Questions Of The Day Transcript - 27 February 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 – 27 February 2003
Questions to Ministers
1. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Social Services and Employment: What is the proper process by which Ministers with innovative ideas on welfare reform present them to Cabinet for consideration, and has he received any Cabinet reports prepared by Hon John Tamihere challenging the Government welfare monopoly and calling on the Government to unleash Maori communities from state dependency by allowing “communities to take back their ability to be responsible for themselves, to manage themselves, and to grow a work ethic, commitment, and responsibility, themselves”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The proper process for Ministers with ideas on welfare reform is to present them to Cabinet for consideration, either by raising them with me as the relevant portfolio Minister so that they can be addressed in a paper I submit to Cabinet, or by raising them during a Cabinet committee or Cabinet discussions on papers on welfare reform. I have not received, nor would I expect to receive, papers on welfare reform submitted directly to Cabinet by the Hon John Tamihere, as welfare reform is outside his particular portfolio responsibility.
Dr Muriel Newman: Given that the Hon John Tamihere has not arranged for the work to be done, has the Minister asked his officials to prepare full and comprehensive reports analysing the merits of his colleague’s policy proposals; if not, why not?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I have not asked for work to be done on the privatisation of welfare. However, issues like decentralisation and devolution are part of our work programme.
Dave Hereora: What innovative ideas on welfare reform is the Government pursuing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government is moving from what is called a social welfare to a social development approach, as I outlined in a paper I tabled in the House on Tuesday. I shall cite three examples of the work that is currently in practice from that approach. We have decentralised work and income services of the Ministry of Social Development itself, a new organisation to focus on regional labour market needs, and that has been very successful. We scrapped the work-for-the-dole scheme and focused again on real jobs with real wages. We have introduced an enhanced case management process for the domestic purposes benefit and widows benefit that we think is already working very well.
Katherine Rich: In the light of the Hon John Tamihere’s “verbal bazooka” relating to disadvantaged youth “There are third or fourth generation kids who believe that a Lion Red means everything is going to be great; that burglary is good, because they’re going to eat. Now the do-gooders at WINZ, they can’t change that.”, can he confirm that the Minister of Youth Affairs has shared those views with his Cabinet colleagues prior to his knowledge-wave speech; if so, when, and in what form?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Hon. John Tamihere, for many years prior to entering Parliament, since being a member of Parliament, and since being a Cabinet Minister, has well-known views on the issues of welfare, and they are known in the media as well.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the provisions of the Mâori Development Act and the monitoring requirements of the Ministry of Mâori Affairs, is he telling us that that Minister has made no submissions whatsoever either in his associate portfolio or his primary portfolio to him on the issue of juvenile welfare, or is this just a case of Mr Tamihere opening his mouth and beating his gums with no prior preparation whatsoever?
Mr SPEAKER: All but the last comment can be commented on.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can tell the member that the Hon. John Tamihere has signed papers through Cabinet, as is appropriate in his portfolio area. He does the work he is supposed to do from his area extremely well.
Sue Bradford: When is the Government going to tell the House and the public when its long-awaited benefit reform programme will commence and of what it will consist, given that there appears to be no welfare reform legislation at all on the Government’s agenda this year?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member will know, benefit reform has always been focused on for this second term of a Labour-led Government, and she will know from the Prime Minister’s speech to the House at the beginning of this session of Parliament that we have slated some small changes in that area this year with major changes being made in next year’s Budget.
Hon Peter Dunne: Following on from the fulsome praise of Mr Tamihere that the Minister gave in the House on Tuesday, will he be taking steps, therefore, to ensure that Mr Tamihere can present his views on welfare reform to Cabinet: if so, when?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As a former Cabinet Minister himself, the member will know that there is a process to be followed in this—that is, either the member can raise those issues with me, or discuss papers as they come through. There are many channels to be used.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does he find it helpful as a Minister to have a Cabinet colleague who assesses his policies as being “dumb, dumb, dumb”, and does he believe such a public attack of his policies is consistent with the rules on collective responsibility, as set out in the Cabinet Office Manual?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The comments in relation to housing policy, which was the quote around “dumb, dumb, dumb”, of course, do not reflect Government policy. No, it is not helpful, and no, it does not reflect collective responsibility.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do apologise. I do not think that members could hear that answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. I heard it.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: This had better not be in relation to this. I am not having points of order like this raised frivolously.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: On another matter?
Rodney Hide: It is this question. It is a test whether you hear it, Mr Speaker, or members hear it.
Mr SPEAKER: No, it is a test whether I think it is a reasonable point of order, and the member’s was not.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hesitate to support the member, but, there has been a problem all week in this sector of the House with the amplification system, and he may well have a point in the answer not being heard. I do not sit that far away from him in relation to the Minister and I found it difficult to hear, too.
Mr SPEAKER: The best way to have no problem at all is to have absolutely no interjections, whatsoever. When I was in the European Parliament I found that to be the case, and that was a very refreshing change, and I acknowledge by the delegation up top there. This is a Parliament based on a robust exchange of views—I do not want to do that—this lies in the hands of the members themselves. However, the point having been made, I will have this looked at over the weekend.
Prostitution Reform Bill—Police Powers
2. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future)to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by his comments reported in the Dominion Post on 21 February 2003, that “The [Prostitution Reform] Bill is laissez faire at the moment; it provides for no controls … The police will tell you that gangs are involved in a big way and providing prostitution alongside other criminal activities they are involved in. I think it would be unconscionable not to give the police the power in the prostitution business to exclude those people who are patently unsuitable to be involved in it.”; if so, has he discussed these concerns with the Minister of Police?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Yes, and yes.
Larry Baldock: Does the Minister agree that the intended purpose of the Massage Parlours Act was to regulate prostitution and prevent the involvement of unsuitable operators, and can he explain what the difference would be between the controls the Massage Parlour Act imposes, and the amendments he intends to introduce in the Committee stage of the Prostitution Reform Bill.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I have reflected on this. This is a difficult question. I have had some difficulty with it. It is a private members conscience bill, and the Minister cannot be asked for legal opinions and what have you about this particular matter. That question was too wide, and asked for a legal opinion of a different Act. I say to the member that there has to be another way. He may want to have another go at another question, but I must stress, this has to be about something that is within the Minister’s portfolio.
Judith Collins: If the Minister is concerned about the big way in which gangs are currently involved in the prostitution industry, how can the public have any confidence that these gangs will not be able to operate with even greater freedom in the laissez faire environment that it fails to control?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It is true that gangs are acting frequently in the sex industry at the moment with far too little controls on what they are doing. I have said that the Bill as it currently stands provides for no controls to eliminate criminal elements from owning or operating brothels. That is why I have foreshadowed, as a member rather than as a Minister, the Supplementary Order Paper that will give the police the power to exclude criminal elements from owning or operating places of prostitution.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can answer as Minister, not about his own Supplementary Order Paper, which, of course, is in his own name. It is a rather difficult one. The Clerk’s office let the question through—I had no participation in this matter, and I support its action in doing this—but I want to say it is a very difficult area, and it must concentrate on what the Minister’s responsibilities are.
Peter Brown: How does the Minister reconcile his position by saying on the one hand it is imperative we have controls and licensing of brothel owners, and zoning for where places of prostitution can take place, yet on the other hand he says he will vote for the bill anyway—is that not having a bob each way?
Hon PHIL GOFF: All of us when we look at legislation have to decide whether there is a way in which that legislation can be improved. I have looked at it, I have made that decision, I have announced that decision to the House.
Sue Bradford: Can the Minister see any case in a licensing system for brothel owners or managers, given that serious criminals or gang members can easily put a front-person in to run the place when they are in fact behind the scenes?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I am aware of that potential, which is why the definition of those who own or operate places of prostitution will be designed to cover those people operating behind the facade of some other individual.
Martin Gallagher: In your capacity as the Minister, what do you think would be necessary to incorporate in legislation—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think anything. The member cannot bring me into the debate. This is the difficulty we are getting into. It has to be a question about the Minister’s portfolio.
Martin Gallagher: What would be necessary to incorporate in legislation to give police the power to exclude criminal elements from owning or operating, or having anything else to do with brothels?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Clearly, it would be necessary to have at least a low-level licensing regime under which those with convictions for serious sexual, violent, arms, drug, or gang-related offences could be legally prohibited from operating a place of prostitution.
Larry Baldock: If the Minister admits that gangs have been able to get involved in a big way in the prostitution business under the strict licensing regime set up by the Massage Parlours Act, what advice has the Minister received that this will not occur under any other regime that is intended to be set up under the Prostitution Reform Bill?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It is true that there are problems in the current system. The current system with regard to massage parlours, of course, does not cover other areas that can be properly defined as a place of prostitution, and, in a sense, what I am proposing therefore goes wider than the current restrictions on actual prostitution in the community today.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister trying to give his views a cloak of respectability by saying that he is seeking to act against gangs, when in fact he and his colleague the Minister of Police have had every chance to act against gangs but are soft on lawlessness—which is why gangs are flourishing in this country?
Hon PHIL GOFF: That statement is patently incorrect. In fact, the strong legislation that exists on gangs today, albeit passed by a National Government, was heavily promoted by the present Minister of Police and myself from the position of Opposition, where we drove that National Government to do something about it.
Larry Baldock: Has the Minister received advice that would disagree with the sponsor of the Prostitution Reform Bill that the Resource Management Act is sufficient to give protection to communities who may object to brothels with neon lights blazing being set up in their neighbourhoods; and if he does disagree with this, why would he support the bill even if his amendments did not pass—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister has no responsibility for the Resource Management Act.
Hon Peter Dunne: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question related to advice that the Minister has received. It is not a question of whether he was responsible for a particular piece of legislation. My colleague’s question asked whether he had received advice that the provisions of that legislation might actually be in contradiction to some of the provisions of the bill. I assume that the advice my colleague was referring to would be advice from his department.
Mr SPEAKER: It can only be advice in connection with his own ministerial responsibilities.
Hon PHIL GOFF: I have indeed received advice that the Resource Management Act focuses on environmental rather than social factors, and a necessary safeguard would be to have an explicit position with regard to zoning to avoid there being places of prostitution in clearly socially inappropriate areas.
Peter Brown: I seek leave to table a newspaper article that clearly states the Minister supports amendments.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Larry Baldock: I seek leave to table a document from the General Assembly of the United Nations, which clearly outlines that prostitution is an affront to the dignity and worth of the human person and endangers the welfare of the individual.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Further to her response yesterday that the goal of being back in the top half of the developed world in terms of per capita GDP by 2011 is not a short-term goal, what is her Government’s timeframe for achieving that objective?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): No time frame was established when the objective was set, and I shall not be establishing one today.
Hon Bill English: Given that she has just said that no time frame was set, does she recall writing in the foreword of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: New Zealand 2001 the following statement:
“These results are greatly encouraging of our goal of economic transformation and our return to the top half of the OECD ratings by 2011.”, and if she can recall that statement, why has she changed her mind?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In the Prime Minister’s statement last year I made a speech around this document—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am not having yelling like that. People will be sent outside. I am sick and tired of that sort of conduct. The Prime Minister can answer, then I will determine whether the question has been addressed.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government’s formal objectives were set out in this document--to reach it over time.
John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has not answered the question. The question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr English, was very clearly about a statement made, and whether the Prime Minister recalled the statement she made in 2001, and he asked her whether she recalled making it, and if so whether she had changed her mind. The fact that she may have made a statement about it in the Prime Minister’s statement has nothing to do with the question asked, and she should be asked to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I wonder whether the Prime Minister could add to her answer.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no recollection, and I will not stand by it, because it is not achievable.
Clayton Cosgrove: Why will the Government not set a specific date?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Because the advice we have is that there are simply too many variables involved, including that we cannot predict how fast others will grow, the objective is to move higher up the rankings over time. We are prepared to take a long-term view. A Leader of the Opposition, with 6 weeks’ future, cannot.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interests of helping the Prime Minister and her amnesia, if it is a fact that she did write that statement and set a goal at 2011 against her name, will she come to this House and apologise, for the first time, for misleading New Zealand many times?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: This document is the Government’s formal statement of policy. That is what stands.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking the Prime Minister whether she did make such a statement and put her name to it, and if provided with that evidence will she come to this House and apologise. Waving around her changed position since the last election is not satisfactory, by way of an answer. Can I have an answer to my question?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: February last year.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no. Will she come and apologise for having said one thing before the election, and having changed her mind now?
Mr SPEAKER: Does the Prime Minister want to add to her answer?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have no recollection of that document. If it is there it is clearly wrong and does not reflect Government policy.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Increasingly when points of order are taken by members on this side of the House there is a barrage coming from the Government whips’ desk and many Ministers around the desk, and there seems to be little desire on the part of yourself to ask them to be quiet. What we are getting instead is a general warning to the House about noise and interruption while such points are being made.
That is very unfair of those members who do not engage in that activity, and it would be unfortunate if a practice developed where, if the noise came from the Government side of the House there was just a general warning, but if that noise came from the Opposition side of the House there was specific mention of a member’s name. We would like to have all points of order heard in silence by all parties, particularly Government whips.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a very good point, and I will adhere to that.
Rodney Hide: When she declared that achieving the top half of the OECD within a decade on a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita basis was a “totally unrealistic goal”, did she include in her declaration her Finance Minister, Michael Cullen, happily confirming to Metro magazine journalist, Mr Gilbert Wong, that the “Government’s economic growth goal remains to return New Zealand to the top half of the OECD in 10 years” as reported in the Metro magazine last December; if not, why not?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: A great deal of advice was taken before releasing a formal framework that does not commit to a specific date, because it is not achievable. I will be amazed if an economic statement I understand to be released later this afternoon commits to such a goal, because Dr Brash knows it cannot be achieved, and has said so.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: What about?
Rodney Hide: Well, are you asking me to raise it?
Mr SPEAKER: The member may raise a point of order, but not in relation to the answer. There are far too many points of order raised by that member in this House.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on that answer that was given. My question was quite specific. I quoted an article. We got the same answer that the Prime Minister gave to every question, and not once did she address my actual question. My question was not about her report. My question was: when she said it was unrealistic, did she include Michael Cullen stating that goal?
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Prime Minister addressed the question.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why has the Government set a comparative target, even without a time line that could be met in part by the rest of the world going into recession, or not growing so fast, rather than a target that looks at New Zealand’s real levels of well-being?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: We are interested in New Zealand’s well-being, and that measures up quite well in a number of OECD indicators. For example, we are ranked ninth in the world for rates of unemployment, and that is certainly within the first half of the OECD. We are also in the top three performing countries on mathematical ability, reading, and literacy. So there is a range of indicators where we do very well. But as the House is aware, for over half a century New Zealand dropped down the per capita GDP rankings, and doing something about that over time is important.
Hon Bill English: If it is the case that the Prime Minister will no longer stand behind her statement under her name that her goal was to return to the top half of the OECD ratings by 2011, and that Dr Michael Cullen made the same statement in December 2002, what now is the Government’s economic goal, and why should we believe what she says, because she will probably change her mind some time?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government put out a formal statement. That is what we stand by.
Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the Metro magazine where Michael Cullen states the goal as getting New Zealand to the top half of the OECD.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Bill English: I seek leave to table the report called The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for New Zealand 2001 containing the Prime Minister’s statement.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection. There is objection.
Auckland City Council—Housing Tenants
4. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Housing: What is the Government doing to protect the tenure of Auckland City Council housing tenants?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Acting Minister of Housing): I am pleased to report that tomorrow will mark the beginning of a new era of security for Auckland City Council tenants, with ownership of nearly 1,700 properties shifting to Housing New Zealand Corporation. As a result of the purchase, about 1,200 low-income Aucklanders will now receive an income-related rent and be better off by up to $25 per week, on average. Tenants will also benefit by the Government investing $75 million over the next 5 years in upgrading and redeveloping the housing stock.
Georgina Beyer: Why did the Government purchase Auckland City Council housing stock?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Auckland is facing a serious housing crisis. The loss of nearly 1,700 homes for low-income Aucklanders would have placed a strain on State house waiting lists in that area. In addition, the high prices the houses would have attracted on the open market would have forced many pensioners to leave communities where they have lived all their lives. This possibility was unacceptable to the Government.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Why will the Government not adopt the Hon John Tamihere’s suggestion about State house tenure, which he rather pithily put when he said: “Everyone going into a State house understands that it is not a life entitlement, because what you are doing is incentivising people to either cook the books or stay on their butts.”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There were two comments made by the Hon John Tamihere in relation to that. One concerned people being able to pass on tenure to a future generation. That, of course, has never been possible and is not possible now. In the matter of tenants, tenants of course have a tenancy agreement. That tenancy agreement is there as long as they are good tenants. Their circumstances might change financially, which may mean market rents and a move out into the private sector. Alternatively, we work with tenants if their circumstances change, such as their family getting smaller, to try to get them an alternative house in lieu.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Can the Minister confirm the Housing New Zealand report that Treasury could find no social policy objective is being achieved by the expenditure of $83 million, and if so, what worthy objectives has this Government identified that Treasury could not see?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I can guarantee that tomorrow a very large number of older Auckland people who are pensioners will be telling the Prime Minister that they know exactly what the social objectives were.
General Agreement on Trade in Services—Environmental Services
5. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Local Government: Has he been advised of any expressions of concern by local government about current negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services; if so, what steps is he taking to ensure the Government listens to Christchurch City Council’s request that no commitments are made in environmental services?
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been consulting with Local Government New Zealand for 2 years, and with local authorities, including Christchurch City Council. In response to the council’s request, ministry officials travelled to Christchurch for a meeting last night. Only two people attended, neither of whom were Christchurch city councillors. The options that will be put to Cabinet on an initial offer will include making no further commitments on environmental services. I do not intend to pre-empt Cabinet’s consideration of this.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Was this question transferred from the Minister of Local Government to the Minister for Trade Negotiations because the Minister for Trade Negotiations is not informing his colleagues of the true implications in their portfolio areas of the requests that have been made of New Zealand under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), as we saw yesterday with the Minister of Broadcasting, who was unaware of requests that had been made to abolish the New Zealand Film Commission and Mâori broadcasting funding?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The question was referred to me because the matter is my portfolio responsibility.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister explain the Government’s position on its participation in the GATS negotiations?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government’s position is set out clearly in the discussion document, and the Government has agreed to 10 guiding principles for New Zealand’s participation in these negotiations, which I tabled last week. I would recommend that all members read them, in particular the statements on public health, public education, water, local government, and Mâori.
Gerry Brownlee: Will the Minister be taking some time to inform the Green Party that its unsympathetic attitude towards economic growth and trade liberalisation is not helpful to New Zealand’s prospects, and will he also be telling his counterpart, the Minister of Local Government, that local government will not dictate New Zealand’s trade policy?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Green party, of course, is a niche party and need not concern itself with the 75 percent of the New Zealand workforce employed in the services centre. It is this Government’s concern to enhance the opportunities for those 75 percent of New Zealand workers to increase their earnings by means of exports, if they choose.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given that last night the Waitakere City Council passed a motion expressing its concern at the lack of consultation on the GATS, and hence we now have North Shore City, Christchurch City, Waitakere City—together representing over 18 percent of the nation—plus Local Government New Zealand, all saying that there has been inadequate consultation, how can he possibly maintain that local government has been consulted properly over the GATS?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government has been consulting intensively, including with Local Government New Zealand, for the past 2 years on these matters. It seems, however, that even if Local Government New Zealand passed the information on to its constituent members, some councillors do not read the stuff.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister accede to the request in the GATS submission by the Christchurch City Council asking the Government to abandon the 31 March deadline for the submission of New Zealand’s initial GATS offer to allow time for consultation; if not why not?
Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government will do its best to adhere to the 31 March deadline, because we have undertaken with our negotiating partners to do so. However, the exact timing of our tabling of our initial offer will, basically, be set by our own convenience.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table the submission of Christchurch City Council to the Trade Negotiations Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on New Zealand’s approach to the next stage of the World Trade Organization services negotiations.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Driver Licensing—Foreign Drivers
6. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: What has he done with respect to tougher laws for foreign drivers and why?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Associate Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Transport: Officials are considering a range of measures to toughen up current laws relating to foreign drivers, including requiring holders of a non-English overseas driver’s licence to carry at all times an accurate English translation of their driver’s licence or an international driving permit, and invalidating an overseas driver’s licence when that driver receives a New Zealand driver’s licence.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister assure the House that the 4-year-old girl who was run down and killed beside her father, who was seriously injured, was not run down by an unqualified, incompetent, non - English-speaking driver who obtained his driver’s licence by fraudulent means, as was the case in the death of _________
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: This matter is sub judice, pending a court appearance, and therefore I cannot comment on that.
Helen Duncan: Is the Minister considering implementing any other measures than those just detailed to deal with this problem?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: Apart from shortly considering these proposals to amend the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule, I have also asked officials at the Land Transport Safety Authority to report back on further options to toughen up requirements for foreign drivers. This report will be received within the next few weeks. There are proposals ranging from simple reminders, such as a high-visibility sticker on the windscreen, as used in places like Vanuatu, to high-tech electronic devices.
Pansy Wong: Will the Minister confirm that he will institute a requirement to verify that foreign drivers’ licences are not forged rather than just requiring they be translated, as recommended by the coroner in the inquest into the death of Yin Fa Chou; if not, why not?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: I am aware of recent media reports on alleged bribery and forgery. I am advised that no allegations of bribery have been laid with the police, but there is an issue over forgery and that is being looked at as to what ways this can be combated. It is believed that there are very few forged drivers’ licences in circulation, but it is a matter of real concern and we are doing everything possible to verify how this is happening.
Ron Mark: In the light of the Minister’s answer, could he tell the House why it is that since the coroner’s report was tabled and publicised in November of last year, it has taken until now, including further reports in the Christchurch Press of corruption and bribery, and further to further reports of accidents that involve non – English-speaking drivers who are suspected of having obtained licences illegally, why has it taken his Government so long to even start to attempt to address the problem?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: First of all, I do not think the member listened to the answer I gave previously. When there have been allegations, but no evidence of bribery at this stage, it is not to say that steps are not being taken; of course they are.
Ron Mark: In view of the reports in the Christchurch Press in which a reporter stated that he went out and spoke to an interpreter who told him precisely what was going on, will the Minister now take it upon himself to launch an inquiry to locate those interpreters, and therefore follow up on what they have been stating and lay charges where they are deemed necessary?
Hon HARRY DUYNHOVEN: The ministry and the Land Transport Safety Authority are aware of these allegations and have already taken action. The authority has translated the theory tests into a variety of languages including Chinese Mandarin, Korean, and Arabic. Applicants who speak these languages are no longer permitted to use an interpreter when they sit a test. For the member to say that nothing has been done, I suggest that he should just wake up and find out what has been done before he makes silly allegations in the House.
Minister of Youth Affairs—Speech on Welfare
7. Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Associate Minister of Maori Affairs: In light of his comments yesterday of his speech circulated to the Knowledge Wave conference, “I stand by everything I said”, what specific recommendations will he be making to achieve the “number of policy shifts” required to promote Maori economic development?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Associate Minister of Maori Affairs): I plan to actively work with my Cabinet colleagues in this area.
Hon Murray McCully: Is the Minister appreciative of the many positive comments, editorials, and letters to the editor that have followed his speech, and given his statement to TV3 that the speech had been “run past the Prime Minister and Minister Maharey”, what does he understand to be reason that the Prime Minister has demanded that her staff vet his speeches in future?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: My conduct and especially my throwaway comments were inconsiderate, inappropriate, and wrong. I regret them. I was wrong to say them, and that is why I have apologised to the Hon Steve Maharey and the Prime Minister.
Jill Pettis: Could the Minister please outline to the House what other positive initiatives exist to promote Mâori economic development? Take your time.
Mr SPEAKER: The member, who is a senior member, knows that that comment should not have been made. I will ask her to withdraw it.
Jill Pettis: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Within my delegations as Associate Minister of Mâori Affairs I have responsibilities with regard to capacity building, the Mâori Trust Office, the Poutama Trust, the Mâori Business Facilitation Service, and Te Kapenga, which is an inter-agency Mâori development project. All of these promote Mâori economic development.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the Associate Minister said: “I stand by everything I said”, did he expect the people of this country to take him seriously, or what interpretation should we take when, within minutes and hours, he is apologising again; does he mean what he says, or what?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: He means what he says. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There will be somebody leaving. There will be no comment during the asking of a question.
Rodney Hide: In the light of the Minister of Social Services and Employment today ruling out doing any work on the policy shifts Mr Tamihere proposed in his knowledge-wave speech, what is the latter proposing to do now to justify his ministerial pay and position, especially to the communities he claims he represents?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: We just have to keep trying.
Hon Murray McCully: In the light of the insistence of the Minister of Social Services and Employment in the House this week that the Minister had academic standing in the area of social change, has Mr Tamihere discussed with that Minister the use of the terms “statism” and “old left” to describe the Government’s approach to Mâori development; if so, what was the result of that conversation?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Under the careful guidance of our Prime Minister I have had a wonderful discussion with the honourable Minister in charge of the Ministry of Social Development, and we are of one mind on going forward.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister understand that if they, and he, are all of one mind and going forward together, then his comments and remarks in that speech are totally contrary to that; so I ask him again whether he will stand by what he said, or will he resign?
Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: I definitely will not be resigning.
8. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What assistance is New Zealand giving to its Pacific Island neighbours to meet international counter-terrorism standards?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): Following last year’s Pacific Forum and the passage of the Nasanini Declaration on regional security, New Zealand is now assisting Pacific Forum countries by developing model legislation that addresses transnational crime and counter-terrorism issues. This legislation will be put to the forum leaders this year, at their meeting in August, in Auckland, for their endorsement.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: Why is the provision of such assistance in the Pacific region important?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It is important because, as members of the United Nations, those Pacific countries have an obligation to bring in counter-terrorism legislation under Resolution 1373. Many of the Pacific countries have not ratified United Nations conventions on terrorism and transnational crime, and are having trouble developing legislation to do so. By helping them with model legislation, we can help them meet their international obligations, and, in doing so, we can help ourselves by protecting New Zealand from potential terrorists that would operate out of those jurisdictions if those protections were not in place.
Dr Wayne Mapp: What practical steps is New Zealand taking to ensure failed States like the Solomons do not become havens for international terrorism, given that passing model legislation in the Solomons may not have quite the desired effect?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It is quite correct that model legislation is only one aspect. With regard to a State like the Solomon Islands, the member knows well that New Zealand has worked very hard in that context, particularly in terms of policing and good governance, and we have a group up there. We also work with all the countries of the Pacific with regard to cooperation in policing, immigration, and customs.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Can the Minister confirm that the major threat to visitors to the island of Mitiaro in the Cook Islands, and I believe the Minister has had first-hand experience of this threat, comes from the overwhelming physical hospitality of the local women?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I can confirm that in two respects. Firstly, they have a tradition of carrying members of Parliament or leaders of delegations on their shoulders, on what is called a
They were really glad it was me and not Gerry Brownlee. Secondly, the nature of the dancing was obviously a physical threat to many of the members, who were reluctant to participate.
Keith Locke: Will the assistance the Minister has referred to include strong representations to our Pacific Island neighbours to use full legal process in dealing with alleged terrorists, particularly following the furore in Fiji this week over the sudden and arbitrary expulsion of Abdul Majeed,
a Sudanese cleric who has lived in Fiji for 18 years?
Hon PHIL GOFF: It would be inappropriate to comment on the particular case, and perhaps the member will not know all the factors that were involved, but certainly we would encourage the Pacific Islands to use due process. We balance the need to take effective action against terrorist organisations with the need to protect the proper civil rights of ordinary people in any jurisdiction.
Hon Peter Dunne: As New Zealand still has responsibility for the defence and foreign affairs of at least some of the Pacific States, does our action in respect of anti-terrorism moves mean we also have to accept a responsibility for ensuring that those States are free of terrorist activity; if so, how are we going to give effect to that, other than through draft legislation?
Hon PHIL GOFF: There are two countries where New Zealand has some, at least, theoretical involvement in defence and foreign affairs, being Niue and the Cook Islands. The assistance we are giving in model legislation extends to those countries as well as to a wide range of Pacific forum countries. Equally, the assistance we give in terms of working with them at the South Pacific Chiefs of Police meetings, the customs organisation meetings that are held regionally, immigration, and so on, are designed to ensure that there are procedures in place that will minimise the ability of terrorists to work out of any of those countries.
9. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Housing: Why are families in Nelson living in tents, caravans and garages when Housing New Zealand homes have been empty for 12 months?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Acting Minister of Housing): There have been no State houses vacant for 12 months in Nelson. The community group housing part of the organisation has had five properties in Nelson vacant for some time, reserved for ex-residents of Braemar Hospital. These properties are not to be confused with State houses available to those on the Housing New Zealand waiting lists as they are used for the sole purpose of housing community group organisations.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why in December last year, again in January, and even last week when I approached Housing New Zealand and wrote to it regarding the plight of the Grey family, was I told that no houses were vacant; and does the Minister now seriously expect the House to accept the explanation that miraculously, after the matter of the Grey family appeared in the media, the housing needs of disabled members of the Nelson community were suddenly reassessed and changed, or is that not just a classic example of what his ministerial colleague called “b s-ing”?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: There are circumstances to do with that family that I will not air in public, but I can tell members the reason the house came on the market at the time that it did. The Braemar house was reserved for five single men, three of whom very recently became deceased. The property was returned very recently back into Housing New Zealand stock because it was no longer needed by the Braemar organisation, and that is what made it available at the time.
Taito Phillip Field: Why does Housing New Zealand Corporation provide community group housing?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Those outhouses offer essential accommodation for the use of hundreds of community group providers through Women’s Refuge, IHC, and other mental health and physical disability providers. Housing New Zealand Corporation has 1,297 community group houses nationally, and they are tenanted to 241 different community groups. The Government offers significant rent relief for those tenants, and it is committed to increasing housing stock.
Dr Muriel Newman: Does the Minister accept the analysis of his colleague the Hon John Tamihere that the problem underlying the Government’s State house policy that is causing the present housing crisis shortage is that tenants see their housing entitlement as a lifelong right rather than a respite facility; if not, is it the case that he and the Hon John Tamihere are now of one mind on all matters of policy?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, we cannot accept that analysis, particularly in an area like Nelson where 100 percent of the tenants in Housing New Zealand Corporation houses are on an income-related rent—in other words, they have a high level of need. The real problem is that in a place like Nelson, 217 houses were sold by the National Party. It would have been very helpful to have them now. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that this is an environment for very robust debate, and it has already been raised today, but Mr Benson-Pope’s fashion of shouting out and pointing with his pen or his finger is an insult to members on this side of the House, and I wish that he be asked to desist. As for the person next-door to him, she is not much better. They are meant to be setting some sort of standard in this House as whips in their party.
Mr SPEAKER: I am watching the two of them very closely.
Paul Adams: Can the Minister confirm that there are at least two other single State house tenants in Nelson living in three-bedroom houses when they could be more efficiently placed in smaller units?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I cannot confirm details like that, but I can tell the member, if his question implies what are we doing about that, that the Housing New Zealand Corporation has a very active programme of talking to people who are in houses that may not be right for their needs, and moving them to houses that can, hopefully, serve their needs better.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Regardless of whether those empty Housing New Zealand homes were intended for people with disabilities or for those with housing difficulty, how can the Minister justify at least five houses being empty for a year in a community under extreme housing pressure; and does that not confirm John Tamihere’s concerns that a centralised, bureaucratic approach to welfare and housing policy will not work?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As the member knows—and as the people from Housing New Zealand Corporation who come to his meeting on Friday will point out—Housing New Zealand has a great deal of regional flexibility to try to respond to local issues. Of course, those houses are kept vacant by agreement with organisations that are deinstitutionalising people or locating them in the community. That is why they have to be there.
Local Government Act—Consultation Procedures
10. DAVID CUNLIFFE (NZ Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Local Government: What reports has he received of feedback on the consultation procedures in the new Local Government Act 2002?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Local Government): I have received a report that Southland local body leaders have vigorously endorsed the procedures in the new Local Government Act, providing for consultation with the community, including Mâori. Southland Mayor, Frana Cardno, has said that the Act is flexible and allowed individual councils to work out their own relationship with local iwi.
David Cunliffe: Has he any concern that Mâori under the consultation provisions of the Local Government Act are unduly influencing decision making at the local level?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: No, I do not. For example, I have received a report that Michael Ross, chief executive of the Southland District Council said claims Mâori now had a veto over council decisions were rubbish. The person who made those claims was none other than the local member, the Hon Bill English.
Gerry Brownlee: Would it be of interest to the Minister to know that we wrote to all local authorities in January asking them how they would comply with the consultation processes in the issue of Mâori representation, and of them 38 said they hoped to become compliant at some time, 28 failed to respond, 13 had no idea at all what they would do, two believed that they had already complied, and one had yet to see the Local Government Act, and that under this extraordinary level of disinterest, concern, and non-compliance with that Act, why on earth does he stand up and spout about the successes of one small local authority at the bottom end of the country?
Mr SPEAKER: The question was too long. It is “uninterest”, not “disinterest”.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am pleased to repeat these positive reports to this House when I meet with local body politicians all over the country. For example, the Mayor of Nelson, Paul Matheson, said: “I am quite comfortable with the local government legislation.” One interesting comment from Environment Southland chairman, Ted Loose, was that Mr English was talking a lot of rubbish in his claim that Environment Southland would be forced to have Mâori constituency.
Murray Smith: Is the Minister aware of concerns from community boards around the country that despite the spirit and intent of the Local Government Act to increase community consultation, some councils have indicated their intention to axe community boards, and what plans does he have to address those concerns?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Essentially, decision making under the new Act is a local decision. However, I would like to take this opportunity to say that community boards do an excellent job in engaging with communities, which is, of course, what the spirit of this Act is all about.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a media report this day that points out that the local dotterel population in Auckland, because of Ngâti Whâtua demands, will require $200,000 to find local shells in the Ngâti Whâtua area, rather than from Thames.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
District Health Boards—Deficits
11. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Why have district health boards recorded a combined deficit of $64 million in the last three months, up $17.2 million from the quarter before and is this causing cuts to patient care?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Health: The district health boards actual hospital deficits of $60 million for the December quarter means that within $5 million 0.1 percent of the annual budget for the 6 months to 31 December. These deficits of agreed financing from the Government, and therefore, the deficits are not causing cuts to patient care.
Dr Lynda Scott: Why did the Hon Michael Cullen state in the Budget speech that he would tolerate a deficit of only $80 million for the 2002-03 financial year, when in the last 6 months alone, the deficit has exceeded that, coming in at $101.6 million, and is this not clear evidence that district health boards are failing financially and are failing patients?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the district health boards are on target for the estimated deficit of $188 million for the current year, which is less than last year, and less, indeed, than 1996-97.
Steve Chadwick: Has Government revenue decreased for district health boards, and therefore, reduced their ability to provide services?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, they have gone up $337 million. The Statistics New Zealand report made two major errors, and indeed this is now a matter for discussion with health officials so that Statistics New Zealand can understand the nature of health funding. Firstly, it reported Government revenue, and what they are actually reporting was the provider funding from the district health boards to the hospitals—a quite different form of funding. Secondly, it missed the deficit support funding provided by Government, and reported only one of the revenue streams.
Heather Roy: How can we take her assurances to the public of New Zealand seriously when orthopaedic association president, Professor Geoffrey Horne, has publicly stated that it was deceptive and dishonest of district health boards and health Minister Annette King to claim they were reducing waiting lists, when in fact they were manipulating figures; and why does she not admit that the switch to 21 district health boards has not improved patient care one little bit?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In fact, waiting lists have come down. I do notice at this time of the year there is a tendency for people in the quasi - public sector often to make claims about underfunding. I have a suspicion that the Minister of Finance may be correct in believing it has something to do with the fact that the Budget round occurs at about this time of year.
Sue Kedgley: Given that long-term debt and liabilities in the health sector topped a billion dollars in December, and the projections for long-term spending should worry upward trends, why is the Government investing a miserable 2 percent of the health budget in preventive public health measures that would reduce the underlying causes of illness and result in fewer of us ending up in our hospitals?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: In the light of that we would now agree to remove some of the
that she put into the legislation so we could direct that money into public health and preventive funding.
Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that a potential solution to funding difficulties would be to allow, and possibly encourage, contracting out to both private and public health providers; if not, why not?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: There is no evidence from overseas expressed that contracting out to private providers actually saves the State any money at all. But, of course, a range of providers is used with Government funding in New Zealand at the present time.
Dr Lynda Scott: Is the financial crisis district health boards are facing the cause of Grey Power Taranaki saying: “The public health system is failing the elderly who need hip and knee surgery, of thousands of patients being sent back to their GPs as they are dumped off the waiting list, and cardiac waiting lists sky-rocketing as patients die”; if not, what is causing the health cuts?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Every one of those statements, except the actual quotation, is incorrect. Increased funding has been provided to a very, very substantial extent, and the projected deficit for this year, which we are on target for, is substantially lower than the peak achieved under the National Government in 1996-97.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the Daily News from today, which says: “The public health system is failing elderly Taranaki people”.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? There is.
Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table an article from the Southerner, which says: “Cost cuts killing patients and surgeons . . .”
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There is.
School Zoning—False Addresses
12. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Has he received any reports that there has been an upsurge in students providing false or temporary addresses in order to gain enrolment at a school of their choice?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)), on behalf of the Minister of Education: I have heard of anecdotal reports from individual schools advising that they feel people are cheating to get into their school zones. I have received fewer complaints this year than last year. There is no firm evidence on the extent of the problem, but we have agreed to amend the guidelines to give greater advice and guidance to boards about the actions that they can take against parents or caregivers who are trying to manipulate the system.
Hon Brian Donnelly: Is it not true that this phenomenon, which robs genuine New Zealand students of placement in their preferred school, is caused not by his zoning regulations but by his Government’s immigration policies?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member raises an interesting point from the point of view of education. That is why, where particular problems have been raised, the Ministry of Education is working with the schools to ensure that they match their obligations under the enrolment legislation, and to manage the issues that are raised by having Asian students who may have second language problems in their schools.
Mark Peck: What is the Government doing to stop this possible cheating?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Education Standards Act of 2001 gives schools the ability to take action against people who are discovered to have indulged in this practice. This week the Secretary of Education has approved amended guidelines to assist schools in detecting false and misleading information that is given to schools at the time of the application for enrolment. These guidelines are in the process of being posted to schools, and will also be on the ministry website.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why would the Government take a hard line on parents who give misinformation about addresses that they subsequently disown, when it is now OK for the Prime Minister to make a commitment 2 years ago, and now break it?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Ignoring the last part of the question, because it will just invite me to cause disorder with Mr Smith, once again: the first part of the question is that the Government does take a hard line on these issues. That is why we have reissued the guidelines, and I imagine the member will look forward to reading them.
Deborah Coddington: Can the Minister explain to the House why this Government wants to force children from poor areas to attend failing schools, and leave wealthier parents free to choose; does not this zoning scheme mean school choice by mortgage capacity?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The issue of how children get into schools, of course, has always been a vexed one. But this Government believes that children have the right to attend their local school. That is why we have gone for the policy we have gone for, and we believe it is the right one.
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)