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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 12 February 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to further changes)

Questions 1-12 - 12 February 2003
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers

Labour Market

1. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa)

BEYER, GEORGINA to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What recent reports has he received on the state of the labour market?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): Yesterday morning I received the household labour force survey for the December 2002 quarter. It shows continued employment growth; by 8,000 in the quarter, all full-time jobs; 44,000 jobs in the past year, mostly full-time; and 123,000 since the Labour-led Government took office in 1999. That is a reduction to 98,000 now on the register, down 8,000, a reduction in the unemployment rate from 5.4 percent to 4.9 percent, which is the lowest since March 1988, and the ninth lowest unemployment rate in the OECD.

Georgina Beyer154Georgina Beyer: What other reports has he received recently on the state of the labour market?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This morning I received the ANZ Job Ads series for January 2003. It shows that job advertising in major New Zealand newspapers rose by 0.6 percent in January and is now 7.5 percent above the level seen at this time last year. In releasing the figures the ANZ chief economist, David Drage, said they showed that New Zealand’s labour market was one of the strongest in the world. He said: “With job advertising levels continuing to run at above 30,000 per month, coupled with the New Zealand Institute for Economic Research December quarter business opinions recording relatively strong hiring intentions, further employment gains are likely over the months ahead. This looks set to maintain the unemployment rate at about the historic lows seen now.”

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister explain how, despite the best economic conditions in a generation, the number of people who have been on a benefit for 10 years or more has increased by 10 percent and the number on the invalids benefit has increased by 21 percent while he has been Minister, and is this not a blight on the career of so-called blameless excellence?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: For the House’s information, I point out—and members can get this information from Statistics New Zealand—both short-term and long-term unemployment has dropped, but because short-term unemployment has dropped so sharply, we have seen a percentage rise in long-term unemployed. But it is coming down, as all unemployment is coming down.

Dr Muriel Newman: Is the Minister prepared to give an assurance to the House that the information in the household labour force survey is correct, that only 5,400 people have been receiving an unemployment benefit for over 2 years, when the Government has in fact been paying for 42,400 people, or can he explain this discrepancy?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The substance of the question is whether the household labour force survey is a reliable source of information, and the answer to that is yes, it is. It is the internationally comparable measure that Mr Brash himself, when he was running the Reserve Bank, indicated was the reliable measure.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I realise that you are not responsible for Ministers’ answers, but here is a Minister taking an interesting point. What he has been asked about is that the Government has been paying 42,000 people unemployment benefit for 2 years and the household survey says that the figure is only 5,400. He has just said he was asked a different question, but that is not what he was asked. What he is being asked is whether he is concerned about the fact that the Government is clearly paying a whole lot of people the unemployment benefit, when the household survey says that they are working.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me put it this way. That was not quite the question that Dr Newman asked. But I think that the Minister might like to add a little to Dr Newman’s original question.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The substance of the question, I thought, was the reliability of the household labour force survey, and I say it is. But I also repeat for the member the fact that the household labour force survey and registered unemployment are two different instruments. One is an administration tool—the people who are registered and looking for work—and the other is the household labour force survey that we get from knocking on people’s doors and asking them a series of questions against criteria.

Questions for Oral Answer

Treaty of Waitangi—Citizenship

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: When she said in the Prime Minister’s statement to the House that her Government will ensure more information is made available about the Treaty of Waitangi, will that include a guarantee that there will be one standard of citizenship for all New Zealanders; if not, why not?

Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): The information available from Government agencies about the treaty will continue to be factual and considered. It will not include the member’s slogans

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister tell the House who will be assembling the information for her education programme on the treaty, and will it include Margaret Wilson or Mr Joris de Bres, the Race Relations Conciliator, who made inflammatory statements last year, like “The colonisation of New Zealand is a sorry litany of cultural vandalism.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: A number of Government agencies presently have a role in dispersing information. They include, of course, the Office of Treaty Settlements, the Waitangi Tribunal, and the Human Rights Commission. What the member needs to face up to is that he is not nearly as good at this stuff as Mr Peters.

Mahara Okeroa: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports on why this slogan is being used?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I saw a report that said that National had chased every rabbit from leaky homes to nuclear-powered ships to migration and Mâori seats on councils, and that it is like a wallflower desperate for any dance.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: On the question of there being more information to be disseminated, what will happen when that occurs, given that neither the Attorney-General, Margaret Wilson, nor the Prime Minister or any other member of Parliament on that side of the House, or Minister can even remotely tell us what the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are that we are meant to be observing; is it a case of just sheer disinformation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I refer the member to the excellent book on the treaty released by Te Puni Kôkiri, and commend it to him.

Heather Roy: Which treaty does the Government intend to tell us about—the historical document signed at Waitangi or the so far unseen document, which is living and breathing heavily somewhere in the Hon. Margaret Wilson’s offices?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: That member could also do with a good course of study on a factual document.

Nandor Tanczos: In respect of the previous question, can the Prime Minister assure the House that the information will be about the document signed at Waitangi, specifically the Mâori language version, which was signed by Governor Hobson and the vast majority of rangatira who signed the treaty, and which explicitly reaffirms the tino rangatiratanga of hapû, and can she also assure the House that such information will talk about the context in which Te Tiriti was signed, in particular the declaration of independence?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: On the first question time of the new year I want to say that a little bit of comment is releasing some forces that have pent up over an adjournment, but we have now had enough. A question has been asked, and an answer will be given.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I did not write that patsy. It is important that any information issued by Government or its agencies is factual and considered. Such information should, of course, refer to the fact that there was a Mâori language version and an English version. Part of the debate of the last 163 years has been about the difference between the two.

Murray Smith: How does the Prime Minister’s statement concerning making more information available about the Treaty of Waitangi in the future relate to the Human Rights Commission’s current goal number four of stimulating wider debate and dialogue on the treaty?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Human Rights Commission does have a mandate to promote an understanding of the treaty within the context of its human rights mandate. The Human Rights Commission is one of the agencies I mentioned that is legitimately engaged in trying to ensure there is more information so that people can form their opinions on the basis of fact, not myth and prejudice like the Leader of the Opposition.

Hon Bill English: Do the Prime Minister’s answers today mean that she has abandoned the undertaking made by her Government to put forward a treaty education programme, and why is it that Tariana Turia and Margaret Wilson say to journalists that they are working on a treaty education programme through Cabinet committees right now?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I told the House yesterday in the statement, the Government is working on making more information available about the treaty.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it from the Prime Minister’s comments that although Professor Matthew Palmer of Victoria University says that the Government has not outlined the principles and needs to do so, notwithstanding that, the courts of this country will follow the version of the Ministry of Mâori Development, and what sort of lawmaking is that?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Matthew Palmer is one who argues that there should be some symbolic reference to the treaty in law in such as the Constitution Act. Mr Brownlee came very close to recommending such a thing in his article. That is not the position of the Government.

Questions for Oral Answer

Crime—Youth Offending

3. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki)DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki)209HUGHES, DARREN to the Minister of JusticeJustice: What information does he have on the accuracy of OECD figures which suggested that in 1997 New Zealand had the world’s highest teen crime offending rates?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice)38GOFF, Hon PHIL14:22:59Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The figures purporting to compare international juvenile offending rates are totally invalid because they fail to compare like with like. For example, figures for other countries are based on the number of offenders, while New Zealand’s figures list the number of offences. Thus a single offender who committed 50 offences may be listed 50 times in the New Zealand figures, but would be listed only once in the statistics of other countries.

Darren Hughes: Has the Minister taken any action to ensure that misrepresentation of New Zealand’s comparative crime rate is corrected?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, information from the Ministry of Justice indicating why the OECD figures are misleading has been conveyed to the OECD through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I am pleased to say that a prompt and fulsome letter of apology has been received from the OECD. The OECD admits that its comparison is ill founded and misleading. It has issued a correction to the international media. It has taken the data off its website, and it has included an erratum in hard copies of its publication.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm that the police are having great difficulty resourcing his new youth offending teams and that papers confirming the concerns of the people attending the ministerial task force on youth offending have been withheld; and what effect will under-resourcing of youth offending teams have on cutting youth crime?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I cannot confirm that, because no information at all has been provided to me suggesting that the police have that concern. In fact, I do not believe that they do have that concern.

Craig McNair: Does the Minister still view the issue of youth crime or teen crime as a serious issue for our youth, and what is he going to do about it?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, notwithstanding the fact that those OECD figures are wrong, of course we are concerned about the level of youth offending. I would make the point to the member that the police figures I have in my hands suggest, in fact, that youth offending has dropped over the last 5 years. It is, nevertheless, still a serious problem, which is why the youth offending strategy was launched last year, with great support right around the community—from the police, the judiciary, and people working in the general area.

Stephen Franks: Why should the victims of New Zealand’s disastrous youth crime have any confidence in figure claims from the Minister when the Youth Court says there is

“no centralised collection of statistics and trends about youth offending”—and I quote it—and that is the Minister responsible for the mysteriously missing 2001 national crime victimisation survey, which was conducted in 2001 by AC Neilsen at a cost not far short of a million, the contracted final report date—

Mr SPEAKER: This question already is too long. The member must come to the point very quickly.

Stephen Franks: —for the survey was 29 March 2002, and the embarrassing material is apparently withheld for reworking the data?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The statement the member has made is utterly wrong. All I can say is that if there is anybody who should be embarrassed in this House it is Mr Franks, who, as soon as he saw the OECD figures, could not wait to be opportunistic to knock his own country and to endorse figures that the OECD said were utterly wrong. It is time that member did his homework, and then he might have some credibility in this place.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not want to have to make this comment again this session, but I ask all members to turn their cellphones off. It is not good enough. Members do not have to have them on in the House.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister concerned that unsupported and out-of-work 16 and 17-year-olds find it almost impossible to get any social welfare benefit, and are staying in—or turning to—prostitution in order to survive, and are then labelled as criminal?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It is somewhat outside my portfolio area. There are emergency benefits available to people of that age, but they are not available automatically because we do not want to create wrong incentives for people to leave home who should still be at home.

Marc Alexander: In the light of the original question, does the Minister also question or refute the OECD data that shows New Zealand has the highest rate of cannabis use amongst people aged 15 years and over; if not, what plans does he have to address this criminal justice problem?

Hon PHIL GOFF: While I do not have the database for that, it would be my assumption that New Zealand does have a comparatively high level of cannabis use. I guess that is a problem that everybody in this House would recognise. We have a ministerial task force—

Opposition MembersOpposition : What are you going to do about it?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am about to tell the Leader of the Opposition, who did nothing for 9 years, what we have been doing about that. We have launched a ministerial-led strategy for dealing with alcohol and drug abuse. That is now working on a total of 34 different projects, most of which have been announced to the public, because drug abuse, very clearly, is linked in with criminal offending. I seek leave to table the letter from the OECD dated 10 February, apologising for misleading members.

Document laid on the Table of the House.

Questions for Oral Answer
Maori Television Service—Chief Executive

4. RICH, KATHERINE to the Minister of Maori Affairs: Is he confident that the appointment process of the Maori Television Service chief executive was a transparent and “thorough process”; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): I have been advised by the chief executive of Te Puni Kôkiri that the Mâori Television Service establishment board has offered Derek Fox the transitional chief executive position. No contract has been entered into yet. The chief executive of Te Puni Kôkiri will sign the contract with Mr Fox only once documentation and assurances have been provided.

Katherine Rich: How can the chairman oversee the recruitment process, take part in interviews vetting other shortlisted candidates, burning them off through a mismanaged process, resign, and then be appointed the very next day; and does he not think that looks dodgy?

PAREKURA HOROMIA: I understand that the assurances regarding the chief executive of Te Puni Kôkiri relate to the process for considering applications in the recent Mâori Television Service chief executive officer recruitment round, the decision not to appoint any of the applicants, the board’s decision not to go back to the market to identify a candidate for the chief executive officer position, and how the board came to the conclusion that Mr Fox should be appointed as the interim chief executive officer of the Mâori Television Service.

Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm whether Derek Fox has resigned from his position as director and chair of the Mâori Television Service establishment board?

PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, I have received Mr Fox’s resignation letter yesterday, dated 10 February 2003. Mr Fox’s resignation is effective from 14 February 2003.

Bill Gudgeon207Bill Gudgeon: How confident is the Minister that the chairman of the board—which appointed Mr Davy—will be able to carry out the role of chief executive officer and not be likely to have a mixed role of governance and management?

PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am very confident about the differentiation needs in this role.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of some clarity in communications at question time, I seek leave for all those questions to be asked of the Minister again, with the hope that we might be told something this time.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member is only making a political point.

Deborah Coddington: Is it not transparently obvious that so long as Derek Fox promises not to set up his Mâori party, he can have a $240,000 a year job, as head of Mâori television, for life, and carry on spending a million dollars of taxpayers’ money a month on programmes that no one can watch, because, like the taniwha, this television channel will never be seen?

PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is not obvious to me.

Marc Alexander: Did the board of the Mâori Television Service consult the State Services Commission about the appointment of the new chief executive officer, and, in particular, about the level of remuneration set; if not, why not?

PAREKURA HOROMIA: The chief executive officer of Te Puni Kôkiri informs me that they are going through that process now. I can tell the member that when the appointment was made, Mr Fox was not part of the board’s decision.

Katherine Rich: What does the Minister say to Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who said the appointment “makes a mockery of the process that seemed robust and professional, but obviously lapsed into farce”, and will he release information today to prove that there was a transparent and thorough process?

PAREKURA HOROMIA: I remind the member that Mr Fox is one of the most conversant in our language, which is a principle of delivering the service to households in this country. I say to the member that the remarks made by that person should be checked out, as to past management of those refuges.

Questions for Oral Answer
Dog Control—Legislation

5. CHADWICK, STEVE to the Minister of Local GovernmentLocal Government: What actions has he taken to review the effectiveness of legislation protecting the public from dog attacks?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): Enforcement of dog control is the responsibility of territorial authorities. I have written to all mayors seeking feedback from them on the effectiveness of the current legislation. To assist with the gathering of relevant information my department has, at my request, sent a comprehensive survey to all territorial authorities, and detailed responses are expected by next week. I have also been discussing with my Cabinet colleagues a range of options to deal with this problem.

Steve Chadwick: Does the Minister feel that any law change should involve public input?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, an opportunity for public submissions through a select committee process is the best way of drafting effective law that will work.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Does he agree that, with appropriate legislation and enforcement, a significant number of the expected 300 serious dog attacks resulting in inpatient hospital treatment could be prevented over the next year; if so, why has he not acted earlier?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am confident that any law change will have a positive effect on this issue.

Dail Jones: Is the Minister including in the action he has recently taken the fact that the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2), which relates to dog control, was No. 40 on the Order Paper yesterday, but as a result of his intervention it is now No. 41 on the Order Paper, having been superseded by the Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill, which obviously the Government considers to be more important?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: We had the opportunity today to make the Government Law Reform Bill No.1 on the Order Paper. The ACT party prevented that.

Larry Baldock: In the light of the revelation that there was a mistake, or a mix-up, regarding New Zealand First opposition to leave being sought yesterday to sending the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2) back to the select committee, would the Minister consider seeking leave of this House again in the hope that ACT might now reconsider its hard-nosed position, and allow the House to address the issues raised by Mr John Anderson today?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: ACT had that opportunity today already, and—

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I know what the member is going to say, and he will be perfectly correct. The Minister has no responsibility for the ACT party. He may address the final part of the question as he has responsibility for it.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Could the final bit of the question be repeated?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, could the member please repeat the final bit?

Larry Baldock: The final bit of the question was: would the Minister consider seeking leave of the House again so that the Local Government Reform Bill (No 2) could be sent back to the select committee?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I will take any opportunity I can to get that bill to a select committee.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think it is appropriate that a Minister should mislead the public during question time in the way that the current Minister is doing. It is not a matter of leave for the Government to be able to progress this. The Government runs the Order Paper. The Minister was able to convince his colleagues to put the bill on the Order Paper. It can be dealt with by this House. The House could go into Committee, and the bill could be recommitted by motion back to a select committee. So the Minister should not mislead the public about the position the Government is currently in. The Minister is blocking the bill’s progress.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Might I make two points. Firstly, it is somewhat embarrassing for that member that his own colleague sought leave to have the bill placed at No 1, and, indeed, only the ACT party objected to that. [Interruption] The member should care to listen for a moment; if we get to the Order Paper next week, or possibly later on Thursday—

Ron Mark: Tomorrow!

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: : Possibly, I do not think so looking at the length of time question time is taking today; I suspect next week.

Ron Mark:Well, take urgency!

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Oh tempt me, I will take urgency for half of the Order Paper if that is what the member would like. The Government will be putting this bill at No 1 on the Order Paper and moving to recommit it to the select committee immediately.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I have been very generous today, and the generosity stops. When Points of Order
are heard, they will be heard in silence. The next member will have an early end to his or her question time today.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that both those previous Points of Orders were not. They also made comments with regard to the ACT party, and since those members said them, I think I should be entitled to set out our position. The Government told me that the bill was defective and that it needed to go back to a select committee. However, it said that it did not know what it would do with the bill. I believe that we should not send it back until we do know. Now we are being told that even though the Government believes that the bill is defective, and it will not fix the problem, that is its No. 1 priority.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has made an interesting point, and, as he knows, he has added to the debate, rather than to the point of order.

Questions for Oral Answer

6. PETERS, Rt Hon WINSTON to the Minister of Immigration: How many permanent and long term, non-New Zealand arrivals came to New Zealand in the year ending December 2002, and how does this accord with Government policy?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration)23DALZIEL, Hon LIANNE14:41:31Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Seventy-thousand, five hundred. That number, of course, includes holders of temporary permits who expressed an intention to remain in New Zealand for 12 months or more. It is evidence of a significant expansion in export education, working-holiday visitors, and others on work permits, as well as residence approvals, and Australians who do not need a residence visa. It accords well with the Government’s policy of meeting skills shortages and contributing to economic growth.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given last year’s figures, is the public to gain that for every two New Zealanders who leave these shores, the Government will bring in nine non-New Zealanders?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, because the figures include people who are coming on temporary permits. It includes everyone who expresses an intention to remain in New Zealand for 12 months or more.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. For the period last year, which I referred to, there were over 75,000 students here. How can the Minister go on year in and year out, making up the figures, when those figures demonstrably tell us that she is not telling us the facts.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and the member knows it.

Tim Barnett7Tim Barnett: Can she advise the House the net migration gain for the year ended December 2002, and what factors have led to its increase?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: In the year ended December 2002, according to the permanent and long-term arrival statistics, there was a net gain of 38,200 people. The proportion of returning New Zealanders continues to increase. Twenty-five percent fewer left New Zealand in 2002, then in 2001, while the numbers returning increased by 8 percent. Although the figure is high, it still represents a 10,000 net migration gain per year over the past 10 years.

Brian Connell: What is she doing about the recent reports that have seen foreign students in Christchurch “still queuing from as early as 2 a.m. to get visas processed”, and what effect will the increase of 12,900 permanent long-term arrivals of non-New Zealand citizens have on those queues?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am glad that the member understands that it does include students who say they will be in the country for 12 months or more. My advice is that students who are here on particular permits that relate to particular institutions who will change their courses during their time in New Zealand should make early arrangements to deal with immigration. I say that because too many people are leaving it to the last minute and are not leaving their passports and documentation so that they can be processed efficiently by the Immigration Service.

Paul Adams: Can the Minister provide any estimates of the annual migration inflow that will result from recent changes to the level of competence in the English language required by the new immigrants?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There is a distinction between residence approvals and the statistics we are talking about here today. The New Zealand immigration programme has been established at a set figure, and therefore the English language changes will have no effect on the numbers.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister whether she understands clearly that “immigration” is people coming here, that “emigration” is people leaving here, and that the net figure is not a description of immigration; that being the case, how many immigrants came to New Zealand last year?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I cannot answer that question because the Statistics New Zealand does not disaggregate permanent and long-term arrivals. I have written to the department, since it is not my area of responsibility, asking whether it will consider doing that. May I quote, for the member’s benefit, the actual provision in the statistics that are produced by the department: “Long-term arrivals include overseas migrants who arrive in New Zealand intending to stay for a period of 12 months or more.” I cannot make it clearer than that.

Questions for Oral Answer
Dog Control—Legislation

7. HUTCHISON, Dr PAUL to the Minister of Local GovernmentLocal Government: What weight can people put on his stated intention to act quickly to prevent dog attacks, when the Government has let the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2), which contains provisions to strengthen dog laws, languish on the Order Paper for the last three years?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): That member should be aware that the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2) is very narrow in scope. A broader range of options will need to be developed in order to provide the public with a serious and workable response to the dog control issue.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why has it taken a string of dog attacks over the last few weeks for the Government to consider even doing anything, when statistics show a steady increase in the number of serious dog-attack injuries resulting in hospitalisation over the 15 years?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Undoubtedly, the recent attacks have focused all our minds on that tragedy. I might add that I do not recall the National Party, either during the time it was in Government or during the period that it has been in Opposition, raising the issue before.

David Cunliffe: Have any groups expressed concern about the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2), as it exists?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes. The bill is very narrow. There was a great deal of concern about its practicality, and the provisions in the bill did not receive wide support. There was strong opposition from key stakeholders, including the New Zealand Veterinary Association and Local Government New Zealand.

Dail Jones: Will the Minister cooperate with other political parties in the House to prepare a resolution requesting an appropriate select committee to consider the wonderful submission on dog control law reform prepared by Mr John Anderson, with a view to reporting back to the House by 12 May 2003 with amendments to the Dog Control Act, and to passing legislation by 31 August 2003?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Today I, together with the Prime Minister and other members of Parliament, met with Mr John Anderson. We went through the questions he raised, which that member referred to. There were many issues in that submission that we hope the select committee will give very careful consideration to. I am glad that member has raised the question of cross-party support. I am very keen to get action on that issue as soon as possible. We need it at a select committee as soon as possible.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Does the Minister agree that the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2) was thoroughly considered by the select committee after 54 public submissions in 1999, and can he assure the public that satisfactory dog control legislation will be put before the House in the next 3 months; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I hope all members are aware, the Government is using that bill to broaden the whole range of options in order to deal with that issue. The bill actually deals with banning a particular breed of dog. That may or may not be helpful in dealing with the issue. There are many other very important issues that we need to look at in order to deal with that problem.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—Government Policy

8. LOCKE, KEITH to the Prime Minister: Does she agree that New Zealand should “oppose a war on the innocent people of Iraq, whether or not the attack is sanctioned by the United Nations”, as requested by Greenpeace in its open letter of 5 February 2003 to her; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): New Zealand, as a member of the United Nations, is obliged to uphold resolutions of the Security Council. The Government does not believe that the use of force is justified at this time.

Keith Locke: Would a US-led invasion, if it were endorsed by the United Nations, cause any fewer deaths of innocent men, women, and children than a unilateral US invasion, and if it would not cause fewer deaths, why would we offer any level of military contribution to such a UN-endorsed invasion?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The short answer is that in the event of an invasion right now, regardless of who sanctioned it, the human consequences would probably be the same. What I want to register with the member is that the Government does not support resort to the use of force at this time.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Why will the Government not support Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries in obtaining a second resolution in the United Nations, given her own statement yesterday in this Parliament stating that Secretary Colin Powell had presented a strong case, suggesting a pattern of deception and concealment by the Iraqi regime of weapons of mass destruction?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because the use of force to uphold UN resolutions is very much a last resort, and that point has not been reached.

Martin Gallagher: Why is it in fact important for New Zealand to support United Nations resolutions?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The rule of international law depends on members of the UN accepting the outcomes of the democratic processes established to make decisions. New Zealand was a founding member of the United Nations, and this Government would not support moves that would undermine the authority of that body.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Is the Prime Minister surprised to receive this question, given the honourable member’s public commitment to serve as a human shield in downtown Baghdad, and will she notify the member when war is imminent, as this House would hate for the innocent people of Iraq to miss the benefit of the shield and for him to receive this token of our esteem before leaving?

Mr SPEAKER: The question can be very briefly commented on.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The question does not surprise me, because it reflects a position that Keith Locke has long articulated, and he is perfectly entitled in this House to state his views. My advice to him, and to any other New Zealanders who are considering being a human shield in the event of hostilities, is not to do it.

Keith Locke: In the light of the Prime Minister’s comment that the use of force was a last resort for the United Nations, would it not be contrary to the UN charter for the United Nations Security Council to endorse an invasion, because the charter does describe the peaceful resolution of disputes, and it is quite clear that in the current situation Iraq is not about to invade any of its neighbours?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is certainly debatable whether Iraq right now presents a clear and present danger. The major point I want to make, though, is that it is becoming increasingly clear that the inspectors still believe that they can usefully carry on with their work in line with UN resolutions.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: On Saturday will the Prime Minister and her colleagues be joining thousands of New Zealanders and millions of people worldwide to march for peace in Iraq, as she did many years ago for peace in Vietnam?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am sure that members of Government will be present at those rallies. I do not plan to be myself.

Questions for Oral Answer

Points of Order
Question No. 9 to Minister

GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave of the House for this question to be held over until a day when the Minister of Energy can answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? Please ask the question.

Questions for Oral Answer

9. BROWNLEE, GERRY to the Minister of Energy: Does he stand by his assessment that electricity prices would rise by up to 8 percent in the next three years; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Energy: Yes. The assessment is based on the expected increase in the cost of gas-fired electricity generation, which is projected to raise the average wholesale cost of electricity by about 20 percent over the next 2 to 3 years. A 20 percent increase in the average wholesale cost translates to an increase of about 8 percent in the retail price for domestic consumers.

Gerry Brownlee: What evidence does the Minister offer to dispute the statements made by John Noble, technical adviser to the Christchurch Power Consumers Society, who, in considering the rapidly diminishing gas supply from both Maui and the smaller than expected Pohokura, said: “I think his”—that is the Minister’s—“8 percent price rise is optimistic. I think it is more likely to be around 20 percent”, and I make it clear that Mr Noble thought the retail price more like to rise by 20 percent than 8 percent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the estimates are based on the best advice we have. I would like to correct a pretty common misimpression in the public arena. The latest estimate on the Pohokura field is actually somewhat higher than the previous estimates the Government had. The comparison is with a very rough estimate that was made in the public arena a couple of years ago.

Mark Peck: What is the Government doing to facilitate the development of future gas supplies for electricity generation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government reviewed the gas sector last year and has taken a number of steps to improve it—for example, the negotiation of open access to the Maui pipeline for gas from other fields. Exploration for new gas supplies is being very effectively encouraged, and it is booming at the moment with 68 exploration permits or licences currently in effect.

Peter Brown: In the light of those earlier answers to Gerry Brownlee, if the Minister and his advisers are wrong and the increases are likely to be a good deal more than 8 percent as has been suggested, what will the Minister do: will he consider implementing some sort of price control, particularly for low-income people, or what other initiatives will he take?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The essential underlying problem is to increase demand, to introduce effective energy conservation measures to increase supply, and also to introduce effective energy conservation measures to reduce the rate of growth in demand. To introduce some form of price control below the effective market rate would certainly not increase the amount of supply in the medium to long term.

Hon Ken Shirley: To what extent are projected electricity price rises a result of unreasonable bureaucratic delays for new energy projects under the Resource Management Act, as experienced at Pohokura, aggravated by this Government’s blind adherence to the flawed Kyoto Protocol.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is hard to understand how a protocol that comes into effect in 5 years’ time could have affected the latest estimate on the amount of gas in the Maui field.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen any evidence that most people’s electricity bills could reduce by more than 8 percent in the next 3 years if energy was used more efficiently, and what is he doing to get that message across to the people who still do not seem to get it?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Indeed there is a great deal that can be done in terms of energy conservation within New Zealand. There are amendments underway to the Resource Management Act to give greater weight to the national benefits of renewable energy. We set a target for new renewables in the strategy. But, equally, there is a great deal of work happening to try to reduce the growth in supply over the next few years, and I refer the member to the agenda for the workshop that occurred on 28 January on the climate change project, which is precisely about reducing that growth in demand.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister at all concerned that the current hydro storage levels are at 82 percent of their normal level, and that inflows to the lakes are at only 67 percent of their normal flow, for this time of the year—meaning that the dry-year risk for this year is extremely high—and what does that mean for consumers in an environment where there is no longer the same capacity to crank up thermal generation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, there are concerns about the levels of the hydro lakes at the present time, as the member will be aware, being another East Coast person for New Zealand. There has been relatively low rainfall through much of the East Coast of both islands of New Zealand. As was demonstrated in 2001, the capacity of the public to respond in those situations, I think, is much higher than we used to imagine.

Questions for Oral Answer

10. COPELAND, GORDON to the Minister of FinanceFinance: Does the Minister have concerns about the significant rise of the New Zealand dollar in terms of the flow-on effects for exporters and the current account deficit?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes, but it needs to be understood that the appreciation of the dollar is not all bad news. It partly reflects our relatively strong economic performance in recent years, and market expectations of future good performance. It can lower the cost of imported capital goods, and encourage new investment in the near term. It might facilitate an easing of interest rates. It really depends on how long the appreciation lasts, and how strong it is.

Gordon Copeland: In view of the fact that at least some exporters have already signalled their intention to transfer manufacturing off shore, with resulting job losses, and others are now struggling, does the Government have plans to assist their situation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Any business that is in that position would be well advised to approach the Ministry of Economic Development, or Industry New Zealand, to see what assistance is available. But I would have to say that if any business is having to move off shore because of the present level of the New Zealand dollar against the US dollar, which is within the range of the normal equilibrium rates over the last 10 to 20 years, then that business must have been engaging in some strange planning. The present rate of the New Zealand dollar against the “Aussie”, of course, is much higher, but studies do suggest that tends to correct itself quite quickly.

Dr Don Brash: When the Minister changed the policy targets agreement with the Reserve Bank Governor after the election in 1999, and again last year after the appointment of Dr Bollard as Governor, was he not hoping that a more flexible approach to monetary policy would reduce the volatility of the New Zealand dollar; and what, if anything, does he now want the Reserve Bank to do about the situation?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, but of course as the member well knows, I do not comment on the Reserve Bank while it is in operation. I do suspect that some confidence in the present management is contributing to expectations about future growth in New Zealand, which may be part of the upward pressure on the exchange rate.

Clayton Cosgrove: What other factors have contributed to the appreciation of the dollar?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The major influence is undoubted depreciation of the United States dollar. We frequently tend to look through a telescope from the wrong end in this small country. That is in response to a number of influences, including weak US growth, concerns about the integrity of corporate sector reporting, and about the sustainability of the United States current account deficit.

Rodney Hide: In the light of the Minister’s answer to the substantive question, does he believe that the Government has the policy framework that will return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD; if so, would he hazard a guess as to the time frame by which that wonderful goal will be achieved?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, and no.

Questions for Oral Answer
Dog Control—ACC Claims

11. DAIL to the Minister for ACC: What is the cost to ACC of the 17,529 doctor visits resulting from dog bites for the year to last November 2002, and what action does she intend to take to reduce both the cost and the physical injuries being sustained by New Zealanders as a result of a lack of control by dog owners?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce), on behalf of the Minister for ACC: The basis of the question is incorrect as the member has confused claims for treatment with doctors’ visits. I have not been able to obtain end-of-November statistics to match those that he is using. For the year ended June 2002 there were 7,978 dog-bite claims, and their total cost, including medical treatment, weekly compensation if any, rehabilitation, and other assistance was $669,000. In respect of the second part of the question, I endorse the actions being proposed by my colleague the Hon Chris Carter.

Dail Jones: Does the Accident Compensation Corporation have any plans to take action to ensure that dogs are put under control, and that funds are made available—perhaps to local authorities through the various provisions of the corporation’s legislation—to ensure that dog control officers and the like have the adequate funds to catch dogs on the loose, thereby reducing the cost to the corporation, and also protecting the citizens of New Zealand?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Accident Compensation Corporation is not funded for that purpose. We have increased fourfold the amount of money that is being put into injury prevention strategies, but it is not an appropriate use of the money to fund local councils through the corporation.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What action is the Accident Compensation Corporation taking to reduce both the cost and incidence of injuries being sustained overall by New Zealanders?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Since the introduction of the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act in 2001, the Accident Compensation Corporation has placed a strong emphasis on injury prevention, and now has numerous prevention programmes in place, which are already showing very positive results.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why has the Accident Compensation Corporation not put any focus on preventing dog attacks, given the large number of yearly claims; and why is dog control not even mentioned in the August 2002 edition of Think Safe, which is designed to prevent accidents in New Zealand?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The $669,000 that was paid for treatment costs associated with dog-related injuries compares to over $1.4 billion paid out totally in injury claims by the Accident Compensation Corporation. It actually represents less than 1 percent of the total numbers of claims and payouts under the corporation.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—United States

12. PREBBLE, Hon RICHARD to the Prime MinisterPrime Minister: Has the United States asked New Zealand for military assistance in enforcing existing United Nations Security Council resolutions for Iraq to disarm; if so, what is New Zealand’s response?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister not agree that the world is a safer place when the United States is prepared to take action against rogue States like Iraq; if so, why is New Zealand not offering assistance to America, as is Australia and the United Kingdom, our traditional allies?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The world is a safer place when multilateral processes are followed and the international rule of law is upheld.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister tell us whether the answers she has given today mean that the New Zealand Government now no longer supports a second resolution in the UN on the Iraq situation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Were force to be used, then for the New Zealand Government to support that force it would have to be sanctioned by a second resolution.

Hon Bill English: Answer the question.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: However, if the member is a little patient, the Government does not support seeking a resolution to use force at this time because the diplomatic process has not been exhausted.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the event that the United Nations Security Council does pass a resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq, would the Prime Minister expect the New Zealand Government to receive an approach from the UN Secretary-General’s office or the United States regarding any possible New Zealand participation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: We are probably getting into hypothetical territory here. I think it is clear that if—and I think it is unlikely—in the next few days the UN Security Council were to mandate the use of force, then probably a US-led coalition would be undertaking that force and that coalition is already well established and looks ready to go, to any lay observer. At that point I think the UN’s efforts would be very much focused on the end stage of the conflict, where clearly there would be major and catastrophic human needs to meet.

Keith Locke: If the United States does unilaterally attack Iraq will the Government withdraw our frigate from the Persian Gulf as an anti-war protest, given that one of the tasks of that frigate is to escort US military ships through the Straits of Hormuz; if not, why not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The New Zealand frigate is not in the Persian Gulf. The New Zealand frigate is in the Gulf of Oman on a quite separate operation.

Ron Mark: With reference to the Prime Minister’s last answer, noting the Government‘s indications that it does not believe New Zealand should be involved in a combat role or in any military action against Iraq, how then does she reconcile the fact that having a frigate and an Orion deployed in the Gulf of Oman frees up other nations’ combat elements to be used in such an invasion, and that being the case why does she not just make a commitment and go in, boots in all, with everybody else?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and I have been at pains for many months to point out the principal basis on which New Zealand evaluates whether it contributes to international operations, and the most basic principle, that it is a multilateral process according to the international rule of law, and that the use of force needs to be sanctioned by the Security Council.

Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a press release from the Prime Minister, of 11 November 2002, that points out that one of the tasks of our frigates is the escorting of coalition vessels.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Questions for Oral Answer

Points of Order

Question No. 1 to Minister

MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ): I seek leave to table Government information that shows 42,400 people have been paid a benefit for more than 2 years.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

End of Questions for Oral Answer

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