Questions Of The Day Transcript - 6 March 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 – 6 March 2003
Questions to Ministers
America's Cup—Team New Zealand Funding
1. MIKE WARD (Green) to the Minister for Sport and Recreation: Why has the Government offered funding of $5.6 million to Team New Zealand four years before the America’s Cup challenge, while Water Safety New Zealand only has funds for programmes to reduce the number of children drowning in 8 out of 17 regional sports trust areas?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Sport and Recreation): The $5.6 million is new trade and tourism money. It has not been taken from the Sport and Recreation New Zealand budget. The Government wanted to make sure that Team New Zealand had a level of financial security in order to stop the process of team members resigning before a possible challenge in 2007. The member has referred to the pilot programme called Swim For Life, which Water Safety New Zealand has with eight regional sports trusts. A further three trusts are looking to join the pilot. I have been advised that the remaining trusts believe swimming skills for children are being adequately dealt with through a building arrangement with other providers.
Mike Ward: Has the Minister not been a tad hasty in granting $5.6 million to Team New Zealand before bringing together Team New Zealand, the boat-building industry, and the yachting sector to make sure that our talent is put to the best use?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There is considerable work going on now by way of post mortem and future planning. No decision has yet been made by Team New Zealand, but it is important to have this money in place, because, as members are aware from the last America’s Cup round, people were being poached within days of the cup finishing. Although this is not a view that is unanimously shared by members in the House, there is a strong feeling on this side that the international trade benefits are certainly worth having.
Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government has provided funding to Water Safety New Zealand in 2003?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes. The Government approved just over $500,000 to Water Safety New Zealand in December last year, which the executive director was ecstatic about.
Opposition member: What about this year?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The money came this year, but the announcement was made last year. Does the member understand the difference? The woodwork teacher is a bit slow.
Mr SPEAKER: There should not have been an interjection; nor should there have been a response.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Mr Muir said at the time: “This will mean that quality water safety education programmes can still be delivered to communities throughout New Zealand.” The money made up for the shortfall in funding from the Lotteries Commission, which came as a result of the drop-off in funding there.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister confirm that, in making decisions on America’s Cup matters, the Government will be guided by a professional assessment of the economic benefits to New Zealand, rather than by a comparison with the level of public funding made available to any sporting code in this country?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, it will be guided by a professional assessment of the economic benefits to New Zealand, along with a number of other factors, including the willingness of private sector people, both within New Zealand and internationally, to put money in. I thank the member opposite for his strong support evident in his suggestion that $20 million should go to Team New Zealand.
Hon Brian Donnelly: How much funding has the Government provided to rugby league during its term in office, and is the disparity between that figure and the $5.6 million for Team New Zealand because rugby league is a working-class sport, played largely by Polynesians, with 13 rather than 15 players per side?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Whether the member believes it or not, I do not have the exact figures right at my fingertips with regard to rugby league funding. However, I will say that, per player, rugby league is proportionately one of the biggest beneficiaries of Sport and Recreation New Zealand. I understand that rugby league receives a disproportionate amount of pokie money, around which there is some question.
Dr Muriel Newman: Why has the Government put $5.6 million of taxpayers’ money into a billionaires’ yachting regatta, instead of providing 100 more urgently needed police officers in Auckland?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Members who are up to date with the facts will know that the 1999-2000 regatta resulted in additional economic growth in New Zealand to the value of $640 million. I understand that, during the latest cup, over $100 million of extra taxation around PAYE and GST was paid directly by the syndicates. This Government believes in growth. We think we can leverage off the challenge, and increase economic growth through the trade and tourism flowing from it.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister confirm that the funding that has been announced today is to ensure Team New Zealand has the breathing space to determine the best way of proceeding with a future challenge if there is to be one, and that it has the assets and the people to do so, and that it is not a precursor of Government funding for the challenge per se, if it should eventuate; in other words, will that be left to private sponsors to organise?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes and no.
Mike Ward: What messages do his actions send to community groups dependent on dwindling lotteries funding, and will the Minister be advising him to find a group of sponsors to splash their logos on their water wings or move to Europe before giving them any further support?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The message that this Government is giving to community groups through this exercise is that we want to grow this economy so that we have more to share around.
Mr SPEAKER: I would like to advise new members that it would be useful if they could speak a little more slowly sometimes.
2. Dr DON BRASH (NZ National to the Minister for Economic Development: Why did he make a speech in June 2002 stating that “This government has set itself an ambitious target. It wants to see New Zealand once more in the top half of the OECD league table of average real incomes by 2011.”, given that the Prime Minister has stated that the timeframe is “totally unrealistic”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister for Economic Development: I enthusiastically reply on behalf of the Minister: “I am sure the Minister will agree I am known as a very positive person who is ambitious for New Zealand. This is reflected in many of my speeches.”
Dr Don Brash: In the light of the fact that Treasury provided advice to the Government in April 2001 that: “It appears more likely that New Zealand’s ranking among OECD countries will continue to fall, and unless there is some improvement in our growth rates relative to other OECD countries, we could be among the lowest income group in the future.”, why did he publicly state the Government had a goal of getting back into the top half of the OECD by 2011, 14 months after that advice was received?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Between those two events, the former Governor of the Reserve Bank resigned, and perhaps in an excess of enthusiasm, the Minister for Economic Development believed that the growth rate would shoot through the roof as a consequence of that move.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not expect you to rule now. However, on behalf of the National Opposition, I ask you to take a close look at the Hansard of Dr Cullen’s reply. Perhaps when we return after the adjournment you will give us a ruling as to whether you think it complies fully with the part of the Standing Orders that deals with Ministers’ answers to questions. I would suggest that there was a great deal of personal reflection in that answer, and it should not have been allowed.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has made a reasonable request and I will comply with it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he had an opportunity to discuss with the Prime Minister the incongruity of the two positions taken by the Minister of Finance and her as Prime Minister, or is it the case that she is incapable of being wrestled away from Tom Cruise and photo opportunities?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I am sure that the member would not turn down the chance of a photo opportunity with Penelope Cruz or Nicole Kidman, given the chance. I repeat the advice given by both the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister that further Treasury analysis on a target date of 10 years out seems unrealistic, given the growth rates that will be required.
Hon Matt Robson: What goals does the Government have for New Zealand?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Certainly, if we can continue to reduce unemployment, continue to outperform the OECD as we are doing, continue to have low inflation, and continue to have very high Budget surpluses, we are on the road to getting back into the top half of the OECD. That is an ambition that contrasts favourably to the unrealistic one of restoring the National Party as a dominant political force over the next 10 years, as Mr English wants.
Deborah Coddington: Does the Minister still stand by his media release of 9 September 1999, whereby he said that Alan Greenspan, as Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, had seen the US economy power ahead with record sustained growth, and should replace Dr Don Brash; if he does stand by that press release, will he proceed with his intention stated in the same release to offer Greenspan, a libertarian, a job running monetary policy in New Zealand.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The Minister does not see the need any longer to replace Dr Don Brash as the Governor of the Reserve Bank.
Dr Don Brash: Did the Minister make his statement after reading the Government growth strategy of February 2002, which contained this chart outlining the Government’s growth targets—at the time that I was still Governor of the Reserve Bank—indicating they hoped to reach the top half of the OECD by 2011; if not, on what basis did he make the statement?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: On the basis of ambition and optimism. As explained previously, that graph was imported from another document and was never seen by Ministers before the document was produced.
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Since she has been Minister, how many foreigners have arrived in New Zealand as visitors and not left at the end of their visit such as Mr Shinozaki who died Wednesday 26 February, and the six other students from the “rogue” Columbus Academy, who remain here?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): More than four million visitors have arrived in New Zealand since December 1999. The overall rate of overstaying is estimated at one of the lowest rates in the world, although of course many people depart of their own accord at some point after their permits expire or appeal against removal. I cannot say exactly how many are in the situation of the student, as he entered New Zealand in July 1997 when I was not the Minister of Immigration. There has not been any occasion during the time I have been Minister that he could have been lawfully removed from New Zealand by the New Zealand Immigration Service.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister not aware that when Mr Shinozaki arrived in 1997 he came as a visitor or tourist, but that his status was later changed, a status that she concurred with as Minister of Immigration; and can she tell me, therefore, how many of the 2.045 million visitors who arrived in New Zealand at the end of December 2002 actually left, and how many of those 2.045 million visitors remain living here—or does she simply not know?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The question of whether they remain here begs the question whether they are here on a lawful permit or whether they have lodged an appeal against their removal.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: They are visitors.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The member should know, because he was the Deputy Prime Minister in 1997 when the individual came in.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Tourist.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, the individual came in visa-free. He was granted a visitors permit at the border. He subsequently applied for more than one student permit, and at the time that he died he had no student permit—and I advised the member of that fact earlier on this week. He had, however, lodged an appeal with the Removal Review Authority, which means he could not be removed.
Dave Hereora: Can the Minister confirm that no student permits were issued for study at the Columbus Academy; if so, what sorts of institutions did they have permits for?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No permits were issued for students to study at the Columbus Academy, which is not a registered educational institution. Those who had student permits had permits to attend various schools and tertiary institutions in the Auckland area. Most of these students have been identified and are being checked. But unfortunately I have to advise the House that investigations are being seriously hampered by the academy’s lack of cooperation.
Hon Murray McCully: Can I ask the Minister to answer the first part of Mr Peters’ original question, which was that since she has been Minister, how many foreigners have arrived in New Zealand as visitors and not left at the end of their visit? It seems to me that she should be able to provide an answer to that question.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Four million visitors have arrived in New Zealand since December 1999, and I spelt that out. I can tell the member that we have an estimate of overstayers in the country, as of October 2002, of 18,134. But I should make a comparison with the same figures for December 1997, which were 19,557.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr McCully asked the same question that I asked. It is simply a case of the Minister saying that she either knows or does not know, and perhaps of sharing with us the difficulty she might have in respect of her portfolio and her lack of experience. But she cannot go on everyday, obfuscating—
Government member: Give up.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I am not giving up. Your worst nightmare is about to happen!
Mr SPEAKER: I have never regarded this place as a nightmare. This is always an afternoon event that I have very much enjoyment presiding over. The Minister addressed the question. The answer might not have been satisfactory to the member, but she did address the question.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise this issue with you. Mr Peters asked the Minister a very precise question about the number of people arriving in New Zealand as tourists and not leaving when their visitor’s visa had expired. She gave an answer, which the House accepts as her word. She said that she did not have the number. She was then asked the same question by my colleague Murray McCully, and she gave a figure of 18,134. She had gone to the trouble not only of getting a figure, which she should have done, because it was a question put down for oral answer—it was from October last year, which is a bit out of date, but that is when she said she had it from—but also of getting a number from 1997 so that she was able to give a comparison. There comes a point, surely, when you have to say to Ministers that if they have the information, then they should give it in their answer to the substantive question, rather than two or three supplementary questions being wasted for, in this case, the Minister to give a number when she was asked for one. When the Minister stands and says in her substantive answer that she does not have the information, we have to accept that. That was wrong, as we now know, because she had the information; she just chose not to give it.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The Hansard will show that that is not correct. What I said was that I could not say how many were in the situation of the named student, because the named student—unlike the question—did not arrive in New Zealand when I was the Minister. That was what I was asked to provide an answer to, and I said that there had been no occasion at any point since I have been the Minister that he could lawfully have been removed from New Zealand. I have explained very clearly the number of visitors who have arrived in New Zealand since December 1999, and I have given my reasons for not being able to give an exact figure of the exact movements of every one of those 4 million visitors.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has given some information in her answer to the supplementary question. This may or may not be what she was specifically asked or originally asked, but she is entitled to do this.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister confirm that such a visitor is recorded by the statistics at the airport by way of the incoming card, and that that is the only record, and therefore she is unable to send people home when their visitor or student visas expire because she has no idea which visitor or supposed student is staying or leaving; and perhaps she herself might like to enrol in the Japanese academy that specialises in catering for lost souls?
Mr SPEAKER: The last part of the question is out of order. The first part can be answered.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The issue in respect of students who come to New Zealand to study entering the country by way of visa-free arrangements and then applying for a student permit after they enter the country has led to the Government adopting a very good position on a code of practice. The schools are now required by the code of practice and by immigration policy to notify us if any of the students are not complying with the provisions of their permit. That is when we take action to remove them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is the Minister able to give any sort of assurance to this House and to the country as to what is going on in respect of the numbers that we read from Statistics New Zealand, when in fact the cross-referencing does not happen in respect of tourists and those who change their application to that of student permit, and that therefore we have no idea whether two million people arrive or three million people arrive, or whether we have 20,000 or 40,000 overstayers—is that not a fact?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: When I became the Minister, I discovered that the record keeping in respect of overstayers was abysmal, so I asked the Immigration Service to develop a better mechanism for identifying those rates of overstaying. The best estimate I can provide for the House is 18,134. When that member was the Deputy Prime Minister it was 19,557, and the rates of visitors to this country have increased substantially.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We saw Mr Sowry’s point there again. This Minister never answers the primary question, she ducks and dives, and then, when she thinks she has some sort of advantage—perverse as it might be—she seeks to give out some disclosure. That is the reason the House, when it comes to this Minister, is constantly on the verge of a state of disorder because she will not answer a simple question. Today it was not a matter of which people, like Japanese tourists, overstayed. The question was how many people who came here as visitors overstayed, such as these eight people, by way of example. She sought to say in her answer that she could not quantify those in the same category as Japanese students, and therefore said no. That is just obfuscation of the worst sort.
Mr SPEAKER: I judged the Minister addressed the question, and there the matter stays.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have agreed to look at Hansard for the answer to a question earlier today and to come back to us after the House resumes on 18 March. Day after day we hear you telling the House that you judge that a Minister has addressed a question. The Standing Orders are very, very clear about what a Minister has to do. The Minister must give a reply to a question that is concise and confined to the subject matter of the question asked. I think the point Mr Peters makes is that in the case of the Minister of Immigration, she most certainly waves all over the place before eventually deciding, on her own terms, that she might release information to Parliament, usually out of context.
Mr SPEAKER: Anyone listening to this over the last few weeks would know that there is a great deal of contention about immigration statistics. This is a matter of interchange between members. Different opinions are held and different statements are made. All I have to ensure is that the Minister addressed the question. She did.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is the very point. Of course there is controversy. That is why these questions are being asked. She is in charge of the portfolio. Her job is to remove the controversy and confusion and give us some certainty, and if she cannot, she should resign.
Mr SPEAKER: That point of order was not necessary, particularly the last words. That is why I give quite a lot of latitude to members asking questions. They can ask questions of Ministers, but they have to realise that they are not always going to be satisfied with the answer.
Race Relations Commissioner—Confidence
4. Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Associate Minister of Justice: Does she retain full confidence in the Race Relations Commissioner, Mr Joris de Bres; if so, why?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Justice: Yes, he has an important job to do and the ability to do it.
Hon Murray McCully: Does she endorse today’s reported statement by the Race Relations Commissioner that private businesses should adopt Mâori names on the basis that: “it’s good for their branding”; “it’s good for the image of the country”; “it’s a win-win type of thing”; if so, why?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The Race Relations Commissioner was not attempting in any way to instruct or tell the private sector what to do. He was expressing an opinion, and I am somewhat curious that the member finds that “politically correct”, as he says in his press statement, given that he was part of a Government Cabinet in 1999 that gave this directive: “Government departments to develop a Mâori language policy and plan appropriate to their business, by 1 July 2000.”
Dianne Yates: What are the major activities carried out by the Race Relations Commissioner, and why are they important?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The major activities of the commissioner and the commission are to promote good race relations and to ensure that New Zealanders have a mechanism to get redress when they suffer from discrimination. I believe that the commissioner has been active in doing this—working with schools, local governments, community and service groups, and Mâori and ethnic groups in the wider community. As is obvious from conflicts right around the world, it is very important for stability and peace that we do have someone promoting race, harmony, and tolerance.
Dail Jones: Can the Minister assure the House that the Race Relations Commissioner is aware that those are his responsibilities and that he ought to stick with them, rather than giving advice about the Taliban and how businesses should run their businesses and aims given to them?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I am sure the Race Relations Commissioner is aware of the responsibilities he has. The member would be quite wrong to judge a single comment, which was an opinion and not one that I find offensive, about having duality of names. After all, every Government department was instructed by the National Government and by the New Zealand First coalition Government to have a Mâori name. I do not see why he thinks there is something wrong with the commissioner’s statement now.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There goes a classic example of disinformation from this Minister. He knows full well when the Inland Revenue Department got a Mâori name and all the rest were given Mâori names—when he was a junior Minister in the Lange Government.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: First of all, that is a debating matter, and I suggest we need to start coming down much harder—[Interruption]—on the issue of people raising points of order, which are debating matters.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not having anyone making a comment when there is a point of order. This is a final warning, Mr Brownlee
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That point of order was a debating matter, and a matter that is in contention. One could respond tit for tat in that respect, all the way through.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is absolutely correct. That was a debating matter, and nothing more.
Marc Alexander196Marc Alexander: Can the Minister advise us of any other jaw-dropping initiatives that we can expect from the Race Relations Commissioner to foster better race relations, and can we now expect him to lead by example and change his name to “Hone” de Bres?
Hon PHIL GOFF: As I indicated to the House before, the Race Relations Commissioner is dealing with a number of very important initiatives. The member should not overlook the significance of initiatives to promote racial harmony and tolerance, which are vital to our community, because of a single comment or expression of opinion—something that any individual in New Zealand is entitled to make.
Hon Murray McCully: Does the Minister endorse the actions of the Race Relations Commissioner and his colleagues at the Human Rights Commission in continuing to delay a determination of my complaint over the commissioner’s Taliban speech, while the commission’s lawyers work overtime to develop a case for immunity on the part of that commissioner from the very legislation that he attempts to enforce on other New Zealanders?
Hon PHIL GOFF: I do not have information on the subject matter, which I am answering on behalf of another Minister, but if the member wants to put that down, I will get an answer for him.
America's Cup—Team New Zealand Funding
5. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for the America's Cup: What were the factors that led to the Government’s decision to commit $5.6 million to Team New Zealand’s 2007 America’s Cup campaign?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the America's Cup): Securing the team for a possible challenge from which New Zealand can leverage in 2007 was the main factor. We are confident that the next campaign will provide a chance to further develop and expand trade and tourism opportunities.
David Benson-Pope: Will the Government contribute further funding for this campaign?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The $5.6 million is an initial sum, and it will be a few months before we can confirm the final level of investment. We want to take time to consider the potential economic benefits that can be leveraged off a regatta in Europe. The final contribution will also depend on Team New Zealand’s ability to raise the vast majority of the funding from the private sector to mount a credible challenge.
Hon Murray McCully: Has the Minister found it helpful in making these decisions to have available the economic study that was done of the 1999-2000 America’s Cup showing an economic benefit to New Zealand of $640 million, and is he prepared to make a copy of that report available to any members who have difficulty in understanding the reasons the Government is considering funding this matter?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, yes, and did Michelle not do a better job on that than she did on other things?
Gerrard Eckhoff: Why has the Government put $5.6 million into a yachting regatta to ease personal funding requirements for billionaires, when the same amount could ensure 300 extra hip replacements to ease the genuine pain of those in real need?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because the tax benefits that came from the last campaign, using those maths, would have provided for 6,000 hip replacements.
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Has he received any reports about brake failures on Tranz Rail locomotives; if so, does he have confidence that Tranz Rail is operating safely so that people are not in danger?
Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport): Yes, I received a report from the Transport Accident Investigation Commission relating to brake failure on a Tranz Rail locomotive. The report concluded that in view of the safety actions taken by Tranz Rail following the incident—the first of its kind in 30 years—no safety recommendations regarding the accident are necessary. I am also advised by the Land Transport Safety Authority that it is satisfied Tranz Rail has taken suitable safety action to remedy the immediate concern.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Minister think he can give such an assurance of safety to the travelling public, when brake parts are falling off Tranz Rail trains, and in one case found lying on the tracks by a member of the public in Kaiapoi?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, there have been concerns, which is why the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Land Transport Safety Authority have investigated. I am advised that Tranz Rail has now put in a series of operational matters in order to be able to overcome the problems that the member has raised.
Lynne Pillay: What advice has the Minister received from the Land Transport Safety Authority on the actions it has taken to remedy the immediate concerns?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am advised by the Land Transport Safety Authority that Tranz Rail have taken the following steps: the incorrect component in the train in question was replaced immediately; Tranz Rail has advised to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission that full brake tests will be mandatory in future where any part of the brake system is called into question; and that Tranz Rail will be recommending to the locomotive technical committee that component replacements be brought forward from 864,000 kilometres to 432,000 kilometres.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister concerned that a conscientious private citizen in North Canterbury who lives in Clayton Cosgrove’s electorate tried to contact Tranz Rail about brake damage, but was fobbed off and was unable to talk to anyone in authority in that shonky outfit, which has almost the worst safety record of any company in the country; what does he think of that state of affairs?
Hon PAUL SWAIN: There are concerns about some of the safety issues, as advised in the report. If the member could provide us with some details about that particular case, I would be happy to investigate it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In an endeavour to help the Minister, I seek leave to table the shoes and brake lining that were found at Kaiapoi marked Tranz Rail—so they are not 30 years old—and the affidavit of the man who found them.
Items and affidavit, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Research, Science and Technology—Initiatives
7. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology: What are the latest research, science and technology initiatives which he has undertaken and why are these important?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): The Government focuses a good deal on science and technology, because we saw them as vital for innovation and diversification of the economy. Innovation is a key driver of economic growth, and those initiatives are important for building a prosperous economy. There are many of them. For example, $100 million invested in the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund will, by the end of this month, have been multiplied into more than a quarter of a billion dollars worth of venture capital funding at the seed capital end of that spectrum. In addition to that, a year ago there was no Centres of Research Excellence Fund and there were no research consortia. There was one incubator only in this country 3 years ago; there are now 15, and on it goes.
Mr SPEAKER: That went on a little too long.
Tim Barnett: Has he received any reports that suggest alternative ways in which New Zealand could build a more innovative and prosperous economy; if so, will he consider adopting any of the ideas raised?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, I have received such a report. Regrettably, the report was stuck in the 1990s and offered nothing in the way of new ideas to foster innovation. I am unable to pick it up because it was bereft of any useful new ideas. Sadly, that report was the National Party’s vision for our future.
Dr Paul Hutchison168Dr Paul Hutchison: Does he think his Government’s new initiatives would convince scientist Dr Mike Hubbard, a pioneer of the key identified area of proteomics, who has left New Zealand saying: “Political agendas control the way public money was allocated to an overbearing extent”, or the 40 individuals who lost their jobs at HortResearch last year while working in the key identified area of bioactives, or Professor Mervyn Smith from Otago, who said: “The Labour Government makes such a big song and dance about the knowledge economy. The words are there but the action is a bit hard to see.”?
Mr SPEAKER: I allowed the member to ask that question because there had been a long answer given previously. Both question and answer have been too long. I now want the Minister to respond briefly.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I will simply say to those people, and, indeed, to the member himself, that since this Government came to office, expenditure on research, science and technology through this vote has gone up by—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Gone down!
Hon PETE HODGSON: —has gone up by 18 percent, and if one were to add the capital of the Venture Investment Fund to that, it has gone up by 41 percent. That is what happens when a Government puts its money where its mouth is.
Ian Ewen-Street: When will the Government make a similar investment in ecological systems research to the one it is now making in those initiatives that focus so heavily on gene technology in agriculture, a step that will profoundly undermine the ability of products to be sold in our export markets like Japan and Europe?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I invite the member to keep abreast of developments. The sustainability round, which is the very biggest round of funding this year, is now under way. There is significant investment in this country in the sort of science that the member refers to.
Bernie Ogilvy: Can the Minister provide an estimate of the amount of additional funding required during the recent multiyear reinvestment process that was forced when a number of research programmes due for advancement were arbitrarily rolled over for 1 year or more?
Hon PETE HODGSON: There has been no arbitrary rollover of any programmes recently. About 2 or 3 years ago, just before I became the Minister, there was a complete rollover for 12 months of a variety of programmes, and that was the previous Government trying to get some systems in place.
Dr Paul HutchisonDr Paul Hutchison168: I seek leave to table two papers. The first is the OECD figures that show that Government spending on science and technology has gone down as a percentage of gross domestic product.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Paul HutchisonDr Paul Hutchison168: The other document is from the Otago Daily Times and quotes Professor Mervyn Smith as saying: “The Labour Government made such a big song and dance about the knowledge economy. The words are there but the action is a bit hard to see.”
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Television New Zealand—Expenditure
8. KATHERINE RICH (NZ National) to the Minister of Broadcasting: In light of his recent comments regarding the new charter for TVNZ that “the $12 million they’ve currently got, obviously people should … know exactly how that was spent … and what is being done with it”, can he tell the House the exact breakdown of the expenditure of that money; if not, why not?
Hon MARK BURTON (Deputy Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting: No, because as the charter came into effect only last Saturday, 1 March, the $12 million has not been spent yet.
Katherine Rich: Why is TVNZ producing cheesy television advertisements promoting the charter; what is their cost; and does the Minister think it is appropriate that taxpayers’ money is spent on promoting a Government policy rather than on local programming?
Hon MARK BURTON: The member refers to an operational decision on the part of the corporation, which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the Minister.
Mark Peck: What are the accountability arrangements for charter funding provided by the Government to TVNZ?
Hon MARK BURTON: The Television New Zealand Act, which this House passed last week, requires Television New Zealand to include in its statement of intent qualitative and quantitative performance measures for measuring performance against its charter, and to include in its annual report a statement of its performance against its charter. In addition, there is a memorandum of understanding between the Minister of Broadcasting and Television New Zealand regarding the charter funding that requires TVNZ to provide the Minister with quarterly reports on how the charter funding has been used.
Sue Kedgley: Does the Minister agree that TVNZ should not be any less accountable for the taxpayer money it receives directly from the Government than it is for the money it receives indirectly through New Zealand on Air, and will he therefore require TVNZ to report specifically on how much it spends per programme and not just on some vague genre breakdown, as is in the memorandum of understanding?
Hon MARK BURTON: As the member says, the reporting requirement is on a breakdown by category or genre, and that is the reporting requirement.
Deborah Coddington: Can he assure the House that if TVNZ continues to fritter away the $12 million provided to implement the charter on advertising this politically correct, feel-good charter, the Government will provide no more taxpayers’ money to implement its own social agenda?
Hon MARK BURTON: Frankly, I have no idea which charter the member is referring to because it does not sound remotely like the one that is being entered into. The member should raise operational questions in the appropriate forum. This is not it.
Marc Alexander196Marc Alexander: Rather than interfering with programme purchasing decisions, can the Minister tell the House what level of charter subsidisation is forecast to be required over the next 5 years, and how is this consistent with his expectation that TVNZ will continue to pay dividends, if the Government is already propping it up?
Hon MARK BURTON: I do not think there is any evidence that it is being propped up, as the member suggests. Indeed, I understand that the chief executive of Television New Zealand confidently expects the level of revenue generated through commercial advertising to be maintained.
Katherine Rich: Can the Minister explain why, after so much talk about the charter, the amount of current affairs actually screened by TVNZ has decreased since 2001?
Hon MARK BURTON: If the member wants to put down the question to the Minister I am sure he will be happy to answer it. Of course, the question is so distantly related to the principal question that I have no such information with me in the House.
Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister concerned about the commitment of TVNZ heads to their brand new charter, and in particular their requirement to exhibit a sense of social responsibility, given their public defence of fast-food advertising aimed at children and the recent announcement that they will campaign against any move to ban television advertising of prescription medicines?
Hon MARK BURTON: I think it is fair to say that the chief executive of TVNZ has indicated publicly on many occasions since his appointment last year his strong commitment to the successful implementation of the charter, including the screening of quality children’s programmes.
Police Regions—Front-line Staff
9. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Police: How has the disestablishment of police regions contributed to increased front-line staffing?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): It has not. I can inform the member that Cabinet on 19 October 1998, as noted in the Martin review, directed the then commissioner to abolish four police regions, cut the number of police districts from 16 to 12, and reduce the number of police staff by about 380 positions. Those cuts were directed by the National Government.
Hon Peter Dunne: Is it not the case that all that has really happened in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch is that staff previously employed at regional level have simply been re-established as a second staffing tier within those police districts, leaving front-line shortages as great as ever, while desk jobs have multiplied?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police have set up service centres, but I must tell the member that police numbers are growing.
Russell Fairbrother: Has any consideration been given to appointing a regional commander over the three Auckland district commanders?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Commissioner of Police has entered into discussions with the Auckland Mayoral Forum on this issue and in other areas, and there is now a very good working relationship between the commissioner and the Auckland Mayoral Forum.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Does the Minister think there is any link between the shortage of 45 staff in his Counties-Manukau district with the fact that the average burglary response time in his own district has increased by 20 percent in the last year?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Counties-Manukau police will soon be up to numbers. All police districts throughout New Zealand—
Hon. Tony Ryall: You have said that for 3 years.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I tell the member to stop pointing and listen. Every police district is now meeting the target of calls under 24 hours, compared with 8 days under National.
Ron Mark: Will the appointment of a regional commander in Auckland, or anywhere for that matter, do anything to resolve the serious issues that face operational staff, like the reported backlog of 700 years of leave owing—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How much?
Ron Mark: —700 years of leave owing—or the fact that gangs now outnumber police by three to one—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How much?
Ron Mark: —by three to one—or the proven inability of the Government to stamp out organised crime?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can comment on two of those questions.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The Government has no plans in front of it to establish new regional commanders. I must say that the police are on top of the gangs in New Zealand, and are doing a good job. It is about time that member supported the police instead of the gangs.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is grossly unfair that Mr Mark, who asked that question, was accused by the Minister of supporting gangs and not the police. Of all of the members in this House one knows that long before Mr Mark came into this House he campaigned against gangs. That sort of personal reflection against a member brings this Chamber into disrepute.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Mark did not take objection to it, but the member has raised a valid point of order. I ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I withdraw and apologise.
Dr Muriel Newman: Have any of the operational savings that the Minister has made been anywhere near enough to make up for the cut of over 1 percent in real core police per capita funding since Labour has been in Government; if not, when does he intend to restore police funding to its proper level?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I tell that member that the Labour Government has funded the police more than ever.
Hon. Tony Ryall: No!
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: We most certainly have. I also tell the member that the last National Government that her party supported cut police funding.
Marc Alexander: How can the Minister be so confident that the numbers of front-line staff are sufficient to protect the public when 10 out of every 12 police districts have suffered an increase in burglary response times and the aggregate number of days of leave not taken by sworn police at the end of February totals 265,901 days, or just over 700 years?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The member ought to reflect on how many police there are. Police are entitled to accumulated 66 days leave, and the average is somewhere in the thirties.
Hon. Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is a document with the data from the Minister of Police that shows that the average burglary waiting time in his own police district is now 20 hours.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon. Tony Ryall: The next document is in the light of the Minister’s comment that police are on top of the gangs. This is a report that shows that methamphetamine clandestine laboratory catches have increased from 40 to 140 in the last 12 months.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
10. PHIL HEATLEY (NZ National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Fisheries: Can marine farmers throughout New Zealand, whose permits expire in the near future and who are likely to be within an Aquaculture Management Area, have confidence that they will be allowed to keep investing in their businesses with staff gainfully employed well into the future?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Fisheries): Yes, they can. Any marine farming permits, leases, or licences that expire in the near future will be processed in accordance with the existing legislation—the Marine Farming Act for leases and licences, and the Fisheries Act and Resource Management Act for marine farming permits. If they continue to meet the legislative provisions, leases and licences will be renewed for a further 14 years, and marine farm permits for the duration of their resource consent, which is generally about 15 years.
Phil Heatley: Can the Minister confirm that all these marine farmers who have already set up shop will get the first right of refusal if the space they occupy is still going to be used for marine farming?
Hon PETE HODGSON: For people with leases or licences, the situation they face is that they will be rolled over into the new regime for the balance of their current term plus the 14 years that I mentioned in my primary statement—
Phil Heatley: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Let the Minister finish. He can come back to that.
Hon PETE HODGSON: Now, to get to the member’s question, these lease and licence holders will then have a single preferential right to apply for a new coastal permit. So that is how they come into the new scheme.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was very specific with my first question.
People who have not been involved with this may not realise it but there is a clear difference—and the Minister will know this—between those who hold permits and the others whom the Minister addressed in his answer. I was specifically asking about permit holders whose permits will expire in the near future.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a fair point. I ask the Minister to comment.
Hon PETE HODGSON: I apologise. I misheard the member. Farmers who are operating under the Resource Management Act and therefore have permits do not have an automatic right of renewal now and will not have an automatic right of renewal in the future. [Interruption] They do not have an automatic right of renewal now—they do not—and they will not have an automatic right of renewal in the future. I think that the issue the member may be grappling with concerns whether there will be tendering on an ongoing basis; if so, I tell him that that is an open point right now.
Phil Heatley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not really want to raise points of order today, but you have always ruled in my favour, so I have raised another one. Again, the Minister talked about rights of renewal. I specifically asked about the first right of refusal. A right of renewal is about perpetuity. I am talking about this: if they are going to be marine farming areas whether they get the first right of refusal, not a right of renewal. They are quite different, and I did specifically say that.
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member will find that the two things are the same thing.
Opposition MembersOpposition Members: Oh!
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has given a specific comment. He has addressed the question in that way, and that is where the matter rests.
Janet Mackey64Janet Mackey: Why is the Government introducing aquaculture reforms for marine farming?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The problems with the current law have cramped the growth of aquaculture for many years. By fixing the law this Government is improving the conditions for the sustainable growth of the aquaculture industry. The establishment of the aquaculture marine areas and the introduction of a streamlined one-permit consent system will give all marine farmers a degree of certainty that they do not currently have. Communities, on the other hand, will also have a clear way to determine where aquaculture will not take place.
Mr SPEAKER: I remind Mr Jim Peters that this is New Zealand First’s tenth question.
Jim Peters217Jim Peters: Given that the Government’s moratorium is due to end on 31 March 2004, is the Minister able to confirm that the moratorium will absolutely end on that date?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Does the Minister accept that secure property rights in aquaculture would ensure a result similar to that which agriculture provides—in other words, plenty for all at an affordable price?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member had better be clear that there will be no in-perpetuity rights under this Government. We are not about to privatise the coastal marine environment.
Phil Heatley: Does the Minister think it is fair to kick out a marine farmer who has invested blood, sweat, and tears, employs enthusiastic locals, and has pioneered the industry just to let a fly-by-nighter take his place and space because there is no right of first refusal—not right of renewal in perpetuity but no right of first refusal?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Resource Management Act behaves in respect of every issue on a “ first come, first served” basis. It does for existing permit holders and has for many years.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister’s latest response mean that if a marine farmer is in an area that is then declared an aquaculture management area under the coastal plan and is complying with all the rules, that person will have first right to continue farming in that area over and above any new person who may wish to take over the space that that person has been occupying?
Hon PETE HODGSON: If the person is a lease or licence holder, yes. [Interruption] How many times do I have to answer Mr Heatley?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has addressed the question.
Rotorua Lakes—Water Quality
11. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister for the Environment: Has the Minister received any reports over concerns about the quality of water in the Rotorua lakes?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy) on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: Yes, the Minister has received reports that the water quality in some of the Rotorua lakes is below the standard set by the local authority. The Minister has also received reports of widespread concern about the impact of this on the amenity of the lakes.
Steve Chadwick: Has the Minister taken any action following receipt of those reports?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes. The Government supported a project led by the Northland Regional Council to ensure the ongoing survival of Lake Omapere. The project is a success. The first task was to control the weed, and there has been a 95 percent reduction in the amount of weed since September 2001. In respect of the lakes in question, a similar process is likely to be undertaken. Officials from the Ministry for the Environment have been asked to work with Environment Bay of Plenty, the Rotorua District Council, and other stakeholders to prevent further deterioration of the water quality and to consider ways of improving the water quality over time.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister personally oppose controls on nutrient flows into Lake Rotoiti proposed by Environment BOP last year in its land and water plan, and now that the lake has become putrid and a national environmental disaster, will the Minister accept that her submission was a mistake, and apologise to the people of Rotorua?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I am afraid I do not have that information to hand.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister be taking any proactive steps to prevent further nutrient enrichment of the lake, such as encouraging or requiring
plantings on streams and lake margins, or is the effort only to go into cleaning up by spraying herbicides?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I remind the House that the responsibility for controlling land use rests with local authorities. In this instance, I am advised that Environment BOP is currently consulting on a rule change to limit farm intensification leading to pollution of the lakes. None the less, central government can continue its work with stakeholders such as Fonterra to establish industry standards for cleaner land use, and with small communities, to help them to properly dispose of sewage and other polluting waste.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table records of the Minister for the Environment’s personal submissions on the proposed regional water and land plan to Environment BOP.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the submissions of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which oppose controls on nutrient flows into the lake.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
12. Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Police: What is the aggregate total number of days of leave not yet taken by sworn police as at the end of February 2003, and what assurance can he give that a build up of untaken leave is not compromising public safety or the ability of police to do their job?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I am informed that, as of 26 February, there was an average of 34.3 days’ leave owing to each warden officer, which comes to a total of 265,000 days. I am further advised that untaken leave does not jeopardise public safety.
Dr Muriel Newman: Why is there a record 1,000 working years of leave due to the New Zealand Police, which is worth more than $50 million, and can the Minister deny that police are being told to “use it or lose it”, even though his decisions to cancel recruit intakes and to deploy police to Auckland have left the regions so short of staff that leave is being cancelled?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I was interested to see that that member said: “A lot of police will be tired and stressed out by not having leave.”, yet she is in a party that criticised the passing of the Health and Safety in Employment Act. The police are confident that leave is being handled reasonably well.
Martin Gallagher: Could the Minister outline what is the acceptable maximum number of days’ leave owing to a sworn police officer?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: An individual officer can accumulate up to 66 days of leave owing.
Hon. Tony Ryall: Is there any link between untaken leave with police in the Bay of Plenty region and the fact that the burglary response time has doubled in the last year in the Bay of Plenty region?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I can tell the member that throughout the 1990s the average amount of leave was always over 30 days, so it has not increased dramatically. Furthermore, police in the Bay of Plenty need the member’s support, because they are doing a good job, and they do not like their local member dumping on them.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said that my colleague Tony Ryall was dumping on Bay of Plenty police. That is not true. I do not think anybody in this House believes that. If you will continuously allow Ministers to attack the integrity of members who ask questions, this House will never have any order.
Mr SPEAKER: I have judged the statement. With regard to the previous comment, I asked the Minister to withdraw and apologise, but I thought this was a political exchange, and that the comment did not deserve a withdrawal and an apology.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You might have been distracted and not heard the Minister’s comment. Local police do not like that member’s gobbledegook. Frankly, he would not know what Bay of Plenty police think of Tony Ryall, and I bet there is not one person who has ever said to him that he is talking gobbledegook. He is not only misleading the House, but he is also being abusive.
Mr SPEAKER: I refer members to Speaker’s ruling 35/5: “If a member against whom the reference is made objects, it will be ruled out. But if that member takes no objection it will only be ruled out if it is offensive on the face of it.” Having said that, I think it would be in the member’s interest to withdraw that comment.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I withdraw that comment.
Dr Muriel Newman: What is the Minister’s response to newspaper reports that the build-up of leave is reducing productivity, putting enormous pressure on police and their families, and that relief workers are not even available to cover police if they do go on leave, and how can he possibly assure the House that that state of affairs is not putting public safety at risk?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I assure the member that the comments she made in the Waikato Times do not fairly reflect the situation. The Waikato district commander, Superintendent Kelvin Powell, said: “On average, Waikato staff are owed 25.9 days’ leave.”
Dr Muriel Newman: I seek leave to table the said report from the Waikato Times.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
Points of OrderQuestion No. 3 to Minister
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)86PETERS, Rt Hon WINSTON15:15:55Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave to table a report from the Hutt News in respect of question No. 3, which states that Indian cricket sides are losing members who visited here, who, having gone for the four ball over the rope, are going straight past the side screen and off into oblivion.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)