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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 19 February 2003

(uncorrected transcript – subject to correction and further editing)

Questions 1-12 to Ministers and Question 1 to Members – 19 February 2003

Questions for Oral Answer


Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer
Immigrant—Statistics

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: What were the total numbers of immigrants that came to New Zealand in the 2001 calendar year and the 2002 calendar year?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): During 2001 the New Zealand Immigration Service approved 54,262 individuals for permanent residence. During 2002 there were 49,928 people approved for permanent residence. Approximately 40 percent apply for residence while on shore, and for offshore applicants a residents visa is valid for 1 year from approval. So it is not possible to state how many of those approved came to New Zealand in those years.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Minister has an LTD at taxpayers’ expense, a residential home at taxpayers’ expense, two ministerial cars at taxpayers’ expense, and a highly inflated salary—she [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member come to the question, not the introductory comment. I want the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given those events, and her highly inflated salary, when will she, in her fourth year of being a Minister—[Interruption] If you cannot take it, go home.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I am defending the member. I said questions will be heard in silence, and I mean that. I do not want to send people for an early shower but I will today.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the Minister’s lifestyle at the taxpayers’ largesse, when will she do her job and tell us, for example, how many people immigrated to this country in the last 2 years or, for example, how many students were here from foreign shores in the last 2 years—another figure she cannot seem to clarify, in the public’s mind?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have already advised the House of the number of people who were approved for permanent residence, and, just like the member when he was Deputy Prime Minister, when he could not say how many of them were—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the second week of this Parliament and I have no intention of going through the year and listening to that sort of obfuscation and evasion from this Minister, when I am asking for precise figures, like for every other Western democracy, such as how many people immigrated. Yet all we are hearing here, in her fourth year as Minister, is all this delay and dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying. We want answers, and I think we are entitled to them.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a point of order raised, and that is a political point. The Minister addressed the question asked.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I can confirm that 54,262 individuals were approved for permanent residence in 2001. I can state that 49,928 people were approved for permanent residence in 2002. In each of those years 41 percent applied from onshore—they were already in New Zealand. I can hardly tell the member how many came to New Zealand.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister explain the distinction between resident approvals under the New Zealand Immigration Programme and the permanent and long-term arrival statistics contained in the Statistics New Zealand external migration monthly release?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That is an excellent question. People approved for residence under the New Zealand Immigration Programme have the authority to live in New Zealand permanently and make New Zealand their home. Permanent and long-term arrival figures obviously include these new residents, but they also include people who intend to remain in New Zealand for 12 months or more, and they include Australians who do not require resident visas to live in New Zealand. They are very welcome here.

Gerry Brownlee: Since the Minister has no idea how many people came into this country as immigrants in the years concerned, how can this Parliament, or this country, be confident that the Government will not break the 45,000 target that it has set this year, particularly since we are now approaching 25,000 permanent residents application grants in just 5 months of this year?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The New Zealand Immigration Programme does not contain a target. There used to be a target when National was in office. In fact, when National was in coalition with the New Zealand First Party, they established a net migration gain programme of 10,000, which meant that 35,000 to 45,000 residents approvals were granted.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The difficulties of getting an answer from the Minister have been canvassed previously by Mr Peters. You made the point that we should not make political points during points of order. It is difficult when a Minister gives an answer that clearly is not correct. Why did they bring in the English Language Testing System if it was not to cap a target?

Mr SPEAKER: Exactly, that is what I said before. That is a political comment.

Larry Baldock: Does the Minister have any plans to improve the reporting systems for immigration figures so as to give the public and this House some clarity about the issue?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I have written to the Minister of Statistics to ask whether it is possible for the permanent and long-term statistics to be disaggregated to remove the confusion that exists in the mind of only one person.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: In an endeavour to remove the confusion that one member has—namely herself—can I ask the Minister why she answered on 12 February, 70,500, but when I asked the same question today she gave the figure of 49,928? If she cannot work out the difference, why does she not resign?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do look forward to the day that the member does not ask me to resign. The answer I gave last week was in response to a question about permanent and long-term arrivals. The question today was about immigrants to New Zealand under the New Zealand Immigration Programme. They are two separate sets of statistics. If fact, if the member had been listening to me last week, he would have heard me quote from the statistics report, which states: “Long-term arrivals include overseas migrants who arrive in New Zealand intending to stay for a period of 12 months or more.” I said last week that I could not make it clearer than that, and I still cannot.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, can the Minister tell us why she is informing the media of certain figures, saying that it includes overseas students, when she told the Listener just a month ago that the overseas student figure was 82,000. How does she fit 82,000 into the 49,928 figure?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The permanent and long-term statistics include people who say they are going to be in the country for 12 months or more. Not all students are going to be in the country for 12 months or more.

Questions for Oral Answer
Tertiary Education—Research Centres

2. DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour—Hamilton East) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What progress has the Government made in establishing further centres of research excellence?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I am pleased to announce today that contracts establishing a further two centres of research excellence have been signed, bringing the overall total to seven. The National Centre for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies, based at Lincoln University, will receive $9.6 million in a one-off capital grant of $5.7 million. The National Research Centre for Growth and Development, based at the University of Auckland, will receive $13.1 million and a one-off grant of $5.2 million. Overall, the Government has allocated $123 million in a mix of operating and capital funding for the seven centres. By contrast, the National Party has no policy whatsoever on centres of research excellence.

Mr SPEAKER: That last sentence was out of order.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table National’s research, science, and technology policy.

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

Dianne Yates: How are the new centres of research excellence contributing to the knowledge wave in New Zealand?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Both centres will be research leaders in their field, and thereby make that contribution. The National Centre for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies is developing a New Zealand Biotron research facility. That will allow research in bio-protection to be carried out in a fully contained, secure environment above and below ground level. The facility will be only the third of its kind in the world. They will also be investing in a gene discovery unit, which may enable us to discover new antibiotics. The National Research Centre for Growth and Development is investing in a new screening system that allows fast analysis of cells at a speed and accuracy that will place the centre at the forefront of that area in the world.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: If the Government is so committed to research excellence, why has the proportion of gross domestic product spent on research and science dropped over the last 3 years, and why in last year’s Budget did the nominal figure—the raw figure without taking even inflation into account—for Vote Research, Science and Technology get cut?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not have the figures with me but I am happy to send them to the member. However, I can say to him that $123 million was not being spent last year on centres of research excellence. It is now being spent on centres of research excellence, and I am still waiting for that member’s policy.

Questions for Oral Answer
Sovereign Yachts—Sales Forecasts

3. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ)RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he believe his advisers were misled by the “New Zealand-owned, overseas-based super yacht building company” when it stated it had “contracts to build five super yachts in its next financial year, estimated to generate approximately $US50 million in sales revenue”; if not, what progress, if any, have his officials reported on this project?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development): The answer is no. The officials do not believe they were misled. The progress in the situation the member has asked about is the progress of a private company for which the officials have no responsibility whatever.

Rodney Hide: In the light of the Minister’s answer, where are the five boats that were promised, and why was the only boat built built on spec and not on contract as promised?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: According to Sovereign Yachts Canada, at the time officials were approached about the possibility of facilitation for a marine cluster building on the foreshore of Hobsonville, Sovereign Yachts had seven orders at the time. It currently has four super yachts under construction in Canada and one in New Zealand, and I understand that a sixth boat is due to be shipped to New Zealand for completion shortly. Government officials are not in the business of running businesses in New Zealand, nor do they have any responsibility for it. However, if the ACT party wants to submit to me or the Government any proposal for a yacht-building involvement of the Government I will submit it to the Minister of Finance, who I am sure will consider it for all of about 2 seconds.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister believe that the facilitating of Sovereign Yachts’ establishment by the selling to them of 10 acres of land at Hobsonville for some $500,000 when it has an estimated market value today in excess of $10 million, has left the New Zealand taxpayer out of pocket?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: The land the member refers to was disposed of under the process prescribed in the Public Works Act followed by Government and local government to both the spirit and letter of the law. Not one cent of Government funding has gone to Sovereign Yachts.

Rodney Hide: Does he now regret his statement that he made on Television One news on 4 February 2001 that launching the Sovereign Yachts project was “about as good as it gets on any one day in a politician’s life”, or is his career such that launching the Sovereign Yachts fiasco was as good a day as he has had in politics?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Any day that any member of Parliament or Government can initiated and facilitate a facility that creates 40 to 60 jobs is a very good day, and it will never happen in Mr Hide’s life.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just as a point of clarification with regard to addressing the answer, I point out that the question was quite specific. I said: “It was as good a day as he has ever had”, not just a good day.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is trying to be a little bit too smart for this place.

Questions for Oral Answer
Economy—Domestic Market

4. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does the Government support initiatives to stimulate the domestic economy?

Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development): Yes. The 2002-03 Budget allocated over $100 million on Vote Economic Industry and Regional Development, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars in scientific research and development programmes through Crown research institutes and other Government agencies. This investment allows for the provision of independent policy advice to the Government from the Ministry of Economic Development on ways to facilitate regional, economic, and industry development. The money also funds the operationally independent Industry New Zealand. Industry New Zealand, as the member knows, delivers programmes and services to accelerate economic growth. It administers a number of advocacy coordination and assistance programmes to industry sectors, regions and firms. Much of that work goes towards bringing companies into growth mode.

Gordon Copeland: Will the Minister, in the light of the assurances from the Buy New Zealand Made campaign president that members are willing to match the Government’s contribution, now proceed with the promised grant of $100,000; if not, why not?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I was supportive of the application from Buy New Zealand Made for Government assistance when it was made, but it was told to apply to the Ministry of Economic Development, as it was before the official formation of Industry New Zealand, and that application was not approved in the official way. Ministers do not approve specific allocations of money like that. The applications go through the agencies involved, as I am sure the member knows, and that is what happened in that case.

Dr Don Brash: How does the Minister reconcile the so-called success of his initiatives to grow the domestic economy with the latest Treasury estimates of economic growth falling to as low as 1.75 percent in the coming year after taking into account the recent increase in the exchange rate, which is less than half the Government’s 4 percent growth objective and less than a third of the rate required to get New Zealand’s per capita gross domestic product back into the top half of the OECD?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I reconcile it in three ways: firstly, the Government’s record on creating over 120,000 jobs in 3 years; secondly, in having a higher growth rate than most of our trading partners in the OECD; and thirdly, on independent reports from the OECD itself. I quote from Sergio Arzeni, the head of the OECD’s economic and development programme: “In the view of the OECD, the economic development programmes and strategies of Industry New Zealand since its conception in 2000 are at the forefront of best international practice. Our work at the OECD has shown that the most successful economic development approaches are those that emphasise entrepreneurship, innovation, and competitiveness, recognising the need for a differentiated approach between regions.” The approach of Industry New Zealand, states the OECD, is in line with best practice. I hope that is good enough for the member.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister believe that shipping could play a positive role in stimulating the economy; does he accept that thus far, with regard to shipping, this Government has done absolutely nothing; if he does accept those two assertions, will he tell the House what he will do about it?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: Apart from some of the principles involved for maritime unions and New Zealand shipping owners, which I recognise, I say to the member that I have not had one single complaint in 3 years from any manufacturer about shipping policy or costs from New Zealand.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does he agree with Business New Zealand that, since this Government has “established the world’s most business-friendly regulatory regime”, the cost of Government regulation has increased for New Zealand’s small businesses; yes or no?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No.

Rod Donald: If the Minister’s earlier answer about Business New Zealand’s Buy New Zealand Made campaign was true, why did the Minister turn down a Budget bid from the Green Party and say that he was putting his own bid in to provide exactly that specific support for Business New Zealand, why did he promise publicly to contribute $100,000 to the Buy New Zealand Made campaign, and why did he, earlier this week, say that it was because the campaign would not match the funding, which it disputes? Was it because it would not hand over its brand to the Government, which is what the campaign claims; or has it more to do with not wishing to support the domestic economy?

Mr SPEAKER: There were about five questions. Two may be answered.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: It may come as a surprise to the member to find out one day that Ministers do not write out private cheques for applications for funding. They go through processes. The Budget process is one, and another is the agencies that the Government sets up to approve such funding. That request failed on both counts.

Clayton Cosgrove: Can he give some recent examples of Industry New Zealand programmes that have helped in a practical way to transform the New Zealand economy for the better?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: There are literally hundreds, but let me just quote a few: a grant to Formway Furniture from both Industry New Zealand and Technology New Zealand for the design and development of what became the world’s best office furniture chair, which is now on the world market and is being made here in Lower Hutt in a very sophisticated manufacturing operation; Mooring Systems Ltdin Christchurch, for an automated mooring system that is the first of its kind in the world, which has been recently trialled on the Interislander ferry in Picton and which has a world market awaiting it; the regional development programmes, which are cementing in place centres of excellence in food production in the Hawke's Bay region and Rotorua and wine manufacturing in Marlborough and so on. Those are evidence of the Government’s success in those areas.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the real reason the Greens question is not in the affirmative is that at the time of the election, or the post-election negotiations, they at no time raised the issue, but expect to come to the House now and have it addressed by the Government?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No, I do not think that is fair. I think the Green Party was supportive of a Buy New Zealand Made campaign, but Industry New Zealand and the Minister of Economic Development carried out a research programme into the effectiveness of such a campaign. The findings were that it would not be effective and that the money would be best spent on other branding exercises, which the Government of course has adopted and is working on now.

Gordon Copeland: Why did the Government attempt to acquire the Buy New Zealand Made brand through an arrangement that would have shut out private sector initiators from subsequent involvement?

Hon JIM ANDERTON: I have to say my recollection is not of that order. There was a decision as a result of a research survey that was carried out that it would be better for a different kind of branding exercise to be gone through from New Zealand. Fundamentally, it comes down to this: if we want our country to be recognised for excellence and that anything coming from New Zealand is known for its excellence, we have to do more than stamp a fern leaf or a kiwi on a box. We have to produce excellent production across a wide range of commodities and manufactured goods, and that is what Industry New Zealand, the Ministry of Economic Development, and all the other agencies of Government are endeavouring to work in partnership with private enterprise to bring about.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made reference to a report from officials on the efficacy of a Buy New Zealand Made campaign. As he referred to the report, could I ask for it to be tabled.

Hon JIM ANDERTON: No problem. I will make sure that the member gets a personal copy, and any other member who wants one is welcome to it as well.

Gordon Copeland: I seek the leave of the House to table a media release from Buy NZ Made.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Operation Enduring Freedom—Maritime Interdiction Operation

5. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement to the House that the Operation Enduring Freedom maritime interdiction operation “is an entirely separate operation with its own command structure”; if so, why?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because it is.

Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister confirm that all aspects of Operation Enduring Freedom, including the maritime operation, are under the command of General Tommy Franks, the same General Tommy Franks in command of US operations in Iraq, and recently described as “now the military man whose task it is to design, fight, and win President George Bush’s war”?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There are two points I need to make. The first is that under the Defence Act, the New Zealand Chief of Defence Force has full command of all New Zealand Defence Force military personnel at all times. In this case, that has been delegated to the Commander, Joint Forces, New Zealand. That command cannot be delegated to a foreign officer. Second, in terms of the United States operations, the central command is differentiated into two parts. Operation Enduring Freedom is managed separately from non - Operation Enduring Freedom planning. The United States has a very clear command structure in that respect, and in part that is because there are a number of countries contributing to Operation Enduring Freedom that are not contributing to non - Operation Enduring Freedom planning.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister not just being disingenuous, given the fact that the real issue is one of control, and, in that sense, we are not in command or control of our forces; would that mean, for example, that if the Americans were to come back from the Middle East, we would just leave our frigate there, thereby asserting the level of control and command she is talking about?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The New Zealand frigate contingent operates directly under New Zealand command and cannot engage in duties under whatever control is inconsistent with the rules under which it operates. Those rules are confined to Operation Enduring Freedom. The structures are quite clear in that respect.

Keith Locke: Will the Prime Minister confirm what was in a paper given to us last October, showing that the headquarters of the maritime interdiction operation is in a US aircraft carrier in the area, and does she really expect us to believe that details passed on by our frigate to that US aircraft carrier about Iraqi ships and what they are carrying will never be used in preparations for a war or in an actual war itself?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, I cannot. The United States command is no longer on an aircraft carrier.

Hon Bill English: Given that it is Government policy that New Zealand forces will not strategically support operations against Iraq that are not sanctioned by the UN, can the Prime Minister give an assurance that, despite the fact there is ultimately a unified command of Iraqi and Afghanistan operations in the US military structure, New Zealand forces will not be contravening Government policy by, for instance, freeing up US forces from maritime operations and Operation Enduring Freedom so they can take part in the Iraqi war?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, I can. If the member cares to contact the US Embassy to discuss the matter, he would learn that the United States has separated command under two quite separate three-star generals.

Questions for Oral Answer
Homicide—Non-parole

6. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Justice: What are the longest non-parole terms which have been imposed on offenders in New Zealand sentenced to life imprisonment for murder?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): The longest non-parole period imposed by a court in New Zealand’s legal history is a life sentence with 33 years before parole can even be considered. That was imposed last week by the High Court in the case of William Bell. The next longest non-parole period is 28 years, which was imposed late last year by the High Court on Bruce Howse.

Lynne Pillay: Is the Minister satisfied that the Government’s intent in passing the Sentencing Act last year has made a difference in sentencing by the courts?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes. The key goal of the Sentencing Act was to impose tougher penalties on those who commit the worst offences. In both the Bell and Howse cases, the court has clearly shown that it has taken on board the intent of Parliament, and it has also reflected public concerns in this area. The Parole Act—the other part of that reform—will also serve to ensure that when a person is finally eligible for parole, safety of the community and any undue risk posed by the offender is the paramount consideration in making decisions as to whether such offenders are ever released.

Richard Worth: When the Minister gave his answer to the primary question, why did he not also say that under his flagship parole legislation, the Parole Board may overrule a judge’s determination, and release an offender prior to his or her parole eligibility date, allowing for the good work of the judges to be completely undone by the Parole Board?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The provision that the member refers to, which was used in the Gay Oakes case, has been a longstanding aspect of the law. It is used only very rarely in exceptional cases.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister tell the House what the public should make of the fact that his Government chose to release an absolutely appalling report on the probation system, which showed it was an abysmal failure, and which was 5 months old on precisely the same day that the judgment was handed out to William Bell—can the public not rightly feel that that was done to hide the appalling statistics and probation report that it had a right to see 5 months earlier?

Hon PHIL GOFF: In relation to the last point made by the member, there was legal advice from Crown Law telling the Acting Minister of Corrections not to release that material until sentencing had taken place. Perhaps if the member is advocating that a Minister should ignore the advice to her from the Crown Law Office, she may have done it differently, but she did what she was told was legally appropriate to do. In relation to the report itself, the Minister released the whole report. That report shows that both the specific problems in the Mangere office have been dealt with, and that there is now a new system in place that will more effectively deal with those people on probation regarded as high risk.

Stephen Franks: Why does the Minister gloat over a new top murder tariff of 11 years per life snuffed out, when no case could better deserve life meaning life; and does he draw any warning from the way people are now quoting the non-parole periods as the real sentences, since his Sentencing Act locked in our lies in sentencing policy?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I should first remind that member that he told a panel of people just a few months ago that this legislation was a real advance on what went before it. Secondly, I can tell the member—

Stephen Franks: That life means life.

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, the member remembers making that comment. I can tell the member that the 33 years before Bell can even be considered for parole compares with the 7 years minimum that had to be imposed on Jules Mikus, because that was what was under the legislation tolerated by the National Government for all of its term.

Murray Smith: Does he consider that the 33 years handed down to William Bell might just be long enough for the probation service to get its act together so that it can supervise him when he eventually comes up for parole?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I remind that member that it is a life sentence and that it will be 33 years before that individual can even be considered for parole. Further, the estimation of the Crown prosecutor was that he would never be released.

Ron Mark: Reflecting on the Minister’s answer to my supplementary question, I ask whether he will tell the House—and table whatever documents are necessary as evidence of what he has said—on what day was advice given by the Crown Law Office to withhold the probation report, whether it was given in writing, orally, or simply just very convenient to hold it over for 5 months until he had some good news that he could slip it out under?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, that advice was in writing. If the member wants the document and the date on which it was provided to her, he should apply to the member for that. However, I repeat this to the member: it would be a very foolish Minister who ignored the very clear advice of Crown Law in these matters.

Questions for Oral Answer
Knowledge Wave—Business Friendly Regulatory Regime

7. Dr DON BRASH (NZ National) to the Minister of Finance: What action has been taken by the Government to “establish the world’s most business friendly regulatory regime”, the key objective from theme group four of the first Knowledge Wave Conference?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance)22CULLEN, Hon Dr MICHAEL14:04:04Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): Lots and lots—ranging from an improved monetary policy targets agreement that is more growth friendly and other associated changes, which I think will also help in that respect, through to improved competition law, improved telecommunications legislation, a tertiary education system designed to drive more relevant and higher quality skills, and changes in taxation in the research and development and administration areas, which have been warmly welcomed. And more good news will follow at both 3.30 p.m. and 4 o’clock this afternoon.

Dr Don Brash: How did the Local Government Act, the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act, the Kyoto Protocol, the proposed review of the Employment Relations Act to cover contracting out on the sale of a business, the new Holidays Bill, and the ongoing delay in reforming the Resource Management Act, help to achieve the objective of establishing the world’s most business-friendly regulatory regime?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I will try to take some of those. Even Business New Zealand could not prevent a faint cheer emanating from it over the new Holidays Bill, which it said simplified the provisions enormously compared with previous law in that area. The Resource Management Act is going to be improved and simplified—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: When?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Very, very soon. Since Dr Smith will be spending a lot more time in Opposition, I am sure he will see many more Resource Management Amendment Bills from a Labour-led Government.

Mark Peck: Does the Government believe it has a role in the economy, and how does this differ from previous administrations?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We do believe we have a constructive role in the economy, working in partnership with the private sector. We have implemented a wide range of programmes with the Ministry of Economic Development at regional sector enterprise level to assist new businesses to become established and established businesses to grow. The Inland Revenue Department and Treasury are working on a number of potential changes in the tax area to assist business development and growth.

Dr Don Brash: How many of the 162 recommendations contained in the report of the Ministerial Panel on Business Compliance Costs, delivered to the Government almost 2 years ago in July 2001, have been implemented?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I think the total is about half. Many more are being worked on, and that is considerably more than the previous Government, which introduced, for example, industrial relations legislation that might have reduced the number of strikes but enormously increased the amount of litigation in the industrial relations area—which has dropped significantly under this Government.

Questions for Oral Answer
Benefits—Youth Eligibility

8. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: Are young people aged 16 and 17, who have no support from family or partners, eligible for unemployment or sickness benefits; if not, is he concerned that such people may be at risk of turning to activities such as prostitution to make ends meet?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): Young people aged 16 and 17 who have no support from their parents are able to receive the independent youth benefit. Unemployed 16 and 17-year-olds living with a partner and children can receive the unemployment benefit, as appropriate.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister have any plans to improve access to the independent youth benefit so that situations like one in Auckland at the moment, where a young girl is being refused the independent youth benefit after exiting the sex industry, are not allowed to continue?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It may be worthwhile for the House’s sake to say that there about 2,600 young people between 16 and 17 years of age on the independent youth benefit in New Zealand. The benefit is available only in the circumstance of a family breakdown so that the young person cannot go home, and it requires the enlistment of specialist services to ensure that that is the case. I think that is the appropriate way to handle it.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What is the Government doing to ensure that 16 and 17-year-olds are engaged in appropriate education, training, or employment?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is the Government’s goal to ensure that young people of that age are engaged in education, and we are committed, by the year 2007, to having all 15 to 19-year-olds engaged in appropriate education, training, or work. We are doing a number of things, but let me mention three: the expansion of what is called the Gateway programme, which we are aiming to have in all decile 1 to 5 State schools by that time; the expanded Modern Apprenticeships scheme, which will have at least 7,500 young people engaged by 2006; and the encouragement of more Mâori participation in trade training initiatives, with the objective of having a vast increase in numbers by that time, as well. In other words, we want pathways for all those young people.

Katherine Rich: If that young girl is involved in child prostitution and wants to get out, but needs the help of the State while she prepares herself to do other work, why does the Minister not go back to his office today and ask Work and Income New Zealand to review her case so that she is able to leave her life of prostitution as she wants to do, and so that the welfare State can respond to do what it is supposed to do—that is, temporarily support those in need while they prepare to get back into other sorts of work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Good point! If Sue Bradford, who released the statement today, tells me whom we are talking about, we can do exactly that.

Craig McNair: How are young people of 16 or 17 years old with no support from family or partners expected to know how to access the financial hardships scheme to pay for the exorbitant National Certificate of Educational Achievement fees of $150, which have risen from $80?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the Minister of Education made clear yesterday in relation to this question and other questions, this fund is available and he intends to make sure it is promoted more vigorously.

Dr Muriel Newman: Is the Minister aware that his own official statistics show that in 2002 the number of 16-year-old young Mâori girls receiving the independent youth benefit hit an all-time record high, and given that he has been in power for 3 years, does he accept any responsibility?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not have the figures for Mâori here with me. I said before that, overall, there are 2,660 young people who are on the independent youth benefit at the moment. That is definitely a reflection, obviously, of the nature of the circumstances of young people in families around this country, and I say again that they do not get on to this benefit without going through a process that ensures that independent people with expertise judge that the family situation is not appropriate for that young person. I can only assume that the young people the member is referring to are in those circumstances.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister have any national or regional figures from the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services that indicate the numbers of under-age young people discovered to be working in the sex industry at present; if so, what are they?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I do not have those figures with me. In fact, I am not sure whether we collect the kinds of statistics that would give us a reliable picture of that issue. But if the member wishes to take it up with me, we have a number of research projects going on at the moment that may well help. In relation to the independent youth benefit, I mention that it has been reduced in number by 22 percent in the last 12 months.

Sue Bradford: The Minister’s latest point may indeed explain one of the reasons for the situation that has arisen, given that most young people cannot access a member of Parliament to help them with their situation, but what are young people such as the 17 year old I am referring to supposed to do when they spend weeks, if not months, in a totally unsupported situation, trying to exit the sex industry, with no means of support, and with the department absolutely refusing to give them the benefit?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can only say that in this case, if the member is aware of this individual and tells me her identity, we will follow it up. It is one of the problems, is it not, that young people who are in these situations are often very isolated. One of the things we can do is to encourage community-based groups, in particular, and groups, perhaps like the Prostitutes’ Collective, to ensure that young people in circumstances in which they are seeking to exit the sex industry are guided in the right direction to get help.

Questions for Oral Answer
South Canterbury District Health Board—Doctors' Strike

9. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: Can she give an assurance that the ongoing senior doctors’ strikes at Timaru Hospital are not the result of the Government under-funding the South Canterbury District Health Board; if so, on what basis can she give this assurance?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I can assure the member that the strike is not a result of underfunding of the South Canterbury District Health Board. I am advised that the chief executive officer of the board also does not consider the board to be underfunded. Funding for the board for services provided within the South Canterbury district increased by $4.4 million, or 7.46 percent, in the current year. I also recently announced further increases of $2.8 million, or 3.5 percent for the 2003-04 financial year.

Heather Roy: Is the Minister aware that the doctors employed by the South Canterbury District Health Board believe that she and her office support the hard line taken by the board; if so, is she willing to tell this House what she and her staff have in fact done?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The assumptions that the staff and the member have made are incorrect. It is an operational matter in the hands of the district health board, as has been the case in terms of wage negotiations for at least the past 20 years.

Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister been advised of the details of the latest offer by the district health board?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The details of the offer are public knowledge. The board’s latest offer to senior doctors is $8,300 over a 15-month term. This amounts to a 5 percent increase over that time. This would see the average remuneration for senior doctors increase from $153,000 to about $161,000. The range, however, goes up to $190,000.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is a population-based funding formula going to put Timaru Hospital under even more pressure, leading to chief executive Craig Climo saying that the board had no option but to bring down costs; and is the Minister proud that Labour has achieved another milestone in health—senior doctors continuing to strike for the first time in New Zealand’s history?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No. Population-based funding obviously will not do that in South Canterbury. It is interesting to note that Ian Powell from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists put out a press statement yesterday stating that the South Canterbury District Health Board already has one of the best financial positions of all 21 boards in the country and now reports even better news, with more expected additional funding.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister concerned that the longer the dispute continues, the greater the long-term damage for the South Canterbury District Health Board, including an increasing difficulty with the recruitment of new staff and the retention of senior doctors; and what recommendations is she making to the district health board to resolve this?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The resolution of this is in the hands of the union and the district health board. It is up to them to resolve it. I hope they can resolve it as soon as possible.

Sue Kedgley: Given the ongoing underfunding and deficit problems of various district health boards, will the Minister consider a money-saving measure such as banning the direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines, which would save the Government about $10 million a year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: First of all, I take issue with the statement that this Government is underfunding this sector. When we look at the funding that has gone into the sector since we became the Government, we can see that it has gone from about 19 percent of total Government expenditure to 21 percent in 3 years. But I do happen to agree with the member that direct-to-consumer advertising is an issue that has to be looked at seriously. That is why I asked the three professors who came to see me to provide me with an evidence-based approach as to the impact of direct-to-consumer advertising, and I will be releasing their report in the very near future.

Questions for Oral Answer
Land—Public Access

10. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Minister for Rural Affairs: What has the Government done about investigating issues surrounding land access?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Rural Affairs): Late last month I set up the land access reference group, a group of 11 wise and experienced community members, to investigate issues around land access. There is confusion about the law as it stands, for example around the coverage of the Queen’s Chain, and there have been conflicts around the country about access. This Government thinks it is better to address the issue now, rather than leave it to fester.

David Parker: How can people have input into this reference group’s work?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The group welcomes submissions. People can write letters to the group and send them to my office, and I will ensure they are passed on.

Shane Ardern: Can the Minister reassure farmers that the increased access to their private property will not trap farmers into increased compliance costs trying to mitigate against legislation, like those related to occupational safety and health, dog control, and other Government-imposed laws; if not, why not; and will the Minister, given that he is in the mood for replying to letters, respond to a North Island farmer, Mr Kerrs, who wrote to him about a month ago outlining some of the problems he has with marijuana cultivation, the slaughter of two heifers, and the theft of chainsaws and motorbikes?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. Two may be answered.

Hon JIM SUTTON: Firstly, I do not recall a letter from the alleged correspondent the member mentioned. Maybe he is one of those who forget to sign their name. As for the questions about people having increased rights to walk across farmers’ land, the member is into his conspiracy theories again. There is no predetermined outcome for this consultation. It is by no means certain that increased access to private land will even be recommended.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Will the Minister assure this House that irrespective of the Prime Minister’s reference group’s recommendations, he will not allow it to breach the exclusive use of private property guaranteed under the provisions of article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The member has read something in the Treaty of Waitangi that I have missed, after reading it many, many times.

Ian Ewen-Street: What is the Government doing to address the problem of a landowner’s occupation safety and health liability for the safety of members of the public crossing private land in order to access public land, when this occurs without the knowledge of the landowner?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The law was amended not long ago, with the intention of clarifying landowners’ responsibilities in respect of people crossing their land. Insofar as it may still not be clear that the land being crossed has to be the injured person’s place of work before there is any liability attaching to the landholder, I think the Government would be prepared to contemplate further clarifying amendments.

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

11. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: When did she find out that Capital and Coast District Health Board under spent its cardiac surgery budget by $1.7 million in 2001/02 and, as she will not conduct an inquiry, does she actually intend to do anything to ensure that the 181 patients nationally waiting over six months get surgery?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): As I advised the member yesterday, I was informed 2 months ago of the underspend. The inquiry the member sought yesterday was into why Capital and Coast District Health Board did not contract out to private providers for cardiac operations, claiming that eight people had died because of this. She called for her inquiry before my answer to Parliament yesterday, which showed of the eight patients who had died in the past 3 years, seven died when Capital and Coast District Health Board was contracting to private hospitals. There is nothing to inquire into.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why, when 24 patients have died in the last 3 years in the North Island alone while on the cardiac waiting list, has she allowed the number of patients waiting for more than 6 months for life-saving heart surgery to climb to 181 patients, and what does she intend to do about this situation?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The 181 the member quotes is inaccurate; 116 people have waited longer than 6 months according to the latest data. This is not acceptable to the Government, but I have to say it is a major improvement on the 468 patients who waited longer than 6 months in the last year of a National Government. What it does show is we are determined to reduce those waiting times. They were not.

Nanaia Mahuta: What additional resources did the Minister provide the Canterbury and Otago cardiac service last year?

Hon ANNETTE KING: An additional $2 million in sustainable funding was allocated to Otago and Canterbury District Health Boards to increase their heart operations from 550 to 650 each year. This funding was available from 1 July 2002.

Heather Roy: What sanctions are available to her Government for failure by a district health board to comply with the waiting-list requirements of the New Zealand health strategy 2000, and why will she not use them against the Capital and Coast District Health Board for allowing patients to die while Wakefield Hospital surgeons were sitting idle and the money was available?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I am sorry that the member did not hear my answer. From when Capital and Coast Health no longer subcontracted with Wakefield Hospital, one person died. But the 2 years before that, when it did subcontract with private hospitals, seven people died. There are sanctions that are available in terms of contracts that we asked of the boards. We ensure that we do monitor those—that is a new innovation in health—and we ensure that they do deliver. Pressure is put on to deliver, and that is exactly what is happening.

Sue Kedgley: If Capital and Coast District Health Board fails to provide surgery to the 160 patients on the cardiac surgery waiting list by August of this year, as it has promised the Minister and all the patients on the waiting list that it will do, what specific sanctions will the Minister take to hold the board to account?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There are a number of actions I could take, including the sacking of the board, if I wanted to. However, what I do see at Capital and Coast Health is it has made huge improvement since the cardiac unit was gutted in the late 1990s when the intensive care cardiac unit was closed and was put into the intensive care unit, when it lost a lot of staff. It has had to rebuild that. I feel there are some members in this House who have a huge conflict of interest when it comes to the public-private partnerships.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I heard the last comment by the Minister, and I think that it is not within the parliamentary Standing Orders or our past precedents for an allegation to be so widely dispersed that there are members of Parliament with huge conflicts of interest where the public and private health provisioning is concerned, and either we hear the allegation in terms of detail, or we all fall under the cloud. Therefore, I am asking that either she retracts that comment or backs it up.

Mr SPEAKER: Was the Minister making any reflection on any current member of Parliament?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, Mr Speaker.

Dr Lynda Scott: If seven heart patients died while on the waiting list when Wakefield Hospital was performing 15 cardiac procedures per month, augmenting Wellington Hospital’s work, was it not an extremely risky decision for Capital and Coast Health to stop these operations, letting the over-6-month waiting list escalate from nine to 70, and why will the Minister not be holding someone accountable for that decision?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I have to say that an “h” word comes to mind that I am not allowed to use, because there was no mention of the 26 people who died the year before we became the Government, because they allowed far more people to wait on a waiting list. What the Capital and Coast Health District Health Board has done is to reduce, reduce, reduce that waiting list and ensure that it gets it under control. There was no 6-month benchmark when National was the Government. We brought that in.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I again wish to draw your attention to Standing Order 372(2): “The reply to any question must be concise and confined to the subject-matter of the question”. I listened with great care to the quite fair and quite concise question asked by Dr Lynda Scott. The Minister made no attempt whatsoever to answer that member’s concise question, and I believe this House deserves a proper answer to it.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. There was one part at the start where the first clause she used was not in order, but the rest of the answer was.

Questions for Oral Answer
Accident Compensation—Assessment Policy

12. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for ACC: In light of the 1997 pledges on behalf of ACC made by the current Chief Executive, Mr Garry Wilson, that: only people who have completed a vocational rehabilitation programme and have a clear capacity to work will be referred for assessment; claimants who have been severely disadvantaged by injury will not be referred for assessment; and highly skilled claimants will not be assessed as having a capacity to work in low skill positions; can she explain any changes to ACC policy since that time?

Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister for ACC): I am very pleased to be able to respond to this question. Although the pledges made by Mr Wilson were, I am sure, well intentioned they could not have been delivered under the National Government policy of the time. However, changes since we were elected as the Government in 1999, which are relevant to the vocational rehabilitation requirements, and Mr Garry Wilson’s pledges, are sections 81 to 96 of the Injury Prevention Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2001. Changes include that incapacity must be determined separately for each job where a person has had more than one job prior to the injury; that vocational rehabilitation must be completed before a person has an assessment for work; if that work assessment determines that the person is fit to do their pre-injury job, then 3 months weekly compensation entitlement is payable; and, not least, claimants are now assessed on their total health status rather than just the effects of their injury.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that what she has just read out is actually honouring the pledges made by Mr Garry Wilson, and is she telling this House that Mr Wilson did not know what he was talking about when he put these pledges in writing?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No, unfortunately I am not able to confirm that. I did answer the member’s question, which was: “Can she explain any changes to Accident Compensation Corporation policy since that time?” My reply answered that question. I am not able to answer in response to any pledges that Mr Wilson made prior to us being elected as Government.

Janet Mackey64Janet Mackey: Is Accident Compensation Corporation taking any measures to ensure its claimants are treated fairly and receive service of the highest standard?

Hon RUTH DYSON: Yes. Last month I launched the Accident Compensation Corporation code of claimants’ rights, which spells out the Accident Compensation Corporation’s legal obligations to provide the highest standard of service and fairness when dealing with claimants. The Accident Compensation Corporation is also bringing together claimants, advocates, and representatives to develop a programme looking at legislation, policy, and operational improvements. Working together will enable the Accident Compensation Corporation, from the corporate office right through the entire branch network structure, to implement this programme of change.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the Minister give members in this House a commitment that—should we come to her with the cases of Accident Compensation Corporation claimants who are now being forced to exit the scheme into lesser skilled, lower paying jobs than the job in which the accident occurred—she will allow them to go back on to the compensation that they should rightly be receiving?

Hon RUTH DYSON: No.

Sue Bradford: Given that many long term Accident Compensation Corporation claimants are still having huge difficulties with vocational rehabilitation assessments and termination of entitlements, will the Minister be doing more to encourage the corporation to at least part-fund the infrastructure of Accident Compensation Corporation claimant advocacy groups, as allowed for in the most recent legislation?

Hon RUTH DYSON: That is one of two points that I would like to make in response to the member’s question. With regard to the first point, I am sure that that issue will be raised at the first claimant advocacy meeting with the Accident Compensation Corporation. I have a commitment to ensure that the funding and the operation of that group are made by the Accident Compensation Corporation. Ongoing advocacy is yet to be determined. On the second point in relation to the rehabilitation and work readiness of longer-term Accident Compensation Corporation claimants, I can advise the members that prior to Christmas I convened a meeting between Work and Income New Zealand, the Accident Compensation Corporation, the Council of Trade Unions, and Business New Zealand to ensure that the services that are available by those four organisations and agencies are better coordinated to ensure that Accident Compensation Corporation claimants are not removed from the Accident Compensation Corporation, and then put on to a benefit. That seems to me to be a fairly lose-lose situation.

Peter Brown: Does the Minister accept that these pledges were made, that they are not currently being honoured, and if she does accept that, what is she going to do about it?

Hon RUTH DYSON: I deeply regret that I was not the Minister for ACC in 1997, but because of that fact, I am not able to take any responsibility for any pledges the chief executive of the Accident Compensation Corporation made at that time. That was the responsibility of the then chair of the board and remains that case.

Peter Brown: I seek leave to table a letter from the chief executive of the Accident Compensation Corporation written in 1997, outlining the claims, and a second document where—

Documents laid on the Table of the House

Question No. 1 to Members

Question, by leave, postponed.

End of Questions for Oral Answer


(uncorrected transcript – subject to correction and further editing)


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