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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 26 February '03

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions 1-12 – 26 February 2003

Questions to Ministers

Terrorism—Police Resources

1. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Police: Does he consider that the police have adequate resources to deal with the cyanide terrorism threats sent to the Australian High Commission, British High Commission, United States Embassy and an Auckland newspaper; if so, will they also have adequate resources in the event a similar threat is made against the wider New Zealand public?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes. The police inform me that they have all the resources they need. An investigation is under way, and steps have been taken with regard to the security of diplomatic missions and the America’s Cup operation. If there is a more extensive threat, the police force is able to upscale its response in conjunction with other agencies.

Marc Alexander: Given that police in centres like Auckland are already overstretched and struggling to combat everyday criminal activity, can he reassure the House that resources assigned to the new threat will not be at the expense of existing police duties; if not, why not?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have all the resources they need, both in terms of money and of manpower, to cover that matter, and they are very confident in this case.

Martin Gallagher: Can he outline what counter-terrorism arrangements have been put in place within New Zealand and overseas by the New Zealand Police?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Following the January 2002 Government announcement on enhanced capabilities for counter-terrorism across a number of Government departments, the police took the following steps: a strategic intelligence unit was established at the office of the Commissioner to build on existing capabilities, which interacts on a constant basis with other intelligence agencies, both in New Zealand and overseas; and additional staff dedicated to aviation security were deployed at the six domestic airports to supplement the existing airport police units.

Hon Tony Ryall: If the police in Auckland have all the money and manpower they need, why are police not responding to burglary complaints from Aucklanders, even those who provide the name, address, and car registration of the offender?

Mr SPEAKER: That is wide of the original question, but I will allow the Minister to comment.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police inform me that even in Auckland the times of response are coming down.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Minister give such a blanket assurance of police preparedness no matter what the threat might be, when, for example, the Auckland police numbers are being made up right now from police in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui, due to the America’s Cup; why does he not get realistic and recognise the current deficiencies in our police numbers?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think that member needs to reflect on the police putting their resources where they are needed. Police from across the North Island go to the Tauranga and Mt Maunganui area every New Year’s eve to meet the need that arises on his own patch.

Dr Muriel Newman: Why has it taken the threat of terrorism to awaken this Minister to the fact that in spite of the response he has given to this question, New Zealand has too few police with too few resources to combat our rising tide of crime?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: If that claim were true, I would be worried. It is not.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister advise us what specific steps he is taking to ensure that the cyanide terrorism threat is not part of a wider threat to the New Zealand public, or is this just another case of the media “banging on about issues of no substance”?

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have briefed me on this issue and they are confident they have the resources to deal with it, and I have confidence in the New Zealand police.

Economy—OECD Ranking

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Can she explain the difference between comments made in the 2001 budget speech by the Minister of Finance that “We need to set ourselves a goal of being back in the top half of the developed world in terms of per capita GDP.” with her own criticisms of speakers at the Knowledge Wave conference that reaching the first half of the OECD per capita GDP rankings is “totally unrealistic”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, easily. The member should quote me correctly.

Hon Bill English: If the Prime Minister considers that reaching that goal by the year 2011 is “totally unrealistic”, then when does she think we could reach that goal, and is it soon enough to make it worthwhile her Government even talking about it?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Like the National Party’s spokesperson on finance, I do not consider this as a short-term goal. Over time it can be achieved.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had two examples now of answers that you must rule as unacceptable. How can a Prime Minister say that a member should quote—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please be seated. I will have silence during points of order, and that applies to everybody.

Gerry Brownlee: How can the Prime Minister answer that someone needs to quote her correctly, when the Clerk’s Office has verified that the quote is correct in the first place? That is disrespectful to the whole House for a start. Secondly, how can the Prime Minister begin an answer to a question that only she can answer, by referring to the National Party spokesperson on finance? Quite certainly the country would be better off if he were the Minister of Finance.

Mr SPEAKER: That last comment was not in order. In the first question, the Prime Minister was perfectly entitled to address the question like that. It might not satisfy people, but supplementary questions are allowed. As far as the second question is concerned, I would like the Prime Minister to come to the point of the question.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I did give an answer. I have long since forgotten what it was.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that a very direct question was asked of the Prime Minister—and you clearly did not think she had answered it, because you invited her to come to the point, and she clearly had forgotten the question—it might be more proper if the Leader of the Opposition were to re-ask the question, and the Prime Minister can then answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a fair point. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to ask the question again.

Hon Bill English: If the Prime Minister believes that it is “totally unrealistic” to reach the first half of the OECD by the year 2011, then when does she think we could reach it, and is it close enough for if to be worth her Government wasting its time talking about such a goal?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What is required to reach it over time is to grow faster than the OECD average, and that will take rather a long time.

Rodney Hide: Can the Prime Minister assure the people of New Zealand that her goal of returning New Zealand to the top half of the OECD economic ladder is a serious goal for this Government, unlike her previous goal of “closing the gaps” when she has even gone so far as to ban the use of that phrase; and why does she not show that she is serious about this goal by providing working New Zealand with much-needed tax relief?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because there is no evidence that lowering taxes would contribute to the goal at all.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister tell us whether she has had discussions with the Minister of Finance about the likely date or year we might reach that goal; if not, why did she say it in the first place?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Going back to the time of the launch of the framework, the Government was clear that it would be over time. We need to grow consistently faster than others, on average, to get there.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Prime Minister have a goal for New Zealand to be in the top half of the OECD for quality of life and sustainability measures, such as access to open space, worthwhile employment, clean air and water, and affordable quality education and training; if so, does she have a concern that aiming at gross domestic product growth (GDP) only may compromise those other goals?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government takes a sustainable approach, and I agree with the member that it is desirable to see New Zealand perform very well against all those indicators. When we look at a range of the indicators, like those in education, we are already well up in the top, and in some cases very close to the top, and we should aim for a balanced approach across the indicators.

Clayton Cosgrove: Why is it unrealistic to expect to reach the goal by 2010? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Some people are going to be not in the last century, but in another place. I have called the right honourable the Prime Minister—no one else.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Members might be interested in Treasury’s advice, which is that to achieve a place in the top half of the OECD within 10 years would require New Zealand to grow a full 2 percent per annum faster than the average OECD per capita rate of growth for the past 30 years. That is why neither I nor Dr Brash think it is credible to say it is achievable.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Prime Minister accept that the alleviation of child poverty would assist New Zealand in climbing up the OECD growth ladder; if so, why have we seen no adjustment, even for inflation, in family support and tax credits since 1998?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It is a somewhat chicken and egg situation because a more prosperous country would not have the level of child poverty we have, and that is why next year is the year we have earmarked for addressing the low, and modest, family income issue.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Prime Minister set a goal of reaching the top half of the OECD when today she has confirmed that that goal is simply not credible—particularly in the light of the policies she is following—and does she intend to abandon the goal now that she has said it cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I recognise that the member’s interest is very much in the short term, but I take the long-term view about what is achievable.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on a difficulty that we had through that question, and it is this: we, as Opposition parties, are circulated with the primary questions of the day, and in Mr Bill English’s question there is a long quote: “ . . . that we need to set ourselves a goal of being back in the top half of the developed world in terms of per capita GDP.” That quotation has been through the Clerk’s Office, and has been checked off as correct, so other members of this House think that that is a correct quotation. The Prime Minister, in her answer to that question, said that the quotation was incorrect. She did not explain what was wrong about it, and we are left in some quandary about that. I would like you, next time, to suggest that if the quotation is wrong, then that is explained at the time.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I think in this case it is a matter of getting the quote of the quote of the quote correct. The Prime Minister said that she had not been quoted correctly, but the piece the member just referred to is a quote from my speech, which is quoted correctly.

Mr SPEAKER: That is where the matter ends at this point.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There is one member to my right who has had his last interjection today.

Rodney Hide: My point is that we have now had the explanation, and I thank Dr Michael Cullen for that, but I ask you, as the Speaker, to reflect on this, and for the good order of question time. If that explanation had been made at the time of the answer it would have been so much easier for the rest of us to make a contribution. If someone is going to say that quote is incorrect, when in fact it was not because it has been through the Clerk, then that member should explain why.

Mr SPEAKER: A member is not obliged to correct or explain another member’s question.

Treaty of Waitangi—Article 4

3. MITA RIRINUI (NZ Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Has she received any further reports on “the so-called fourth article” of the Treaty of Waitangi?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes, I note the reassuring statement from Mrs te Heuheu in this morning’s Dominion Post, when she is reported as saying: “If this has raised any anxiety in the minds of the public I think they can take heart from the fact there is no claim based on article four.” The member is to be congratulated on her leadership on this matter.

Mita Ririnui: What was the purpose of Governor Hobson’s statements that were read prior to the signing of the treaty: “The Government says that the several face of England, of the Wesleyans of Rome, and also of Mâori customs should be a life protected.”?

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on how the Minister could have any responsibility for Governor Hobson’s intentions in 1840. I know that she sees herself as having rather a grandiose role in life.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Unfortunately in this case as Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations she is somewhat responsible for what Governor Hobson said and did.

Mr SPEAKER: Even I was not present in the past when he was around. I think that on balance I will move on to the next supplementary question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister denying the existence of any such claim, when on National Radio yesterday there was a long interview with such a claimant, who was putting the case in respect of Mr Ririnui’s question and claimed that such a clause did exist and on which he was basing his case?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: As Mrs te Heuheu noted, it was not a claim on article 4. The matter was raised in the context of another claim. Certainly, since 1840, certain claimants have raised this as an issue. The fact that it is raised as an issue does not make a fourth article.

Stephen Franks: What will she do if her new Supreme Court judges decide that her rejection of the fourth article is not weighty legal authority on the treaty and they decide instead to impose the fourth article, agreeing with Justice Durie, chair of the Waitangi Tribunal, when he said, in relation to the fourth article:

“American precedent is undoubtedly correct in asserting that in treaties with indigenous people of oral tradition, verbal promises are as much a part of the treaty as that subscribed to in the documentation.”?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I am pleased to see that the member accepts there will be a Supreme Court. What would happen in that instance, of course, would be that if the Supreme Court gave leave for such an issue to be argued before it, then obviously it would make its decision on the argument before it, and that would have to be accepted in its context.

Hon Bill English: Given the Minister’s statement yesterday that she believes there is no such thing as an article 4, will she do today what she did not do yesterday—that is, give an undertaking to the Parliament that she will instruct Government officials to stop referring to article 4 in public documents, as they did in the Ministry of Health document Achieving Health For All?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: As I recall yesterday I was asked to stop the tribunal from hearing the matter.

Gerry Brownlee: Answer the question.

Hon MARGARET WILSON: I am happy to answer the question. The Government accepts that there should be full debate and discussion on matters where there is public consultation, as there was in this particular case relating to the health document. Therefore, just because people discuss this matter and put it in a working document does not mean that it is Government policy. If however, we were to do as that member wants, then we would be at risk of being contrary to freedom of speech under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Metiria Turei: Given that the Minister has said that she will not be instructing the Waitangi Tribunal to refuse to consider article 4 if it arises in treaty claims, does she acknowledge that the Crown has caused a devastating effect on the Mâori community in restricting Mâori religious freedom under legislation such as the Tohunga Suppression Act?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: There is certainly evidence in relation to that Act that there has been suppression of belief. That is what was being alluded to at the time of the signing of the treaty—that there should be freedom of religious belief, whether it be Christian or Mâori belief.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it from the Minister’s answer to Stephen Franks that the relevance and existence of what has been referred to as article 4 would be a decision made by the future Supreme Court that she seeks to appoint—politically appointed, or otherwise; and can I take it that it would be the court’s decision and not one made by this Parliament?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Supreme Court is there to interpret law, not make law. Making law is the business of this House. If, however, an argument is put to it, and there is no law relating to the fourth article, then obviously there would be a decision that would say it is not law.

Stephen Franks: In trying to understand the Minister’s answers, is it first correct that the Minister said if the judges of the Supreme Court hold there is a fourth article, that will prevail; if so, what weight can New Zealanders place on the Prime Minister’s denial last week, and the Minister’s denial yesterday, that there is a fourth article and the attempted reassurance that we need not worry about it?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The only possible reason they could hold there is a fourth article would be if it was recognised in legislation, and it is not.

Economy—OECD Ranking

4. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister of Finance: Further to his answer to question No 7 yesterday when he claimed that New Zealanders’ average incomes rose faster than almost any other country in the OECD over the last couple of years, exactly how many OECD countries experienced increases in gross average wages higher than New Zealand between 2001 and 2002?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): The member seems to be confusing average incomes with average wages. Total gross earnings are a better measure of incomes, because they catch changes in wage rates, numbers in employment, and hours worked. Gross earnings in New Zealand increased by 7.7 percent last year and 6.6 percent the previous year. This was about 5 percent above the rate of inflation in each year.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is the Minister not aware that the latest OECD report this week shows that in the last year gross average wages increased in 19 OECD nations faster than in New Zealand, yet the change in the tax bill for the average worker rose higher in New Zealand than in all but one OECD nation; and would he like to reconsider his answer to Parliament yesterday when he said that the rise in tax being paid by the average New Zealand worker is caused by the increase in gross wages?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. Again, the member confuses wages with incomes. Let me try to explain to him how the family support system works. It is a targeted wage rebate, which is clawed back on the joint income of husband and wife. Therefore, if the family income rises, there is a claw-back of family support payments. Unless there is indexation, increases in income automatically lead to overall reductions in the level of the family support payment on average. That is why the average tax burden for a person with two children rose in New Zealand. The member also noted that the tax burden for a single person in New Zealand is at the lower end of the OECD scale.

Jill Pettis: Why was New Zealand’s gross income performance so strong over the 2001-02 period?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Because income is a function of both wages and the number of jobs. New Zealand has the ninth lowest unemployment rate in the OECD. Last year we posted the third highest growth rate in the OECD, and we are amongst the top five in terms of job growth.

Dr Don Brash: Given the large number of OECD countries in which average incomes have risen more quickly than in New Zealand in the last year or two—when our economy was buoyant because of strong export prices and a low exchange rate—would the Minister expect to see any improvement in our relative position over the next year, when the latest Treasury projection for growth suggests that, after adjusting for the higher exchange rate, total growth is likely to be only about 2 percent?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The member repeats exactly the same error as Mr Prebble: he confuses average incomes with average wages. Mr Prebble correctly quoted the OECD tables relating to wages. I would have thought a former Governor of the Reserve Bank knew the difference between wages and incomes.

Dail Jones: Looking at table one of the OECD report to be tabled in April, entitled Household Tax Burden in 2002, I see that an Australian one-earner family with two children pays tax of only 14.7 percent, whereas a New Zealand family on exactly the same ratio—being a one-earner family with two children—pays 18.2 percent; what will the Minister do with the substantial tax collection he has received, resulting in a substantial surplus, to improve the situation of a one-earner family with two children in New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As we have indicated, should it prove over the next year that the surpluses we are expecting at the moment are structurally strong and not merely cyclical, the intention is to address that in the 2004 Budget. We do not intend to repeat the experience of the United States and the United Kingdom, which confused cyclical surpluses with structural ones, and blew them in advance.

Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister explain why a 4 percent increase in the average gross wage in this country results in the second highest increase in the tax bill for the average worker in the OECD, but a 7 percent increase in the average wage in Ireland results in a 6.2 percent decline in the tax paid by that average worker, and should the Minister not have a look at the Irish tax system?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. As I tried to explain to the member, New Zealand has a targeted family support rebate system. Many other countries around the world have universal systems of family rebates on the tax system, or direct family payments. Mr Prebble is one of the Ministers who designed the targeted family support rebate system.

Immigration—Ukrainian Farm Workers

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Why is she denying that the New Zealand Immigration Service gave approval for a scheme which allowed young Ukrainians to come to New Zealand and be exploited as low-paid farm workers?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): Because the New Zealand Immigration Service does not approve work shortage schemes. The New Zealand Immigration Service, as in all cases such as this, issues approvals in principle to employers to recruit skilled staff where there is an identified labour market shortage.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister trying to duckshove this on to some other department when she knows full well that these workers would never come to New Zealand without the Immigration Service having approved them, which is the content of an Otago Daily Times article where she begins in the first paragraph denying it, then about three-quarters of the way through says that the approvals in principle would have been issued to named farmers, who were to be the employers, by the Immigration Service; and why can she not just tell us the plain, unvarnished truth when she is caught out again?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I do not think I have got enough time to do that. I think that the member ought to know that since 1997, 1,003 Ukrainians have been brought to New Zealand on work visas or permits, and we had three complaints. They are complaints—allegations at this stage. They need to be investigated by the appropriate authorities.

Dave Hereora: Are migrant workers entitled to the same protections as all other workers?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes. Migrant workers, even those who are working illegally in this country, are entitled to the same rights and protections as any other worker in New Zealand in terms of our labour laws and our occupational safety and health laws. The Employment Relations Service, which enforces those rights, or the Occupational Safety and Health Service, which enforces the occupation safety and health rights, enforce those rights for migrant workers in the same way as for any other worker. The New Zealand Immigration Service does not have a responsibility for enforcing those rights.

Hon David Carter: Has the Minister seen reports in the Christchurch Press today, which discredit the allegations of Ron Mark MP and the three Ukrainian dairy workers, and are we not seeing yet another example of a knee-jerk reaction by the Minister of Immigration, who changes policies on immigration according to the headlines of the day?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, I have seen that article, as is the case with the article yesterday, which similarly showed Ukrainian workers working very happily on Ashburton farms. I do remind members that these are allegations at this stage. What I have done is simply suspend the approvals in principle for the individual farmers while those allegations are investigated. A number of issues have been raised by this case, every single one of which could have been progressed much more quickly by reference to the appropriate authorities rather than by participating in a tabloid-style beat-up on the front page of the Sunday Star-Times.

Paul Adams: In the light of the fact that the primary question relates to the use of immigrants to fill skills shortages in mid-Canterbury, where the number of unemployed is very low at 132, has the Government considered offering incentives for internal migration to unemployed in other regions?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Work permit policy seeks to achieve a balance between the needs of employers in areas of skills shortage and the responsibility of employers to contribute to skills training and development within New Zealand. It is intended to be a stopgap measure. Immigration is not the solution to industry’s problem as far as long-term endemic skills shortages are concerned. It is not an alternative to improving conditions of employment, and it is not an alternative to then developing relocation packages to ensure that work opportunities outside the main centres are attractive to New Zealanders.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Minister to refer to her own material and the criteria set out on the Immigration Service website, and will she tell this House whether at any time farm labourers have ever been approved, which seems never to have been the case, and herd managers have been approved, which is the case—which surely debunks the case put up by Mr Carter that these people were being underpaid and misdescribed in a scheme approved by her own department?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The member knows well, because he was part of a Government in 1997 and 1998 when work permits were being issued to Marvin Farm Services in the Waikato area. They have been issued year after year, because it goes through a process of checking whether there is a labour market shortage, and seeking ways of addressing that shortage. The member has seen the approval in principle to employ a foreign worker. The individuals concerned had to show evidence of a 3-year relevant tertiary qualification and at least 6 months practical work experience on a dairy farm. A letter offering them a position listing the salary offered, and any other form of remuneration and accommodation, and a copy of this letter showing the overseas—

Mr SPEAKER: The answer was too long.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table evidence in respect of the Canterbury situation—the one we are talking about—that refers only to herd and farm managers under Lianne Dalziel as Minister of Immigration, and dairy farmers senior positions only, experienced under her administration.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is.

Youth—Policy Implementation

6. SIMON POWER (NZ National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What progress, if any, has his Ministry made since he became the Minister of Youth Affairs to help disadvantaged youth in New Zealand? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member will stand and withdraw.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs): Heaps.

Ron Mark: I seek the leave of the House to allow John Tamihere to take his muzzle off, so he can answer in a fuller manner.

Mr SPEAKER: I will regard that as mildly humorous, but not in order.

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

Mr SPEAKER: It had better not be in relation to this.

Rodney Hide: I could not hear the answer. Did he say he received heaps, or was giving it heaps?

Mr SPEAKER: This is the last warning to that member.

Simon Power: Does he intend to allow his ministry to cooperate with the Ministry of Social Development in the future, especially on issues regarding disadvantaged Mâori youth, given his comment: “It is clear that our potentials can never be realised or released by an all-knowing, all-caring centralised bureaucracy called the Ministry of Social Development.”; if so, why?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Yes, because it is good policy.

Darren Hughes: What strategy guides the Government for its work in the youth affairs portfolio?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Over the past 2 years the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa has been developed, following wide consultation with young people and the agencies dealing with them—strategies for children for youth health, combined with the youth development strategy, to provide the best policy foundation for young people in New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What image and example does the Minister think he is setting to disadvantaged youth in this country, when he, as a Minister, makes a speech—supposedly one that is genuinely made and heartfelt—and then backtracks on that the next day, denies its existence on the website, and hides behind the skirts of a woman; what young Mâori would be pleased with that?

Mr SPEAKER: The comment made during the last part of that question was not appropriate. I am perfectly happy with the first part of the question—that was all in order. But the implications of the last part of that question are not appropriate in this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You might think it is inappropriate, but I can tell you, as someone who knows something about Mâori background and culture, there is no better—[Interruption] I want to point out to you that in Mâori culture the very idea that someone, particularly a male, would cower behind the skirts of a woman is an affront and an insult that is frequently given, and one that I have seen in the last few days in respect of this Minister, and he cannot deny it. It may not be the norm in our culture to accept that, but I can say that as those people over there claim to have the Mâori seats and to have the interests of Mâori at heart, that that is exactly how the Mâori people feel, and I am certain that Dover Samuels will back me up.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me say that as far as I am concerned I will have questions asked within the Standing Orders as I determine them to be. The question was in order until right at the end. The Minister may comment on it.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I am grateful to represent the Mâori communities that I do represent, and I stand by everything that I said.

Paul Adams: Is the Minister concerned that a pilot programme that aims to turn around the lives of disadvantaged youth with substance abuse problems appears to be failing miserably, when the police report that 80 percent of the 15 to 17-year-olds passing through the youth drug court in Christchurch have reoffended?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Any evaluation and monitoring report that throws up those sorts of figures is a source of concern, and we are investigating the matter.

Simon Power: Did the Minister just say that he stood by everything that he had previously said; if so, would he care to confirm that position again?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I was responding to a number of issues raised by the member for Tauranga, and I stand by the matters that I stood by in what he was talking about.

Simon Power: I seek leave to table John Tamihere’s speech entitled “The Reform of Welfare and the Rebuilding of Community”.

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

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That last answer was not complete. Could the member allow the Minister of Mâori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, to explain what he actually meant?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member knows that is outside the Standing Orders.

Defence—Policy Implementation

7. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Defence: What recent reports has he received on the implementation of the Government’s defence policy?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): I have recently read a report commenting on the Government’s defence policy that suggests that in 1999 “the NZDF was perilously low in capability, and short of the funds to correct this” because of “nine years of neglect”. I think this is a fair assessment of the situation I inherited upon taking up the responsibility of the defence portfolio in 1999.

David Benson-Pope: Who was the author of the report referred to in the Minister’s reply, and what position does he or she hold?

Hon MARK BURTON: The author’s somewhat jaundiced view of National’s poor stewardship and funding of defence through 9 long years of neglect, which of course included Mr English’s time as holder of the purse strings, perhaps explains why Mr Worth was—but no longer is—the defence spokesperson of the National Party. I should note, however, that news of his removal appears not to have reached Mr Worth, given that his views appeared in the Otago Daily Times, with a banner describing him as the spokesperson.

Mr SPEAKER: When I stand up, the member sits down. That last part was completely out of order.

Simon Power: Does he agree with the statements of Peter Reith, former Australian defence Minister, that New Zealand’s defence policy should not be “tainted by anti-Americanism”, and that “You neglect your own national interests if you leave your defence policy to greenies and peaceniks.”; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON: I have not seen that particular comment by Mr Reith, but there is no risk of this country’s defence policy, under this Government, being left to anyone other than the Government. We have a plan, we have a policy, and that is something we have not had after 9 years of neglect.

Hon Ken Shirley: Is it part of the Government’s defence policy to oversee the continuing collapse of the Territorial Forces; if not, what action will he take to reverse the trend that has seen the Army Territorial Force reduced to less than 43 percent of what it stood at in 1992?

Hon MARK BURTON: I am glad the member raised this. It is an important issue, and one that almost every party in the House has been working on cooperatively. Had I known that ACT was interested we would have got it involved too. I can tell the member that a bill that heavily adapts Mr Mapp’s original member’s bill will be coming back to the select committee very soon. It has been a complex matter, but it will put in place a raft of positive measures for the future of the Territorial Force, which we strongly value.

Keith Locke: Can the Minister assure us that no new New Zealand ground forces will be committed to Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and does he agree that the US-led effort there is now more directed against those warlords who are at odds with the Karzai Government than directed against al-Qaeda?

Hon MARK BURTON: I can assure the member that no new decisions have been taken, further to the ones that have been announced, and there are no plans to change the current deployments in Afghanistan.

Housing—Entitlements

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Housing: What changes, if any, will be made to the Government’s housing policy after Youth Affairs Minister Hon John Tamihere said that the policy is wrong and that the Government has “not made it clear that this housing entitlement is not a lifetime entitlement with rights of succession to your family, but is rather a respite facility”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Acting Minister of Housing): Housing New Zealand tenants have a tenancy agreement that gives them security of tenure unless, of course, they are bad tenants or their circumstances change—for example, their income lifts and therefore will be lifted to a market rental. On the issue of a succession to one’s family, it has not been our policy and never has been our policy that tenants have a right to grant succession of tenancy to their families.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain, without what Mr Tamihere describes as bullshitting—

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I am not going to allow that. That is a word I prefer not to have used in this Parliament. I know it was said outside and I know it has been said inside occasionally. When we are asking the supplementaries, I would prefer that word not to be used.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain the logic of the Government’s housing policy, which has a single person living in a four-bedroomed State house, paying 25 percent of income in rent, or $61 a week, when just along the road in Nelson a family of five, expecting twins, is living in a garage; and is John Tamihere not absolutely right to describe this policy as “dumb, dumb, dumb”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The family to which the member refers, the one with the five children, is moving into a house on Thursday—

Hon Bill English: It is not a State house.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: —into a house got for them by Housing New Zealand, and if the member would just be quiet for a wee while—

Mr SPEAKER: I want the answer to be heard in silence. There will be opportunity for more supplementary questions.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I know that Mr Smith and Mr English are bit scratchy; they are both living together at the present time—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment, and carry on with his answer.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw and apologise. The family he refers to shifted into a house on Thursday. And, yes, the member raises a very good question—the one of having, for example, single people with no children living in a larger house. That is exactly why Housing New Zealand has a policy of working with families to shift them from houses where they are not adequately housed into houses where they are. The situation would have been made a whole lot easier if the National Party had not sold 13,500 houses and had done something about modifying the accommodation so it would work.

Taito Phillip Field: What is the Government doing to address the housing needs of low-income New Zealanders?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government has been embarked on a range of policies that are designed to help low-income New Zealanders into houses. Let me give three areas: this Government has provided an additional 1,600 State houses over the last 3 years; it is committed to building another 3,000 in this 4-year period; and 53,200 State-house tenants have had income-related rents introduced, which means that those people are, on average, about $35 a week better off. The social allocation system of State housing has ensured that nearly 98 percent of new tenants receive an income-related rent. Against that, we had National selling 13,500 houses.

Sue Bradford: Given the manifest shortage of affordable housing for low-income people in some districts at present, what steps, if any, will the Minister take not only to speed up the State housing building and acquisition programmes but also to do more to enable and assist the community sector build houses for people in desperate need?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member will know that Housing New Zealand has just released a housing strategy that contains all those policies—speeding up building, and looking particularly at modernisation of the stock to make sure that the right kind of house is available to the right kind of tenant around the country. In other words, we are doing all the things to correct the failings of 9 long years of National Government.

Dr Muriel Newman: In relation to the speech by the Hon John Tamihere, in which he criticised the Government’s housing policy, what is the Minister’s response to the reported comments that “he is going to have to get away from statism and bullshitting under the name of third way-ism because he is not practising”—

Mr SPEAKER: I prefer not to have that comment brought into this House. There are ways around it. Just because a statement is made outside the House, that does not make it in order inside the House. I prefer that the member restate the question, and I ask her to do so.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As the quotation given by the member is crucial to her question, is it appropriate that when she gets to the—

Simon Power: Offending phrase.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —offending phrase, she can interpose the words “expletive deleted”, because Mr Tamihere usually makes these sorts of speeches.

Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 36/7, which goes back to 1899: “Quotations should be as free from unparliamentary language as a member’s own speech.” I ask Dr Muriel Newman to ask her question. I am sure we will be able to hear it.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I feel obliged to ask you to consider this matter further. It goes to the heart of the role of the Opposition and the ability of the Opposition to point out when there is a difficulty in a Government. If you are ruling that if a Minister goes out there and gives a speech and uses unparliamentary language, as you have clearly indicated, then at no point can we use that same language inside this House, inside quotation marks, in order to get the Government to respond to it. The point is that Mr Tamihere is a member of the executive, a Cabinet Minister, and he is bound by collective responsibility. The Cabinet Office Manual states that if he wants to speak against policy, then he should first resign. The Prime Minister has not required him to resign, but there is a case for him to answer, or for his Cabinet colleagues to answer, questions that relate to his speech. It would be very, very harsh for the Speaker to rule that the Opposition can never repeat the words that a Cabinet Minister has offered in his analysis of his colleagues’ policies.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has asked a question of Mr Maharey. I have asked that if possible the unparliamentary word not be used. I said I would prefer it not to be used, and I do prefer it if the member could possibly reword the question. I would like to see this House not have unparliamentary comments made in this House even though they have undoubtedly been made outside this House. That has gone on as long for as I have been in this House, and I would like to invite Dr Muriel Newman to do so because she is capable of this, and I ask her whether she would do that for me.

Dr Muriel Newman: In relation to the speech made by the Hon John Tamihere in which he criticised Government housing policy, what is the Minister’s response to the reported comments that he is going to have to get away from statism and blankety-blank under the name of third wayism, because he is not practising third wayism; no, no, he is practising old left?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am prepared to offer anyone who wants it a seminar on third wayism.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I do not think you could go to any other Parliament with a Western democratic tradition and hear a Minister offer—and not for the first time—a seminar to a person who asks a question. It is arrogant, trite, and it is dismissive of the serious nature of the question. He should be required, having led an unblemished life, to put his mind to it and answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Minister to please give an answer.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The question asked me whether I will carry on articulating policies around the third way, and the answer is yes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What sort of housing outfit is this Government running, when in having made numerous—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Minister to please leave the Chamber. I have warned him about interjecting when questions are being asked. I ask Mr Duynhoven to please leave. I ask the member to now ask his question.

Hon Harry Duynhoven withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: What sort of housing outfit is this Government running when, having made numerous inquiries to Housing New Zealand over the last year for families living in tents, caravans, packing sheds, and garages, I was repeatedly told by Housing New Zealand that there were no vacant homes, but this morning I found out that there are six Housing New Zealand homes, one of which has now been offered to the Grey family, that have been vacant for 12 months?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is a better Housing New Zealand than the one the National Party ran when, in June 1998, there were 13,000 people on the waiting list.

Mr SPEAKER: Can the member please just answer the question.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: A better one than the National Party ran.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am told, as a constituency MP, that Housing New Zealand has no homes. I have families living in tents and packing sheds. I ask the Minister why Housing New Zealand is not telling me the truth and he gives me that pathetic answer. This House deserves better.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: First of all—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber. I have reminded people about not interrupting during points of order or while questions are being asked.

Hon Ken Shirley withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: First of all, Mr Speaker, you having demanded silence on the Government questions and ejected a Minister, the Minister’s answer is immediately interrupted by a barrage of interjections from members opposite, which invited the Minister to respond in kind in terms of references. The answer addressed the question, which asked what kind of outfit is being run. The answer was that it was better than that run by National. The fact that National does not like the answer is too bad. The Standing Orders do not require Ministers to give answers that members opposite like.

Mr SPEAKER: As far as I am concerned, the answer addressed the question. It certainly was not satisfactory to the member, but that is for debate.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to what the Standing Orders state about what must be given in an answer. There are certain types of replies that are not allowed. One of those is arguments. Whether the present Housing New Zealand is better than the National Party’s is just an argument. It is not an answer. It is a type of answer that is strictly ruled out, and if the Minister does not know what the answer is, which I suspect is the real situation, it would be far better if he got up and said that it was news to him and he would find out, rather than the answer he gave. That is just replying to a question with an argument, which leads to disorder. I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that the Minister should answer the question correctly.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The point made by Dr Cullen is the point that I think is the most valid. If Dr Smith wants his answer he should preface his question with something other than “what kind of outfit are you running?” I respect the people whom I work with in Housing New Zealand. If the member asked a decent question, I would give him an answer.

Mr SPEAKER: This matter has gone too far. As far as I am concerned, there are faults on both sides. The first few words of the member’s question were not in order and were outside the form in which questions should be asked. Mr Prebble has made some very sensible comments. When we come to review the Standing Orders about question time later this year, I will review that particular issue, as I will review a number of issues. But there were faults on both sides. The Minister did address the question, and I will move on.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I suggest that there might be a better way, which is to ask Dr Smith to restate his question correctly, and then, perhaps, we could get an answer to the question. Why does he not just ask the question: “Why was I told there were no Housing New Zealand homes, when in fact there are six?”

Mr SPEAKER: That is a very good suggestion, but on this occasion, the matter has been going on for some length of time. I note what the time is for the question we are at. We usually have about an hour for questions, and I want that to be reasonably respected, otherwise I will have to cut the number of supplementary questions. I do not want to do that, because I think the best part of this Parliament is allowing a large number of supplementary questions.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to rephrase this important question about the honesty of Housing New Zealand.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection. There is.

Broadcasting Quota—GATS

9. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Broadcasting: How did New Zealand’s General Agreement on Trade in Services commitments affect the way in which the Government approached Labour’s 1999 election promise to introduce “format specific quotas as soon as possible on radio and free to air television to increase the level of local content”?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Broadcasting): The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) did not affect the Government fulfilling the 1999 election promise that the member refers to. We have established a voluntary local music quota, with targets for radio that are on track to meet the 20 percent target in the year 2006. We also have a memorandum of understanding with the television industry, which is working to set voluntary genre-specific targets, as we speak.

Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that if voluntary quotas failed and the memorandum of understanding did not produce the results he wished, and the Government legislated for a local television quota to achieve its election promise, the Government would then be in breach of a New Zealand GATS commitment that was negotiated in secret 9 years ago by a previous Government, and that that is unfair and undemocratic; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, we have looked at the issue of trying to legislate, if necessary, for a mandatory quota, and the member is exactly right. The National Party negotiated away that ability.

Mark Peck: Can the Minister tell us how the approach to local content works?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Commercial radio, under the umbrella of the New Zealand Music Performance Committee, works cooperatively to increase the amount of Kiwi music broadcast. The achievements so far are pretty good. Last year, local music made up 15 percent of the commercial playlist, beating the 13 percent target. The television agreement that has been signed with TVNZ, TV3, the Screen Producers and Directors Association, and New Zealand On Air pledges the group to setting 3-year targets for increases in New Zealand programming on New Zealand television.

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister confirm that that, for all the discussion about quotas, Labour was told by officials in 1999 that its policy to introduce mandatory quotas was in conflict with trade agreements, and that, for all its threats to industry about introducing such quotas if the industry did not cooperate, the Government has no ability to do so?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As I mentioned before, the Government has looked at the possibility of mandatory quotas. As the member indicated, her party negotiated away that right some time ago.

Sue Kedgley: Given the Government’s expressed frustration at being bound by a foolhardy GATS commitment that was secretly negotiated 9 years ago, will he commit to a full, open, and transparent process, including debate in this House, before his Government makes any commitments in his portfolio areas under the present GATS round; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: My understanding is that the Hon Jim Sutton has told members just recently in the House about the process that is going on around the World Trade Organization, where countries are currently registering their interests and a range of views around GATS. That debate will undoubtedly continue in the future, and I am sure those issues will come up in the House.

Sue Kedgley: Will the Minister make a categorical commitment in this House today that the Government will not agree to any of the current requests in the present GATS round to open up our audio-visual services, which would require the New Zealand Film Commission fund to be available to foreign film makers, and, further, to consider any request to have a debate in this House; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not believe that anybody is asking for that under the GATS procedure at the present time, but I can tell the member that if that were the case, it would not be my position.

Points of Order

Question No. 10 to Minister

Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you are aware, Mr Speaker, this question has had a rather chequered path to the Chamber today. There are two matters that I wish to raise with you. Following the acceptance of this question by the Clerk’s Office, a significant quote from the Minister’s original speech was deleted from the question on the insistence of the Minister’s office that it was outside the Associate Minister’s delegation. Following that, I understand that a further change was required after representations were made to you. There are two matters I want to raise with you. I accept that under Standing Order 365(4) that authority does reside with you, Mr Speaker, and I am not questioning that. First, Mr Speaker, I want you to reflect on the practice of total reliance on the word of a Minister or Minister’s office as to the delegations to that Minister. I have looked carefully at Speaker’s ruling 116/4, and I suggest that Mr Speaker Harrison’s rulings tend to note previous practice rather than provide a fulsome or enthusiastic endorsement of it. I suggest that there might be some scope for you to insist on a slightly better practice in that regard. Further, I suggest to you that it would be helpful to members if you were to give a clearer indication of the nature and scope of the delegation that you provide to the Clerk’s Office. In these matters it has been the practice of members on this side to rely on, after the usual debate, the ruling of the Clerk or the Clerk’s officers. If we are to see members of the Government able to go directly to yourself subsequently, and if that is to be an accepted practice, then I put it to you that it opens a whole new vista of opportunity for members of the Opposition also, of which my colleagues and I would like to take the fullest advantage. I think we might help our future practice if we were to have some clarity from you on those matters.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member. He advised me that he was going to raise this point with me. We had a discussion about it, and I appreciate the manner in which he has raised it. Yes, I agree with some of the points that he makes, and I will be giving this matter very careful consideration. Of course, ultimately, it is I as Speaker who must rule on whether a question is in order, and I accept that responsibility. However, the member has made a couple of valuable comments. I invite him to discuss them further with me, and I will give a further ruling in the House.

Treaty of Waitangi—Knowledge Wave Conference

10. Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Associate Minister of Maori Affairs: Does he stand by his statement in his speech that was circulated to the Knowledge Wave conference that “the Treaty is not a panacea for Maori success or participation in any new economy”; if so, why?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs): Yes, I do stand by that. I do not see any one thing as a universal remedy.

Hon Murray McCully: Given the statement in the same speech that “Mâori will be hammered into the rocks”, rather than being able to surf the Knowledge Wave, unless there are “a number of policy shifts”, which particular policies of the current Government did the Associate Minister have in mind, and how does he propose that they should be changed?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Mr Simon Power has already tabled my speech. I respectfully ask the member to read it.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I would like—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Stop being a smart alec.

Mr SPEAKER: The member should address a comment to me, not to anybody else. I ask the Minister to form an answer to the question.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: There are a number of—

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not often that I want to defend the Minister, but I think he has answered the question. He said that the speech has been tabled. He is clearly saying that he stands by it. We are all pleased to hear that.

Mr SPEAKER: He did not quite say that. That was a very good try. I would like the Minister now to comment on the matters raised by the member.

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I look forward to a robust and continuing debate on policy development and devolution.

Nanaia Mahuta: Is the Minister aware of any reports that show Mâori successfully participating in the economy?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The recently released Te Puni Kôkiri - New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report on the Mâori economy entitled Te Ôhanga Whanaketanga Mâori shows that that Mâori economy is strong. Production amounts to $1.9 billion per year. The Mâori economy produces an operating surplus of around $826 million, and Mâori-owned commercial assets produce more export revenue than the overall wine, wool, kiwifruit, and fisheries industries put together.

Metiria Turei: Given the Minister’s criticism in his speech of the current treaty grievance-resolution process, will he now be advocating to his colleagues a change in policy to recognise that Mâori communities at hapû level are best able to identify and take up opportunities, and that the Crown should engage with hapû directly, rather than with large natural groupings?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I regret to convey to the member that that is outside my delegations.

Hon Murray McCully: Given that the Prime Minister responded to the Minister’s speech of last week by instructing her officials to closely check his speeches in future, does the Minister envisage that this unsolicited assistance from the ninth floor will be helpful to him; if so, in which ways?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I am delighted with the offer from the ninth floor, and I look forward to working in the most engaging way.

Driver Licensing—Foreign Drivers

11. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Has he received any reports or recommendations in relation to tougher laws for foreign drivers; if so, what has he done about this?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): I have recently received some initial advice on that matter. I intend to meet with representatives of the Land Transport Safety Authority of New Zealand, tourism, overseas students, and the rental car industry to discuss issues relating to foreign drivers. Officials will also be reporting further on ways to improving driving behaviour for foreign drivers, particularly students.

Ron Mark: Has the Minister adopted any of the raft of recommendations prepared by the Christchurch Coroner, Richard McElrea after the inquest into the road death of Yunfei Zhao, an 18-year-old student, who was found to be driving alone on a fake Chinese driving licence and a New Zealand learner’s driver’s licence?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have seen a copy of that report, and the issues that were raised by the coroner are under active investigation.

Helen Duncan: What changes are being made to ensure foreign drivers better understand New Zealand road rules and conditions?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Land Transport Safety Authority is currently investigating ways in which to improve foreign drivers’ understanding of New Zealand road rules and conditions, such as providing those drivers with better information, and improving road markings and signage. However, New Zealand is party to international agreements in this area. Any toughening of laws against foreigners driving in New Zealand would affect our ability to drive overseas on New Zealand licences.

Hon Roger Sowry: Can the Minister explain why overseas students, in a matter of weeks after their arrival in New Zealand, can pass the New Zealand learner’s licence, then return to their home countries for holidays, acquire full licences from their countries, return to New Zealand, and do overseas conversions to full New Zealand driver’s licences—the whole process taking a matter of only a few weeks; and will the Minister immediately move to stop this practice?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: One of the explanations is that that was the policy inherited by this Government from that National Government. Having said that—

Hon MemberHon Member: It’s not good enough for us—

Hon PAUL SWAIN: It is not good enough for us, and we are working on ways by which we can improve this whole system.

Larry Baldock: Given reports of the growing occurrence of European campervan tourists involved in head-on accidents whilst driving on the wrong side of the road as the main cause of harm by foreign drivers, does the Minister agree that the best thing we can do in this country is to improve the substandard nature of our State highway system, so that foreign tourists will find it safer to drive here?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I would not agree that our State highway system was substandard. It is true, though, that improvements need to be made. Of course, the Government is actively working on those. As far as foreign drivers are concerned, that issue is why I am meeting, for example, with a number of rental car companies to try to make improvements in this area.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand I have a second supplementary question that I was going to seek, but I would like to clarify a matter. Given that Bill Gudgeon’s supplementary question was ruled out of order, does that now mean that I can ask another two supplementary questions?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The party has had its 10 questions, and had 2 days ago it had 11. It is 10 or 11.

Business Development—Pacific People

12. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs: What commitment is the Government making towards business development for Pacific people?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Acting Minister of Pacific Island Afffairs): The Government provides $930,000 annually to the Pacific Business Trust, which this week opened a new office in Porirua. The trust has already helped hundreds of Pacific businesses and individuals by providing advice and support.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What services does the trust provide?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The trust offers businesses funding support and advice, research funding, scholarships, and art awards. It is extending its reach through partnerships with other businesses and organisations such as Westpac and Business Porirua.

John Key: Will the Minister be seeking a preferential tax rate for Pacific Island corporations, or is that something that is solely reserved by this Labour Government for Mâori organisations; if not, why not?

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had a situation in which you have pointed out repeatedly that when questions are being given, they are to be answered by the Minister they are addressed to. Lianne Dalziel was sitting there, yelling out through that answer, and I say that what you apply to this side of the House you should apply to that Government side of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I do, and questions will be heard in silence. That one was. There was a comment made before the answer but after the question had been finished.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am pleased to report that many Pacific Island businesses are doing extremely well under the present funding arrangements.

Paul Adams: In the light of reports that one particular Government development for Pacific peoples—Niu FM—is already in trouble after less than a year in operation, when will the Minister’s Government be releasing a report into alleged mismanagement of the radio station?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can report to this House that there have been some difficulties at Niu FM, but I am very pleased that Pacific radio is broadcasting daily around the country.

End of

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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