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Questions Of The Day Transcript - 7 May 2003

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)


Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers:

1. Tranz Rail—Financial Assistance
2. Electricity—Supply
3. Workplace Learning Opportunities—Gateway Initiative
4. Home Detention—Reoffending
5. Attorney-General—Confidence
6. Teaching—Students of Diverse Backgrounds
7. Electricity—Contractors Federation
8. Youth—Government Initiatives
9. Energy—Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2)
10. Home Detention—Reoffending
11. Pharmac—Dispensing
12. Solar Water Heating—Efficiency

Questions to Ministers

Questions for Oral Answer
Tranz Rail—Financial Assistance

1. LARRY BALDOCK (United Future) to the Minister of Finance: Does the Government have any plans to provide financial assistance to Tranz Rail, such as subsidies, to avoid the possibility of statutory management if that is seen as necessary to maintain the integrity of the national rail network?

Hon PAUL SWAIN (Associate Minister of Finance), on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Government has a range of options available to it, but the Minister has already made clear certain broad parameters in relation to this.

Larry Baldock: Is the Minister concerned that any subsidies or other cash injections that the Government may decide to confer on Tranz Rail will simply end up in the pockets of overseas shareholders rather than contributing to the quality of the rail network here in New Zealand?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: The Government is concerned about the quality of the rail network and is currently considering a range of options.

Helen Duncan: Are officials continuing to meet with Tranz Rail?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Officials have met with Tranz Rail, who have undertaken to provide further information to them. Once this information has been received and examined, further discussions will be held.

Hon David Carter: Noting the Minister’s concern for Tranz Rail’s current situation, I ask which does the Minister think has been his better taxpayer investment: $81 million for a few kilometres of Auckland railway track, or $875 million for an airline? Which is the better of the two?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: Both were important in achieving the Government’s transport strategy and a lot better than the worst privatisation in New Zealand by that previous Government.

Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree with the suggestion by the Rail Freight Action Group that it would be preferable for the Government to own the rail network and make sure the network is properly maintained, including important but less profitable lines, rather than subsidise Tranz Rail?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I am aware of those comments, and, as I said earlier, the Government is looking at a range of options.

Larry Baldock: In the light of recent increases in the volume of freight transported by our coastal shipping, is Government inaction over Tranz Rail to date an indication that the Minister does not in fact see a long-term future for non-subsidised commercial rail freight in New Zealand?


Rt Hon Winston Peters: Seeing that the Minister has raised the issue of privatisation, I ask him why it was that the Labour Party, back in 1993 on the issue of the 20 July sale of New Zealand Rail to a number of his party’s former backers and mates, took the stance back then, which he seeks to defend today, that the sale was fine by Labour, excepting they disagreed with the timing?

Hon PAUL SWAIN: I do not recall that, but what I do say is that that privatisation was one of the worst. There was no Kiwi share, no ability for the Government to be engaged, and it is interesting to see that Ruth Richardson still defends that and thinks that what is happening to Tranz Rail at the moment is still OK.

Questions for Oral Answer

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Further to her response to oral question No. 3 in the House yesterday, that: “There will be significant change to the model to ensure that stand-by generation can be kept aside, so that if we strike exceptionally dry years like this one, people will not be asked to make the sacrifices they have been asked to make, again.”, can she explain what specific changes will be made and will these changes avert the possibility of New Zealanders experiencing blackouts and cold showers this winter?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy) on behalf of the Prime Minister: The specific changes will be announced later this month, and, of course, are long-term in their nature.

Hon Bill English: As we face blackouts and cold showers because of a shortage of generation, why should anyone believe that the Prime Minister will be able to find “stand-by generation” that is not being used, or is she just trying to give the impression that she is doing something?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The stand-by generation that the Prime Minister refers to is not stand-by generation for this year. That generation is already in place. An example is the diesel generator that exists in this complex, which is now running.

David Benson-Pope: What steps can ordinary New Zealanders take to help avoid the risk of power shortages this winter?

Hon PETE HODGSON: If New Zealanders can do their best to achieve the target set by industry of 10 percent savings in the next few weeks, that will significantly reduce the risk of shortages.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that her Government has been warming the Treasury benches for the last 4 years, and given her continuing penchant for blaming the power crisis on the weather, Max Bradford, power users, and the market, when will she admit that her buck-passing Government has done nothing, and that any forthcoming announcements will be another example of too little, far too late?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government has done a good deal to fix up the mess it inherited. It is apparent that it needs to do more.

Hon Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister agree that significant aspects of the present Labour Government’s energy model are the Department of Conservation blocking any coal-mining applications and hydro development, the Resource Management Act delaying new generating schemes for years, and Kyoto treaty commitments resulting in carbon taxes that have ruled out the possibility of new coal-fired stations; and is the Government intending to tackle any of those aspects of its model?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Government is due to introduce legislation into the House presently to change the Resource Management Act in respect of renewables and energy efficiency. Beyond that, we see the need to do no further. In respect of Kyoto, I might say parenthetically that the Kyoto instrument will be responsible for quadrupling the amount of wind generation in this country, in short order.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Government considered whether spending hundreds of millions of dollars on stand-by coal generation is more or less cost-efficient for the nation than a well-understood demand management plan, including, for example, compensating Comalco for shutting one of its three pot lines in a 1 in 20 dry year; if so, what was the answer; if not, why not?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Yes we have, and the answer will be made available later this month.

Hon Bill English: If stand-by generation is a good idea to deal with power supply shortages in 4 or 5 years’ time, why did the Government not make that move after it reviewed the electricity industry following the 1999 election, had the 2001 power crisis, and spent millions of dollars on consultants’ reports and reviews; why did the Government not take the same action then as it is saying it will take now, which will not make any difference for 5 years anyway?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The best answer to that question is to say that one could suggest that in 2001 record low inflows may not repeat again in 2003. Regrettably, not only have they repeated themselves in short order but they are actually worse at this time of the year than they were even in 2001.

Hon Bill English: Now that the Government does have access to “much improved scenario modelling”, when is the next dry year due?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member may choose to treat this facetiously. He knows that scenario modelling for future weather is not possible. What is possible is a response to it.

Questions for Oral Answer
Workplace Learning Opportunities—Gateway Initiative

3. JILL PETTIS (NZ Labour—Whanganui) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): What reports has he received on the Gateway initiative to provide structured workplace learning opportunities for senior school students?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education)): I am today releasing the Tertiary Education Commission’s evaluation of what is called the Gateway programme, which was introduced by this Government in 2001 as a pathway for senior students into a wide range of industries. In that year over 1,000 students achieved 18,273 credits working through 24 schools and with 200 employers. The evaluation shows that schools, students, employers, and everybody else involved with this programme have found it very positive because of the advantages of work-based learning.

Jill Pettis: Could the Minister please advise what number of young people the programme is intended to assist; and how is the programme of direct assistance to business?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I am advised that another 1,000 students have been involved in 63 schools over the past year, and they have all benefited from the programme as well. From the point of view of industry, it has given employers the chance to encourage young people back into areas like construction, where there is clearly an ageing workforce. In schools, for example, as one principal has put it: “One unintended consequence is that we’ve gotten rid of negative employer perceptions about what goes on in our school.” Because the programme is so successful, there will be an announcement next week about its expansion.

Hon Brian Donnelly: If the Gateway programme is so good—and we do not deny that it has successes—why does the Minister not take the Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource money, which is essentially for the same purpose but delivered in a different way, and simply add it to the Gateway programme’s budget?

Hon STEVE MAHAREY: I think the Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource money is well used as it is. We have reviewed the use of that money, which is much better applied to students who are simply trying to get themselves on to the national qualifications framework. The value of the Gateway programme is that it gives a chance for young people to get into a workplace, explore whether it is the pathway for them, and then begin to enjoy the benefits of getting into Modern Apprenticeships or into other pathways on the national qualifications framework.

Questions for Oral Answer
Home Detention—Reoffending

4. STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT NZ) to the Minister of Justice: How many of the 1,017 persons who have served all or part of their sentences on home detention since 1 July 2002 have reoffended during the period they were supposed to be on home detention?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice): Any individual known to reoffend while on home detention will face breach, or recall to prison, action by the Department of Corrections. I am advised by the department that its records show that of the 1,017 who started home detention between 1 July 2002 and 28 February 2003, action was taken against 10 home detainees for reoffending.

Stephen Franks: In view of the length of that question, I ask whether the Minister will guarantee that the answer says that only 10 of the 1,017 persons were known to have reoffended, when the figure of 10 percent was established for New Zealand for detainees of lower risk during the pilot period, the figure for Britain is 24 percent, and the indication in the year 2000 of the anticipated figure for New Zealand was 15 percent?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Those figures the member gave the House would suggest that having run the pilot programme the Department of Corrections learnt how to do it better and got better results. They also suggest that if the figures quoted by the member for the United Kingdom are right we are doing a heck of a lot better, but I suspect that those figures are for people who were on home detention and who subsequently reoffended. The member might like to check out that point.

Darren Hughes: How does the known rate of reoffending for those on home detention compare with the reoffending rates for those on the old system of suspended sentences, which home detention has partly replaced?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The 1 percent reoffending rate suggested by the Department of Corrections figures for those on home detention compares with a reoffending rate of 50 percent for those subject to the old system of suspended sentences. which were abolished by the Sentencing Act. The House may therefore find it curious that Mr Franks is so concerned about home detention, when he was so firmly in favour of the wet - bus ticket approach to suspended sentences where reoffending under the sentence could only be described as rife.

Ron Mark: How does the Minister know that the figures he has quoted are accurate, and that only 10 people on home detention have committed crimes against the occupiers of the home they were being detained in, or against members of the public, when out on one of the many approved outings such as trips to the movies, supermarkets, and the local gym; how does he know that crimes are not being committed by those people?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The member needs to understand that under home detention the detainee works through four phases. A lot of what the member has just talked about is simply not possible. The detainee is allowed to go to work in the morning and to come home at night within a set time frame. The person is under strict electronic monitoring by security guards, with regular reporting to detainees. All I can quote to the member is the figures given to me by the Department of Corrections as the figures available to it from monitoring the programme. Of course, I cannot quote figures for unknown reoffending. That cannot be done for any form of sentence.

Hon Tony Ryall: In the light of the fact that the average probation officer has about 4½ hours a month—that is, an hour a week—to monitor someone on home detention, and that under the Goff sentencing law 55 offenders a month are having free time on deferral, pending home detention, can the Minister confirm to the House that his ministry has absolutely no idea of the level of offending by those 55 offenders a month who have had their sentences deferred.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member has a growing habit of using inappropriate phrases during his questions. I certainly heard him misdescribe a law in New Zealand and he should be required to withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: I heard the member talk about the Goff law. Strictly speaking, that is out of order. However, I heard the question through and now I will ask the Minister to reply.

Hon PHIL GOFF: I am happy for it to be called that. I am proud of the achievement. The answer—

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take it that that will now become a ruling—that no one in the House should refer to any law, or any reform, or anything else by the name of a Minister who is responsible for moving that on behalf of the Government.

Mr SPEAKER: No, it is not, and I did not make it one then.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How then can you rule that Mr Ryall is out of order in making the comment he did and suggesting that it was unparliamentary, when we listen day after day to Government Ministers using similar epithets in their answers?

Mr SPEAKER: It is out of order. I know what the member means. It is out of order to refer to a member just by his surname. Members are usually referred to as honourable members, or by their Christian name or surname. That was the part that was out of order. I regarded that as minor. Therefore I call on the Minister to reply.

Hon PHIL GOFF: There are two aspects to that question. The first is that this Government, under my colleague Margaret Wilson, has moved to remedy the longstanding shortage of probation officers, which is something that member neglected to do in his entire term as Minister. Secondly, in regard to conditions imposed when a sentence is deferred, there has never been a statutory requirement for judges to do that. I plan to remedy it, and I look forward to the member’s cooperation in passing that as part of the Statutes Amendment Bill this year.

Hon Tony Ryall: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very clear, as the Hansard will show. I asked the Minister to confirm that his ministry has absolutely no idea of what the 55 offenders a month are doing in terms of their offending, and he did not address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I wonder whether the Minister would like to comment.

Hon PHIL GOFF: The fact that people can have their sentence deferred and not be under supervision means that for the last 20 years that has been the case. I intend to remedy it so that people do know exactly what offenders are doing, and that they are under strict control. I look forward to that member’s cooperation in the amendment that I will make to the legislation—something he failed to do as Minister.

Nandor Tanczos: Can the Minister point to any evidence from any country in the world that suggests that the “lock-’em-up” approach, which is driving the primary question and most of the supplementary questions, is at all effective at reducing the offending, compared with a rehabilitative approach?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I guess we will never solve crime if it is only a “lock-’em up” approach. We have to address the causes of crime, and that is ultimately the way in which we will make society a safer place. But I equally have to say there are some people in our system for whom there are no other options, if we are to emphasise the safety of the community, than to have them locked away and for a long time.

Ron Mark: Can the Minister assure the House that the figure of 10 reoffenders that he has continually quoted to the House as being accurate, is a figure he arrived at after checking court records and police records, and after gaining absolute assurances from corrections staff that no home detainees have been prosecuted for offences and/or breaches of their home detention conditions, other than the 10 he consistently speaks of?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The figure of 10 is the figure provided by the Department of Corrections, which has responsibility in this area. Therefore it is the department best placed to provide that information. That is the best information it can give me.

Stephen Franks: In view of the Minister’s repeated warning that he is relying on figures provided by the Department of Corrections, how can we know he is not adopting, knowingly or unknowingly, the befuddled strategy of his Associate Minister of Justice, Mr Rick Barker, on home detention when he repeatedly told Radio New Zealand last week that offenders on home detention had served their sentences and the detention was part of their parole, when, in fact, that is not the case for anyone?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I have had a look at the transcript of that radio interview. There are clearly two forms of home detention. There is front-end home detention, which people are eligible for if they have a sentence of 2 years or less, and they meet the requirement as to safety. The second form of home detention is back-end home detention, which people get in the last 12 weeks of their sentence, before they have to be released. Both are valid forms of home detention and both have proven effective.

Questions for Oral Answer

5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in the Attorney-General; if so, why?

Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade), on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because she is a hard-working and conscientious Minister. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I am not going to warn members today about interjecting during question time. Questions are for questioners.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Putting aside the fact that so was the Iraqi information Minister, or he was a prize fool anyway, why does the Prime Minister continue to say she has confidence in this Minister, when the Minister, having claimed she is consulting Mâori over the Supreme Court, and, secondly, claims that treaty cases are consistently sent back from the Privy Council—both claims being demonstrably and palpably false; and is it not about time the public knew the truth that only one treaty claim has ever been referred back to the Privy Council and it was to hear evidence to establish facts, which the Privy Council stated should have been carried out by the Court of Appeal in the first instance; if so, how can the Prime Minister have confidence in a Minister who makes those sorts of easy, simple mistakes?

Hon PHIL GOFF: I can comment on the query made by the member as to the Minister’s consultation with Mâoridom, because it is a matter of public record. It is very straightforward and simple. There was public consultation in the year 2000 with the public discussion document Reshaping New Zealand’s Appeal Structure. There were meetings with a cross-section of Mâori leaders in 2001. There were regional meetings in 2001 in Wellington, Rotorua, and Auckland. A Mâori ministerial advisory group was set up, and if I had the time I could give the House the full Mâori membership of that—there were people like Dr Ngatata Love, Maui Solomon, Archie Taiaroa, and Shane Jones. There has been extensive consultation with Mâoridom. It is on the record, and the member should have known that.

Tim Barnett: What is the argument in favour of having our own final court of appeal, which is a move advocated by the Attorney-General?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a very wide question, and there must be a very brief answer.

Hon PHIL GOFF: The first argument is increased access to justice for all New Zealanders, including Mâori. The second is that there will be a more speedy resolution of appeals. It will reduce costs, while retaining an independent, two-tiered appellate structure.

Hon Bill English: Why does the Prime Minister have confidence in the Attorney-General when much of the opposition to the Supreme Court is precisely because many people do not trust that the Attorney-General is capable of setting up a politically neutral court, and that she does not see it as a liberal activist court, which will redesign our constitution?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Both of the member’s statements are incorrect. As I recall, the first bill to remove the appeal right to the Privy Council was introduced by the National Party when I was in this House. The bill sat on the Order Paper doing nothing for 3 years, but I notice that it was supported by Tony Ryall, Nick Smith, and Maurice Williamson, whom I presume still support it, unless they have done a U-turn.

Rodney Hide: Does the Acting Prime Minister’s confidence extend across all Ministers, including the Minister of Tourism, whose answer in this House last week, that “South Africa’s Governments offered virtual countries—”

Mr SPEAKER: No. This refers to the Attorney-General, and must be related to that particular Minister.

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

Mr SPEAKER: I am very reluctant to take a point of order, because that is my ruling.

Rodney Hide: I notice that you were very generous to Labour MP Tim Barnett when he went wide of the question, and tucked in the Attorney-General at the end. Why does that not apply to members on this side of the House?

Mr SPEAKER: Because the member was asking a question about a bill that that Minister is responsible for.

Murray Smith: Is the fact that many, many Mâori who made submissions to the Justice and Electoral Committee considered it a serious failure of the Attorney-General to consult Mâori—which has led to a situation where proceedings arising from that failure are about to be filed in the Waitangi Tribunal—of any concern to the Prime Minister at all?

Hon PHIL GOFF: That question is based on an incorrect premise, which is that there has been no consultation. I have already indicated to the House in this question session that there has been extensive consultation. I am also happy to advise the House that the Attorney-General and Ngâti Tûwharetoa paramount chief te Heuheu, will be establishing a consultation hui with Mâori next month, and that the paramount chief disassociates himself from the comments made on behalf of the Ngâti Tûwharetoa position yesterday.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is this House hearing that there has been extensive consultation, when every Mâori submitter from the central North Island who turned up at Rotorua on Monday claimed the complete opposite, saying that they had not been heeded, listened to, or even consulted, and—worse still—said they would join a hîkoi to come down here and make their point known, given that the seven Mâori members in the Mâori seats refuse to make their voices heard in this Parliament?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Justice)38GOFF, Hon PHIL14:35:09The successive consultation processes involving Mâori have shown that there is a mixed view within Mâoridom, as there is within the remainder of the population. However, I point out to the House that in a National Business Review poll, two-to-one people in New Zealand were in favour of abolishing the Privy Council.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Labour Party has been supported since 1932 by the Mâori people, does the Minister think it is appropriate that the gateway to Mâoridom in, say, Rotorua is not a marae that the Mâori people requested to be heard on, but, rather, the Grand Tiara Hotel?

Hon PHIL GOFF: The public opinion polls that I referred to before also show consistently how strongly the Mâori people support the Labour Party, including the Labour Party that, in the last election, made a very clear manifesto undertaking election promise to replace the Privy Council with a final court of appeal in New Zealand.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very simple question: does the Labour Party think it is fitting that rather than approach Mâori on the marae, which they requested, they went to a hotel designated by the chairperson of that committee? That is my question. Would he answer that one?

Hon PHIL GOFF: Consultation meetings take place in all sorts of venues, including marae.

Questions for Oral Answer
Teaching—Students of Diverse Backgrounds

6. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Education: What steps is the Government taking to improve effective classroom teaching for students of diverse backgrounds?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister of Education): Inter alia, we have allocated $2.65 million over the next 4 years to work on building teaching capability to better meet the needs of diverse students. It will be using the high-quality research done in the previous term of Government and will result in the promotion of effective teaching practice, extending some of the successful programmes we started, and improving teacher professional development.

David Benson-Pope: Could the Minister please detail to the House who will be involved in developing this initiative?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Broadly, it will be the compulsory education sector, but the early childhood sector will be involved, as well. Teachers, principals, advisers, researchers, and parents of Mâori and Pasifika communities will all be involved. Schools will work in clusters to improve achievement. An expert group will also identify the key dimensions of effective teaching, and propose to share that practice with all teachers, including failed woodwork teachers.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How will the education of students of diverse backgrounds be helped by his decision to double the National Certificate of Educational Achievement fees for students, particularly given that this morning the New Zealand Qualifications Authority accepted that both it and the Minister acted illegally in increasing those fees?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am informed from behind me that that is not what was accepted.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could the Minister clarify exactly what he is denying—

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a supplementary question. The member can have it, but we take turns.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made no attempt at all to answer the question, and I do not see why members on this side of the House should have to burn up their supplementary questions because the Minister gives an answer that is not sensible.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister did make an attempt to answer the question.

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When you read the Hansard, you will be able to see that the Minister said: “I am informed from behind me—”


Gerry Brownlee: Advised, was it? He said he was advised from behind that such and such was not the case, or was not said. Are we to assume that the Minister of Education is so inept and unable to answer questions in his own portfolio area that he has to take advice from the junior whip?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister took issue with the member’s premise, and he is able to do just that.

Metiria Turei: How will this improve the effective classroom teaching of Te Tiriti o Waitangi to students of diverse backgrounds, including te reo Mâori, the only official language of this country and the only language of the indigenous peoples of this country?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Again, I think there is bit of a miss on one of the premises in that question.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister can give a fuller answer to that question.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In fairness to the Minister, he is being asked a question that, I would have thought, is wrong. If the member is aware of the fact that Mâori is the only official language in New Zealand, I think she might be invited under the Standing Orders to authenticate that statement.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is not right.

Hon Richard Prebble: How is the Minister supposed to answer?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave a reply. If he wants to add anything he can, but the Minister gave a reply that addressed the question, as the member rightly pointed out to me.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am prepared to add to it, if the member likes. I am not aware of the fact that Mâori is the only official language of New Zealand. That is not my understanding.

Bernie Ogilvy: Is it the Government’s intention to cater for students of diverse backgrounds by recruiting more teachers from overseas, who have little understanding of New Zealand’s education system and who may have language limitations?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Of course not.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have heard some gossip from the cross benches—which is very helpful—that the member claims she can authenticate her question. I am not ruling it out. If she can authenticate it she should be able to ask it. I think she should be invited to do so.

Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot ask for somebody else to do something in the House.

Questions for Oral Answer
Electricity—Contractors Federation

7. GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam) to the Minister of Energy: What is his response to the president of the Contractors Federation, who stated this morning: “The Government has had ample warning of another shortage, but has sat on its hands”?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): My response is that Mr Thompson’s view appears to be based on a misunderstanding about how much generation capacity has been commissioned in recent years. He claims 166 megawatts since 2000. He is wrong. The figure is a little over 500 megawatts. Many of his other assertions are also wrong.

Gerry Brownlee: How can he deny that the Government has been sitting on its hands when—excluding the commissioning of the Otahuhu B power station, which was built under the previous National Government and commissioned less than 2 weeks after he took office—a mere 166 megawatts of additional generation capacity, measured according to his answer to a parliamentary question, has been commissioned during his term as Minister of Energy, compared with Ministry of Economic Development advice that we need at least 150 megawatts a year just to keep pace with demand?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member chooses to play the game of arithmetic whereby one can count only stuff that has been built and commissioned since this Government was elected. It is then equally reasonable for the Government to add to the figure stuff that has been commissioned but not yet built.

Mark Peck: What communications have the Minister or the Government received from the New Zealand Contractors Federation on electricity matters?

Hon PETE HODGSON: My office has no record of the New Zealand Contractors Federation ever having written on electricity issues, nor has it ever made a submission on any of the electricity policy processes on which the Government has consulted the public.

Hon Ken Shirley: In a speech entitled “Energy: the way forward” made by the Minister on 7 October last year and posted on his website, he referred on page 2 to advice he was receiving back then that alarm bells would be ringing this year and in 2004; what specific action, if any, has he taken in response to those ringing alarm bells that he identified last October to ensure supply security?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Soon after the last election the Government received two reports, one of which said, if I recall correctly, that we might be in difficulty if we had a dry year from 2005. The other said, if I recall correctly, which I may not, that it would be a little later than that. We had those reports checked out. Both of them were based on modelling, which was not very good. It turns out that both reports, in the event, were wrong—as would always happen in an extremely dry year.

Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Eckhoff.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Hon Richard Prebble: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to check something. Mr Rodney Hide was going to ask one of our questions but you ruled it out. Does that mean that we have another question?

Mr SPEAKER: If I ruled a question out, I ruled a question out.

Hon Richard Prebble: Righto, so we have a question, so now we will ask one.

Mr SPEAKER: I have called Mr Eckhoff and he has actually started. He is from the member’s own party.

Gerrard Eckhoff: Can the Minister explain how the investment of $600 million by State-owned Meridian Energy in Australian generation assists with New Zealand’s ongoing energy crisis, due in large measure to a lack of generation investment in New Zealand?

Hon PETE HODGSON: I am sorry that the member did not listen to the answer to that question when it was last asked of me. Back then I said that I was sure that our shareholding Ministers would not have allowed a State-owned enterprise to invest off shore if it was going to in any way interfere with their investments on shore. That company has announced a $1 billion investment, and tomorrow that same company will be announcing another investment in New Zealand.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the next supplementary question, can I just say to Mr Hide that I did make an error. The member had asked a full question and I ruled it out. That was one of the member’s questions.

Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You actually stopped me before I got anywhere near asking my question. That was my point of order at the time.

Mr SPEAKER: I will reflect on that while I hear Mr Copeland.

Gordon Copeland: Can the Minister confirm or otherwise whether Mighty River Power intends to proceed with the recomissioning of the Marsden B oil-fired power station; if so, against what timetable?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Mighty River Power is pretty much explaining its position publicly, so I will just repeat that it is spending an amount of money—I think a little over $1 million—looking at the prospect of recommissiong Marsden B, and will likely make a decision in the next month or two.

Gerry Brownlee: Referring to the article written by Stephen Thompson, President of the Contractors Federation, I ask whether the Minister concedes that New Zealand is “stuffed for new supplies” of electricity in the next 3 to 4 years unless the Government resorts to draconian fast-track legislation to consent to new generation projects, and can we expect that to be part of the Prime Minister’s announcement later this week?

Hon PETE HODGSON: No, but I will be announcing later this week what the 3-year generation programme is. We do not have all the data together yet, but it is likely to exceed 900 megawatts.

Mr SPEAKER: I want to go over a matter raised earlier that I have got advice on. It does not matter whether Mr Hide had finished his supplementary question, I ruled it out of order. He could have sought my assistance and reworded the question, but he did not. So the question must stand.

Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table a newspaper article entitled “Power crisis is minister’s fault”.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Youth—Government Initiatives

8. NANAIA MAHUTA (NZ Labour—Tainui) to the Minister of Youth Affairs: What initiatives is the Government undertaking to support youth development?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE (Minister of Youth Affairs): The Government has undertaken a huge range of initiatives to support youth development. As Minister I am involved in a range of activities over coming days to mark Youth Week, which runs until Sunday. They celebrate the achievements of our young people.

Nanaia Mahuta: What particular YouthWweek events is the Minister involved in?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: Tomorrow the Ministry of Youth Affairs will be launching Keeping it Real, a youth dissertation guide. This is just one of a range of community-based events around the country such as dance parties, hip-hop classes, break-offs, a youth car show, and sports events. These events focus on highlighting the wonderful contribution that young New Zealanders make to our society.

Simon Power: How is this Government supporting youth development by passing the Customs and Excise (Alcoholic Beverages) Amendment Bill yesterday on the basis it was to assist reducing youth drinking, when, in fact, it does nothing of the sort, taxing only alcohol such as port and sherry—two drinks that are most unlikely to appeal to young people?

Hon JOHN TAMIHERE: We take our role very seriously in the youth sector, and to that extent this underpins a major strategy in regard to harm minimisation amongst the youth sector.

Craig McNair: Does the Minister agree that the best thing he could have done instead of voting for the Customs and Excise (Alcoholic Beverages) Amendment Bill, which raised the taxes of beverages like sherry that most people do not even drink, would have been to adopt New Zealand First MP Ron Mark’s member’s bill to raise the drinking age back to 20?


Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 9 to Minister

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson): I set down this question to the Minister in a very similar, but slightly different form. I notice the Minister is not present. I seek leave of the House for the question to be deferred till tomorrow so that the Minister responsible might answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought accordingly. Is there any objection? There is. Please ask the question—[Interruption] I want the person who made that interjection to stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Gerry Brownlee: I will withdraw and apologise too.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is very lucky indeed not to be asked to leave.

GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam)14BROWNLEE, GERRY14:53:32GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Since you asked for one apology and got two, would you like to clarify what statements we withdrew?

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member knows that is being facetious, and he is very, very close to being asked to leave. I will not have any more from him today. That is his final warning.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition)32ENGLISH, Hon BILL14:53:32Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think your short intolerance for the shadow Leader of the House is well known, but I thought you ought to be clear just what it is you are warning him about. As the shadow Leader of the House we would expect, with a number of questions to go and the Government’s usual level of performance, that there are likely to be Points of Order
—some of those may be expressed in terms that you do not regard as exactly the right way or may dislike in some way. I do not think the shadow Leader of the House should be in the position where he feels constrained from carrying out his function on behalf of the Opposition, so I would like your clarification on just what it is you are warning him about.

Mr SPEAKER: I am warning him to stay within the Standing Orders. Everyone in this House will know that I am remarkably tolerant of Mr Brownlee, and I think even he will concede that point.

Questions for Oral Answer
Energy—Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2)

9. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (NZ National—Nelson) to the Minister for the Environment: What advice has she received on how the Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) will help New Zealand address the current energy crisis?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy), on behalf of the Minister for the Environment: The Minister has received no specific advice.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Given that on 11 April 2003, Meridian Energy specifically wrote to the Minister and pointed out concerns about clauses 7, 11, 18, 32, 41, 54, 61, 63, 67, 75, 76, and 80 of the bill, and notably said that those changes will create additional obstacles to the granting of the necessary approvals for the construction or operation of the types of projects referred to above, why has the Minister not listened to New Zealand’s largest generator of electricity—a very significant State company?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Minister for the Environment happens to know the views of Meridian Energy very well. Meridian Energy wishes to have planning rules that are easier than they are, or will be, 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. The Resource Management Amendment Bill (No 2) reduces costs on the legislation as it is currently in the books.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: In the middle of an energy crisis why is the Government ignoring the advice of Meridian Energy, and, instead, has chosen to invest $600 million of public money building generating stations in Australia rather than in New Zealand, and why does he not listen to the sensible advice of Meridian Energy about the sorts of resource management laws we need?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Speaking in defence of Meridian Energy, I remind the House that Meridian Energy is about to invest over $1 billion in Project Aqua, subject to consents, and will make a further investment announcement tomorrow.

David Parker: Is the Minister preparing any work to assist with future energy generation proposals?

Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You cannot possibly rule that that question could be answered by the Minister for the Environment. I accept that it is a question that would ordinarily go to the Minister of Energy, but the Minister is currently speaking as Minister for the Environment, who has no responsibility for energy planning, at all.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member wishes to rephrase his question he can do so.

David Parker: Is the Minister preparing any work in connection with proposed changes to the Resource Management Act that would assist with future energy generation proposals?

Hon PETE HODGSON: As the Minister of Energy advised earlier in this question time, amendments to the Resource Management Act will be introduced soon to smooth the path for renewable energy developments.

Hon Ken Shirley: Does the Minister for the Environment accept any responsibility whatsoever for resolving the current energy crisis, or does she adhere to the doctrine enunciated clearly by her Cabinet colleague Chris Carter that her sole responsibility is for the environment?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Many aspects of Government are working well together to reduce the social and economic risk that may face this country in the future if it does not rain and if we do not sufficiently save.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is resource consent necessary to install solar water heating, insulate buildings, install more efficient lights, size industrial motors correctly, establish a secondary market in saved electricity, use gas directly instead of in power stations, or convert industrial boilers to wood waste; and does the Minister agree that more supply is only part of the answer to the power crisis?

Hon PETE HODGSON: From memory, apart from the possibility of a consent needed to switch from some other fuel to wood waste, the answer to all of those questions is absolutely no.

Larry Baldock: How significant is the Resource Management Act as a cause of the electricity crisis, given that the resource consents have already been approved for at least two separate gas-fired electricity generation plants and that their construction has been delayed by the need to secure new post - Maui Gas supply contracts?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That is precisely the point. I thank the member for his question. Since 2000, 1,300 megawatts of new electricity generation have been consented in the last 3 years. That is enough new generation for 8 years.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek the leave of the House to table both the submission of Meridian Energy on the problems with the Resource Management Act for the energy sector, and also of the Petroleum Association of New Zealand.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Home Detention—Reoffending

10. RON MARK (NZ First), on behalf of Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: What specific checks and ongoing monitoring occurs with respect to offenders serving all or part of their sentence under home detention, and who specifically carries out this role?

Hon MARGARET WILSON (Associate Minister of Justice), on behalf of the Minister of Justice: The checks and monitoring of offenders serving a sentence of home detention are the responsibility of the Probation Service. The checks and monitoring undertaken include continuous electronic monitoring, and face-to-face meetings with the probation officer. The electronic monitoring is conducted by Chubb Security.

Ron Mark: Who audits the systems and the personnel responsible for checking and monitoring home detention detainees, in order to confirm that they are properly monitored and supervised, and to ensure that the incidences of reoffending are noted and prosecuted?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: This is the responsibility of the Probation Service.

Lynne Pillay: Can the Minister confirm that home detention was first piloted under a National Government?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: Yes. Legislation passed in 1993 in the form of an amendment to the Criminal Justice Act allowed for the setting-up of the pilot programme for home detention. The first person commenced home detention in March 1995, and evaluation was completed in 1997, also under a National Government.

Ron Mark: If the monitoring and auditing systems for checking home detention detainees are so thorough and so complete, how, as I highlighted yesterday, is a person on home detention able to abuse a woman, beat her, and run up massive debts in her name, and not be prosecuted?

Hon MARGARET WILSON: The probation officer provided a report to the Parole Board. It was the Parole Board that made the decision. The Parole Board is an independent body that is responsible for that decision.

Questions for Oral Answer

11. Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura) to the Minister of Health: Why is Pharmac proposing to change from 1-month dispensing to 3-month dispensing of prescription medicines when, as a result of that change, it is estimated the wastage of discarded medicines will increase by $35 million a year?

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I am advised by Pharmac that should this initiative be implemented, it would mean district health boards would have an extra $35 million to spend on services—for example, for improved hospice care, child health, or aged care. It would also make it easier for patients to get the medicines doctors have prescribed, which would mean an extra $24 million a year of medicines being dispensed to patients in need.

Dr Lynda Scott: Is she aware that the Residential Care Association estimates this change will cost every resident on medications $264 per year—that is, $7.5 million per year for all New Zealand—and who will pay for this increase: the Government, the rest homes, or older people?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The decision as to whether a medication is dispensed for 3 months, 4 days, or 1 month can be made by the doctor. This proposal is an extension of an existing policy that allows 3-month dispensing for any patient who lives 30 minutes away from a pharmacy, who has limited mobility, who is travelling abroad, or who is relocating. So a person who is receiving a prescription is very much in the hands of the doctor who will decide whether and when that patient should get it.

Steve Chadwick: What consultation has Pharmac undertaken to date?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Pharmac has held a number of public meetings with pharmacists. It has called for public submissions and has received 191 to date. Overwhelmingly the public and patients are in favour of the change. It has met with Opposition MPs, for example, Dr Don Brash, who supported the proposal, and Dr Lynda Scott, who opposed the proposal.

Heather Roy: Why does the Minister not trust doctors to decide whether patients, whose health is their professional responsibility, should be dispensed their medicines every month, every 2 months, or every 3 months?

Hon ANNETTE KING: I certainly trust doctors to make those decisions, and they make them every day. They are able to make those decisions, but because they are required to dispense monthly when they would like to be able to dispense 3-monthly, it means they cannot do that.

Judy Turner: Has she received any indication from Pharmac that it would be willing to review dispensing fees to compensate for this proposal in the light of the savings that will accrue, notwithstanding the potential waste?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Pharmac is listening to all proposals at this stage. That is why there is consultation, and that is why consultation has been extended to 30 May.

Sue Kedgley: Is the Minister aware of estimates of the effect of bulk dispensing on high users of medicines, especially the elderly, who will have to collect huge quantities of drugs at once, and real-life examples that show some elderly New Zealanders will have to collect over 1,300 tablets, five inhalers, 3 kilograms of laxatives, and so forth at one time; and does she acknowledge that under this sort of bulk dispensing regime, it will be practically impossible to monitor patient compliance amongst high users, and will inevitably result in an increase in incorrect use of medicines, overdoses, and child poisonings?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Should a patient require such a large amount of pharmaceuticals, a doctor can decide that they be dispensed every day, every week, or every month. It is not a requirement that patients have to have them every 3 months. But I have received from many, many patients and, in fact, from some members in this House, their concern about people who have to pick up their prescriptions every month. I notice that members in this House are nodding.

Dr Lynda Scott: I will ask again, who is going to pay for the $7.5 million in extra costs that will be incurred—the Government, the rest homes, or older people?

Hon ANNETTE KING: The member is making it up. There are no such figures.

Dr Lynda Scott: Does she believe that pharmacy viability will be affected by this proposed change; if not, why not?

Hon ANNETTE KING: Some pharmacists have said that they may have to close if this was undertaken, and that certainly must be considered by Pharmac and also by Ministry of Health. However, it may be necessary—

Dr Lynda Scott: And the Minister.

Hon ANNETTE KING: Can I just tell the member that it is not a decision for the Minister. Can I tell the member why. When we changed—

Mr SPEAKER: I am sorry—I want quiet. I want to hear what the Minister says.

Hon ANNETTE KING: This is not a decision for the Minister, and the member, I know, is new to the House and probably does not know, but when we changed from 3-monthly dispensing to 1-montly dispensing in 1996, the Minister of Health did not make the decision then, either. It was made by Pharmac. It will be made by Pharmac this time, based on the submissions that it receives. The member asked me whether this would affect pharmacies. There are some pharmacies that say they might have to close, and that needs to be looked at by Pharmac and by the Ministry of Health. However, if that were the case, it may be time for this House to re-examine pharmacy ownership and pharmacy service provision, and there is an opportunity for that to happen under the Health Professionals Competence Assurance Bill.

Dr Lynda Scott: I seek leave to table Residential Care New Zealand’s submission, which shows that a 60-bed facility will pay $18,000 more per annum, and I think they know more about this than the Minister.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Solar Water Heating—Efficiency

12. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Energy: What was the basis for his statement in the House on 29 April, in relation to solar water heating, that “when one starts to do the arithmetic, one finds they are not hugely useful”?

Hon PETE HODGSON (Minister of Energy): The basis is that if we were to reach our target of 10,00 new solar water heating units per year that would meet only 3 percent of our nation’s demand growth in any one year, meaning that the other 97 percent would need to be met elsewhere.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Can he confirm that on suitable houses a good solar water heater will save 2,000 to 3,000 kilowatt-hours a year, and that even in winter months it will average 15 percent to 18 percent of total household power compared with the 10 percent target he has set those households, and is this not about as huge as anything one household can do?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Can I just be clear that the Government is very supportive of solar water heating. Indeed, it is part of our National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy. The point I was making then and now is that in a national sense it makes a modest contribution. The member would say that in a domestic sense it makes a good contribution, and I would agree with her.

Russell Fairbrother: Is the Government taking steps to increase New Zealand’s supplies of renewable energy from sources other than solar power?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority is running a solar hot water grants scheme to help the industry achieve its medium-term target of 10,000 new systems a year for New Zealand homes. Funding for this scheme will be increased in the forthcoming Budget.

Gerry Brownlee: To quote the Minister, when one does the arithmetic, how does he suggest we make sense of the current energy crisis when New Zealand has more than 800 years of coal that could be cleanly burnt for electricity generation if he were to move more quickly to make clear the cost of Kyoto compliance?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The cost of Kyoto compliance has been made very clear. We have said that we will put a carbon charge approximating the international price of carbon, but capped at—

Gerry Brownlee: What is it?

Hon PETE HODGSON: The member now wants to know what the international price of carbon is.

Gerry Brownlee: No—what’s your price?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Oh—but capped at $25 a tonne. If the member wants more certainty than that, we can add to the cap a floor, but I do not think that that is the sort of certainty he is looking for.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: When will the Minister announce his proposals to promote solar technology, as required by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, give incentives for it, as required by the current power crisis, and help build capacity in the New Zealand solar industry, as required for our future energy security?

Hon PETE HODGSON: That stuff is going to come out bit by bit. I just acknowledge that the next Budget is where the next bit comes from, and the details of that will be announced this afternoon.

Questions for Oral Answer
Tabling of Document

RODNEY HIDE (ACT NZ): I seek leave to table an article dated 5 May 2003, from the South African Business Day, which has the South African Government saying there is no truth in the statement made by Minister Mark Burton in this House last week.

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

Questions for Oral Answer
Question No. 11 to Minister

Hon ANNETTE KING (Minister of Health): I seek leave to table the National Business Review, which states that the National Party is facing a show-down over pharmacy law.

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

End of Questions for Oral Answer

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

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