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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 27 March 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Thursday, 27 March 2003

Questions 1 to 12 to Ministers
Questions 1 to 3 to Members

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer
Elderly—Housing

1. GEORGINA BEYER (NZ Labour—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Housing: What commitment does the Government have towards housing older people?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Acting Minister of Housing): I am pleased to report that tomorrow the Prime Minister will open a $9.9 million development in Lynfield. This complex provides 51 units designed primarily for elderly New Zealanders, although other units have been modified for the use of people with a disability. The design standard of those units sets a new benchmark for State houses in New Zealand. I am extremely proud of them.

Georgina Beyer: What future housing plans does the Government have for Auckland?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The Government is determined to increase the housing stock, which was severely depleted during the 1990s. The problem is particularly acute in Auckland where there is heavy demand for housing. As a result, more than 80 percent of all new Housing New Zealand acquisitions are in Auckland. In our first term, this Government has added an extra 1,150 State houses in Auckland. That does not include the 1,660 Auckland City Council houses the Government purchased recently. In total, over the next four financial years we expect to increase Auckland’s State housing stock by another 2,500 net.

Dr Lynda Scott: In the light of the fact that one of the largest issues facing older New Zealanders and housing is whether this Government will stand by its commitment to remove asset testing of their house, when faced with residential care, can he tell us why asset testing has not been removed as promised by Labour at two elections?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I know that the National Party will be anxious about this, because it has no policy at all on the issue. However, we on this side of the House will keep our word.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Minister to answer the question. Why has Labour failed to keep its promise after two elections, and could he eliminate any answer in respect of the National Party’s policy, because we know it has not got one?

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the question can be answered.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The undertaking by the Labour Party was to introduce legislation prior to the election. As people know, we had an early election last year, and as a result we explained to people that we would put the legislation as soon as we could after the election—[Interruption] It was actually the member’s fault because he called for it repeatedly. I know that the National Party is embarrassed because it does have a policy: it wants to keep asset testing.

Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the fact that Labour’s income-related rents policy has resulted in the problem of thousands of families in urgent need not being able to get a State house, what does he intend to do to encourage those people with less urgent needs who sit tight on their cheaper rents to move on?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: On the contrary, the introduction of income-related rents has meant for 53,000 households in this country more money in their pocket every single week, and that is why it is such a popular policy. We now have an active policy of working with those people to move them to suitable accommodation and of course to build new accommodation more suited to them.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—Humanitarian Aid

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: In light of her reported comments earlier this week that New Zealand wanted the United Nations actively involved in the distribution of humanitarian aid in Iraq, does she now support the United Nations’ view that the United States and its coalition partners are legally responsible for providing humanitarian aid to Iraqis; if so, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade), on behalf of the Prime Minister: The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has correctly pointed out that under international law belligerent forces are responsible during the period of conflict for the well-being of the civilian population in the area they control. The United Nations Security Council, however, right now is considering how to reactivate the oil for food programme so that humanitarian aid can be provided just as soon as conditions allow for that to happen on the ground.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Government make a disgraceful statement to the UN on this matter today, showing no support for Australian, British, and American troops who are losing their lives in Iraq, and implying that there is no distinction between the troops of our friends and allies and those of the vicious Saddam regime?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is wrong on both counts. If he wishes, however, to say that the death of innocent civilians should not be regretted, then he is entitled to say that.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I cannot see how it is in order for the Minister to interpret the question by saying “if he wishes to say”, and go on to say something that is way outside anything that was asked by the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister was in order.

Hon PHIL GOFF: What the Government of New Zealand said in the open session of the Security Council today represents the overwhelming majority of public opinion in New Zealand and the majority of opinion leaders, including the church leaders of each of the seven major churches in New Zealand, which have strongly supported what this Government has said, and by implication opposes the lack of position held by that member.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it from the Minister’s answer that the Government’s distaste of getting involved in any post-war assistance to victims of that war will ensure that if there are attempts by Iraqis to be refugees to this country, the Government will likewise stop that happening?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member is quite wrong to say that this Government has any distaste for getting involved in the post-conflict humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq. Indeed, we have already committed to the first instalment of that aid, and, as a country that is a good international citizen, we will continue to give assistance to humanitarian aid and post-conflict reconstruction.

Tim Barnett: What information does the Minister have on the level of need for food aid in Iraq?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The United Nations World Food Programme estimates that, overall, Iraqis probably have food for about 5 weeks. However, as many as 60 percent of Iraq’s 27 million people were entirely dependent on aid for survival prior to the war, which is why it is so urgent that we resume the oil for food programme as soon as possible. In some areas the situation with aid and water supplies is critical, as in Basrah, where supplies of electricity and safe drinking water have been cut. I believe that once the World Food Programme can resume, its task will be the biggest humanitarian operation we have yet seen through the United Nations.

Hon Ken Shirley: Will the New Zealand Government offer active assistance in the distribution of humanitarian aid in post-conflict reconstruction if that aid is controlled by the United States and the United Kingdom, or is any offer of assistance from New Zealand conditional upon the aid programme being under the auspices of the United Nations?

Hon PHIL GOFF: We have already indicated the agencies through which we are committed to providing aid. Some of those are UN agencies, but there are others, including the International Committee of the Red Cross. We have already provided money for the provision of humanitarian aid, and we will continue to do so. Moreover, we join with the leadership of the United Kingdom and Australia in saying that the United Nations must have a crucial role in overseeing what happens in post-conflict Iraq.

Keith Locke: How will the Government be promoting the total UN engagement in Iraq, which it proclaimed in the Security Council this morning, when Colin Powell today asserted for his coalition “a significant dominating control in Iraq”, and how will the Government be challenging the Bush administration on that?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I think the member will find that countries within the coalition that have forces in Iraq will be strongly promoting the role of the UN. The Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Howard, said yesterday that in the long term the UN would have the critical role of providing post-conflict reconstruction. Clare Short, the UK Secretary for International Development, went even further, saying that for the purposes of legitimacy the UN had to be the agency responsible for what happens in post-conflict Iraq.

Hon Bill English: Why did the Government not indicate support for the troops of Australia, Britain, and America—which are our allies—in their effort to overturn the Iraqi regime, when it had the opportunity to do so today in the United Nations, and why did it imply that there is no distinction between those troops and the soldiers of Saddam Hussein?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have the statement in my hand, and I am happy to table it. The member’s allegation is utterly wrong. I will table the document so that members opposite, who are yelling so loudly, can see it for themselves. This Government makes absolutely no apology for the fact that it has consistently argued that all other avenues for achieving the disarmament of Iraq should have been pursued before resorting to force.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek the leave of the House for the Minister to be granted a concession to read the statement, so that all those people who are listening can make up their own minds.

Mr SPEAKER: A member can seek leave only on his or her own behalf.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek the leave of the House for the Leader of the Opposition to read the Prime Minister’s statement to the House.

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot do that either.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to read the statement myself.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has sought leave to read the statement himself. Is there any objection? There is.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister give a plain answer to the question: if the post-war aid is under the aegis of the United States and not the United Nations, will this Government be involved; if not, why not, and does it mean that we will therefore not take any refugees from Iraq, if the answer is no?

Hon PHIL GOFF: It is abundantly apparent to everybody in the country that we have already given the money for that aid—at least the first instalment. That aid, which the Iraqi people desperately needed, will be delivered, regardless of what sort of regime exists in that country, because the aid is for the people who are the innocent victims of that conflict. The agencies employed are the UN and other reputable agencies; the sorts of agencies through which we always deliver our international assistance.

Rodney Hide: I seek the leave of the House to table a contribution to the Listener by the Green MP Keith Locke, where he declares he gets a warm feeling at the thought of a world without—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article in the Listener. Is there any objection? There is.

Questions for Oral Answer
Mount Everest—50th Anniversary Expedition

3. DAVE HEREORA (NZ Labour) to the Minister for Sport and Recreation: Is the Government supporting an expedition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Everest; if so, how?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Sport and Recreation): Yes, the Hillary Mekong from source to sea expedition will start in Tibet in June. Five young adventurous New Zealanders will spend 80 days travelling the 4,500 kilometres from Tibet to Vietnam. They will walk, mountain bike, and kayak the entire length of the river. They will be the first people ever to do so. Sport and Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) will provide up to $100,000 for this inspirational adventure.

Dave Hereora: What is the purpose of the SPARC Hillary expedition? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Yesterday I was asked by Mr Brownlee whether I would be indicating to anyone when there were interjections while questions were being asked. I am not going to do so, because two of the people who interjected on this occasion were from his own party. A member asking a question is to be heard in silence.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, there are a number of purposes. The key purpose is to honour Sir Edmund Hillary. The expedition aims to raise the profile of physical activity, to encourage young New Zealanders into trying physical activity, to create some new inspirational role models who do things for the first time. There will be resources available for teachers of 11 and 12-year-olds, and there will be further expeditions every second year.

Hon Murray McCully: Given the decision to abandon the use of Sir Edmund’s name in relation to the national sporting and recreational body in recognition of his achievements, is there any plan, in addition to the expedition, to take any further step in honouring Sir Edmund?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes.

Stephen Franks: In the light of that answer, if the support was a genuine respect for Sir Edmund’s achievement and not an attempt to gain or retrieve political credit by association, why did the Government not honour this most respected New Zealander by leaving his name on the independent Hillary Commission, instead of calling it SPARC and turning it into a Government poodle?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the only poodle in this House is that member when he is following Richard Prebble around, picking up—

Mr SPEAKER: No. The Minister knows he has gone too far. He will withdraw that comment, and then he will answer the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw. From memory it was a unanimous decision of this House on that question.

Questions for Oral Answer
General Agreement on Trade in Services—Treaty of Waitangi

4. METIRIA TUREI (Green) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs: What steps is he taking to protect the interests of Mâori in the current General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations and will he ensure that te Tiriti o Waitangi is included in New Zealand’s General Agreement on Trade in Services Schedule of Specific Commitments?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): New Zealand General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) commitments will not get in the way of fulfilling its Treaty of Waitangi obligations. New Zealand has excluded from GATS coverage: “Current and future measures at the central and sub-central levels of Government according more favourable treatment to any Mâori person or organisation in relation to the acquisition, establishment, or operation of any commercial or industrial undertaking.” This is one of the first times wording of this sort has been included in a trade commitment.

Metiria Turei: Given that our current GATS commitments contain no reservation for Government measures to meet its tiriti obligations, will the Minister recommend that the Government amends its GATS commitments so that it can meet its tiriti obligations without impediment; if not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The Government will continue to ensure that the initial offer will in no way override our present GATS reservations with regard to the treatment of Mâori persons or organisations.

Mahara Okeroa: What discussions has the Government undertaken with Mâori concerning GATS?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Early this year the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, along with Te Puni Kôkiri, met with interested Mâori in Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, Rotorua, and Hamilton. Further meetings are scheduled to take place over the coming months.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Does the Minister accept that Mâori interests, along with the interests of all other New Zealanders, would be better served by ensuring a General Agreement on Trade in Services opened up as many opportunities as possible for us overseas, including Mâori service businesses; if he does not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Yes, and most certainly Mâori want to be involved in opportunities off shore and on shore.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: No doubt the purpose of the primary question is to ensure that the Government has regard to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in all its dealings, internationally and domestically, and that being the case, could the Minister now tell us clearly what the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are that he has regard to?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That member knows well articles 1, 2, and 3. I am more than happy to have an extended discussion with him outside of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I could not hear the answer. He said that he would be more than happy to do something.

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Minister to repeat the answer that he gave. It was in order.

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That learned member is well aware of articles 1, 2, and 3. I am more than happy to have an extended discussion outside of this House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not more than happy to have an extended discussion outside of this House. I want an answer. I think I am entitled to an answer now. If the Minister is offering an extended discussion, then clearly he is saying that he can answer the question, therefore could we have an abbreviated version now?

Mr SPEAKER: The member might not like the answer. That is not my job, my is to see whether he addressed the question. The Minister did so.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I warn Mr Mark that I will not carry this on today. We have had a ruling, and that is it.

Ron Mark: I do not feel intimidated by that, and I will ask you for this clarification. The Minister was asked specifically to explain the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The only thing he addressed in his answer was about the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi. They are two completely different things. He did not answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: That might be the member’s opinion. I have to attest to whether the Minister addressed the question. I do not judge the quality of the answer. He addressed the question.

Stephen Franks: Exactly which words of which article of a very short treaty make it necessary to reserve the prospect of favourable discrimination for Mâori in the agreement; and, if it not the words, which spurious principle justifies that discrimination?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: If that member wishes to elaborate on how he determines “spurious”, then I would more than happily address the question. The issue is that we are prepared to put effort into developing Mâoris’ commerciality—both in this country and off shore—in terms of those issues that are relevant to the treaty and those issues that carry commercial opportunity for Mâori.

Metiria Turei: Is the Minister therefore at all concerned that in the current round of GATS negotiations a request has been made to abolish the funding to Mâori broadcasting; and what advice has he provided to the Minister for Trade Negotiations with regard to this request?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I have not provided any advice on that broadcasting issue, but I am more than happy to discuss that matter further with the member.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to his promise to be able to discuss this matter fully outside the House, and bearing in mind that the question was asked for the edification of not just myself but the rest of the members of the House, would the Minister now please tell us plainly and clearly, in abbreviated form, what the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are about which he speaks?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I could take a whole lot of options through the total of the three articles of the treaty, and there is a whole lot of coverage there that specifically aligns itself with the question that member asked. If we need to get into that detail, then let us do it outside the House.

Metiria Turei: Will the Minister seek to extend the current GATS reservations so that it is not GATS-illegal to provide preferential treatment to non-commercial and non-industrial organisations such as kôhanga reo and iwi-based education providers; if not, why not?

Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am pleased to announce that this morning this Government signed a heads of agreement with the kôhanga reo—after 20 years. The GATS has been operating since 1956, and I certainly look forward to discussing it further.

Questions for Oral Answer
Defence—Review

5. SIMON POWER (NZ National—Rangitikei) to the Minister of Defence: Why did the Government commission a review of the structure of the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force by Don Hunn, at a cost of $150,000 to $170,000, and then reject its major recommendations?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Defence: The Government has not rejected the major recommendations of the review of accountabilities and structural arrangements between the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Simon Power: Why, when the Hunn review was completed on 30 September last year, has the Government waited until now to slip the review out quietly, hoping to bury it under news coverage of bombs falling on Baghdad?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Last September we had no idea that bombs would be falling on Baghdad this week. The Government has been working through these issues, and it has released the document in its own good time.

Darren Hughes: Will the Hunn review recommendations cause a complete change of administrative and structural direction within the defence sector?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No, the recommendations strongly reinforce the direction the sector ought to be going, with things such as the establishment of the joint forces operational headquarters, the establishment of the joint staff college, the appointment of the Secretary of Defence as an associate member of the Chief of Staffs Committee, and other matters designed to achieve the integration that the report points towards.

Ron Mark: How can the Minister argue that “there is no need to accept Hunn’s recommendation to change the Defence Act, because the Government’s objectives could be achieved by ministerial directives”, when the very reason we have ended up blowing approximately $800 million on 105 LAV111s is that he personally overrode the recommendations of the then - Chief of Defence Force and the Secretary of Defence—a decision he made because he personally believed that the LAV111s were outdated and unsafe—and how does that decision look now as we watch on CNN, 24 hours a day, the sight of M113s operating with the American armed forces in Iraq, in combat, as of this very minute?

Mr SPEAKER: Two of the three questions can be answered.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: None of those matters were dealt with in the Hunn report, which is about the lack of coordination between the Defence Force and the Ministry of Defence.

Hon Ken Shirley: Will the Minister reply to the substantive question: why has his Government refused to adopt the key recommendation of the Hunn report, which recognised the abject failure of the split between funder and operator, when applied to defence?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I suggest that the member reads the report—in fact, the report does not make a recommendation to recombine the two. The report concentrates, and I quote, on “transformational reform”. This is about a series of objectives, not about the necessary particular mechanisms.

Hon Peter Dunne: In view of the Minister’s comment that the report was about better integration between the various arms of the defence service, and picking up the point made by Mr Mark, is the Government prepared to consider changing the existing policy to ensure that in future all major capital purchase items by defence are made by defence personnel, within Cabinet guidelines, and that it is not specifically the prerogative of Cabinet Ministers to make those final decisions?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Final decisions on capital purchases of that size, as with any other capital purchase of that size, are made by Cabinet, not by individual Ministers.

Simon Power: When the only recommendation the Government has chosen to follow from the Hunn report is to move to more jointness within the defence forces, why has it decided to adopt a policy of disjointedness with our traditional friends and allies over Iraq?

Mr SPEAKER: That is wide of this particular question, but the honourable Minister may comment.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We have an enormous number of traditional friends who share our opinions on Iraq, including, for example, France and Canada.

Ron Mark: Has the Minister reread the paragraph under the scope of the review that says that Hunn was directed by the Minister that the review should be forward-looking, not preoccupied with past sins of omission or commission, and says that consequently this review does not address the question of accountability for failures in the current system, whether these have arisen from system weakness or individual action, and could that not be interpreted by the public as being the means and mechanism by which this Government managed to remove its fingerprints from its inappropriate involvement with senior army officers in the run up to the 1999 election?

Mr SPEAKER: The question was far too long. The member has had his go. The Minister can comment briefly.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The report was about the kinds of structural changes required to achieve better integration of defence forces, not about what happened in terms of the member’s obsession with the fact that there might have been conversations between members of defence forces and members of the Opposition. I am sure those conversations continue.

Questions for Oral Answer
Crime—Public Safety

6. RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police: Is he committed to ensuring all New Zealanders can go about their business without undue fear of crime?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Police: Yes.

Ron Mark: If the Minister truly believes that, does that explain his inaction and doing nothing about Auckland’s police staffing crisis, which was reported by Richard Middleton, the Vice- President of the New Zealand Police Association in response to a 60 percent increase in Auckland police quitting their jobs, an increase that is outrageous given that Auckland already has the highest rate of crime in the country—

Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government has done an enormous amount about police resourcing. The amount of money that the police get this financial year is $960 million, compared with $860 million when that crowd was last in Government.

Clayton Cosgrove: What does available data suggest is the biggest concern of New Zealanders in the area of crime and public safety?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The last published national survey of crime victims revealed that the highest personal fear related to the risk of being injured in a crash caused by a drunken driver. Over the last 5 years police have continued to make significant inroads to the road toll. It is now at its lowest level in 40 years, and the House should congratulate the police on that work.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister accept that there is a link between police numbers and the crime rate; if so, why are there fewer police officers in greater Auckland today than there were 2 years ago?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The reality is that the resources in the police have risen, and for the National spokesperson’s information I point out that as at 28 February this year there were 7,313 sworn staff, compared with 6,939 when that member was last in Government.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Ryall did not ask about the general nationwide figures. He asked specifically about Auckland, which he said had a huge rising crime rate. I know that any answer does in this House but, frankly, what is the purpose of asking questions on a specific area, which has more than a third of the country’s population, then getting a nationwide answer with no attempt at all to address the more specific question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question. He might not have satisfied the member, and of course, it is the member’s right to say so by way of supplementary questions.

Deborah Coddington: What assurances can the Minister give families in south Auckland, where police in the last 3 weeks have received several complaints about convicted paedophile Peter Liddell hanging around children, and when the Papakura police told me this morning that they are too stretched as a result of four homicides to send a target squad to investigate immediately?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government is doing quite a lot about that, including things like bringing UK police to Auckland, shifting police to Auckland, and trainees in Auckland. It is a bit rich for that member to raise issues about resources in Auckland when that party takes resources that should be used in Auckland electorates and puts them in a member’s flat.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will now stand and withdraw that comment.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I withdraw.

Ron Mark: How can the people believe that the Minister really is committed to ensuring that all New Zealanders can go about their business without undue fear of crime when people like Scotty Watson, a Ready to Retail coordinator from Rotorua, have written to that Minister, expressing on behalf of a larger number of businessmen their total disgust at this Government’s inaction in ensuring that the retail centres of Rotorua are safe from the thugs that pervade those streets?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Because the Minister is a believable kind of guy.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is that an answer?

Mr SPEAKER: No. On reflection, I think that is a fair comment. On this occasion I am going to ask the Minister to give a fuller answer than that.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: He is very believable because of the actions he has taken.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a report that shows the startling changes in staffing in greater Auckland in the last few years.

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

Ron Mark: I seek leave to table a letter a letter dated 20 January 2003 from Mr Scotty Watson, retail coordinator, to the Minister George Hawkins.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—New Zealand Statement to United Nations

7. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Is the New Zealand Government presenting a statement today to a United Nations forum commenting on the war in Iraq; if so, is that statement to be either explicitly or implicitly critical of the actions being taken by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and their allies?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade): New Zealand this morning delivered its statement to the open session of the United Nations Security Council on Iraq. That statement focuses constructively on what must be done to alleviate suffering arising out of the conflict and to help Iraqi people achieve a better future once the conflict is ended. It emphasises the key role that we believe the United Nations should play in that process.

Hon Ken Shirley: What was meant in the statement on Iraq delivered by the New Zealand permanent UN representative today: “Our common objective must be to end hostilities as quickly as possible.”; is it the New Zealand Government’s preference for the “coalition of the willing” to down tools and withdraw, leaving in place the regime of Saddam Hussein and his Baath socialist party, or does he believe it is necessary to finish the job and effect a regime change quickly—which of those two is the preference of the New Zealand Government?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I think there is no question that the coalition forces are likely to withdraw from Iraq at this time. Of course we would like to see an end to hostilities, as I am sure the member would like to see an end to hostilities. New Zealand has never supported, and has consistently condemned, the regime of Saddam Hussein. I think we condemned the regime of Saddam Hussein from the time certain security forces put it in place, and at a time when other countries were arming Saddam against other countries.

David Benson-Pope: What specific points did New Zealand make in its statement to the United Nations Security Council?

Hon PHIL GOFF: That statement first of all expressed our regret at the breakdown of the diplomatic process, and our concern over loss of life in the conflict. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that most of that loss of life has been amongst civilians. We emphasised that we should focus on what needs to happen now, with the provision of humanitarian relief funds and the immediate resumption of the oil for food programme; and, post-conflict, the full and active engagement of the United Nations in the reconstruction programme. Finally, we said that New Zealand was willing to work alongside others in the United Nations to assist with both reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Does the Minister believe that the failure of the Government’s statement to the United Nations today to make any distinction between the actions of our close traditional allies Australia, Britain, and America to liberate Iraq, and the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein, will not—I repeat not—have an adverse effect on our relationship with our traditional allies; if so, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The statement will be tabled in the House. There is absolutely nothing in that statement that could in any way be regarded as offensive. If the member takes offence at the fact that we regret the loss of life on both sides, that is his judgment. But I deeply regret the growing number of civilian casualties that, notwithstanding efforts to avoid inadvertent civilian casualties, are occurring, and the suffering of people such as those in the city of Basrah, who are now without electricity or water supplies.

Keith Locke: Would it not be consistent with the Government’s opposition to a unilateral US-led invasion, and its desire to avoid civilian casualties, for the Government to follow up its call this morning for an end to hostilities with an appeal to US-led forces to halt their advance and negotiate a ceasefire with Iraq so that humanitarian aid can reach—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hide will leave the Chamber. I have warned about interjecting while members are asking questions. Every member in this House is entitled to ask his or her question. After all, we have a democracy and every member is entitled to ask a question. Mr Locke will continue and Mr Hide will leave.

Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.

Keith Locke: I will start again. Would it not be consistent with the Government’s opposition to a unilateral US-led invasion, and its desire to avoid civilian casualties, for it to follow up its call in the Security Council this morning for an end to hostilities with an appeal to the United States to stop its advance and negotiate a ceasefire with Iraq so that humanitarian aid can reach the many thousands of people in desperate need in places like Basrah?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I regard it as highly unlikely that a ceasefire will be entered into on that basis. Probably the best way to end hostilities would be for Saddam Hussein and his family now to uproot themselves out of Baghdad and leave the country.

Questions for Oral Answer
Biodiversity Strategy Goal

8. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Conservation: What recent initiatives has the Government taken to deliver on the biodiversity strategy goal to secure the protection of a full range of indigenous habitats and ecosystems?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): On Saturday I will be opening the Te Papanui Conservation Park. It is the first tussock grassland conservation park in Otago, and only the second in the country. It is a priority of this Government to improve the protection of tussock grassland ecosystems, and the Te Papanui park has been warmly welcomed by the people of Otago.

David Parker: What other initiatives has the Government taken to improve the protection of indigenous habitats?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: In the last 4 months two important coastal areas have been purchased to protect them—on the Karekare Peninsula in Northland and the other at Waikawau Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula—and an outstanding area of native forest in west Southland and 1,600 hectares of Mâori-owned forest in the Waikato have been covenanted. The area features many ancient trees.

Shane Ardern: In the light of the Minister’s answer, has he taken advice on the likely effects on ecosystems of such recent immigrants as the painted apple moth, the Gum leaf skeletoniser, the fall web worm, and the crazy ants that were discovered in Tauranga port; if not, how can he claim success with biosecurity strategy goals?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I was talking about biodiversity rather than biosecurity, but all pests in this country are a threat to our native ecosystem.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What exactly were the threats to the special ecosystems at Waikawau Bay in the Coromandel, and why were they not adequately protected by the Resource Management Act, which makes inappropriate subdivision use and development of the coastline a no-no under matters of national importance?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Government regards the preservation and protection of coastal land as a high priority, which is why we were prepared to expend so much money to buy the 150 hectares at Waikawau Bay.

Larry Baldock: Given the threat that pests like possums pose to the New Zealand biosecurity strategy, does the Minister encourage Department of Conservation to work closely with all recreational and commercial hunters to explore all the opportunities for possible pest eradication; if not, why not?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The Department of Conservation actively seeks partnership in the management of pest control. Indeed, recently I met with wapiti hunters in Southland to discuss that very issue.

Questions for Oral Answer
Welfare—Dependency

9. KATHERINE RICH (NZ National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: Does he believe that welfare dependency is a major problem in New Zealand; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): It is significantly less of a problem than it was under National.

Katherine Rich: Is he aware of a Government department’s welfare benefit advertising campaign, directed at parents, which says: “You always knew that having children would be rewarding” and that “if you have two children you could earn even more”; and what does this aggressive encouragement to go on welfare say about the Government’s approach to welfare dependency?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The member may not be aware, but we have just changed the abatement regime, which allows people to retain more of their earnings as they transfer from a benefit into full-time work.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What is the Government’s record in assisting people to move from a benefit into a job?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Unemployment now stands at 4.9 percent, the lowest rate since March 1988. Work and Income have been achieving record results placing people into work, with the result that the number of people receiving the unemployment benefit is now at 115,495, which is also the lowest March total since 1988.

Dr Muriel Newman: Does he think there is a major problem in the escalation of the number of women on the domestic purposes benefit who are refusing to name the father of their children—up from 13,996 when he became the Minister to a record 16,498 now—with an estimated loss of over $11 million a year in child support payments for over 32,000 children; if so, can he describe to the House exactly what steps he has taken since he has been the Minister to sort this problem out?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The House needs to know that, of course, there are people would not want to have the father named, for such reasons as incest or extreme violence towards the partner. But the member is absolutely right in raising the issue, which is of concern to the whole House, that we are beginning to see men who are in positions where they should be emotionally and financially supporting their own children. The member will know that one of the measures that I have been eager to take—but was unable to take while we had an Alliance partner because they would not advance the policy—is to increase the penalty, and I intend to do so.

Sue Bradford: After many years of various Governments tinkering with the social welfare system, does the Minister think it is time for his Government to initiate a meaningful dialogue with and among the New Zealand public about what basic principles should underpin and guide the framework of the welfare system in New Zealand in the 21st century?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do, and that is why I produced a document called Pathways to Opportunities in 2001.

Judy Turner: Are there any age groups that are more susceptible to welfare dependency, and what particular benefits are involved?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Young people are today over-represented on unemployment statistics, because they are young and they are finding it harder to break into the workforce; and mature workers, people who are over 45, who often come out of physical occupations and find themselves on a benefit because of a sickness or disability due to work, and find it difficult to move back into the workforce.

Katherine Rich: With regard to his comments about unemployment rates, does the Minister not understand that we are making comments about the size of the benefit register, and does he accept that there is growing support for work-for-the-dole schemes, and time limits for certain welfare benefits, or is he out of touch with the opinions of many New Zealanders?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: If the member has been following my comments, she will know that I always studiously use the working-age beneficiary. That population has dropped significantly since we became the Government. Therefore, I think we are seeing major changes that are making a difference. Therefore, I do not want to waste this Government’s time on having my staff work for a work-for-the-dole scheme when there are employers all over the country who have skill and labour shortages.

Katherine Rich: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer my question. My question was about whether he—

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question quite specifically in the last part of his answer.

Questions for Oral Answer
Police—Staffing

10. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Police: Does he agree that there is a shortage of front-line police officers in New Zealand?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Minister of Transport), on behalf of the Minister of Police: It is important that we have an adequate level of police officers, which is why the New Zealand Police are currently resourced at the highest levels ever. As at 28 February 2003, there were 7,313 sworn staff and 2,121 non-sworn staff in the New Zealand Police. That compares to 6,939 sworn and 1,734 non-sworn at the end of 1999.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you can advise the House how the answer given by the Minister to the question asked, which was very specific—“Does he agree that there is a shortage of front-line police officers in New Zealand?”—was addressed at all.

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Speaking to the point of order, I specifically said that it is important we have an adequate level of front-line police officers. It was directly in response to the question.

Mr SPEAKER: That is an answer to the question. The member may not be satisfied with it, but it is in answer to the question.

Hon Peter Dunne: This may help the member who has just raised the point of order. If there is no shortage of police in New Zealand, as the Minister appeared to imply, why is it that we are now recruiting police from the United Kingdom and dropping the recruitment age locally to 17?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Certainly, there are issues that need to be addressed in Auckland. As the member pointed out, recruitment campaigns are under way, experienced police officers are coming from the UK, there is a new trainee-based scheme out of south Auckland, and more police are being sent to three Auckland districts.

Taito Phillip Field: Has he received any reports on projections of future staffing levels in Auckland?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Yes, I have. I am advised that the current projections show that metropolitan Auckland districts are on target to be at full strength by the end of June 2003.

Hon Tony Ryall: If there is no shortage of police in Auckland, and Auckland police are fully resourced, why did the owner of an Auckland supermarket have to hire a private investigator to locate the thief who stole thousands of dollars from the supermarket, when the local police said they did not have the resources to investigate that serious crime?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: As I have already said, there are issues in Auckland, which is why a series of programmes are under way. However, it is important to point out to the member—and this is certainly good news—that by the end of June 2003 staff levels in the Auckland metropolitan area will be at their adequate level.

Hon Peter Dunne: If there is no shortage of police, why are we reintroducing the old cadet scheme that was previously abandoned almost 20 years ago?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I think the member might be slightly confused. There are cadets, recruits, and now there are trainees. The trainee scheme that I think the member is referring to, is a scheme that is being introduced and particularly targeted at Auckland. It is out of one of the Manukau polytechs and is aimed particularly at young people and giving them initial training before they go into the full cadet scheme.

Hon Peter Dunne: I ask the Minister again. If there is no shortage of police, why are we now introducing schemes seemingly targeted at Auckland, with categories such trainees, recruits, and cadets—what on earth is going on here?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: A phenomenal amount is going on from this very good Government. We have recognised that there are issues there. We have a series of programmes under way, but the good news is that by the end of the middle of the year staffing levels in Auckland should be about where they should be.

Hon Tony Ryall: I seek leave to table a report that police failed to respond to at least three complaints of a robbery of a tavern in south Auckland, of which the perpetrator then went on to commit three murders at the RSA at Mount Wellington.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Responsible Gambling Bill

11. Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Will he be tabling any supplementary order papers outlining changes to the Responsible Gambling Bill; if so, what assurances can he give that there will be full consultation with sporting bodies in relation to any concerns they may have?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs: The Minister advises that no such decision has yet been made.

Hon Murray McCully: Is the Minister aware that a group of national sporting organisations has held a press conference in Auckland today to voice its grave concerns about the possible impact of mooted changes to the Responsible Gambling Bill, and will the Minister take this opportunity to give an assurance that no such changes will be proceeded without full and proper consultation with those groups?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I not sure whether the Minister of Internal Affairs is aware of the press conference that was held, but the Minister for Sport and Recreation is aware of it Apparently it was slightly disrupted by a woman regarded as somewhat deranged, by the name of Collins, who I understand is a member of this House.

Mr SPEAKER: A comment about a member of this House is out of order. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Now that the Minister has got over that can we please have an answer to the question?

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I think the Minister can address the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, I am aware of what has been said. Much of what was said at the conference was nonsense, and was fed to them by the National Party.

Jill Pettis: Can the Minister please outline to the House what the Responsible Gambling Bill does to ensure that the profits from gambling actually benefit the community?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The bill does a number of things that are quite important. To start with, the publishing of criteria for grants, which are used to consider applications for those grants; advertising the fact that they are available; advertising where to obtain applications, who will consider them, the criteria; and advertising the successful applications for grants as well as the unsuccessful applications. The bill has provisions to make sure that there are no conflicts of interest. We have seen what in many countries would be regarded as corruption in this area, and I am shocked that National Party members appear to be supporting that.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have taken a moment to reflect on the answer the Minister gave. It would appear to me that if one was to read Hansard one would find that the Minister has alleged that a substantial number of members on this side of the House are engaged in corruption.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I was reflecting on the answer too. The comment—

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I did not.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the Minister gives us an assurance he did not, that is the end of the matter.

Gerry Brownlee: Not at all, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member said that, his word is accepted.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to take a look at the Hansard when it is available later today, and to perhaps rule then as to whether the wording used by the Minister was appropriate. To suggest that members on this side of the House are supporting corruption seems to me to be a widespread allegation for which he should apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I listened to the answer given, and I think when the Minister examines the Hansard he will reflect on the fact that perhaps that interpretation can be taken from it, and I want him to withdraw and apologise for it.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I want to make it clear to the House that what I indicated was that there was a system that was corrupt and members opposite supported it.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is not correct. I want the member now to stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.

Sue Bradford: Is the Minister aware of an email from the general manager of the Lion Foundation, Mark Forshaw, to the National Business Review, dated 4 March last year, in which he says that because the National Business Review has been exposing corruption among the pokie trusts he will give no more grants to any organisation associated with the National Business Review, and does he not agree that this email is a good illustration of why the Responsible Gambling Bill must be amended so that distribution of pokie profits is carried out through a publicly accountable system, and not through the privatised trusts as currently pertains?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, I am not aware of the email, but I am aware of widespread practices that result in clubs being required to buy liquor from agents in order to get grants. I am aware of cases where people have been asked for under-the-table payments. There is widespread corruption, and I do not understand why any member of this House would support a system that condones and encourages it.

Hon Murray McCully: Given the reported statement of the Green spokesperson that gambling proceeds currently allocated to sporting groups should be redirected to beneficiary advocates, and the reported statement of the Prime Minister that current funding arrangements are “too blokie”, can the Minister understand that there might be some basis for the concerns at the press conference in Auckland today, and will the Minister ensure that the reasonable concerns of those national sporting bodies are listened to before any legislation is proceeded with in the House?

Sue Bradford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As the Green spokesperson on gambling that the member is referring to, I never made any such statement.

Mr SPEAKER: He never mentioned the member. He mentioned a Green spokesperson.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: This is one occasion when I am pleased to be answering a question on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs. I am sure he will stand strong on this issue. He will act in an appropriate way, and he will inform all people who have opinions, of the proper thing to do.

Sue Bradford: I seek leave to table an email from Mark Forshaw of the Lion Foundation to the National Business Review last year, assuring the National Business Review that any charity associated with it would be declined funding.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Building Industry—Leaky Homes

12. BRENT CATCHPOLE (NZ First) to the Minister of Commerce: In light of her reported concern to have the building industry’s problems with leaky homes resolved, will she now allocate funds for a far more wide-reaching inquiry into the cases of property developers evading their responsibility by liquidating companies set up specifically for a development, and thus leaving affected home owners with no course of action against them; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): I draw the member’s attention to the discussion document, Better Regulation of the Building Industry, which I launched 2 weeks ago. Reference is made on page 22 of that document to the Government’s decision to legislate for additional measures to deal with phoenix companies, which is made in the context of the call for submissions on other proposals to address that very issue.

Brent Catchpole: Given that the Minister is unwilling to extend the leaky homes inquiry into the shonky business of developers, is it now her belief that the inquiry that has just been completed is a waste of time, or will she spend some money to widen the inquiry into the activities of shonky developers?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Page 22 of the discussion document, which has been out for consideration for 2 weeks, does precisely that. The member will also be pleased to know that today I am sending a copy of the select committee inquiry to every territorial local authority in this country to make sure that they do take into account the select committee recommendations when they make submissions on the discussion document.

Russell Fairbrother: Why did the Minister tell the Local Government New Zealand workshop last week that the weathertightness issue is a symptom, and that treating the symptom alone will not treat the problem?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There is a danger that to treat only one symptom, when it is not the only symptom, will leave the underlying problem untreated. A fundamental assessment of the problem, which is provided by the discussion document, minimises the chance of building failure. It is better that buildings are built right the first time, then the issue of insolvent developers does not arise.

Gerry Brownlee: Noting that the primary question goes to the heart of protecting the people who buy houses from those who shirk their responsibilities under the guise of limited liability, I ask whether the Minister has seen or asked for any reports on how the expectations of buyers may be protected against a person’s rights to operate under a limited liability, and is she looking at legislation that will still protect limited liability?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I refer the member to the announcement I made to the House in February about the insolvency law changes that we are proposing to deal with the issue of phoenix companies. There is also a further issue about guarantees, bond, and various other matters that has been raised by the select committee and in the discussion document. I encourage all members of the House to read the discussion document, and to propose acceptable solutions.

Sue Kedgley: Given the acknowledgement on the report into leaky houses that toxic mould may be extensive, will the Minister commit to implementing recommendations 47 and 48, which are, respectively, to conduct a survey to determine the extent of toxic mould in New Zealand, and to provide an assistance package for homeowners suffering from health problems resulting from rotting homes?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: There is a multiplicity of issues arising out of the weathertightness issue and, indeed, that is one of those matters. I can advise the member that the Building Industry Authority has referred the question relating to the treatment of timber to the Environmental Risk Management Authority, and we will be taking all those matters into consideration in determining the best way forward.

Murray Smith: Will the Minister make a promise to this House and to all New Zealanders that she will ensure that a full investigation into the extent of the weathertightness problem will be immediately undertaken, as has been unanimously called for by the Government Administration Committee, in whose view that is not being done at present?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: That draws me back to the first supplementary question I dealt with. This is only a symptom of a much wider problem. It is correct that there are several people who want to focus attention on the past 2 years. However, the rot set in well before that time frame, with the hopelessly inadequate regulatory framework of the Building Act and the building code, the destruction of the apprenticeship system, and an inadequate system of quality assurance around products, processes, and designs.

Question Time

Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise a serious issue. There were two questions on the Order Paper today to the Minister of Police and one to the Minister of Internal Affairs. The Minister with responsibility for those portfolios was not available, and other Ministers answered the questions—which does happen from time to time. We accept that the questions were not easy, but the minute that question 11 was over—which was addressed to the Minister of Internal Affairs—the Hon George Hawkins arrived in the House. We have just gone through a series of questions where an acting Minister was not able to answer some of the issues that were raised. The Minister answering on behalf of George Hawkins said: “I am not sure what the Minister of Internal Affairs would say, but I am sure he would say A, B, and C.” I seek an assurance from the Government that the Minister in question was not being kept out of the House.

Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police): I wish to inform the House that I was out at the Police College talking to almost 80 people who are graduating today—many of whom will be going to Auckland.

Mr SPEAKER: This is not something the Speaker has any jurisdiction over, whatsoever.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (Deputy Leader—NZ National): I seek leave for question No. 11 to the Minister of Internal Affairs to now be asked, now that he is in the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that question. Is there any objection? There is.

PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First): I understand that New Zealand First has possibly gone over quota, but I seek leave for my colleague to—

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot seek leave on behalf of another member. Only the member who asked the question can seek leave. If Mr Catchpole is seeking leave, I will put leave, but New Zealand First has had its quota for the week. The member is now seeking leave for another question. Is there any objection? There is.

Questions to Members


Questions to Members
Genetically Engineered Sweetcorn Plants

1. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee: Has a meeting of the Local Government and Environment Committee been set to consider its inquiry into the alleged accidental release of genetically engineered sweet corn plants in 2000 and the subsequent action taken?

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee): The committee has already met to consider how we will address this inquiry and has made a plan of action. We have appointed a specialist adviser to the committee and briefed that person on the work that we wish to have done. Our next meeting on the topic will be on 10 April.

Hon Ken Shirley: Has the committee scheduled additional meetings to expedite its business; if so, why has the “corngate” inquiry not been accorded a higher priority, and what could be more pressing?

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS: The only additional meeting scheduled by the committee is a matter on which the House has given direction—that we may sit outside normal sitting hours to deal with a resource management bill.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the minutes of the select committee that show that Labour members blocked further tests—

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

Questions to Members
Privilege—New Zealand Post

2. Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Chairperson of the Privileges Committee: Has a meeting of the Privileges Committee been set to consider the question of privilege in relation to an allegation that New Zealand Post Limited breached privilege in certain responses to questions at hearings being conducted by the Finance and Expenditure Committee?

Hon MATT ROBSON (Chairperson of the Privileges Committee)92ROBSON, Hon MATT15:19:12Hon MATT ROBSON (Chairperson of the Privileges Committee): The Privileges Committee will meet next on Thursday, 10 April 2003. The question of privilege referred on 28 February 2002, through the Speaker, in relation to information given by New Zealand Post Ltd to the Finance and Expenditure Committee will be among the questions of privilege to be considered.

Questions to Members
Privilege—New Zealand Post

3. Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (NZ National—East Coast Bays) to the Chairperson of the Privileges Committee: On how many occasions since 1 February 2002 has the Privileges Committee met to consider the question of privilege in relation to information given by New Zealand Post Limited to the Finance and Expenditure Committee?

Hon MATT ROBSON (Chairperson of the Privileges Committee): The Privileges Committee has considered the question of privilege referred to it on 28 February 2002 in relation to information given by New Zealand Post Ltd to the Finance and Expenditure Committee during four meetings since 1 February 2003, and a further meeting will give consideration on 10 April.

Hon Murray McCully: Will the chairman of the committee confirm that the matter of privilege that has been referred to the Privileges Committee was first raised by me with Mr Speaker on 11 February 2002, and does the committee have anything to report to the House in relation to any reasons that this matter has been delayed for so long—over 1 year and 1 month?

Mr SPEAKER: The second part of the question is in order.

Hon MATT ROBSON: As the new chair of this committee, I would hope that such a matter could be advanced as expeditiously as possible, but I point out that the matters are very serious. As the chair I would like to congratulate the member on raising a number of serious issues that have come out. The correspondence on this between the committee and those involved has taken some time. The present constituted committee of this Parliament has given quite some consideration to the issues and there are still some more to consider.

15:22:30 End of QOA (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

ENDS

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