Questions Of The Day Transcript – 1 May 2003
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
THURSDAY, 1 MAY 2003
Questions for Oral Answer
1. Pharmaceuticals—Pan Pharmaceuticals Products
3. Energy Exploration—Gas Fields
5. English as a Second Language—Government Services
6. Taxation—Corporate Tax Rate
7. Gambling—Problem Gambling
8. Electricity—Dobson Hydro Scheme
9. Music—Government Support
10. Te Mângai Pâho—Contract Policy
11. Industry Training—Labour Party Manifesto
12. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome—Notifications
Questions for Oral Answer
Pharmaceuticals—Pan Pharmaceuticals Products
1. STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua) to the Minister for Food Safety: What actions have been taken by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and in the Ministry of Health in relation to the Pan Pharmaceutical products available in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister for Food Safety): Since the announcement by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Agency, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and the Ministry of Health have been working with their Australian counterparts and distributors here in New Zealand to identify and arrange for the voluntary withdrawal from the market by New Zealand companies of products identified as being of concern that have been manufactured by Pan Pharmaceuticals. I can assure the House that for the purpose of protecting the public I will issue a recall notice when specific products are identified if they have not already been withdrawn and the recall meets the requirements of section 40 of the Food Act.
Steve Chadwick: Does the recall of the Pan Pharmaceutical products in Australia indicate a need for improved regulatory framework in New Zealand?
Hon ANNETTE KING: Yes. New Zealand law is outdated and deficient. I have been working to secure new legislation that will ensure New Zealanders can have confidence in the dietary supplements that they purchase. We need a register of all products on sale, we need the ability to audit the quality of the products, and to initiate recalls and warnings quickly. However, my efforts to get regulatory powers similar to those in Australia have been made harder by political opposition.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does not the failure of Pan Pharmaceuticals show how foolish it would be to simply hand New Zealand’s regulatory process over to an Australian model that obviously does not work; and does not this whole saga demonstrate that while we need regulation it must be well-thought-through and actively be effective?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That is the most bizarre question. It obviously did work in Australia. The Therapeutic Goods Agency did work in Australia. It found the product. The recall is from May 2002, because it audits every year. We do not do that in New Zealand. Dr Scott has said that she does not want that sort of regulatory regime in New Zealand because everything here is all right. That is wrong.
Sue Kedgley: Can the Minister confirm that the dietary supplements industry had reached agreement with the Ministry of Health back in 1998 for dietary supplement products to be notified electronically on a register and supplies to become licensed, and that had this agreement been implemented with the industry, instead of being put on hold while the Minister pursued plans to hand over control of our industry to the bloated Australian-dominated Australian authority, which has been found to have systematic failures, we would be in a better position today to protect consumers and swiftly recall products?
Hon ANNETTE KING: That is not correct. I would assume that if agreement had been reached in 1998 for this to happen that the previous Government—long before I became Minister and looked at this issue—would have agreed to that agreement. In fact, there has not been agreement over the regulation of dietary supplements. I have certainly taken responsibility for it. However, in political terms I have faced people like Lynda Scott who have a select committee inquiry not wanting to regulate, but be on the side of business.
Judy Turner: Is the Minister concerned that what can most accurately be described as a quality control failure by one overseas manufacturer of pharmaceutical and complementary medicines would deter the public from purchasing similar treatments from reputable local producers, and is she doing anything to ensure consumers are aware of this distinction for the sake of these businesses?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member makes a very good point, and it is the reason the products that Pan Pharmaceutical produced will be published for everybody to see so that responsible companies are not labelled in the same way.
Questions for Oral Answer
2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Is the New Zealand Immigration Service conducting inquiries into improper, false, or fraudulent immigration incidents; if so, how many?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Associate Minister of Immigration), on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes, of course the New Zealand Immigration Service conducts inquiries into improper, false, or fraudulent incidents, and such inquiries are initiated on an ongoing basis.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister has had 4 hours to answer the question “how many”. The question is patently and clearly on today’s Order Paper. Why do I have to get up now to elicit on a supplementary question that for which he has had 4 hours to glean, prepare, and bring down to this House? That is my point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did address the question. He indicated there were a number of incidents. It is not for me to say whether that is a satisfactory answer. He did address the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister why he wasted 4 hours not answering my question; if he does not know the number, why does he not tell this House; and, having said that, could he clarify what he meant in respect of his answer given, when his principal Minister, on 29 April in response to a written question, said: “The NZIS pursues all incidents of possible fraud brought to its intention that merit investigation.”,
when it took an insightfully humiliating Assignment programme investigation to alert her to the need to investigate openly advertised immigration scams in Auckland?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I understand there are two questions there. With regard to the first question, as of today I am unable to specify exactly how many investigations are under way. I am, however, advised that as of 31 March this year there were approximately 300 investigations into immigration fraud under way, and there were 14 investigations under way into the allegations against Immigration Service staff.
Hon Roger Sowry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I feared that this would be exactly what happens. The Minister, having had, as the Rt Hon Winston Peters said, 4 hours to answer the question, clearly did have the information that he was asked for. He knew how many incidents were investigated as at 31 March, and he went on to say that he did not have an exact number today—we are only 1 month on. The issue is that when a question is put down for oral answer, and the Minister withholds the answer and then seeks to have the Opposition waste another supplementary question to get the information asked in the primary question is a hopeless situation—[Interruption] If the Leader of the House wants to interject while I am on my feet, I think that is unparliamentary. It is a hopeless situation when Ministers are asked a question on notice, have the information, and then refuse to hand it out in their primary answer, and it has to be wheedled out of them at a later date.
Mr SPEAKER: When the Minister answered the original question he could have given that number in the answer. The question was asked in two parts, however. The member asked another part of the question and the Minister addressed that particular part.
With regard to the second part of the question, there are many allegations of improper practice made on a daily basis. Each of those has to be thoroughly investigated before we can make any claims. That process will continue, as the service is determined to make sure there are no corrupt practices under way at any stage. Investigations will be undertaken where they are deemed necessary.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban: What has this current Government done to improve the processes for investigating fraudulent immigration incidents?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: In 2001 the New Zealand Immigration Service established a fraud investigations unit. This unit and the investigation systems were created by the Labour-led Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Minister’s second answer include the plethora of scams I have brought before Parliament, including the Fernridge Institute, which is running a sham establishment founded to ensure that the owners of the company have a steady source of cheap labour in this country; the death of a Japanese national at the rogue Columbus Academy; the investigation into exploited Ukrainian farm workers in an approved scheme; openly advertised immigration scams, as the Assignment programme proved; and so-called refugees who can live here for months on end at a cost of millions of dollars to New Zealand taxpayers, who finance their health care, social welfare benefits, housing, and legal aid costs—does his answer include all those people as well?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: As I said, there are over 300 investigations under way. With regard to Fernridge, the Department of Labour is continuing to investigate the allegations of improper immigration and employment practice by the Fernridge training organisation. A labour inspector is examining wage records held by Fernridge to determine whether the students have received their minimum legal entitlements.
Questions for Oral Answer
Energy Exploration—Gas Fields
3. GORDON COPELAND (United Future) to the Minister of Conservation: What steps, if any, will he take to ensure that neither the Department of Conservation nor his own statutory powers unnecessarily impede efforts by the petroleum exploration industry to discover and bring into production new gas fields in light of the depletion of Maui and the growing electricity crisis?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Decisions on petroleum exploration in conservation areas are made under the Crown Minerals Act. I would obviously ensure that decisions are made in accordance with that Act.
Gordon Copeland: Would the proposed Marine Reserves Bill grant the Minister the power to deny petroleum exploration permit holders automatic access to territory within a marine reserve, even if they had met the “minimum impact activity criteria” under the Crown Minerals Act; if it would, what effect does he think such a veto power will have on petroleum exploration incentives in New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: We have already faced the issue of drilling in a marine protected area in Taranaki, and a very innovative programme of directional drilling took place. It is possible to have drilling in a conservation area that does not disturb the biodiversity of that area.
David Parker: Have there been any requests for access to conservation areas from the petroleum industry in recent years?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am not aware of any requests for access in the last 3 or 4 years.
Shane Ardern: Noting that the petroleum industry is against the Marine Reserves Bill in this Minister’s name, and the proposed changes to the Resource Management Act that will make it more difficult for resource consent on private land, and the present view that he takes on conservation land, does the Minister now accept he is the greatest problem in solving this country’s current energy crisis?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware of any demands that were made by United Future on issues like this at the time that party gave an undertaking to the Government on the question of supply, or did they just lie over and play mouse?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I could not really comment on that matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a pretty simple question. I am asking whether he is aware. He either is or is not. It is not for him to say that he will not comment on it. That is why we have question time. For goodness’ sake, this is getting beyond a joke, and that Minister should be told to either answer the question or resign.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister can say he will not comment. He can say that. I would actually like the Minister to repeat his answer.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: No.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He was actually asked, as is legitimate, two questions: is it one situation or the other? The answer cannot be no. It might be that he is embarrassed but it cannot be no.
Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked “Was he aware” and he said no. To me that is a complete answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked him: was he aware of any demands being made by the United Future party at the time of the undertaking being given on the question of supply, or did they just lie down and play mouse?
Mr SPEAKER: No, he has no responsibility there. He was asked: “Was he aware” and he said no.
Hon Ken Shirley: Given that his Government intends to extend the Marine Reserves Act over the full exclusive economic zone, apparently in breach of the international law of the sea, does he share the concern the Petroleum Exploration Association, which fears that the Minister of Conservation’s approval will be required before any approval is given to even prospect for gas and oil reserves, which are much needed for this country?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I can report that the Department of Conservation has an excellent relationship with the petroleum industry, and we are very keen to maintain that.
Shane Ardern: I seek leave of the House to table two documents: one being the submission on the Resource Management Act from the Petroleum Exploration Association, and the other being the submission on the Marine Reserves Bill, from the Petroleum Exploration Association.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two submissions. Is there any objection? There is.
Questions for Oral Answer
4. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: Does he stand by his statement of October 2002 that “there is no cause for high anxiety” in relation to New Zealand running out of power in the near future; if so, why?
Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): The sentence that the member quotes, in part, began with the words: “While the risk of problems in exceptionally dry years is always with us”. I therefore stand by it.
Gerry Brownlee: From the same article: is he still as happy to explain why “there is no possibility of electricity shortages in New Zealand” as he was in November last year, and does he think that his explanation will give elderly who are freezing in their homes, businesses that shut down, and families who are without hot water for up to 18 hours a day comfort that he knows what he is doing?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member has already indicated his ability to partially quote bits out of context. If he continues to do so, I will continue to give him the context.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need a point of order. I want the Minister to, perhaps, develop the answer a little further.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I have asked the Minister to give an answer.
Gerry Brownlee: I appreciate that, and my point of order might help him. I seek leave to table the article concerned so that the Minister might be able to refer to the quotes.
Mr SPEAKER: That is done at the end—but leave is sought to table. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon PETE HODGSON: No, I do not agree.
H V Ross Robertson: Would the Minister consider—
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answer from the Minister was “No, I do not agree.” What does he not agree to? He was asked whether he is still willing to explain—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member is just being—
Gerry Brownlee: No, I am not.
Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked whether he agreed, and he said no, he did not.
Gerry Brownlee: No, he was not asked that. The question was very specific: is he happy to explain why there is no possibility of electricity shortages in New Zealand, as he was in October last year.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said “No”. He can say “Yes” or “No” in answer to a question—
Gerry Brownlee: No, no. He said: “No, I don’t agree.”
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated.
H V Ross Robertson: Would the Minister classify the year 2003 as an exceptionally dry year; if so, why?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The first half of 2001 saw the lowest inflows ever recorded. Inflows in 2003 so far are somewhat lower so, yes, that is exceptional.
Peter Brown: Noting the earlier answers to Gerry Brownlee’s questions, I ask whether the Minister accepts that right now there are employers, working people, and elderly retired folk on fixed incomes who are very worried about the current situation—indeed, are very worried about how the whole thing has been handled—and how will the Minister allay their fears without some sort of flippant answer?
Hon PETE HODGSON: I do not think this is a flippant issue at all. Yes, I accept that we may well be in serious difficulty and that we may end up with some social and economic disruption if we are not able to save sufficiently now. That is why the Government has asked the State sector to show leadership and get itself to a position of 15 percent savings in electricity, and why the electricity industry has asked New Zealanders as a whole to try to meet savings of 10 percent.
Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Minister recall telling a Dunedin election meeting in July last year that as a result of his energy reforms he could assure the public they would see no more newspaper headlines saying “Power cuts likely”, and, given headlines like the one in this Tuesday’s New Zealand Herald: “Power cuts loom as lake levels slump”, “A worried watch dog lifts the electricity savings target to 10 percent”, will he now accept that his policies have failed; if he does, why does he not resign?
Mr SPEAKER: The question was too long, but the last part of the question was in order.
Hon PETE HODGSON: In answer to the first part of the question, I say that I do not recall telling an election meeting in Dunedin what the member suggested I might have told it, but if he has any record of that I would be very happy to see it.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given the fact that the State-owned enterprise Genesis Energy has not been running the Huntly power station over recent weeks and months, reportedly because it did not order enough coal soon enough, which has caused the lake levels to drop further, what steps is the Minister taking to hold Genesis accountable for its lack of social responsibility and contingency planning?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The member would not be surprised to know that we are in regular contact with Genesis Energy. However, it is fair to suggest that earlier this week there was quite a lot of shift in the fossil fuel situation that Genesis now faces. Specifically, some gas contracts involving Contact Energy have been brought forward, and my hope is that Huntly will now move to a higher rate of generation.
Gerry Brownlee: Noting that in the answer to Ross Robertson the Minister has now recognised he was wrong last October and that we do now have an electricity crisis, I ask whether he will be supporting suggestions from people like Roger Sutton, Orion New Zealand line company’s chief executive, who suggested that short power blackouts may be required to scare people into power savings, and suggestions from others of domestic water heating cuts of up to 18 hours a day; if so, why?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Water heating cuts are likely to begin quite soon, and they are likely, initially, to be quite short. In fact, they may already have begun in certain parts of the country—2 hours here, 4 hours there, and so on. If we are to do what we did in 1992 and move to the next step of 18-hour power cuts for water heaters, that will then actually start to save electricity because it will reduce the amount of hot water available to consumers. Blackouts, on the other hand, are very much a last resort.
Gerry Brownlee: Does the Minister intend fronting power-saving advertisements on television as he did during the last power crisis?
Hon PETE HODGSON: The industry has some television advertisements beginning on Saturday or Sunday—I cannot remember which—which will not be fronted by me.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister stand by his statement on 5 October last year that Mr Gerry Brownlee was irresponsibly scaremongering when he said that if there was not more generation we face the risk of brownouts or blackouts, and now that he is wrong, will he apologise to National’s spokesperson on energy?
Hon PETE HODGSON: Around that time last year Mr Brownlee put out a number of statements that were remarkable. In particular, my statement saying that he was scaremongering had nothing to do with generation—I have been misquoted again—but was actually to do with Transpower forecasting in its supply security notice, on which he said that some security problem at the top half of the South Island meant that we would all be plunged into darkness. Then Transpower went on TV3 and said that Mr Brownlee had it wrong.
Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a report released today talking of rolling blackouts across Tauranga City during peak times in which the Port of Tauranga says that without power for cranes New Zealand’s largest export port would “grind to a standstill”.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the article on 5 October in the Christchurch Press in which Mr Hodgson said that Mr Brownlee was scaremongering to warn of brownouts and blackouts.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that press release. Is there any objection? There is.
Questions for Oral Answer
English as a Second Language—Government Services
5. Dr ASHRAF CHOUDHARY (NZ Labour) to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs: What measures has the Government taken to enable non - English speaking New Zealanders to access Government services more easily?
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Ethnic Affairs): Yesterday, I launched the pilot of the Government-funded telephone interpreting service called Language Line. The service will encompass 30 languages and will be tested by six Government departments to enable better communication with non - English speaking New Zealanders.
Dr Ashraf Choudhary: What benefits will Language Line bring for ethnic New Zealanders, Government departments, and taxpayers?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Non-English speakers and those with limited language will have access to core Government services such as being able to lodge calls to the police in their own language. This is a practical solution to improve the ability of non-English speakers to settle quickly into our society. It will also increase the efficiency of Government departments and minimise costly confusion and error.
Pansy Wong: Can he confirm that his new Language Line is contracted to an Australian company; if so, why does he have no confidence in New Zealand interpretation service providers?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am delighted to announce that 26 New Zealanders will be participating as translators, with another 200 applications for interpreter positions being processed.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister has been delaying question time all week, because he will not answer a question. He was asked a simple question, which I still do not know the answer to. The question was whether it was an Australian company. Instead, he told us that they are employing New Zealanders. I suppose we are to take from that that it is an Aussie company and we are cheap labour. Why can we not have the answer to the question?
Mr SPEAKER: I wonder whether the Minister was going to mention that particular point.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Yes, I can confirm that it is an Australian-owned company that was the most cost effective. However, I am delighted to report that it is also a company that is committed to employing New Zealanders.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. The Minister is answering, and he is entitled to give an answer. I want him to be able to do so. Some of the suggestions that are being made would mean that he would not be able to answer any questions.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you can take it from some of the disorder that the practice this Minister indulges in—and he is not the only one, but he is the one today—of changing his answer when he is asked to stand again and answer the question, and the second time giving the correct answer, holds the House in contempt. I hesitate to say that it invites disorder, but that is much more likely to happen. The Minister was asked a question directly. He did not answer it. Then he stood again to answer the question, and this time he did answer it clearly, as he should have the first time. It puts all Opposition parties in a difficult position if they always have to ask two questions to get the answer that the Minister is clearly willing to give, eventually, but will not give when the question is asked first up.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did answer the question, and it was not within the new supplementary question; it was on the same question. I insisted that he did give that extra information.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that this country suffers now from serious shortages in health, education, infrastructure, and police funding, to name but a few, why on earth do we have, according to his own press statement, 300,000 people in this country who now cannot speak English, or speak very little English at all; how did that happen, other than that he belongs to a Government that set out, by its immigration policy, to betray the interests of the New Zealand taxpayer?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Many of the people who will be using this line became permanent residents of this country when that member was Deputy Prime Minister, and there were much lower English language criteria for immigration.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You would remember very well that in October 1995 the then National Party, because of pressure on immigration matters, changed the English language requirement. They complained about it, and now that he has changed it again—
Mr SPEAKER: That is a debating point.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, it is not. I am getting to my point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: The member had better get to it quickly, or he will be leaving.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will get to it when I feel like it, and it is when I feel like it. I need to explain to you what I mean.
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. Points of Order
must be made tersely. The member was not making his point of order tersely. He then compounded the matter by making a criticism. I am going to ask him to withdraw and apologise for that comment.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What comment?
Mr SPEAKER: The one relating to me.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did not make a comment about you. I said I would answer it and spend my own time. If you do not like that, I apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will withdraw and apologise for his comments.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Here is my point.
Mr SPEAKER: I want the member to withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. Here is my point. The Minister was asked about his responsibility. This Government has been in power now for 4 years, and that Minister gets up, makes a totally false statement, does not answer the questions, and you let him get away with it again.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I did not. I listened very carefully to what the Minister said. He addressed that particular question.
Questions for Oral Answer
Taxation—Corporate Tax Rate
6. Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ) to the Minister of Finance: In light of accountancy firm KPMG’s survey of 68 countries that shows New Zealand’s corporate tax rate of 33c is above the OECD average of 31.68 percent, and that seven of the 30 OECD countries have cut their corporate tax rates over the last year, will the Government lower New Zealand’s corporate tax rate to help New Zealand compete in the global economy for investment?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Minister of Finance): No.
Hon Richard Prebble: When reaching the decision not to cut corporate tax rates, did the Minister take any note of the statement by KPMG senior tax partner Mr Sharma that New Zealand needed to offer a better tax rate to attract corporates from Australia: “To compete with countries outside its close geography, New Zealand should offer a rate closer to 20 percent.”?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. I note that Mr Sharma thought the tax rate before 1989 was 28 percent, which is a 20 percent error. I note also that the total corporate tax levels in New Zealand are low by OECD standards, because we do not have a range of other taxes on the corporate sector.
David Cunliffe: What are the Government’s major priorities in the area of company tax reform?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: We want to make it simpler, especially for small and medium sized enterprises. There is a big work programme under way, and people will have to wait approximately 2 weeks, minus about 10 minutes or so, to find out some of the details.
Dr Don Brash: What is the Minister’s response to KPMG’s senior tax partner Brahma Sharma’s comment that he has spoken to several clients over the past year, including one looking to establish a processing factory and another a regional distribution centre, who have taken their business to Australia, after being disheartened by New Zealand’s corporate tax rate; and how does the Minister propose to encourage investment in New Zealand, if we cannot at least create a somewhat level playing field by meeting Australia’s corporate tax rate?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: My response would be to send him a copy of the statement made by that member that reducing the corporate tax rate alone would not have any material beneficial effect on growth.
Gordon Copeland: Does the Minister agree that because New Zealand customarily runs interest rates higher than Australian and other overseas jurisdictions the cost of capital is higher for New Zealand companies, and would not a cut in the company tax rate therefore be a good way to create a level playing field and restore their competitive position?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: As the head of Fletcher Building, I think it is, has pointed out—who is an Australian—the total burden of corporate tax in Australia is higher. Australia has payroll taxes and a range of other taxes, which corporates do not have to bear in New Zealand.
Questions for Oral Answer
7. SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Has he received any advice about the extent and cause of the increase in problem gambling in 2002; if so, what is he planning to do about it?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Internal Affairs): Yes, the Responsible Gambling Bill includes a number of measures to prevent and minimise problem gambling.
Sue Bradford: Given the dramatic 21 percent rise in problem gambling reported by the problem gambling committee just this week, will the Minister now amend the Responsible Gambling Bill to make it more responsible and to give local councils the right to control the activities of pokie-venues in their communities, including pokie-bars that were in place as of October 2001?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: That member knows the Government has moved to make sure that local bodies have some part to play in the increase of gaming places in their own area.
Dianne Yates: What does the Responsible Gambling Bill do to prevent and minimise problem gambling?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Among other things the bill, as reported back, provides for an integrated problem gambling strategy and requires gaming-machine societies and casino operators to develop a policy of identifying problem gamblers?
Judith Collins: What advice, and from whom, has the Minister received on raising the problem gambling levy, or excise, and the effect of any such increase on the level of funds available to be distributed to sporting, community, and cultural groups via the gaming trusts?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: There is nothing in the Responsible Gambling Bill that deals with excise rates, and if the member wants those she should ask the appropriate Minister.
Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was what advice, and from whom, has the Minister received about raising the gaming tax, and what is happening with it. In answer he talked about what is in the Responsible Gambling Bill. Those are completely different issues.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister addressed the question that was asked.
Marc Alexander: Is the Minister aware of hard evidence or research that shows that an increase in the gaming levy will have any effect whatsoever on the rate of problem gambling?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the member’s own leader in an article in the North’West of 30 April stated that making the current system more transparent would help in that matter.
Sue Bradford: Why does the Minister consider that local councils and local territorial authorities have only “some part to play” in determining exactly where and how many pokie machines there should be in their own districts, given that places like Manukau City have enormous problems caused by the proliferation of pokies?
Mr SPEAKER: There is too much background noise.
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: Local government authorities already have powers in their planning to limit them, and I think that what is in the bill goes a long way to minimising the harm of problem gambling in places like Manukau.
Sue Bradford: Does the Minister think that the pokie trusts are the right way to distribute the proceeds of problem gambling, given the 206 enforcement actions taken against them in the 8 months to February this year, which include that of the New Zealand Community Trust site in Newtown, where the manager controlled who could get the applications, and that of the Pub Charity site at Bowland, Porirua, where Pub Charity awarded a grant to Bowland itself for an oiling machine?
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS: I think the member must realise that what she has told us shows that the present system is working.
Questions for Oral Answer
Electricity—Dobson Hydro Scheme
8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by his press statement of 29 April 2003 that the land to be swapped for the Dobson Dam hydro project is of “much lower value”; if so, how does he reconcile that statement with a Department of Conservation report on Mount Buckley that says the land has “nationally important conservation values”, “high landscape value”, is a “crucial wildlife habitat link” and recommends that all of the Mount Buckley block be added to the Crown estate?
Mr SPEAKER: I want there to be as little background noise as possible. I find it difficult to hear, too.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was a lot of background noise following that answer to question No. 7, because a lot of members here are totally confused as to what the Minister said. He said the present system is working, and if it is, why are we changing it?
Mr SPEAKER: That was not the background noise I was referring to at all. The member knows that, too.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister of Conservation): Yes, Mount Buckley is of lower value. The report the member is quoting from also states that the Valley Floor forest in the Card Creek ecological area is the richest known site for native birdlife in the whole of north Westland. Ecologists advise me that kahikatea forest is much scarcer than steep hill-country forest, as represented at Mount Buckley.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How would the Minister know that was true when he has never visited the area concerned, and when the member of Parliament for West Coast - Tasman promised in October 2002 that he would be visiting that month?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I am delighted to report that I will be visiting in a couple of weeks’ time.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member has stated that I promised to visit the area. I would like that member to table—
Mr SPEAKER: That is a point of debate.
Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister explain why the Card Creek ecological area was extended in 1997?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: To quote from the Gazette notice, one of the key reasons for extending the reserve was to add to the size and long-term viability of the principal reserve as a significant wildlife habitat. The Minister of Conservation at the time, the Hon Dr Nick Smith, clearly appreciated the regionally unsurpassed wildlife values of that area.
Hon Ken Shirley: Does he accept what most of us know—that is, that the Department of Conservation will claim any piece of land has nationally important conservation values, has high landscape values, or is a crucial and unique wildlife link—and that that is why he as Minister is required to exercise discretionary powers and not just say no to every development proposal on Department of Conservation land; and when will he start acting as the Minister and not simply be advocate for the department in this Parliament?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: That question contained a number of erroneous implications, one of which is that the Department of Conservation says no to developments on conservation land. I am sure I do not need to remind the member that the biggest hydro development extension in recent history in this country was at Manapouri in the middle of a World Heritage site, and the Department of Conservation approved that development.
Gordon Copeland: Is it not undesirable for him in his role as advocate for the conservation estate to have the statutory power to veto completely uncontested proposals, like the Dobson scheme—a decision that other interests with different viewpoints cannot seek to appeal or arbitrate in any way; if not, why not?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: As Minister of Conservation I have a statutory duty to be an advocate for conservation values, but the Department of Conservation is a department that seeks dialogue with any applicant for development. Just recently, I looked at the figures for mineral development under the Crown Minerals Act and the Conservation Act, and 80 percent of applications were approved.
Gerrard Eckhoff: What are the criteria for a nationally important conservation value when compared with a nationally important productive value, and why should conservation values take precedence, given much-improved scenario modelling for power shortages for the years ahead, regardless of rainfall?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Successive Governments of this country, whether they be led by the Labour Party or the National Party, have endorsed conservation as a value that is important to all New Zealanders.
Gordon Copeland: How can the conflict between his desire to preserve the Dobson kahikatea trees and the needs of this nation for electricity generation for dry-year conditions be resolved in the national interests?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I have already reported to this House that hydro electricity development projects have taken place on conservation land—for example, Manapouri. I could list a number of other examples, as well.
Stephen Franks: In view of the Minister’s response to my colleague Gerry Eckhoff, is there any level of social misery or economic hardship so serious that it could persuade him to swap the Department of Conservation broom and kahikatea for the Dobson scheme; and if he thinks that the Conservation Act will not let him, what steps has he, or any other Minister, taken to change that law?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: The kahikatea ecological area was gazetted and extended—both times under National Governments—but for very valid reasons, because it is an area of high ecological value.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That has to be trifling with the Chair.
Mr SPEAKER: The member was asked a more specific question. To develop it, perhaps he could add a couple of sentences to his answer.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought the question related to the Dobson dam issue. Could the member repeat the question?
Stephen Franks: Is there any level of social misery or economic hardship so serious that it would persuade him to swap the Department of Conservation gorse, broom, and kahikatea for the Dobson scheme; and, if he thinks that the Conservation Act will not let him, what steps is he, or any other Minister, taking to change that law?
Hon CHRIS CARTER: It is my duty as the Minister of Conservation to be an advocate for the environment. Each application to develop a project on conservation land must be looked at on its own merits.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table an article from the Nelson Evening Mail of 11 October in which Mr O’Connor says: “Mr Carter will visit the area this month.”
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Questions for Oral Answer
9. DARREN HUGHES (NZ Labour—Otaki) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage: What has the Government done to assist New Zealand music?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): We are assisting the development and growth of all forms of music in New Zealand, first of all by supporting New Zealand music month, which my T-shirt is a symbol of. But we are also working through the New Zealand Music Industry Commission, New Zealand on Air, Creative New Zealand, Te Mângai Pâho, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Trade New Zealand, and Industry New Zealand, and we have funded initiatives like the World Series.
Darren Hughes: Following on from those Government initiatives, how has the New Zealand music industry developed in the past 5 years?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: Five years ago the amount of the New Zealand music played across New Zealand radio was 5.27 percent, and sales of New Zealand music albums sat at about 4 percent of total sales. The latest figures from New Zealand on Air and the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand show that airplay is at 15.36 percent for the March 2000 quarter, and that sales have increased to 9 percent. We congratulate the New Zealand music industry month initiative, the New Zealand radio industry, and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission. This Government is supporting New Zealand music month, which is celebrating its third year this year.
Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have just been recalling in my mind, as I notice the Minister sporting the particular T-shirt that she is, that some months ago there was an outcry in this House from Labour Party members, who were very upset at a similar sort of logo being displayed in relation to Mr Keith Locke. I wonder whether, for the sake of consistency, the Minister might be asked to remove—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have been asked to do many things, but nothing like that.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although the Minister’s T-shirt is bright and very beautiful and has caused some enjoyment for members of this House, I consider that some of the comments made, which you may not have heard, were very sexist. I respectfully ask that you make some comment concerning the level of sexist reference in issues such as this.
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just say that I thought the Hon Judith Tizard handled the comments very well. However, I also agree with the member that we have to be careful about some of the comments that are made. A good joke is something that I crave to hear and very rarely do—over-the-top comments I more frequently hear.
Metiria Turei: What, if anything, is the Government doing to promote local initiatives, such as, the Dawn Raid Community Trust, which promotes education, employment, and social service opportunities for young Pacific peoples and teaches them about, and involves them directly in, the music industry?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: There are a number of initiatives like the Dawn Raid Trust and the Ark Trust in Dunedin that are working very hard through Creative New Zealand and the Music Industry Commission to support the new music and arts curriculum in schools. They are also being supported through many innovative councils like Manukau City Council.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. While I am happy to raise this issue of sexist comments, I also wish to raise sexist behaviour in this House. I draw your attention to this fact. If my colleague Mr Keith Locke were to come into this House with the very same T-shirt he would be ruled out of order and asked to leave this Chamber. I am not asking that you do the same for Judith Tizard, but—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will please be seated. That is not a point of order. It is just wasting the time of the House.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reconsider that comment in the light of the fact that we have a dress code, and that is merely what Mr—
Government MembersGovernment members: Aw!
Ron Mark: In silence! I was thrown out last week.
Mr SPEAKER: The member rightly made a comment and I will adhere to it strictly.
Ron Mark: Mr Hide, quite rightly, was just drawing your attention to the Standing Orders in respect of dress. In the light of the comment made by Metiria Turei, who drew attention to sexist comments, I feel that Mr Hide’s point of order is perfectly in order. There is a dress code that applies to the men, and I now ask you that if by permitting women to come to the House in flamboyant promotional T-shirts, does that now mean that men, likewise, will be permitted to stand in this Chamber and take part in debate wearing T-shirts.
Nandor Tanczos: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. While I thoroughly endorse my colleague’s comments, I also support the comments made by Rodney Hide. I draw your attention to the fact that we have had a consultation of the male members of this House with regard to dress code, but if you recall, the question was about whether we were permitted to remove our jackets, and not whether we had to wear a collar and tie underneath them. Members have never actually canvassed that issue during the time that I have been a member.
Peter Brown: Yes, it has.
Nandor Tanczos: That is not how I recall it. I ask you to consider that, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I consulted male members about their dress code, which included a collar and tie and a jacket, at the beginning of this Parliament and the last Parliament. Those members made the decision by quite a high majority, and I accepted that quite clearly.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect to the members who have raised the matter, they have not actually addressed themselves to the correct Standing Order. The correct Standing Order is Standing Order 109, “Visual aids”. There are a whole lot of Speaker’s rulings on the matter on page 48. However, the relevant point is—which will cause both members some embarrassment—that such an aid may be displayed only when the member is speaking to the question before the House and must be removed from the Chamber at the conclusion of the member’s speech. If the two members want to come to the House with an aid of that sort, then they are bound by the Standing Orders the same as everyone else is.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I wonder whether people are here for serious business. What would their comments be on this continual adolescent behaviour from members opposite?
Mr SPEAKER: This week I have received a large number of comments from people outside this House complaining about the use of the point of order procedure. I uphold the right of members to raise Points of Order
. I took seriously the point of order raised by the Hon Richard Prebble as he is a senior member of this House. I will reflect on it in the next little while.
Dail Jones: Bearing in mind the serious nature of this House, and the importance of Government members not asking Ministers patsy questions, and the need for this Minister to be original—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will come to the question. He should not have a long procession of comments.
Dail Jones: Is the Minister aware that she was asked the identical question on 5 September 2002, namely: “What steps has the Government taken to support the New Zealand music industry”, and how long is this House to be subjected to this Minister having the same question asked to her and this House having to put up with the same answer being given to it at considerable expense?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: The music industry is a serious industry with great export and great employment potential. That is why this Government, the radio industry, and the music industry are putting a great deal of money and effort into promoting the New Zealand music month. I also point out that all members have been advised of this, and I hope that I am doing my job to promote New Zealand industry, particularly the music industry.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given her duty as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, and having particular regard for culture and what that means, does she think it is fit for a Minister, and herself in particular, to come to this House as some sort of walking emblem on a day like this?
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: There is an ancient and honourable tradition of May Day being a day for political, social, and cultural symbols, and I am very happy to participate.
Questions for Oral Answer
Te Mângai Pâho—Contract Policy
10. RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Mâori AffairsMâori Affairs: Is it Te Mângai Pâho’s practice to pay out money without contracts in place; if so, why?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Mâori Affairs): My officials advise that, no, it is not Te Mângai Pâho’s normal practice to pay out money without contracts being in place. When this has occurred the late signing relates either to rollover contracts with longstanding parties or contracts awaiting Te Mângai Pâho’s sign off. In the latter case payment does not normally occur unless the contract has first been signed by the producers.
Rodney Hide: In that case has the Minister seen Te Mângai Pâho’s letter to Mana Mâori Media Ltd, dated 19 November 2002, stating: “The management and board of Te Mângai Pâho have become increasingly concerned that the draft contract arrangements have not been completed, and that Mana Mâori Ltd have received five advanced payments each of $28,695.08 from July to November 2002. Your urgent assistance to this matter is required immediately.”,
and can the Minister confirm that Mana Mâori Media Ltd received $143,475.40 of taxpayers’ money with no contract, draft or otherwise, that nothing has been produced, and that this is literally money for nothing, and is that the way Labour does business?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No I have not seen the content of the letter, and that is not how Labour does business.
Mahara Okeroa: When will the independent review of Te Mângai Pâho be completed?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: The review is expected to be completed tomorrow and made available to the board on Monday or Tuesday.
Katherine Rich: In the light of the fact that Mana Mâori Media have been awarded $344,000 excluding GST to produce a minimum of 10 hours radio programming a year, does he think that a potential rate of $34,000 an hour for a radio programme is extravagant even by the standard of Te Mângai Pâho, and what is he going to do about it?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That is an operational matter, and I am not too sure of hourly rates involved in this business.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can we conclude from his answer to Mr Hide that he was not aware of that letter, that he is heading a ministry that has no regard for him as Minister, and that it therefore denies him information essential for his proper performance in this House?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am more than certain that the ministry is going along with me, and it is spending one of the better times it has ever had under a very good Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Having said that I would now like the Minister to address the particular question he was asked.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: No.
Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is important that we get clarification from the Minister here. He appears to be saying to the House that even though he had a question on notice about a matter involving $143,000 of taxpayers’ money, his officials have never told him that that money has been paid over, and that there is no contract, and nothing has been delivered? That is what I understand him to be saying to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has repeated the point. The Minister does not need to stand up because he gave a direct answer “no”. I could not ask for anything more. People ask for specific answers and that was a specific answer.
Hon Ken Shirley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may not have heard it, but when the Minister gave his last reply there was a loud round of applause from the gallery. I think our Standing Orders are quite clear on this. I am not sure whether the Minister brought his cheer team here to the gallery—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I thank the member for raising that point. I heard noise coming from the gallery. I want to tell members of the gallery that they are observers to our parliamentary democracy. They cannot participate, and that is a golden rule. We occasionally allow an exception at the end of a particular bill being passed, which we are having later today, but as far as ordinary question time is concerned there are only 120 people who participate. I thank the member for drawing my attention to it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could get the Hansard when it is eventually produced and look at the answer that Mr Horomia gave, and tell me how it possibly related to my question. The answer “no” cannot stand as any meaningful answer at all.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member was challenging my ruling, and I deemed it to address the question, and the answer certainly addressed the question.
Rodney Hide: How does this Minister justify to the taxpayers of New Zealand his pay and his position, when this House discovers that Te Mângai Pâho, which he is responsible for, has paid Mana Mâori Media Ltd $143,475.40 without even a draft contract in place, nothing has been produced, and it takes the ACT party to bring it to this Minister’s attention, not the very officials who are supposed to be reporting to him?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: That contract is one of several contracts. Hundreds of contracts are given out. I tell that member that my officials do a lot of good work in relation to informing me, and I do earn my pay.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to say to the people in the gallery that I do not want to have to ask them to leave. They are not to participate.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek clarification, and I ask the Minister to consider very carefully his answer. He has just told this House that there is a contract, and that this is one of many contracts. The whole point of the question is that there is no contract, and I would like that Minister to think seriously on his answer because it would appear he has been misleading us.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Can I go through carefully. Firstly, it is an operational issue. Secondly, I have offered—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I said there will be no comments on Points of Order
. This is a point of order. The member is entitled to have his point of order heard in silence. The member has raised the point of order. This is a point of order and the Minister is speaking to it. The member will not interject, or he will go.
Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I am in the middle of hearing the Minister.
Rodney Hide: He has not said “Speaking to the point of order.” He has not called “Point of order”. We had this problem earlier this week. What is the Minister doing?
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Hide called the point of order. The Hon Parekura Horomia can speak to it, and I have allowed him to do so.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Speaking to the point of order, I point out, firstly, earlier on in my reply I mentioned that it is an operational issue, and secondly, I do not know the detail of what that member is telling me and whether it is the truth. That is something I will find out about and relay back to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Ruling on the point of order, I say that this is a debatable matter and we have already had the answer in question given.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Minister gave the last answer to Mr Hide and referred to contracts; what contracts was he referring to, and if they were to do with the absence of a contract, which Mr Hide mentioned in his primary question, how does his answer make any sense to anybody, including himself?
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I was referring generally to all contracts.
Questions for Oral Answer
Industry Training—Labour Party Manifesto
11. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What steps is the Government taking to honour Labour’s manifesto commitment to have 250,000 New Zealanders involved in industry training by 2007?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): Today the Government has announced an $85 million Budget 2003 package to take the number of workers involved in industry training during 2005 to 150,000. This is a significant step towards the Labour-Progressive goal of having a quarter of a million New Zealanders involved in industry training by 2007. Business New Zealand has welcomed the package and the Council of Trade Unions has called it great news for workers.
Jill Pettis: Can the Minister advise the House further about initiatives undertaken to raise the profile of industry training within New Zealand so that we may better meet those targets?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: One crucial initiative is the partnership that has been formed between the Government, the Council of Trade Unions, and Business New Zealand. Together we will work on an $800,000 campaign, announced today, to encourage more enterprises to join the industry training programme, enabling them to produce more profitable goods and more profitable services.
Simon Power: How can the Minister claim his announcement today as a success when the funding may fall from $837.38 per trainee in 2003 to $744.67 per trainee in 2005?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am not sure what the member is referring to, because the standard measure of the usual form of payment for trainees during a year runs from $1,700, I think, from memory, to about $3,500.
Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister confirm that unions will be represented in the governance of industry training organisations?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We reviewed the entire industry training area last year and a document was released at that time. Legislation—the Tertiary Education Reform Bill—will be passed this year that ensures that will happen.
Hon Matt Robson: What is the Government doing to investigate the future needs of the workforce and industry training?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: We have committed a $50,000 sum to an initiative that the Progressives, I am pleased to say, are enthusiastically supportive of, to develop a proposal for a national centre for education and research in the vocational area. If that proves to be a worthwhile initiative, we will then fund the establishment of such a centre.
Bernie Ogilvy: Is he concerned that the measures announced today to increase the level of industry training may be mitigated by the Minimum Wage Amendment Bill if it has the effect of causing loss of jobs over time, as suggested, I notice, in the explanatory note on the bill?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: No, I am not. The evidence worldwide is that as long as the minimum wage is set at a level that is commensurate with the ability of employers to pay, there is no loss of employment.
Questions for Oral Answer
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome—Notifications
12. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Have eight cases of Sars been reported to the Ministry of Health under the notifiable diseases provisions of the Health Act 1956; if so, why has only one been reported to the World Health Organization?
Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): Eight suspected cases were reported to the Ministry of Health under the Health Act. Those not reported to the World Health Organization were investigated, and their symptoms excluded them as being probably severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) cases. This is called “diagnosis by exclusion”. It is the approach recommended by the World Health Organization in the absence of a specific diagnostic test.
Dr Lynda Scott: What has changed between yesterday, when we had only one Sars case, and today, when the chairman of the Ministry of Health Sars technical advisory group, Dr Lance Jennings, said several of the cases reported since March are probably Sars cases, and how is this any different from the Chinese Minister of Health suppressing information on the number of cases?
Hon ANNETTE KING: In New Zealand we use a broad definition in defining Sars for the purpose of reporting to the Ministry of Health, which is useful in protecting New Zealanders from Sars because it picks up all possible cases. It is then the medical officer of health, the physician who is attending the person, and the technical advisory group, led by Dr Lance Jennings, who determine whether the cases are Sars. That technical advisory group has deemed that the cases that have come before it, other than the one we have reported, were probably not cases of Sars.
Dave Hereora: Who makes decisions on whether Sars cases are reported to the World Health Organization?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The independent Sars technical advisory group makes the decision in consultation with the treating physician and the medical officer of health. This group is made up of 15 eminent New Zealand specialists and experts. They make the decision independently. Not one case goes to the Minister of Heath. I have absolutely nothing to do with the decision, but I have to say that the 15 experts, led by Dr Lance Jennings, include people like Professor Keith Grimwood, Dr Rosemary Ikram, and Associate Professor Stephen Chambers. I could go on. I have never received any information from that group other than what has been made to the public. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Tony Ryall is insinuating that I was told information. That is not correct. He is accusing me of not telling the truth. That is not correct.
Mr SPEAKER: The member should not have been interjecting. He was interjecting continually. I called for order once, but if the member assures me that he was not accusing the Minister of—[Interruption] Was the member accusing the Minister of not telling the truth?
Hon Tony Ryall: Yes, I was, and I withdraw and apologise.
Sue Kedgley: Given the legal responsibility under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to provide employees with equipment necessary to protect them, can the Minister confirm whether all front-line staff in hospitals are equipped with the masks that the World Health Organization says are essential to protect staff in close contact with Sars patients, which are the masks that provide 99 percent particulate filtration, not the ordinary N95 masks that were circulated recently?
Hon ANNETTE KING: The member was at a briefing on Monday at which the Ministry of Health informed the members who were there that the World Health Organization recommendation was an N95 mask. They had been provided right around New Zealand to front-line staff. On that day—in fact on the evening before—the World Health Organization updated its quality of mask to an N100. The member was informed at that stage. While there are some in New Zealand, there are not stocks for everyone. People at this stage have N95s, and the Ministry of Health is requiring the N100s as fast as possible. That information came only 2 days ago.
Dr Lynda Scott: As it was Dr Lance Jennings who actually said that several of the cases reported since March are probably Sars cases, when did she know that several of the eight notified cases were probable Sars cases, and why has the public not been informed until now?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have not to this day been advised that there are eight probable Sars cases, because the decision on whether a case is Sars is not made by me or the Ministry of Health but by the committee members themselves. They decide whether it meets the criteria. If there were other cases I am sure that Dr Lance Jennings, a man of integrity, would have reported them. He has no reason not to because it is on their heads that the decision is made. They have nothing to hide.
Dr Lynda Scott: Does she still consider the response to the Hawke’s Bay case as excellent in the light of the fact that the contacts who travelled to China with the person have not all been contacted since returning to New Zealand and the fact that at least one person has continued to travel around New Zealand, unaware of the risks—a person whose daughter-in-law has stated she is appalled by the way this is being handled?
Hon ANNETTE KING: I have been advised that one woman from the group went to Waiheke Island. Although she did not speak to the health officials herself, she spoke through another person, and was given all information.
Mr SPEAKER: The time for questions has expired. I call on Government order of the day.
Questions for Oral Answer
Points of Order
Question No. 1 to Members
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry; I was going to call Questions to Members, but, of course, Mr Dunne is not here. As soon as he is here, that will be able to be done.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: I do raise this matter with you. I put down this question yesterday. We know, as someone just said to me, that Mr Dunne was at the select committee today. I have had a look at the Standing Orders to see whether one can, what is the word, transfer a question to another member, and, of course, one can with regard to Ministers, but when I look at the Standing Orders, it does not appear that one can. But this raises an interesting situation. This is no doubt an embarrassing question for Mr Dunne, but I have put it down 2 days in a row, and surely he has an obligation to this House to come here, front up, and tell the House why a petition signed by 25 percent of all New Zealand Chinese has not actually been signed, especially since he is on record as saying we need 5 million New Zealanders in the country. One would have thought that he would actually turn up. But are you saying that Mr Dunne can in fact, by absenting himself every day, make sure that he never has to answer this question?
Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 127/4—a ruling from Speaker Harrison in 1978—that Standing Order 371 does not allow another member to answer a question on behalf of a member of whom the question is asked. Therefore, the deputy chairperson of the committee cannot do it. But I think that the member has raised a very valid point of order. I will have a look at that over the weekend, and I am going to ensure that he gets an answer on Tuesday in some way.
GORDON COPELAND (Whip—United Future)204COPELAND, GORDON15:31:45GORDON COPELAND (Whip—United Future): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your deliberations over the weekend, could I ask that you possibly weigh in the balance the urgency related to this matter? I think that Peter Dunne has acted in good faith, and that there is a question to be considered about whether the delay of one more day is, in terms of this petition—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not going to do that. I have told Mr Prebble that I will be looking at this matter, and I regard it as important. It is one of those things that is a new point of order and something we have not struck before. I think we therefore have to deal with it on the spot.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am confident I can suggest to you that given we now have elected deputy chairs of select committees, which we did not have in the past, then it would seem to me that one possible suggestion is that the deputy chair can answer on behalf of the chair—provided, of course, that the deputy chair has been given the necessary information.
Mr SPEAKER: That is a very good issue for the Standing Orders Committee, but, unfortunately, that is not the current rule. However, I will look at this issue over the weekend for the member.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I would like to say to the House that that is an interesting suggestion, but the deputy chairman is actually Mr Graham Kelly who, we all know, is ill. I am not criticising him in any way, but I seek leave for any member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee—because the question is to the committee—to tell the House the answer to my question.
Mr SPEAKER: Let us put it this way: I would be reluctant to do that today because no other member of the committee was aware that that question would be asked in this way, and, therefore, probably does not have the information so would be unable to answer. But does the member want leave to be put today?
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ): I do. I think members of the committee must know the answer. I seek leave for any member of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee to answer my question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE Leader—ACT NZ): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to draw to the attention of the House the fact that the ACT party does not have a member on that select committee, and, because members opposite are now denying leave, it means my party does not know what is happening at that committee. I regard that as thoroughly unparliamentary.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. That is a comment made by the member.
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): I seek leave, if appropriate, for the Hansard record of the Minister of Health’s answers to question No. 12 today to be made available, ideally, within the hour. We know we have the Hansard record by 5.30 or 6 o’clock, but if we could have that part a little earlier that would be very helpful.
Mr SPEAKER: I am pleased to inform the member it will be on the website by about 5.30. It has been so all of this session. Members are always at liberty to approach the Minister in that way, but the answers will be on the website by about 5.30. It has to be sent and will go through the usual process.
End of Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)