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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 13 February 2003

(uncorrected transcript – subject to correction and further editing)

Questions 1-12 – 13 February 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer
Treaty of Waitangi—Education Programme

1. ENGLISH, Hon BILL to the Prime Minister: Further to her statement yesterday that a “number of Government agencies presently have a role in dispersing information” about the Treaty, is there a plan for her Government to establish and implement an additional and distinct Treaty education programme, as promised in Labour’s 2002 election policy; if so, what principles of the Treaty will be included in that programme?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Labour’s 2002 election manifesto promised to establish and implement a Treaty of Waitangi education programme to improve the understanding of all New Zealanders. There is no reference to an additional programme, so I do not know what the member is precisely referring to. What the Government is proposing, however, is to build on and enhance on information currently available to the public through Government agencies.

Hon Bill English: If there is to be no treaty education programme, why did the Government in the delegations tabled on Tuesday appoint Tariana Turia as the Minister directly responsible for educating the public on the treaty?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: There can be no education without information.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek the leave of the House to have an immediate seating reshuffle, because clearly Margaret Wilson has caught Parekura Horomia’s dialect disease.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is just frivolous and silly, and I ask the member to stand and withdraw and apologise for that comment.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Mahara Okeroa: What information relating to the Treaty of Waitangi is currently available?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The information available includes historical publications relating to the treaty; Waitangi Tribunal reports of which there are now almost 80; Mâori Land Court historical records, where it is appropriate; and commentaries on court decisions relating to the treaty. The Government proposes to make this information more accessible to individuals, schools, businesses, and organisations that are interested in being better informed about the treaty.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given Professor Matthew Palmer’s call for the Government to articulate clearly what the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are, when will the Prime Minister show some leadership and articulate those principles, or is that an impossibility?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The principles that guide Government action are those that were published in 1989. They are the principles for Crown action on the Treaty of Waitangi, which have been tabled before. The publication that was referred to by the Prime Minister yesterday includes principles that have been enunciated from tribunal reports and the courts.

Heather Roy: Could the Minister point me to the exact page number, or even the chapter in her recommended reading, Understanding the Treaty, published by Te Puni Kôkiri, that says that partnership with iwi is a principle of the treaty; if not, has she not read the book, as I have?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, I cannot give the member the precise page number. However, I would be happy to do so if the member would like to attend a seminar, which I am also happy to arrange for those who would like to be better informed.

Metiria Turei: Can the Prime Minister detail how the many experienced Mâori and Pâkehâ treaty educators already doing this work in their communities will be involved in the Government’s programme, or will this programme simply be a Government agency public relations exercise?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: It is intended that the information that will be available will enable those agencies that are already doing valuable work to be able to enhance the delivery of their programmes.

Hon Bill English: Has the Prime Minister consulted the Mâori caucus about the following promise she made at the last election; that is, the Mâori development policy as the second top priority “to establish and implement a treaty education programme to improve the understanding of all New Zealanders”, or is she so embarrassed about that undertaking that she has now backed down?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, we talk constantly with our caucus and we talk with one voice.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Prime Minister asserting now that which she would not assert last year—that the Waitangi settlements principles are now to be regarded as the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, or did she discover that in the same way that Columbus discovered America—purely by accident?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I really do feel that a seminar should be held. The principles that I referred to in 1989 are those that guide policy making. Principles that guide negotiations for the settlement of specific claims were set out in, I think, 2000, when I revised them, and they are for a different purpose than the others, because we try to make the principles relate to the treaty.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker, under Standing Order 362, “Quoting documents”. I am not sure whether the Minister has quoted from the book she has asked us all to read, but I thought that as she and the Prime Minister have referred to it, she should be asked whether she would table the Te Puni Kôkiri book, which is apparently so important. In fact, if it is that important, why has every MP not been sent a copy?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did quote from a book. She may like to make a comment.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I did not quote directly from the document, but in the interests of making information available, I will certainly table a document, and I will see whether one can be made available to everyone. I do understand how impoverished you all are at the moment.

Mr SPEAKER: Irony is never very helpful. I will just say to the member that she said she will table it. That should have been her answer.

Questions for Oral Answer
Genetic Modification—Research Programmes

2. FITZSIMONS, JEANETTE to the Minister for the Environment: When are the various research programmes recommended by the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, investigating the risks of horizontal gene transfer, impacts on soil, and social and economic impact of releasing genetically modified organisms, due to be reported to the Government?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment)51HOBBS, Hon MARIAN14:12:05Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): The Government is spending over $6 million on research into the impacts of genetic modification. Much of this research is due to be reported back to the Government over the coming months, beginning with some research into economic impacts due by the end of March.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What exactly will the Government do if the research into horizontal gene transfer and its risks, due to report in 2005, suggests that it was a bad idea to release genetically modified organisms over the preceding 2 years, and has the Minister discovered a miraculous way to close the door after the horse has bolted, or is she admitting now that research recommended by the royal commission is irrelevant to Government policy on genetic engineering?

Mr SPEAKER: Two of those three questions can be answered.

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The royal commission recommended a wide range of research to be done. It did not say at any stage that we would hold up proceedings until the research was completed. In the concept of horizontal gene transfer, we are well aware that this is a debate that will rage for some time. The findings of this research are to inform the case by case decisions made by the Environmental Risk Management Authority. The decisions that we released yesterday were to do with the framework of how such decisions might be made.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister cite any research on genetic modification that shows any difference in the effects of GM technology on the health and safety of Mâori New Zealanders as compared with other New Zealanders; if not, why did she announce yesterday that the Act would be amended to include treaty principle amendments that would give Mâori rights to participate in the process not accorded to other New Zealanders?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: What I announced yesterday was that a Mâori reference group has been established to advise the Government on amendments to the Act that would ensure it reflects the treaty relationship in a meaningful, constructive, and practical way.

Mita Ririnui: Why has the Government proposed this set of changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, and why at this time?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The proposed changes to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act that I announced yesterday implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification. The royal commission recommended these changes, as part of an overall strategy to proceed with caution while preserving opportunities. The proposed changes give the Environmental Risk Management Authority another tool to make accurate assessments. The changes are designed to be in place by the time the moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms lifts in October this year.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will this so-called treaty relationship that she asserts on the issue of genetic modification allow for inter-marriage between Mâori and European, or stop it?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I have no comment to make on that question.

Larry Baldock: How important does the Minister consider it is to the New Zealand economy and the advancement of scientific knowledge to amend the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act to complete the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification to ensure that scientific progress is able to proceed cautiously in New Zealand?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Having resourced a royal commission, and having taken on board the extensive work that it does, I can tell the House that this Government considered it to be extremely important that the recommendations of that royal commission were implemented. They are about proceeding, with caution, while preserving the immense opportunities that exist. We saw some of those opportunities displayed on television last night when we were talking about the work at Ruakura. There are significant opportunities, and I welcome United Future’s support for moving forward to implement those recommendations.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: If the Minister considers it so important to implement the recommendations of the royal commission, why is she not acting on its recommendation that food animals such as cattle and sheep should not be used to produce pharmaceuticals; and how is that described as proceeding with caution?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: From memory, I understand that the recommendation was about the use of bioreactors, it was not about the production of pharmaceuticals.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What is the difference between using an animal as a bioreactor and using an animal to produce pharmaceuticals—is that not the same thing?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: As I understand it, it is not. A bioreactor is when one may use that animal, then eat the food from it. We are not suggesting that happens in any case whatsoever.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—Government Policy

3. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National—North Shore) to the Prime Minister: In light of her statement that Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation “strongly suggested a pattern of deception and concealment” of weapons of mass destruction programmes, why will her Government not support a second United Nations resolution designed to enforce Iraq’s disarmament?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Government believes that alternative options to secure Iraqi disarmament should be exhausted before the use of force is considered and mandated by the United Nations Security Council.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Does the Prime Minister accept that it is only the credible threat of imminent force that gets any level of cooperation from Saddam Hussein’s regime, and how much longer can she expect what she has called a small group of countries—in fact, our traditional allies and much of Western Europe and Eastern Europe—will be able to continue to provide the pressure to disarm Iraq?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are two parts to the member’s question. The Labour-led Government has always accepted that an ultimate resort to force is necessary for the United Nations to secure compliance with its resolutions. The member also asks how much longer we would need to wait. Given the fact that the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission team has been in Iraq for barely 3 months and has only just reached the full personnel strength to carry out its job, we believe that it should be given the time to do that job.

Tim Barnett: What support has the Government received from other political parties for its position on this issue?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The Progressive party and the United Future party, I think, are broadly supportive of the Government’s stance. The Green Party and ACT both disagree. They think we are too hard. Like the rest of New Zealand, we are still unclear on what position the National Party will take on this issue today.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer was an invitation for the member to give comments on other parties’ views, and although the question itself was saying suppport, and that was reasonable enough, the Minister went on to give other parties’ positions, and, in the case of my party, completely put it round the wrong way. I strongly object to that. My party has taken a principled view on the matter. We think New Zealand should be supporting its traditional allies.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is perfectly correct. The Minister should not have done that. Does the member want a supplementary question?

Hon Richard Prebble: Did the Prime Minister see the statement on television last night, made by the British Labour Cabinet Minister that the UK would ignore a veto on a second UN Security Council resolution, and, if so, does the Government support the British position, especially as they claim that is the same view that was taken over Kosovo, for which New Zealand supported the United States and the UK; if not, why does the Government support a veto from, say, France or Russia?

Hon PHIL GOFF: This Government supports acting multilaterally through the United Nations. That has been this country’s position since 1945. Though the member may not be aware, the United Kingdom and New Zealand are separate countries. We are an independent and sovereign country. We make our own decisions, notwithstanding that that member thinks we should follow other countries, without thinking for ourselves.

Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree with most intelligence analysts that Colin Powell himself was being deceptive, or concealing of the truth, in trying, at the United Nations, to prove a link between the fundamentalist al-Qaeda and the secularist Saddam, as he was doing again yesterday when he described bin Laden and Saddam as being “in partnership”, when bin Laden had just attacked Saddam as being an infidel, and called for his overthrow?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I, first of all, do not accept the member’s first assertion about what analysts may or may not believe. Speaking for this Government, we have yet to see any evidence that links the Government of Saddam Hussein with the events of September 11. The member said, as others in the House may have observed, that Osama bin Laden had described Saddam, I think, as an infidel and said that while the terrorists should support Iraq, he did not support the sort of ignorant Government that existed in Iraq. It suggests to me that the position of bin Laden and Saddam—neither of whom is a person I admire; I abhor both of him—is quite separate in terms of their actions.

Ron Mark: Reflecting on that answer, has the Government seen or requested any evidence from France, Britain, Germany, or the United States as to the types of military assistance they were lending to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The short answer is no, but some people will have observed inconsistencies in supporting Saddam at one point and not supporting him at another.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister aware of Colin Powell’s comments today that: “We are reaching a moment of truth with respect to the relevance of the United Nations Security Council, to impose its will on a nation such as Iraq”; if so, what steps does the New Zealand Government consider are still available to the United Nations Security Council, given the imminence of the threat implied in Mr Powell’s statement, to both lead to the disarming of Iraq and to prevent unilateral military action from being taken against it?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am aware of Colin Powell’s statement today. I do not accept that war is inevitable, although I must say that I think at this stage war is likely. It can be avoided, of course, if Iraq complies with the legal obligations on it. Equally, we would ask that the United States observe the procedures of the Security Council and that other methods that are still available, including pressure on Iraq by the international community, be allowed to run their course before any commitment of force is made.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Why is the Government irrevocably committed to multilateralism, as it has said many times, even though that effectively means that a veto by France, Russia, or China would end up determining New Zealand’s own foreign policy?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I would observe that Resolution 1441 went through the Security Council unanimously, with the support even of Syria. That shows that there is a will in the international community that Iraq should comply with the obligations on it. We are saying that time should be allowed for that process to be followed through before force is used in this instance.

Questions for Oral Answer
Tertiary Education—Standards

4. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)Education (Tertiary Education): What is the Government doing to promote excellence, relevance and access in the tertiary education system?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Today we are formally launching the Tertiary Education Commission. This new Crown entity brings together the administration of all post-secondary education and training under one organisational roof. In its transition phase the commission has already been involved with such policies as the selection of seven centres of research excellence, the design of the new performance-based research fund, the expansion of industry training, the introduction of the Modern Apprenticeships programme, the introduction of the Gateway programme to schools, and the allocation of regional development grants to polytechs throughout New Zealand.

Helen Duncan: What specifically will the commission do to promote excellence, relevance, and access?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Excellence will be promoted through such policies as an expansion of centres of research excellence, the introduction of a full performance-based research fund, and the introduction of a performance component to tuition funding. In relation to relevance, the commission will work with charters and profiles presented to it by all institutions throughout the country that want public funding. Those charters and profiles will have to show how institutions will advance the education and training of all New Zealanders, and, in particular, areas like industry will be dealt with. In relation to access, institutions will be asked to ensure that all learners have an open choice in relation to what education they do. For example the promotion of Mâori and Pacific Island students right throughout the university system will be one of the goals.

Simon Power: How do his reforms promote excellence, relevance, and access in the tertiary education sector, when the net effect of his system of charters and profiles is that if Steve Maharey does not like it, students do not get to study it?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can offer a seminar to the member on this issue, if he would like it, once he has finished with the treaty one. But, in fact, if I take the profiles, for example, the profiles go to the Tertiary Education Commission, not to me. I will not be making choices about what people do or do not study.

Hon Brian Donnelly: How does the Government raising the fees for NCEA by almost 100 percent promote access to tertiary education, particularly for students from average to low-income families, when a recent report shows that the 2002 fee level already acts as a significant barrier to children or students getting on to the first rung of the ladder of learning and access to tertiary education?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The important part of a standards-based system, as the member himself knows, is to ensure that we have a quality system suitable for this century. It will cost more money to drive that system, and one of the ways of recruiting that money, of course, is through fees.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Why does the Government believe that a New Zealand Qualifications Authority approved qualification in surfing from the Southern Institute of Technology—see Oreti Beach—where students who have demonstrated an aptitude and interest in surfing learn such practical and theoretical skills as surfing techniques, maintenance of surfing equipment actually assists and promotes excellence and relevance in tertiary education?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can tell that the member is not a surfer. One of the things that needs to be done when one is assessing whether a course would be relevant for students in this country is not to jump immediately to conclusions. One of the things that surfing qualifications may well do is introduce people to tourism industries, which, in this country, of course, are large, but also industries all around the world. So maybe the member might like to look at the course, first of all.

Questions for Oral Answer
Indigenous Rights

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and TradeForeign Affairs and Trade: Was New Zealand represented at the United Nations negotiations towards an international statement of indigenous rights at a Geneva meeting from 2 to 13 December 2002; if so, what was the position that New Zealand took?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): The answer is yes. New Zealand strongly supports the development of a constructive and widely applicable declaration that would allow indigenous people, who in many part of the world are severely disadvantaged, a basis to assert their rights. However, New Zealand has difficulty with aspects of the current draft that would have to be changed.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that this minority Government supported the right of indigenous people to self-determination at that conference, as inferred in the Age, a Melbourne newspaper, on 26 December 2002, and if that is the policy being asserted abroad, is it the policy it intends to implement back home here in New Zealand?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Speaking on behalf of a party enjoying 50 percent of the vote, and a minority Government, I point out that the member will probably not be aware from his comments that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights agreed to many years ago by this country and by Governments that he has been a member of, there is a right to self-determination. New Zealand has qualified that right in terms of this document, in terms of not impinging on the integrity and sovereignty of a country, and shares that position with many like-minded countries at the convention.

Martin Gallagher: Could the Minister further clarify the approach that New Zealand is taking to help achieve agreement with other countries on a declaration?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The working-party consists of both States and indigenous peoples, and there is a vast gap between the positions of those two groups. New Zealand’s approach has been to work with like-minded countries, and examples of that would be Canada and Norway. What we are trying to do is find wording that would be broadly acceptable both to States and indigenous peoples that the nature of this working-party is that its outcome can be achieved only by consensus. We are helping to find that consensus.

Hon Georgina te Heuheu: What status would a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples have under New Zealand law, and would the Government regard it as a binding document?

Hon PHIL GOFF: We are talking about a declaration and not a convention. That means that it cannot contain legally binding commitments. The instructions we have given to foreign affairs officials there is that the outcome should be consistent with New Zealand laws and the New Zealand constitution.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the Norwegian situation is for a separate Parliament for indigenous people, and is it not also a fact that what has been pursued by this Government implies clearly a separateness and a separate sovereignty, and are we to have that back in this country if we are to be consistent?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Once again, no, the member is not asserting facts. What Norway wants to do within its own law and constitution is up to Norway. That is certainly not the path that New Zealand is taking, or would take.

Questions for Oral Answer
School Children--Physical Activities

6. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) Minister of Education: What initiatives have been put in place to encourage greater physical activity of school children?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Getting kids off the couch and into physical activity is an important focus for the Ministry of Education, and Sport and Recreation New Zealand. Those agencies signed a protocol earlier this month and have identified a number of priorities, including increasing understanding amongst teachers and students of the benefit of physical activity; promoting opportunities to access those activities; establishing environments that are enjoyable, safe and supportive of young people for young people; engaging parents and communities; and monitoring achievements and engagements to inform future development. It is fair to say that in the last 5 years we have not made much progress.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Are there any particular projects to encourage increased physical activity?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. For example, the school physical activity project comprises a mix of professional development for teachers, physical activity coordinators, and research. Sixteen schools are involved in the project in four clusters, each with a coordinator.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the just announced protocol between his ministry and Sport and Recreation New Zealand has, as one of its highest priorities, promoting physical activity that is culturally appropriate and that embraces the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and noting that no Minister in this House is able to tell what those principles are, can he explain to the average physical education teacher how he or she might embrace such principles and promote such culturally appropriate physical activity?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Not only could I do that, but I could also invite Dallas Seymour to give them a good seminar on it.

Barbara Stewart: Noting the item in today’s Dominion Post about the risk of cancer for children who use playgrounds made from arsenic-treated timber, does the Minister consider that there is a problem in New Zealand’s schools; if so, what he is doing to eliminate that danger?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I clearly have not got to that point in the Dominion Post yet, as I started the day in Auckland. If it is a serious report, I will ask my ministry and the Ministry of Health for advice on that question. There have been some other relatively wild allegations in the past on the question of pollution in playgrounds, which required kids to eat about a bucket of dirt a day to get poisoned.

Mike Ward: Does the Minister not think that enabling children to walk and cycle safely to school are sensible options for reversing the predicted epidemics of obesity and type-2 diabetes; will he be briefing the Minister of Transport on the desirability of making safe cycleways and walkways around schools, and reducing the incidence of major highways around schools?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The answer is yes. Of course the member is right, and it has been explained to him before.

Questions for Oral Answer
National Certificate of Educational Achievement

7. DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Education: What evidence is there to support the claim by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority that the NCEA is designed to ensure “valid, consistent, accurate, fair assessment, at the national standard”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): There is a lot of evidence in the process and the results. For example, in the external assessment, the markers are experienced teachers trained by a chief examiner. A sample of 8 percent of every marker’s work is checked by a panel leader. The panel leader’s work is not checked. If any marker’s work is found to be unsatisfactory, he or she is replaced, and the scripts that they marked are redone. The big difference is that we are not afraid of scrutiny of our marking system. I think that one of the key and most obvious points is that under this system people have stayed with standards, and that has meant there has been a broad range of results from subject to subject. Those standards are high, and we are insisting that they are met, unlike the previous School Certificate system, in which, if too many people failed, some were bumped up for a pass.

Deborah Coddington: How does he reconcile his answer with the facts that in maths, for example, there were twice as many excellences for internal assessment compared with external exams, and half as many failures; and does this not raise serious questions about schools giving inflated internal grades?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Not at all. I think the member, as she gets better briefed, will understand that what schools do quite regularly is that if students can clearly not reach the standard the entries are withdrawn. That results in a higher achievement rate percentage for people who finish an internal assessment, compared with an examination. That is not an option once a student has already sat the examination.

Hon Richard Prebble: No, it’s completely wrong right now.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is not right.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the NCEA cost to parents has been doubled by the Government to $150, that the taxpayer is now contributing $300 per candidate, that it is costing schools at least $50 per candidate, and that this quantified portion now makes up in excess of $500 per candidate, can the Minister not see that the bureaucracy and costs of the NCEA is out of control and that there is an urgent need for a review to reduce those administration costs to get a qualification that is effective without costing this sort of amount?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: One of the major problems I faced on becoming Minister was a system that had had a lot of work done on it, especially by Wyatt Creech. Dr Lockwood Smith, in fact, started the standards-based approach. It was a system that was logical and coherent. The problem was that when Nick Smith was the Minister of Education, the Budget did not put in one extra cent of resource.

Jill Pettis: What evidence is there that overall the marking of external assessment against national standards was accurate under the NCEA last year?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The New Zealand Qualifications Authority advises me that of the 800 NCEA exam markers, all except two were consistently marking to the national standard. This means that the vast majority, 99.8 percent, of exam marking was satisfactory the first time. The work of the two markers found to be inconsistent was totally redone prior to the scripts being released.

Deborah Coddington: Where is the fairness and consistency between subjects, when only 0.3 percent of students who sat biology achieved excellence compared with 35 percent who sat information management, which is basically filing, and does this not raise serious questions about the integrity of his “anonymous moderators”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Not at all. What it shows is that students understood and met the standards in one area and did not in the other. I do not take the ACT approach of dropping standards in order to get top-up averages.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked a question, he then made up our policy and talked about it. He has made a mockery of the whole of question time. He tried to say to us that fewer people passed external examinations because the poor students were not allowed to sit. We all know that cannot be right. We ought to have this Minister give logical answers. When he cannot do so, he just makes them up.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was not strictly correct on one of the points that he made. However, he was correct in asserting that the last sentence of the Minister’s answer was unnecessary to the question concerned.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It occurred to me earlier when I came down to the House to make this point of order, but I really wish to bring this matter to your attention. Before coming to the Chamber I watched question time on Sky television and I observed an answer given by the Hon Margaret Wilson. I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that Ministers’ answers such as that may generate levity here because we think they are making fools of themselves, but I put it to you that the reputation of this House through the television screen when people see Ministers giving answers like that and Opposition members’ objections being dismissed seriously damages this House. I ask you to raise the issue with the Standing Orders Committee, which you chair, with a view to tightening up on the Standing Orders in that respect.

Mr SPEAKER: That has nothing to do with this particular question. The member came down to the House and did not raise it then. However, there is some point in what the member has said. That is why we have elections. When members make the wrong decisions the people watching that on television can vote differently at subsequent elections.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest that that last point of order should have been ruled out for one simple reason. I have noticed an increasing tendency for such points of order to be raised well after the event they refer to. It used to be a very clear ruling in this House that points of order have to be raised at the time the event occurred. If they are raised later, they are no longer relevant. That point of order related to an answer that was given substantially earlier in question time.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: My colleague’s objection was triggered by his observance of Margaret Wilson’s answer and the answer given by Mr Mallard just now. The relevant point I wish to raise is that if we are to wait for the 2005 election, or whenever the Government throws in the towel, then we will not correct this impediment to public disclosure of public information in the way this House is to conduct question time. I say again, with no reflection on you, that I have never seen in Western democracies the kinds of answers being given and the way they are acceptable in this House.

Mr SPEAKER: I will just say that as far as I am concerned a point of order should be raised when the event occurs. Had the member raised the point solely about the particular question that was being asked that would then have been a point of order and in order. However, I think that our question time compares very favourably with most others I have observed in the Western World. In fact, our question time is far more orderly and more information is given. I would also say I think that applies certainly to those people who ask questions and who take a lot of time to think out good and serious questions and are able to ask them.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing Order 372 states that Ministers answers must be concise and confined to the subject of the question. We have had two answers from Mr Mallard, the first to my question about the costs of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, and the second question asked by my ACT colleague in respect of the standards of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. In both instances all we got from the Minister was a barrage at me about something that occurred in 1999 and something equally irrelevant for the ACT party. That is why this House rightly asked you as Speaker to ensure the Minister concerned answers the question.

Mr SPEAKER: That is why, rightly, as I have now judged, thanks to the member, ruled that the Minister was wrong.

Metiria Turei: Given Labour’s education policy, which begins: “Quality education is a basic right. It must be available to all children without regard to wealth or income”, how does the Minister justify charging any fees at all for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement assessment, or does he not consider assessment to be part of a child’s basic right to a quality education?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Of course a lot of assessment is part of a right. The House will be interested to know that last year the applications for relief as far as fees were concerned was a very small proportion of the amount that this Government had set aside for it. We will do a better job this year of making it clear that that facility is available.

Questions for Oral Answer
Teacher Shortages—Secondary Schools

8. BERNIE OGILVY (United Future) to the Minister of Education: Does he agree with the assessment of Bali Haque, president of the Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand, that the shortage of secondary school teachers at the beginning of the 2003 school year constitutes a “crisis”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): No.

Bernie Ogilvy: If the teacher shortage is not a crisis, how else would the Minister describe the situation whereby schools were short of 388 teachers in January, and now, 3 weeks into the school year, there are 199 actual vacancies to be filled, according to this week’s Education Gazette?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Schools, of course, are closed in January, at the time of the Gazette, therefore I do not regard that as a crisis. I am advised, in fact, that in February this year there are 111 vacancies, 30 fewer than at the same time last year.

David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister please detail Government action to address secondary staffing pressures?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Mr Speaker, given your advice on brevity, I will list only some of those actions. The Government has spent around $37 million over 3 years: it has targeted recruitment to encourage New Zealand teachers to return, and funding for that; taken graduates from around the country to Auckland; created teaching scholarships to get more people into training, in particular, into priority subjects; given a lot of retraining for former secondary teachers, allowances for that; conversion courses at full pay for primary teachers, etc.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that in the 1990s the same age-bulge bit the primary sector, and that National successfully managed teacher supply to ensure that every classroom of children had a teacher, how has he so mismanaged secondary teacher supply so that for 2 years running, thousands of children have arrived at school, in schools all over New Zealand, without a teacher?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think, as the member is aware, that is not correct. As the member is aware, this Government has increased the number of staff in secondary schools, and in fact, the total vacancies advertised at the peak point were fewer than the extra teachers we put over and above _____. So the ratios were better this year than last.

Bernie Ogilvy: In the light of that, how will shortages be addressed in the long term, when I note that the average age of secondary teacher workforce is 49, yet since 1999 the number of secondary trainee enrolments has declined 10.5 percent, and the proportion of those who graduated has slid from 76 percent to 66 percent?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There are some interesting statistics, and I am willing to work with the member on them. My advice is that at the end of last year there were 1,765 secondary teachers in training—up 120 from the year before.

Questions for Oral Answer
Air New Zealand—Qantas

9. Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement in the House on 8 October 2002 regarding a partial sale of Air New Zealand to Qantas, “If he means whether I have, in an official capacity, received advice that there is such a proposal, the answer is no.”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Yes.

Hon Roger Sowry: How can the Minister reconcile that answer with the fact that he received, on or about 10 May 2002, Treasury Report No. 2002/648, entitled: Air New Zealand Update on Proposal for Strategic Partner, a report that contained the annexe titled “Air New Zealand - Qantas Proposal for a Strategic Partnership”; and is the reason the proposal was not advanced along the lines of the timetable detailed in the report—which suggested that a decision would be made late July—due to the fact that the Government had no intention of going about that before the election?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely not! If the member would care to actually talk to people in Air New Zealand, he would find they might care to tell him that negotiations were not concluded until 24 November.

Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister recall his comments to the Australian in January of this year that “a horror scenario” would be disagreement between competition watchdogs, which could squash the proposed Qantas - Air New Zealand deal; and if he does recall that, will he advise the House whether, in the light of that “horror scenario” coming to pass, the Government will direct Air New Zealand to withdraw from the proposed arrangement?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: If that scenario comes to pass the proposal will fail, because it requires the consent of both regulatory authorities.

David Parker: How did the proposal evolve, and when was it presented to you as holder of the Crown’s stake in Air New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As is well known, Air New Zealand and Qantas were in discussions for most of last year, and there was a great deal of speculation surrounding those discussions. The fact they were occurring was scarcely a secret. The papers released by the Government yesterday show that as late as August when Treasury was invited, there were still “some uncertainty as to whether proposals will eventuate at all”. Members should note the meaning of that language. The final details were concluded, I understand, and as I said before, the night before it was submitted to the Government on 25 November.

Hon Roger Sowry: If the Government were not concerned about this proposal being advanced before the election, why was the proposal to sell part of Air New Zealand to Qantas christened by the Government “Project Vanilla”, and Qantas given a code name of “Kay”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government never christened anything “Project Vanilla”—[Interruption] No, that is what Air New Zealand described the project as being. The Government was entirely tasteless in these matters.

Rodney Hide: Was the real reason for denying any knowledge of this deal the fact that the Minister had been advised, back in May, about the upcoming election; and if it were not the upcoming election, given that the papers clearly show that what he told this House and the public of New Zealand was false—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry. I will ask the member to restate his question. I will be now listening carefully.

Rodney Hide: Was the reason that this Minister denied any knowledge of a deal that he had been advised of as far back as May last year, the fact that there was an upcoming election—where he did not want this deal being discussed—and if that were not the reason, why should anyone take what he says seriously when the papers he released show that what he said is at variance with what is in the papers?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, they are not. There was no deal in May. If there had been a deal in May—

Hon Bill English: Same stupid game.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Same stupid leader, unfortunately. If there had been a deal in May, Air New Zealand would have had to announce it to the Stock Exchange. Those are the rules.

Hon Roger Sowry: I seek leave to table a Treasury Report dated 10 May 2002, to the Minister of Finance, and Treasurer, with an annexe entitled: “Air New Zealand-Qantas Proposal for a Strategic Partnership”.

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

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know you listened very carefully to my question. The primary question did not discuss a deal, as Michael Cullen alleged; it was a proposal. That is what that Minister denied any knowledge of. That is what the papers show he had been advised of in May.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking to the point of order, I point out that the member’s question asked about a deal. I suggest he consult his own notes.

Questions for Oral Answer
Gangs—Palmerston North

10. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: What initiatives is he putting in place to deal with the gang situation in Palmerston North?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce), on behalf of the Minister of Police: The police instituted Operation Snag in February 2002, which has maintained a high profile in quickly dealing with gang incidents and has included 39 arrests of gang members and/or associates.

Ron Mark: In respect of gangs, why has the Minister not brought legislation to the House similar to the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002, which would make it illegal to associate with, be a member of, or finance any gang-like organisation so listed on a similar register, or is everything that the Minister said when Labour was on its anti-gang crusade between 1994 and 1997 nothing more than hot air, as we suspect?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I think that question is very unfortunate, in the light of the very good work that has been undertaken in Operation Snag. I should also advise that member that in the period they have operated the police have recovered 15 firearms, issued driving-related offence notices amounting to fines of over $50,000, property valued at $32,000 has been seized via the court processes, and of course some significant sentences of imprisonment have been imposed. I think the police are working very well on this very difficult issue.

Hon Steve Maharey: Can the Minister advise whether the police initiatives have been supported by a range of other agencies resident in the excellent city of Palmerston North?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I can tell the House that Work and Income, Housing New Zealand, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, the local council, and numerous community agencies are working very closely together to address the underlying problems within the community. Issues relating to these matters cannot be addressed in isolation. This is a model whole-of-Government approach and is welcomed by the police.

Hon Tony Ryall: In view of the fact that gangs are making many millions of dollars through their control of the vile methamphetamine trade and associated violence, when will he progress legislation to allow the courts greater powers to confiscate the assets of these drug-dealing gangs, or will I have to set up a seminar for the Government to understand that if we take the money off the gangs we can cut their power and influence?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: If the member had been listening to the answer I gave to the first supplementary question, he would be aware that property has been seized via court processes.

Dr Muriel Newman: Given the fact that the answer to my parliamentary question for written answer No.16044 revealed that gang apprehensions have increased by over 30 percent since Labour has been in power, why is the Government not giving the problem of gangs the same urgency that it is giving the problem of dogs, or is the answer that dogs cannot vote?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Maybe I misheard the member but I think she said the rate of apprehensions had increased by 30 percent. I would suggest that the police are doing their job very well.

Marc Alexander: In the light of the out of control gang shootings in Palmerston North, can the Minister advise whether he has done anything to change his own view that, in his words, Hansard, Volume 560, at page 1863, 14 May 1997: “At the moment it is the gangs who are organised, not the Government.”; if not, is it not time that he does?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I should make the point that this last weekend when that particular event occurred was the anniversary of a gang associate’s death, which brought many gang members back to town. There was considerable tension around that. Those extra people have now left town. The police responded very well to the situation.

Ron Mark: Has it escaped the Minister’s memory that the last time the nation saw such inter-gang warfare was in 1996, and the result of that was an innocent woman being shot while sitting in her car at an intersection in Addington, and is that what it is going to take before this Government outlaws gangs?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That member raises the question as to whether an event that occurred in 1996, which did not result in the banning of gangs, for the period of time that he was part of a Government is a somewhat ironic question.

Questions for Oral Answer
Mâori Television Service

11. KATHERINE RICH (NZ National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs: Is he satisfied that the chief executive recruitment and appointment process followed by the Mâori Television Service Board was appropriate and thorough, as a member of the interview panel for at least one of the short-listed applicants was then appointed to the position by the board; if so, why?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): As I said yesterday, 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 once documentation and assurances have been provided.

Katherine Rich: In the light of the fact he told the House yesterday that “Mr Fox is one of the most conversant in te reo, which is a principle of delivering the service to households in this country”, can he explain the thinking behind appointing John Davy, a non-Mâori - speaking Canadian whose only command of the language extended to mumbling “kia ora”?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Mr Davy was a bad choice, and the nation understands that. Mr Fox is a good choice.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question sought an answer from the Minister as to the appropriateness and thoroughness of a process, and he has made no attempt to answer it—for 2 days in a row. I am saying that in any other jurisdiction, any other democracy, he would be fired.

Mr SPEAKER: That last comment was totally unnecessary and was, of course, nothing to do with a point of order. The point of order the member asked was about whether the Minister was addressing the question. I judged that he had.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point is this: I sm asserting that in other Western democracies a Minister who cannot answer the questions or refuses to answer the questions is fired by his leader, or by Parliament, or by pressure from his peers. How come these incompetent Ministers stay in their jobs, doing this day in and day out, ______________?

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order; that is a political point that is being made.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point raised is, in my view, a very good point. The primary question started with “is he satisfied”. It is asking for the Minister’s opinion. The same question was asked yesterday. The Minister yesterday did not say whether he was satisfied. Today he has done exactly the same. At some point, Mr Speaker, are you going to rule that Ministers addressing the question actually have to answer the question? Addressing the question does not mean just making some reference to the topic that the question alludes to, which is the appointment process. The issue is whether the Minister, who is the person collecting the salary, is satisfied that due process was carried out. We have no indication at all on that.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Speaking to the point of order, I assure those two previous speakers that I am very clear and satisfied at this stage about the due process. Certainly, if I am unable to live up to the supposed ranting and ravings of other Mâori members in this House, then that is another issue.

Mr SPEAKER: I judged that the Minister addressed the question. He made his point in the first sentence. He should not have said the second sentence—but in the first sentence he answered the question. He answered the question—it does not necessarily mean that members are going to be satisfied with the answer.

Dave Hereora: Who will replace Mr Fox as the chair of the Mâori Television Service Establishment Board?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: This is a matter that myself and the Minister of Finance, along with the chair of Te Putahi Paoho, the Mâori Electoral College, will consider.

Mr SPEAKER: We come now to question No. 12. [Interruption] No, New Zealand First have used their questions.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are allowed 11 supplementary questions on some days and 10 on another. It makes sense to us that we get 11 supplementary questions when we have two principal questions, and 10 when we have one principal question. That is your ruling to us privately, behind the scenes.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me say to the member that that is a novel point that I have not heard until this moment, but in view of the fact that I want to start the year being reasonable, I will allow this day as one of the “11 days”. But next week it will be 10 twice.

Pita Paraone: Given the Minister’s expression of confidence yesterday in the ability of the newly appointed chief executive officer to the Mâori Television Service, why did he not agree with his recommendation to accept the offer from CanWest of its TV4 channel, given that the accessibility of that particular channel is far superior to that of the UHF channel provided by this Government?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: UHF transmission through BCL has proved to be a realiable and commercially attractive option for Prime Television, TAB, and Sky. There is no difference in quality between UHF and VHF. I tell that member that no matter whether UHF or VHF wasused, satellite transmission is also necessary, and that is the reason.

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister explain the logic behind spending tens of thousands of dollars on two international recruitment searches, only to appoint the chairman who commissioned the searches in the first place, and can he tell us how much this has cost the New Zealand taxpayer?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Sometimes, like in hundreds of appointment processes in the country, it works and other times it does not. I cannot give that member the cost of it, but I am certainly prepared to forward the figure to her.

Katherine Rich: I seek leave to table the job profile and briefing notes used in the search for the chief executive of the Mâori Television Service.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Resource Management Act--Renewable Energy

12. DAVID CUNLIFFE (NZ Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Energy: Why has the Government announced changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 to give greater weight to the national benefits of renewable energy?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): Developing renewable energy is the most sustainable way to meet New Zealand’s future energy needs. Perversely, however, it can be more difficult to obtain a resource consent for a renewable energy project than for a fossil fuel burning plant. A wind farm, for example, is likely to occupy more land than a thermal power station. The proposed amendment to the Resource Management Act will add renewable energy to the list of matters to be considered when consent decisions are made. This will give clearer guidance to commissioners on the national importance of renewable energy, which will be balanced by the many other considerations relevant to their decisions.

David Cunliffe: What advice does he have on the potential for developing new sources of renewable energy in New Zealand?

Hon PETE HODGSON: A substantial analysis for the Ministry of Economic Development last year confirmed that New Zealand has very significant opportunities for renewable energy development. The resources include hydro and wind power, geothermal energy, and bioenergy from sources such as wood waste and landfill gas, and solar energy. The analysis indicates that over the next 20 years, almost all new electricity generation is likely to be renewable, at a cost of a little over 6c a unit. This suggests that the Government’s renewable energy target of an extra 30 petajoules a year by 2012, while challenging, is within reach.

Gerry Brownlee: Noting that the Minister has now described hydro capacity as being part of the renewable energy definition, can he give us an undertaking that the resource management changes will assist in the process of consenting Project Aqua on the Waitaki, and can he further give us some assurance that the Government will look at changes to the Conservation Act to make projects like the Kotuku scheme at Dobson also possible?

Hon PETE HODGSON: In respect of Project Aqua, I do not think I can give the member the assurance, because I am not at all sure that the Project Aqua consent applications are not going to be put in ahead of the law being passed. It is my hope that the law will move into the statute book this calendar year, but I rather suspect Project Aqua may well be jumping the gun.

Gerry Brownlee: That is an extraordinary answer, and I seek the leave of the House to ask one further question of the Minister at this point.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not want to comment about the quality of the answer, but the member is perfectly entitled to ask for leave. Is there any objection? There is.

Hon Ken Shirley98Hon Ken Shirley: How will greater weight given to renewable energy under the Resource Management Act assist this country’s looming energy crisis when much needed new generation proposals, such as Pohokura gas and the Arnold River hydro at Dobson, are delayed and frustrated by the same Resource Management Act together with Government bureaucracy—and the Minister has just conceded that this will make it harder to get new projects through the Resource Management Act; how on earth is that going to overcome the crisis that is looming?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I seem to not have given an adequate explanation. The idea of the legislation change that I announced on Tuesday was to make it easier for renewable projects, which typically have a larger footprint than non-renewable, to get consents.

Gerry Brownlee: Existing ones can’t.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Existing ones cannot, says the member. For example, Pohokura is consented. For example, the CCTT at Huntly is consented. These are not issues. The member would like them to be issues, but they are not.

Gerry Brownlee: They’re under appeal.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Of course they are under appeal. Most significant consents are under appeal. Most appeals are heard in a timely manner and many appeals are declined or modified slightly. However, Gerry Brownlee’s comment that I gave a remarkable answer means that he has remarkably unclean ears. Let me do it again.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister’s answer is already far too long. That comment was out of order. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I withdraw and apologise.

Gordon Copeland204Gordon Copeland: Will the measures the Minister has now taken answer the basic question that New Zealand businesses want assurances on, and that is, will there be an uninterrupted supply of electricity to satisfy demand at reasonable prices over the next 2 or 3 years, and on into the future?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is one of dozens of things the Government is doing to lead us towards exactly that future.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: In view of the need to develop renewable energy somewhat faster than we thought, because of the somewhat speedier depletion of Maui, does the Minister think that this measure, along with the project finance scheme, will be sufficient, or do we need more national level measures to encourage renewable energy developments?

Hon PETE HODGSON: There is the national energy efficiency and conservation strategy; there is the workout of the Kyoto Protocol that the member refers to in the projects part; there is the possibility of joint initiatives or other trading systems arising out of the Kyoto Protocol, especially as we approach 2008; there is the change that this question is about; and together, they start to change the policy direction of this country somewhat.

Questions for Oral Answer

Points of Order

Question No 7 to Minister—Amended Answer

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): It has been drawn to my attention that in answering question 7, I inadvertently misled the House when I said the panel leader’s work is also not checked. In fact, it is checked.

Questions for Oral Answer

Points of Order

Question No 10 to Minister

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ): I seek leave to table the information that shows the increase in gang activities since Labour has been in power.

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

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript – subject to correction and further editing)

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