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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 8 April 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

Questions 1-12 – 8 April 2003

Questions for Oral Answer


Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer
Primary Health Organisations—Reports

1. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports has she received regarding the establishment of Primary Health Organisations?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I have seen many positive reports following the announcement of a further 22 primary health organisations, taking the number to 34 across the country and covering over 1 million people. For example, Dr Glen Davies from the newly formed Lake Taupo primary health organisation stated: “I think it’s a really positive concept to be putting more money into primary health care.” He went on to say that the $15 consultation fee would mean that very sick patients could afford to see their doctor more often and be managed more closely, which will cut down hospital visits and entries.

Steve Chadwick: What are some of the improvements in primary health care that primary health organisations will deliver?

Hon ANNETTE KING: More patients will see their health providers more often and sooner. Already, Ta Pasifika, one of the first primary health organisations to be established, is seeing 20 percent more patients, and other primary health organisations are targeting the traditionally hard-to-reach patients. For example, the Health West primary health organisation is working with hospital emergency departments to follow up on the approximately 30 percent attending who do not have a general practitioner. These strategies will ultimately improve health outcomes for many who have long endured poor health status.

Dr Lynda Scott: What is her response to the comments of Trisha Briscoe of the New Zealand Medical Association that “initially increasing funding through a small number of PHOs is inequitable, damaging to general practice, and not in the interests of the community”, and does she stand by general practitioners’ rights to set fees, or will she cap co-payments?

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

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not agree with Trish Briscoe from the New Zealand Medical Association. I find it interesting that last week I launched a primary health organisation in Health Rotorua, gaining the access formula—of which she is a member.

Pita Paraone: Are these primary health organisations a means by which the Government will continue to cover the fact that many general practitioners are now charging in excess of $20 for the treatment of children under the age of 6 years?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Primary health organisations have been established to bring down the price of primary health care over time for all New Zealanders, starting with those with the greatest need first. However, at the last Budget this Government increased the payment to doctors who provide for under-sixes, thereby ensuring that we keep the cost for those under-sixes as low as possible.

Heather Roy: Can the Minister deny that under her new interim formula the great majority of male European superannuitants who do not have a community services card are funded at $17 a year, while male Mâori and Pacific Islander superannuitants on the same income are funded over three times higher at $53 a year when they have exactly the same health needs?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The funding formula allows initially for those people who have the highest needs to receive the highest funding. However, as we have said, we will increase that funding over time. Within the next year or two we hope to ensure that all people over 65 years of age will have more affordable health care, as well as all young people under 18 years. That is a huge commitment by any Government. We have been prepared to put the $400 million in this year and the next 2 years to make sure that it happens.

Sue Kedgley: How many of the 22 primary health organisations that have been established include a multi-disciplinary team of health professionals such as pharmacists and complementary health practitioners, as was promised when primary health organisations were established?

Hon ANNETTE KING: All primary health organisations have doctors and nurses as their core health professionals Some of those primary health organisations have included other health professionals. It is the aim to ensure that over time more are included. However, those health professionals must be prepared to be part of a primary health organisations. I know that all of them are working with other health providers to ensure that they include them over time.

Judy Turner: Is the Minister concerned at recent comments pertaining to primary health organisations directing general practitioners to set time limits of 9 minutes for each consultation, and alleging that general practitioners are poaching patients from private practices; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: That comment was made by the Leader of the Opposition in January about Ta Pasifika, a primary health organisation in south Auckland, which was subsequently denied by the people of Ta Pasifika who said it was not true. It is interesting to see that the recent New Zealand Doctordid a survey of doctors, who said that they have very little fear that there would be 6-minute medicine in New Zealand.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—Prime Minister's Apology to United States

2. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Prime Minister: Why did the Prime Minister last week instruct the New Zealand Ambassador to the United States of America, Mr John Wood, to apologise, and who are the individuals, if any, who have accepted the prime ministerial apology?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Because offence had been taken and I elected to deal with the matter no particular individual has been asked to accept anything.

Hon Richard Prebble: Is the Prime Minister’s refusal to advise the House whom she has apologised to because no one has accepted her apology, or is it because she is embarrassed that by her armchair generalship she has made an international fool of herself?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No one was asked to accept anything. An apology was conveyed.

Hon Bill English: In the light of the Prime Minister’s belief that she is an expert in foreign affairs, I ask when did it become bleedingly obvious to her that the comments she made—indicating she wished that Al Gore had won the election—would be offensive to the Bush administration.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Leaving aside the obvious inaccuracies in that statement, I say that by the end of the week it was clear to me I had to deal with the matter.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would the Prime Minister advise the House, and the country, whether her apology is because of her words “offence has been taken”, or because she was just plain wrong?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: My apology was because offence had been taken.

Keith Locke: If there was a diplomacy problem, was it not because George Bush rejected a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis; and will the Prime Minister be asking George Bush for an apology for invading Iraq, violating international law and the UN charter, and causing such death and destruction? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Every member has a right to ask a question in this Parliament, and I remind members of that. I will not have interjection during the asking of a question.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: No, I will not be asking for such an apology.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I ask the Prime Minister again, given her answer to me, whether she is therefore sticking by her words that the war was not going according to plan, and that this war would not have happened if Al Gore had been the President—despite the fact that Mr Gore supports the American invasion of Iraq.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not intend to elaborate any further on the comments. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: That is the last comment that member will make.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I admit I made a comment, and I apologise, but so did the Prime Minister. Will you talk to her, too?

Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the Prime Minister make any comment at all.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Prime Minister now accept that her comments suggesting that the war in Iraq might not have happened under an Al Gore presidency, were not only extremely ill-informed but also totally inappropriate, as Al Gore is a known hawk on the need to enforce a regime change in Iraq, with or without further UN resolutions?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I accept that offence was taken—which is why I offered the apology.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Let us get it clear from the Prime Minister: is it her position that she believes she was right on both accounts—which offended the United States and people in the United States administration—and that she has apologised only because someone took offence?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Comments have been grossly distorted; I do not intend to elaborate on them.

Hon Richard Prebble: When the Prime Minister, last week, announced that it was “bleeding obvious” that the war was not going to plan, where did she get her information from—from our traditional allies, the United States, Britain, and Australia, or from the Iraqi Minister of Information who still believes that the Americans are not in Baghdad?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I do not think anyone takes the latter gentleman seriously.

Hon Ken Shirley: I seek leave to table various quotations from website references, together with excerpts from David Halberstam’s new book: War in a Time of Peace, which clearly outline that Al Gore’s position is exactly the same as President Bush’s position.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not questioning your ruling; I am asking for some clarification. Do you believe there would be one New Zealander who believes that the Prime Minister answered Mr Prebble’s question?

Mr SPEAKER: It does not matter what I believe or any other New Zealander believes. I have to adjudge whether she addressed the question. She did.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When we look at the questions today, and I see there are a number on this subject, and since the Prime Minister has now assured the House that her “remarks have been misinterpreted”—I think that is the phrase she gave—or “distorted”, surely it would be appropriate for the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House of what she really did say last week, because we would like to know what the apology actually was.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter for the Prime Minister, not for the Speaker.

Questions for Oral Answer
Domestic Purposes Benefit—Penalties

3. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: Is he planning to raise the $22 a child penalty that can be deducted from a single mother’s domestic purposes benefit if the father is unknown; if so, why?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): The Government believes that, in other than exceptional circumstances, fathers should be responsible financially for their children. We are therefore considering a range of options to ensure that more liable parents are financially responsible for their children.

Sue Bradford: Has the Minister given any consideration to granting an exemption, so that women who do not name the father because they genuinely fear violence and/or abuse do not have their benefit cut; if not, why not?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: For the information of the House, beneficiaries who are taking active steps to identify the parent are exempt. If the child was conceived as a result of incest or sexual violation, the beneficiary is exempt. If there is insufficient evidence to identify the other parent, the beneficiary is exempt. Of course, parents who are in a situation where violence is involved can use the domestic violence legislation to ensure that that partner is dealt with.

Georgina Beyer: What measures is the Government taking to encourage more parents to be financially responsible for their children?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In 2001 the Labour-Alliance Government increased and indexed the minimum liable-parent contribution. We are now also involved in case management of sole parent clients, and that has proved to be very useful in making people aware of their responsibilities in relation to child support applications and how to ensure that fathers are made aware of their responsibilities. We are now exploring a range of other options, which will hopefully come to fruition later on this year.

Katherine Rich: Can the Minister explain why, when in some cases the department has the father named on a fully completed birth certification on file, it does not seek to collect child support—a foolishness that could be costing the taxpayer up to $11 million per year?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I outlined before the reasons that a person may well be exempt from this. In fact, what we are exploring at the present time is the State itself seeking family support to ensure in every possible case that application is made.

Barbara Stewart: Is it not true that raising the $22 penalty will lead to an increase in supplementary benefits being claimed, so that in reality his proposal is a meaningless sop to public opinion?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I should advise the House that this weight has not been lifted since 1992, while at least all other benefit payments have been lifted during that period of time. So I think at least one of the things we should be doing is ensuring it keeps up with inflation. But one of the points that the member raises is quite right—whatever we do here we must make sure we understand that these payments are for children, and we want to ensure they are fed, housed, and clothed properly, and not penalised by any changes that we undertake.

Dr Muriel Newman: Can the Minister assure the House that he does intend to match his tough talk with action; if so, exactly what is his proposed time frame for the necessary law changes, in the light of the fact that this issue has been on the never-never since he has been the Minister?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I always leave the tough talk to Dr Newman. What we are introducing here are sensible changes around liable parents who should be supporting their children.

Judy Turner: Does the Minister agree that any move to obtain more information about parentage should be in the long-term best interests of the child; if so, does he agree that acquiring biological information about the father could save a child’s life, given what we know about genetic predisposition to disease?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes, I do agree. I would also like to add that any child has the right to know who his or her father is, and to get emotional and financial support from that person.

Sue Bradford: How is the Minister dealing with the contradiction between his support for ending child poverty, while at the same time launching initiatives to cut income levels even further for some children because of a perceived failing on the part of their mother?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Easily. We are not trying to do something that will introduce hardship into these households. As I mentioned before, since 1992 the level of payment has not been lifted, while the payment to these beneficiaries has been lifted. What we are doing here is part of a suite of changes, and we will ensure it does not result in undue hardship on a family.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—Prime Minister's Apology to United States

4. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What is the full text of her apology to the Bush administration for offence caused by her comments about the war in Iraq?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): I gave the New Zealand Ambassador to the United States verbal authorisation to convey my apology for the offence that had been taken.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is public reference to the fact that a letter was delivered. The Prime Minister will be aware of that. It is treating this House lightly if she does not answer the question by telling us what was in the letter, which has been referred to publicly by her office.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister was asked a specific question by the member. [Interruption] The member is wanting a very early exit. The Leader of the Opposition asked a very specific question. I listened to the answer. It was a very specific answer. We accept members at their word when they do that, and that is where the matter rests. The member now has supplementary questions.

Hon Bill English: With respect, I asked a specific question about text, not about verbal assurances. There is public record of the text. It is a matter of national importance. The Prime Minister simply has not even attempted to answer the question I asked.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister was asked a specific question. I judged she gave an answer to it. She can answer the question as she wishes.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may well have judged that that was sufficient, given her answer, excepting that Mr English has very clearly pointed out to you the word “text” and what he meant. There is also a convention in the House that you look after new members or inexperienced members of Parliament, but you do not look after Prime Ministers who should be able to look after themselves, and that is the point I want to raise with you. The Prime Minister has been asked a very clear question—[Interruption] I will look after you, you pup, but not her. There is a convention in the House that backbenchers and new members of Parliament—but not Prime Ministers—are looked after by the Speaker. Mr English is asking a very clear question about the text, and that having been brought to your attention, I think you should make sure she answers properly.

Mr SPEAKER: I judged the Prime Minister did give an answer that was within the Standing Orders, but that is what supplementary questions are for—to elicit further information.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have a bit of a problem here. Under Standing Order 372(2): “The reply to any question must be concise and confined to the subject-matter of the question asked.” The subject matter of this question was the full text of her apology. In no way can the Prime Minister’s answer be said to be on that subject matter. She was referring to some verbal conversations that she had, unless the Prime Minister—and perhaps this is how you are interpreting it, and maybe that will be a matter for a letter—is giving you an assurance that there is no text and that that is how she is answering the question. If she is not giving such an assurance—and she prepares to be reluctant to take part in these Points of Order
—that there is no text, then her answer cannot be said to come within Standing Order 372. It is an answer to a question that was not asked. The question she was asked was: “What is the full text of the apology?”.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that nobody knows the Prime Minister has produced any text. It could, for example, have been put in the Ambassador’s words. We do not know. That is why supplementary questions are allowed.

Hon Bill English: Given her comment that “People are usually in no doubt what I mean about things.”, what does she mean when she is saying to the US Government that she apologises for her comments on the war?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: It was clear to me that offence had been taken by the reference to Mr Gore, and I apologised for the offence that had been taken. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I do endeavour to be clear about things.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wish to thank the Prime Minister for that assurance of clarity. Would she tell us now in respect of the Al Gore comments, whether she was right or wrong? Yes or no?

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot use the last two words. He can certainly ask the question. The Minister can decide how she answers.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have nothing further to say about the comment.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is rhubarb to be an answer adequate for the Prime Minister in this House on such a serious matter? She rises to her feet on a matter of national importance—[Interruption] Let me finish. I have not finished yet.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down when I stand up. Please sit down.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I have not finished my point of order. As long as you are clear about that.

Mr SPEAKER: The member certainly did not use the word “rhubarb”. I never heard that word used. The Prime Minister gave an answer, and that was the answer with which she addressed the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The word “rhubarb” is by way of an analogy. It is commonly understood in the English language to be a contemptuous answer to a serious issue. That is why I used it. I did not say she used the word “rhubarb”. I said, by way of analogy, is rhubarb to be an adequate answer in this House, and will you deem it proper that whatever she says is an answer? Frankly, when it comes to matters of international and foreign policy importance, the Prime Minister is treating you and this House, and the whole country, with contempt.

Mr SPEAKER: The answer is no. I regard questions asked in this House as deserving an answer. That question got one.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answer that was given was: “I am not going to give an answer.”, or words to that effect. Standing Order 372(1) requires that an answer “must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” Do we take it then, since the Prime Minster cannot tell us whether she believes she was right or wrong, that if she was to say whether she was right or wrong, that would not be consistent with the public interest?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The Prime Minister declined to elaborate, and she is entitled to do that.

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

Mr SPEAKER: My patience with this issue is fast going.

Rodney Hide: I am very sorry if that is the case, Mr Speaker, but in response to earlier Points of Order
, you said—and you told this House—that clarification is what supplementary questions are for. When the supplementary questions were put, the Prime Minister said: “I’m not prepared to say anything more about this subject.” If that ruling stands, then we can have every Minister coming down to this House, each and every day, and saying to any question that they do not feel like answering that they are not prepared to answer it, and you are on the record as saying that that is acceptable.

Mr SPEAKER: No. What I said was that the Prime Minister declined to elaborate. She is entitled to do that.

Hon Bill English: In her capacity as Prime Minister of New Zealand, who says what she means, does she stand by this statement: “I don’t think that September 11 under a Gore presidency would have had this consequence for Iraq.”?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Offence has been taken at that comment and I do not believe it is in the public interest to compound it.

Hon Richard Prebble: Perhaps I can just the Prime Minister this simple question: in relation to her apology, does any text exist?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in my initial answer, I gave verbal authorisation to the New Zealand Ambassador to convey my apology. Diplomatic channels have worked.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I could not have put the question more simply. I just asked whether a text existed, and no one in this House is any the wiser. All the Prime Minister had to do was say yes or no. The Prime Minister will not answer anything else, but surely we are entitled to know whether a text exists.

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked the question and the Prime Minister addressed the question with an answer. She is entitled to elaborate in the way she chooses.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is making a complete mockery of question time. The Leader of the Opposition has gone to the trouble of putting out a question asking whether there is a text. He asked that question but did not get an answer. Then we were told by you that all we had to do was ask a supplementary question. I have asked a supplementary question, and actually used up one of the others, just to find out whether there is a text, and the Prime Minister will not even answer that. That is making a mockery of this House. In fact, we deserve an apology from her now.

Mr SPEAKER: No. Perhaps the Prime Minister could elaborate on the term “diplomatic channels” in the answer she gave.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I gave, as I have said several times now, verbal authorisation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Mr Woods to convey an apology. I did not instruct them on the means of conveyance.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is still not an adequate response from the Prime Minister. When we go down to the Clerk’s Office every day to lodge a question, we have to be able to substantiate the question we are asking. There would be no reference to a text on the Order Paper today if there was not some indication somewhere—presumably in this case, in the media, confirmed by the Prime Minister’s office—that there was a text, contained in a letter sent to the Ambassador, presumably. We are being treated with utter contempt by the Prime Minister when she does not answer the simple question: is there an instruction or is there an indication in a text borne somewhere out of her office to the United States?

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Indeed there must be an authorisation. That authorisation must be some form of quotation from the media, the same media reporting a leadership coup in the National Party today. It does not follow—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member to address the point of order only.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: My point is that the fact that something appears in the media does not make it true.

Hon Bill English: That is absolutely right.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: That is absolutely right, and I thank the member. That is the point I was making. Therefore, the fact that one could produce an authorisation, especially if it was from the Dominion Post, does not demonstrate that that was a fact. The Prime Minister gave an answer addressing the question, and we are now back to the situation where the Opposition does not like the answer and is therefore going to barrack and yell because, like badly behaved boys, they cannot take the answer they have been given.

Mr SPEAKER: I have no doubt in my mind that after the Prime Minister gave her elaboration, that did give the information. She certainly did address that part of the question.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take grave exception to the remarks made by the Leader of the House. It is a complete abuse of the point of order procedure. Stating under a point of order that people are badly behaved boys is out of order, and I believe that with his other remarks he should be asked to withdraw and apologise, and you should think about expelling him from the House.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I am certainly going to ask him to withdraw and apologise for that remark.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You refused to call the members opposite to order when they barracked and yelled while I was talking to a point of order. It is out of order to make any comment while a point of order is being spoken to, and I suggest that the entire Opposition should be required to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: No. There is give-and-take on both sides. I regard that matter as now closed.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Now that the Leader of the House has told us that it is clear that a text exists, and presumably when the Prime Minister, said “apology” that must be in it, so that is quoting from it. Under Standing Order 362: “Whenever a Minister quotes from a document relating to public affairs a member may, on a point of order, require the Minister to lay the document on the Table.” I now require the Minister to table the apology.

Mr SPEAKER: No, there has been no quotation from anything. [Interruption] I was going to allow the Hon Bill English a supplementary—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point of order is now getting to the point where it is getting past acceptability.

Gerry Brownlee: I just want to be clear where we are. Can I now assume that it is all right for us to send questions down to the Clerk’s Office that make assertions without the current burden of proof to back those questions? That is what we are effectively saying if we accept what Michael Cullen has told us.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to say quite specifically that members must authenticate a question. There is no corresponding obligation on Ministers answering, and the Speaker cannot answer for Ministers.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You said in reply to Mr Prebble that there was no quotation from any text. It has been my long observation in this House that for a Speaker to establish that he usually asks the Minister, or in this case the Prime Minister, first. He does not have a stab in the dark and think he can answer it himself. There was enough in the Prime Minister’s answer to open suspicion she may have been quoting from a document, as Mr Prebble raised in the first instance. Now, would you ask her that and not make the decision yourself?

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I did ask the Prime Minister to elaborate, she did so, and that addressed the question.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I find it quite incredible. We have a situation where the Prime Minister has told us that she has given verbal advice to John Wood, the Ambassador, that he can apologise. I have taken it from further remarks that this was clearly put into a text, and a message sent to the Ambassador—and of course it would have been to confirm it. I think if those words are there that he is to apologise, that is quoting from a document, she should be required to table it.

Mr SPEAKER: No. There was no quotation from a document. No quotation from a document was claimed by the Minister. She did not refer to a document. Only if a Minister purports to quote does Standing Order 362 become engaged.

Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister believe that the officials have written down any text relating to this apology; if so, when will she tell us what is in that text?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: The member’s questions to me have been about a text of my apology. I have repeatedly said to him that I gave verbal authorisation. I then leave it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to convey it as they see fit.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very straightforward question of a Prime Minister who regards herself as totally knowledgable in matters of foreign affairs. The simple question was whether she believed that officials had written down in any text the apology that was being given; if so, when that would be displayed to the House. Is the Prime Minister asserting that she does not know whether officials have written it down, or is it simply the case she is totally embarrassed by the fact that it might be written down, and we might discover what she was apologising for?

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member asked the Prime Minister a specific question. I judged that she addressed it.

Hon Bill English: You did not call us, Mr Speaker. Supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has had three, so he will take—

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I can be helpful here. We should go back to the primary question, because I think the House is under some confusion. The question asked by the Hon Bill English was what was the text of her apology to be conveyed. I think that what we are hearing from the Prime Minister is that she has not apologised, but the Ambassador has. That is new information, and maybe it would help the House if the Prime Minister would be clear on whether she has apologised to the Americans or whether the Ambassador has apologised to the Americans.

Mr SPEAKER: I judged that the Prime Minister addressed that question.

Hon Bill English: Given that her answers now lead us to believe that officials have apologised and not her, and that she has apologised because of the offence that was taken, not because of the statements, is it her intention to apologise herself to the US Government for the statements that she made that it found offensive?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have given authorisation to the Ambassador to convey the following: firstly, to convey my sorrow at the fact that offence had been taken, my recognition that offence had been taken, and to convey my apology for offence that had been taken. How the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chooses to convey that is entirely up to it.

Questions for Oral Answer
Sexual Offenders—Community Protection

5. TIM BARNETT (NZ Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Justice: What changes have been made to better protect the community from recidivist behaviour by convicted sex offenders?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Changes have been made to the Sentencing Act, the Parole Act, and to operational practice. Collectively, those have significantly increased the effectiveness and powers of agencies dealing with recidivist sex offenders. Preventive detention—effectively, a life-long sentence—has been extended in scope to encompass a much wider group of offenders. Parole changes mean that public safety is the paramount consideration and that high-risk offenders serve the full term. Finally, operational changes have resulted in a more thorough and professional assessment of offenders and better information-sharing between agencies.

Tim Barnett: What other steps does he intend to take to ensure that Government agencies can more actively manage convicted sex offenders when released into the community?

Hon PHIL GOFF: A range of further measures is planned. A best practice model of information sharing and inter-agency collaboration will be established in Dunedin next month and progressively rolled out across the country. Legislative change will ensure that comprehensive information on convicted sex offenders is provided by the Department of Corrections to police. Finally, officials will report back to Ministers by 31 August on further proposals for active management of sex offenders in the community, including a register, extended supervision, and control of convicted offenders beyond the normal period of parole.

Hon Tony Ryall: Does the Minister think that with this announcement he can wash his hands of any responsibility for the abuse of four young boys by Barry Alan Ryder in Christchurch while on parole last year, given that when he was in Opposition he campaigned relentlessly for immediate action, and when he became the Minister did absolutely nothing?

Hon PHIL GOFF: No, it was the member as Minister who did absolutely nothing. What I as Minister did was amend the Sentencing Act to ensure that the sentence of preventive detention—that is, a life-long sentence—is imposed on Mr Ryder, and Mr Ryder is likely to be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life as a result of that sentence. The member should apologise to the House for his utter incompetence and inability to do anything when he was Minister of Justice.

Deborah Coddington: Can he confirm that my bill, the Sex Offenders Registry Bill, will be looked at by the Government as a serious option; if so, why?

Hon Phil Goff: I can confirm that we will be looking seriously at a register, as proposed by the member in her member’s bill. The police currently do have registers—they have a criminal history database and a persons of interest database—but there may be some advantage in having a comprehensive register that can be accessed by the police. However, that will be an advantage only if there is a system of active management of sex offenders in the community, in conjunction with that register. The register by itself is a means to an end, not the end itself.

Questions for Oral Answer
Iraq—Prime Minister's Apology to United States

6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: What did her apology to the Bush administration, reported in the Dominion Post, 7 April 2003, as being sent through New Zealand’s Ambassador in Washington, relate to in its entirety and was it made unequivocally, without qualification or reservation?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Particular exception had been taken to comments relating to a presidential contender. No offence had been intended, but given that it had been taken, an apology was conveyed.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the Prime Minister’s famous, self-made reputation for front-footing the issue, would she tell us now whether her comments in respect of Al Gore were wrong or right?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I said in an earlier answer, offence was taken at those comments, and I do not judge it to be in the public interest to repeat them and compound the matter.

Hon Bill English: In the light of the Prime Minister’s continued repetition of the statement that offence was taken, does she believe in her own experienced judgment that the comment she made was offensive or not?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I know is that I intended no offence whatsoever.

Hon Richard Prebble: Will the Prime Minister answer yes or no to the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ question—was her statement about Al Gore right or wrong?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: Some people, including members of this House, have distorted the comments. They were opinions, and, in the public interest, I do not intend to elaborate on them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What did the Prime Minister intend, if she did not intend to cause offence, and will she now release whatever is in writing surrounding the matter in respect of the United States Ambassador and his communication with the US administration?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: What I intended was to cause no offence whatsoever. That is why I asked our ambassador to convey my distress at the offence that had been taken when none was meant, and to convey the apology.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have asked the Prime Minister whether she will release whatever is in writing in respect of this matter. Given that there are three questions on this matter, I think this Parliament is entitled to an honest answer from the Prime Minister for the first time today. I do not believe that we as a society are prepared to sit back any longer and take the actions of someone who unduly requires the protection of the Chair of this House, even though she is an experienced politician.

Mr SPEAKER: There were comments made in that point of order that were not in order. Mr Peters asked a question in two parts. The Prime Minister can address the second part if she wants to.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: As I have said several times, I left it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to convey that apology by any means it saw fit, and if it wished to pursue the matter, it was to pursue it with the Minister responsible. I have made my verbal instruction clear.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the second allusion made by the Prime Minister today that she is somehow not responsible for administration. She actually said in the previous answer that if we wanted to find that information out, we should approach Mr Wood or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. That is a disgraceful in respect of the level of accountability required of Ministers, and in particular the Prime Minister. I ask again whether the Prime Minister will give us advice as to whether she will release that information—that is part of my point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister is entitled to tell members to take it up with the portfolio Minister, and that is what she has done.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do ask you to reflect on the contortions that this Parliament has been put through by this Prime Minister, and supported by you, to avoid answering a simple question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rodney Hide: We now have the preposterous—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rodney Hide: —situation where the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade—

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated now.

Rodney Hide: —is responsible for her apology.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber. I have told him three times to be seated.

Rodney Hide withdrew from the Chamber.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have just thrown out a member of this Parliament for asking a simple question. It is, of course, in respect of question No. 4 from Mr English. He asked for the full text. You did not tell him back then to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, or the US Ambassador. You felt it was fit for the Prime Minister to answer the question. She declined to, and now you are straight-out protecting her. That is my party’s view, and I ask you, given that one of our colleagues has been expelled, to ask the Prime Minister to answer the question that she has been asked over and over again at least five times: where is the text?

Mr SPEAKER: No, I told the member to leave the Chamber because he broke the Standing Orders, not because he raised the point of order. I always protect members’ rights to raise Points of Order
. That is where that matter ends. As far as the answers are concerned, I have to adjudge whether the Prime Minister addressed the question. I do not have to comment on the quality or otherwise of the answer. That is up to the Minister who gives the answer. I have adjudged that the Prime Minister addressed the question.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the course of that point of order the member accused you of protecting a Minister. I suggest that that is a direct challenge to your authority. The member should be required to withdraw and apologise for a charge of that sort.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I was prepared to pass that over as being a polemic, but now my attention has been drawn to it, I ask the member to withdraw and apologise for that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you should have a good hard look at the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings. On countless occasions the Speaker of this House has risen to say: “It is my job to protect members.” In this case it seems to me that you are protecting the Prime Minister. The allegation that you are protecting members is not of itself wrongful, and to hasten to ask me to apologise, in my view, is wrong as well.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that was not the reason the member was asked in regard to that—questioning my authority. Of course I am here to protect all 120 members, and I do.

Hon Bill English: If, as the Prime Minister says, she meant no offence, then how is it that as someone so experienced in foreign affairs, and so clever with words, she managed to say in such an incompetent manner words that were so offensive if she never intended them to offend?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I can only repeat that no offence whatsoever was intended

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have waited until now to raise this point of order because we have had a difficult question time, mainly on account of many members on this side of the House feeling that the Prime Minister has not given in her answers the information she could have given them. I ask your view on the following. Standing Order 372, “Replies”, states: “(1) An answer that seeks to address the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” Given that three questions on the Order Paper ask about the text of the Prime Minister’s letter, or a letter from Mr Wood, or some instruction, it seems to me you could rule that an answer must be given consistently with the public interest. It is true that you have interpreted that she has answered the question, but can you tell me where it is in her answers that the Standing Order has been complied with, as well. This whole issue could have been solved if the Prime Minister had merely said: “My understanding is that the text says X”. We would not then have had an issue, and probably we would have been through question time by now. It seems to me that Standing Order 372(1) has not been complied with, and I ask you to give a ruling on how that fits in with the answers Ministers or Prime Ministers give.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for raising that point in the way he has raised it. I am ready to rule.

Hon Richard Prebble: I would like to raise a different aspect to this matter, because I think we have run into a problem that has come about from the rulings you have given this year with regard to the apportioning of questions. In the past, when we had a situation of a Minister clearly not answering a question—a question that he or she must know the answer to—Speakers got over the problem by allowing an MP to ask another question. The dilemma we have here is that the Prime Minister was asked a question, to take just one example—and I do not know the answer to it—whether there was actually a text of the apology. I do not know how many questions have been asked on that matter. I think I have asked the question three times and that the Leader of the Opposition has asked it twice. However, in the case of my party, I have had to use up questions that we would have asked of other Ministers on other questions just to try to get the Prime Minister to answer the question put to her. But she has not answered it. I suggest that what you ought to do in a flagrant case like this one is to indicate to parties that you will allow them extra questions. It is completely within your power as the Speaker to do that. I will not suggest that you are protecting the Prime Minister; rather, I will put it this way. If you are to rule that, unlike previous Parliaments, when a Minister does not answer a question put to him or her by an MP—a question that everyone knows he or she must know the answer to—you will not allow extra questions, then the effect of that will be a huge shift from the Opposition to the Government. It is actually a statement to Ministers that they really do not need to answer any question. All they have to do is keep on prevaricating and watch the Opposition parties use up all their questions. It would be a very good ruling for you now to say that you realise that this has happened and that the National Party, the New Zealand First Party, and the ACT party should all be entitled to, I would say, at least another two questions each. That would send a very strong message to Ministers that they ought to give answers under Standing Order 372.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: This has now become a rather wider issue. Let me come to the first point. Standing Order 372(1) is very clear. It states “An answer that seeks to address the question asked must be given if it can be given consistently with the public interest.” That means, of course, that an answer need not be given at all by a Minister, if it is not consistent with the public interest. I can remember Ministers actually sitting in their seats and not rising to answer questions. Certainly, Ministers are perfectly able to indicate that they are not going to give an answer, and it is up to Ministers to judge whether something is in the public interest, not you. That must be so, because only the Minister can know the circumstances. Secondly, I want to deal with the other issue raised by Mr Prebble. Interestingly, a number of my colleagues have taken objection to the fact that now that questions are apportioned proportionately, Opposition parties are able to load up all their questions into one primary question and spend very few supplementary questions in other questions. That is biting both ways. I explained to my colleagues that that is a perfectly fair tactic on the part of Opposition parties, given the proportional allocation of questions. Your judgment has to be as to whether the Prime Minister addresses the question. In every case you ruled that the Prime Minister did address the question. Members are dissatisfied with the nature of the answers given. That, of course, is a problem from time immemorial for Opposition members facing Ministers. I remember similar feelings myself not more than 3½ years ago.

Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker protects MPs by allowing them to ask questions. He cannot guarantee satisfactory replies. I have not ruled out any question today, but members cannot always expect to be satisfied. In my living memory I do not think that any Speaker has allowed more supplementary questions than I have. In fact, I extended the number of supplementary questions even when the new Parliament was re-elected. I possess the inherent authority to allow questions to go on, and as Dr Cullen rightly pointed out, if members want to load up a particular question and forgo on others, then, of course, they are entitled to do that, and they do, and they have done so today. For example, the Leader of the Opposition asked four supplementary questions on question No 4.

Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to speak to the point that was raised by Richard Prebble. I think that you can see that it is in the spirit of Parliament, and within your judgment, that where Ministers answer the questions in a way that is unsatisfactory to the House, even if it is satisfactory to you, then there should be room for more questions. I ask that today, in the light of the consistent view of the Opposition parties here about the Prime Minister’s tactics, the part that you concede to the Opposition parties that whatever supplementary questions they have used up getting down to question No 6, they still retain the quota that they would normally have for the rest of question time.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I did not say that. I said that would allow members, and the National Party has made its own use of that today, and quite properly so. Dr Cullen referred to that, and members have to look at the rest of their questions.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Referring to Speakers’ Rulings page 19, I point out that we were dealing with the issue of the transfer of questions from one Minister to another, and also your own ruling that relates to the Prime Minister’s responsibility in these matters. Can I point out that question No 4 was set down to the Prime Minister, but in essence the answer said that the question should have been asked of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. If that is the case, then perhaps the question should have been reasonably transferred before. But, more importantly, your own ruling in Supplement to Speakers’ Rulings 20/5 states that the Prime Minister is answerable for any statements made as Prime Minister. That is quite an unequivocal statement from you as Speaker. When you get today’s Hansard I ask you that in the quiet moments you might get in your office you consider whether the Prime Minister has reasonably allowed herself to be answerable for statement that she has made, and, if she did not want to answer question No. 4, whether it might have been appropriate for her to send it off to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Clearly, she has offered an apology, but she has no idea what it was.

Mr SPEAKER: There is one aspect of the supplementary the Prime Minister referred to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but in the other part of the question she did. However, I will look at the texts of today.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When you do, I wonder whether you could draw your attention to this pretty important matter. On this side of the House we would like to know whether there is a text of her apology in any recorded form. After almost 55 minutes the country is entitled to it.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a debating matter.

Questions for Oral Answer
Building Industry Authority—Disestablishment

7. Dr WAYNE MAPP (NZ National—North Shore) to the Minister of Commerce: Why is the Building Industry Authority to be disestablished when the spokesman of the Construction Industry Council and Contractors’ Federation has said that there has been “virtually no consultation” on an issue of such importance to the industry?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce): Although there has not been specific consultation with the Construction Industry Council, shifting the functions of the Building Industry Authority from a Crown entity to a Government department was foreshadowed to the building industry task force, of which the Construction Industry Council spokesperson is a member. A departmental structure, as opposed to a Crown entity, will strengthen the accountability of the regulator to the Minister, to Parliament, and to the people of New Zealand.

Dr Wayne Mapp: In the light of the comments made by lawyer Paul Grimshaw, who said: “The Government’s move shows that the Building Industry Authority wasn’t doing its job’’, does the Minister consider that the Government’s actions today may be an admission of liability to the 800 claimants who have included the Building Industry Authority as one of the defendants in their claims to the weathertightness tribunal?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No.

Russell Fairbrother: What were the matters taken into account in deciding to transfer the functions of the Building Industry Authority?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: It was decided that the functions of the Building Industry Authority would be more appropriately undertaken by a Government department because of public expectations of direct political oversight, the need for regular and ongoing contact with the responsible, the exercise of significant regulatory powers, appropriate parliamentary accountability, and the need for flexibility, policy, and objectives.

Brent Catchpole199Brent Catchpole: Is the dismantling of the Building Industry Authority yet another example of the Minister wishing to blame others for her failings, and those of her colleagues; if not, why has the Minister ignored recommendations of the select committee inquiry into leaky buildings, or do I take it the Minister has not read that report?

Mr SPEAKER: There are three questions there. The Minister can answer two of them.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: The answers to the first two questions are no, and the conclusions of the select committee report are yet to be reported back on as part of the review of the Building Act.

Murray Smith: Does the Minister agree that the Building Industry Authority’s credibility was irreparably damaged as a result of the weathertightness debacle, and is that not a large part of the reason for its restructuring?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: No, I do not accept that. However, I believe that the weathertightness issue has led to the general public calling for accountability that simply does not exist between a Minister and a Crown entity.

Questions for Oral Answer
Australian Defence Subcommittee—Meeting with Minister of Defence

8. Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) to the Minister of Defence: What was discussed at this morning’s meeting between himself and the Australian Senate and House of Representatives’ Defence Subcommittee?

Hon MARK BURTON (Minister of Defence): We discussed a number of matters. I was very appreciative of the fact that the chair of the defence subcommittee, the Hon Bruce Scott, began by referring to the significant contribution that New Zealand has made in the region and beyond in deployments such as Operation Enduring Freedom, East Timor, and Bougainville. He also commented on how much the Australian service chiefs valued working with the New Zealand Defence Force.

Hon Peter Dunne: In the light of the latter part of that answer in particular, I ask whether the Minister discussed with the delegation the possibility of any form of integration of New Zealand and Australian defence forces; if so, in what form; if not, why not?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: No, we had no such discussion because, as the member knows, New Zealand is a sovereign nation and has its own Defence Force. But we certainly did discuss, in some detail, the discussions I have had with successive Australian Ministers of Defence about closer cooperation. In particular, with Senator Robert Hill, I discussed the work we have under way to achieve that.

Lynne Pillay: Was any particular acquisition project discussed at this morning’s meeting?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: Yes, we talked in particular about Project Protector and the usefulness of the multi-role vessel to both New Zealand and, indeed, Australia in our region and elsewhere. In that regard, I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the Project Protector request-for-proposals document will be formally issued to the six short-listed companies in May, and is expected to close in September of this year.

Simon Power: Did the Minister offer any apology to visiting members of the Australian defence subcommittee as a result of comments made by the Prime Minister, which implied that Australia was involved in the war in Iraq in return for a trade deal—comments that the Australian newspaper described as “odious” and “plain wrong”?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: Certainly not, because as the member well knows, the comments he refers to were made specifically about the very, very vague comments that came across from the members of the Opposition, and had no reference to anyone outside New Zealand.

Hon Peter Dunne: Can I take the Minister back to his answer to my earlier supplementary question and ask him whether he was saying that he is ruling out any form of integration between Australian and New Zealand defence forces?

Hon MARK BURTON16Hon MARK BURTON: I am very specifically saying that no such discussion took place there, nor has it in ministerial meetings prior to today’s meeting.

Questions for Oral Answer
Kupe Gas Field—Genesis Power Ltd

9. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Has he had any discussion with the Minister for State Owned Enterprises about renegotiating the statement of corporate intent to encourage Genesis Power Limited to develop the Kupe gas field?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): No.

Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister see anything wrong in Genesis Power Ltd mothballing its proposed 400-megawatt plant at Huntly, because it cannot get a long-term gas supply contract, when Genesis Power is a 70 percent owner of the undeveloped Kupe gas field?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member is apparently not aware that Genesis Power needs no encouragement. It has set out to get itself a field operator. It is saying it will bring the gas on in 2006 or 2007—

Gerry Brownlee: Well, it’s not.

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am afraid the member contradicts me. I am telling the member the truth of the matter. Thirdly, the Crown is quitting its 11 percent shareholding. That was announced by my colleague the Associate Minister of Energy last week. Why was the member not keeping up with it?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether the Government might consider giving the Clerk’s Office some advice. Quite clearly, this question should have been set down to Dr Cullen—the real Minister of Energy.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is trying my patience. He knows that is not a point of order.

H V Ross Robertson: What advice does the Minister have on the likely effect that development of the Kupe field would have on gas prices?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I can give that member some advice that developing the Kupe field would raise the price of gas, but that that would not necessarily mean higher prices for gas users. Further, I am advised that those higher prices, which nobody would be paying, would encourage more gas exploration. I am considering this advice with extreme caution, however, because it is contained in a press statement from the Opposition spokesperson on energy.

Gerry Brownlee: Unlike the Government, I seek leave to table a full text of the statement the Minister refers to, and then he will be a lot better off.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is seeking leave to table the full text. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Gordon Copeland: Is the Government committed to the view that Kupe gas be downgraded and used to generate electricity, when sale on the open market might better optimise economic efficiency and add value to the New Zealand economy?

Hon PETE HODGSON: There is no doubt that, all other things being equal, using gas directly, especially for facilities such as hot water heating and space heating, is a more efficient use of a resource—which is why some of it is used that way, and some of it is used to generate electricity.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister discussed with Genesis Power why it is currently, or has been recently, running its Huntly power station at only 40 percent of capacity at night and 80 percent of capacity during the day—rather than flat out—to save water for a dry winter?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Discussions on these and many other matters in the lead-up to this winter are continuous. The most recent meeting was yesterday, and I understand that Genesis Power is likely to increase its throughput through the Huntly plant significantly, starting soon.

Questions for Oral Answer
Immigration, Minister—Prime Minister's Confidence

10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Immigration; if so, why?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister): Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, why, last week in this House, was she claiming that the Fernridge Institute was not New Zealand Qualifications Authority - approved when it is, or disclaiming any knowledge of the Columbus Academy 2 weeks before that, when everybody else in the department knew of it, or disclaiming knowledge of Ukrainian farm workers, who she claimed had not been approved by the Immigration Service for any such scheme when she later admitted they were, or saying she had no knowledge of how many immigrants came to New Zealand last year, or not knowing how many of the 2,045,000 visitors who arrived in the year ending December 2002 have actually left, or—as if that is not bad enough—not knowing how many foreign fee-paying students—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I have about seven more cases to go.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has not. The member has had four questions already, and that is it.

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: In respect of Fernridge, I understand, or am advised by the Minister, that the New Zealand Immigration Service will be meeting that company tomorrow to establish the facts, and that the investigation the Minister talked about in the House last week is continuing. If the member has further questions in that regard, he should obviously direct them to the Minister of Immigration.

Pansy Wong: Why does the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister, who has introduced retrospective immigration rule changes that have a huge and wholly unfair impact on the lives of thousands of potential citizens of our country, and which are being challenged in the court as being damaging to New Zealand’s reputation as a fair-minded, humane, and responsible country?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I would observe that those very rules were opposed by most of the National Party caucus, except for Ms Wong and Dr Brash, I assume.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why should I go to the Minister of Immigration on a question as to whether the Prime Minister has confidence in her, and will the Prime Minister address the issue again: why would she have confidence, for example, in someone who goes on the Assignment programme and, in a very insightful and humiliating experience, says she has no knowledge of fraud or forgery, yet countless examples were shown to her right that very night on that programme, and therefore how can the Prime Minister have confidence in that sort of Minister, or is that par for the course now with this Labour administration?

Rt Hon HELEN CLARK: I have full confidence in the Minister’s ability to handle very difficult and complex issues in immigration.

Pansy Wong: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seldom take a point of order, but my supplementary question is one on which I am seeking an answer. I am not too sure how the Prime Minister enlightened the House by saying that only Dr Don Brash and myself from National are supporting that particular rule change. I cannot interpret that as addressing my supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, but the member should have raised the point of order immediately. There have been supplementary questions since then.

Questions for Oral Answer
Organics Sector—Development

11. DAVID PARKER (NZ Labour—Otago) to the Minister of Agriculture: What is the Government doing to facilitate the development of the organics sector?

Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of Agriculture): A 20-year strategy plan for the organics sector, funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Industry New Zealand, has been finalised and accepted by key sector organisations. The strategy, along with a new organics standard, is expected to be launched in June. These are important steps towards the organics industry being able to reach its potential.

David Parker: What is that potential?

Hon JIM SUTTON: Currently, the organics industry earns about $70 million a year from exports. The goal of the strategy plan is to reach $1 billion a year by 2013.

Hon David Carter: As 13 percent of New Zealand’s organic exports currently go to the United States, is the Minister confident we can further increase our organic exports to that valuable market, and does he see the Prime Minister’s recent comments as assisting in that process?

Hon JIM SUTTON: I have every confidence that the organics sector will expend all efforts in achieving its goals, and I see no obstacle to the United States market playing a full share in that.

Ian Ewen-Street: Will the Government be providing funding to support the establishment phase of the organics sector board, so as to ensure its viability and to help it implement the organics strategy; if not, why not?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government has offered the organics sector a hand up, not a hand out. The first resort of the sector, like other set parts of the agricultural industry that want to spend money in a collective way, is to apply for a commodity levy under the Commodity Levies Act.

Ian Ewen-Street: How can the Government claim to facilitate the development of the organics sector, when the Government is actively undermining the sector with the lifting of the moratorium on genetically modified organisms?

Hon JIM SUTTON: The Government’s position on genetic modification is clear and well reasoned. We are working through the issues in a cautious and scientific way. It is not impossible for organic and genetically modified agriculture to coexist.

Questions for Oral Answer
Gaming Machines—Government

12. JUDITH COLLINS (NZ National—Clevedon) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Will the Government take responsibility for the distribution of pokie funds; if so, what form will this responsibility take?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education), on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs: Yes, in the form set out in the papers that the member already has.

Judith Collins202Judith Collins: Is the Minister aware of any discussions between the Greens and members of the Minister’s office pertaining to an increase in gaming tax, and/or further controls over the distribution of pokie funds, in return for the Greens’ support for the Responsible Gambling Bill?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: As the member is aware, the Government has already taken responsibility for the distribution of pokie funds. The Responsible Gambling Bill introduces a measure to enhance the integrity and accountability of gaming-machine societies that make grants to the community.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We raise this issue again that, although it is true that the Minister in his answer mentioned the Responsible Gambling Bill, and so therefore one could say he addressed the issue, he did not actually answer the question at all—which was whether there had been any communication between his office and the Green Party. That was the specific question and we would like an answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I think the Minister should just comment on that part of the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: If the member cares to put that question down, I am sure the Minister responsible will be happy to answer it.

Hon Richard Prebble: The Minister must know the answer to that question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is not the responsible Minister. He is answering on behalf of another Minister, and that is the answer he has given.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have an incredulity problem. We read in the media and we hear statements from the Green Party that they are talking to the Government, yet the Minister who has been given the job of replying to the question appears to be telling us that he has no knowledge of whether the Government is talking to the Greens. The Leader of the House is sitting just two seats away from him. I am sure that the Leader of the House knows, and I am sure he could answer the question: yes we are talking to the Greens, or no we are not.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I would like to reiterate the answer I gave. I do not know whether such a discussion has taken place. [Interruption]

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps I should advise the House that Mr Dunne tells me that the answer is that he had better not be.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has made his point, no matter how much out of order it is.

Dianne Yates: Does the Responsible Gambling Bill propose a change to the present system, which allows societies to distribute gaming-machine profits?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No, and it never has. The bill as introduced, and as reported back, preserves the right of societies to distribute gaming-machine profits to the community.

Sue Bradford: Will the Minister support a publicly accountable distribution system, rather than the current private system, given comments by Judith Collins when she was chairwoman of the Casino Control Authority that: “Massive fraud flourished through a network of sham sports and social clubs, many controlled by publicans and their mates.”?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I had not seen the comment made by Miss Collins. I am sure that it will be widely distributed to sports clubs from now.

Mr SPEAKER: I call Stephen Franks for a supplementary question. No, I am sorry but ACT has used its questions allocation.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This does raise the point that I raised with you earlier. If you are going to refuse to allow extra questions, then the Chair is, in effect, protecting Ministers. The Chair is saying to a Minister, like the Prime Minister, when asked a straightforward question, which under Speakers’ rulings there is an obligation to reply to, if one can, all the member has to do is refuse to answer and an Opposition party, when seeking clarification, which is what you have told us to do, then uses up its questions allocation. This is a question that we had intended to ask. Mr Stephen Franks is a backbencher, whom you said you were going to protect. He wants to ask a supplementary question. I believe that you should allow him to do so.

Mr SPEAKER: I have allocated the number of questions to be asked. The member can always seek leave to ask a supplementary question, if he wishes. He can put the leave to the House. Does the member want to seek leave? I have already made a ruling.

Stephen Franks: I will seek leave, but—

Mr SPEAKER: The member is seeking leave to ask a supplementary question. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Stephen Franks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure whether I heard you answer the direct question, and having regard to Standing Order 373 and Speaker’s ruling 128(4), which states: “If the Speaker feels that a Minister is trifling with the House, the Chair can permit a further question or questions to be asked.” With the system that now operates, I ask whether that was intended to be a discipline, to ensure that there was a mechanism for the House to sanction a Minister who trifled with the Chair, and whether that is now completely obviated. If further questions are to be asked come off a quota, that ruling no longer has any effect. That ruling must have meant that they would have been additional questions, otherwise, the ruling would have no power as a sanction against a Minister trifling with the Chair. Therefore, I ask you to consider that question before ruling finally on this matter.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to. If a Minister does trifle with the Chair then of course I am going to uphold the right of the Speaker’s ruling and the Standing Orders. I judged the Prime Minister addressed the question, then supplementary questions flowed as a result.

Hon Peter Dunne: Leaving aside my earlier interjection, which incidentally I am happy to confirm, can the Minister assure the House that there are no plans afoot to increase the rate of gaming duty to cover the cost of any shortfall in either Lottery Grants Board proceeds or proceeds for distribution from poker machines?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: No such decision has been taken by the Government.

End of Questions for Oral Answer


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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