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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 18th February

(uncorrected transcript – subject to correction and further editing)

Questions for Oral Answer
18th February 2003

Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer

Iraq—Government Policy

1. KEITH LOCKE (Green) Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: In light of the weekend protests by thousands of New Zealanders against the “war talk” of President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, will New Zealand’s United Nations ambassador tell the United Nations tomorrow that New Zealand believes there is no case for war and that the United Nations should not endorse one; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): New Zealand’s ambassador to the United Nations will tomorrow reiterate to the open session of the Security Council New Zealand’s position, as already outlined to this House last week by the Prime Minister and by me. That position is clear and unequivocal, as are the reasons for it.

Keith Locke: Will the Government be expressing support for the French and German proposals, which, as an alternative to war, advance such measures as an increase in the number of UN weapons inspectors, backed by a United Nations peacekeeping force?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The so-called Franco-German proposal has been circulated as a non-paper. There is some debate between the two countries as to what should be emphasised in it. What I can tell the member is that our position is that useful work is being done by the inspectors at this time. The process should be allowed to continue. We should exhaust all possible alternatives for achieving Iraq disarmament before any resort to war is even considered.

David Benson-Pope: What concerns does the Government have with regard to the consequences of military force being applied in Iraq?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The United Nations of course needs to have the use of force as an ultimate sanction to achieve compliance with its decisions, but the reasons that should only ever be an ultimate sanction should be obvious to everybody in this House. The use of military force involves the loss of lives, possibly tens of thousands of innocent people killed, huge destruction to infrastructure, and consequent human misery. The use of force can also destabilise the wider region and work against, rather than for, the objectives of the campaign against terrorism.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Will New Zealand’s presentation to the Security Council tomorrow include support for a second Security Council resolution, declaring Iraq in material breach of earlier resolutions and giving Saddam Hussein a final chance to fully disarm, particularly given the Prime Minister’s statement last week that Secretary of State Colin Powell had presented a case strongly suggesting that Iraq is concealing its weapons of mass destruction?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It would be premature to express support for any resolution that, to the best of my knowledge, has as yet not been drafted. There are a number of alternatives that may be considered by the Security Council. New Zealand’s position is to continue to apply maximum pressure to Iraq, but to support the use of force only after every other option has been exhausted. We have not yet reached that point.

Hon Ken Shirley: Is the Minister prepared to review his Government’s stance and join the “coalition of the willing”, now that our traditional allies, Australia, United Kingdom, and United States, have been joined by Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, and other countries?

Hon PHIL GOFF: If the implication of the member’s question is that by joining a “coalition of the willing” we would act outside a mandate from the United Nations, the answer is no.

Hon Peter Dunne: Following on from the Minister’s answer to the previous-but-one supplementary question, does the New Zealand Government support the view advanced by President Chirac that no further United Nations Security Council resolution is required, and that France would not support one?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It would be our view that if force was to be considered, a second resolution explicitly authorising that would be required.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree with the widely expressed view that the Bush administration aims to use a war to gain greater control over Iraq’s oil reserves, which are the second largest in the world?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No. I think there are many reasons that the United Nations Security Council unanimously decided to pass Resolution 1441. The predominant reason is that we need to see disarmament by Iraq, and that is why pressure needs to be brought on it to put into place actions that it has resisted taking over the last 12 years.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—Defence Force Deployment

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: In light of her reported comments that “the chances of a war with Iraq had risen to well above 70 percent”, has her Government received any reports assessing the risks to New Zealand Defence Forces deployed to the Gulf?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Bill English: In the light of her comments over the weekend that it is appropriate to release information about troops other than the SAS, can the New Zealand public expect more information about this deployment, regarding the activities of New Zealand military personnel and the risks faced by them, since they are stationed near the Iraqi war zone?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. There are two major groups involved. There are the 13 New Zealand Defence Force personnel who are deployed in Iraq as part of the UN inspection teams. There are 35 New Zealand Defence Force personnel further afield in the Sinai desert who may be affected, and the direct deployment to the Gulf area—not in the Gulf itself, but in the Arabian Sea and up to the straits of Hormuz—of the frigate. The threat to that, of course, has always been present, given the nature of its present deployment, but the assumption is that that threat risk will have to be raised from medium to high in the event of hostilities breaking out in Iraq.

Helen Duncan: What has been done to address the security of other New Zealanders in the Middle East region?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Approximately 2,000 New Zealanders are registered with our embassies and consulates in the wider region. They have been advised to consider how they might depart urgently, if needed. Additional Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence Force liaison staff are in the region to assist with any increased consular activity.

Keith Locke: In the event of a war would not our frigate in the area, in performing tasks such as the Minister has explained—by escorting coalition vessels through the Straits of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf—be complicit in that war, and should not we be withdrawing our frigate now as an anti-war statement?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the frigate is there as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, which is—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Who believes that!

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Well, the Americans do for a start. The frigate is there as part of Operation Enduring Freedom—the anti-terrorist activity. I think the Americans are quite clear that we are part of that operation—not the operation in Iraq that they are proposing. There is no reason to withdraw the involvement with Operation Enduring Freedom. I have to say that much as I admire our armed forces, the notion that our rather small frigate is responsible for escorting two or three major aircraft-carrier battle groups into the Persian Gulf, stretches the imagination somewhat.

Hon Peter Dunne: In view of current reports that groups like al-Qaeda are considering using human torpedoes to pose a fresh threat to international shipping, how confident can the Minister be that the presence of a New Zealand vessel in the Gulf is not placed at great risk, as a consequence of these new terrorist moves?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, there is already a risk to Te Kaha. That was clearly taken into account when it was deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom, and it seems probable that that risk will need to be upgraded if hostilities do break out.

Hon Bill English: Given that New Zealand has personnel actually in Iraq, and that the Government has recently deployed hundreds of navy and air force personnel to the region, will the Government give this Parliament the opportunity to express its strong support for our military personnel who have been deployed into a potentially dangerous zone?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have had that opportunity over the last week during debate, and certainly it was expressed by Government parties. I did not hear, from Opposition parties, support for the actions taken by New Zealand so far.

Questions for Oral Answer
Workplace Education

3. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What progress has the Government made in extending opportunities for learning in the workplace?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): The Government has continued to support and invest in growth in industry training, and Modern Apprenticeships in particular. There were 106,997 trainees registered with industry training organisations during 2002. That is a 12 percent increase on the same time last year. There were 47 percent more trainees registered as at 31 December 2002 than there were when we became the Government in December 1999. These figures include 4,344 Modern Apprenticeships—a 14 percent increase over the 3-month period from 30 September, and a 112 percent increase on the previous year.

Jill Pettis: Does the Government have a vision for the future development of workplace learning?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, we do. The vision is set out clearly in New Zealand’s first ever tertiary education strategy, which states that by 2007 learning in the workplace will be extended to employees in as many industries as is possible. This will be done through the tripartite skills initiative between Government, the Council of Trade Unions, and Business New Zealand. There will be a quarter of a million people in training during 2007. By June 2006 there will be 7,500 young people in Modern Apprenticeships and that will help to ensure that all young people who leave school in the year 2007 will go on to education, training, and work. By contrast, according to the National Party’s spokesperson Simon Power, they have no industry training policy at all.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was all in order until the last sentence.

Simon Power: Where is the equity when some employers, such as those involved in the trades, can be levied for the cost of training their staff by a vote of only 36 percent of their industry, while other employers, such as lawyers, accountants, and doctors, still have their employees trained at no cost to them?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The basis of industry training is that it is a partnership between the Government, the employer, and the learner, and therefore we share the costs. I have to say to the member, who I noticed in the newsletter for the industry training organisations says “You have no policy”, but, if he had been visiting these organisations, they would have told him they wanted this form of levy.

Questions for Oral Answer
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—Examination Fees

4. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Has he received any reports on the recent study by Child Poverty Action Group “The irony of NCEA: How Compulsory Exam Fees Prevent the Achievement of Students from Poor Families”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Not yet.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that this research report demonstrates that the level of fees for National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) in 2002 meant many children from poorer families could not enter the qualification; if so, what are the implications for this year now that the fees have almost doubled?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As far as the implications for this year, that will depend on the remission policy that is set as the Budget process. As far as last year is concerned, I am advised that not one principal raised the matter with the ministry, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, or my office. That is something I am very disappointed about. If this report is accurate, and no principal raised the matter, then that is very serious.

Bernie Ogilvy: Can the Minister confirm that the real reason that fees for NCEA have increased so markedly is due to the inadequate funding of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which reported last year that its current expenditure on NCEA is “not sustainable in the long term”, forcing it to spend all of its reserves in this coming financial year?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There is no doubt that Qualifications Authority was carrying reserves much higher than was necessary, and there was a requirement from the Government that those reserves be used in the first instance, rather than immediate fee increases to students, of the sort of level to recover the costs of the NCEA.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain why Labour members in the 1990s cried howls of outrage at a 15 percent increase in the School Certificate and Bursary fees over 9 years, whereas after a 100 percent increase over 2 years not a single Labour member has expressed concern about a single New Zealand family?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I can recall no such howls of outrage. The only howls that I hear are those of National Party members as they read the polls.

Deborah Coddington: Is not the ultimate irony of the NCEA the fact that it will severely disadvantage poor students from low decile schools, because the internal assessment failure rate is half that of the external exam rate, so their employment prospects will depend on which grammar zone their parents can afford to live in?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the real irony of going down that track is that the gap between the internal and external assessment grades between decile 10 and decile 1 schools is wider at decile 10 than decile 1.

Metiria Turei: Can the Minister detail for the House how the imposition of any National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) assessment fee will meet the Government’s own policy goal of reducing the dropout rate of students who “have the potential to gain secondary school qualifications but bail out before they can reach the later years of secondary schooling”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: During the time of this Government there has been a considerable closing of the gap between poorer and richer areas as far as retention rates in the senior school is concerned. But I must point out that that is against a declining trend of retention because of the very, very strong economy.

Mark Peck85Mark Peck: Is there any financial assistance to students to pay NCEA fees?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, application for full remission was available for School Certificate, and is available for NCEA. It is always available for university bursaries. Requests for remission have declined since 2000, and the uptake remains underutilised. There was a $212,000 or 37 percent under-spend last year. That may result from reduced unemployment rates or student parents not being aware of the remissions policy. That will be corrected this year.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Noting the Minister’s statement that parents must pay for a high-quality qualification, which presumably NCEA is, why are parents being made to pay $150—an increase of $80 from last year—for Sixth Form Certificate, or is the transitional Sixth Form Certificate that much better than its predecessor?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is certainly no better.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Given the rapid escalation of assessment costs in the past 2 years, what is the Minister doing to ease the burden on middle to low income families who do not qualify for financial assistance and have several children taking qualifications in the same year?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: That is the area that is being reviewed as part of the Budget decision-making process.

Questions for Oral Answer
Drinking—Teenagers

5. PAUL ADAMS (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Is he satisfied that enough is being done to curb the kind of teenage drinking that appeared to be a significant factor in the tragic events at Whangarei over the weekend?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Final conclusions as to what led to the tragic death of a teenage girl and the injury of many others in Whangarei over the weekend must, of course, await the outcome of police inquiries and the judicial process that will follow that. Drug and alcohol use may have been a significant factor in what occurred, but speculation at this point, in advance of having any informed reports, is not particularly productive.

Paul Adams: Is the Minister concerned at the prevalence of pocket-money alcohol, which is sold in 1.125 litre bottles for about $10 and is 23 percent alcohol and therefore just avoids being taxed at the rate of spirits; if so, will he commit to changing the excise duty on those drinks to make them less attractive to price-sensitive young people?

Hon PHIL GOFF: There is no doubt at all that the lower excise rates on alcohol with the lower content just below the benchmark rate does make the alcohol cheaper, more affordable, and, to a greater extent, used by young people who do not have a lot of money. I am sure the Minister of Finance will embrace the suggestion of the United Future Party with open arms that we should increase the excise duty. In fact, my colleague the Associate Minister of Health foreshadowed the need to examine that before Christmas.

Russell Fairbrother: What is being done to address concerns about alcohol and drug abuse, which causes harm to teenagers and others?

Hon PHIL GOFF: A wide range of projects to address alcohol and drug abuse by teenagers are being undertaken at the present time. These include the cracking down on supply of alcohol to under-age drinkers through the police controlled purchase operations, increasing police power and resources to clamp down on methamphetamines, and educative programmes to reduce demand. These programmes are being overseen by a ministerial action group, which is designed to ensure that there is cooperation and coordination between a range of ministries and agencies with responsibilities in this area.

Richard Worth: Is he concerned that the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) survey released last year showed that 67 percent of parents of minors aged between 14 and 17 knew their children were drinking, and 45 percent supplied their children with alcohol; if so, what Government initiatives are targeted to curb these figures?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am concerned, not simply about the fact that parents are providing alcohol—I think alcohol in moderate amounts provided by a parent to a child is perfectly acceptable—but that some parents have no idea of what is advisable or sensible, with reports of young children who went on to commit serious criminal offences being provided, literally, with litres of spirits by their parents or guardians. To deal with this problem we have endorsed, supported, and promoted the Think Before You Supply campaign. Indeed, just before Christmas, I sent out a letter to every safer community council in the country drawing attention to what the Alcohol Advisory Council had available, and what it could support those councils with in order to get the message home that if one provides one’s teenagers with large amounts of alcohol, they are part of the problem.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, would the Minister consider reviewing the 18 years of age drinking age, and perhaps adopting the bill of my colleague Ron Mark that addresses this issue; if not, why not?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As the member, who has been in the House for a number of terms, knows well, any decision on issues such as the legal age of supply of alcohol is a decision for Parliament as a whole on the so-called conscience vote, not a decision for Government. I have, however, taken the initiative of, on a 6-monthly basis, monitoring any impact that the lowering of the drinking age to 18 may have provided, and any negative social consequences. To date—and the figures are still relatively fresh, and one needs to see the trend—those figures point to movement in both directions, a worsening in some areas but not necessarily because of the lowering of the age, and an improvement in some areas such as alcohol related to fatalities caused by drink-driving.

Nandor Tanczos: Does the Minister find it strange to be questioned about teenage drinking by a party, which is led by a man who has consistently voted and spoken against age and other control of alcohol and tobacco, that refuses to allow this House to consider age controls on cannabis, yet claims to be family-friendly and sensible?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Rather than commenting on an individual, perhaps I can just send the general message that too often we are ready to blame kids for what they do when they draw their social role models from adults, and every member of this House needs to think about that.

Paul Adams: In the light of the findings by the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand’s survey last year that showed 83 percent of 14-to-17-year-olds sourced their alcohol from parents and friends, when will programmes like Taranaki’s under-18s drink campaign, “Think Before You Buy”, be introduced to other communities?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I actually addressed that question several supplementary questions back. We have endorsed the “Think Before You Buy” campaign and promoted it across the country. We have offered to provide resources to any area or any council that wants to undertake that campaign. I would urge the safer community councils to participate in what has proved to be quite effective in making parents think about the consequences of their actions with regard to supplying large amounts of liquor to under-age drinkers.

Questions for Oral Answer
Sovereign Yachts—Jobs Machine

6. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she still stand by her reported comments that the Sovereign Yachts project is like a dream come true and that the country needs more similar quality investment in leading edge ideas, following today’s reports that the firm is laying off workers; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister): It is in the nature of an innovative, entrepreneurial economy that risks are taken. The willingness to take risks is to be encouraged, such as, for example, becoming the leader of the National Party, who shows by definition that the taking of risks will not always lead to complete success. Members should see the latest polls.

Hon Bill English: When the Prime Minister said that the Sovereign Yachts project was like a dream come true and that it was a high quality investment in leading-edge ideas, did she have any idea that it would produce one boat and endless controversy about the owner’s property development dreams?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, the expectation is that more than one boat was going to be produced.

Lynne Pillay: Does she still want to see New Zealanders investing in leading-edge technology?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Absolutely. This is crucial to a growing economy. We will continue to work with those who have fresh and new ideas. Despite the problems faced by Sovereign Yachts, we still believe it is more important to build new yachts than to spend too long a spell in the sun on one.

Dail Jones: What assurance can she give the people of Waitakere City and North Shore City that she will not follow this “dream come true”, including Sovereign Yachts and Bob Harvey, the mayor of Waitakere City, with another of Bob Harvey’s dreams of having a commercial airport at the nearby Whenuapai Air Base, a dream that he is professing to give effect to, even without resource consent under the Resource Management Act?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think that the member can rest assured that the Prime Minister will not be following Mayor Bob Harvey’s suggestion about Whenuapai airport.

Hon Richard Prebble: Was the Prime Minister aware of Mr Bill Lloyd’s dubious business history when she made her glowing remarks on 4 February 2001: “This project gives substance to our vision of New Zealand becoming innovators to the world, turning great ideas into great ventures.”; if not, does she consider Minister Jim Anderton to have misled her and the taxpayer?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As far as I know, she was less aware of it than that member was of Donna Awatere Huata’s somewhat dodgy ________.

Sue Bradford: In the light of the Sovereign Yachts fiasco, will the Government move away from its “think big” approach to regional economic development and, instead, begin to put a priority on providing funding and other infrastructure support to grass roots community-based enterprises, providing jobs, goods, and services at a local level?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government’s support of business ranges from very small enterprises to moderately large ones. I would not regard Sovereign Yachts as a “think big” enterprise. I welcome the sign of Green support for providing necessary infrastructure, such as roading, to enable economic development for small businesses.

Hon Bill English: What does the Prime Minister have to say to the workers of west Auckland who took a job in Sovereign Yachts on the basis of the endorsement of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Economic Development, and who are now turning up to work and getting the sack without even a redundancy payment?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Clearly, any loss of jobs is to be regretted, but the jobs created at Sovereign Yachts were certainly more real than the 400 and 10,000 phantom ones that party once promoted.

Questions for Oral Answer
Early-childhood Education—Immersion

7. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Education: What reports has he received on the development of immersion early childhood education?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): In July 1999 there were over 1,000 centres, 642 of which operated programmes for between 81 percent and 100 percent of the time in a particular language, including Mâori and the Pacific languages. I have also received a report on Te Waka Huruhurumanu, an early childhood centre in Christchurch. It is licensed to take 37 children, and it shares some facilities with the Christchurch Polytechnic Early Learning Centre, which is licensed for 47 children. I am further advised that there are Pâkehâ children in the Mâori language centre and Mâori children in the general centre, based on parental choice. That arrangement, based on parental choice of language, is described by Nick Smith as apartheid.

Tim Barnett7Tim Barnett: Does he support parents having choices in the primary language of instruction in early childhood centres?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I most certainly do, as far as is practical. Clearly, in some areas, where there is not the demand for particular languages one way or other, it is not practical and, therefore, it cannot be guaranteed. But as in Christchurch, and as in Hamilton, where my own children went to a bilingual language school, I think it is particularly important that parents have that choice—a choice Nick Smith wants to deny them.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What sort of signal is sent to children each day when they come through the entrance of the new Christchurch Polytechnic Early Learning Centre, and Mâori children are segregated to the left and other children to the right—that is what the signs say—and for those children—

Hon Ken Shirley: What does the sign say?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The sign says “Tamariki to the left, children to the right—and for those children to be fenced off from playing with each other, to have separate sleeping and eating areas; does the Minister agree with his ministry that that new segregated design is the model of the future?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: For the member’s information, “tamariki” is the Mâori word for children, and for kids going to Mâori learning immersion centres, I would expect that to be the sign used. This Government has encouraged, in Christchurch—and in Mangere, where Phillip Field has taken a lead—multiple-language centres using some common facilities, such as staff facilities. What also happens in that centre, and will also happen in the Mangere centre, is that staff members, when they are pushed to have licensed people, or when people are sick, are able to cover for each other in a way that could not happen if they had to go down the road. It is logical.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing Order 372(2) states: “The reply to any question must be concise and confined to the subject-matter of the question asked,”. The question asked, first: “What signal does it send to children?”; and, secondly: “The ministry has said this is the model of the future, is that the case?”. The Minister made no attempt to answer either of those quite relevant questions.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am happy to have another go.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might be happy to have another go, but I have to bear in mind the wishes of all the other members of the House who might want to ask and answer the questions concerned. The Minister’s answer was too long. However, he addressed the question. But it was too long, and I shall make sure that there will not be any long ones for the rest of this question.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Is homeland language immersion in early childhood education to be made available, together with appropriate materials and properly trained teachers, for every one of the 160-plus language groups in New Zealand; if not, which groups will get this opportunity and which ones will not.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I do not have the information as to the quality of the material, but my understanding is that as at 1999, when I took over, we had language groups—and I do not know the degree of immersion—in Afrikaans, Albanian, Cook Island Mâori, French, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Mâori, Niuean, Northern Chinese, Persian, Russian, Samoan, Tokelauan, and Tongan.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to ask a further supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to ask a further supplementary question. Is there any objection? There is.

Questions for Oral Answer
Sovereign Yachts—Jobs Machine

8. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he stand by the statement on his behalf to the House on 28 March 2002 that his “triumph for the jobs machine” Sovereign Yachts project at Hobsonville “is a real success story, which is only beginning to unfold”; if so, how exactly has the Sovereign yachts project been a “triumph for the jobs machine” and a “success story, which is only beginning to unfold”?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development)3ANDERTON, Hon JIM14:43:30Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development): The triumph was that this investment occurred at all. Under a National Government, supported by ACT, there were no jobs and there was no economic return from this land. I am proud that this Government helped to facilitate jobs in Hobsonville and in many other parts of New Zealand. We will continue to do that. We are creating more jobs than ever in recent history, and destroying very few. This Government accepts the reality that sometimes there will be both failures and successes, but that will not stop us from trying to create—and succeeding in creating—more employment for all New Zealanders.

Rodney Hide: In the light of the Minister’s answer, does he also stand by his press statement, dated 4 February 2001, under the headline “Job machine delivers”, which promised that Sovereign Yachts would deliver up to 350 new jobs within 2 years; and just how many new jobs has Sovereign Yachts provided after those 2 years?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: My most recent advice on Sovereign Yachts was that it has provided something like 60 to 70 direct jobs and contract jobs. Let me remind the member that it is not this Government’s job to create employment in just one place. This Government has overseen the creation of 123,000 jobs since we took office. Unemployment is now at a 15-year low. No amount of talk from the ACT party can take away from the fact that in Auckland, where Sovereign Yachts is located, employment has increased by 32,400 jobs, and unemployment has dropped from 5 percent to 4 percent.

Hon Matt Robson: What benefits have New Zealanders gained from the Government’s economic development policies?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Specifically, in the marine industry—which we have been talking about in relation to Sovereign Yachts—export earnings grew last year by 38 percent. When this Government came into office there were 40 apprentices in this industry; there are now close to 400. No amount of whingeing from Opposition parties can destroy the way in which this Government is going about rebuilding the economy.

John Key: When the Minister talked about the triumphs for the “jobs machine”, was he referring to the employment he thought would be created by Sovereign Yachts, or was he thinking about the hundreds of carpenters who will now be employed building literally thousands of State houses on prime waterfront real estate at the Hobsonville airbase?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Before this Government came into office, the land at Hobsonville had been an idle, open paddock for 40 years. It has now been prepared for both economic and social development. If New Zealanders are better off with jobs in a marine cluster, which contains state-of-the-art, first-class, and First World technology, and if we are building houses to house New Zealanders, as well, then I think we have a double benefit from both.

David Cunliffe: To what extent has the Hobsonville development been a success?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Hobsonville airbase land is now available and/or being prepared for economic and social development purposes, including marine construction and housing. The land has gone from unused paddock to being available, or prepared for, productive development in less than 3 years. I would describe that as a success, and so would most reasonable New Zealanders.

Dail Jones: Has the Minister ever spoken to the Minister of Defence about the use of that land at Hobsonville, which has been a site used for the flying in of Andovers, when they were available on grass, helicopter use, training of SAS, general military services and the like, including weapons training, and is the Minister seriously saying he believes that was just farmland; is that the Labour Party’s view of how that land has been used in the last 40 years?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: All Ministers in this Government, including the Minister of Defence, talk to each other often. The fact that the Air Force of New Zealand is consolidating its position around Ohakea, and that both Hobsonville and Whenuapai are being made available for social and economic development purposes, show that this Government is prepared to take firm and decisive action when it believes that land or resources can be put to better use for the people of New Zealand than they were previously. That is exactly what this Government is doing.

Questions for Oral Answer
Growth and Innovation Strategy

9. Hon MATT ROBSON (Deputy Leader—Progressive) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development: Has he seen any practical examples of the Government’s growth and innovation strategy at work; if so, can he provide details of these?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Industry and Regional Development): Yes, I have. Yesterday, I visited the high-impact technology laboratory in Christchurch. This is an exciting joint-venture between the University of Canterbury, the University of Washington in Seattle, the Canterbury Development Corporation, and the Government to develop innovative ways of working with people and computers using new technology in the virtual reality field. Industry New Zealand, the Government’s economic development agency, has assisted both the establishment and development of this high-technology laboratory. At the launch I was able to announce a $500,000 grant from the Government to assist high-technology job opportunities for both Canterbury and New Zealand.

Hon Matt Robson: What has made this development possible?

Hon David Carter: Subsidy!

Mr SPEAKER: I do not mind the odd interjection. In fact, they sometimes add to question time, but I do not think that shouting out is entirely appropriate. It is just rudeness. I want to hear the Minister’s answer.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: National Party members may well laugh, but if they listen to the answer they will not laugh any more. Dr Mark Billinghurst, a young, talented New Zealander and a key member of the high-impact technology laboratory in the University of Washington—the only high-impact technology laboratory in the world—saw an opportunity of a constructive partnership between two universities, one in New Zealand and one in the United States, as well as local and central government partnerships, to return to his native country to offer back his knowledge and experience. He could have gone literally anywhere in the world and he would have been welcomed with open arms because he is such a talented young New Zealander. However, he saw that New Zealand is now actively encouraging innovation, and he has even persuaded the head of the high-impact technology laboratory in the University of Washington, Professor Tom Furness, to gain New Zealand residency. This is a triumph for the development of high technology in New Zealand.

John Carter: Given the reports in the New Zealand Herald today, and, indeed, the debate in Parliament, that Sovereign Yachts, once the boast of the Government’s job machine, has now advised that all the workers are likely to lose their jobs, what did the Minister mean when he said at a Government-organised innovation conference in Christchurch last year that Sovereign Yachts was amongst firms celebrated as a example for others to emulate?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Any time that New Zealanders have been overseas and bring back to this country expertise or investment capital, and put that at the use of other New Zealanders in this country, that is good news. If the member wants to be derisive about developments such as the high-impact technology laboratory in Christchurch, which is part of his question that I am now answering, then he or any member of his party should go down to the laboratory and see what kind of reception they get.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is where we get into difficulties in question time. I asked a very specific question about what the Minister meant with regard to a statement that Sovereign Yachts was amongst firms celebrating and examples for others to emulate. He never bothered to answer that question. It was a very short, concise question.

Mr SPEAKER: The original question was wide-ranging. The member honed in on one particular thing. The Minister addressed it in part; he did not specifically refer to that, but he addressed the question.

David Cunliffe: What benefits will New Zealand get from the high-impact technology laboratory?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Mark Billinghurst has already developed virtual reality techniques of significant use in medical engineering, building construction, telecommunications, and computer graphics, which will offer a wide range of commercial and job opportunities, both in Canterbury and throughout New Zealand. New Zealand will benefit from having high-quality highly paid jobs, strong international links, a greater research capability, retaining intellectual property, and spin-off companies. In the United States the Washington hit lab has created 400 jobs, stimulated more than US$30 million in research grants, gifts, and contracts, and has issued 12 patents and formed 18 spin-off companies.

Rodney Hide: Does the Minister consider the Sovereign Yachts project at Hobsonville a practical example of his economic strategy at work, given that 4 hectares of land valued by the defence force at $10 million was sold by the Government for half a million dollars, and does he, when he looks at this project now, and given Mr Lloyd’s dubious and erratic business background, accept that with the Sovereign Yachts project, he and his Government picked a loser and not a winner?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Any time 40 to 60 jobs are created anywhere in New Zealand is good news. If the member is asking for hindsight—what, in hindsight, does he think about being the first MP to take a ride on Bill Lloyd’s yacht in the Auckland harbour when he started off?

Rodney Hide: We had already got off. Get stuffed!

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call Dr Brash. [Interruption] Order!

Rodney Hide: You ask him!

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand and withdraw and apologise. I have twice called order, but he continued to interject.

Rodney Hide: I apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: It had not better not relate to my ruling.

Rodney Hide: Not at all. I seek your guidance. When a Minister stands up in the House and says something that is not true, what is the appropriate remedy?

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that that is not a valid point of order.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We do have a problem. Now we are told that the answer given by the Minister is not correct. We have a series of Government MPs baiting a member on this side of the House, he responds, and you then bring your whole authority on an ACT member of Parliament, when in fact the whole matter was incited by the Minister making false statements and then being helped by another Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: If that was an accurate reflection of what had happened then, of course, the member would be correct, but it was not. Mr Hide interjected three times. I moved on the third interjection.

Questions for Oral Answer
Economy—OECD Ratings

10. Dr DON BRASH (NZ National) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government consider changes to its economic policy following a survey published today which shows most New Zealanders lack confidence that it has a credible strategy to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): No, the Government does have a credible strategy, and I note that the member has quoted the survey question incorrectly.

Dr Don Brash: Ignoring the Minister’s comment, which I think is incorrect, does it concern the Minister that even among Labour supporters, almost 40 percent lack confidence that New Zealand is on course to achieve the Prime Minister’s ambition to rejoin the top half of the OECD; and will he concede that this Government’s ideologically driven policies are an impediment to the economic growth needed to achieve this objective?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, because we are doing better than the rest of the OECD. I would be much more concerned if 42 percent of Labour supporters did not support their leader, as 40 percent of the National Party supporters do not support their leader.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Finance said that the question was incorrect, but it has been to the Clerk, and you have approved it. There has clearly been authority for this question. I think that the Minister is making a reflection on you, because that was a primary question set down for answer, and of course it has to be correct.

Mr SPEAKER: No, he is entitled to make that comment. That does not change by way of a point of order.

Clayton Cosgrove: How does this poll line up with other polls about confidence in the Government’s strategic direction?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The NBR poll of 7 February showed that 61 percent of respondents think that the country is on the right track and that only 26 percent think it is on the wrong track. Yesterday’s TV3 poll showed that 56 percent of voters favour Labour in a poll. The only poll indicating a demand for a change of direction was the TV3 poll, where 42 percent of the miserable 21 percent of people supporting National wanted a change of leader.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers and noting the reports that a Professor Florida is to come here to address the knowledge wave conference very shortly, can I take it that the only detailed plan to advance this country up the OECD ratings is to turn us into a nation of homosexual immigrants?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Speaking as an avowedly heterosexual immigrant, no.

Gordon Copeland: Does Government economic policy include plans to grow per capita productivity, private savings, and exports, and to reduce the tax burden either on all companies or at least on start-up companies?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Government’s plans certainly include the growth and innovation framework, which is particularly directed at areas of potential comparative advantage, particularly in the context of the international environment. It is far from certain that certain changes in the tax system are those that are most likely to advance economic growth in that respect. I notice that over the last 20 or 30 years countries with higher productivity growth than New Zealand seem to include a large number of countries with higher tax burdens than New Zealand.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is being in the top half of the OECD based on measuring quality-of-life indicators, such as access to open space, affordable housing, education, and health care, clear air and water, or will it just catch us up with the air pollution of Tokyo, the congestion of London, and the lack of public health-care in America, all of whom are well above us in the gross domestic product tables?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Underlying the member’s question is one important point: if we measure quality-of-life indicators as well as quantity-of-life indicators New Zealand already ranks in the top half of the OECD. Those surveys have been produced quite recently, in fact. However, in the long term, I think it is fair to say that a country that is poor finds it very hard to have a decent health system, a decent education system, a decent public transport system, and many other things.

Dr Don Brash: Is the Minister not at least concerned that only some 5 percent of chief executive officers surveyed by the New Zealand Herald late last year thought that the Government had a credible strategy to increase our long-term growth rate?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I refer to the original question asked, which was whether I am confident that New Zealand’s leaders have a growth strategy. Clearly, that question really did not cover the Government. It covered Opposition parties, and it also covered business leaders. I would say, sometimes, to some of those who respond to chief executive officers, that those who are without sin cast the first stone in terms of success.

Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table the Hon Jim Anderton’s statement of 4 February 2001, headed “Jobs machine delivers.”

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Insolvency—Legislation

11. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Commerce: What recent decisions has the Government made in relation to insolvency law?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): The Government has made decisions on the four “Tier Two” papers that were consulted on last year. They include introducing a business rehabilitation regime similar to the Australian voluntary administration framework; restrictions around “phoenix” company arrangements; a streamlined “no asset” procedure for low-income debtors with few or no assets; and the development of a legislative framework to allow for a single insolvency proceeding for cross-border insolvencies.

Darren Hughes: What specific measures are proposed in respect of the “phoenix” company arrangements where an insolvent company transfers its assets to another company?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The keys issues in the discussion document centred on assets that were not sold for fair value, reducing the availability of funds to satisfy creditors of the company in liquidation. It is proposed to make criminal penalties available to the court when directors are shown to have acted in bad faith to defeat the legitimate interests of creditors. There will also be a restriction on the re-use by a former director of a company name when that company is in insolvent liquidation. This is a way of preventing a new company from trading off the goodwill of that previously liquidated company when the principles are the same.

94: Can the Minister advise whether the Government’s desire to harmonise with Australia will see New Zealand adopt the Australian standard where directors will be personally liable for unpaid taxes of such companies; and what is the Government going to do to compensate unsecured creditors who may lose a claim on the assets of the company because of the cost of an unsuccessful rehabilitation?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: In fact, the business rehabilitation regime is to be modelled on the Australian voluntary administration framework, and there are very strong protections around the area of creditors during the period when the rehabilitation is attempted. I should say to the member that if he looks at the detail of what has occurred in Australia, he will in fact see that we have, I think, seen about 20 percent of companies in Australia using the voluntary administration process. That is now 64 percent of total company insolvencies.

Dail Jones: When does the Minister envisage introducing such legislation, how long does the Minister envisage it will take to pass through this House, and will it include provisions that will prevent people building one set of houses, as we have seen in the leaky homes situation, for a one-purpose development only?

Mr SPEAKER: Two of those three questions can be commented on.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The first question concerned the introduction of legislation. I anticipate having legislation in the House this year. There are both the tier one and tier two paper decisions to be built into a legislative amendment, and a decision still has to be taken as to whether to have a single insolvency Act rather than amending the existing laws. Secondly, I would anticipate good cooperation on all sides of the House to see the matter proceed as quickly as possible.

Stephen Franks: What evidence has the Minister that following Australian law will not simply fatten the purses of the undertaker professionals who take fees for longer while dog companies are on life support and the unsecured creditors watch good money being thrown after bad?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not wish to disappoint the member, but very many successful business rehabilitations have been conducted under the voluntary administration framework. That saves the company from falling over, which is preferable to a liquidation situation.

Questions for Oral Answer
Capital and Coast District Health Board—Cardiac Surgery

12. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: When was she informed that Capital and Coast District Health Board underspent $1.7 million on cardiac surgery in the 2001/02 year, and how many of the eight patients who have died in the last three years could have been saved by having their surgery in a private hospital?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I was informed 2 months ago that of the eight patients who died while waiting for cardiothoracic surgery in the past 3 years, seven died when the Capital and Coast District Health Board was subcontracting cardiac operations to private hospitals, including Wakefield, Mercy, and Ascot. It is always tragic when somebody dies, but we know that this figure of eight who died in the last 3 years is considerably lower than the 26 who died in the 3 years before we became the Government.

Dr Lynda Scott: If that is the case, why did the Minister criticise the Capital and Coast District Health Board, and has the Ministry of Health set guidelines stating that a 1 percent death rate for those waiting for heart surgery is acceptable; if not, where is the evidence that John Coughlan, general manager of Wellington Hospital, seems to think exists, that states eight deaths are an acceptable level?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I did not criticise the board. I pointed out to it that this Government is not opposed to the use of private facilities when there is lack of capacity in the public sector. The level of 1 percent deaths, in terms of cardiac surgery, is not something set by Government. It happens to be the international standard. I would have thought the member would know that.

Steve Chadwick: Has there been an increase in the number of cardiac procedures provided by the Capital and Coast District Health Board since 1996?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. Cardiac procedures have more than doubled from 1996 to 2002, with an increase of 404 procedures in 1996 and 996 in 2002.

Pita Paraone: Can the Minister ensure that the recent letter the Capital and Coast District Health Board mailed to 160 patients on the cardiac surgery waiting list, assuring them that by August nobody will wait longer than 6 months for surgery, will be sufficient to avoid further deaths among those awaiting cardiac surgery, given that this is, in effect, 12 months from now?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Capital and Coast District Health Board has advised me that it is very confident it will be able to provide cardiac surgery for all those people they have written to, within the 6 months.

Heather Roy: Why, when in an oral question in this House on 13 February last year, ACT’s Ken Shirley predicted that heart patients would die on the waiting list, did she still permit the cancellation of the heart surgery contract with Wakefield Hospital, and is she now criticising the board for not using private hospitals, to avoid all responsibility herself?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I am not. I raised the issue of the board being able to use private capacity because of the misinformation that constantly comes from ACT, saying that this Government is philosophically opposed to it.

Sue Kedgley: Following the Minister’s intervention to try to resolve the issue of the long cardiac surgery waiting lists at Capital and Coast District Health Board, will she take a similarly proactive stance with the six district health boards that are still refusing to sign a pharmacy agreement, and make good on her promise last December that any board that refuses to sign the pharmacy agreement will have its pharmaceutical budgets managed by the Ministry of Health; if so, when will this happen, and if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am quite happy with the progress that has been made by the six district health boards in relation to their negotiations on the pharmacy contract.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister aware of any other district health boards that have deviated from their nominated budget, resulting in underspending and a reduction of services and treatment in their region?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Boards have the ability to under-deliver on some things and over-deliver on others. For example, although the Capital and Coast District Health Board spent $1.7 million less on cardiac operations, it over-provided by $2 million in the following areas: general surgery; orthopaedic surgery; haematology; paediatrics; and cardiology, which the member will know includes angioplasties, an alternative form of treatment for patients with cardiac disease.

Dr Lynda Scott: Will she conduct a full inquiry into who was responsible for making the decision that $1.7 million would not be spent on 70 to 100 lifesaving operations for patients; why 58 patients have been waiting more than 6 months for surgery in Wellington, 83 in Christchurch, and 40 in Auckland; and why the annual plan of the Capital and Coast District Health Board states, as an achievement, that it has brought all surgery in-house?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I will not carry out an inquiry on that matter. I have read the member’s press release. She wants an inquiry because they were not done in private hospitals. Of the eight people who died, five died in 2000-01 when surgery was being carried out in Wakefield, Mercy and Ascot hospitals. Two people died when surgery was being carried out in Wakefield Hospital. One person has died since the board brought it in-house. It compares much more favourably than the 26 people who died in the 3 years before we became the Government.

Stephen Franks: Did the ministry concur with Capital and Coast not renewing the cardiac surgery contract with Wakefield Hospital, when the Minister and her ministry knew that Capital and Coast’s waiting list had grown from 87 to 225 over 15 months under her rule; that the number of people on the waiting list who were there for longer than 6 months, had grown from 16 to 52; and that her own Health Strategy 2000 bound district health boards to ensure that no one waited more than 6 months; and was the political credit from sticking it to private enterprise worth the eight deaths that should be on her hands?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. There are not eight deaths on my hands. In the 15 months that Capital and Coast has not had a contract with the private sector, one person has died, which compares with the seven who died when it did have a contract with the private sector. That makes a mockery of using such figures for emotional blackmail in this House. Twenty-six people died in the 3 years before we became the Government. Did we ever hear from ACT or from National? No, we did not.

End of Questions for Oral Answer


(uncorrected transcript – subject to correction and further editing)


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