Questions Of The Day Transcript - 26 March 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Questions 1-12 – 26 March 2003
Questions for Oral Answer
Questions to Ministers
Prime Minister—Confidence in Ministers
1. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers; if so, why?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because they are all hard-working and conscientious Ministers.
Hon Bill English: Why has she stepped into the energy portfolio, set up a new committee headed by Dr Cullen, and cut right across 3 ½ years of work by the Hon Pete Hodgson; how does this show that she has confidence in him?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have full confidence in the Minister of Energy. The member might have noticed, however, that there has not been a great deal of new generation attempted in this country in recent years. We are asking some fundamental issues about a market model with short-term, not long-term, horizons.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in a Minister of Immigration who seems to discover what is going on within her portfolio about a week after everybody else has found out each scandal—the media and members of Parliament? Given that recent embarrassment with respect to her ministerial performance, why has the Prime Minister not sacked her?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I also have full confidence in the Minister of Immigration. I am waiting for one of the member’s scandals to stick.
Hon Ken Shirley: Why does she not believe the Minister of Energy, Pete Hodgson, could satisfactorily chair the new committee that has been established; and in response to the substantive question, is she implying that he is responsible for the lack of investment in generation over the term of this Government?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The answer to the latter question is—certainly not. The Minister has done his very best to make a flawed, inherited model work. With respect to the committee, it is an infrastructure committee; it is looking at not only energy, but also transport and water issues.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister think the circumstances surrounding the Japanese school, Colombus, in Auckland, are scandalous; and, further, that 20,000 overstayers who have failed to leave this country are scandalous, or is it the case with her ministries—anything goes?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: If the current Minister is to be damned by that, so is the former Deputy Prime Minister who was there when it was established.
Hon Bill English: Why has the Prime Minister decided to intervene in the energy market now in a way that creates maximum uncertainty, by saying that she will change the market, but she will not say how or when?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have not decided to intervene in the energy market now. What I am doing is looking at a flawed model inherited from his former Government.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Will the Prime Minister be surprised to learn that neither the—
Gerry Brownlee: Waterfall!
Mr SPEAKER: There will be no comment during question time. That is a rule and that applies to Mr Brownlee. None.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have just decided to give me a flick for an interjection by referring to me by name. I take it that for the rest of the day and for the rest of the time this Parliament is convened, that if members of the Government do the same, similarly, they will be named.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, they will be.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Would the Prime Minister be surprised to learn that both the National Party and ACT party went into the last election without any energy policy at all?
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister does not have any responsibility in that area.
Rodney Hide: Why does the Hon Parekura Horomia enjoy her confidence, given that his executive secretary, Gail Parata, attended a Te Puni Kôkiri capacity-building training wânangaat which Mâori Sports Casting International taught attendees how to avoid inland revenue by being paid under the counter through TAB accounts, or does she think that teaching people to dodge tax is a legitimate use of a $10,000 Te Puni Kôkiri grant?
Hon Chris Carter: You could have taken that seminar.
Mr SPEAKER: I have said to members that they are not to interject during question time. Mr Chris Carter, you have had your last warning.
Rodney Hide: Do you want me to answer that?
Mr SPEAKER: No, if you want to stay in the House, you had better not. Carry on.
Rodney Hide: I had actually finished.
Mr SPEAKER: I think in fairness to Mr Hide we’ll let him start again. This time I am not amused, and will be seriously intervening on any interjecting member. Please ask the question.
Rodney Hide: Why does the Hon Parekura Horomia enjoy her confidence, given that his executive secretary, Gail Parata, attended a Te Puni Kôkiri capacity-building training wânanga, at which Mâori Sports Casting International taught attendees how to avoid inland revenue by being paid under the counter through their TAB accounts, or does she think that teaching people to dodge tax is a legitimate use of a $10,000 Te Puni Kôkiri grant?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I know nothing of Miss Parata’s activities. However, the member has been exposed in this House for certain activities in that respect in Fiji.
Ron Mark: How could the Prime Minister possibly have confidence in a Minister of Defence, who, having ordered an inquiry into certain matters that included the dysfunctionalism of the Defence Force back in August-September 2001, and despite having received various draft reports for his perusal over the ensuing year after that, then finally, having received the final report on 30 September 2002, has only just today—26 March 2003—seen fit to release it for public review?
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am entirely satisfied with the process the Minister has followed. As people know, since the new defence hierarchy was put in place, a lot of the problems have become historic, and we have been able to proceed then to look at the Hunn report in a new light.
Questions for Oral Answer
2. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (NZ Labour—Manukau East) to the Minister of State Services: What reports has he received on the public response to the Government web portal?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): The e-government unit of the State Services Commission reports a steady flow of inquiries and feedback from the public indicating that our one-stop-shop approach has been very successful. There has been a significant and consistent increase in traffic tracking—25 percent greater than the track for the previous Government site. In February this year, for example, more than 96,000 visitors were recorded, and despite this increased traffic I am told that people are getting results back in under 1 second.
H V Ross Robertson: How are individual agencies responding to increased usage of the portal?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: A number of agencies are re-using the information people find valuable to recreate low-cost specialist portals to meet the needs of particular groups—for example, worksite focuses on labour market information. I expect to see a number of those kinds of sites developed, building on the work already done with the State Services Commission and the agencies.
Questions for Oral Answer
Ngâti Awa Deed of Settlement—Kaingaroa Forest
3. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: Why does the Initialled Deed of Settlement for presentation to Ngâti Awa provide for owners of Kaingaroa Forest land to pay access fees to use roads on a willing, but not anxious, arms length basis?
Hon MARGARET WILSON (Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): The deed of settlement provides a mechanism for access across land offered to Ngâti Awa in the Kaingaroa Forest to be negotiated on commercial terms in order to achieve the overriding purpose of ensuring that access can be obtained over that land into the future. The mechanism uses language commonly used in contractual documents where the objective is to achieve a commercial market rate. Owners of the forest land will be able to use this mechanism if they need to obtain access for themselves or their occupiers such as forestry companies operating on their land.
Stephen Franks: What is the Minister’s idea of property rights that means Crown forestry licence holders can be threatened with having to pay again to use their own roads they have bought and paid for, when she will not even ask Ngâti Awa to give an assurance that they will not demand money they have no right to, and will she guarantee that the police will protect the foresters’ peaceful use of their own property?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: There has been considerable negotiation on this matter. There is a difference of opinion as to the precise nature of the rights, and that is why the matter will now be referred to the court for a declaratory judgment on that part of the document.
Mita Ririnui: Will the Ngâti Awa deed of settlement affect the rights of the licensee?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: In the Crown’s view, no. This is because the deed explicitly states in clause .4.4.7G(4) that it does not affect the rights of the licensee. The deed clearly states that “this clause does not affect the rights of the licensee under the Crown forestry licences.” As I have already stated the deed provides a mechanism to enable access to be negotiated on commercial terms.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: How long has the Government known that access would be an issue, and why has the Minister left it to the last minute to resolve, thereby putting in jeopardy the Ngâti Awa settlement after 6 years of negotiations and 1 year after she signed the initial heads of agreement?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The matter has been known since 1995 when the licences were set up under that member’s Government. So in that sense it has been known to all parties affected. Yes, the matter has been subject to negotiation with the parties, but the parties are entitled to exercise their rights, and the licensee has. Certainly we have been in constant discussion and negotiation with Ngâti Awa, and we will be signing the deed tomorrow.
Dail Jones: What action will the Minister be taking to ensure that property rights are capable of being registered in the Land Transfer Office against the title in terms of the Land Transfer Act and land legislation?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: If that is a matter of relevance in this instance, it will be for the court to declare upon that, and we will wait for the judgment of the court.
Murray Smith: What is the expected time frame for Ngâti Awa to meet mandating requirements, and for the enacting legislation to be introduced?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: Ngâti Awa met mandating requirements years ago. When the deed is signed tomorrow, it will be subject to the ratification of a governance arrangement, and then reduced to legislation, which will be introduced into this House.
Dail Jones: Why is the Minister, who is in charge of this area, failing to ensure that a proper document is completed to enable these rights to be registered under the Land Transfer Act; surely that is the responsibility of this Government, and not of the courts?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: The Government has fulfilled its rights on behalf of the Crown in presenting a document. However, as the member will know, from time to time, there are differing opinions as to the interpretation of that document. The court is the legitimate place for that legitimate difference of opinion to be decided upon.
Dail Jones: Is the Minister telling this House that the Government will prepare documents, but that it expects the court to legitimise its otherwise possibly illegitimate document?
Hon MARGARET WILSON: No. The Crown considers the document to be perfectly legitimate, as do all the other parties. However, there is one clause upon which there is a difference of opinion.
Mentally Ill—Police Custody
4. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Does the ongoing situation of keeping unwell patients with a psychiatric illness in police cells constitute a crisis in mental health services; if not, why not?
Hon TARIANA TURIA (Associate Minister of Health), on behalf of the Minister of Health: No. Keeping patients in police cells, when they should be in health services, is an unacceptable situation in isolated parts of Auckland. It does not represent a crisis in mental health services.
Dr Lynda Scott: Given that in November last year the Mental Health Commission’s review of Auckland mental health services documented unsatisfactory planning, delivery, monitoring, and funding of mental health services, why are we still seeing stressed-out psychiatric crisis workers, saying, “What is going on right now is unsafe and wrong. There is going to be another disaster like Lachlan Jones, who killed his flatmate, then committed suicide.”, and what does the Minister intend to do to protect patients and the public?
Hon TARIANA TURIA: Considerable resources were put into the Auckland area to address that issue in December. We, too, are concerned that things have not happened as quickly as they can happen. Waitemata has been working very hard to put both short-term and long-term strategies in place to address those issues.
Steve Chadwick: Political attention is always focused on the very small number of people needing forensic mental health services, but what action is being taken to address the 17 percent of the population with mental health needs, who are not considered seriously unwell?
Hon TARIANA TURIA: The Government has done a lot of work in that area. For example, from 1 July this year primary health organisations will be funded to provide services to people with mental health needs. Workforce development initiatives have taken place, such as ……………………. which recruit, retain, and enhance the Mâori mental health workforce to deliver relevant and appropriate services. The Knowing the People programme, which focuses on developing local solutions, is currently being trialled by five district health boards.
Ron Mark: How many more New Zealand families have to be destroyed, and how many more New Zealanders have to die, or be bashed or maimed, before this Government finally accepts that its ideological drive to restructure the mental health services in this country back in the 1980s—which was initiated by Helen Clark, and followed on by Jenny Shipley—has been a dismal failure, and when will we see what the people of New Zealand want, which is a competent, thorough mental health service, and a reinstitution of institutions in a form that will take care of those problems?
Mr SPEAKER: There were three questions there. The Minister may comment on two.
METIRIA TUREI: Any death in the community or in an institution is unacceptable. I remind that person that the majority of deaths that occur in New Zealand are not committed by people who are mentally unwell, and we have put a further $264 million into the mental health system, since 1997.
Sue Bradford: Which, if any, of the major recommendations of the Auckland mental health review have actually been implemented on the ground, given that the holding of mentally ill people in police cells was one of the main reasons for the review, and that this practice is still happening?
METIRIA TUREI: There have been a number of initiatives that have been put in place to address that issue. There are three extra intensive care beds at Te Ataroa; there are six community rehabilitation beds that have been purchased; a further six packages of care being contracted by the funding team, which will be available in mid-April. There are an extra four respite beds available through rest-care in Auckland, and the staffing vacancies in the CAT team have been filled by locum mental-health staff. So as of today there is only one vacancy.
Judy Turner: With mental-health workers admitting they are not completing or following many aspects of the formal policies, due to their workload, does she consider the advancing of funding to the Auckland area adequate, when the staff clearly indicate no relief and patients are still being held in prisons; if so, why?
METIRIA TUREI: There have been considerable resources put into the area of mental health in the Auckland area. In fact, the total mental-health staff numbers are 1,079 just in the Waitemata area, and of that 989 are full-time staff.
Dr Lynda Scott: Will this Government accept that deinstitutionalisation has gone too far and we do not have enough acute beds, hence patients in police cells, or enough rehabilitation beds, so patients are discharged too early, or enough community care workers, because they are all leaving due to stress, and what are they actually doing right now to solve this crisis for patients in police cells today?
METIRIA TUREI: I have already answered the question about what we are doing today, and I would like to say there is no evidence to show that the deinstitutionalisation of mental health patients is at a crisis point, as suggested by the member.
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Fisheries: What is his ministry’s policy on consultation with Mâori?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Fisheries): The ministry’s policy on consultation with Mâori centres on the need to make informed decisions about the potential impact of decisions on Mâori interests.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is there any evidence to suggest that that is anything other than verbal claptrap, given that the Waitangi Tribunal on the 25th of this month urged the Government to consult properly with Mâori over concerns relating to marine farming reforms, went on to say in its report that the Government had failed to adequately consult Mâori, and that it had failed to actively protect Mâori interests, guaranteed under article 2 of the treaty, and if that is the fact what is he talking about in his primary answer?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The Crown has been aware of the Waitangi Tribunal’s findings for some time, and is responding to those findings by undertaking a series of consultation hui in the second half of April. The consultation will focus on the two key areas that the tribunal identified.
Janet Mackey: Will the Government’s aquaculture timeline be disrupted by this further need to consult with Mâori?
Hon PETE HODGSON: No. The consultation programme has been designed specifically to avoid that problem, albeit narrowly.
Phil Heatley: Since there are hui planned to address Mâori concerns on marine farming, would the Minister also take the time to tell the majority of marine farmers who are not Mâori, and to tell members of this House, when we can expect the aquaculture reform legislation to be introduced, and what specifically has held it up for so long to date?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The aquaculture legislation will be introduced after the consultation with Mâori has concluded. That has been part of the cause of the delay.
Metiria Turei: While I applaud this consultation with Mâori on this particular issue, what assurance can the Minister give that the results of the consultation will support the tribunal’s findings that Mâori have treaty rights in the coastal marine area?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The tribunal focused on two key areas. Firstly, it said that the substance of the reforms, including the move to a more planned approach, should have been fully consulted with Mâori. This was not the case, at least in part, because one cannot consult on a moratorium that one is not announcing. Secondly, the tribunal said that the Crown should ensure that whatever it does it preserves its capacity to provide for Mâori interests in marine farming in both the short and longer term. Our consultation process will seek to answer the question how best might we do that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: First of all, why has his ministry failed to consult with Mâori, evidenced by the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal finding, but, more importantly, why are we persisting with a separatist apartheid-like policy that states that we will consult with Mâori but nobody else?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Consultation on aquaculture has been occurring right through the 1990s. Consultation on this particular reform began more than 3 years ago. The consultation has been very, very extensive. However, it failed to meet two aspects of what the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal thought it should have met, and those two issues will be addressed next month.
Questions for Oral
6. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister for BiosecurityBiosecurity: What confidence does he have in the Government’s biosecurity systems when in the last six months there have been at least nine breaches, notably the gum leaf skeletoniser and the plum pox potyvirus and in the last week the fall webworm in Mount Wellington and the crazy ants at the Port of Tauranga?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Acting Minister for Biosecurity): The people of New Zealand can have confidence in the biosecurity systems of the Government because we are finding these incursions before they establish. Our surveillance is working. For example, we picked up the one suspect fruit that had symptoms not dissimilar to plum pox, which was what triggered the full investigation.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister telling the House that because we found these nine incursions and breaches of our biosecurity systems in the last 6 months that says the systems are working, and can the Minister also explain why the Government has not followed out its explicit commitment in its 1999 policy in respect of container inspections?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Given that there is the potential of over 100 new pests a day for every day of the year, I think that finding only six in the last fortnight shows that we really are very good at surveillance.
David Cunliffe: What have the Labour-Alliance and Labour-Progressive Governments done about biosecurity?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: This Government introduced instant fines for biosecurity breaches, which, I notice, a recent editorial in a newspaper said that the Government was unable to do. It bought soft-tissue x-ray machines for every international airport to find illicit food and plant imports. We hired extra quarantine staff and detector dogs. We lifted the surveillance level of air crew and passengers from 80 percent, in the previous Government, to 100 percent. We have spent more than $50 million extra per year on biosecurity than the previous Government.
Gerrard Eckhoff: Does the Minister have any new and immediate proposals to ensure that the totally unacceptable but increasing incursion of unwanted organisms, which directly threatens this nation’s agriculture and natural environment, do not occur at that accelerated rate?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Other than asking Mr Jim Sutton not to leave the country, because those incursions seem to happen when he is away, there is extremely good work, asked for by the Greens, that has been done on research into containers coming into the country as a risk area. The discussion paper has gone out to the people so that it can be part of the biosecurity strategy policy.
Larry Baldock: Will the Minister consider directing the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to examine all high-risk containers coming into the country, rather than the 24 percent it currently inspects; although expensive, is that not a better use of resources than incurring the far greater cost involved in eradication or in foreign pests becoming permanently established?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: If every container was inspected, there would be not only an extra cost of, maybe, up to $90 million, but also the cost of delays and food going rotten in those containers as they sit in the ports. Those sorts of issues are being examined and are out there in the discussion on the container risk paper. The member should read the policy.
Ian Ewen-Street: Given that sea containers are a major pathway for pest incursions into New Zealand, does she consider appropriate the proposal in the draft Import Health Standard that biosecurity inspection of containers be carried out by the very same people whose business is dependent on the rapid release and distribution of the goods contained therein; if so, why?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Because that particular policy paper is out for discussion, and the policy has not been approved by my colleagues, I can have no comment to make.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that during her watch nothing was done for 2 years—with the exception of the Painted Apple Moth—why should this Parliament have any confidence that the Government will now take action against those most recent incursions?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I correct those facts. A considerable amount of work was done on the painted apple moth in those 2 years—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Nothing!
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I know it was done, because we paid for it, and we increased the money that was paid from the amount your Government paid, which was responsible for the painted apple moth arriving in the country. I come back to the question to make a correction. The Labour Government was not responsible for the painted apple moth arriving in the country.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: You did nothing for 2 years.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The Labour Government did a considerable amount of work on the painted apple moth. We know the mistakes that were made, we have rectified them, and we have learned a lot from that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table two documents. The first of those is Labour’s biosecurity policy, which explicitly promises 100 percent inspection of containers, and the second is the Auditor-General’s report, which shows that no action was taken against the painted apple moth for 2 years after the moth was reported.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the 1999 Labour Party policy promising decontamination of every used vehicle at the port of export, something that the Prime Minister has failed to.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Prostitution Reform Bill—Police Powers
7. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Police: Has he been informed of any Police strategy to address the problem, acknowledged by the Minister of Justice in his reply to an Oral Question on 27 February 2003, that “gangs are acting frequently in the sex industry at the moment with far too little controls on what they are doing”?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): Yes, the strategy is noted in the police strategic plan to 2006. I have been advised in general terms of police efforts to counter the activities of gangs and other organised crime groups. This information is also contained in the police document The Vice Scene in New Zealand.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister aware that only the Wellington region still has a vice unit dedicated to policing prostitution and is that any reflection of its need, given the location of Parliament?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: While I cannot give specific answers about the Wellington scene, I can say that in Auckland the police are still actively involved in policing prostitution.
Taito Phillip Field: What initiatives are the police pursuing to counter organised crime, as identified in the briefing to the incoming Minister?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: A variety of initiatives are being pursued, including intelligence gathering, improving international cooperation to target transnational criminal activity, and targeting the production and supply of methamphetamines. These initiatives contribute to the police goal of targeting organised crime, as a national priority.
Richard Worth: What is the real reason that criminal gangs are not being dealt with and to by the police under the powers that Parliament gave to the police last June in section 98A of the Crimes Act; the police have the power, why are they not using it?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The police use all the powers they have to detect serious criminal activity, and this Government has given them more powers so that they can do it even better.
Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the estimated 21,882 gang affiliates in New Zealand, can the Minister tell the House exactly how he intends to support the 5,781 sworn police officers who are now reporting that they are totally overwhelmed by the magnitude of the gang problem?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The number of gang members today, compared to a few years ago, has not greatly changed. Of course, the police have the powers and they are getting more powers to police gangs, which are one of the groups of people in organised crime.
Sue Bradford: Does the Minister consider that the rounding up and arresting of 12 sex workers in Auckland on a recent weekend contributes to the efforts that some police have undertaken to try to create a better relationship with people working in the sex industry so that they can assist in dealing with major crime, like gang-related crime and murder, which particularly affect Auckland; how on earth does he think that rounding up and arresting sex workers, on a scale not seen for a very long time, helps with that goal?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: The relationship that the police have with sex workers varies; it has its ups and downs. But the police do make sure that if there are complaints about breaches of the law, they are acted on.
Larry Baldock: What additional resources, if any, will the Minister make available to police to assist them in ensuring that any licensing and zoning provisions that may be incorporated into the Prostitution Law Reform Bill, if it is passed, can be effectively monitored and that the undesirable operators will be controlled?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: While I am not responsible for the bill that will be debated later on today, if it is passed, the Government will make sure that the police are adequately resourced.
Larry Baldock: Has the Minister seen the Police Association’s submission on the Prostitution Reform Bill, which states: “Many police officers believe that the bill would simply legitimise the activities of criminals involved in overseeing pimping in the regulated part of the industry.”?
Mr SPEAKER: This is anticipating a discussion on an order of the day, but I will allow the Minister to comment.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Obviously, out in the public there are many views on the bill, and later on today members themselves will have their opportunity to make their views known.
Larry Baldock: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is a letter from the Archdiocese of Wellington, from Cardinal Williams, clarifying his position and the Catholic Church’s position and opposition to the Prostitution Reform Bill.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Larry Baldock: The second is a letter from the Salvation Army, from Shaw Clifton, clarifying its position and opposition to the Prostitution Reform Bill.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Larry Baldock: The third is the New Zealand Police Association submission on the Prostitution Reform Bill, which refers to the matters I raised earlier.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is.
8. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: What are the implications of the increase in foreign fee-paying students at primary and secondary schools?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): The key implications are the pressures on school property to accommodate increased student numbers, on staffing, which is relatively serious at the secondary school level, and on the requirement to ensure appropriate pastoral care for students.
Hon Brian Donnelly: To what extent does the increase of over 300 percent, from 4,537 in 1999 to 15,259 in 2002, in foreign fee-paying students in schools over the past 4 years account for the teacher shortages, lack of resourcing, and overcrowding in New Zealand schools?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It should not cause overcrowding, in that separate buildings have to be provided if buildings are not otherwise available. I understand that last year 800-odd secondary teachers were required to teach these young people. That is putting pressure on staffing availability and is one of the reasons the Government is looking at the possibility of capping numbers.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why does this Government not trust parents’ elected boards to make the decision about whether they have foreign fee-paying students at their schools, and, if they do decide to have them, how many they wish to have; and why does the Minister believe he has a monopoly on wisdom rather than allow the 2,600 boards of trustees to make this decision for their communities?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the member read the paper, especially in relation to Auckland in recent times, I think he would understand why it is important that the Government take a more active interest in this area. But, on this question, schools have responsibility for their own staffing. I have a responsibility for the overall staffing of the system, and that is what I am carrying out.
Deborah Coddington: Does he agree with the reaction of Fraser High School’s principal, Martin Elliott, to the Government’s proposal to limit overseas fee-paying students, when he said he was “used to some stupid things coming out of Wellington, but this tops it off”; if not, is he just buckling to pressure from his helpful friends in the teacher unions?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think I would like to have the last part of that question and give it to my Labour electorate committee and a number of my friends in the teacher unions.
Metiria Turei: Given that the prevalence of foreign fee-paying students is now a demonstrable commercial and competitive business within the public education system, how can the Minister possibly assure New Zealanders that the public education system is protected from the General Agreement on Trade in Services, when public services are exempt from that agreement only when they are not provided on a commercial basis?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Easily.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister please advise what progress has been made in the Columbus Academy investigation?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: At least 10 Government agencies are now involved in the investigation. I am advised that an understanding has been reached with the Columbus Academy legal representatives that all the children and young people resident at the academy will leave New Zealand in the near future.
Questions for Oral Answer
General Agreement on Trade in Services—Consultation
9. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Has he been informed of submissions from the Council of Trade Unions and Local Government New Zealand that the timeframe for consultation on New Zealand’s initial offer in the General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations was too short; if so, will the Government refrain from forwarding an initial offer on 31 March 2003, as requested by the Council of Trade Unions?
Hon PHIL GOFF (Acting Minister for Trade Negotiations): Consultations on the initial offer on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) extended over a month, but New Zealand’s broad approach in this area has in fact been discussed with the Council of Trade Unions and other stakeholders for around 2 years. The Government will make its best endeavours to submit its initial offers by the date of 31 March 2003.
Rod Donald: Has the Minister seen the statement from the Australian Labor Party calling the Howard Government’s secret GATS negotiations an insult to the public because, amongst other things, the Australian Government gave the public only 6 weeks to comment on its GATS discussion paper, and will he be writing to his Australian comrades to tell them they should be grateful because the New Zealand Government gave the New Zealand public less than 4 weeks to have their say?
Hon PHIL GOFF: No, and no.
Tim Barnett: What are the benefits to New Zealand from the GATS process?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Services account for almost 75 percent of New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP), and make up about 25 percent of our total exports. This is likely to be our fastest growing area of exports, but currently our exporters are inhibited by trade barriers such as regulatory discrimination and non-recognition of professional qualifications. Because the New Zealand market is already relatively open, it is our exporters who have the most to gain from multilateral decisions to reduce restrictions impeding trade in services.
Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Can the Minister confirm, for the education of the Greens, that since the first GATS agreement was signed in the mid-1990s, New Zealand’s billion dollar deficit in trade in services has come into a surplus, with further huge export potential, as he has just mentioned, from this sector that represents 75 percent of our economy and only 25 percent of our exports?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is exactly right. New Zealand has benefited hugely from the liberalisation in trade in services. Under the Uruguay round, for example, it is estimated that the benefit to New Zealand has been between $500 and $600 million that we are no longer paying in tariffs. Under this round, it is estimated that when implemented, that could increase our GDP by 1 to 1.5 percent. Why the Green Party would not want that, I simply do not know.
Rod Donald: Is the Minister aware that Pascal Lamy, the European Trade Commissioner, has briefed the European Parliament on the European Union’s initial offer, and why will the Minister not give the New Zealand Parliament the same courtesy?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The member has every right to ask questions, as he is doing right now. What is more, this Government has been more open and transparent in this process than ever before, and will continue to be so, within the constraints of respecting negotiating positions of other partners, where confidentiality is expected.
Rod Donald: Given that in answer to written questions from the Greens, we have discovered that not a single Minister has done a single specific assessment of the implications of existing GATS commitments, except for the study showing that GATS is an obstacle to mandatory local broadcasting quotas, why is the Government proceeding to make further GATS commitments that will constrain future Governments?
Hon PHIL GOFF: The latter point is wrong, and so is the first point. In fact, Ministers quite recently have spent a lot of time going through the implications of the GATS agreement, to be sure that this will be of net benefit to New Zealand. I can assure the member that it will be.
Rod Donald: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is from the Labour chairperson of the Christchurch City Council strategy and finance committee refuting the claims the Minister made in this House on 27 February.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document, is there any objection? There is.
Rod Donald: The second document is Local Government New Zealand’s submission on the GATS negotiations, which includes a request for the deadline to be extended.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rod Donald: The third one is the Council of Trade Unions submission on GATS, also seeking an extension to the deadline.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Questions for Oral Answer
10. NANAIA MAHUTA (NZ Labour—Tainui) to the Minister for the Environment: What initiatives has the Government taken to ensure the ongoing quality and supply of fresh water in New Zealand?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment): The Government has identified in its sustainable development programme of action that freshwater allocation and the maintenance of water quality are fundamental to our growth. Within that programme we are developing ways of ensuring that nationally significant water bodies such as Lake Taupo are protected, and we are identifying a more strategic method of allocating water to improve on the current mechanisms.
Nanaia Mahuta: Why has the Government identified water as one of the priority areas in the sustainable development programme of action?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: Having enough clean water is vital for the health of New Zealanders and the growth of our economy. Right now different provinces in New Zealand are experiencing water shortages, and the Ministry for the Environment is working with local government to ensure the ongoing quality and supply of fresh water.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Given the importance that access to water has for both our economy and our people, why is this Government making it harder for water augmentation schemes like Project Aqua, the expanded Rangitata irrigation scheme, and the just announced Hawke’s Bay combined hydro and irrigation scheme, by refusing to make any changes to the Resource Management Act, which has those very sound proposals tied up in red tape for years?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: I think it has already been announced by the Minster of Energy that there is ongoing work on the Resource Management Act, particularly for large projects such as water management.
Hon Ken Shirley: Given that the question referred to the supply of fresh water, not the supply of potable water, is the Minister suggesting that she can somehow make it rain more often, or does she concede that it is actually rainfall that will govern the supply of fresh water?
Hon MARIAN HOBBS: The question was about the allocation of water, and some local authorities such as the Taranaki Regional Council have shown a solution to managing a water shortage. The Ministry for the Environment will work with councils to ensure that the good lessons learnt by some councils are shared with others.
Questions for Oral Answer
Te Puni Kôkiri—Capacity Assessment Grants
11. Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What has been the total expenditure on capacity building and capacity assessment grants by Te Puni Kôkiri since the commencement of the programme formerly known as Closing the Gaps and now referred to as reducing inequalities, and what monitoring or evaluation has taken place to identify the benefits of these grants?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): The capacity-assessment and capacity-building programmes are collectively referred to as the capacity-building programme. Since July 2000, in the first year $9.2 million was expended; in the second year $8.6 million was expended; and in the third year, which is this current year, $8.6 million was expended. All projects funded by the capacity-building programme are monitored by Te Puni Kôkiri in terms of their contractual requirements.
Hon Murray McCully: Given that the evaluation framework for Te Puni Kôkiri’s capacity-building programme provides for the organisation that has received the grant to evaluate its own performance—a process that the document calls “an empowerment evaluation”, can the Minister explain how he expects any of those projects to be assessed with any objectivity?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Can I remind that person that there are two parts to that evaluation: those in the sense of over $2,000 allocations and those of under $2,000 allocations. It is important to say that as part and parcel of this evaluation it is important that the community is involved, along with the ministry and other officials.
Mahara Okeroa: What is the purpose of capacity building?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It has long been needed in this country. Capacity building is a programme that seeks to build the strategy, structure, systems, and skills of whânau, hapû, iwi, Mâori organisations, and Mâori communities, to control and develop their own developing, and to achieve their own objectives.
Rodney Hide: To assist in this innovative technique of self-monitoring and self-evaluation, will he question his executive assistant who, courtesy of a Te Puni Kôkiri capacity-building grant, had an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a training wânanga in Auckland, where, at the morning training session on “admin finances contracts”, Mâori Sportscasting International explained how sportscasters are paid under the counter through their TAB accounts to avoid tax; if not, why not?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have answered that question several times before, and I can assure that member that I have communicated my concerns to the chief executive at Te Puni Kôkiri, and that staff member has been spoken to.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether the staff member was to be questioned about, not spoken to, to assist in self-monitoring and self-evaluation. Being spoken to is not being asked.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. That is the end of the matter.
Hon Murray McCully: Can the Minister recall the stern words of the Prime Minister about the importance of the evaluation process when the flagship closing the gaps programme was first announced, and the dire warnings of the consequences to departmental chief executives who did not deliver the goods; if so, how does he square those statements by the Prime Minister and Ministers with an evaluation process that is undertaken by the people who actually receive the money?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Quite easily. Can I inform that member that there has been a three-part strategy over that period of time. In the first year, in relation to evaluation education, cultural heritage, health sector, housing, social services, employment, and training, and parts of Mâori Affairs were evaluated and monitored in the sense of what they undertook. Six more evaluations were undertaken, and the agenda is to do much more. Can I also say that there are different ways of doing an evaluation.
Hon Murray McCully: Given the evidence in recent days of Te Puni Kôkiri capacity-building grants being used to fund social functions attended in election year by representatives of some political parties, is it not a fact that the so-called empowerment evaluations are nothing more than a smokescreen for a multimillion dollar Labour Party slush fund?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Definitely not. I tell that member I am certain that in election year members on this side could attest to having attended functions like most of those people over there.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is clear that the Minister is now trying to blame other members of this Parliament for attending a function for which the expenditure was clearly illegal. [Interruption] It is illegal to hold a meeting and advise people how to break the law. That is the first illegality, and if the Minister does not understand that, she should. That is probably why she was a dean at Waikato law school.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will come to the point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am trying to, Mr Speaker, without interruption. It is your job to obstruct her.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ordered the member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: OK, all I ask for is the same rules for everybody. The point is that the Minister sought to involve others in what was an illegal activity, clearly because of the advice given by that ministry’s officials and paid for by the taxpayer, and that is wrong. He should now be asked to withdraw and apologise, or name us.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no member of this House was accused of illegality. I listened to it very, very carefully, indeed, and I have had that confirmed by advice I have received.
Hon Murray McCully: I seek leave of the House to table a document entitled “Evaluation Framework for Te Puni Kôkiri’s Capacity Building Programme”.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Questions for Oral Answer
12. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs: What recent initiatives has the Government taken to recognise New Zealand’s growing ethnic diversity?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Ethnic Affairs): Last week I formally launched the Ethnic Perspectives and Policy document. That document will guide all Government departments on creating policy that is responsive to the needs of ethnic peoples. Government Ministers have directed their chief executives to implement that policy framework that takes into account the needs of New Zealand’s growing and diverse ethnic population, which is almost 10 percent of New Zealanders.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What further initiatives has the Government taken to engage the ethnic communities of New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am pleased to report that there have been quite a number of initiatives. Those include Language Line, the Government’s 30 language free to use a telephone interpreting service that will be coming online soon. I am continuing with a series of very successful ethnic listening forums in New Zealand’s main centres. The Chinese poll tax reconciliation process is on track and I expect that to be resolved later this year.
Pansy Wong: In the light of the Government’s hasty change to the English language requirement that has seen members of the immigration consultants association experience a drop in business migrant applications from 2,200 to 13, can he tell the House how that initiative of English language requirement contributes to growing New Zealand’s ethnic diversity?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I do not have responsibility for immigration issues. However, English language proficiency has a critical impact on a new Kiwi’s chances of gaining a job.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why on earth should the hard-earning, long-suffering New Zealand taxpayer have to pay for every other ethnic group coming to New Zealand when we cannot afford to pay for the people who have been here for decades and centuries, and what happened to one country and one people, albeit of different backgrounds?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The best response to that member’s question is my thoughts that at a time of international conflict, this House has a moral responsibility to bring New Zealanders together, rather than divide them. I utterly reject the gutter politics of racial division.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will not have that nancy accuse me of gutter politics. You heard what he said.
Mr SPEAKER: There are
ways to raise Points of Order
, and that is not one of them. First, the member will withdraw and apologise for that comment.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Before the member goes on, on reflection, I think that the Hon Chris Carter did make a comment at the end that I want him to withdraw and apologise for.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I assume, Mr Speaker, that you mean “gutter politics and racial division”?
Mr SPEAKER: No, do not compound the error. I want the member to stand up and say “I withdraw and apologise.”
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I withdraw and apologise.
Paul Adams: Has he received any reports that the Government’s initiatives to recognise New Zealand’s growing ethnic diversity are being undermined by a tax on new immigrants by politicians in their twilight years?
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is not responsible for part of that question. He may give a very brief comment.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: In my listening forums that have taken place—and three very successful ones have taken place so far with the Muslim community, the Korean community, and the Urdu-speaking Indian community—that issue has been raised at all three forums.
Questions to Members
Questions to Members
1. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT NZ) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee: Has a committee meeting been set to consider the petition of Kenneth Wang and others requesting a review of the new English Language immigration tests?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee): No.
Hon Ken Shirley: When will the committee hear that petition, and is it his intention to invite, receive, and hear submissions from new migrants, most of whom have been outraged by the exclusive policies of this Government?
Mr SPEAKER: No, the first question is in order; the second is not.
Hon PETER DUNNE: I cannot give the member a precise date on which the committee will hear the petition. We have a lot of work ahead of us at the moment. However, I can assure him, that at some appropriate time we will hear that petition.
Pansy Wong: In the light of the Hon Peter Dunne’s previous answer on 20 February regarding the Prime Minister’s statement of 2001 that a tough English language test has an adverse impact on immigration, can he confirm that the Prime Minister will have the opportunity to give evidence on her statement to support those petitions in front of the committee; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: No, that is a matter for the committee. It is not a matter for this House.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)