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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 30 April 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

WEDNESDAY, 30 APRIL 2003

Questions for Oral Answer

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS:

1. Sentencing and Parole
2. Mental Illness—Information from Service Providers
3. Electricity—Supply
4. State Sector—Leadership Planning
5. Electricity—Dobson Hydro Scheme
6. Meridian Energy—Land Acquisition
7. Energy—Resource Management Act
8. Families Commission
9. New Zealand Qualifications Authority—Performance
10. Prisons—State Management
11. Economy—OECD Forum
12. Nutrition—Children

Questions for Oral Answer
Sentencing and Parole

1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Does he consider that the changes introduced by the Government in 2001 with respect to sentencing and parole policy has achieved the Government’s objectives of a fair, firm, and rational sentencing framework that delivers clarity and consistency to sentencing and parole in New Zealand?

Hon RICK BARKER (Associate Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Minister of Justice: Yes. The Sentencing Act has also paved the way for significantly longer sentences being imposed for the worst crimes. Minimum non-parole periods of up to 33 years for the worst murders have now been imposed by judges. That reflects the wishes of the majority of New Zealanders as expressed in the 1999 law and order referendum. As with any major piece of new legislation, we continue to monitor its implementation to ensure that it is achieving its objectives.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is true, why do I read that former lawyer Nigel Joseph Cook was sentenced 3 months ago but has never been locked up; is it the Government’s idea of a fair, firm, and rational sentencing policy to allow criminals to roam free, or is it another failure of this Government, which is doing nothing to rid New Zealanders from our crime-ridden, ill-disciplined, and violent society?

Hon RICK BARKER: People who are eligible for home detention have to have committed low-level offences warranting a sentence of less than 2 years. Their application is offered to them in those circumstances and there needs to be a period of time for that application to be processed. They have to be not seen as a risk to the community, and I would be very concerned if they were seen as a risk to the community.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As my colleagues have remarked, the Minister has obviously got the wrong page. I am asking why people sentenced to prison are out there roaming free and not incarcerated in any way, shape, or form. He is dealing with parole policy, which I will get on to shortly.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address that question.

Tim Barnett: Is the Minister satisfied that the Sentencing Act, passed last year, has made a difference in sentencing by the courts?

Hon RICK BARKER: A key goal to the reform of sentencing legislation was to impose tougher penalties on those who committed the worst offences. Recently, in the William Bell and Bruce Howse cases the court has clearly shown that it has taken on board the intent of Parliament, and also reflects the concerns of the public in this area, imposing minimum non-parole periods of 33 and 28 years respectively. Those are very tough sentences.

Richard Worth: In addition to the question asked by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, why is it that the parole system is not working, with offenders time and time again offending—William Duane Bell, the Returned Services Association multiple murderer and Barry Allan Ryder, the serial sex offender?

Hon RICK BARKER: The parole system is working. The Parole Act has made significant changes, but it will take some time to see the effects. We have gone to a single and professional Parole Board. The primary objective is to ensure that when people apply for parole they pose no undue risk to the community. This is a significant change from the previous law.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is it that though a judge might deem it fit for a person to be sent to prison, his Government deems he or she is able to roam free, and why is it that the home detention system is fit for the following category of people, all of whom have qualified in the last month: sex offenders, robbers, and drug dealers; and what sort of policy is that when it comes to fighting crime?

Hon RICK BARKER: People who are entitled to apply for home detention must have a sentence that warrants less than 2 years. They must be low-level offences. I would be very concerned if those people who are being given leave to apply for home detention did pose a significant risk to the community.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take from that that it is the Government’s policy to have serious offenders sentenced to prison to roam free and unsupervised whilst they await their home detention applications, and is that a new master plan by his Government, or a hidden agenda to hide the volume of offenders being imprisoned, or simply a practical step to free up beds to make way for an avalanche of criminals now being put before our courts?

Hon RICK BARKER: I repeat my advice to the House that it is not a policy for serious offenders. It is a policy for people who are not a serious risk to the community. I restate my view that if people who are being given leave to apply for home detention do pose a serious risk to the community I would be most concerned because that was not the intention.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is rape or drug dealing not a serious offence; if so, and if that sort of person is roaming free despite being given a prison sentence by a judge, is it not so that the Minister’s Government is plain soft on crime?

Hon RICK BARKER: That member’s question implies that a person convicted of rape is being given home detention. If that is the case I would like to know about it.

Ron Mark: In view of the Minister’s request, I seek leave to table documents that show that people who have been convicted of such crimes as rape, sexual offences, and threatening a child with a firearm are on home detention under his Government.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Mental Illness—Information from Service Providers

2. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health: What steps, if any, has she taken since assuming office in 1999 to ensure that those who live with people with mental illness are adequately informed of their situation by mental health service providers?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Several important steps have been taken to ensure better information-sharing occurs between mental health providers and those who care or live with people with mental illness. They include risk assessment by clinicians, as well as improving the involvement of family and caregivers in both service provision and aiding the recovery of people with mental illness, and improving information sharing by mental health service providers.

Sue Bradford: In the light of the Lachlan Jones case, and a report this month than an elderly Wellsford couple were attacked and held hostage by their boarder, whose illness and history of violence were kept hidden from them by health officials, is the Minister planning any further changes to district health board guidelines and/or any further staffing both for crisis assessment and treatment teams and for ongoing health assistance in the Waitemata and Northland District Health Board areas?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Following the Lachlan Jones case I asked the Mental Health Commission to review the existing legislation to see whether we need to tighten up particularly around the privacy legislation area, or to ensure that the privacy legislation did not stop the sharing of information. The commission came back to me in early 2002 and said that the existing legislation was working well, but that the district health boards needed to have more consistent information and to use the protocols and guidelines in a more consistent way. Those guidelines were then rewritten and republished and provided to district health boards in September last year. They then trained their staff. The guidelines are now being used, and will be reassessed by the Mental Health Commission by the end of this year.

Dave Hereora: Following the Mental Health Commission’s review of acute mental health services in Auckland when several recommendations were made; what progress has been made in implementing the recommendations?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Good progress has been made. Improved service coordination was recommended, and this is being achieved through a regional service coalition led by a regional director of mental health. The appointment has been made for that position. Twenty packages of care were to be provided, and all three district health boards have put in place, or are putting in place, that care. They will all be fully operational by the end of April. An additional $3 million was allocated to cover the recommendations.

Dr Lynda Scott: Why do family members and carers all over New Zealand feel shut out from, and not informed of, the care, treatment, and rehabilitation of people who have a mental illness, with the result too often being loss through suicide of the patient or abuse at the hands of the person who has become unwell, and will she be prepared to change the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I asked the Mental Health Commission to look at whether the Act needed to be changed following a review and change that was made in 1999 and implemented in 2000 in relation to information sharing. After the review the commission said there was not a need to change the Act. There was certainly a need for district health boards and those providing mental health services not to hide behind the Privacy Act, but to use it in the way it was intended.

Ron Mark: Does the Minister not understand that members of the public believe that as a result of the mental health reforms initiated during her previous term in Government in the 1980s that many victims of people who should not have been in the community due to their mental health problems could have been avoided had that Government listened; and if she does understand that, will she seek to hold people accountable for the decisions they have made that have resulted in people becoming victims of those crimes and, indeed, in order to restore some faith in the families of those victims a belief that this Government actually does care about them and what has happened to their families?

Hon ANNETTE KING: There are a number of issues in that question. First of all deinstitutionalisation in New Zealand for mental health patients did not start in the 1980s; it started in the early 1950s with the first anti-psychotic drug that enabled people to live in the community. From the 1950s right through to the end of the 1990s we have seen people taken out of mental institutions who did not need to live there. In any one month of the year, 40,000 New Zealanders receive mental health services within the community in a perfectly safe way. However, I would say that whenever decisions are made for a person to go back into the community those who make the decisions on a clinical basis should take responsibility for those decisions.

Sue Bradford: Would the Minister give consideration to recalling the people involved with the most recent Mason report, in the 1990s, and asking them to formally review progress since the report was tabled?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I do not think it is necessary to have yet another Mason inquiry into mental health. As I said to the member—perhaps she did not hear it, because it was at the end of my answer—I have asked the Mental Health Commission to ensure that the protocols and guidelines that are in place for information sharing are reviewed by the end of this year.

Questions for Oral Answer
Points of Order
Question No. 3 to Minister

GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In relation to this question, I would ask you to consider your prerogative as set out under Speaker’s ruling 116/1. We sent this question down to the Clerk’s Office this morning, addressed to the Minister of Finance, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen. The question asks for a clarification of a statement he made in the House yesterday, yet, seemingly in accordance with other Speakers’ rulings, there has been a decision for this question to be transferred. We accept that in some cases the Government does have an absolute right to do that, but, clearly, Speaker’s ruling 116/1 does not make that right totally absolute. Speaker’s ruling 115/4 states: “The Minister primarily concerned is presumed to be the person to decide whether it is a question related to that portfolio or whether it is misdirected.” If we follow the logic the Government appears to have worked today, we would be in a situation of Dr Michael Cullen receiving a question relating to something he has said, and then deciding that he has no idea why he said it or what it was about, and referring it to the Minister of Energy for him to give some clarification about what the Minister of Finance meant. There is provision, as I said, under Speaker’s ruling 116/1 for the Speaker to refuse a question to be transferred on the basis that it would be an abuse. How can it be anything but an abuse if a Minister is not prepared to stand up and answer a question in this House about a statement he has made to this House?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I notice that I will be answering question No. 10 on behalf of another Minister. But if we look at question No. 3, we find that the principal questions are whether the Government had made no plans to deal with a dry year in 2003, and if not, what exact changes had been made prior to this year to manage a dry year. Those are issues that are totally securely within the responsibility of the Minister of Energy. As Minister of Finance, I make many statements about almost every aspect of Government policy. That does not mean to say that all questions can be directed to me as Minister of Finance. If the question is about mental health, that would be directed to the Minister of Health, and questions about dry year preparations go to the Minister of Energy. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I am going to say only once that there will be no interjections during Points of Order
, or people will be leaving.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: He is not merely the responsible Minister; he has been doing a great deal of work over recent weeks to try to avoid the worst possible consequences.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): Mr Cullen’s contribution would have some merit if he had not decided to edit the question. The bit that he failed to read out is “…and any economic effects of the corresponding electricity shortage;” and the whole House realises that Treasury must have already done studies and modelling on the impact of what appears to be a disastrous shortage of electricity. That is not the responsibility of the Minister of Energy, who is trying to produce the stuff. The actual consequences on the whole economy are questions for the Minister of Finance to answer. Frankly, how can the Minister of Energy answer as to what Mr Cullen meant when he said there was no expectation of a dry year as early as 2003? That statement, which he made to the House yesterday as a Minister, appears to be the basis of economic planning in New Zealand, and I think he should be asked to account for it.

14:25:24Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank the member who raised the point of order for notifying me that he was going to do so, and I had an opportunity to examine this matter closely. I can understand the member’s point that the subject of the question refers to a statement made by the Minister of Finance, not the Minister of Energy, but that does not alter the fact that it is the Government that decides which Minister answers a question, not the questioner—see pages 115 and 116 of Speakers’ Rulings. The only circumstance—and it will be a very exceptional one, since it has occurred on only two occasions in the history of this Parliament—is if only a single identified Minister would have personal knowledge of the issue. I refer to Supplement to Speakers’ Rulings 23 and 24. That is plainly not the case here.

Questions for Oral Answer
Electricity—Supply

3. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Energy: Does the statement by the Minister of Finance yesterday to the House, that “There was no expectation of a dry year as early as 2003.”, mean the Government had made no plans to deal with a dry year in 2003 and any economic effects of the corresponding electricity shortage; if not, what exact changes had been made prior to this year to manage a dry year?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): No. I instigated a review after winter 2001. As a result, we now have much-improved scenario development and modelling, which, in my view, is still not good enough. Secondly, the industry has identified and fixed all the main transmission constraints that affect winter security. For example, the capacity to shift electricity south across the Cook Strait cable has been increased by about 20 percent. Thirdly, we have improved contingency planning and communication protocols.

Hon Bill English: Did the Minister share the results of his much-improved scenario modelling with the Minister of Finance so that he may have a better understanding that a dry year can, in fact, occur almost any year?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The much-improved scenario modelling has enabled us to identify the potential for a crisis this year far, far earlier than occurred, for example, in 1992. In 1992 the Government of the day, of which that member was a part, did nothing until I raised the issue during Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Mark Peck: Is it true that there has been no addition to New Zealand’s electricity generation since 2001?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, it most certainly is not. In the past year New Zealand’s generation capacity increased by 111 megawatts. An announcement is being made of a further 90 megawatts of generation in 2004, and further announcements are expected in a few weeks. That said, our main problem right now has much less to do with a shortage of new generation than with a shortage of rain for existing generation.

Peter Brown: Noting in his answer to the Hon Bill English that the much-improved scenario modelling is not good enough, will the Minister tell the House when it will be good enough and how he will achieve that?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, on 15 May.

Hon Richard Prebble: Can the Minister confirm that his much-improved scenario modelling confirms that there is actually no shortage of water in New Zealand, that there is at least 400 years’ supply of coal, an unknown but large quantity of gas, and no shortage of wind or sunlight, and that the real problem is that the Government owns 70 percent of the generation in New Zealand and 100 percent of the national grid, that it totally controls the planning process, and that it did not expect a dry year in 2003?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The much-improved scenario modelling shows none of that—unsurprisingly.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s modelling has been advising for some years that the east coast of both islands are likely to get drier with global climate change; if so, should we not now have a dry-year conservation plan that starts the simple measures early every winter from now, for a few years?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Since 2001 the contingency planning has been in place permanently. However, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s assessment, which is that it is likely to become drier on the east coast of both islands as climate change effects come into play, is offset by the fact that it becomes wetter on the west coast. Here is a fact: the rain that fills our hydro lakes is not rain that emanates from the east coast, but is rain that emanates from the west coast and drops across the Main Divide.

Hon Bill English: Given that the Minister waited until 2 weeks ago to call for power savings to offset a winter shortage, is his much-improved scenario modelling any superior to his going down and having a look at the lake?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes, it is. Can I say that one day when scenario modelling decides that ownership matters, it will be the scenario modelling that I do not take any notice of, but I would say that the Government has been aware of the prospects of a shortage since the end of last year.

Questions for Oral Answer
State Sector—Leadership Planning

4. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of State Services: What progress has been made towards improving succession planning and increasing the pool of talent available for leadership in the broader State sector?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of State Services): Yesterday I welcomed 20 public servants who were attending the Australia and New Zealand School of Government. That is part of a package to identify and develop talent in the broader State sector. I am prepared to share some of the techniques developed, in order to improve the quality of leadership. It may be that the best option is to bring back experienced people in order to cover a shortage of talent. I understand there are rumours circulating that National Party members are approaching Jim Bolger for this very purpose.

Mr SPEAKER: That last sentence was completely out of order.

David Benson-Pope: What does the Minister consider to be the essential elements of a leadership programme?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The key is to be open in considering the potential leadership team. That often means moving beyond those who are currently clamouring for leadership positions, and considering the intelligence and leadership potential of the talent available—for example, John Key or Simon Power, rather than the slow, tired brat pack.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have told the member that that last comment is not appropriate.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is twice now that you have stood the Minister up and told him his answer is inappropriate—

Mr SPEAKER: The last sentence.

Gerry Brownlee: —the last sentence of his answer is inappropriate. The whole question is designed to get away those last comments, and it seems to me to be an inadequate censure simply to say to the Minister that it is inappropriate. It would seem that if he wants to take the House’s time, he should be punished much more severely than that, and perhaps be asked to remove himself from the House or for the question itself to be abandoned.

Mr SPEAKER: No. I think the member is perfectly correct in his comment about the last sentence in those answers, but the first part of the answers clearly address the questions asked.

David Benson-Pope: Are information technology skills important for State sector leaders; if so, why?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, they are very important. It is important that everyone involved in State sector leadership has talents in this area and take things to their potential, and I want to applaud Maurice Williamson for trying to do that.

Mr SPEAKER: I find it a little difficult to chide someone who is applauding somebody, but, once again, that last sentence did not relate to the original question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is three in a row—three strikes and the Minister should be out. My question is: what are you going to do about it?

Mr SPEAKER: I heard a member make a comment that is going to mean that member will leave the Chamber if I can identify the person concerned. On reflection, I think I will ask the Minister, who three times disobeyed my instruction, to withdraw and apologise for those last sentences in each answer.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise.

Questions for Oral Answer
Electricity—Dobson Hydro Scheme

5. Hon KEN SHIRLEY (Deputy Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister of Conservation: Following his comments on National Radio on 16 April 2003 and in question time yesterday relating to the Dobson hydroelectric scheme, will he accept that when he said: “This particular site, because of its ecological values that are fairly unique on the West Coast, is a site worth preserving. We’ve been down this path … this project has already been to the High Court, it has been rejected.”, he was not referring to the Dobson hydroelectric scheme and that the key reason the Dobson scheme is not progressing is because he is not prepared to exercise the discretionary powers contained in the Conservation Act 1987?

Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): The Conservation Act does not give the Minister any discretion to remove land from ecological areas. The land still has the values it was protected for in the first place. As I made clear in the House yesterday, the law in the disposal of conservation land has been tested once already in the High Court in the Buller electricity case, when the court upheld the decision of the Hon Denis Marshall to decline a proposal to flood conservation land for a hydro scheme.

Hon Ken Shirley: Is the Minister aware of section 18(7) of the Conservation Act that clearly gives the Minister of Conservation discretionary powers to revoke designations under the Conservation Act, and that provision was specifically put in the Conservation Act to allow situations like the Dobson scheme to proceed on the conservation estate?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: That member’s interpretation of the Conservation Act is not one that is upheld by my department or myself.

Nanaia Mahuta: Why was the Card Creek ecological area originally protected?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: In 1983 the National Government, led by the late Rt Hon Rob Muldoon, proudly protected that area for the express purpose of, and I quote from the Gazette notice, “preserving an example of forest in a wide valley floor, including nikau and an unusually high proportion of kahikatea and matai”. It is that very valley floor forest described by the Hon Nick Smith as mostly gorse that would be destroyed.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did the Minister say in his press release yesterday that that land was, in terms of the land swap, of higher value than that which was proposed to be swapped for, when the Department of Conservation’s own report, done when Helen Clark was Minister of Conservation, states exactly the opposite; in fact, I quote from the report done at that time, which states of the area to be swapped that it is of national conservation importance, that it has crucial wildlife habitat, significant scientific values, and high landscape values, where at the same time the land in question to be flooded was allocated to Timberlands West Coast because it was of low conservation value?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: The area that will be flooded is in the Kaipara ecological area, an area that was gazetted in 1983. It was not transferred to Timberlands. May I have an opportunity to describe the Mount Buckley area, the area that is proposed for the swap. I asked my Department of Conservation to give me a brief description. The total block is 720 hectares, of which 500 hectares is logged podocarp hardwood beech forest, which has a canopy of 50 years or more. That is quite good forest. The additional 200 hectares is land that was forested in the 1970s and 1980s. It is bisected by a four-wheel drive track and has a power line running through it. It has considerably lower ecological values than the area that would be destroyed.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain to the House which is the Government’s position in respect of Dobson: the position that was expressed by Damien O’Connor to his local media yesterday, that the Government is open-minded about the Dobson scheme, or the position that he has expressed as Minister, that it is dead in the water?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I repeat to the House that under existing legislation I cannot swap land that has ecological value status, unless that land loses its conservation value.

Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked a very simple question about the Government’s position—the position outlined by Damien O’Connor in the local newspaper, or the position that the Minister has outlined. The Minister did not talk about that, at all, but talked about whether he could swap land. We have heard that answer before. He was asked what the Government’s position is.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister gave the Government’s position. He is the Minister concerned.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister tell the House today why it was that yesterday he claimed his comments did not relate to the Dobson hydroelectric scheme, or is it a case of one of two things: he was mistaken, or he was plain lying?

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot suggest that another member is deliberately not telling the truth. The member can ask whether he was wrong, that is perfectly correct, but he cannot say that the member was deliberately misstating the truth. I would like the member to rephrase the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday that Minister had the benefit of the transcript right in front of him. He has sought to avoid it the whole time you allowed him to, and he got away with saying something that is patently not true. I am giving him an option now to say that he was mistaken yesterday, in which case he obviates the confirmation of the second alternative. Yesterday he wasted all of Parliament’s time, with the transcript next to him. He is laughing now, of course. That is the kind of thing that is condoned in this Parliament, but a Minister would not get away with that behaviour in any other Western democracy. Yesterday he had the transcript next to him. He knew he was wrong. He would not refer to it. Today he is still not prepared, because you are protecting him, to get up and say: “I was mistaken yesterday. I didn’t deliberately lie.” I am giving him that option.

Mr SPEAKER: Well I am not. Please be seated. I refer the member to Standing Order 116, which states: “If any offensive or disorderly words are used, whether by a member who is speaking or by a member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.” The member may not accuse another member of lying. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I have a supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will withdraw and apologise for suggesting a member is lying.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.

John Carter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want a point of clarification on that statement. I think it is worth considering this point. I listened to the question that was asked by Mr Peters. He did not state that the member was lying; in fact, he did not suggest he was, at all. He asked whether the member was lying; he did not say he was. He was merely asking the question. It is quite different. If I stood and said that a certain member is lying, that is a statement to say that he is. But it is quite different to say there was a lie, and that is what the member was asking. The Minister can merely confirm that he was not lying, and we can move on.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member used a disorderly expression, which is contrary to Standing Order 116.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that yesterday the Minister had the benefit of the transcript before him affirming the comments he had made, can he now confirm that the comments were referring to the Dobson hydroelectric scheme, or is it one of two cases; firstly, he was mistaken yesterday, or, secondly, he does not give a damn about the truth?

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot use that phrase, either. The member can certainly talk about the first point. The second point implies “telling a lie”, and is out of order. The member has one final opportunity to ask a supplementary question.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked whether he actually cared about the truth. That is not saying someone is lying. We could say there are lots of Ministers who do not care about the truth, but that is not saying they are lying. I cannot see how you could possible rule that phrase out.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member is implying negligence that is different, and deliberately so.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: He is saying that.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member is saying that, I would like him to rephrase the question so I can listen to it in its entirety.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What are the options the Minister wants to put before the House—he was mistaken, he is careless as to the truth, he does not give a hoot about the responsibilities of his job, or the Prime Minister allows incompetence, if Minister are allowed to behave that way in this House; if so, which one of the four options are we to take as being his answer now?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: None of the above.

Peter Brown: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the principal question from the Hon Ken Shirley there is a direct quote from that transcript—which we were not allowed to see yesterday; because people took objection when a member sought to table it. The direct quote states: “We’ve been down this path … this project has already been to the High Court,”. The Minister said he was referring to some other project, done at an earlier time when Denis Marshall was the Minister of Conservation. Is that a mistake, a distortion of the truth, or something else?

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked for leave of the House, and I put it twice to the House. He gave a personal explanation, and made it clear as to what his position was.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are required to take the statement of a Minister or a member at face value, and not contest it. But we have a situation now that is most absurd. The Minister clearly was referring, in these comments, to the Dobson hydroelectric scheme. We all know that you are stopping the whole country from learning that he was wrong, that he was mistaken. You are allowing him to get up and say in reply to the four options I gave him, that none of them applies. Frankly, if—

Hon Brian Donnelly: So he’s saying he wasn’t wrong.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: He is saying he was not wrong. If he was not wrong, then how can this stand? This is an absurdity we are now debating; and we will go one more day on question time, whilst he gets away with it again. Usually in other democracies Prime Ministers fire people like that; Speakers do not condone people like that, and Parliaments will not accept behaviour like that. So why are we putting up with this today? I think the Minister should be required to get up in the House and explain what these words actually meant—for the first time in 2 days.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Yesterday the Minister took a point of order in terms of explanation, and stated quite clearly that he had meant to refer to similar kinds of cases, the p----------- effect was about the nature of the legal basis on which such a decision could be made. In other words, he said his previous statement was not meant to refer to this specific case. We cannot go over that ground again. If people are asking now whether he was mistaken about the second statement, clearly he is not mistaken about the second statement. He has already corrected the first statement—yesterday. I want to take the point of order further. Not for the first time today, and for many times over recent weeks, that member has accused you of sheltering another member of Parliament. I suggest that is totally out of order—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Mark will leave the Chamber. I have warned people about interjecting during Points of Order
. I ignored the first two times he did it, but this was the third time and he reflected on me. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon?

Ron Mark: I heard it all on the radio yesterday. Mr Speaker, it does not do the House any credit at all, this sort of thing.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave. He has come very close to being named.

Ron Mark withdrew from the Chamber.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I suggest to you that it is quite disorderly for members to suggest you are sheltering other members. You are impartial in the way that you deliver your rulings, and all members have to accept those rulings.

Hon Ken Shirley: With reference to the point of order raised by the Rt Hon Winston Peters and his colleague Peter Brown, I say that the transcript has now become available, though Opposition parties were blocked from tabling it yesterday. Mention is made of it in my supplementary question raised during question 5. The whole topic of the Minister’s interview was about the Dobson scheme. The Minister said, “this particular site”. He went on to say, “This project has already been to the High Court.” It was all about the Dobson scheme, yet, yesterday in the House, he said, “I was talking generally about the topic”, and then referred to the Buller decision, and implied that that was the court decision he was referring to. That was clearly misleading the House, and the situation has only been compounded by the comments made here today.

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked a supplementary question, and a reply was given that did address the question. It might not have satisfied the member, but that is why we have a question and answer session in the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You put your finger on it when you said that is why we have a question and answer session in the House. We are in our second day now, and you are allowing the Minister to get away with treating this House with the greatest frivolity and contempt. Frankly, if that is what question time is for, then we are all wasting our time here, at enormous expense to the public.

Mr SPEAKER: All I can say is that, in Australia a few years ago, if the Speaker allowed one supplementary question it was regarded as a revolution. In this Parliament members have ample opportunity to ask supplementary questions—that is how they can challenge Ministers. But the point is that the Speaker cannot put words into Ministers’ mouths.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You cannot put answers into Ministers’ mouths, but there are arrangements within the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings—and we do not need to get into what Australia does in regard to this matter—that require a certain exactitude and honesty from the Minister. When a Minister has contempt for Parliament, then I think it behoves you to allow other members to reflect on his personality and on his degree of honesty and veracity. That is the only way we will regulate and get some control and closure in this House. Otherwise, it is a waste of Parliament’s time.

Mr SPEAKER: We do everything in this House within the Standing Orders, not outside them.

Stephen Franks: Given the Minister’s referral to the Buller case as if it governed a case under section 18, does he still think that business closures, job losses, and public-spirited elderly folk shivering in the dark should not be relevant to his discretions over the use by a hydro scheme of a couple of hundred hectares of regenerating kahikatea, broom, and gorse; if not, what level of economic and social misery does he need before it becomes the “incredibly important and unique situation” he told National Radio he would need before seeking any change in his discretions?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have the privilege of being the Minister of Conservation, and my responsibility and, indeed, my statutory duty is to be an advocate for the conservation estate, which is something that is very fundamental to the whole ethos of being a New Zealander. I am not prepared to see that estate die a death by a thousand cuts.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister now accept that his statement on National Radio that this particular site and project had already been to the High Court and had been rejected was wrong and a mistake, and will he apologise to National Radio listeners; and can he also explain to the House why he did not correct his statement at the time, rather than waiting for 2 weeks?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister may answer the first part of the question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: As I explained yesterday in this House, I was referring to the type of project responsible for the Dobson dam. If that member had been listening properly right at the start of my answer to question 4 yesterday, he would have heard me say that if anyone formed the impression that I was talking about Dobson, I apologise. I used the words, “I apologise”, and I stand by them.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House again to table the transcript of Mr Carter’s interview on National Radio.

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table the official Department of Conservation report that contradicts Mr Chris Carter’s statement about the conservation status of the—

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

Hon Ken Shirley: In view of the fact that successive conservation Ministers have blocked access to the vast conservation estate for energy projects, including access to our extensive coal reserves, access for hydro schemes including both Ngakawau and Dobson, and access for the lower Clutha-Beaumont proposal, based on an obscure island in the Clutha visited by deer and goats, does he as the Minister of Conservation accept any responsibility whatsoever for the lack of generation in this country and the looming power crisis that it is facing?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: There are a myriad of questions there, but I would like to address just two of them. First, I remind that member and all other members of the House that I have the privilege of being the Minister of Conservation and that is the area I am responsible for. Secondly, I have in front of me a document from the Ministry of Economic Development on current industry proposals for the development of energy resources, containing 1,624 megawatts. On that very comprehensive list there is no mention of the Dobson dam anywhere.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that in this case the Minister just misunderstood the question he was asked. He said he was asked a myriad of questions but he was actually asked only one question. He was asked, given the fact that the Department of Conservation has stopped numerous energy schemes, does he accept any responsibility for this year’s energy crisis. That is the question he was asked.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I would just like to say that I will be saying prayers for rain, as I hope everybody else in the House will, as well.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I think that the Minister could try again with the answer to that question.

Hon CHRIS CARTER: I remind the House that my responsibility is to be the Minister of Conservation.

Hon Richard Prebble: In the light of that answer, can we take it that this Minister is publicly rejecting the concept of collective Cabinet responsibility, or is he saying that this Labour Cabinet, as a whole, does not care about the fact that we are going to have an energy crisis this year?

Hon CHRIS CARTER: Like all New Zealanders, I am very keen to see that the people of our country have surety of supply with energy. At the same time, my specific responsibility is as the Minister of Conservation and I am very proud to be an advocate for that.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I note that when you made a ruling on this question just a little while ago you referred to Australia. I ask you whether, on the issue of ministerial answers, you would have regard to a recent question time in the House of Commons when, in relation to an oral question about Iraq, back-bench Labour members called their senior Ministers liars and deceivers, as some sort of precedent for this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I will not, because I do not intend to follow that Parliament if it is saying that sort of thing.

Questions for Oral Answer
Meridian Energy—Land Acquisition

6. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Why has she conferred the power to compulsorily acquire land to Meridian Energy for Project Aqua when Meridian stated in April 2001 that land purchases would be on a willing-buyer willing-seller basis?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Acting Minister for the Environment): The Minister has not conferred upon Meridian Energy the power to compulsorily acquire land. The Minister has instead granted Meridian Energy requiring authority status. Before any compulsory acquisition could occur, Meridian must apply to the Minister for Land Information to have that Minister compulsorily acquire land, if any, affected by the designation under the Public Works Act of 1981.

David Parker: As a requiring authority, will Meridian Energy Ltd still have to apply to regional councils for resource consents?

Hon PETE HODGSON: It most certainly will. Resource consents are still needed for all matters that fall within the control of relevant regional councils, such as the taking of water and approval for any discharges that might be required. Those consents will also go through the normal assessment processes, including public notification hearings and rights to appeal.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister explain to the House the contradiction of supporting the giving of the power for compulsory acquisition of land from private landowners to the requiring authority for Project Aqua while point blank refusing to consider the use of 5 percent of one of hundreds of reserves on the West Coast for the TrustPower hydro scheme, or are this Government’s priorities so perverted that the taking of land off private citizens is considered of lesser importance than using land that is—in the department’s own words—an area of little conservation value?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Conferring of requiring authority status followed an earlier decision of according Meridian Energy the status—if I remember the language correctly—of network utility operator. That decision is based almost entirely on the geography of Project Aqua and nothing else.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given that the application to the Minister of Lands is merely a technicality and will not be refused, can the Minister explain why there has been a change of policy, from Meridian Energy being perfectly willing to buy land from willing sellers at a price agreed by negotiation to the Government now being prepared to grant Meridian the power to override that unwilling seller and acquire land compulsorily, once it has been through this next technical step?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not have responsibility for Meridian’s statements. However, in its latest statement, in the Otago Daily Times this morning, Meridian’s preferred option was still to negotiate a settlement for the land needed for the proposed scheme.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Have any studies been done for either Minister on how much energy efficiency solar and wind generation the $1.2 billion to be spent on Project Aqua could buy between now and 2008, when Project Aqua may come on stream; if not, how can it be claimed that that promotes sustainable management?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Minister for the Environment has not undertaken any such study, as far as I am aware. However, the Minister of Energy has, and the long and short of it is that Project Aqua is cheaper than almost any other form of generation available to this country. The reason that it has not gone ahead until now is simply that the engineering solution had not been worked out as well as it has now been done.

Questions for Oral Answer
Energy—Resource Management Act

7. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister for the Environment: What submissions or consultations has she sought or received from the electricity and energy sector regarding amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 and the impacts these amendments may have on addressing New Zealand’s energy shortages?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Acting Minister for the Environment): In relation to the energy and climate change amendments to the Resource Management Act, which have been announced but not tabled, consultation meetings were held with six renewable energy developers, Transpower New Zealand, the Electricity Networks Association, the Major Electricity Users Group, Business New Zealand, and a number of people working with Mâori on energy issues.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Noting that the Petroleum Exploration Association of New Zealand, representing 39 energy companies including such significant players as Shell Petroleum Mining Co., Todd Energy, and the Government’s own Genesis Power, has stated in its written submission on the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2): “The bill will impede the speedy exploration for, and the production of, this country’s petroleum resources, in particular natural gas, at a time when a looming energy supply crisis would logically drive in the opposite direction.”, how will this bill help address the major energy crisis facing New Zealand?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I simply disagree. This Government is committed to improving the implementation of the Resource Management Act without undermining the Act’s objective of delivering a healthy environment. The Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) will reduce costs and delays. As I said in my answer to the substantive question, we are soon to introduce legislation to smooth the path for renewable energy developments under the Resource Management Act.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What measures has the Government undertaken to reduce Environment Court delays for approval of energy projects?

Hon PETE HODGSON: There will be more money, more judges, and more commissioners for the Environment Court. Therefore, that backlog is shortening week by week.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Can the Minister for the Environment confirm that the Resource Management Act allows community groups, recreational interests, and individuals who have already expressed substantial opposition to Project Aqua to hold up that development for years; will any amendment to the Act disenfranchise those people from expressing their legitimate opposition?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I refer the member to his own press statement. He said, on 7 October 2002, that the Resource Management Act would cause a 4-year delay for Project Aqua, and then said, on 11 February this year, when there was an indication that the Government would proceed with network utility status, that the Government was resurrecting the Muldoon era. On which side of this debate would the member like to find himself? At the moment, he is on both.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can the Minister confirm that two new thermal power stations currently have resource consents—and got them very quickly—but have no gas; has he seen any proposals as to how amendments to the Resource Management Act will refill the Maui gas field, or make it rain, or even persuade Genesis Power to order its coal earlier?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes and no, and that is precisely the point. The Resource Management Act is being trotted out by people who decide that they will take any opportunity to further originating prejudices they ought to leave behind, in my view.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: In the Minister’s answer in which he referred to people who were prejudiced, would he include Meridian Energy, the Government’s own company and the single largest generator of electricity, that said of the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) that sections 7, 11, 18, 41, 54, 61, 63, 67, 75, 76, and 80 will “create additional obstacles to the granting of the necessary approvals for the construction or operation of power projects and the bill should not be enacted at this time”; and can the Minister explain to the House why he has ignored this country’s biggest electricity generator and his own company?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I happen to know the views of Meridian Energy very well. Meridian Energy wishes to have planning rules that are easier than they are, as does anyone who wants to get on with big projects. The problem that Meridian Energy needs to face is that this Government will always go for a balance, and the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) reduces costs on the legislation as it is currently in the books.

Stephen Franks: Does the Minister for the Environment agree with the Minister of Conservation that the only concern and consideration of the Minister of Conservation in relation to the application of resource management law over Department of Conservation estate and the Conservation Act should be to freeze hydro generation out of the Department of Conservation estate; if so, has she made any representations to change a result that has us importing Indonesian coal to burn?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If I can get the two parts of the question right, the answers are no and yes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Minister for the Environment explain to the House how the provisions in her bill, which requires the protection of ancestral landscapes, of cultural landscapes, and spiritual values such as taniwha, will help to get consents for new hydroelectric wind or geothermal power stations?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The House may be interested to learn of the history of this matter. There was a review into historic heritage in 1998. The review recommended the inclusion of historic heritage as a matter of national importance into section 6 of the Resource Management Act. It was included in the 1999 legislation introduced by a National Government. The really interesting thing is—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: That’s a lie!

Hon PETE HODGSON: It is not a lie. That review into historic heritage—

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: The member may raise a point of order if it is not in relation to that matter.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: The Minister has alleged that the issues I raised of ancestral landscapes, cultural landscapes, and spiritual values were in a bill that was introduced by National in 1999. That is not true.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot arbitrate on that. My job is to see that question time—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Would you like me to table the bill?

Mr SPEAKER: There are many other ways in which the member can seek to redress that.

Hon PETE HODGSON: May I continue my answer, which was limited to the issue of historic heritage, and say that the review into historic heritage was begun by none other than the Minister of Conservation when National was in office—the same person who asks that question now.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the submission by Meridian Energy in opposition to the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2).

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

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table the submission of the Petroleum Association of New Zealand and its opposition to the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2).

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Families Commission

8. LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (NZ Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment: What progress is being made to establish the Families Commission?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment): Legislation has been introduced today to establish the Families Commission. Supporting families, and parents in particular, formed a major element of Labour, Progressive Coalition, and United Future pre-election policies. To fulfil these commitments, 4-year funding of $28,233 million has been allocated in this year’s Budget for the establishment and operation of the Families Commission. The Families Commission Bill proposes that the commission be established as an autonomous Crown entity from 1 July 2004.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What roles will the Families Commission have in promoting parenting as stated in Labour’s pre-election policy?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Families’ parenting role is critical to the development of New Zealand as a successful and innovative nation. The Government, therefore, intends to ask the Families Commission to take an early interest in the issue of parenting. This work will include examining all existing parenting support programmes both here and overseas in the development, piloting, and promotion of effective specific parenting programmes, as asked for in our pre-election commitments.

Katherine Rich: When the definition of family groups is so broad that it basically encompasses all New Zealanders, why is this ill-defined bureaucracy, which will duplicate the work of other Government departments, anything more than a $28 million election bribe to lock in the support of United Future?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The work of the commission will not duplicate anybody else’s work. It will pick up what I believe is a need right across all of Government policy to focus on how we can promote the interests of the family, and I regret that the National Party is so anti-family it will not support it.

Gordon Copeland: How is it intended that the Families Commission will raise the profile of families in this country?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: In its advocacy role the commission will “promote family interests and issues across Government agencies and the community; purchase, promote, and disseminate research into family issues; and contribute to policy development across Government as a key stakeholder in family related issues.”

These functions will ensure the commission becomes an effective stakeholder, an advocate in understanding and raising the profile of New Zealand families, and I repeat that the commission will be investing specifically in the area of parenting.

Dail Jones: How can the Minister say that the Families Commission Bill is a bill about families, when in fact the word “families” is not interpreted anywhere in the bill, but groups such as a family group whose members have significant psychological attachment to one another are regarded as being within this concept, and I presume that includes homosexuals and lesbians—groups that I thought the United Future party did not support?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: The agreement between the parties who are involved in this policy is one that accepts a diverse interpretation of what a family is. For example, it allows for a reconstituted family where psychological bonds between people who have no biological relationship is the foundation of that family. Yes, it will accept gay and lesbian relationships; and I am sad to see, in the 21st century, that that member does not accept that.

Gordon Copeland: Is it not true that this commission has deliberately adopted a broad and inclusive definition of the family in the bill precisely to ensure that all New Zealand families and all New Zealand children will benefit from this work?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: Yes that is the case. In every discussion between Labour, the Progressive Coalition, and United Future all parties have stated their commitment to a broad and inclusive approach to the family. The legislation defines the interests of the commission in advocating for and strengthening all forms of the New Zealand family. That is why, of course, those parties do represent the broad range of New Zealanders and why parties on the other side of the House are so marginal to New Zealand life.

Dail Jones: Would not a common-sense approach to support for families suggest that the word “families” ought to be interpreted, and would it not be equally common sense for a family party supporting marital relationships and a good standard of values to oppose any bill including homosexuals and lesbians, withdraw supply from its coalition partner, and stand up for what it believes in, rather than running along on the coat-tails of the Government for the sake of jobs?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think anybody who understands this issue would say that a family that provides love, nurture, support, and boundaries for the behaviour of children would represent a family. The obsession with structure by dinosaurs like Mr Jones is why he is a marginal politician.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will withdraw that comment please.

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I withdraw that comment.

Questions for Oral Answer
New Zealand Qualifications Authority—Performance

9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Is he satisfied with the performance of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Most of the time.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: With a remark that is a contemptuous answer to this House can I just say this—

Mr SPEAKER: The member should just ask the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister wants to make a joke of it, then I think that is totally unsatisfactory, and my question is this—

Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The Minister addressed the question. The member has plenty of opportunity during supplementary questions to address the answer.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Minister be satisfied most of the time, when there is yet another example of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and the Fernridge Institute of Training in Masterton having never been quality-audited in its 3 years’ existence despite ongoing concerns expressed to that authority by local residents and former students alike, advice to the Minister of Education and advice to the Minister of Immigration of an institute that is running a sham establishment founded to ensure that the owners of the company have a steady source of cheap labour in this country?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: That institution was registered on 16 August 2000. It was, in fact, audited on 15 and 16 August 2002. It was put on a 1-year audit cycle. It is due to be audited again in May this year. Although I understand that Mr Peters has received a complaint about the organisation he has not passed it on to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Bernie Ogilvy: In terms of funding the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in its role of implementing the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, does the Minister agree with the finding of the select committee inquiry that “the agencies involved appear to have continually under-estimated the level of resourcing required for such a major shift in our senior school assessment and qualifications system.”; if not, why not?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I refer the member to the Government response to the select committee’s report. I am happy to brief the member—as I would have yesterday at our meeting—on the Government’s actual response to that, which I am announcing on Friday.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table evidence from the approvals and accreditation audit of New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which states that to date no audit has been completed on this organisation. That makes a total lie of the Minister’s statements.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a disgusting situation. Firstly, the Minister has just told this House today that audits have been done, and I am holding a letter dated 26 March saying that no audit has been done. Secondly, I raised the issue in the House with the Minister of Immigration. Thirdly, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has received complaints: those are three lots of complaints already made that are in his colleague’s hands and his department’s hands, in terms of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. And he gets up and makes those bald statements, totally incorrect, and you rule me out of order.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am quite prepared to table my advice on this issue, advice received at 1.41 p.m. today, which indicates the date of the audits and the fact that no complaint about Fernridge has been received by New Zealand Qualifications Authority. The authority does act on its complaints. The fact that the member has received a complaint does not necessarily mean that it has been received by New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Mr SPEAKER: First of all, the member asked for leave to table a document.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I want to explain what it is.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has explained what it is, and the member seeks leave to table it.

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

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister also sought leave to table his particular document.

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

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That Minister has just told this House that New Zealand Qualifications Authority had not received a complaint. What on earth is this document in reply from the authority about if it is not answering complaints?

Mr SPEAKER: This is just debating material. We have a general debate coming up.

Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister sought leave to table a document. I would ask that he table the whole document, not the half that he has just cut off.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I sought leave to table a document as it came from New Zealand Qualifications Authority, not my handwritten notes on the bottom.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave was sought to table that and nobody objected.

Questions for Oral Answer
Prisons—State Management

10. MARC ALEXANDER (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections: Can the Minister justify and support the recent statement that “the management of prisons is a core activity of the State, involving the use of highly coercive powers against individuals, and that it is inappropriate for private sector organisations to exercise such powers”: if so, how?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House)22CULLEN, Hon Dr MICHAEL15:25:30Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House), on behalf of the Minister of Corrections: Yes. Imprisonment involves deprivation of a person’s liberty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the period of his or her confinement. By its nature, imprisonment is highly coercive. It involves the exercise of extensive statutory powers. This Government’s view is that there needs to be direct accountability for the exercise of such powers and this is best achieved through a Government department, which is accountable to the responsible Minister.

Marc Alexander: Does the Minister not agree that seeking a Department of Corrections efficiency gain of $29,000 per inmate per annum, with no corresponding reduction in services or standards, should also be a core State activity that must surely be in the financial interests of the taxpaying New Zealand public; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My understanding and the advice I have is that the ongoing cost of running the prison is likely to be marginally higher than the current price of the contract with Australasian Correctional Management, largely because of differences in staff ratios. That small difference would certainly not outweigh other considerations of accountability and the exercise of coercive powers.

Nandor Tanczos: Is the Minister aware of allegations reported on Australian ABC television and in the Guardian newspaper of inadequate medical facilities; of brutality by guards, including beating prisoners and kicking them in the head; and of covering up child sex abuse at detention centres run by Australasian Correctional Management in Australia; if so, does that make him share Marc Alexander’s confidence in giving private companies the right to use highly coercive powers in this country?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Those accusations sound horrendous. I have heard similar accusations made about privately run prisons in the United States. I think they emphasise the fact that where the prison is directly managed by the State, there is a much greater degree of accountability.

Hon. Tony Ryall: Is the Minister aware of prison officers bashing prisoners and of prison officers having sex with prisoners in State-owned prisons in New Zealand?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes, indeed, and in those cases the department and the Minister are directly accountable.

Marc Alexander: Can the Minister explain why the public should pay such a high price for imprisoning offenders, with no corresponding improvement in law and order outcomes, simply to pander to an ideological belief that the public neither wants nor needs.

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I have to admit I have had many questions from the public, but I have never had a single question from the public on this issue.

Marc Alexander: Given that the Auckland Central Remand Prison receives a fifth of the money allocated for remand services yet accounts for more than 40 percent of remand prisoners, does the Minister agree that the State providers are grossly inefficient, and what proposals will the Minister advance to make them as efficient as the private providers the Minister is trying to get rid of?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: I repeat that in terms of the ongoing cost on the expiry of the present contract, it is expected to be only marginally higher than the current price of the contract. I suspect that comparison is not being made on a full comparison of like with like, including all full overheads.

Nandor Tanczos: I am aware that the Green Party has used its allocation of supplementary questions. I seek leave of the House to ask one more supplementary question on No. 10.

Mr SPEAKER: The Green Party has not fulfilled its number of questions. The member has one left. He can ask one. [Interruption] If the member wants one, he can have one, because he has it within his allocation.

Questions for Oral Answer
Economy—OECD Forum

11. Dr DON BRASH (NZ National) to the Prime Minister: Did she tell delegates at the OECD forum on economic growth yesterday that she disagrees with the OECD’s criticisms of her Government’s economic policy; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Acting Prime Minister): No. Having read the speech, she was clearly far too busy explaining the success of the present Government in controlling New Zealand’s economy, and also promoting the issues of multilateral trade liberalisation, which are dear to the hearts of many of us in this House.

Dr Don Brash: Does the Prime Minister agree that it is ironic for her to be chairing an OECD meeting on growth, when her own Government is actively pursuing economic policies that contrast with OECD advice on how to increase economic growth?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: Yes. I note the membership’s agreement with that advice, which includes reducing benefits, increasing the age for the pension, introducing privatisation of education systems, and the introduction of a general capital gains tax specifically applied to housing.

David Cunliffe: What in fact did the OECD say about this Government’s economic policy in its most recent 2002 survey?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The OECD, which is more precisely in this context the bureaucracy in the OECD, painted a positive fiscal picture and noted that our growth and innovation policy was in line with its growth work. It certainly did not advocate further privatisation. It is not the policy of this Government to receive our policies on economics from the OECD, any more than our foreign policy is received from the State Department.

Dr Don Brash: Is the Prime Minister aware that the latest survey of New Zealand economic forecasters showed a downward revision in long-term forecasts for New Zealand’s economic growth, suggesting that the profession has little faith in her Government’s pledge to lift long-term economic growth; if so, is this the reason she has now abandoned her Government’s goal of lifting New Zealand’s performance into the top half of the OECD within 10 years?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: The latter is not a Government goal. In the case of the former part of the question, I think that all economic forecasters are certainly lowering their short-term forecasts. I have to say that in a world surrounded by uncertainty, following drought, with severe acute respiratory syndrome, economic growth dropping in every other country, and an increase in the level of the New Zealand dollar, I would actually be on the pessimistic side for conditions for the next 6 months.

Questions for Oral Answer
Nutrition—Children

12. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister of Health: What comments and reports has she received on child nutrition?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I have seen a number of reports, including the Ministry of Health’s public health legislation discussion document, the Healthy Eating, Healthy Action strategy, and a report in the Sunday News last week in which Nick Smith claims that this Government intends to change the law to ban hamburgers for children and to restrict the number and size of fast food outlets. His report is absolute twaddle—tarted up to sound like fact, when it is mere fiction.

Steve Chadwick: Is the Government’s intention for the Minister of Health to decide what a child can or cannot eat?

Hon ANNETTE KING: No, it is not the intention that the Minister of Health will tell people what to feed their children, any more than it is her intention to tell Nick Smith what to put in his sandwiches.

Sue Kedgley: Given that up to 40 percent of advertisements shown during children’s television viewing times are for food and that most of these promote unhealthy high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods that contribute to obesity, when will the Government implement its 1999 pre-election pledge to “promote as a priority the elimination of advertising around children’s programmes”?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The Government has no policy or plans to ban advertising food during children’s viewing time. However, a proposal that we look at a range of measures in the Ministry of Health discussion document has not been accepted by the Government as policy.

Question No. 1 to Member

Question deferred.

Questions for Oral Answer
Points of Order
Question Time

JOHN CARTER (Senior Whip—NZ National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to ask you to cast your mind back to the last sitting week before the Easter adjournment, when, on two of those days, we had an issue relating to the Prime Minister being questioned. On the third day of that sitting week the House had been seeking information from the Prime Minister and the information it was seeking was given, in part anyway, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I raised a point of order at that time, and you said you would give a considered ruling on it.

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry, I will.

JOHN CARTER: I raise the matter again now, because we have had a similar situation with Mr Chris Carter, who refused to give information that the whole House had. So it would be appropriate if you could give that ruling, because it may well get us over these predicaments that we find ourselves in.

Mr SPEAKER: I promise I will do that.

Questions for Oral Answer
Points of Order
Question No. 12 to Minister

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It relates to a comment made by Annette King, who said of Mr Nick Smith’s analysis and material that it was “tarted up to appear like fact, when it is mere fiction”. I want to know whether that is an accusation of lying.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): I think that in the way the House has interpreted things in the past, that would not be the case. In that case, it might be described as “deliberately misleading”, or “misleading”. But if statements of that sort are not made in the House, they are not breaching the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: I have been asked to rule on whether the member accused the other member of lying. I thought the Minister said the comments were fiction. That is, of course, an opinion, and does not mean that they are deliberately incorrect; it means she thinks they are incorrect.

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I seek leave to table Nick Smith’s column in the Sunday News, and the fiction in it.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member can seek leave to table the document, without the comment added to it. Is there any objection to that course? There is.

End of Questions for Oral Answer


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


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