Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 


Questions Of The Day Transcript - 1 April 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions 1-12 – 1 April 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer

Student Visa Scheme

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is she satisfied that New Zealand’s student visa scheme is operating satisfactorily; if so, why?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Immigration): I am largely satisfied given that there were over 80,000 international students in the country last year. I have to say that the scale of abuse is small. However, where such abuses do occur we investigate. At present we are investigating allegations in the Wairarapa that a so-called training provider has brought in workers as students.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why do we have yet one more example of tens of thousands of students from abroad being abused, misused, exploited, and used as cheap labour, all, of course, granted admission by this Minister by way of visa, and given that she was spoken to late last year—and I tell the Minister that it is not a laughing matter—what has she done about it?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: We are investigating this matter, and a number of issues arise. They are not all related to immigration. I should advise the member that the institution concerned has, in fact, offered Samoan workers job offers that have enabled them to gain residence through the Samoan quota. That means that there are some serious issues relating to the employment conditions of work, and I am advised that they are being investigated by the Employment Relations Service.

Taito Phillip Field: Are international students in New Zealand on a student permit entitled to work; if so, under what conditions?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Yes, but only if a variation to the student permit allowing for work is granted. Students may apply for permission to work to fulfil course requirements, which was what was attempted in this particular instance, but the student has not met the standard required, and up to 15 hours per week if they are tertiary students undertaking a long-term course of study, or during the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Pansy Wong: How does she ensure that the New Zealand Immigration Service can monitor students’ continued enrolment, attendance, and performance under the new policy provision that provides for the issue and granting of student visas and permits for the length of a student’s course of study, regardless of the period for which that student has paid course fees, especially in light of the fact that Australia has tightened its immigration law, making prospective students provide better evidence of financial stability?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: They also have to provide evidence of certain other things in Australia. I make the point that, with regard to monitoring, we are very dependent on tertiary education providers and schools providing the information to immigration that students are not complying with the provisions of their permits.

Larry Baldock: Is the Minister entirely confident that her proposed amendments to the Prostitution Reform Bill will ensure that no overseas students will be trafficked to New Zealand for prostitution under the guise of a student visa; if not, why not?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The amendments that I have tabled by way of Supplementary Order Paper are designed to ensure that any work permit that is used for the purposes of prostitution will lead to that permit being revoked and the person removed from New Zealand.

Larry Baldock: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether the Minister was confident that the amendment would ensure that no prostitutes were brought into New Zealand. Could she answer the question?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister addressed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does the Minister think that this so-called training institution conforms to any requirements she might have with regard to policy, when the education consisted of a single 1-hour lecture per week, where Samoans were promised $14 to $15 per hour but paid piece rates and went home with $170 per fortnight in their pockets, which is less than the dole; how is it that a whole lot of Chinese entered that training programme and went AWOL, and where are they now?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: They were not Chinese. They were from Nepal. A little bit of extra work would have found that out.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is giving an answer. She is entitled to do so. The member is entitled to have further supplementaries.

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

Mr SPEAKER: The point of order cannot relate to that particular point.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I should not have to give the Minister a geography lesson, particularly when she is in charge of people coming into this country from all around the world. Her opening statement is demonstrably and palpably wrong.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter for debate.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am not satisfied with the circumstances at the Fernridge Institute of Training Ltd. It is not registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority, the Immigration Service, and the Employment Relations Authority have serious concerns, and it will be investigated by the Government.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How did they get in here; was it just like the Japanese programme in Auckland; and is the Minister responsible for nothing in the ministry any more?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: Given that the Japanese establishment in Auckland was established in 1994, it is hardly relevant to my role as the Minister of Immigration. There may have been an error with regard to the issuing of student visas when this particular establishment did not have New Zealand Qualifications Authority approval.

Questions for Oral Answer

Unemployment—Transition to Work

2. JUDY TURNER (United Future) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: Is he satisfied that enough is being done by his ministry to move long-term unemployed from the benefit into work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The number of people on the unemployment benefit for March 2003 is at a 15-year low. That is mirrored by the official unemployment rate. Last year, Work and Income New Zealand achieved a record result, placing people into employment to the tune of 55,922 people helped into stable employment. The number of people on the unemployment benefit over 6 months fell by over 15 percent in the year to February 2003. Those are very good results, but we are not complacent and we will continue to apply common-sense answers to help the unemployed.

Judy Turner: Is he concerned that the decline in the number of those on the unemployment benefit has been accompanied by a 17.3 percent increase in the number of sickness beneficiaries since the end of 1999 and by a 7.4 percent increase over the past year, and can he confirm that some lifestyle beneficiaries are seeing the sickness benefit as a better option than the dole now that they do not have to have an excuse for the lack of jobs?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is worth knowing that the people who are on sickness and invalids benefits are on them because they are sick or have a disability. There has been no migration at all from people going from the unemployment benefit to those forms of benefits, as implied by that question. One of the things we are trying is the new employable strategies, which are pilots designed to seeing people who are on the sickness and invalids benefits back into the workplace. The early signs are very good, and we hope to expand those pilots.

Georgina Beyer: What initiatives are being taken to assist people who have experienced long periods of unemployment into work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Nationwide and regional initiatives to help people back into work include working with younger people to prevent them from coming on to, or staying on, a benefit; assisting mature unemployed people into work; assisting people with disabilities who can work to find suitable employment; training and support for those who lack basic employment skills, such as literacy and numeracy; and partnerships with industry and community organisations to help long-term unemployed into jobs. Once again, I say we will continue to apply good common sense.

Mr SPEAKER: That answer was too long.

Katherine Rich: If things are so rosy, why is Treasury predicting the number of invalid, sickness, domestic purpose, and unemployment beneficiaries to rise significantly by 2007, with the cost of the invalids benefit doubling to $1.2 billion between 1999 and 2007?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The situation is not rosy, and the Government would never have claimed that it was. Just as the National Government experienced problems arising from the deinstitutionalisation of mental health patients, the mature ageing of our working population, and the accident compensation tail being moved from accident compensation on to sickness and invalids benefits, these are the kinds of issues that are being dealt with by countries throughout the OECD. We, however, will do something about them—unlike the National Party.

Barbara Stewart: What explanation can the Minister give for the drastic 28 percent increase in those claiming the invalids benefit since 1999, and is this the solution for the long-term unemployed?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I repeat that no one is migrating from the unemployment benefit through to an invalids benefit. The answer to the member’s question is very simple, and probably edifying for people in the National Party, such as Dr Brash, who does like to understand these issues. Obviously, people are migrating on to the invalids benefit because we have an ageing population, we have more older people who are now moving on to a benefit from a job they can no longer do, we have deinstitutionalisation, and we have accident compensation people moving on to a benefit. These are the kinds of reasons, and they would be the same for any Government.

Dr Muriel Newman: In the light of the fact that there are thousands of able-bodied New Zealanders who have been on the dole for more than 10 years, has the Government considered introducing time limits to ensure that the long-term unemployed take personal responsibility for their future livelihoods, thereby reducing the tax on working families; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: It is worth noting that the number of people who have been unemployed for 10 years or more has dropped by 25 percent under this Government, Those people, of course, were 7 years unemployed under the previous Government supported by that member.

Judy Turner: Will the Minister commit to reviewing the sickness benefit system to ensure that its recipients are indeed worthy when the 1999 census of prison inmates showed that 11.8 percent were on a sickness benefit prior to their conviction, and in these cases illness clearly was not a barrier to committing some rather energetic crimes?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: This Government constantly monitors the use of the benefit by all New Zealanders.

Barbara Stewart: I seek leave of the House to table the number of people on the invalids benefit.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

United States—Gore Presidency

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she believe her comment that a Gore presidency in the United States would have had a different consequence for Iraq was an appropriate statement for her to make, and what benefit does she think this view of United States domestic politics will have for the New Zealand - United States relationship?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, and neither here nor there. Leaders can occasionally make a difference, as the National Party is contemplating at the moment.

Hon Bill English: Has the Government changed its policy from staying close to our friends and allies, despite differences over the war, to an approach where the New Zealand Government is trying to distance itself from those friends and allies now that the war is on television?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The Government is clear that it has not supported this war. We are waiting to hear what Mr English’s position is.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Putting aside the Government’s position in respect of this war in Iraq, does the Prime Minister think it is wise for her think off the top of her head and give vent to her mind on matters on which she is thoroughly unqualified to speak?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would assert a little more expertise on foreign policy than the member.

Hon Richard Prebble: How does the Prime Minister reconcile her statement on Sunday: “I don’t think that September 11 under a Gore presidency would have had this consequence for Iraq”, with her armchair generalship yesterday to publicly contradict General Tommy Franks’ claim that the allies are on time, with her statement to Parliament in February: “We have stepped up our promotion of free-trade negotiations with the United States”, or should that be Syria?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I cannot see any link between the statements. Further, I point out to the member that Mr Howard was reported only yesterday in the Sydney Morning Herald as conceding that the United States’ belief going into the war that the show of overwhelming coalition force would inspire a popular uprising against Saddam Hussein was misguided. The fact that Mr Howard is in negotiations for a free-trade agreement does not stop him from telling the truth as he sees it about what is happening.

Keith Locke: Why did the Prime Minister not express confidence in the Green presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, whose anti-war stance both before the election and since the election has been much more evident than that of Al Gore and other Democrats, and does the Prime Minister agree that her anti-war stand is enhancing New Zealand’s relationships with the many millions of Americans who are against Bush’s war?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Ralph Nader’s position on these issues is well known. For the record, I say that this country values its relationship with the United States, and we are determined that this difference of opinion will not harm that relationship.

Hon Peter Dunne: Is the Prime Minister aware of any interest in, or notice taken of, her comments by the United States media?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I cannot say that I have had any reports drawn to my attention of my comments in the United States media, at all.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister intend to revert to her previous policy of not criticising the US in any way, or will she continue to make comments about the war as if she were some kind of foreign correspondent—and continue to offend our friends and allies?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Yesterday when the Leader of the Opposition was challenged to give a single anti-American statement by the Prime Minister, he could not give one because there has not been one.

Hon Ken Shirley: Is the Prime Minister aware that her public comments, made yesterday, opposing the war effort against the Saddam Hussein regime are heralded in today’s issue of the Arab News; and are we to conclude it is now her intention to substitute a free-trade agreement with the USA for a free-trade agreement with Syria?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I am aware that Agence-France Presse picked up some of the comments from the press conference yesterday—statements, I might say, of the bleedingly obvious.

Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table today’s issue of the Arab News, heralding Helen Clark’s comments.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Labour Market

4. LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour—Waitakere) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What reports has the Minister seen on the state of the labour market?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The recently released progress report on the Government’s employment strategy shows that in 2002 the number of people with a job rose by 44,000. That is a record for people who are employed. The unemployment rate fell to a 15-year low of 4.9 percent. Labour force participation remains therefore historically high. We are employing a whole-of-Government approach, and it seems to be working.

Lynne Pillay: How are these nationwide employment results reflected in the regions?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The rural regions had the highest percentage gain in employment. The Labour-Progressive Government’s focus on regional development, and on regional and industry partnerships, has seen tangible results creating opportunities that place people into real employment. For example, in Motueka, for the first time in at least 20 years, there are no unemployed people available for seasonal work, because there are no unemployed people available.

Katherine Rich: When the OECD, Treasury, his own ministry, and evidence from Australia and the United States all acknowledge that work testing and work requirements play an important part in getting people back into work, why does the Minister continue to ignore these options and, in fact, do the opposite here in New Zealand?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Because I want to do a lot more for sole parents than the National Party did. It ignored them until their youngest children were 6 years old. We want to work with those parents every year, to make sure they build their capacity and get a job.

Peter Brown: Is the Minster aware that there are several thousand people employed casually in this country, with little or no job security; and can the Minister tell us what reports he has had on this aspect of the labour market?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, there are a number of people who work in very casual forms of employment throughout the labour market. It has been one of the things that member has been interested in—and so have we—to try to ensure we regulate the labour market in order to minimise the number of people who are in such insecure jobs.

Questions for Oral Answer

Points of Order

Question No. 1 to Minister

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave, at this first opportunity, to table the New Zealand Qualifications Authority’s registered providers list, which shows that Fernridge Institute of Planning Ltd is listed on page 3 of those three pages.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Points of Order

Question No. 5 to Minister

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call Question No. 5, Dr Lynda Scott has advised me that she has a slight rewording, which I have looked at. I would like her to indicate what the rewording is, and I will then take the leave of the House that she is allowed to ask the question accordingly.

Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura): I wish to insert the words: “regarding the spread of SARS” after the word “population”, as this was inadvertently missed from the original question.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? There is not. Please read the question as amended.

Questions for Oral Answer

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome—Rugby Sevens, Hong Kong

5. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: What level of risk do the New Zealanders returning from the Hong Kong rugby sevens pose to the rest of the New Zealand population regarding the spread of SARS and what extra precautions are being taken, given a Hong Kong doctor described the sevens as “a huge incubator for the rest of the world”?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I want to thank the member and other health spokespeople for their continuing engagement on this important public health issue. There is some concern, of course, about those attending the sevens, but I am advised there is a level of risk from anybody coming from any affected country. Rugby supporters, however, are not likely to represent the same level of risk as those who have lived in Hong Kong. Most cases have occurred among close contacts of people who have developed Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, including family members and health-care workers. For people who have not had contact with the disease and do not have any symptoms, the level of risk is considered low.

Dr Lynda Scott: Now that the World Health Organization is recommending screening of airline passengers, is she still “flabbergasted”, as she said 2 weeks ago, at this suggestion and what is being done to identify people with symptoms?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The World Health Organization has recommended that authorities in affected territories screen passengers before they depart from their destination, so there is not a lot I can do for people who are leaving from Hong Kong. However, we have done a lot in New Zealand in terms of passenger arrivals, and, as the member will know, yesterday Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome was made a notifiable disease. We have also upgraded the travel advisory for travellers travelling overseas. This morning, staff of the Auckland District Health Board met two flights from Hong Kong to ensure that passengers were given appropriate information. As there is no screening test and the disease has an incubation period of 3 to 10 days, it is very difficult to screen people as they arrive, unless they are showing symptoms.

Steve Chadwick: Are any other precautions being taken by health authorities to manage potential risks posed by travellers from affected countries?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes, the Ministry of Health is monitoring this on a daily basis and is in close contact with the World Health Organization and other countries where Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome is occurring. As I said, we already have an Order in Council to be able to detain, assess, and isolate suspected cases. We have the travel advisory, and we also have information being provided in five languages and being distributed in New Zealand as people arrive back from overseas and to visitors to New Zealand. There is an 0800 number so that people can get information before they travel. We are fortunate that New Zealand did undertake a pandemic exercise last year, which helped us to set up mechanisms to ensure that we are ready, as much as one can be.

Pita Paraone: Has her ministry made any recommendations to the Minister of Immigration regarding short and long-term arrivals entering this country from countries at a high risk of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome, such as China and other Asian countries, which make up a large proportion of our arrivals; if so, what are they; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I have not received any information, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Health are considering issuing an advisory request for tour groups and others from affected areas to postpone travel to New Zealand. It is an issue that is being dealt with at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade level, rather than at immigration level.

Dr Lynda Scott: What powers will the Ministry of Health have to identify and contain infectious patients now that Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has become a notifiable disease, and does the 0800 number give advice on symptoms and action if New Zealanders are worried?

Hon ANNETTE KING: In relation to the last part of that question, New Zealanders who are worried can get information on the symptoms. In fact, that information is provided to all New Zealanders and other travellers as they arrive back in New Zealand. The Order in Council that makes the disease a notifiable disease under the Health Act does set out quite specific powers that the medical officers of health have. There are quite a number, and I am happy to provide the member with them.

Ron Mark: I seek leave of the House to table information that shows that at 11.30 a.m. today in Auckland some 300 people arrived from Hong Kong, and not one was screened, given advice, or in any way checked for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Points of Order

Question No. 6 to Minister

ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue raised in this question is of national domestic importance, crossing many portfolios, and as the Prime Minister spoke on this issue at her press conference yesterday, I seek leave for this question to be transferred to the Prime Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is. Please ask the question.

Questions for Oral Answer

General Agreement on Trade in Services—Negotiations

6. ROD DONALD (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: Will the Government heed calls by the Green Party and the Council of Trade Unions to publicly disclose its initial offer in the current General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): The Government has previously stated it would consider making public its initial General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) offer. We intend to do so.

Rod Donald: Has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Minister of the concerns of the Forest and Bird Protection Society that measures to restrict the number of tourist operators on conservation areas, such as limiting the number of hotels in a sensitive area, may breach New Zealand’s GATS commitments under the market access rules, and how will he modify our commitments to avoid that possibility?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I have not been told of that particular assertion, but it is clearly nonsense because the Government will retain its powers to regulate.

Tim Barnett: Is the Government obligated to respond to all the requests that have been made of New Zealand, particularly in areas of sensitivity to us?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The answer is no. The fact that other countries have made requests of us in any given sector does not mean that we are going to offer what they have asked for. As members will see in due course from the initial offer, New Zealand is being very cool-headed in deciding what should be put on the table.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: What differences in principle does the Minister see between the Greens’ and trade union opposition to liberalising trade in services and the European Union’s and Japan’s opposition to liberalising trade in agriculture, a position that costs New Zealand and the world hundreds of billions of dollars a year?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I note that most of the Greens’ complaints about trade in services are taken directly off the website from European sources. The trade union movement in New Zealand, on the other hand, has been faithfully reflecting its members’ concerns and has been a very constructive interlocutor on this matter.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Will the Minister give this House a cast-ironguarantee that his Government’s signing of GATS will not have any deleterious effect upon public education in New Zealand?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The currency of cast iron deteriorated considerably during the coalition Government, of which that member’s party was a part. I can, however, give the House an assurance of the nature he asks.

Rod Donald: Is the Minister aware of the views of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors Committee that GATS will be of no benefit to them as education exporters and that it may enable foreign education bodies to apply for funds currently available only to the domestic research funding pool, thus threatening public research funding; and what is his response to these concerns?

Hon JIM SUTTON: It would be news to me that the Vice-Chancellors Committee is not capable of speaking for itself. But if that is really its view, obviously it has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. New Zealand education exports are one of the most successful parts of our external economy and going from strength to strength. The Vice-Chancellors would be aware of how much their universities have benefited from the opportunities to trade internationally.

Rod Donald: Why are we rushing into making a GATS offer when the gains for our largest service export sector, tourism, are virtually nil, and does the Minister concede that GATS will in fact only make it easier for foreign firms to buy up New Zealand – owned tourist ventures, further increasing foreign ownership of the New Zealand economy?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I do not concede any of that. The GATS makes New Zealand’s access to service sector markets around the world more secure and more reliable. It is entirely good for New Zealand.

Rod Donald: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is the submission from the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors Committee.

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

Rod Donald: The second is the Dominion Post article in which Helen Clark expressed a dim view of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s performance on consultations.

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

Rod Donald: The third is the letter from the Christchurch City Council refuting the claims made.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

General Agreement on Trade in Services—Negotiations

7. RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (NZ Labour—Napier) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations: What progress has the Government made in finalising an initial offer in the current General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister for Trade Negotiations): Cabinet has carefully considered the recommendations on New Zealand’s initial offer to the World Trade Organization General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations, and our offer was submitted to the World Trade Organization yesterday. I will be holding a media briefing on our GATS offer later this afternoon. I will table our initial offer immediately following this question, in the form in which it will appear on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website later this afternoon.

Russell Fairbrother: What service sectors has the Government made offers on?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The initial offer included some new sectors, such as postal and courier services, credit reporting and collection agency services, environmental consultancy, urban planning consultancy, landscape architecture consultancy, and services relating to the placement and supply of personnel. In addition to these new sectors, New Zealand has offered to strengthen its existing commitments in areas such as engineering, computing, veterinary, financial, telecommunications, and transport services. The inclusion of these sectors reflects broad discussions with key stakeholders.

Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith: Will the Minister assure the House that in pursuing New Zealand’s interests in liberalising trade in services, the Labour-led Government will neither bow to pressure from its friends in the trade unions nor kowtow to the Greens, as it has on other important issues such as toll road legislation?

Hon JIM SUTTON: This is not a kowtowing sort of Government, nor will we succumb to pressure from people on the opposite side of the House who want us to send our armed forces to war in order to earn negotiating coin for trade negotiations.

Stephen Franks: Given the announced reservation of powers to limit GATS so as to discriminate in favour of Mâori, precisely what kinds of projects involving Mâori are contemplated as needing that reservation, and why is it not forbidden by article 3’s guarantee of the same rights and privileges under the same British law for all New Zealanders?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I am aware of the member’s desire to stop honouring the Treaty of Waitangi and stop addressing historical grievances. All the Government’s reservations in this area do, is allow us—

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have two objections. Firstly, the Minister has no responsibility for the ACT party’s policies. Secondly, the Minister cannot authenticate that. In fact, Mr Stephen Franks is actually in favour of upholding the treaty—not the made-up one, but the real one.

Mr SPEAKER: The first part of the member’s point of order was valid. I now ask the Minister to continue his answer.

Hon JIM SUTTON: All that the Government’s reservations in this area do, is allow us to honour the Treaty of Waitangi and to address legitimate historical grievances.

Rod Donald: Does the Minister have even the slightest misgiving about the fact that New Zealand’s initial offer was tabled at the World Trade Organization in Geneva before the New Zealand public had become aware of it and before this Parliament had had a chance to debate it, and does his offer include any new reservations to protect exposed non-commercial services?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The offer does include a declaratory statement on New Zealand’s interpretation of article 1.3 of GATS, which provides protection for the Government’s ongoing right to regulate, supply, and, if desired, subsidise public services. I have no reservations whatsoever about the wisdom of the Government’s initial offer.

Darren Hughes: What steps have been taken by the Government to ensure that public services are not included in this GATS offer?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Firstly, we have adhered to article 1.3 of the GATS treaty, which makes that clear. Secondly, we have included in our initial offer a declaratory statement of our interpretation of that article, which we believe is shared by all other members of GATS. Finally, the whole scheme of the General Agreement on Trade in Services is designed to preserve the sovereignty of Governments and their right to regulate services in pursuit of broad public policy objectives. I seek leave to table New Zealand’s new and improved commitments under GATS. This document will be made available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website later today.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Electricity—Generation

8. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: What did he mean when he said in relation to electricity generators, “There is no benefit in the generators bringing the country to its knees because the Government would bring them to their knees.”?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): I was repeating the Government’s position that electricity generators must ensure that they manage any forthcoming difficulties this winter to minimise any disruption. In other words, generators must make the market system work or the market system will not survive. That is the position the industry understands very well and freely accepts. It has remained unchanged since it was first given in the winter of 2001.

Gerry Brownlee: Is the Minister aware that similar comments from the Prime Minister last week wiped millions of dollars off the capital value of Contact Energy; can he tell us whether he has discussed those threats with the Minister for State Owned Enterprises; and can he also tell us how bringing generators to their knees helps with the current crisis?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The point that I made in my primary answer and that I will make again—and that I made in the media interview that the member has decided to become excited about—is that if the competitive environment is the one in which the five generators wish to play, then they ought to play. It needs to be made to work. The generators well understand that. That is why they are active with the demand-side management, that is why they are active in finding more winter fuel, that is why they are active in cross-insuring, and so on.

Mark Peck: Has the Minister received any advice recently about Government planning for more electricity generation?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Indeed I have. Two pieces of advice come to mind. The first says that the Government should be more involved in planning future electricity generation. However, the second says that the market is working perfectly and that a return to more central planning and State control would be a backward step. Unfortunately, both these suggestions come from the Opposition spokesperson on energy.

Peter Brown: Noting those answers, does the Minister accept that to ensure the necessary security of supply, the electricity industry needs—in areas—more regulation, more enterprising ideas, and more investment; if he does accept these assertions, what is he doing about it?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Those are sufficiently broad and good ideas that it would be hard to disagree with them.

Hon Ken Shirley: What, if any, steps does he intend taking to address the regional monopolies of the State-owned enterprise “gentailers”, which allows them to price-gouge major electricity users on spot-market prices, while offering very unattractive hedging options? Will the Minister introduce more markets and more competition or will he retrench into ever-increasing regulation?

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

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is a very good example of why the industry needs to make the competitive market work. About this time last year I drew generators in and said that we need to have more retail competition around the country. As a result of that, the proportion of New Zealanders that have access to only one retailer has dropped—from memory—from about 30 percent 18 months ago, to about 3 percent now.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister agree that what would bring the country to its knees is a continuation of the present 5 percent annual growth in electricity use, which requires a doubling of our whole power station capacity every 14 years; if so, does he think that the national energy efficiency and conservation strategy can bring demand growth under control before it bankrupts the country?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not accept that demand growth bankrupts the country. I do, however, accept that 5 percent growth, if it were to occur year on year, would be contrary to the idea of trying to de-link economic growth and electricity growth. The important thing about the 5 percent or 4 percent—or whatever it is—growth this month over March 2002, is that if we go back 2 years it is also about 4 percent. That is to say, March 2002 compared with March 2001 was modest growth, indeed.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister believe that market forces alone will supply New Zealand’s electricity demand, even in low-water years, or will it, in his view, be necessary for the Government to provide a reserve-generating capability?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I have never believed that market forces alone work in the electricity system and they do not anywhere in the world. The question of whether we need extra capacity clip-on—a regulatory clip-on to the system—is one of the many issues that is being studied by the Infrastructure Committee of Cabinet.

Gerry Brownlee: In relation to his statement regarding electricity markets and generators, where he says: “This is your sandpit, you make it work or the political process will take it off you” in what way does he intend the political process to take it off the generators?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The competitive model bequeathed to me by that member’s predecessor Max Bradford—

Gerry Brownlee: It was supported by Labour for 4 years.

Hon PETE HODGSON: Indeed we have—needs to be made to work by those people who operate in it. I have said repeatedly, on any number of occasions, that the system needs to be made to work by those major players. What has happened is that we did get ourselves through 2001, though only with intervention—if you will—from a political source. We did get ourselves better competition, but probably, Ken Shirley would say, still not good enough—and so would I. That is the situation that we are in. We are in some form of transition and whether or not the market will work adequately without some further intervention is a question in front of Cabinet’s infrastructure Ministers.

Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree that the current lack of new investment in electricity generation capacity has more to do with uncertainty about future fuel sources than with the wholesale electricity market structure?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I rather suspect that it is a bit of each. I rather suspect that if Maui was running out—if you will—on time, instead of 2 years earlier, we would not be talking about a capacity constraint.

Questions for Oral Answer

Columbus Academy

9. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Minister of Education: What progress has been made in the multi-agency investigation into the Columbus Academy?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): All students have had their immigration permits revoked, or their permits have expired. The students under the age of 17 who do not have parents in New Zealand, and several older students, have returned to Japan. Those students have gone home voluntarily, acting on advice and assistance from the broad range of New Zealand agencies involved with the academy.

Jill Pettis: What communication has there been with the parents of the students?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The New Zealand Embassy has been in contact with parents through the Japanese Government and directly at meetings, so that the parents can understand why our Government considers that it is in the students’ best interests to return home.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Government do nothing in response to serious concerns about the Columbus Academy when it was first raised with the Immigration Service in November 2001 by Waitakere College, and when it was again raised late last year by the Waitemata District Health Board that noted “major human rights concerns at the academy”, and why did it take the death of a young person before any Government agency decided to do anything at all?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think that if the Waitakere City Council had referred it to the Government rather than the Human Rights Commission, we would have made some progress.

Hon Brian Donnelly: Does the Minister consider that additional weekly payments to State school teachers who have foreign fee-paying students in their classes is appropriate in our public education system; if not, what will he do about it?

Mr SPEAKER: That is very wide of the original question, but the Minister may comment.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I certainly do not. I think it is a most inappropriate and probably illegal method of paying students. It is being investigated, and I think that a number of agencies are looking at that one as well.

Questions for Oral Answer

Health, Associate Minister—Overseas Representation

10. NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is he representing New Zealand at any international forums or conferences in the coming month; if so, which ones?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health), on behalf of the Associate Minister of Health: Yes, I am. As the Minister representing New Zealand, I will be attending the ministerial segment of the 46th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna from 15 to 17 April.

Nandor Tanczos: Will he be following the example of his predecessor to that convention, the former New Zealand First MP Tuariki Delamere, when he criticised the delegates for “the hypocrisy in which many adults openly and legally abuse alcohol and then turn around and condemn youth for using marijuana”; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I will be outlining the Government’s commitment to approaches to dealing with the problems caused by illicit drugs and alcohol, particularly in relation to young New Zealanders.

Dianne Yates: What is the role he will be taking at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I will be outlining that one of the goals of the Government’s national drug policy is to support international efforts to control the supply of, and reduce the demand for, both legal and illegal drugs.

Dr Lynda Scott: Will the Minister be discussing the British Medical Journal’s recent articles on the clear links between cannabis use and various psychiatric illnesses, and what is his opinion on Wellington Coroner Garry Evans’ warning to this Government to be cautious over cannabis decriminalisation because young people who take their own lives are commonly users, often very heavy users, of cannabis?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I cannot comment in detail as to what the Minister will be discussing at that conference, but in relation to the report from the coroner in relation to cannabis, I think that warning is for the whole of Parliament, because when a decision is made, if it is made, it will be made by this whole Parliament not by one or two individual members.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the event that Mr Delamere’s comments are raised at the conference, will the Associate Minister be advising that conference that the New Zealand Government’s position now, pursuant to its agreement with United Future, is that it will not be introducing any moves to change the legal status of cannabis?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I would expect that would be the case.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware that the only country recorded to have at least partially met the goal of that body, which is the elimination or significant reduction of elicit drugs, was Afghanistan under the Taliban—a role model that I am sure the Minister does not want to emulate—and will the Government support a review of United Nations’ conventions on control of elicit drugs on the basis that they hinder control, as called for by a declaration signed by hundreds of parliamentarians around the world calling for a review of United Nations conventions?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, I cannot confirm any of those things.

Nandor Tanczos: I seek leave of the House to table an appeal addressed to all Governments and the United Nations.

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

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table the British Medical Journal articles Cannabis Use and Mental Health in Young People, and The Risks of Adult Psychosis.

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

Questions for Oral Answer

Mental Health—Patients in Cells

11. HEATHER ROY (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Health: Does she stand by comments made on her behalf in the House on 26 March 2003 that “keeping patients in police cells, when they should be in health services, is an unacceptable situation in isolated parts of Auckland” and “it does not represent a crisis in mental health services”; if so, how long is she prepared to allow this practice to continue?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I stand by my comments that keeping patients in police cells when they should be in health services is an unacceptable situation. The police are a legitimate pathway into mental health services, but patients should not be held for more than 6 hours before transfer. District health boards are being monitored to ensure they are using the additional money the Government has provided to put in place appropriate services as fast as possible.

Heather Roy: In the light of the Minister’s answer, is it not the real reason that 32 out of the 360 prison inmates under psychiatric care and treatment within the last 6 months are awaiting beds in psychiatric forensic units, and that the politically correct drive to deinstitutionalisation has been a complete failure, or is it her opinion that it is acceptable to have the mentally unwell handcuffed in their cells because their conditions cannot be controlled in prison?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There are people in prison who have mental illness, but they have also committed a crime. Some mental health services are provided in prisons. Those who are seriously mentally unwell ought to be held in appropriate facilities. However, one of the key issues for mental health, and it has remained a key issue for a number of years, is the lack of a trained mental health workforce to be able to provide all the services that are required. However, I am pleased to say that there has been some improvement in that area, but there is still some way to go.

Dr Lynda Scott: What words of advice does she have for a mother with a depressed and suicidal son in Auckland who, when the crisis team could not get there soon enough, was advised to call the police, who held her son in a prison cell and treated him like a prisoner rather than a patient, and who now has no absolutely no confidence in New Zealand’s mental health system?

Hon ANNETTE KING: It is unfortunate when that happens. It is certainly not a new thing in New Zealand. If one reads back over the years, it has happened for decades. What we are doing, as fast as we can, is providing the appropriate health services for people. However, I am glad that the police do work with the mental health services, because I can only assume the member would prefer the person had no help at all.

Ron Mark: Who is responsible for mental patients who have committed crimes and ended up in our prisons: the Ministers who place them in the community without the proper mental health services to support them, due to the unrealistic expectations of the deinstitutionalised process, or the patients themselves?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That member consistently makes comments about mental health patients. There are thousands of mental health patients who live in the community and who do not commit crimes—they do not murder, rob, or beat people up—but there are thousands of New Zealanders who are said to be sane who do. What we do need is for those who are seriously mentally unwell to receive the appropriate services to help them. We have a deficit in New Zealand in terms of those services, whether they are in institutions or in the community, and I am pleased to see that considerable resources have been put in this Government over a short period of time.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked who is responsible.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister addressed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If she did, she took three quarters of the question to get to an answer that was not to do with the question. Let me say that she began by attacking my colleague for making speeches. She then moved on to what she called “innocent mental health patients”, who had not committed any crime. None of that was asked of her, and the question that was asked was who is responsible, the Minister or the victims themselves? She still has not answered the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has addressed the question.

Heather Roy: Does she find it acceptable that, due to a lack of psychiatric beds, patients are discharged into the community only to commit murder and then to be imprisoned, as has happened on three occasions in the Wellington region in the last 9 months, one of whom went on to kill himself in his prison cell; if not, why does she refuse to address the problem of the lack of psychiatric beds?

Hon ANNETTE KING: This Government is addressing the lack, and not just of psychiatric beds. There have to be people to treat psychiatric patients when they are in the beds. This Government has put in $257 million extra in the last 3 years. The National Government, when it was in power, neglected mental health. This party has not.

Heather Roy: I seek leave of the House to table a document printed in the Dominion Post on 12 March, outlining how patients with psychiatric illnesses in prisons are handcuffed in their cells.

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

Ron Mark: Noting that the Minister has said, on numerous occasions, that sane people—who are not mental patients—commit crimes, and that there is exaggerated comment about the numbers of people who are mental patients who commit crimes, can the Minister table in the House the exact crime statistics that show how many crimes committed in this country were committed by people with a psychiatric illness or problem, which had been identified; can the Minister give us those numbers to verify what she is saying?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I believe I can give the member the number of people who have committed murders who are seriously mentally unwell. I am unsure, and perhaps the Minister of Police could be asked the question, of other crimes, but we do keep statistics of people who have committed murder who are mentally unwell. That member might wish to ask a question of the Minister of Police.

Questions for Oral Answer

Drugs—Ecstasy Seizures

12. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Customs: What is the Government doing about the burgeoning problem of synthetic hard drugs crossing into New Zealand’s borders, which has seen an unprecedented 3000 percent increase in Ecstasy seizures by the New Zealand Customs Services from 2000 to 2002?

Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs): Concurrent with the release of Project Horizon, a wonderful document put out by the Customs Service, which outlines the problems of increasing imports of amphetamine-type substances, I am delighted to announce the Government has allocated a further $1.9 million to the Customs Service for a pro-active drug enforcement strategy. That is in line with the actions of the ministerial action group on drugs, and the Government’s objective of harm minimisation from drugs and alcohol.

David Parker: What will the taxpayer get for the additional $1.9 million granted in this year’s Budget?

Hon RICK BARKER: The additional funding will ensure that we have 12 front-line specialist investigators in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. We will also be able to employ four full-time intelligence analysts to target trans-national organised crime groups trafficking drugs in New Zealand, and we will give those staff members the resources and support necessary to operate effectively.

Shane Ardern: In the light of the Minister’s focus on imported manufactured drugs from overseas, why has his department not given him any advice on controlling or monitoring the bulk chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine,

arguably a more dangerous drug than some of the drugs that are being targeted?

Hon RICK BARKER6Hon RICK BARKER: The document Project Horizon, which I commend to the member, lists all the precursors to drugs and outlines the fact that many of the precursors to drugs are used legitimately in this country. Part of the resources of the Customs Services will be to make sure that those legitimate imports of precursors go to be used for their intended purpose. We will be making sure that they are not siphoned off. 15:08:10 End of QOA

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

 

Also, Loan Interest: Productivity Commission On Tertiary Education

Key recommendations include better quality control; making it easier for students to transfer between courses; abolishing University Entrance; enabling tertiary institutions to own and control their assets; making it easier for new providers to enter the system; and facilitating more and faster innovation by tertiary education providers... More>>

ALSO:

Higher Payments: Wellington Regional Council Becomes A Living Wage Employer

Councillor Sue Kedgley said she was delighted that the Wellington Regional Council unanimously adopted her motion to become a Living Wage employer, making it the first regional council in New Zealand to do so. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Images:
Dame Patsy Reddy Sworn In As Governor-General

This morning Dame Patsy Reddy was sworn in as the New Zealand Realm’s 21st Governor-General. The ceremony began with a pōwhiri to welcome Dame Patsy and her husband Sir David Gascoigne to Parliament. More>>

ALSO:

Ruataniwha: DOC, Hawke's Bay Council Developer Take Supreme Court Appeal

The Department of Conservation and Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) are appealing to the Supreme Court over a conservation land swap which the Court of Appeal halted. More>>

ALSO:

With NZ's Marama Davidson: Women’s Flotilla Leaves Sicily – Heading For Gaza

Women representing 13 countries spanning five continents began their journey yesterday on Zaytouna-Oliva to the shores of Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007. On board are a Nobel Peace Laureate, three parliamentarians, a decorated US diplomat, journalists, an Olympic athlete, and a physician. A list of the women with their background can be found here. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Key Style Of Crisis Management

At Monday’s post Cabinet press conference Key was in his finest wide- eyed “Problem? What problem?” mode. No, there wasn’t really a problem that top MPI officials had been at odds with each other over the meaning of the fisheries policy and how that policy should be pursued... More>>

ALSO:

Mt Roskill: Greens Will Not Stand In Likely Post-Goff By-Election

“The Green Party’s priority is changing the Government in 2017, and as part of that we’ve decided that we won’t stand a candidate in the probable Mt Roskill by-election... This decision shows the Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Green Party is working." More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Parliament
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news