked the Minister how many. She refused to answer me. I asked her a second time as to why, for example, in past times I have asked her what is the level of investigation going on, never have we had an answer. One question took 11 supplementary questions and we still at the end never had any answer to it. It is a fact that we do not meet here for an hour a day to have this sort of rhubarb answer given by Ministers. They have the responsibilities, they have the job, and they are paid for it. There is a thing called political accountability, and that is all we are asking for.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will be seated. The point made by the member was just a political point. The Minister addressed the question. He has now asked another question. I have ruled out those comments that he made right towards the end that were not necessary to render the question effective. The Minister may now answer.
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I think the member is confused about the nature of the investigation that he refers to. Within 21 months of any application being approved, the New Zealand Immigration Service writes to applicants requesting that evidence is provided as to the 2-year investment. Within 6 months they have to demonstrate that their funds have remained in New Zealand for the required 2-year period. The policy has only been in place since March 1999. It was introduced by the National Government, when the Associate Minister of Immigration was the Hon. John Tuariki Delamere.
Russell Fairbrother: What is the Government doing to ensure that New Zealand gains the maximum benefit from the business immigration policy?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: The New Zealand Immigration Service has released its valuation of the 1999 business immigration policy, which the first questioner did raise in his question, and it was also reported in the Sunday Star-Times. Preceding that evaluation the Government started work on reviewing various aspects of the policy, although I will be making some interim adjustments to the policy shortly to address some of the pressing design faults in the scheme. The National Party introduced this scheme with the support of New Zealand First.
Hon. Murray McCully: Does the Minister accept that the ability to withhold a returning residents visa is the ultimate sanction in respect of immigrants who have not fulfilled the conditions under which they gained residence in New Zealand, and can she indicate to the House what checks are undertaken by her officials before a returning residents visa is issued?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I am surprised that that member raises the question of the returning residents visa, because when I became the Minister of Immigration the first thing that I had to change was a policy decision of the National Party to grant indefinite returning residents visas on every resident's application from the outset.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister concerned that criticism of immigrants will harm investment in New Zealand, and does she agree with the warning espoused by Winston Peters in his beautifully crafted maiden speech that the worst kind of--
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Now that the United Future party intends to take a pitty-pat baker's man approach to questions in this House--
Mr SPEAKER: No, no.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I haven't finished yet.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Be seated please. Those sorts of comments will not be made in this House. The member can raise a point of order, but he will not make those sorts of comments. He will withdraw those comments.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. But what took you so long to arrest that member in his comments, when his question has nothing whatsoever to do with the primary question asked. I know that, because it was to do with numbers. Why do you sit there dormant, when he attacks another party, then expect me not to respond? We want the same treatment in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will get the same treatment in this House--the member is about to be ejected. This is the final warning for that member today. I will not have any more nonsense. I listened to the question; it was addressing the original question, and a quote was to be made about another member of this House. The question was asked without any comment in a disorderly way. It was a fair enough comment to make, and a question can be asked. Would the member please re-ask the question.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister concerned that criticism of immigrants will harm investment in New Zealand, and does she agree with the warning espoused by Winston Peters in his beautifully crafted maiden speech, that the worst type of critic ``sets out to exploit every tremor and spasm in society, the economy, or race relations,''--
Mr SPEAKER: That is too wide of the original question.
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Since when--
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled the question out. Does the member want a supplementary question?
Dail Jones: No.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, Ron Mark raised it, he--
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: You know who gets the point of order--the leader of the party gets it. Why are you trying to make a point here?
Mr SPEAKER: I heard one person call, and one person only.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I called for a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member assures me he called, of course he would get preference to Mr Mark, but I heard Mr Mark quite clearly call, and I called him. Now if the member gives way, I will now call the Rt Hon. Winston Peters.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Mr Mark is not giving way. We just happened to raise the point of order at the same time, and in that circumstance the unending convention of this Parliament has been to ask the senior member. Is that not the case?
Mr SPEAKER: That is absolutely right.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Right. Let us have the same rule applied here.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the member raise it. I heard Mr Mark. If the member tells me he has raised a point of order, I accept his word.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to consider what has just played out here in the House. In the interest of order, and so that we may be able to progress business and question time more expeditiously, I ask you to have a look at what happened during question eight. The Minister was given a written question. Her department had at least 3 hours to come up with a number that would tell the House how many investor and entrepreneur category applicants had been successfully granted residence, and so on. I put it to you that the Minister had 3 hours to have her department investigate the matter, get the exact number--even if it is zero--and come back to the House, and to give an answer as blatant as that is to promote disorder, making it difficult for anybody to get on sensibly with the business of this House.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I can help. I raise this with you because we are now having this point of order raised every day. In fairness to New Zealand First, I say that it is not just that party that is raising this. It is happening frequently. Although I am sympathetic about the fact that members often feel--as I do myself--that the quality of answers is not what we would like, that cannot be the responsibility of the Speaker. Speakers' Rulings is very clear, and there are a couple that members should look at. Speaker's ruling 128/1 states that: ``The Speaker cannot force a Minister to give an answer to a question and has no responsibility for the quality of the answer that is given nor its content.'' That is a ruling given by a number of Speakers. There is another ruling that goes all the way back to Mr Speaker Jack on page 127, which states: ``It is not obligatory on a Minister to answer a question. It is certainly customary but there is no sufficient reason for saying it is binding.'' The reason I raised this point of order is that this matter is just a waste of our time. There is another matter. If members think about it, they must ask how the Speaker can be responsible for the answers. The Minister is responsible, which is a matter for us to debate at other times. It would help to bring about order in the House if Ministers gave more quality answers, but that is not a matter for debate.
Mr SPEAKER: Of course, the member is perfectly correct. Perhaps members are more demanding than they once were as to the quality of answers, but the member was accurate to bring up Speaker's ruling 128/1. I had my finger on that ruling, which reveals that this is not a new problem at all. It goes back many, many years.
Gordon Copeland: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Having ruled in response to an earlier point of order that the first part of my colleague Marc Alexander's question was perfectly in order, I ask you to rule that the Minister be given the opportunity to at least respond to the first part of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I ruled that the question itself was outside the scope of the original question.
9. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Education: What initiatives has the Government taken to improve the information communication technology skills of school students?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Initiatives to improve students' information and technology skills include the online learning centre, Te Kete Ipurangi, which provides access to information and resources; the FarNet project, and information and communication technology boosted study support centres in Southland and Canterbury, which provide online learning activities; Notebook Valley, which encourages collaboration between students; and GenXP, which provides senior students with the means to gain recognised information technology qualifications. Last Friday marked the delivery of the 2000th recycled Government computer to schools and communities in the East Coast through Project Rorohiko. I congratulate the Minister of Maori Affairs--who is also the Associate Minister of Education--on his role in that.
Helen Duncan: Have similar initiatives been put in place for teachers?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: Over the time of this Government, yes there have been. As well as increasing the numbers from one computer for 30 pupils to one for every three or four pupils in that area, all of the projects I outlined in the first answer involve teachers working along with students. We now have 798 schools in professional development clusters. By the middle of next year all principals will have a laptop. Laptops are also being made available for secondary teachers. This Government has taken the advice of Maurice Williamson; we have acted, the previous Government did not.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith: How will the information communications technology skills of students be improved when the Minister is denying hundreds of G3 equivalent teachers, many of whom are information technology specialists, the arbitrated settlement, and how will his attitude to this problem affect the shortage of technology teachers that has been identified in the incoming briefing to the Government by the Ministry of Education?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: There are a number of points to be made. I did not deny them the extra step on the scale. The decision to deny that was made by their fellow members, 88 percent to 12 percent, when they accepted the recommendation of the panel that degree holders would be the ones who received the extra step. The House knows that was not my approach, but secondary teachers decided they wanted to take it.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: What steps has the Minister taken to minimise the likelihood of students accessing offensive material from the Ministry of Education website ``Te Kete Ipurangi'', and on which party's suggestions to him were those steps taken?
Hon. TREVOR MALLARD: We have taken a number of steps that include some regular searches. I thank those people who look for pornographic material for letting me know that it was on the website.
Free-trade Agreement with United States -
10. Hon. RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader--ACT NZ) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Is it correct as reported by NZPA that officials were taken completely by surprise by the reference to New Zealand in the United States Trade Representative Robert Zoellick's letter to the United States Senate advising that the Bush Administration was commencing negotiations for an Australian/United States free trade agreement, and in light of this development, what is the Government's current view of the prospect of New Zealand being included in an Australian/United States free trade agreement?
Hon. JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): The New Zealand Press Association did not name these surprised officials. I can assure members that officials who report to me were not taken completely by surprise. The Government's objective is to enter into negotiations for a trade agreement with the United States. Whether we do that with Australia or bilaterally is not as important. I am confident we can persuade Congress and the United States administration to negotiate with New Zealand.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Has the Minister seen the comments attributed to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, on 6 October stating that one reason that New Zealand is not being included in the present free-trade agreement is the country's antinuclear policy?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: Yes, I saw the Deputy Prime Minister's comments.
Tim Barnett: Does New Zealand have a good case for a trade agreement with the United States?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: Yes, the Government believes that it does. There is now an opportunity to persuade members of the United States Government of this, and both Government and business are intensifying their efforts to build on the good level of support in the United States business community, Congress, and the administration.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Given that the Minister said in a previous answer that the nuclear ships legislation will not be reviewed at all, why did the Prime Minister at Los Cabos, say: ``Once you start conceding everything advanced you put yourself in a very, very weak position'', or is the fact that this issue has been raised by Dr Cullen, by the Prime Minister, and by the Minister himself, merely just a coincidence?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: I believe that the member misquoted me. I simply said that the Government has no intention of selling out our nuclear-free policy, which is supported by the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: How will the Government explain to the eco-Labour branch of the Labour Party, which marched with thousands of others in Auckland on Saturday to oppose the import and growing of GE food, that the condition proposed by the US for the trade agreement with Australia of greater access for its GE food is in the best interests of New Zealand, to quote his reply to question 4?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: I am not aware of any such so-called condition imposed by the United States on Australia. I suspect the member has made it up.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Does the Minister agree with the comments of the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Cullen, that one reason that the United States is negotiating with Australia and not New Zealand is our antinuclear policy?
Hon. JIM SUTTON: Yes, the whole Australian pitch to the United States was that as an ANZUS ally Australia should be considered for this as a priority.
Air Force--Aircraft Fleet Upgrade
11. GRAHAM KELLY (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Defence: What announcements has he made on the defence air transport fleet upgrade?
Hon. MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): Yesterday I was pleased to announce the Government's decisions relating to the upgrade of the RNZAF fixed-wing fleet. The five C130 Hercules will be extensively upgraded and the two 727s will be replaced with 757 cargo-capable jet aircraft. Notwithstanding the National defence spokesperson's desperate bid to claim some credit, I do welcome his acknowledgment that he thinks ``the Government has made a really good decision.'' I can further inform members--because I know there is an interest--that, as I have previously indicated, I am on track to take a paper to Cabinet before Christmas on a systems upgrade for the P3 Orions.
Graham Kelly: What was the context in which the Government made these decisions?
Hon. MARK BURTON: The need to re-equip our air force was first flagged in principle in The Government's Defence Policy Framework, was subsequently detailed in the Defence Force structure statement, and was worked up to specific projects in the defence long-term development plan released earlier this year. As a refreshing change from the National-led Government, this Government has made logical, prudent decisions based on a careful analysis of the facts in order to best meet New Zealand's needs. The mindless carping criticism of some of those members opposite has in no way advanced this project, but has served only to undermine the morale of the good men and women of the New Zealand Defence Force.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will the Government guarantee that the proposed upgrade to the P3 Orions will make our aircraft fully intra-operable with those of Australia and able to undertake the same duties as the Australian aircraft, in both peace and, potentially, conflict; if not, why not?
Hon. MARK BURTON: The New Zealand P3 Orion upgrades will be completely in keeping with New Zealand's defence requirements. Their operational capability will be significantly enhanced and this is a matter of some satisfaction to ourselves and the Australians.
Ron Mark: Has it not occurred to the Minister that with the Royal New Zealand Air Force having lost so many personnel as a result of the disbanding of the air combat capability, the failure to recruit skilled personnel to replace them, and the distinct possibility that as certain skilled air force personnel hit their superannuation mark he will lose more, he might well end up with new aircraft and no one to fly or service them?
Hon. MARK BURTON: Obviously matters of recruitment and retention are constantly on my mind. Mr Mark can be satisfied that the trend has actually turned round over the last 12 months. There is a growing and positive attitude around New Zealand Defence Force generally. I have to say, particularly in this regard, that the tragic events of September 11 and subsequently have had an impact on the world aircraft and aviation industry and are having a positive effect on the retention and recruitment requirements of the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Keith Locke: In what ways has the Hercules upgrade improved the capability of those planes in terms of peacekeeping work and disaster relief in the Pacific, and what is the estimated price tag of the Hercules upgrade, or, if the Minister cannot give an exact estimated figure, what is the price range for the upgrade?
Hon. MARK BURTON: I can assure the member that the upgrade that has now been approved will significantly increase the operational capability of the planes, and that the navigational and communications upgrade will certainly lift it to international standards and future-proof it a considerable extent. In terms of the cost range, in the long-term development plan the range of $100 to $170 million for the core engineering and systems work was flagged. It is a little more complicated for the communications and navigation equipment, because it was part of a joint project with the P3 Orions. That had a total price tag of up to $320 million, so the Hercules upgrade is part of that figure. We expect the overall cost for this upgrade to be within the parameters set in the long-term development plan.
Question No. 12 to Minister
PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National--Whangarei): I seek leave to hold this question over until the Minister is here.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is. Please ask the question.
Paddle Crab-Pilchard Fisheries--Quota Management
12. PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National--Whangarei) to the Minister of Fisheries: Why is he not providing a preferential tendering regime based on recent catch history so that the many regional existing paddle crab and pilchard fishers can afford to purchase quota and stay in business?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries: A preferential tender process would carry the severe risk of perverse incentives on other non-quota management system fishers to fish for quota rather than to fish sustainably.
Phil Heatley: Can the Minister not see that this is grossly unfair for small fishing businesses like the award-winning Waikanae Crabs, which, over the last 8 years, has worked its guts out, only to be effectively destroyed as of 1 October, and does the Minister not see the irony of being the Minister for Small Business at the time he made the decision to put that company out of business?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure the member is aware that almost any form of quota allocation within fisheries seems to create unfairness in the eyes of some. These matters have been subject to review already.
Clayton Cosgrove: What have the Courts said about the introduction of paddle crabs and pilchards to the quota management system?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In September the Court of Appeal upheld the use of catch history as the basis for allocating quota when fishers are introduced to the quota management system. Actually I think the Court rejected an attempt by fishers of paddle crabs, pilchards, and other species to overturn the Minister's decision. The Minister, of course, was joined by some fishers in defence of his decision. Again, as always in fisheries, what seems to be fair depends on which fisher one is talking to.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: How many hundreds of Maori families were wiped out of fishing after the changes to the fishing industry by the Lange Labour Government, and why would the Maori paddle crab fishers in Tauranga--the most Maori families--be about to be wiped out like the Makare family who fished in Tauranga and started the industry in the first place?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There were, indeed, some significant job losses, but far fewer of them would have been the case if New Zealand had carried on the process of completely overfishing any number of its basic fish resources. Species after species were badly overfished during the 1960s through to the 1980s.
Opposition Members: That is not the question.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: That is the question. That is why changes had to be introduced to fishing to enable those species to recover.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given the Minister's concern for overfishing, why is he considering allowing the quota for paddlecrabs to be set now, when it is still not known whether recent catch levels for the species are sustainable, or even whether they are at levels that will allow the stock to move towards a size that will support the maximum sustainable yield?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I do not have the information in front of me to give a complete answer to that question, but certainly from my own memory of many of these cases, there is often an argument about whether the level of scientific knowledge is sufficiently far advanced at any point to enable a species to enter the quota management system. Always some people claim that, in fact, the knowledge is not yet advanced to reach that point.
Phil Heatley: Does the Minister now consider it absurd that he allocated quota based on the 1990-92 catch years when both the paddlecrab and pilchard fisheries were barely in existence, when he could have allocated quota using the intermediate step of individual catch entitlements based on more recent years when they were actually catching those fish?
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The advice I received earlier is that quota allocation has been based on the 1990-92 years in almost every species so far, and that is to do with the nature of the arrangements arrived at in 1993. The member raises an interesting question, which the Minister will need to think about--
Phil Heatley: It's a brilliant question.
Hon. Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: --if he wants a considered answer, which is that clearly we cannot indefinitely go on allocating quota on the basis of catch history some 10 years or so ago.
Question No. 2 to Minister
Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ): I seek leave to table the Government report that identifies access to Sky television as a factor of measuring poverty.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
End of Questions for Oral Answer.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)