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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 25 March 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions 1-12 – 25 March 2003

Questions to Ministers

Electricity—Reforms

1. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Energy: Does he stand by his statement made last April that Max Bradford’s 1998 electricity reforms were “irreversible or mostly irreversible”, and does he believe the market model is the best way forward for the electricity industry?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): Yes, I do. The irreversible part of the Bradford reforms included the forced sale of community-owned generation assets. That was an unconscionable exercise in coercion. The reversible bits were reversed in legislation passed in 2001. As to the market model, the Government is actively exploring whether some form of intervention to improve security of supply should be taken, though as with other infrastructure issues this country faces, this will take longer than a year or two to address.

Gordon Copeland: What then does the Minister make of the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday with regard to the electricity industry when she said: “We are contemplating significant change”, and what changes are being considered?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, myself, and many other Ministers in the Government are saying that we are open to a variety of options. There are interventions around in other parts of the world, and we are looking at those to see whether they have any use in the New Zealand situation.

Mark Peck: What is the Minister’s chief concern with the operation of that market?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The design of the market is supposed to ensure that new generation is built neither too soon nor too late. It has become clear that incentives for building enough dry-year reserve generation in a timely fashion may not be strong enough.

Gerry Brownlee: Has the Minister seen the statement made by Steve Barrett, the Chief Executive of Contact Energy, that: “To blame the current market structures for lack of new fuel resources or a dry summer is to shoot the messenger.”; if so, why is the Government proposing policy to interfere in the market in the future rather than encouraging savings now to avoid the looming crisis, and dealing with the Resource Management Act so that Contact Energy could go ahead with the three proposals it has on the books right now?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, I have not, but I have seen a press release from the member who asked the question in which he says that Contact Energy’s price increase in Wellington of 6 percent was being blamed by the company on a narrowing gap between generating capacity and demand, and a response a few hours later from the company itself, which said: “No, it isn’t.”

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are going to rule against me, but I will take the opportunity to point out that the Minister was asked at the end of that question—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will not have the opportunity to point that out. He knows I will rule against him.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If a Minister is asked to comment on a statement made by a person outside this House, and chooses to do so, should he not restrict his answer to the comment in question?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister is responsible for his own answer. I am not. All I have to see is that he addressed the question. He did.

Gerry Brownlee: He’s a dodgy Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise for that comment.

Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does it feel to have lost the confidence of the Prime Minister, who is now bringing in Dr Cullen in an endeavour to unravel the situation borne of his inertia, in an attempt to stop the blackouts from coming this winter?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I happen to be a member of Dr Cullen’s infrastructure group, and that group is looking at a range of infrastructure issues, including roading, where a decade of amiable disregard by that Government during the 1990s has left this country short on infrastructure across many industries.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does his Government support the State-owned generator Meridian Energy Ltd investing $600 million in Australian generation, while the New Zealand market is squeezed by lack of generation capacity, and will he concede that the Government’s dominance in the market through State-owned enterprises is preventing the full realisation of the electricity reforms?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am not an ownership Minister for the company, but I am sure the ownership Ministers would have required Meridian Energy Ltd to ensure that any investment offshore would not affect investment deleteriously in New Zealand, except to make the point that was made by the chief executive in yesterday’s paper, which is that wind turbines happen to be cheaper by the dozen.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that the low prices delivered up until now by a market system, which cannot foresee dry years or gas depletion, have driven electricity demand growth to 5 percent a year, considerably faster than the growth of the economy; and how does he propose that the national energy efficiency and conservation strategy should deal with that demand growth?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That is a very good question. The indications are that the substantial increase in demand this year has been driven, at least in part, by drought itself—that is to say, drought on the East Coast of New Zealand. The increase in demand between 2002 and 2001, by contrast, was much, much less; in fact, it approximated zero.

Gordon Copeland: Will the Government take specific steps to encourage energy conservation in an attempt to avert power cuts this winter, and give generators a clear message that the hydro shortage situation should not be used to gouge excessive profits from New Zealand commercial and domestic customers?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have met with the industry on a number of occasions, and they and I are of one view, which is that there will need to be consideration to conservation starting soon, though not necessarily a full-on conservation campaign; and what is more, that it is in the interests of the industry to manage that, because it has a lot of ability to do so.

Iraq—New Zealand Aid

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Is the provision of peacekeepers, mine clearing expertise and other humanitarian aid to post-war Iraq dependent upon United Nations control of Iraq; if so, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): No. As the member ought to be aware, we have already committed humanitarian aid to Iraqi people suffering from the consequences of war. With regard to peacekeeping and mine-clearing, as the member will also know that under his former Government and this Government, we have generally carried out those functions under the auspices of the United Nations.

Hon Bill English: Why is it that all of a sudden the Government is much more interested in the purity of its multilateralism than it is in the suffering of ordinary Iraqis who will be affected by this war?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Our concern for the suffering of ordinary Iraqi people was demonstrated by New Zealand being probably one of the very first countries in the world to make a commitment of funding to help with food, shelter, and medical supplies That initial commitment will be further contributed to as the need becomes apparent.

Tim Barnett: Has he had discussions with representatives of the coalition countries with forces in Iraq as to their views about the post-conflict involvement of the UN in Iraq; if so, what are those views?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Yes, I have discussed that question with the High Commissioners for Australia and the United Kingdom, and the United States Ambassador. The view of all three was that it was clearly important that the United Nations be involved in Iraq at the end of hostilities I note that Clare Short recently made a trip to the United Nations to press just that point on behalf of the United Kingdom. There is, of course, a parallel in Kosovo where the conflict did not have the explicit authorisation of the UN. Nevertheless, it was the UN that was called in to clean up the mess at the end.

Hon Richard Prebble: If it is now Labour’s policy that peacekeepers have to be under the United Nations, will the Labour Government withdraw New Zealand defence personnel who are currently acting as peacekeepers outside UN authorisation in Bougainville Papua New Guinea, Bosnia, Afghanistan, the Sinai, and Cambodia, or is it this Labour Government’s view that when it comes to Iraq, it just wants to put forward an anti-American view?

Hon PHIL GOFF: On the list of countries given by the member he was wrong on just about every count. For example, in respect of Bougainville, there is a UN office for the management of Bougainville In respect of Kosovo, there is a UN role in supervising the civil administration. The one exception that I think he did mention was the multilateral force and observers in the Sinai. That exception exists, because it was the will of both countries involved in that conflict—Israel and Egypt—that we provide assistance in the way that we have over the last 20 years.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The House should know that the answer we have just been given is very, very misleading. I checked with Defence today and that is the list they gave me of peacekeeping where they are not under United Nations control.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Richard Prebble: I guess it is about time they told the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will be seated. I am warning the member that when I tell him to sit down he sits down, and he knows that. He will not be doing that again this question time. That is debating material, and the member knows it.

Ron Mark: How seriously should the people of New Zealand take this Government’s offer of assistance in the reconstruction of Iraq and the distribution of humanitarian aid, when it seeks to allocate $40 million to Indonesia—a nation that is responsible for the deaths of five of our service personnel—and only $3.3 million towards Iraq at this point in time?

Hon PHIL GOFF: If the member is to make comparisons, he ought to do so in a way that compares like with like. The figure he quoted for Indonesia is assistance being given over a period of 4 or 5 years. The figure that he has given for Iraq is the initial commitment of resources that we have made immediately to that country, foreshadowing that other assistance will also follow.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that not only is it important that the UN humanitarian effort remain truly independent but also that if UN peacekeepers were in any way subordinate to the invading American force, that would seriously compromise or undermine the United Nations?

Hon PHIL GOFF: We will be providing aid largely through UN agencies, and also through non-governmental organisations. The UN can operate to provide humanitarian aid without any further mandate. With regard to peacekeeping forces, clearly the role of peacekeeping forces post-conflict has to be quite separate from the role of the military forces that were involved in the action in the first instance.

Hon Peter Dunne: If the Government does receive a request via the United Nations for the involvement of New Zealand peacekeeping forces in post-war Iraq, what would be its response?

Hon PHIL GOFF: New Zealand has a proud reputation for being a good international citizen. We have always tried to respond positively to any requests made by the UN for our assistance, such as in the tragedy that is occurring in Iraq at the present time.

Hon Bill English: Given the Government’s concern about correctly following the rules and conventions of the United Nations, why has the Government allowed the State broadcaster, Television One, to broadcast pictures of prisoners of war in contravention of international law?

Hon PHIL GOFF: A lot is being said about breaches of the Geneva convention in respect of prisoners of war. Sadly I have seen photos of prisoners of war held by the coalition forces, and I have seen photos of American prisoners of war held by the Iraqis. Both are, as I understand it, in breach of the UN convention. The member knows about TVNZ, and knows that this Government does not direct Television New Zealand on the news that it provides. I am surprised that the member is recommending that we should direct it.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was completely unable to hear the conclusion of the Minister’s answer. I am very interested to know what the Government is doing about what the Minister says are breaches of the Geneva convention. I think he should be able to give the final part of his answer so the whole House can hear it.

Mr SPEAKER: The final sentence was drowned out by what I thought was an unreasonable amount of noisy interjections. I did just hear the answer. Could the Minister repeat the final sentence as he gave it.

Hon PHIL GOFF: I said that this Government and, in fact, any Government in New Zealand, does not have the power to direct any news organisation in this country as to what it provides. I was surprised that the Leader of the Opposition was suggesting we should have that power.

Early Childhood Education—Services

3.HELEN DUNCAN (NZ Labour) to the Minister of Education: What initiatives have been put in place to strengthen support for early childhood education services?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The most recent is the planned integration of the Early Childhood Development agency into the Ministry of Education. We want to make sure there is a cohesive—[Interruption] There we go again—7 percent and falling! We want to make sure there is a cohesive, integrated, and streamlined approach to early childhood education. Later this year all the relevant experts will be under one roof to ensure the effective implementation of the early childhood education strategy, which aims to improve quality and participation.

Helen Duncan: Can the Minister tell the House how this initiative fits with the Government’s broader objectives for early childhood education?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Relatively briefly, this Government has increased the level of funding received by all services, introduced equity funding, increased support of money for buildings and extensions, improved the requirements for teachers’ qualifications, made scholarships and grants for teacher supply available, and provided funding to establish centres of innovation. Like Dr Brash rapidly becoming the favourite of the people for the National Party leadership, we believe in early childhood education.

Phil Heatley: Can the Minister provide an assurance that this old, left-status merger of Early Childhood Development into the ministry will not result in cuts to early childhood resources and staff; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I totally reject the assertion of the first part of the question. Although I will be sending it to my Labour electorate committee to remind its members that at least some people think of me in that way, I am quite prepared to give the assurance the member seeks.

Hon Brian Donnelly: As early childhood providers are funded at a rate so much lower than kindergartens that they could not provide pay parity rates even if they wanted to, how does that policy position strengthen early childhood services?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Rate 2 funding is available for many more hours than rate 3 funding.

Superannuitants—Overseas Travel

4. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: With respect to superannuitants who travel abroad, does the Work and Income website state “If you don’t tell us you are going overseas and your payments continue, and you stay away for more than 30 weeks, you’ll have to pay all the money back.”; if so, how quickly does Work and Income take action when a superannuitant fails to so advise the department?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The words quoted by the member are included in a section providing information for people on superannuation who intend to travel overseas. The section includes a request to “check with us before you go”, as there are additional criteria relating to medical treatment, work for aid agencies, or unforeseen delays. Work and Income New Zealand data matches with a variety of agencies, including the New Zealand Customs Department, and actions any cases raised in this process. Generally, a letter is sent within 2 to 3 weeks.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Minister said the letter took between 2 and 3 weeks. That being the case, has he discussed with his colleague the Minister of Immigration the huge inconsistency of Work and Income New Zealand—relying on information gleaned at our border and available to the New Zealand Immigration Service—being able to act within 2 or 3 weeks against hard-working New Zealand superannuitant taxpayers, yet the Immigration Service taking years, in the case of tens of thousands of overstayers?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I have not discussed that. Coming back to the process, I say that, generally, a letter is sent in 2 or 3 weeks, and that of course is a practice that has been in place since 1991 when the member for Tauranga was in Cabinet.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that it is normal for Ministers to add on bits to their answer that refer to the past ministerial experience of members on the other side of the House, but what did that add to the issue of whether he talked to his incompetent colleague about her inactions?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.

Georgina Beyer: What does Work and Income New Zealand—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the member to start again, and anyone who interjects while she is asking the question will leave.

Georgina Beyer: What does Work and Income New Zealand do to publicise rules regarding payment of superannuation while a person is on an overseas trip?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Work and Income New Zealand produces booklets that set out the general rules. The booklets recommend that people intending to travel overseas call Work and Income New Zealand for detailed information, using one of the freephone information numbers. Work and Income New Zealand is currently working with travel agent associations to ensure that brochures are available in all travel agencies. I seek leave to table the “Retired and going overseas” booklet, which some members may well want in the near future.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is not.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: There is. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: There is objection?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: There is objection, because this Minister knows full well—no, this is a point of order—that seeking leave is usually a matter of courtesy and tabled at the end of question time.

Mr SPEAKER: That is perfectly correct, and the member is right. I will ask the Minister to do it then.

Katherine Rich: In the light of the fact that only seven people have been prosecuted for overseas benefit fraud in the 2000-01 financial year, and none of them were superannuitants, can the Minister confirm whether he believes there are people his department are not catching; and explain why he remains ideologically opposed to allowing the Ministry of Social Development to engage private investigation services when, clearly, Work and Income New Zealand’s own benefit-fraud detection is weak at best, and many other Government departments, from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to the Department of Conservation and the Accident Compensation Corporation, use such services to detect illegal acts?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I do not remain ideologically opposed to hiring private services to augment what the Government would do, but in the case of Work and Income New Zealand we have one of the most successful agencies, I think, across the board. In particular, in relation to the collection of debts, I think they do a very effective job.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Minister think it is right, proper, and fair for his department to be hounding elderly New Zealanders in this way, many of whom have worked 45 or 50 years and paid their taxes, and is it not discriminatory when we have regard to the fact, which has come up within the last couple of weeks, that his colleague has not taken action, for years, against what she has said is up to 20,000 overstayers in this country; all of whom are foreigners? [Interruption]


Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That’s how one gets to be an overstayer! Applying the rules that Mr Peters’ earlier experience in Cabinet put in place, we do not “hound” any one. He did not hound them; neither do we. These are simply the rules, and we send out the letter asking for the money back, if they break them.

Development Assistance Programme—Asia-Pacific Region

5.JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance): How are contributions from New Zealand’s development assistance programme supporting democracy in the Asia-Pacific region and what are the benefits?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance): Contributions from New Zealand support democracy and good governance by providing election support, training judges, strengthening civil society groups, and other contributions, such as the provision of $1 million for New Zealand police to mentor Solomon Islands police. This helps to reduce poverty and bolsters regional security, which in turn increases trade and investment opportunities for both the recipient country and New Zealand.

Jill Pettis: What is the most recent initiative the Government has taken to support democracy in the Asia-Pacific region, and what is the desired outcome of that initiative?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Just last month New Zealand gave $455,000 to help Cambodia run its national elections. After 3 decades of war and violence in Cambodia, a positive outcome would be a peaceful, just election, in which all Cambodians get a say in how their country is run.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Why does the Government not put priority on dealing with humanitarian and reconstruction issues for a future democratic Iraq, instead of—this week of all weeks—focusing on the Asia-Pacific region; obviously the ideological obsession of the Prime Minister?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: There are many wars in the world. The contribution of New Zealand aid is focused, first of all, on our backyard. I would have thought that the member would realise that if there was a civil war in our backyard, it would have an immediate and quite detrimental impact on this country.

Dail Jones: What is new about this policy, given that the report of the ministerial review team, of March 2001, indicates that the origins of this policy go back to 1901, and that successive New Zealand Governments have, since that time, maintained this policy?

Hon MARIAN HOBBS: What is new about this policy is that, firstly, it is a focus on the Pacific—our near neighbours—and, secondly, it is a focus on the eradication of poverty. That is quite a distinct change from how New Zealand aid, which is now a semi-autonomous body, has been working since 1901.

Free Trade—United States

6.Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: In light of the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament on 11 February this year “we have stepped up our promotion of free trade negotiations with the United States, following the positive reference to New Zealand in the US Trade Representative’s letter to Congress on his intention to negotiate with Australia”, what progress has been made on a bilateral free trade deal with the United States?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Acting Minister for Trade Negotiations): The Government has made sound progress in laying the foundation for a trade deal with the United States. In his letter to Congress in relation to the Australian free-trade agreement, the United States Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, indicated that he would consult with Congress on the possibility of a similar agreement with New Zealand. Since that time, such an agreement has received considerable support within Congress and also from the United States business sector. Jim Sutton and our embassy in Washington are working actively and effectively to build on that support.

Hon Richard Prebble: Will the Minister advise the Prime Minister that US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick’s 2003 trade policy agenda published on 1 March this year—a 17-page report—lists some 26 countries as having trade negotiations with the United States, and includes the statement that a free-trade agreement has been launched with “Australia, our 14th largest trading partner and a growing economy, a key US ally”, but there is no mention of New Zealand anywhere in the 17-page report; what is the significance of that—that is, the US will negotiate with 26 nations, but there is not a single mention of New Zealand?

Hon PHIL GOFF: As I mentioned to the member, Bob Zoellick made the mention about the possibility of a trade agreement with New Zealand in his letter to the Congress. The United States has a long list of negotiating partners, and the member would be surprised to find that a very small number of those are actually in the category of countries that he would regard as being there because of close allied or security arrangements with the United States.

David Benson-Pope: Can the Minister comment on the level of congressional and business support for entering a free-trade agreement with New Zealand?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Last month 50 members of Congress, the House of Representatives, wrote formally to the president to demonstrate their support for a free-trade agreement with New Zealand. Over 250 US companies, including many Fortune 500 companies, have also signed up to the United States – New Zealand Business Council, indicating their support for a free-trade agreement with New Zealand.

Dr Wayne Mapp: Can the Minister confirm that the trade agenda of the administration of President Bush dated 3 March in reference to Australia refers extensively to the free-trade agreement and the negotiations, and talked about the allied status, but when it comes to New Zealand there is not a single mention of any reference to free-trade agreements; what does that say about the difference between November last year and March this year—where has the Government gone wrong?

Mr SPEAKER: The first two questions can be answered.

Hon PHIL GOFF: If I can pick up the point about the relevance of New Zealand’s allied status, I note that two countries with which the United States either has a free-trade agreement or is negotiating one right now are both members of the Security Council—Chile and Mexico—and both indicated their opposition to the use of force and to a resolution supporting that before the Security Council. I note that Canada, which has a free-trade agreement with the United States, has consistently held a position very close to that of New Zealand with regard to Iraq. I notice a range of other countries, including Morocco, that have never been allied nations of the United States and never fought alongside it in any war.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the slogan used by the Labour Party in its last election campaign, that we are “very, very, very good friends with the United States”, and the Prime Minister’s argument that we will tailgate Australia into a free-trade agreement are so much hogwash when considered against the knowledge of the United States in respect of this Government—which goes back many years—and if Morocco gets a free-trade agreement before us what does that say about this Minister and his party?

Hon PHIL GOFF: In relation to the actual question, the answer is, no, it is not a fact. The member often raises things in his questions that are not correct. The fact of the matter was that it was Colin Powell who described New Zealand as “a very, very, very close friend”. That was the description used by the United States about New Zealand; it was not a claim made by New Zealand about its partnership with the United States.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister agree that if New Zealand wants to have an independent foreign policy, the Government should put a US free-trade agreement on the back-burner, especially in the light of the comments from the President of the Cattle Council of Australia, Keith Adams, who said that the Howard Government’s strong support for the US against Iraq is helping Australia’s efforts in its trade talks, thus confirming that the United States does link foreign policy and trade issues?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, I do not agree. One cannot have both an independent foreign policy and a free-trade agreement with the United States. I strongly disagree with the sort of comment Lockwood Smith made, when he said we should make an exchange between the putting the lives of New Zealanders at some risk and some trade advantage. I believe that is immoral, and I am pleased to say that the Leader of the Opposition—to whom I pay tribute—disciplined the members of his party who made those sorts of immoral suggestions.

Hon Peter Dunne: What is the next step that will be taken in furthering a prospective free-trade agreement with the United States, and when will that step be taken?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The advice given by Bob Zoellick was that we need to work amongst the congressmen on Capitol Hill, that we need to work with business, and that we need to create a constituency for ourselves. We are doing just that at this very moment, with considerable support shown by those whom we have approached on the hill, including key chairpersons of congressional committees, and by key US industries.

Hon Richard Prebble: I seek leave to table the 2003 Trade Policy Agenda of the United States.

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

Marine Life—Environmental Protection

7. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Conservation: What recent initiatives has the Government taken in marine protection?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): On Sunday I announced the creation of a second marine reserve this year. It covers 700 hectares at

Bay on Waiheke Island, and contains estuary and marine habitats of national significance. It follows the creation of a large Auckland Islands marine reserve. I look forward to further additions to our marine reserve system.

Lynne Pillay: What is the Government doing to deliver on the biodiversity strategy goals for marine conservation?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Improving the health of the oceans is a priority of this Government. I am working closely with the Minister of Fisheries on a number of marine initiatives, including a plan to reduce seabird deaths in New Zealand fisheries, which will shortly go to stakeholders for their comment. I also note that the Marine Reserves Bill is currently before the Local Government and Environment Committee.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Given that when National created 13 new marine reserves in the previous 9 years it was slated by Labour as “pathetic”, and that, in the first 3 years of this Labour Government, not one new marine reserve was created, how many new marine reserves will Labour need to create to avoid its own petard of “pathetic”?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: In the 8-month period that I have been Minister of Conservation two marine reserves have been created. In the period during which that member was Minister of Conservation, I think a total of three marine reserves were created. I am hoping the next 8 months will see an even better record set than that which has already been established.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Can the Minister explain why Chen Palmer and Partners’ legal opinion on this issue is ignored, which states that New Zealand’s marine protection initiatives clearly breach the international law of the sea, and why is this Government prepared to openly flout that international law, but, on matters of international security, is very critical of the United States for acting “unilaterally”—in the Government’s words—which is exactly what the Government is doing right now on this issue?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may answer the part of the question that affects his portfolio.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The member’s question contained quite a few questions, but I would like to say that I am not responsible for the opinions of Chen and Palmer.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was not asked a number of questions or whether he was responsible for the views of Chen and Palmer; he was asked a simple question: why is New Zealand not prepared to follow international law when it comes to marine matters but has a completely different view when it comes to Iraq?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister was asked a question, and a question about a comment made by Chen and Palmer. He gave a perfectly acceptable answer. He addressed the question.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm, in relation to the previous question, that the Chen and Palmer view was expressed about the exclusive economic zone outside the 12 mile limit, and that Waiheke Island is not in the exclusive economic zone?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister cannot talk about the Chen and Palmer comment, but the last part of the question is in order.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can confirm that Te Matuku Bay on Waiheke Island is within the 12 kilometre zone.

Larry Baldock: Given the amazing speed with which the Minister is now signing off on new marine reserves, does he still think there is a need for the Marine Reserves Bill; if so, why?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: It would not be appropriate for me to discuss a bill that is currently before a select committee, but of course there are always opportunities to improve marine protection.

Electricity—Power Savings Campaign

8. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Why is he resisting calls by the Major Electricity Users Group for him to set up a national power savings campaign and to instruct Government departments to start saving power immediately?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): The Grid Security Committee is meeting this afternoon to consider what level of conservation is appropriate now, and I have been meeting various members of that committee over the past week or two. The Major Electricity Users Group is represented on the committee. If saving targets are set, I am sure they will include the public sector.

Gerry Brownlee: Why is his Government focusing on the increasing creeping hand of socialism by its interfering in the electricity market in the future, a move Contact Energy Ltd has warned today will discourage further investment in generation, stating: “The market is not to blame for the lack of fuel or rain.”; and why is he not acting now to encourage savings so New Zealand can avoid the impending crisis this winter, rather than relying on an outside group to voluntarily give up its production?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The outside group is the industry, including consumer representatives. They have the ability to manage the conservation campaign, if that is needed, and they will call on me for assistance if they want it. The member needs to be clear whether he thinks the market works or whether he thinks it does not. He was on the radio this morning saying that “the picture we have at the moment is in fact clear because the market does work; the problem is we do not have enough generation”.

David Parker: Why are members of the Major Electricity Users Group so strongly affected by current high wholesale electricity prices?

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We do have a thing about patsy questions and ministerial responsibilities, and I think that for people who are involved in a group called the Major Electricity Users Group, it is probably self-evident why they have an interest in energy use—and the Minister is not responsible for them.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me put this way: I am hoping that the Minister can reply indicating his position on this.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Indeed I can. The important fact is that many major electricity users choose to buy electricity on the wholesale spot market because, on average, the price is significantly lower than the going contract price, which is what many other electricity users choose. Last year, for example, the major users paying the spot price for electricity saved many millions of dollars because prices were usually less than 4 cents a unit. The downside of choosing some exposure to the spot market, however, is that in periods of tight supply or uncertainty, spot prices can climb very rapidly and very high, as they have lately.

Hon Ken Shirley: Rather than having Cabinet dictates on power consumption, as proposed by the substantive question, why does his Government not address the supply constraints and remove the obstacles to investment in generation capacity imposed by the Resource Management Act and the obstinate intransigence of the Department of Conservation in schemes such as N_____________ and Arnold River on the West Coast?

Hon PETE HODGSON: In October of last year, the member’s colleague Mr Gerry Eckhoff said precisely what the member had suggested: that the Resource Management Act in this case, would cause a 4-year delay for Project Aqua. A few weeks ago I announced changes to the Resource Management Act, and Mr Gerry Eckhoff rushed to the media saying that the Government is resurrecting the Muldoon era. What does the member think the ACT policy is on this matter?

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the Minister consider again adopting my proposal, made during the last dry winter, that we develop a comprehensive power-saving strategy involving all New Zealand businesses and households, with several levels of intensity so that everyone knows when to start, and how much to do how soon, rather than building new capacity, which will raise all power prices while it sits idle for 95 percent of the time?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That is precisely the work that was completed by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority last week, which I have handed to the industry for its consideration.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the Government is considering establishing a systems operator who will buy and sell all generated electricity, doing away with the market and destroying all incentives for investment in new generation that we desperately need?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That idea has been around for some years—in fact, for a bit over a decade. It is one that is being actively explored by the committee that Dr Cullen has headed up to look at infrastructure issues, including electricity generation. It is one of the options.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this point of order somewhat cautiously, but with the utmost respect. We had a situation where my colleague Mr Gerrard Eckhoff raised a question about why the Government had ignored the opinion of Chen Palmer and Partners. The Minister’s response was essentially to say that the question was out of order and that he was not responsible for Chen and Palmer’s opinion. That was raised as a point of order by the Hon Richard Prebble. It seemed to me that the question was in order. We then had a situation where a Labour MP asked the Minster why the major users energy group thought something or other. That clearly is out of order. The Hon Roger Sowry raised that as a point of order, and it was allowed. I think there needs to be clarification on consistency.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I did not take it that way, at all. That was how he chose to answer it. It was his call.

Youth—Development Strategy and Health Action Plan

9. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What reports has he received on initiatives that support the Government’s Youth Development Strategy and Youth Health Action Plan?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs): Recently, I had the honour of announcing on behalf of the Prime Minister the decision by Glaxo Smith Kline to provide $660,000. This funding will allow Youthline to provide the much needed 24-hour, 7-days-a-week telephone counselling service. It will also allow it to embark on a range of new initiatives to improve its support for young Kiwis. Youthline’s operations link very well with the Government’s youth development strategy and youth health action plan

Darren Hughes: Does Youthline receive any funding from the Government?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Youthline manages a range of Government contracts—a large number. I will just name a few here: Department of Child, Youth and Family Services contracts,

district health board contracts, education contracts, and alcoholic liquor advisory contracts.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked whether the Government provides any money to Youthline.

Hon Annette King: And he answered it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, he did not. And the member should keep quiet while I am raising a point of order. That is the Speaker’s job, not hers. She cannot even do her job properly. The member raised a question as to what money—

Jill Pettis: What a chauvinist.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did you hear that, Mr Speaker? The fishwife said I was a chauvinist.

Mr SPEAKER: I will have points of order in silence and that is the last warning.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Minister was asked by the member at the back as to what money was provided by the Government in respect of Youthline. At the end of that answer, we still do not know, even though there were, probably inappropriately, interjections like “Yes or no?” and “What money is supplied?”

Mr SPEAKER: I heard the Minister’s answer and I would refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 128/5. Information was given and I took it that he was answering the question pretty well directly.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm the statement in the Labour 2002— [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is the last warning to the member, too.

Simon Power: Can the Minister confirm the statement in the Labour 2002 election manifesto that Labour will “retain a separate Minister of Youth Affairs responsible for the implementation of this strategy.”; if so, how is this consistent with the proposed merger of the Ministry of Youth Affairs into the Ministry of Social Development?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: The answer to the first part of the question is yes; for the second part of the question I refer the member to my oral answer to question 10 last Tuesday.

Craig McNair: Why has this ministry lasted 14 years under seven Ministers, yet under the reign of this Minister the Ministry of Youth Affairs is to be abolished after 9 months; and what does this say about his incompetence?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: It says nothing about incompetence.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: This question was addressed by way of answer and I am not having a point of order on that issue.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I want to raise a point of order whether you like it or not.

Mr SPEAKER: Oh no, you are not. Please be seated.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is my right.

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated, or the member will leave. I know what the member’s point of order was going to be about: the adequacy or otherwise—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, so you are a clairvoyant now, or are you a soothsayer, or what?

Mr SPEAKER: The member will now leave the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am happy to do that. It is a waste of time being here with you.

Mr SPEAKER: I will name the member if he does that again.

Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.

Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister tell the House about the progress of one of the first initiatives supporting the Youth Development Strategy, the evaluation of drug education initiated by the Greens and agreed by the previous Minister of Youth Affairs, Laila Harré, which was the first significant new initiative in drug education for a number of years?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Yes, I am pleased to advise the member that it is going wonderfully well.

Paul Adams: As it is now widely accepted that the breakdown of the family is a major contributor to negative outcomes for youth, will he be working with other Government departments to implement policies that help parents to create a positive and stable environment in which to raise their children?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Yes.

Electricity—Wind Generation

10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Will he support the proposal by the Wellington Regional Council to use the Belmont Regional Park, consisting of Department of Conservation, Hutt City and Wellington Regional Council reserves land for a wind turbine electricity generating station?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): As yet, there is no application to use the reserve land in the Belmont area for wind generation. Any such application would be given due consideration when it is lodged.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister, before any application had been received, point blank refuse to consider the Dobson hydro project on the West Coast, saying he had “no intention of entertaining the idea because reserve land was sacrosanct”, when in his primary answer he said something quite different; is it because this Government is prejudiced against the West Coast and has a politically correct view of wind power, and a different view of hydro power?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The two cases are quite different. Much of the area that would have been affected in Card Creek lies within an ecological area. The House may have forgotten, but I am sure that the member has not, that when he was the Minister of Conservation he substantially increased the ecological area of Card Creek.

Mahara Okeroa: Have any significant electricity generation projects been approved by the Department of Conservation?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, permission was given by the department for works in Fiordland National Park associated with the construction and operation of a second tail race tunnel at Manapouri, resulting in a major increase in power production from that large hydro station.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Minister aware that the ownership of the Belmont Regional Park is spread between a number of agencies including those mentioned in the primary question, but that it also includes farmland owned by Landcorp as it used to be called—I am not sure what it is called now—and does that complicated ownership pattern have any impact on the way in which any application for a wind farm will be assessed?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I recently wrote to the member, upon receipt of a letter from him, explaining the very complicated mixture of tenures located within that park, and the fact that the Wellington Regional Council will have to review management of the area in 5 years’ time.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Given that the two generating stations are both 70 megawatts, that the Belmont Regional Park would use a substantially greater area of reserve land than the Dobson proposal, and that 85 percent of the West Coast is reserve land, as compared with only 16 percent in Wellington, will the Minister reconsider his point blank refusal, given the electricity crisis that we now have, rejecting the Dobson hydro project?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Surely I do not need to remind the member that as yet we have absolutely no application for wind generation in Wellington. As far as the Dobson conservation area is concerned, it is quite a different matter.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is a report in the newspaper stating: “Carter says no to power scheme”.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. What is the second document?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The further document that I wish to table is the proposal for a wind-power generating station on reserve land here in Wellington.

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

Points of Order

Question No. 2 to Minister

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): I am sorry to interrupt the time of the House. In question No. 2 I was accused of misleading the House in regard to UN-related missions. I seek the leave of the House to table a list of six operations mentioned by Mr Prebble, five of which have a UN link. The sixth was the exception that I mentioned in relation to the Sinai.

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

Iraq—Security Intelligence Report

11. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Is New Zealand one of the countries the White House says refuse to be named but are providing intelligence support for the war against Iraq?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Deputy Prime Minister), on behalf of the Prime Minister: No.

Keith Locke: How can we be assured that information from the Waihopai satellite communications interception station is not helping the US war effort in Iraq, when a US congressional document states explicitly that Waihopai, which it calls part of the five-nation Echelon network, is being used for the war in Afghanistan?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is not the Government’s practice to comment on specific intelligence matters, but I can tell the member that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has affirmed that New Zealand retains sovereign control over its intelligence collection capabilities.

Simon Power: In the light of the Prime Minister’s comments that New Zealand will not provide any peacekeeping support in Iraq at the conclusion of the present military action, can she identify exactly what support she will provide, and under what specific conditions?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The substantive question was about intelligence capability, not about Iraq.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I was distracted momentarily. I think the member may have raised a valid point of order. Will the member restate the question?

Simon Power: In light of her previous comments, what specific support will she provide and under what specific conditions, given the current conflict in Iraq? He was asked about intelligence support. It is about any other support.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We are referring to questions of intelligence support. I reaffirm that it is not the Government’s practice to comment on specific intelligence matters.

Hon Ken Shirley: As has been revealed in many US publications, why will this Government not admit it is possible that Operation Decapitation in Baghdad, which was triggered by an intercepted telephone conversation, could have been a result of the Waihopai eavesdropping, as suggested by Mr Locke; or is it a position of a continuing stance of one position in public and a different position in private?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As I said, the Government does not comment on specific intelligence matters, but I suspect the conversation from Mr Saddam Hussein was not to a New Zealander.

Keith Locke: In reference to the Prime Minister’s comment that we have sovereign control over the Waihopai system, how can the Prime Minister assure us that we know exactly the implications of all the key words and key phone numbers that the United States National Security Agency uses to filter the information coming into Waihopai?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The comment was made not by the Prime Minister but by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security as an overall independent stance in supervising these matters. Equally, of course, there is a statutory committee on which a number of members of the House serve, which has oversight of security and intelligence matters.

Ron Mark: Is the Minister telling the House that any intelligence that our Orion may glean in the course of its duties and operations in the Gulf, that affects the deployment of the coalition forces in the Gulf, would not be handed to the coalition forces in the Gulf?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a little wide of the original question. The Minister may comment.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The important point to note, of course, is that command of Operation Enduring Freedom is separated from command of the coalition forces in Iraq; there are two separate command structures operate. That is very important to a number of countries, including Canada, France, and New Zealand, who are involved in the Operation Enduring Freedom in the area.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table a US congressional document dated 11 July 2002, which explains Waihopai’s use.

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

Mâori Sportscasting International—Grants

12. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: Did funding from Te Puni Kokiri cover the cost of attendance of any of Hon Dover Samuels’ past or present staff at the awards dinner hosted by Maori Sports Casting International on 6 July 2002, and on what date did Te Puni Kokiri discover that over half of its capacity building grant was spent on the awards dinner, alcohol and a band?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Maori Affairs): I understand that a past and present staff member of the Hon Dover Samuels did attend the awards dinner. I am advised by Te Puni Kôkiri that the original application of June 2002 from Mâori Sportscasting International Ltd did identify that a dinner and awards ceremony would be held.

Rodney Hide: Can he confirm then, in light of his answer, that over half of the $10,000 capacity-building grant was spent on an old-fashioned Labour Party booze-up for John Tamihere, Dover Samuels, their partners, this Minister’s executive assistant, Gail Parata, Dover Samuels’ campaign manager, Mr Shane Te Pou, and his present private secretary, Mr Daniel Phillips; and can he also confirm that under the contract, Te Puni Kôkiri can demand the money back because the awards dinner was not in the schedule of that contract?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Those people did attend the awards, and in relation to the application, I understand that it was not there. But I am more than happy to recheck that and come back to that member.

Dianne Yates: Is the Minister satisfied that a significant proportion of the funding provided by Te Puni Kôkiri went to the organisation and running of an awards dinner?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No, as I said earlier, and I have expressed my concern in writing to the chief executive of Te Puni Kôkiri.

Katherine Rich: Does he think this contract is explicit enough to ensure capacity is built, when the contract’s first deliverable, for which $8,000 was paid, simply required Mâori Sportscasting International to sign the agreement; the second deliverable for $1,000 was to hold the training course; and the third and final deliverable for another $1,000 was to write an evaluation report, and where in these deliverables was the $5,400 for a boozy nosh-up?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Some of the questioners seem to be hung up on the boozy nosh-up. But as I told that person and showed the report, it is in detail there in the sense of the evaluation and the summaries of what happened in a weekend when people attended in their private time.

Rodney Hide: What sort of signal does he think it sends up-and-coming Mâori that one of the awards paid for by Te Puni Kôkiri and awarded by Mr Hemana Waaka was for having the brains of a sheep, and does he approve of such an award paid for by Te Puni Kôkiri?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That question sounds a bit woolly headed to me. Of course, I do not agree on that sort of activity. How silly!

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure whether the Minister addressed the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I am. Please be seated.

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

Mr SPEAKER: I specifically heard him do so. I listened carefully to see whether he did, and he did.

Rodney Hide: I seek leave to table the contract between Te Puni Kôkiri and Mâori Sportscasting International that shows no mention of any dinner.

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


End of

15:09:00

End of QOA (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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