Questions Of The Day Transcript - 20 February '03
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 to Ministers and Question 1 to Member – 20 February 2003
Questions to Ministers
1. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Transport: What reports has he received on the road toll for 2002?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): The Land Transport Safety Authority has advised that last year’s road toll of 404 was the lowest in 40 years. This is despite the large increase in vehicle numbers over that time. The mixture of education, enforcement, and engineering measures introduced are paying off. However, we must continue to make progress, if we are to reach the goal of no more than 300 fatalities by 2010.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What other reports has he seen on road safety issues?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I have seen a report from Mr Roger Sowry saying: “National would build a multilane highway between Auckland and Wellington to reduce traffic problems. This is estimated to cost $5.5 billion.”
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has no responsibility for that [Interruption] I am reminding Mr Hide only once today. I am not having shouting out, like we have had this week.
Hon memberHon member: It was good though.
Mr SPEAKER: That may be very well, but that is not in the rules.
Hon Roger Sowry: Does he agree with the Land Transport Authority director David Wright that the greatest scope for future reductions in the road toll lies in engineering work, such as providing more passing lanes, removing power poles, and designing safer new roads and intersections; if so, does he then agree that the greatest impediment to carrying out that work is his inability to obtain the funding necessary?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: As far as funding is concerned, just for that member’s information, in the last year that he was in the Government, $563 million compared with $603 million.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, the Minister was referring to something that he has no responsibility for. He should answer the question, rather than alluding to stuff that has happened in the past.
Mr SPEAKER: No, on this occasion the Minister was perfectly in order. He was comparing figures, and he is perfectly entitled to do that. I thought the Minister had finished his answer.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, Mr Speaker—
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept your point with regard to the figures, but the question was whether he agreed with the statements. The Minister was showing no indication of even getting to that question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister had given only one sentence, he wants to continue, and I will hear him out.
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Land Transport Safety Authority director has made a number of good and useful comments. Of course engineering is important, and it will require funding. The Government does not agree with spending $5.5 billion on a superhighway between Auckland and Wellington, which means that no more projects would be funded for 20 years. Plus they want a cut in petrol taxes by 4 cents. The ghost of Bill Birch and “think big” is alive and well in the National Party caucus.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the beginning of this year’s parliamentary session I think we should clear up whether you intend to interrupt Ministers, or whether you want the Opposition to interrupt them through points of order. We are happy to do that, but where a Minister is clearly breaching the rules, we would also be more than happy if you as Speaker would take the initiative to sit the Minister down.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his very valuable advice. I shall interrupt when I consider it necessary to do so.
Peter Brown: If the fatality rate and the accident rates on the roads continue to go down, can we expect the Minister to make strong recommendations to his colleagues to reduce the accident compensation charges on motorists, instead of continually increasing them?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: That is a good question. The perverse problem we have at the moment is that fatalities are going down, but as cars and road engineering are safer the number of injuries rise, and that is the reason accident compensation levies have had to increase.
Deborah Coddington: My question for the Minister follows on from that question. Was the startling reduction in motor vehicle deaths and injuries passed on to the Minister for ACC and other relevant Ministers before they increased fuel taxes in March 2002, motor vehicle taxes in July 2002, and driver’s licence fees for 10-year licences; if not, why not?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government had a range of information before it considered the 4c petrol tax rise. But that 4c petrol tax rise has made a real dent in some of the backlog of work that was not able to proceed under the previous National Government.
Hon David Carter: Whose?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The building of superhighways worth $5.5 billion is not the answer.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Would transferring more long-distance freight off road on to rail be more cost effective and better for road safety than spending $5.5 billion on a superhighway?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes. That is why rail is an integral and important part of the transport strategy that the Green Party and Government members released late last year. Making rail more efficient is important for the long-term economic development of New Zealand.
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What is the timeframe to settle all Treaty claims in line with the Government’s stated priorities at the last election?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): In the Labour 2002 election manifesto there was a commitment under Mâori development to continue with and improve the treaty settlements process. We have continued to do that in an aim to complete the settlement of historical grievances as soon as possible. No artificial time frame has ever been set by Labour.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that priority list that the member referred to, can the Minister tell us that in regard to the fact that only nine claims have been settled in the last 28 years, and only 989 claims remain still outstanding, does this mean that it will take us another 3,090 years to settle the rest, and what will the poor Maori people going to do in the meantime?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I said, one could put an artificial time frame on anything, but at the moment we are making settlements at the rate of about one every 6 months. At present we have 25 different claimant groups at various stages of negotiations. So compared with the progress over the previous 10 years I think there is improvement in it.
Mahara Okeroa: Why is it not sensible to have a predetermined termination date for the settlement of historical claims under the Treaty of Waitangi?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The settlement of historical grievances under the treaty involves two parties. Both parties must agree to the process and to any time frame. The days of the Crown unilaterally imposing its will on the claimant party are over. Further, the process of settlement cannot usually commence until the tribunal has issued its report on the claim. If the Crown was to impose an artificial time frame on either the tribunal or the claimants it runs the risk of creating further grievances.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: Can the Minister confirm the statement made by the Secretary for Justice and the head of the Office of Treaty Settlements that at the current rate of progress, and with current resources, it will take 20 to 25 years before the historic claims are settled; if not, how long does she estimate it will take?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I said, one can guess any time, and I guess that only time will tell whether that is correct. That estimate, as I understand it, was based on the fact that the tribunal, which now has a new system of district casebooks, thinks it will be about 2010 before it has completed all the districts. Therefore, given that after that negotiations normally continue, I presume that was the reason for the time frame being given. In the meantime, what I have instructed is to see whether we can involve ourselves in direct negotiations on some matters while the tribunal is hearing. That is the approach we are testing with the central North Island.
Stephen Franks: What time frame does the Minister estimate for the new claims that must surely be generated by the Crown’s deep ignorance of the treaty shown yesterday when a Minister scoffed at the core property guarantee of article 2, which he referred to as “something in the Treaty of Waitangi that I have missed after reading it many, many times’’; and has she organised a tutorial for Mr Sutton?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I think the question asked what the time frame will be for new claims, and I assume the member means contemporary claims as opposed to historical claims. Contemporary claims are somewhat difficult to estimate in terms of their time for settlement, so I think it would be unwise for me, again with contemporary claims just as with historical claims, to impose an artificial time frame.
Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister guessed at the question. The question was very simple. It was about new claims generated by Cabinet’s demonstrated ignorance of the treaty.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is entitled to interpret the question the way she wishes, and she addressed it.
Metiria Turei: Can the Minister guarantee that no further treaty grievances will be created by this Government, given its policy to build a prison in Ngawha that desecrates wâhi tapu and is arguably a breach of article 2 of the treaty?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government is using its very best endeavours to make sure that there will be no new grievances created, which is why we are not prepared to put artificial time frames on. In terms of the specific matter the member raised, my understanding is that yes, of course there are differences within iwi on that matter, but all the processes that should have been followed were followed, but not, obviously, to the satisfaction of everyone.
Murray Smith: Has she conducted an appraisal of the claims development team initiative instigated last year; if she did, what was the outcome of the appraisal, and if she did not, why not?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No, we have not offered an appraisal of that. It is just part of the normal performance review of the office. We are, however, in the process of doing an evaluation of the Waitangi Tribunal’s new approach. To some extent the two questions are combined. So far, on the evidence we have we are very supportive of the tribunal’s new approach.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that she has put into contention her glorious record, and the fact that only five claims have been settled in the last 3½ years since she has been the Minister, at a processing cost of over $40 million, and 89 claims still remain outstanding, does that not mean that it will take 646 years to settle the rest of the claims at a cost of over $8 billion in processing costs?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I have said before, one can speculate, but that speculation will not necessarily be accurate. Therefore, I prefer to refer the member to his own very sensible advice that he gave us all, which was that it is time to recognise that hypocrisy and grandstanding must end. The time for the grand gesture and final solutions is over.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that is part of a glorious speech but it has no relevance whatsoever to the timeframe and cost of Waitangi settlements, 989 of which remain outstanding. My question asked the Minister to give us some sort of time frame. I am not trying to obfuscate and evade the facts. She has a responsibility to this House and to this country.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might care to make an additional comment.
Hon MARGARET WILSON: I can only reiterate that to put artificial time frames on a matter that involves two parties, and not to recognise that there are two parties to that process, would only invite further grievances.
General Agreement on Trade in Services—World Trade Organization
3. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Will the Government give the House the opportunity to debate the offer it intends making under the General Agreement on Trade in Services before it presents it to World Trade Organisation members in March; if not, why not?
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): There is no requirement for New Zealand’s initial offer under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to be presented to Parliament, as it is only a starting point in the negotiation. It remains entirely conditional and revocable.
Rod Donald: Given that GATS commitments are permanent, why has the Government given other parties in Parliament and the public only 25 days to make submissions on the request and offer phase of GATS, when it has been consulting with vested-interest groups for over a year?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The member obviously did not hear what he had been previously told. What is being tabled after 28 days is the initial offer, not our GATS commitment.
Martin Gallagher: Can the Minister outline precisely what the New Zealand Government’s position is on its participation in the GATS negotiation?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The New Zealand Government’s position is set out clearly in the discussion document. Cabinet has agreed to 10 guiding principles for New Zealand’s participation in those negotiations, which I will table at the conclusion of the question. I recommend that all members who have not read them do so. In particular, I draw members’ attention to the commitment on public health, public education, water, local government, and Mâori.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not do another back-room deal to placate the Greens, the way it did with Keith Locke’s International Treaties Bill when, in October 2000, the Greens threatened to abstain on the next vote of no confidence if the Government continued to ignore its concerns about the free-trade agreement with Singapore?
Hon JIM SUTTON: My understanding is that that bill was dealt with by Parliament chucking it out.
Dail Jones: Why does the Government refuse to accept such a debate, as was set out in the original question, which would give the Government an opportunity to refute the views being expressed at the knowledge wave conference indicating that the Government has no strategic plan for the future; are such criticisms so irrefutable that the Government wishes to shy away from them in this House?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government is delighted to debate the principles of its trade policy, and will take up suitable opportunities to do that whenever they arise. The fact of the matter is that it would be neither informative nor helpful for the House to have a debate every time another offer is made or received in the course of the World Trade Organization negotiations. We would be doing very little else in this House for the next 2 or 3 years if that were the approach.
Hon Peter Dunne: Where does the Minister draw the line between the Government’s executive responsibility, in terms of pursuing a negotiating process and putting forward proposals, etc., and its responsibility to this House also in terms of necessary legislative approvals; and can we expect, as we are to see later this afternoon in respect of another measure, subsequent legislation to ratify agreements coming before this House?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government has adopted a policy of putting trade treaties before the House for debate, before the Government finally commits the nation to them. That practice will be continued.
Rod Donald: Why should we believe the Government’s claim that it is not about to trade away protections for public services under the General Agreement on Trade in Services, when it has asked other countries to do exactly what it claims it will not do itself?
Hon JIM SUTTON: There are countries that need to make changes in their policy settings, but this country’s policy settings are such that we do not need to make any changes in them in order to comply with our initial offers.
Auckland District Health Boards—Pharmacy Contract
4. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Is the reason that the three Auckland district health boards refuse to settle the pharmacy contract and pay pharmacists the same rate as 15 other district health boards because of the financial crisis the Auckland district health boards are facing with a combined projected deficit of over $100 million and her instructions to them to get rid of their deficits; if not, what is the reason?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: No, that is not the reason the three Auckland district health boards refused to settle the pharmacy contract and pay pharmacists the same rate as 15 other district health boards. It is not because of the financial crisis at the Auckland District Health Board. It is because this is a devolved contract and the Auckland district health boards have decided to continue to consult and work with the pharmacists in the area, as is their right, irrespective of the outcome of any negotiations. This will not affect payments made by patients, because district health boards are required to ensure that patients pay no more than the user charges set down by Government in the Crown funding agreement.
Dr Lynda Scott: As the three Auckland district health boards have been funded for a 5.12 percent increase in the number of prescriptions, and the projected growth of Auckland is 2 percent, Counties-Manukau 5.5 percent, and Waitemata 4 percent for the 2003 year, are the district health boards once again just keeping the extra money to pay off their crisis level deficits, at the expense of burnt-out community pharmacists; if not, why will they not settle?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: No, that is not the reason, as I stated in the first response to the member’s question. The three district health boards will receive an extra $149 million in the next year. They will, as the member states, receive a 5.1 percent increase in the amount of money for pharmaceuticals. I have the utmost confidence, as does the Minister of Health, that those pharmacists will continue to provide safe pharmaceutical services to the people of those district health board areas.
Steve Chadwick: What are the three Auckland district health boards discussing with pharmacists?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am advised that the three Auckland district health boards do not want to increase dispensing fees without exploring directly with pharmacists other ways to develop agreements. Those agreements should recognise the challenges and opportunities for patients, pharmacists, and district health boards by discussing the financial risk around dispensing costs, including avoiding uncapped demand-driven cost increases. District health boards are also looking to increase the opportunity for pharmacists’ services to be integrated into the primary health-care strategy, and see a role for pharmacists in district health boards’ chronic-care programmes.
Heather Roy: Is her refusal to become involved with pharmacy contracts, as she promised last December, due to the fact that she approves of individual contracts or because she is determined to avoid all responsibility?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As that member should well know, section 33 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act precludes the Minister from any involvement. I am aware that three members of this House—Mrs Scott, Mrs Kedgley, and Mrs Roy—did attend a meeting last night in Auckland where they encouraged pharmacists not to compromise with the district health board, and they sought to have ministerial intervention. This is a new policy from the ACT party that now wants political interference in what is a commercial negotiation between the district health board and the pharmacist.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder how appropriate it is for the Government, which was invited to the meeting but did not turn up, to now come into the House and try to interpret what did happen at the meeting.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a political point.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that it would be grossly unfair and discriminatory if the three Auckland district health boards were to draw up a separate contract for pharmacists in their area that had a lower dispensing fee than pharmacists receive in all the other district health boards areas that have signed the national contract, and will she therefore step in to prevent that and ensure that pharmacists in Auckland do not end up getting paid less than the rest of the country; if not, why not?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As the member for West Coast - Tasman I am very well aware that there are different prices around the country for all kinds of services. It is not for us to determine what the appropriate price is. That responsibility has been devolved to the district health board to negotiate with the pharmacists in their particular regions.
Dr Lynda Scott: With the six district health boards of Auckland, Waitemata, Counties-Manukau, Northland, South Canterbury, and Hawke’s Bay still not having settled their contracts, is it not time to admit this process is increasing bureaucracy and fragmentation, wasting money, time, and effort, and when will she use some common sense and return to a national contract?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I am astounded at the new policies from the National Party regarding centralised control of such services. Fifteen district health boards have signed up with the pharmacists. I suggest that that is a very positive move, and I am confident that the six others will sign up in the near future.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table Metropolitan Auckland Pharmacy expenditure statistics that show that Auckland is expecting a 2 percent growth, Counties-Manukau 5.5 percent, and Waitemata 4 percent.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
I seek leave to table a report from today’s Bay of Plenty Times that shows because of a lack of funding, the region’s palliative care service will have to remove all its beds.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Work and Income Department—Placements
5. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What recent reports has he received on Department of Work and Income employment placements?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): I am advised that in the last 6 months of 2002 the Work and Income service of the Ministry of Social Development improved its long-term employment placements by 7.6 percent. In other words, Work and Income helped 25,000 New Zealanders into jobs lasting at least 3 months—up from 23,000 the year before. With unemployment at a 15-year low the Work and Income folks are managing to offer sustainable work opportunities to thousands of New Zealand families.
Georgina Beyer: How do the most recent employment placement results compare with earlier years?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Work and Income has achieved a more than 100 percent improvement in long-term employment placements in each duration band, compared with the same period in 1998. This includes people who have been unemployed for 4 years or more, who often have difficulty re-entering the paid workforce, where their performance has improved by over 250 percent, as well as those who have been unemployed for up to 6 months, where Work and Income has placed a staggering 372 percent more people into work, compared with the last full year of a National-led Government.
Katherine Rich: In light of his comments about employment placements, can the Minister explain why there is still a dire shortage of workers in some industries like trucking and the fruit industry, why Mâori unemployment is still at 11.5 percent, and the cost of the invalids benefit is predicted to nearly double under his stewardship to $1.2 billion by 2007?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The reasons that we have shortages in areas like trucking and the seasonal fruit-picking industry, and unemployment amongst Mâori, of course, take longer than I can take to explain today. One of the things I would say about trucking, for example, which the industry itself acknowledges, is that it has not planned for its own needs in that industry. So we are working with the industry training organisation to cure that. In the fruit-picking area we have, for example, labour shortages in many of the areas of the South Island at the present time. We simply do not have the people to pick fruit, because we have been so successful in getting them into jobs in that area. Can I say in relation to Mâori that the unemployment rate has dropped from around 19 percent to around 11 percent under this Government.
Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister explain why he gloats about stable employment placements, when his own answers show that nearly half of all those people are not in stable placements at all, but end up back on the dole within 6 months?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is never the intention of this Government to gloat about anything to do with employment and unemployment. We realise that these areas have a lot of complex reasons as to why we are doing so well. What we do is simply report the facts, and the facts are that we are staggeringly successful in this country at the moment—a 15-year low in unemployment figures.
Points of Order
Question No. 6 to Minister
RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I seek leave to hold my question over until such time as the Minister in charge is here to front up.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to do that, is there any objection? Please ask the question.
6. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister for Economic DevelopmentEconomic Development: Why was the House told on his behalf on 28 March last year when questioned about Sovereign yachts that “In 8 weeks, construction will begin on a second boat,” and does he stand by the statement then that “This is a real success story, which is only beginning to unfold.” given that the New Zealand Herald reported on 18 February this year that construction still hasn’t started on the second boat because of “some dispute about freight charges”?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Associate Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development: Because that is what Sovereign Yachts told the Ministry of Economic Development; and yes.
Rodney Hide: In light of his answer, is he confident that his Sovereign Yachts project will deliver the $24 million net benefits promised by his officials, when so far only one boat has been built on spec, the second boat’s construction is now a year late, staff are being laid off; and does this Minister expect his officials to prepare a report on just what his Sovereign Yachts project has cost taxpayers and what it has returned?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government is proud that there are jobs in Hobsonville now, when there were not under the previous Government. But Mr Hide continually asks questions that are best directed at Mr Lloyd. I understand that Mr Hide has been out on the boat enjoying the hospitality of Mr Lloyd, so I presume he has his cell phone number.
David Cunliffe: Can the Minister outline some of the highlights of the Government’s economic development programme?
Mr SPEAKER: No. That question is totally out of order. It is far too wide.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I certainly want to have a supplementary question in a minute, but it might be only fair for Mr Cunliffe to rephrase the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I will decide whether a member does not ask a question correctly. I am not obliged to have that member ask it again.
Gerry Brownlee: If the Minister for Economic Development stands by his comments reported in the New Zealand Herald on 4 February 2001, in which he talks of a partnership between Sovereign Yachts, the Ministry of Economic Development, and Waitakere City Council, which enabled Sovereign Yachts to buy 10 acres of land and get favourable resource consents for a sum of some $500,000, and as that same land is now valued at over $10 million, does he accept that all his ministry has done is relieve the New Zealand taxpayer of at least $9.5 million in favour of Sovereign Yachts?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: No, I do not. As the Minister has said on many occasions, the land was sold according to the provisions of the Public Works Act. But the important point about this matter is that under this Government there are jobs there; under that member’s Government there were none—not one, zippo.
Dail Jones: How can the Minister say that there are jobs there now while under the previous Government there were not, when for at least 30 or 40 years there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs at Hobsonville and Whenuapai as a result of the Royal New Zealand Air Force bases in Auckland being there—jobs that are worth $500 million or more to Waitakere City—and, as a result of this Labour Government’s decisions, and the decisions of the previous National Government, Waitakere City will be suffering considerable unemployment as a result of the closure of those bases and thousands of jobs being taken away by this Government?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There are jobs in the marine industry on that part of the land that were not there in the time of the previous Government. I suggest that that member stops whingeing and gets in to support the private sector.
Rodney Hide: Given that the Minister’s Sovereign Yachts project has failed to deliver on the promised three super yachts a year, and the promised annual turnover of $100 million, does he still stand by his statement to Parliament on 16 April 2002 that: “We need more developments like the Sovereign Yachts development if we’re going to create the jobs and income that New Zealanders need.”, or is this blatant failure and fiasco acceptable to him on a project that he himself declared to be the triumph of his job’s machine policy?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Of course the Government believes that there needs to be more kinds of investment in jobs along the lines of the ones that have already been promoted by the Minister and the Ministry of Economic Development. But the important point is that the Government believes that putting energy into real initiatives out of his ministry is much better for the New Zealand economy than promoting pyramid selling or Fijian investment seminars.
7. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Associate Minister of Education (Special Education): In light of the Court of Appeal decision Attorney-General v Daniels issued yesterday that the then Minister of Education acted unlawfully when in 1998 he disestablished special needs classes, units and services, does she agree that the money spent on the appeal and preceding cases would have been better spent on direct funding for special needs children than on litigation; if not, why not?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Education (Special Education)): My answer to that question would usually be yes but on this occasion it is no, because the High Court judgment against the Crown was so broad and had such serious ramifications, not only for education but for other aspects of public policy, the Crown had no choice but to appeal that decision. Prior to the original proceeding being brought by the parents against the previous Government, I did meet with them in an attempt to find a resolution to their concerns. The Court of Appeal decision backs up my strong view that litigation is no way to resolve public policy issues.
Metiria Turei: Will the Minister agree, first, not to seek costs against the parents in this case, and, second, to contribute to the legal costs of the parents, whose concern to protect their children’s right to an appropriate quality education was upheld by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The judgment specifically rules on the issue of the closure of units. The real issue that the Crown had to appeal was that relating to the implications of the High Court ruling on sections 3, 8, 9, and 10. We succeeded on those appeals, and there is now going to be a remedies action in the High Court in respect of the situation in relation to the units. What I do hope is that the parties can talk to each other in the intervening period, because I would like to see a win-win out of that, as the Court of Appeal case has been a win-win for the parents and the Government.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What is this Government’s commitment to special education that sees young Bernard O’Regan in Reefton deprived of school bus transport each day, when all that was required was for the school bus contract tender to include provision for wheelchair access, and what is this Minister going to do to fix this obvious stuff-up?
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you for some consistency here. Because the Government does not like it, right through Dr Nick Smith’s supplementary question we had constant chipping. You pulled the members up. The Minister over there refused to follow your instructions and continued chipping, and you are looking right at her.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has raised a valid point of order, and the member concerned will keep quiet when questions are being asked.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do fail to see what that question has to do with Wyatt Creech’s decision to close units, which has just been held to be unlawful by the Court of Appeal.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that this issue, in the Daniels’ case, was precipitated by the fact that the Minister at the time, Wyatt Creech, followed Ministry of Education advice that the Education Act did not require amendment to accommodate the Special Education 2000 policy, a policy that increased expenditure on special-education students by hundreds of millions of dollars?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: From the advice I have, I cannot confirm whether the specific question was directed to the Minister. What I can say, though, is that what Cabinet considered at that time was a report back to the Minister of Education on the impact of the proposal on the disestablishment decision in terms of ensuring the continuity of the general capacity to offer choice to parents between mainstreaming or a special education unit, but that was after the decision had been made.
Jill Pettis: Did the Court of Appeal comment on the funding of special education in respect of the introduction of Special Education 2000?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, the Court of Appeal found that “extra funding has throughout been a critical part of the development of SE2000”.
Special education funding for 2002 was $329.62 million as compared with $170 million in 1995. The number of students directly receiving assistance has risen from about 20,000 in 1995 to over 50,000 today.
Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister support bulk funding for special needs students and, indeed, the principle of bulk funding for all students teaching; if not, why did this Government appeal the High Court decision?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I would suggest the member read the decision, and she will understand why we appealed it. If she had read the Baragwanath decision, she would know very clearly that there were very important grounds to do that, and we have succeeded on those grounds, which will be a significant benefit. I would also suggest that the member look at the Special Education 2000 policy because it is only one very small component of the total triangle that is funded by way of bulk funding to the special education grant.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I call Question No 8—[Interruption] I am sorry, I call Metiria Turei.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I sought the call, and you made the judgment to move on to the next question. Why is it then suddenly possible for you to change the tune, disallow myself having the opportunity, but allowing it to the Green member?
Mr SPEAKER: Because the member knows I allocate supplementary questions on a distinct number each day, and, in actual fact, the Green Party advised it wanted two calls on this question. It will miss out on a large number of others.
Metiria Turei: Will the Minister now accept that the special education grant funding, which is part of the Special Education 2000, has failed to provide assistance to hundreds of children with moderate special needs, and will she, instead, ensure that the said grant for children with moderate needs is based on, and used specifically for, the actual number of special needs children in each school?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The member well knows that this Government introduced the enhanced programme funding last year specifically to address the needs of schools that have a higher level of moderate special needs students than other schools.
Te Hauora o Te Tai Tokerau Trust—Fraudulent Expenditure Recovery
8. PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Social Services and EmploymentSocial Services and Employment: Following Police confirmation that Te Hau Ora O Te Tai Tokerau Trust did invest $100,000 of taxpayer and Department of Child, Youth and Family Services money in a fraudulent investment scheme, did purchase $20,000 worth of gym equipment from a key executive’s son and did spend nearly $25,000 on an unapproved overseas trip, what accountability will the department be seeking from the Trust, and will it recover any money from the Trust?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): In terms of seeking accountability, Child, Youth and Family Services has withdrawn contracts, commenced legal proceedings to freeze and recover public money, requested a police investigation into possible criminal conduct, and, given the trust is now in liquidation, is pursuing fund recovery through that process. Of course how much money is available will depend on the liquidator.
Phil Heatley: When Plunket first warned the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services in writing 2½ years ago, and staff warned it 1½ years ago again in writing, and the department eventually gave Te Hau Ora O Te Tai Tokerau Trust a 60-day ultimatum, why did it still take the Minister another 6 months to act—which gave the trust even more time to spend up large on barbells, bench presses, overseas trips, and shocking investments?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I have said in the House and to this member before, I think the department behaved appropriately in this matter. When the matter was brought to its attention by Plunket, they began monitoring the organisation. In 2001, when the department was written to about the organisation, it began the process of working through with the organisation, which resulted in the withdrawing of its funding. The member will also know that about 3 weeks before we proceeded with criminal proceedings, I said in the House here that I thought the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services had done its job as it should. It had just taken about 2 or 3 weeks too long, and that is why I told it to go to court and freeze the assets.
Darren Hughes: For what reasons do Government departments like Child, Youth and Family Services contract with community agencies?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Government departments contract with a wide range of community agencies to deliver community, social, and other services. Many groups, of course, offer excellent and innovative services run by local people for local people. The vast majority of them do exactly what their contract requires of them. It would be an unfortunate day if the actions of a few individuals in one organisation such as this were to tarnish the reputations of the many thousands of people who run successful services across the country.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister concede that this Te Hauora o te Tai Tokerau case demonstrates appalling contracting processes, including monitoring, within his ministry, and will he guarantee to this House that the steps he has taken to make these processes more robust will ensure no more such scandalous examples of wastage of taxpayers’ money will occur?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I would not concede that this indicates that our contracting across the board is a problem. In fact, the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services contracts with something over 1,000 organisations. This is one that we have heard about. But I repeat to that member, whom I want to thank for the way he has approached this issue, supporting people in his community to get the services up and running again, that what we do not want to see is that this one case, involving in particular one individual, should be allowed to taint other community groups or the success of this approach.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister believe the trustees’ spending was properly authorised and accountable; if not, could he advise the House whether he has asked, or intends to ask, the Attorney-General to do her duty as guardian of charitable trusts and take action against the defaulting trustees?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Working back through the question, of course the trustees are now in voluntary liquidation. The person she is referring to in relation to misappropriation, or the misuse of funds, has lost her job and therefore has been fully accountable for what has occurred.
Dr Muriel Newman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether he has asked the Attorney-General. I would like the member to answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister said no to that.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No.
Judy Turner: What investment guidelines does his department give to recipients of funds who need to manage the use of that money over a length of time and where short-term investment may be considered an option?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am sorry; as I understood the question it was what assistance is given to organisations in terms of—
Judy Turner: What guidelines do you give?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Treasury has issues guidelines for all community groups in relation to the use of their money, and one of the things it makes very clear is that groups should not be investing that money in a short-term way, looking for interest. That money is there for them to invest in the services they provide.
Phil Heatley: Will the Minister support the Controller and Auditor-General’s proposal—because I have written to him—to me and to this Parliament, for a wide-ranging study of contracting practices right across the State sector, in the light of what we can learn from the Minister’s Te Hauora o te Tai Tokerau fiasco?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, because we do this as a Government ourselves. We are absolutely committed to the principle of delivering services through local people, unlike, it seems, the National Party, and because we are doing that we are very vigilant in relation to the way contracting is done.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a statement in this House made by the Hon Ruth Dyson last year, admitting that Plunket and staff had written to the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services years ago.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Phil Heatley: I seek leave to table a six-page police report confirming Te Hauora o te Tai Tokerau’s slightly uncurbed spending habits.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Phil Heatley: Finally, I seek leave to table a recent letter to me from the Controller and Auditor-General, proposing a wide-ranging study.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Points of OrderQuestion No. 4 to Minister, 19 February
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Associate Minister for Economic Development)107SWAIN, Hon PAUL14:56:05Hon PAUL SWAIN (Associate Minister for Economic Development): Further to the question yesterday where Mr Peters made a request of the Minister for Economic Development, I seek leave to table research into the Buy New Zealand Made scheme.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Prostitution Reform Bill—Human Rights
9. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Justice: Is he concerned that New Zealand may be in violation of its international commitments to uphold human rights if the Prostitution Reform Bill is passed; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): No, this is a matter that has been considered by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. Its view of the modern approach taken by the United Nations humans rights instruments is that this focuses on the exploitative elements of prostitution as giving rise to human rights violations, rather than determining that prostitution per se is a violation of human rights. This bill is entirely consistent with that approach.
Larry Baldock: Is the Minister concerned that since New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime, the passage of the Prostitution Reform Bill may create an environment in New Zealand that is in violation of our obligations to that protocol; if not, why not?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I am not concerned that would be the case. That particular protocol deals with the trafficking of people, including prostitutes, where force or coercion is involved, or, alternatively, abduction, fraud, or deception. In fact, the contrary is true to what the member is saying. I believe there is a greater prospect for the use of coercion, fraud, and trafficking where that behaviour remains illegal. In those cases, the women who are the victims of that find it harder to take their cases to authorities.
Tim Barnett: Has the United Nations committee on the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), expressed a view that decriminalisation of prostitution is in breach of the convention?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer to that is also no. That committee emphasises that prostitution poses for women risks of exploitation and violence, and whether or not prostitution is legal, it is minimising those risks. That is the important point. That committee, for example, has raised the issue, with regard to the Swedish model, of the risks that forcing prostitution to be clandestine has for trafficking women. It thinks there are greater risks of trafficking, where prostitution is forced to be clandestine
Richard Worth: Will New Zealand, as a party to the United Nations trafficking in persons protocol, be exercising its rights of denunciation under article 19, if we become a safe haven for the forced, organised travel of prostitutes coming from off shore to take advantage of the freer environment that will be given to them, if the Prostitution Reform Bill is enacted?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Government has been active on a number of fronts to ensure that the appalling crime of trafficking in persons is restricted, and we have worked through the Bali conference with other countries to do that. We have worked through greater cooperation between the police forces of the countries of origin and the countries where the women may end up. We will take every step possible to stop the coercion of women into either slave labour or prostitution.
Peter Brown: Noting the Minister’s answer when he referred to the Swedish model, does he have evidence that in Sweden there is more trafficking of women than in any other European city or State, because those of us who are opposed to prostitution have evidence that it is vice versa—the trafficking of women has gone down considerably in Sweden?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The matter I was referring to was the concern expressed by the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, that by making prostitution clandestine—
Peter Brown: You raised Sweden.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, they were referring to Sweden as well—has increased the risk of trafficking and women. The member can shake his head all he likes, but I am quoting to him what that committee found. I welcome that member tabling any evidence that he has to contrary.
Keith Locke: What measures have the Government taken to reduce the incidence of child prostitution?
Hon PHIL GOFF: In March 2001 this Government passed the Crimes Amendment Bill, which brings New Zealand legislation into full compliance with ILO Convention 182 concerning the worst forms of child labour. That legislation made it a criminal offence in New Zealand to be a client of a prostitute under the age of 18. It also prohibited all procuring of children for prostitution, whether male or female. Those were two major gaps in the law, and this Government closed them.
Larry Baldock: Is the Minister aware that article 9.5 of the protocol I referred to in my previous supplementary says that States shall adopt or strengthen legislative and other measures such as educational, social, or cultural measures to discourage demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking, and how, therefore, will the Minister explain how the liberalising of our laws against prostitution will discourage that demand?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I am of course aware of that, but the member has brought forward no evidence that the decriminalisation of prostitution in New Zealand would increase the level of trafficking of women into New Zealand for that reason. I repeat to him the concern expressed by the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women that in fact when prostitution is made clandestine it actually increases the prospect of trafficking. That is what the report of the committee states.
Dail Jones: The Minister was referring to a report and I seek that the report be tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can if he wishes. The member cannot ask someone else to table a report.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not have that report in the House. I can give the member the reference to it, so he can find it for himself.
Inquiry into Airfield Activities—Commerce Commission Report
10. PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Commerce: Does she have confidence in the recommendations of the Commerce Commission contained in its final report on its inquiry into airfield activities; if not, why not?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister for Senior Citizens): I have not yet made any decisions on the recommendations of the Commerce Commission report on its inquiry into airfield activities.
Peter Brown: Does she believe that Wellington Airport’s overall charges, an increase of 78 percent, is significant, and if she does, will she ensure that the airport activities are controlled as per the Commerce Commission recommendations in that report?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The advice that I have is that most of Wellington International Airport Ltd’s price increase relates to terminal charges, which are outside the scope of the Commerce Commission’s inquiry. That being said, their increase prices for airfield activities of 27.6 percent is certainly greater than the 10 percent increase factored into the commission’s analysis. I will be taking all these matters into account.
Hon Roger Sowry: Is the Minister still seriously considering placing price controls on Auckland airport, given that one of its major customers, United Airlines, has just withdrawn its Los Angeles to Auckland service, and that, with the prospect of war soon, the international aviation market is expecting a 20 percent downturn in business?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I have received the Commerce Commission’s report and I am awaiting advice from officials. I will make my decision after that.
Mark Peck: When is the Minister expecting to make a decision on the report?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I anticipate receiving a report from officials in the next few weeks. On that basis I would be hopeful of making a decision on whether to recommend control by the end of March.
Peter Brown: Is the Minister aware that these new charges implemented by Wellington Airport will make the cost of landing a 737 in Wellington twice as much as in Auckland or Christchurch, and will she tell us personally whether that is acceptable to her?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: As I have said, the Commerce Commission did identify the fact that Wellington Airport may in fact be increasing its charges during the period within which I would be making my decision. I have said to the member that I will take the matter under advisement.
Points of Order
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In regard to the question asked and others, the reference is the report of the committee on the elimination and discrimination against women, sessions 24 and 25 in 2001, and the Generally Assembly records, page 79, paragraph 354.
11. HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister for ACC: What recent reports has she received on workplace injury rates?
Hon RUTH DYSON (Minister of Women's Affairs): I recently received an update on the Accident Compensation Corporation’s employer intervention programme, which is targeted at workplaces where high injury rates have been reported. I am delighted that for the 6 months to December 2002, the programme achieved injury reductions of between 8 percent and 22 percent, compared with the same period in the previous year. That amounts to nearly 900 fewer injuries over a 6-month period.
Helen Duncan: What other measures is the Accident Compensation Corporation taking to reduce workplace injury rates?
Hon RUTH DYSON: A large number, but I will just highlight one that I would like to draw to the attention of the House. The safer industries programme is targeting 10 high-risk industries, including farming, construction, and forestry. Under the programme 40,000 construction workers have received site-safety training. The aim of the programme is to halve the injury rates in these high-risk injury occupations over the next 10 years. That benefits the workers and their families, the employers, the economy, the health system, and our communities.
Gerry Brownlee: Given that the most dramatic drop year-on, year-in workplace injuries in New Zealand in recent years occurred after the introduction of the competitive model to the provision of workplace accident insurance, why did the Government remove the scheme and replace it with a non-incentivised monopoly scheme?
Hon RUTH DYSON: I look forward to the day when we can move on from that debate and focus in a united fashion on the goals that I am sure that underneath it all we all share—that is, to reduce the total cost of workplace injuries in our community. I have just given the House two examples of the incentives that are in the renationalised accident compensation scheme that directly benefit employers and that reduces injuries, as well.
School Attendance—Youth Offenders
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Education: Why was only one of the five young offenders convicted on the murder or manslaughter of Michael Choy on Thursday 13 September 2001 enrolled in a mainstream school and attending regularly?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Associate Minister of Education (Special Education)) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Of the five young offenders concerned one was in school and one was not required to be at school as he was over 16. The three remaining offenders were involved with education and other social service agencies. In an attempt to address the wide-range of issues in these young people’s lives, including schooling, they were not in mainstream schools at the time of the offence because they had displayed a range of behavioural problems that, despite considerable effort, were beyond what a school could be expected to manage.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Having dismissed previous concerns from the Opposition about truancy on the basis of the protocol between the Child, Youth and Family Services and the Ministry of Education, can the Minister explain that in the year concerned the ministry truancy service received notifications of 5,350 long-term truants, but only made 118, or 2 percent, of those referrals to the Child, Youth and Family Services, and does this not suggest that his much-vaunted protocol is nothing less than a joke?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: It is fully accepted that the protocol needs strengthening, which is why we are doing just that.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What is the key to improving the responsiveness of the education sector to participate in problems among at-risk students?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: In reading the report into the death of Michael Choy I became aware that for the first time Ministers had collective knowledge about these young people’s lives that none of the individual agencies had in the lead-up to this tragic event. Although nothing could have predicted this homicide, one of the solutions lies in accepting that the challenge of keeping at-risk young people engaged in education is a responsibility shared by schools, the wider education system, families, and other agencies. We are working to achieve just that.
Bernie Ogilvy: How does the Minister expect truancy officers to effectively police persistent truants when their funding has not increased for the last 5 years, and some truancy services like the one in Patea paying their staff from community grants to maximise the resources the ministry has given them?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There is a very good question in there in relation to the two forms of services that we have. We have the non-enrol truancy service, and we have the district truancy services. There are some cross-over issues, some funding issues, and some resource issues. That is why this Government is reviewing the truancy services as a whole.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that Bailey Junior Kuariki was one of 7,407 at-risk students enrolled at the Correspondence School when he committed the manslaughter of Michael Choy, will the Minister now accept that such enrolments at the Correspondence School for at-risk students are a farce and simply sweep under the carpet thousands of school-age children who are at risk to both themselves and to others?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: It is easy to establish in hindsight that a particular option was not working well for an individual child. The member should note that the number of at-risk students enrolled in the Correspondence School at the end of last year was 100 fewer than in 1999 when he was the Minister.
Bernie Ogilvy: Will the Minister consider increasing the penalties under the Education Act for the parents of persistent truants given the laughable fines of between $15 and $150 if prosecuted under the current legislation, and the fact that parents are often complicit in their children’s behaviour?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: If the member had read the report into the death of Michael Choy he would know that the parents struggled very hard with children whose behaviours they could not control themselves, either. I do not think the solution lies in punishing parents. It lies in working with parents to try to assist them to keep their children engaged in the education system. We know that if we can keep the children engaged the risk of them offending is reduced significantly.
Questions to Members
Questions to Members
1. GERRARD ECKHOFF (ACT NZ), on behalf of Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: Has a committee meeting been set to consider the petition of Kenneth Wang and others requesting a review of the new English Language immigration tests?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee): No.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Has the committee taken into consideration, when setting its timetable for hearing that petition, that thousands of people are affected by the Government’s sudden change in immigration criteria; if so; how can the committee justify the lack of urgency given to the issue?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The committee has received that petition and at least one other of a similar prayer, and will proceed to consider them at the appropriate time, given its other priorities.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Will the committee, when finally considering that petition, allow a full range of evidence, including the Prime Minister’s statement to the House last year, in which she said: “We’ve also eased the English language testing requirement to make New Zealand a more attractive destination for migrants. The last Government’s position of a stringent English language test had an adverse impact on migration.”?
Hon PETER DUNNE: As I said in my original answer, the committee has yet to determine when it will hear that petition. That also means it is yet to determine the shape of such a hearing. I am sure, given the spirit in which the committee works, that we will come to some acceptable agreement about the range of issues to be considered and the way in which members may participate in that process.
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)