Questions Of The Day Transcript -- 10 December
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further
Questions 1-12 10 December, 2002
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Airline Safety--Reports of Incidents
1. Hon. PETER DUNNE (Leader--United Future) to the Associate Minister of Transport: What role does the "no blame" policy, which allows people to freely report aircraft safety incidents and accidents without fear of prosecution, play in the ability of the commercial aviation industry to maintain its world class safety record?
Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Transport): In New Zealand the Civil Aviation Authority does not operate a "no blame" culture per se. The Civil Aviation Authority will take enforcement action if a safety investigation reveals that the reported event was due to gross negligence or reckless behaviour on the part of those involved. Having said that, the "no blame" culture plays a significant internationally recognised role in preserving and enhancing aviation safety, and is reflected in New Zealand's membership of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Annex 13 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation convention has prevention as the sole objective of investigation of an accident, rather than any allocation of blame or liability.
Hon. Peter Dunne: What is the Minister's response to warnings from the Aviation Industry Association that it will take only one prosecution under the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill and "the whole information safety climate in civil aviation will change overnight", and that pilots are already saying that they will not report incidents if the bill is passed in its current form?
Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: In its current form the bill addresses the current legislative gap by ensuring coverage of air crew while they are in the air. They are not explicitly covered by legislation at the moment. The issue of whether the safety culture will change could partly be addressed--and I am sure the aviation industry will see it this way--when the Prime Minister delegates authority, as is allowed for in the bill, for the oversight of civil aviation safety. The select committee has recommended that that delegation be to the Civil Aviation Authority.
Hon. Roger Sowry: Did he take on board the concerns expressed by the chairman of the Aviation Industry Association in a speech given in the Associate Minister of Transport's presence, where the chairman stated that lives would be placed at risk with the passage of the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill; if so, what action has he taken, if not, why not?
Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Yes, I was present at that event, and I say to the member, who is a former Minister, that it is quite clear that if the bill were to be passed as is--without any delegation power--that would be a matter of real concern. The Government has expressed its intention that there will be a delegation and, obviously, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Transport will confer and advise Cabinet as to where that delegation should be. The select committee has recommended that that be to the Civil Aviation Authority.
Helen Duncan: Why does the Government deem it necessary to make the proposed change to the health and safety legislation?
Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Yes, I certainly can explain that. The issue was, very simply, that the existing legislation of the Civil Aviation Authority did not cover all air crew, and the Health and Safety in Employment Act is taking on board all air crew, and, of course, maritime people similarly involved.
Peter Brown: In order to avoid complicating the matter, why does the Government not stipulate that health and safety legislation, as far as air crew are concerned, will be administered by the Civil Aviation Authority, and put an end to the issue?
Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The legislation, as introduced, is not specific on that point, but the advice of myself and other members of the select committee, by majority, was to ensure that precisely what the member has suggested be done. I suggested that to the select committee some time ago, and I believe that will occur.
Deborah Coddington: Given that the aviation industry believes that this change in the occupational safety and health legislation will lead to a decline in safety standards, has he made any submissions, orally or written, to the Minister of Labour; if not, will he take responsibility if an air tragedy occurs?
Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: That is rather a long bow, but certainly my views on this issue had been well known by my caucus colleagues, and, indeed, the Minister of Transport and myself have discussed the matter on several occasions.
Hon. Peter Dunne: In the light of the previous answer, will the Minister therefore advocate exempting the aviation industry from the provisions of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, particularly given the Aviation Industry Association's concerns that the bill's provisions will "seriously downgrade safety for both aircrew and passengers", and because some people may simply decide not to report incidents in a new environment they regard as more punitive?
Hon. HARRY DUYNHOVEN: If the bill were to proceed without any delegation power, that certainly might be the case, but if the Civil Aviation Authority were to be given the authority to continue that work on behalf of the Occupational Safety and Health Service, which I imagine would be the appropriate thing to do, then I am sure that it will be seen that the aviation industry continues much the same as previously, but, of course, with the inclusion of cabin crews who are currently not protected under any legislation, nor, might I add, were they in the 9 years that National was in power and ignored that issue.
Associate Minister--Prime Minister's Confidence
2. Hon. BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the judgment of the Associate Minister of Justice responsible for the Human Rights Commission and race relations, given a track record that has seen her recommend Ella Henry and Gregory Fortuin, both of whom were forced to leave their jobs, and now the "unwise" Taliban comments made by Joris de Bres; if so, why?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because she is a hard-working conscientious Minister. Decisions on appointments are, of course, collective decisions for Cabinet, and, of course, the Minister did not recommend the unwise Taliban comments.
Hon. Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that all the judges of the new Supreme Court that she has proposed would be appointed by Margaret Wilson, and can she understand why there is so much suspicion that Margaret Wilson will do as bad a job of that--appointing judges to the Supreme Court--as she has done with the human rights and race relations jobs?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: It is probably worth pointing out that those warrants will be given by the Governor-General. The appointments procedure will involve a panel making recommendations. That panel will include the Chief Justice, the Solicitor-General, and a former Governor-General, Sir Paul Reeves, all of whose reputations are beyond dispute.
Tim Barnett: Did Ella Henry or Gregory Fortuin leave their positions with any pay-out of public money?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I am happy to say "no sir", unlike the million dollars paid to three people by Murray McCully, who were moved on by the Tourism Board.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Could the Prime Minister tell us the reason given by Margaret Wilson with regard to Mr Fortuin, which was that he did not have the confidence of all parties in Parliament, and reconcile that with Mr Joris de Bres who has no confidence from this side of the House, and is that hard-working and consistent, or was this just a rampant judgment made by her friend, Margaret Wilson, who got the lowest vote in Tauranga at the last election?
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that last comment is not necessary to the question. The Prime Minister should ignore the last part of the question.
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: It is worth pointing out that the legislation has changed--the Race Relations Conciliator no longer exists; there is now a Race Relations Commissioner. The commissioner does not hear disputes. It is a different position.
Hon. Richard Prebble: Given Minister Margaret Wilson's proud record of appointments of people such as triple-dipper, Susan Bathgate, and her friend Rosslyn Noonan as Human Rights Commissioner, will she, as Prime Minister, give this House an assurance that other friends of Ms Wilson, like Annette Sykes or Donna Hall, will not be appointed as the tikanga Maori judge on the new Supreme Court?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I have outlined the mandatory procedure. I would be surprised if either person were recommended by the panel.
Hon. Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm her statement earlier to the House that she believes the process of appointing judges to the Supreme Court might work because it is the Governor-General who does it in the end; can she confirm that the membership of the advisory committee is the Solicitor-General, who is appointed by Margaret Wilson, and Paul Reeves, who was appointed by Margaret Wilson as well, and why would we believe the advisory panel will have any impact, when Margaret Wilson ignored her advisory panel and appointed Susan Bathgate?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: I think any fair-minded person would see that the procedures set up for appointment are appropriate, and I am happy to advise members that the two people referred to by Mr Prebble have as much chance of being appointed to the Supreme Court as he has.
At-risk Children--Care and Protection Services
3. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour--Wairarapa) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What action has the Government taken to support care and protection services to at-risk children and young people?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): Yesterday Cabinet approved additional funding for the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. An additional $12.184 million will be provided to the department this year. The sum will rise to $13.164 million in subsequent years--reflecting the higher number of cases that the department is currently handling. This investment, on top of previous increases, recognises the high priority the labour-led Government places on care and protection services for children, young people, and their families.
Georgina Beyer: What additional resources have been provided to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services over the last 3 years?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: Significant funding increases for child, youth, and family services were provided in both the 2000 and 2001 budgets. Together with the funds of today's announcement, these investments have resulted in an increase of over 40 percent in the department's baseline funding since the Labour-led Government took office. These investments have enabled the department to employ more social workers than ever before--with approximately 1,000 employed today--and to address the underfunding issues that arose during the 1990's.
Hon. Roger Sowry: How does the inclusion of volunteers in the proposed health and safety in employment legislation support the care and protection of children and young people, when he has ensured that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is left out but that caregivers such as Barnardos New Zealand are potentially liable for massive fines; and what effect will that have on care and protection services in New Zealand?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No one is liable for massive fines, as the misinformation programme from National members continues to pretend. The child, youth and family people had exemption for people in a domestic situation, and people who work alongside people who are employed in community organisations should expect to have their health and safety protected.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the fact that a notification of potential child abuse classified as "not urgent" by the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services ended with a young girl being murdered by her stepfather, how can the public have confidence in the department's ability to protect at-risk children, when 1,400 cases classified as "urgent" or "low-urgent" have been waiting for up to a year for investigation?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: They can have confidence that this service makes sure that when a mistake is made an independent inquiry is undertaken, and that consequences will follow--[Interruption] I tell Dr Smith that it has been waiting because there has been a court case, and the court asked the department to suspend its investigation. Independent investigations are undertaken, and the public, therefore, can have confidence that circumstances, if they demand it, will lead to people facing suitable consequences.
Sue Bradford: How many children and young people are currently staying in motels or hotels with so-called "trackers"--at a very high cost--while waiting for appropriate placements; and is the Minister concerned about children who are being kept in this situation of being cooped up with one adult in a motel unit, away from school and other regular activities?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: No, I am not concerned. It is not an uncommon thing for emergency services in the health and in the child, youth, and family areas to use motels for a very short period of time--usually only overnight--to keep young children safe while they are moving them from one place to another. No, I am not concerned.
Judy Turner: Has the Minister received any advice about intersectorial early intervention and protection programmes developed by the Hawke's Bay District Health Board, which have strengthened staff members' observation and action skills; if so, does he have any plans to fund these initiatives elsewhere?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: One of the priorities for this Government has been to get intersectorial work into place, so, as the member will known, we are now funding a considerable number of intersectorial initiatives. If she has one that is new, I am happy to talk to her about it.
Jim Peters: In view of the Minister's original answer, would he be surprised to walk into a district office and find a pile of references for those very people he was talking about, with a cryptic comment: "Take your pick."; and does that indicate accordance with what he just said in respect of few numbers involved in not being placed?
Hon. STEVE MAHAREY: I would not only be surprised but would find it totally and utterly unacceptable, and we would ensure it stopped, if that were the case, immediately.
4. Rt Hon. WINSTON PETERS (Leader--NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What are the age criteria for immigrants, asylum seekers or refugees wishing to obtain permanent residence in New Zealand?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Age criteria apply only in the business and skilled stream. General skills category applicants must be 55 years or younger. Investor category applicants must be 84 years or younger.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Given that much has been made of the contribution that immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees make to the New Zealand social fabric and its economy, what contribution does she believe will flow from the 14,854 people between ages 50 and 102 who have been granted permanent residency in the last 3 years of her administration?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I am aware of the breakdown in ages of people over 50, but it would depend how many of them were granted residency under the general skills category, as opposed to other categories.
Lynne Pillay: What steps has the Government taken to minimise the cost of benefit take-up by elderly parent migrants?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: My advice is that family-sponsored migrants--in particular, parents--constituted the majority of migrants receiving an emergency benefit, on the basis they had not been residing in New Zealand long enough to qualify for a statutory benefit. I was advised of this shortly after becoming Minister of Immigration. That is why this Government introduced a minimum residents requirement for the sponsor, as well as a statutory declaration, making the sponsor liable for any benefits claimed in the first 2 years of residence.
Hon. Murray McCully: Why has the Minister created a new annual quota for family members of refugees, and how many new immigrants does that quota provide for in this year?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: It provides for 300 family members of refugees. That followed on from the closure of the humanitarian category, which provided for nearly 2,000 to 2,500 a year.
Metiria Turei: Given that the age criteria of the general skills category is weighted towards 18 to 34-year-olds, what steps, other than increasing the English language requirement, is the Minister taking to remove barriers to their employment, as identified in the Leek report?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: We are trying to do everything we can to ensure that when people come to New Zealand they have a realistic opportunity of getting a job.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: If the Government is already spending nearly $100 million annually on taxpayer-funded benefits to immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, is it the Government's view that one incoming 102-year-old satisfactorily replaces five 20-year-olds who are departing, and how, in her words, does this add to the "diversity and dynamism of our society"?
Hon. LIANNE DALZIEL: I can confirm that in the year 1997-98 there were eight people 95 years and over, and in the last 2 financial years there was one.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I seek leave to table information from that Minister's department that proves there was more than one.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
5. DAVID CUNLIFFE (NZ Labour--New Lynn) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change: What progress has the Government made in addressing the issue of climate change?
Hon. PETE HODGSON (Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change): Very good progress, indeed. New Zealand is about to join almost 100 other nations in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. We do so with considerably more clarity in our domestic policy on climate change than many other developed nations who have ratified or declared their intention to ratify.
David Cunliffe: What effect is ratification of the Kyoto Protocol expected to have on the New Zealand economy?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Economic modelling suggests that ratification will have a slight net positive effect on national income, as New Zealand will be a net seller of forest sink credits on the new international market created by the protocol. More important, the protocol will create new business opportunities and incentives for innovation, particularly in the provision of new energy technologies and climate-friendly products and services.
Hon. David Carter: Can the Minister tell the House today what costs Kyoto will impose on New Zealand farmers, or is it not fact that Helen Clark ratifies Kyoto with no idea of the subsequent costs and where they will fall?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The costs of the emission charge will depend on the international price of carbon but will be capped at NZ$25 per tonne. So that becomes a cost on anyone who is using energy, including farmers. The member may know that more than half of the New Zealand's greenhouse gases come from methane and nitrous oxide from ruminants. These will be covered in their entirety. However, in addition to that, because New Zealand is a net seller, the economy as a whole will be benefited so that if the price of carbon is set at a high level, there will be money to recycle back through the economy, for example, through the taxation system.
Edwin Perry: Will the Minister take full responsibility when Maori business corporations that have large investments in forestry combine to lodge a new treaty claim for compensation for the loss of their property rights and the nationalising of their carbon credits, something this Government did when it passed the Climate Change Response Bill last month?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: Because the Government is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol and the Government will sign the ratification document, the sink credits belong to the State. However, in seeking to answer the question of what should happen with those sinks, a very significant consultation process was undertaken with the forestry sector, including, I might say, a number of hui. From that process came a very clear message from the forestry sector, which was: "We do not want to have deforestation liabilities for pre-1990 or post-1990." That is the property-right issue. The Government listened to that, and, furthermore, is in the process of meeting with the forestry sector to progress a forestry framework in general.
Hon. Ken Shirley: How will the Government's appropriation of forestry carbon credits and the imposition of an initial $25 per tonne carbon tax on industry and transport possibly help the New Zealand economy when New Zealand is the only Southern Hemisphere country ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, and our trading nations and competitor nations utterly reject this fundamentally flawed protocol?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: As I said in my answer to the primary question, about 100 countries have now ratified the protocol. There are two annex 1 countries in the Southern Hemisphere. They are Australia and New Zealand. It is well known that Australia has taken, for the moment anyway, a decision to not ratify. However, in answer to the member's question about how it can possibly benefit New Zealand, the answer is kind of straightforward. It is that we are a net seller.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that we will have difficulty meeting our Kyoto commitments if transport fuel use continues to grow faster than either the population or the economy; and does he propose, for example, any measures to reverse the trend that has seen sport utility vehicles with appalling fuel efficiency increase from 4 percent to 12 percent of the vehicle fleet in the last 6 years?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: The transport sector is undoubtedly a challenge for this country, as it is for most others. However, my colleague the Minister of Transport released the New Zealand transport strategy only a few days ago, and I understand that the Green Party was significantly involved in negotiations over that.
Larry Baldock: Given that agriculture accounts for a large portion of New Zealand's economic activity, is the Minister concerned by the reported Federated Farmers' boycott of the ratification ceremony at Parliament today; if not, why not?
Hon. PETE HODGSON: I was at a meeting in Christchurch this morning at which a lot of scientists, and also a number of farmers, began a workshop through which we hope to identify research avenues for methane mitigation. There is involvement from the farming community. As far as this afternoon's session is concerned, I did read a report that stated that Federated Farmers would boycott, but the Meat Industry Association, Agribusiness, and Fonterra are coming, as are a few others. They can come if they like, or they can boycott if they like.
Industry and Regional
Associate Minister--Conflict of Interests
6. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: On what date did Industry New Zealand discover that their Associate Minister, Hon Dover Samuels, had a financial interest in Eternal Water (NZ) Ltd which received, on 23 February 2002, a business growth grant of $100,000, and how did they find out?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): I direct the member to the personal statement made by the honourable member on 4 December. Mr Samuels is one of 430 shareholders in multiple-owned Maori land administered by a Maori incorporation under the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act. Without Mr Samuels' knowledge, that incorporation, through its committee of management, bought a shareholding in Eternal Water. Mr Samuels notified Industry New Zealand in mid-November of his links with the Matauri X Incorporation. Of the $100,000 grant, $30,000 was paid on a dollar for dollar, cost-expense basis for accreditation under ISO.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could the Minister tell us whether it was November last year or November this year that the notification was made?
Mr SPEAKER: No. That is another question.[Interruption] The member asked for a date, perhaps the Minister can give that.
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: It was November this year.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Hide is asking on what date; he is not saying on roughly what date, or roughly what month. He is saying on what date did he learn that. Why can the Minister not answer that question?
Mr SPEAKER: He said November, and then he said November this year.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. November this year is not a date in any legal sense. My colleague is asking for a date, which is a day in a month. What date is it?
Mr SPEAKER: I have to judge whether the Minister addressed the question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: He didn't.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member interrupts while I am on my feet, he will be out. I am not having any of that. I have to judge whether the Minister addressed the question. I do not judge the quality of the answer. The Minister addressed the question.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As a matter of clarification, could you please tell this House what you regard a date to be? In the interests of future questions in this House, what would you regard a question asking for a date to be? Is a month or a week satisfactory, or is a day, a month, and a year what we should be getting by way of an answer?
Mr SPEAKER: The answer to that is precisely that which I gave before. I judge that he addressed the question.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In part of that exchange, you initially suggested to Mr Hide that to ask after the actual year was to ask another question.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. I made a mistake, and I acknowledged that.
Gerry Brownlee: I appreciate that. However, it does bring us to Speaker's ruling 128/3, which states that: "Questions are an important means by which Ministers are accountable to the House. For a Minister to respond in an irrelevant manner is to act contrary to the spirit of the question process. It is incumbent on Ministers to treat questions in a manner that is consistent with their constitutional responsibilities." Surely, the Minister knows the day. So why is it that we are unable to find out whether the Minister is prepared to give the month and the day without asking a further question?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave a detailed response, and I judged that it addressed the question.
Rodney Hide: Could the Minister tell the House what possible credibility Industry New Zealand can have when it is handing out a $100,000 grant, and why it cannot even figure out that its Associate Minister has a financial interest in the company, given that Industry New Zealand knew that the Matauri X Incorporation had a major shareholding in the ill-fated and ill-named Eternal Water, and that the Hon. Dover Samuels had quite correctly declared his interest in the Matauri X Incorporation in the Register of Ministers' Interests and Assets, or does the Minister think it is acceptable that Industry New Zealand did not know the background when it handed out the money?14.38.16 lie
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Grants from Industry New Zealand are managed in accordance with the Public Finance Act, and systems are subject to both internal and external audit. The external audit is conducted by the office of the Auditor-General and Audit New Zealand. The audit presented to the select committee and Parliament this year was unqualified. Industry New Zealand assesses business grant applications on their merits, regardless of the individuals involved. I refer the member again to the personal statement made in this House by the Hon. Dover Samuels. I would be quite happy to provide to the House the actual date of mid-November. I would have thought that the relationship of mid-November to when the grant was approved in April would have been satisfactory.
Russell Fairbrother: Has the Minister seen any reports supporting work with businesses through services such as the business growth fund?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Yes, I have. This Government is committed to working in partnership with business to encourage business growth. I was pleased to see this morning in the Dominion Post the question that anguished "What hope is there for fostering and encouraging leadership and entrepreneurship in this country, when every time someone claps in appreciation, they are publicly whacked?". I agree with the correspondent, Deborah Coddington, and hope that that statement indicates a more constructive approach from the ACT party towards business development.
Hon. Tony Ryall: What is going on at Industry New Zealand, when it has not read the Minister's own register of interests, and it is clear from the advice of the Auditor-General to the select committee that Industry New Zealand has neglected its own register of interests in the last financial year?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: Even if Industry New Zealand had known that Dover Samuels had one four-hundred-and-thirtieth share in the Matauri Corporation, it would not have precluded it from granting money for Eternal Water if it had considered the project appropriate for a grant.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: Does he know the date that was sought in the primary question; if so, will he tell this House, and if not, why does he wish to continue with that evasive behaviour?
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: I was advised mid-November. Given that the application was approved in April, I thought that would have been adequate for the House. However, if the member wants to know the precise day, hour, and second, I will provide that to him in writing.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not satisfactory that we have had to go through a rigmarole in this last question. On the issue of the date, you have said that the Minister has answered the question, but here we sit alongside the rest of the country and yet still do not know what day the connection was identified on. The Minister has had 4 hours to answer the question. He has officials who are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to answer that question. I consider that this Parliament is being treated with utter contempt if that question is finished and we are still none the wiser, and for the Minister to answer that if we really want to know the answer he will write to us about it.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not say that the Minister had answered the question at all. I said that the Minister had addressed the question. I do not judge the quality of the answer.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this issue in all seriousness. The Minister has indicated that he will answer my question in writing. I put it in as an oral question, "On what date?" and I actually did mean the day, and my question also included the question, "How did they find out?". My precise situation is that I do not know what date in November they got told, and I do not know how they found out, and if that is addressing a question, what is the point of turning up and asking this Minister questions?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said he would supply the actual date in writing. It is not a point of order. The Minister can be criticised for his reply, but that is a political question, not a procedural question.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not having any further comment on this issue, unless it is a strictly relevant and new point of order. Is this a point of order about this matter?
Ron Mark: I am going to ask for your careful and considered opinion at a later stage, but am I to take it from you now, with the decisions you have made here today and the answers we have had to all the members, that it is henceforth perfectly acceptable for a Minister, having had a question for 4 hours, to turn up to the House, sort of address a question, and tell the questioner that if he or she wants to know, a question should be submitted in writing. If that is the case, and that is the path we are going to proceed down, we might as well not even bother coming into this Chamber at question time.
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker does not judge on the political adequacy of the answer. That is for the other members and the Minister.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this another point of order about this matter?
Rodney Hide: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: It had better be new.
Rodney Hide: It is new. It is not uncommon for Ministers to tell a member who submits a question and has it in the supplementary question, to say that if the member wanted the answer to this, it should have been put down as the primary question. I gave the Minister the courtesy of putting my question down as a primary question, and the Minister says that if I want the answer, I should put it in writing. I find that not acceptable. I put the question in writing through Parliament, the Minister had it, I asked "What date?", and it bothers me enormously that he then says I should put it in writing.
Hon. JIM ANDERTON: The date given to me was mid-November. I said that if the member wanted the precise day and time, I would provide it. I will provide it. The member did not have to write to me. I did not say so. Also, Mr Hide said that I had not advised the House how Industry New Zealand found out about Dover Samuels' relationship, and I answered that question. I said that Mr Samuels notified Industry New Zealand in mid-November. I wish the member would listen carefully to the answers.
Mr SPEAKER: I adjudged that the answer, mid-November, was addressing the question. If it is not satisfactory that is a political matter, and can be criticised, but the answer was procedurally within the rules.
Painted Apple Moth--Vegetation Control Zone, West
7. IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity: Why has a period of three and a half years elapsed between the first discovery of the painted apple moth in West Auckland and the introduction by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of a Vegetation Control Zone under the Biosecurity Act 1993?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS (Acting Minister for Biosecurity): There has been a vegetation control zone covering the painted apple moth zone for much past 31/2 years. This latest measure formalises that area.
Ian Ewen-Street: Notwithstanding the Minister's response, is the 31/2 year delay in establishing this movement control zone the main reason the painted apple moth has spread so widely across west Auckland, and would it not have been more effective to have established the compulsory movement control zone at the time the moth was discovered, in May 1999, without consequently spending $90 million on a blanket aerial spraying programme?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: It think it has been admitted before by the Minister, and he said it publicly, that if we were doing it all over again we would do it differently, and we have learnt many lessons.
David Benson-Pope: Does the Minister consider the eradication of the painted apple moth important, given how expensive that process is and the considerable public upset being caused?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: Yes, eradication of the pest is important--for public health reasons, for conservation, and for the economy. This pest eats our native species, and the risk it poses to our native forests is incalculable. It causes allergic reactions in most people, and it also eats young pine trees, posing a risk to our plantation forests, as well.
Shane Ardern: Is it not a fact that the lack of common goals and communication between New Zealand's biosecurity departments, as pointed out in the Auditor-General's report, have meant that there are in New Zealand incursions that are untreated and that there are situations like the painted apple moth out there that we do not know about, and, if that is not true, what will the Minister do about the recommendations in the Auditor-General's report?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The Auditor-General's report has been taken on board, particularly by those people who have been doing the work on the biosecurity strategy that is soon to be released.
Brent Catchpole: Given that the Minister and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry have failed to contain the painted apple moth, what has been done to improve border controls to ensure that tomorrow we do not see an outbreak of the mark two painted apple moth and varroa bee mite?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: Since coming into office in 1999, this Government has done much to improve border controls. For example, on the painted apple moth itself, my first job was to increase the amount of money, since it had been left in such an appalling condition by the previous Government.
Larry Baldock: Can the Minister comment on whether the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has trapped any moths recently in areas outside the official spray zone that may indicate the need to further extend the boundaries of that zone?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: I understand that there have been some moths trapped further into the central city, but I am not quite sure whether those are the ones that have been made public and the adjustment has already been catered for.
Ian Ewen-Street: Will it now take the Minister another 31/2 years to convene an independent inquiry into the health impacts of 4A4AB, given the allergic reactions people have been experiencing after exposure to this spray, or will he continue to insist that their reactions are all in their heads?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: Scientific evidence is that about 95 percent of people are allergic to the painted apple moth, while about 5 percent are allergic to Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki.
Commission on Genetic Modification
8. NANAIA MAHUTA (NZ Labour--Tainui) to the Minister for the Environment: What progress has the Government made to implement the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification to establish a bioethics council?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): Today the Government announced the establishment of Toi Te Taiao, the Bioethics Council, to provide independent advice to the Government on the cultural, ethical, and spiritual issues involved with biotechnology. The council is chaired by Sir Paul Reeves, and consists of 10 other members from a variety of backgrounds.
Nanaia Mahuta: Why has the Government established the Bioethics Council as an advisory body and not a decision-making body?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The Government already has an independent specialist decision-making body in this area. The Environmental Risk Management Authority is charged with weighing up all the information on a case by case basis, before making a decision on the application before it. On the other hand, the Bioethics Council has been appointed to advise Government on the general cultural, ethical, and spiritual issues that arise out of biotechnology.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Is she confident that the Bioethics Council will not make more onerous hurdles for New Zealand scientific research, and has she ensured that the council is required to take time lines strictly into account so that scientific progress is not further bogged down, as it has been by her Government's amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: Since the work of the Bioethics Council is not part of the case by case decision-making, I do not see it as causing any more hurdles that people have to go through.
Hon. Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister guarantee that if a cultural, spiritual, or ethical issue has to be directed to the Bioethics Council the day after the moratorium on genetically engineered (GE) commercial release has been lifted, that the council will be in a position to respond appropriately, having previously considered the full range of complex matters it will have to consider?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: I think I want to refer to my second answer. The Environmental Risk Management Authority deals with issues on a case by case basis. The Bioethics Council deals with issues on a general basis, and therefore there was no consequence of reporting something that may come in the day after the moratorium is released, that somehow this will cause a time lag.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can she tell us why New Zealanders would take the time and trouble of engaging with the Bioethics Council that is purely advisory, when the Government has not responded to the hundreds and thousands of people who have objected on cultural, ethical, and spiritual, as well as scientific, grounds to the release of genetically engineered organisms; and when the Environmental Risk Management Authority has opposed projects proposed by its own Maori Advisory Committee? What will be different this time?
Hon. MARIAN HOBBS: The very reason that the royal commission advocated a Bioethics Council was so that it would be different this time. We face issues in science and technology, as it develops, that we have not even thought about in terms of our legislation or regulation. That is the job of the Bioethics Council, to consider the future and how we might cope with it; not the case by case issue.
Bay District Health Board--Elective Surgery Payments
9. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National--Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Did she sign the district annual plan for the Hawke's Bay District Health Board which contained proposals to introduce part payments for patients on elective surgery lists who want their operations done sooner; if so, why?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): The district annual plan did not contain a proposal to introduce part payments for patients on elective surgery lists who want their operations done sooner.
Dr Lynda Scott: What is the Minister's response to Hawke's Bay District Health Board Chairman, Kevin Atkinson, who is quoted as saying: "I can't face cutting elective surgery any further, so we're going to push the ministry into allowing us to charge some kind of co-payment", and when will she admit that what is driving this action is that elective surgery is being cut right across New Zealand?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The member is incorrect. Elective surgery is not being cut all around New Zealand. The member only needs to look at the figures to see that is incorrect. The Hawke's Bay District Health Board has asked if it could explore areas of co-payments. There has been no agreement on co-payments, although co-payments already exist. No provision would be made for co-payments for electives for public patients.
Steve Chadwick: What changes will the recent announcement on funding under a population-based formula have on Hawke's Bay?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: As announced 2 weeks ago, it is expected that longstanding inequities in funding will be addressed. This will have a beneficial effect for Hawke's Bay, and most other district health boards. They will, however, still have to work within the funding provided.
Pita Paraone: Do district health board annual plans require visitors to New Zealand who seek to access surgical services to pay the full cost of those services themselves, and has the Minister herself given any specific instructions to that end; if not, why not?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Visitors to New Zealand are expected to pay for their own hospital treatment, with the exception of those countries that we have reciprocal agreements with--namely, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Heather Roy: How can the Minister possibly expect the Hawke's Bay board, which is faced with a $6.7 million deficit this year and $7.6 million next year, to cut its huge deficit without cutting services or charging a co-payment for elective surgery, and does she consider the public are so gullible that she can get away with claiming there will be no cuts to services and the fact that this board's problems are solely driven by her serious underfunding?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, I do not agree with the comments made by the member. District health boards are working on reducing their deficits, and they are considerably assisted by a 3-year funding package and a move to a population-based funding formula. Some members on that side of the House will eat their words.
Sue Kedgley: Given that the main reason the Hawke's Bay District Health Board is contemplating these sorts of options is because of its ballooning deficit, does the Minister agree that district health board deficits are now threatening to undermine the principle of equality of access to health care for all New Zealanders regardless of their ability to pay, which is a key principle of the New Zealand health strategy; if not, why not?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, I do not agree. The health budget is now approaching $9 billion. The percentage of the deficit is very small in comparison with the total amount spent. The member did not acknowledge the huge investment into primary health care, which helps to address many of the issues that she is very interested in.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does the Minister still think that any member of the Hawke's Bay public actually continues to believe her claim that there are no health cuts when the Hawke's Bay District Health Board has a plan that clearly states that further cuts or part charges are on the agenda to save $6.8 million, and when will the Minister admit that her health reforms are failing miserably?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: If this Government's health reforms are failing dismally, then I expect that that party would have proposed some alternatives. It has proposed nothing--not one policy or one change. That party supports this Government's move. We are doing things that that party could never do.
Hon. Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made a quite wrong assertion that the National Party supports her Government's health policy. We clearly do not.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
10. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour--Otaki) to the Minister for Land Information: What initiatives is the Government taking to make land information more easily accessible online, and what are the benefits of this?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister for Land Information): At 4.30 p.m. today we will introduce "TOPO-on line"--free access to topographic information for anyone using Land Information New Zealand's website--which is good news not only for net lovers. From today that information has been made available on the Internet to provide another access channel for defence and emergency services. The bonus is that everyone else who wants to use it can--for example, local authorities for planning purposes, school children for geography assignments, and trampers for guiding.
Darren Hughes: What other exciting new e-initiatives does Land Information New Zealand have on line?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: At the same time as launching "TOPO-on-line", Land Information New Zealand will be showcasing three other on-line initiatives: Positio New Zealand, which is a free satellite accurate dated system to determine precise survey points, such as where one's house is; Land Information will also provide 29 services on the Government portal; and there will be a revamped website. It gives me great pleasure to be part of a Government that can take pride in launching brilliant initiatives, rather than finding them a source of controversy or embarrassment.
Hon. David Carter: What was the total cost of Land Information's e-initiatives, and by how much has that exciting project exceeded its budget?
Hon. JOHN TAMIHERE: I am not able to give an answer directly in terms of the figures, but I will provide that in writing at a later date.
Conciliator--Mediation for Alliance
11. Hon. MURRAY McCULLY (NZ National--East Coast Bays) to the Prime Minister: On what date did she become aware of the involvement of the former Race Relations Conciliator, Mr Gregory Fortuin, in mediating between the two factions of the Alliance, and on what occasions were she or her chief of staff, Heather Simpson, briefed by Mr Fortuin on progress in the mediation meetings?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I have no idea of the date when I became aware of the mediation, but I do know that it was after it had begun.
Hon. Murray McCully: Has she seen the reported statement of the Alliance President, Matt McCarten, that not only was she aware of Mr Fortuin's mediation role, she, or her chief of staff, were briefed by Mr Fortuin after each meeting; if so, how does she reconcile that with the statement in the New Zealand Herald on 2 April in relation to Mr Fortuin's involvement that "if we had ever been asked for advice we would have said `Don't do it."'?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: The article in the Dominion Post is based on a figment of Mr McCarten's imagination, obviously shared by Mr McCully. As for the allegation that "Clark shafted Fortuin", I am not an expert on this. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: New Zealand First has used up its allocation of questions.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We may well have used up our allocation, but I would not have had that Minister answer the question in the first place. You said that when that happens you would allow extra questions, and, therefore, I want a concession on that basis. I was interested in the date Mr Hide was looking for, and we still do not have an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: That may well be the case, but if the member wants his allocation increased he has to seek leave of the House. I presume he is doing that. Leave is sought for Mr Peters to have another question. Is there any objection? There is.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you have determined that there will be a certain number of questions allocated each day to parties, but I was unaware that it was a decision of the House that should be so, other than that we accept your discretion in this matter.
Mr SPEAKER: That is absolutely right. I have made the number available to every party; members are well aware of the rules that apply to their parties. As yet I have not had anything in writing objecting to that.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was no need for Mr Peters to seek leave. You could simply have denied him or allowed him the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I did deny him the question. He then sought leave.
Hon. Murray McCully: Does the Prime Minister still hold the view she expressed to the Evening Post on 2 April "That Mr Fortuin had done a good job as commissioner, that this was why the Alliance had used him to mediate.", that the arrangement was supposed to be confidential, and that problems arose only because "some genius" had blurted it all over the newspapers?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: One can only conclude from Mr McCarten's more recent bleatings that he was the genius.
Mr SPEAKER: The question asked about a particular issue right at the start, and she may care to comment on that particular issue.
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: Mr Fortuin was a good conciliator. I have no doubt that is why he was asked to do that by the Alliance. He did not seek my permission to do that, and there the story ends, from my point of view.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If you look at the question, it asks for dates and occasions. Given that the occasions occurred in the Cabinet committee room, the Prime Minister must surely have a record of it. She must--
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The Prime Minister made it absolutely clear, and her answer could not have been more specific, she said she did not, and her word must be accepted.
Hon. Richard Prebble: When she has told the House that the statements reported by Mr McCarten regarding this matter in the Dominion Post are a figment of Mr McCarten's imagination, is she saying to the House, given privilege and the like, that all of Mr McCarten's statements are untrue; if not, will she then correct the impression and tell us, for example, whether she knew before it became public that Mr Fortuin was mediating; was she, or Heather Simpson, at any time briefed, and if she was would she like to correct her earlier answer?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: There are a number of questions there. The substance of Mr McCarten's allegations was that my permission had been sought for the mediation. That was never true.
Hon. Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not like asking you to rule on the substance of questions, but we have an interesting situation. The impression given to us by the House was that the Dominion Post article was not true, and I thought that might be a basis of a breach of privilege. Now we are being told, I think, that the Dominion Post article is true. Is that the situation the Prime Minister wants to leave us in? We ought to have a proper answer. That Mr McCarten said the Prime Minister did know, is the essence of the question. It would be really helpful if the Prime Minister would answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister addressed the question; whether that was satisfactory is in the minds of those who heard the answer.
Hon. Peter Dunne: In the light of this incident, can the Prime Minister indicate where she sees the boundary line between the public activities of officials, such as the Race Relations Commissioner or an equivalent, and their private responsibilities, particularly in so far as the use of Government facilities may be concerned?
Rt Hon. HELEN CLARK: At the time Mr Fortuin was conciliator he, of course, had a role in conciliating on disputes. That meant that it was probably appropriate for him to be beyond reproach as to what his political allegiances were. There was a specific allegation in the Dominion Post article that I had approved the use of a Cabinet room. I have no knowledge of any use of the Cabinet committee room for any such purpose.
District Health Boards--Interim Pharmacy
12. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: On what date will she take action on the six district health boards who have refused to sign off their interim pharmacy agreements, given her reported public statement last month that district health boards refusing to sign the agreement will have their pharmaceutical budgets managed by the Ministry of Health, and what impact will her action have on the prices of medication that patients will have to pay?
Hon. ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I stated publicly that the final option, if all district health boards did not sign the pharmacy agreement, is to have the pharmacy budget managed by the Ministry of Health. By Thursday, 15 will have ratified the agreement, and six have undertaken to provide the Ministry of Health with their plans by Christmas on how they will manage the contracts. Before any action is taken, their proposals will be examined. Any changes in pharmacy contracting will not change the maximum co-payments pharmacists are allowed to charge patients.
Heather Roy: Given that today a dispute notice has been issued to South Canterbury District Health Board by the Pharmacy Guild, and a brochure distributed to patients telling them that they may have to pay more for their medicines, why will she not intervene, when she claims that the district health board has been adequately funded, or does she expect pharmacies to subsidise her ministry?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: No, I am allowing district health boards to work through some of the issues at a local level first. If the boards cannot meet agreement, then obviously there is an ability for the Ministry of Health to step in.
Jill Pettis: Is it the Government's intention to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals to patients?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: Yes. Through the introduction of primary health organisations pharmaceutical co-payments will be reduced over time for everybody.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why did she set up a system whereby 15 district health boards could agree to a community pharmacy contract, but six could decided not to sign up to it, thereby losing New Zealand - wide consistency, risking medicine entitlement, and increasing the chance that patients may have to pay more for medicines in those six areas?
Hon. ANNETTE KING: The member is wrong on practically every point she raised.
Dr Lynda Scott: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister intends to say that, then I think she should attempt to answer the question to say what is incorrect. Because that was taken from what the pharmacist had said.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has made a clear comment. I ask the Minister to expand her answer.
Hon. ANNETTE KING: To begin with, it does not affect the price that patients pay. There is a pharmaceutical schedule that is applied across New Zealand. It does not affect the co-payments for prescriptions. That does not change, because it is not decided by the district health boards.
Sue Kedgley: Given that negotiations over the pharmacy contract have already dragged on for about 2 years, during which time there have been several mediations, contracts, and so forth, why on earth will the Minister of Health not use her power to step in and direct the remaining six district health boards to sign a national contract, or is she suggesting that she is powerless to act to resolve this dispute; if so, is she suggesting that she is not in control of the health portfolio and the health budget?
Mr SPEAKER: Two of those three question can be answered.
Hon. ANNETTE KING: If the member had listened to my first answer to Heather Roy she would have heard me say that the six boards that have not yet signed have been asked to put forward their own proposals. I said I would look at those proposals first. If we do not agree with the proposals then we have the option for them to be taken under the control of the Ministry of Health, and a national contract implemented. I would rather give the boards the opportunity to provide their proposals before I do that.
Heather Roy: I seek the leave of the House to table a document put out by the Pharmacy Guild--a brochure stating that the price of medicines may, in fact, rise for patients.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
End of Questions for Oral Answer.
(Uncorrected transcript - subject to correction and further editing)